Category Archives: Self Improvement

Removing online and off-line distractions

These days I am ruthlessly removing distractions. For instance I have turned off all sorts of notifications from my computer as well as from my tablet. So no more pop-ups telling me that new email has arrived, but the virus database needs to be updated (why ask me if any way I’m going to click “Update”?), I have got new Twitter mentions and people have left messages on my Facebook timeline. I mean, the sky isn’t going to fall if I don’t check my mail or my status updates that very moment. These things can wait. Hence, disabled.

I’m also applying minimalism while writing. For more than three years now I have been using Google docs for all writing purposes. Nonetheless, it being in the browser, there is always this temptation to quickly check out that link or some sort of update. These days I not only make copious use of F11 (to completely maximise my browser screen) but also hide all the toolbars. If you could see my screen, it is just a standing white rectangle in the middle of slightly greyish background, with this text. Nothing more.

I would gladly switch off the Internet but as I just told you above, I use Google Docs and it requires me to remain online all the time (although you can work off-line too… will explore that one of these days).

Social networking is an essential part of working online these days and many of my clients sometimes leave messages on Twitter and Facebook. Besides, I try to maintain an active presence on Twitter (gradually on Google plus too due to its SEO relevance) to promote my content writing services. But unlike the old days, I check my timeline just 4-5 times in a day.

I had this nasty habit of checking all the new arrivals in my inbox even when all I had to do was check a particular message. These days I’m training my eyes to just focus on the particular message I need to work with, rather than focusing my attention on other messages that can wait.

My computer desktop also has a cleaner look now with just 3-4 icons in the corner. I have shifted the taskbar to the left, from bottom, and I have set it to auto hide so that it is not visible when I don’t need it.

I’m also removing distractions from my work environment. There used to be lots of clutter on my work desk. Papers were strewn around here and there, empty boxes and cases were aimlessly lying around, someone used glasses, cups and bowls always laid somewhere around; the thing is 70% of the stuff on my table was just there, I didn’t need it. I got rid of it.

I recently read that clutter distracts your mind and you don’t even realise it because the mind works really fast. So all the distraction is happening, you don’t even realise it, and very soon, due to constant processing, your brain seems tired, and eventually you feel drained out and depressed.

Fewer distractions mean your brains simply needs to focus on the work it is doing.

Making the world greener with every new marriage

The day before yesterday Alka brought to my attention a very interesting piece of news that proves that when it comes to finding solutions, the only thing that manifests a result is the desire to get the result.

There is a person in Uttarakhan (a hilly state in Northern India) who has succeeded in single-handedly increasing the forest cover of the entire state. Whereas big organizations and governments are bickering at the UN Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen with no real intention of protecting the forests and clearing up the air, Mr. Kalyan Singh Rawat has practically triggered a major ecological revolution, according to this link in The Pioneer. Instead of trying to make people aware of the importance of protecting the existing trees and planting new trees (this would have meant banging his head in the wall) he associated the act of planting a tree sapling to the marriage ceremony. Planting a tree just after tying the nuptial knot became an auspicious act.

Religion can create hurdles and given the right direction it can also usher great positive upheavals and that’s what Mr. Rawat has achieved with an ingenious idea. How did he achieve this?

A nuptial couple plants a sapling in the maternal village of the bride to be nurtured by her family: The cost — negligible. This practice spreads and becomes a tradition at every wedding solemnised: The return — a quantum leap in the forest cover of the area. This is the Maiti movement, meaning mother’s home, the vision of Kalyan Singh Rawat, an unassuming common man with an uncommon urge to protect the environment. Then a teacher in the Government Inter College, Rawat brought a humble but determined start to the movement in 1995 in Gwaldam hamlet in Chamoli district of Garhwal.

After the tree has been planted it becomes the responsibility of the girl’s family to make sure that it remains green and grows into a full tree. Since it is associated with the girl’s prosperity and fertility, a tree dies in the rarest of the rare situations and the survival rate is almost 100%.

This has significantly increased the forest cover and people of even adjacent states are quickly embracing the practice. It has taken him 15 years and almost no money, and now 6,000 villages in 18 states are following this practice.

This news reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi. He also used (at least I think so) a weakness into strength. He knew that it was not physically possible for the Indians to throw the British out (at that time perhaps). But they had a great tolerance for violence. So no matter how much violence the British inflicted upon them, they kept their movement peaceful.

Mr. Rawat has achieved the same thing. He realized that people in India follow religion and tradition like a herd and once the planting of the tree caught on, it would be very difficult to deter them from doing it. Great thinkers and philosophers like Raja Ram Mohan Rai also used religion to re-awaken people’s pride and rid the society of cruel and demeaning rituals. What if somehow we’re able to associate religion with keeping our cities clean, eradicating corruption, illiteracy and poverty and loving fellow citizens?

Reading The Black Swan

Right now, frankly, I have no idea what is the theme of the book and what exactly the author wants to say (I just finished reading page 99). All I can make out is, there are events in your life that can be called "The Black Swans", and they just happen, randomly, and normally their occurrence or non-occurrence is not in your hand. The Black Swans have the ability to change your perception, your life and sometimes they change the world. He uses the discovery of the black swan in Australia as an analogy. Until the black swans were discovered, swans were always thought to be white. Hence, he says we shouldn’t base our knowledge upon the facts we know.

Of course then you start thinking whether the sun is going to come up in the morning or not. The previous history of the world says that it should, but then, who knows?

The author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, calls himself an empiricist who believes on focusing on how things cannot be done rather than how they can be done. It rather sounds like a negative attitude, but this is the perception perhaps that he wants to change. He says we live in a world defined by our experiences and the events that we remember, and this stifles our ability to see things as they are. I find myself agreeing to this philosophy, as I myself have experienced personal biases due to congealed memories of real and imagined events.

By the end of today’s reading, there’s a portion that explains how, throughout our lives sometimes, we deprive ourselves of multiple smaller happinesses in search of some bigger, elusive (The Black Swan) happiness that happens once in a lifetime. Is it worth it? It depends on how you perceive happiness. May be that bigger, once-in-a-lifetime happiness means more to you than the smaller, everyday happinesses. The problem is, that bigger happiness may or may not happen.

He explains this by terming successes of novels, books, movies, an artist or a scientific discovery as Black Swans. They may change the world, but you’re never sure of their occurrence. Their successes are unexplained. Thousands of better books never see the light of the day. Exceptionally brilliant scientists commit suicides because they are way ahead of their time. Movies that should have been super hits flop. Why? I’m still to read that portion.

This book makes you sleepy unless you’re hell bent upon stretching your reading abilities, or may be I have been simply too tired because I start reading it after I’ve already slogged for 6-7 hours. Lots of abstract philosophy and logic, lots of references to mathematicians and philosophers, their experiments and their observations. The humor sounds clichéd and hence off-putting sometimes, like repeatedly making fun of the French, the bankers and the financial forecasters. Nonetheless, I have found some worthy nuggets of wisdom and I plan to finish it in the coming days.

Deciding to never give up

Are you feeling depressed and dejected because things are not turning out the way you had wanted? Do you think the world has turned miserable and not worth living in. Are you deciding to become a terrorist or sympathizing with them because you think the world is full of injustice and bias? Although I normally don’t like comparing adversities because we all have our own threshold levels, there are some adversities that can simply never be compared.  Take for instance being born without arms and legs.  Just imagine a single day without your thumb.  I found this video on Steve’s travel insurance blog and couldn’t resist posting it here. I don’t believe in saccharine encouragement and saying good things to people merely for the sake of saying them but sometimes you can experience the abundant confidence and determination just by looking at a person’s eyes by observing his or her body language.

Dealing with difficult people, and issues

In my recent posts I have been talking a lot about the Kashmir issue and what a few writers and bloggers have been writing about the recent imbroglio.  Sometimes there are comments that are entirely targeted at you and your opinions.  Of course if you share your opinions publicly then you should be ready to face counter opinions too and in fact I consider this quite healthy.  When people exchange ideas and opinions however much contrary they sound this encourages debate in the society and forces people to think proactively.  But when is it the right time to put a stop?  Is it worth it that you prove yourself right in front of everybody?  I was reading this interesting article on how to deal with difficult people — people who react to you negatively just for the heck of it.  In this article there is a very nice quote:

Holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

This is so very very true. I think sometimes we get in these never-ending loops of arguments and counter-arguments without realizing when the discussion has metamorphosed into a senseless talk where more than the topic the important thing is who is proven wrong and who is proven right and who gets to say the last word.

But it is not always right to keep mum and let the other opinion dominate the environment. For instance right now there is lots of misinformation and vicious propaganda in the mainstream media propagated by the so-called "secularists" and "liberals".  In this case lots of harm can be caused if something is not done to counter this propaganda. If a lopsided opinion is thrust upon the masses then lots of social unrest can crop up. All those people who can express themselves should do so in order to maintain a sense of sanity in the country.

Other than that, if there is no national level crisis being caused by your silence and nobody is going to be harmed if you don’t retaliate then it is always better to practice patience whenever somebody — who might already be having some personal problems — attacks you to vent out. Holding a grudge and resenting people for having a different opinion is not worth it.  It needlessly saps your energy and produces toxins inside your body.