Purple Cow at Work

As the Chief Marketing Officer =) goes around;
Juice pours out and a crowd gathers.

Would you buy sugarcane juice from this enterprise? A sizeable crowd of onlookers seem to agree with that notion!


* Purple Cow, an idea best explained by Seth Godin.

Zazen – The Missing Manual

If I analyze or objectify Zazen as I did so in an earlier review, I won’t be able to communicate it across to you. I can’t define a mountain by describing the color of it’s mud. It just won’t work! But I can describe it to you with the help of an analogy which might help you feel the same way I feel about the mountain to truly understand it.

If you’ve acquired the skill of writing code to solve complex problems, you will recall brief moments while coding where you can simply see the code spell itself out in your mind. Writing it is then simply a function of dealing with the editor. You need to do this again and again until you have something that works.

Now blow up that picture several times. If you watch Mark Zuckerberg’s character carefully in the movie “the Social Network”, the moment you see his inner nature emerge is when he is single-mindedly building out Facebook, fearlessly absorbing and internalizing ideas from all around him. Zazen is then one way you can freeze frame that moment for yourself, study it, and find a path, the real steps back to it every time.

A favorite scene from the movie “Finding Forrester” is when William Forrester is teaching Jamal how to write. Jamal is talented but has never had a formal education in writing. His sparks of brilliant writing are interspersed with what William calls constipated results. As William sets about teaching Jamal, he spots him thinking with fingers frozen above the keys of the typewriter. He exclaims “No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”. For me this poignant scene defines the Zen approach.

Everyone’s lives are filled with countless moments like these, big and small – ones where we present ourselves in our entirety, or ones that we can call out as a missed opportunity to pop open our hoods and peek inside. Zazen is one way to learn to spot these moments before they unravel and get your entire being behind your choice to realize your destiny, to finally know thyself.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow and what makes a life worth living? – TED.com.

Know Thyself | Guides to the Journey Inward.

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Search for “Finding Forrester”.

Search for “The Social Network”.

Know Thyself | Guides to the Journey Inward

Zen Mind, Beginners Mind
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind Cover

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: I discovered Zen Mind when listening to a talk by the Instagr.am founders on Stanford’s eCorner. They suggested Zen Mind to help you listen to your gut better and it aroused my curiosity. The book is a series of short lectures (5 to 8 mins of talking) by Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of the Zen movement in San Francisco, US. It does not assume any basic religion or any knowledge of Zen and is great as a starting point for understanding the Zen approach to life.

The book teaches learning one’s original self-sufficient mind, or beginner’s mind. This is everyone’s own internal map or true nature. The teachings in the book stick by basic Zen concepts and allow the reader to decide how much they would like to gain from it. For instance, you can choose to have joy as a gaining idea from your Zen practice, or commit yourself to an even higher path. The book also emphasizes practice in just sitting in the Zazen posture to imbibe it’s learning. What you will not find detailed in the book is Zen directly applied to your day-to-day activity – that is essentially a gap you could fill with the help of other guides such as ZenHabits. In other words, if you would like learn just basic Zen practice, this is the book to get.

For me personally, I found the book valuable in learning to accept and make deep change internally, realizing the need to go inwards to refresh perspective, tuning my approach and attitude to work amongst other things. I admire people who are relentless in their approach to their work and this book helped me understand and absorb this phenomena a lot better. Let’s just say that the results have been interesting and I’m curious to see what else I can do with this behind me.

I recommend the printed edition, hardcover pocket size to take where ever you go. It turns out, this book is also on Steve Jobs’ favorites. You also have an audio book option you can listen to in your car or on your mobile.

Related links:
* I am Nothing – Paul Buchheit.
* Get Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind on Amazon.

Living the night-shift life

About 4 weeks ago, an opportunity came up to work night hours. Since then, I have been starting work roughly around 5pm and ending up at 5am. By blogging about how it went I think I’ve gained some insight into how a portion of India’s night-shift workforce works and feels.

The first 3 days were easy. Staying up was not a problem as long as I slept the next day through noon. On the other hand, it’s difficult to sleep in an active household any time past 10am. My 7-month old is up and about before then, house cleaning has to be done and calls from different services start coming in. I would wake up naturally and feel rested with the few hours of sleep behind me. By mid-week, sleep caught up and staying up until 3am was starting to look difficult.

To fix: extend your sleep for some portion of the afternoon. Or, keep your sleep area quiet for enough time (thanks to Akshay for the tip).

With the shift in timings, the next challenge was food. I continued to eat with everyone else at regular times and unwittingly went on just snacks, or a chocolate bar between 10pm and the next morning for the first few days. Within a couple of days, headaches and acid reflux became a feature.

To fix: have a proper meal around or after midnight to keep yourself full (thanks to Anjali for this one).

The wee hours after 3am were difficult to get through but only because if you think to your self, “let’s get this done by 4am.” – that sounds naturally absurd to the body, mind and you begin to look forward to some shut eye once you are done (or reach 4am :-)). With that in front of you, concentration dips automatically with mistakes that show up only the next day. Managing this must be a nightmare for teams – I have no idea how they do it.

To fix: loose track of time and constantly test for details.

I found that there were some advantages of doing this – you won’t encounter any traffic on the way home, you can get bank related and other weekday work between 10 and 12 amongst other things.

It would not have been possible if I hadn’t been covered at home, work and without Vipul’s constant company.

There were several more questions that were left unanswered, for instance:

What about the social – presence side of things?
Should you maintain the same pattern through the weekend to not have to put in effort into it again on Monday?

Also, inspired by:

* Living on rs100aday.com

* disrupt your self – FAKEGRIMLOCK.

An update: I also discovered that I often forgot day-activated memories and tasks. For instance, if you need to buy groceries – you need to encounter an empty refrigerator or set a reminder to buy groceries regularly. I can imagine that services such as freshmandi would be very compelling to professionals who work nights.

The Irony…

In the past week tech news has confirmed what everyone in the world of programming has feared. Programming is now a commodity and not an art only for those gifted in math and logic. Last week, Microsoft announced that it was moving 800 jobs to India, Yahoo announced that it would shift it’s entire research and development wing to Bangalore, India. Finally, IBM joined in the fray and announced it was moving jobs over to India slowly and steadily to as many as 60,000.

This brought on an entire wave of paranoia in the development community at large in the USA. Suddenly, everyone is comparing the entire direction the tech industry is taking to that of sweatshops. As always, the news brought out the best in some developers and the worst in others. One comment on Slashdot pointed out that it was inevitable that this should happen and that the USA should (and will) stay ahead through innovation and true high tech. On the other hand, others blew their lid off at how so many GA’s/TA’s were from India at US Universities and how the US tax-payers were footing the bill to educate the developers who were finally taking away the jobs too (What about the Kalpana Chawlas I would have asked, but I wanted to moderate the discussion :S not participate).

The facts are of course, that the Indians are doing a good job in the area of development. There is also the immense savings. On average, an Indian with 2 years of solid professional experience will get around $8000 a year, while the same kind of experience here demands several 10’s of thousands in US Dollars.

It’s true that the american way of life costs, but it also demands innovation. The circumstances bring out this truth in the open, assuming of course that the sweatshop trend will settle in. At around the middle of year 2002, when things began to go really sour, lots of Indians predicted this, saying that the crunch on finance in the high-tech industry would result in a trend of this sort. However, the current movements are not a result of just sorry finances, we are talking major high-tech firms affirming their faith in the Indian Tech Industry.

Strangely, it also brought out good humour, someone asked, why not out source management too? Someone else pointed out that now Americans could migrate to India and open convenience stores for the Indian programmers 🙂 of course don’t be surprised if they make fun of your american accent ;). To apprise them, we don’t have convenience stores, well not many really. We do have kirane wallahs and as the people of Lullanagar and Aundh will point out, that has been out-sourced to the Biharis already.

I believe that the future holds prosperity for the Indian tech. Industry. I just pray we don’t get too caught up with the business of tailing when we can lead eventually. I want to be surprised when I say that the best innovation can come from us too.

My sup. in Persistent once said, as long as Indians are there in tech, quality will remain absent… “Chalta Hai” !! This is an opportunity to prove otherwise…

Genesis of Reasoning itself

Today I had a good class. “Foundations of Computer Theory” is taken by Radzizowski. The theory here really pushes one to think. Problems that computers find unsolvable while creative thinking applies are interesting and challenging. Suddenly we begin to map the limits of reasoning in the 8 th week of classes and as Phaedrus in “Zen and the art of Motorcycle Mainteanance” described the air is starting to get a little thin here. I feel like I am in Third year again, exploring reasoning and the process itself, coming up with small discoveries and serendipity. Only this time I have a faculty and other students who share what I can see. Tougher challenges lie ahead. 10 weeks of classes is just too short.