September 24, 2011

If this makes sense to you... You're like Me!!

So you know the time when I said I needed to get my thoughts together -
a couple of days ago?!?

They're together now.
Like totally together.
Like so together you couldn't pry them apart with all the tools in the world.

There wasn't much of effort required… because I found these words in the 'most awesomest book in the world'- The Black Swan.

This is what it says:

'Missing the train is only painful if you run after it'.

It's as simple as that.

I talked about how I get the feeling of having lagged behind all my peers.
Everyone's working in stable jobs.
They have their savings which they use to finance holidays abroad.
And get mud baths.
And visit other friends for their birthdays.
And miss annoying family get-togethers because of work.

And I have nothing.
I gotta go to every last one of those darned get-togethers.

I missed the train.

And everyone else I know, is on it… headed towards eternal domestic and professional bliss.
Okay .. I know that's not true.
I just said that for dramatic appeal.

They'll have their ups and downs too.
But to a person -watching the train disappear in the distance- that's what it looks like.
Eternal bliss.
The Black Swan goes on to say:

'(…) Not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that's what you are seeking.

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside it- if you do so by choice.'

That's the thing.
The thing is - I WAS on the train.
And I jumped off.

The Black Swan elaborates:

'Quitting a high paying position, if it is your decision, will seem a better payoff than the utility of money involved. (This may seem crazy but I've tried it and it works). This is the first step toward the stoic's throwing a four-letter word at fate. You have far more control over your life if you decide on your criterion by yourself.'

So it doesn't make sense to feel bad about missing the train right?!
Well… logically it doesn't.

The problem is that those who miss the train… or jump off on purpose… are constantly bombarded with images of what it's like ON the train.
You know?!?

So the train leaves the station but there are those CCTV cameras on board and it's compulsory to watch their journey to eternal bliss.

Don't get me wrong.
If I was to live my life over- I'd jump off it again.

But I have to be honest.
I sure miss the comfort of 'belonging' (to the train).
There's a sense of security- a deep psychological need- to be 'one of the crowd'.

If any of this is making any sense to you…
then whether you like it or not… you're like me.

I don't mean that as an insult.
Someone's touchy.

I just mean that you've kind of- sort of missed the train.

But we need to keep reminding ourselves that - no matter how we end up, in fact, even if we die as 'failures'- we made up the rules ourselves.

'It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself.'

It's hard sometimes.
So hard that sometimes you could write a LOONNNG blog post about it and be completely convinced… only to forget everything the next day.
But you gotta keep reminding yourself.

And, also, remember-

That the fact that the grapes are sweet or sour is irrelevant-
if you rejected them from the very beginning.

Also, that the tortoise won the race.

And that no one listens to the boy who cries 'wolf' all the time.

The last story has nothing to do with failure or lagging behind… 
but it's still a lesson worth remembering.
Don't you think??!

September 22, 2011

Fuzziness Fights Failure

I've been thinking.

My blog gives the impression that I'm a well sorted sort of person with comprehensive and clear thoughts on many things in life.

Not really?
Not even a little bit?!?
Okay … I just thought….
Never mind.

Either way…
Lots of times, I'm all preachy and pedantic.

But here's a confession.
The truth that I haven't spoken about.
Until now.


Oh you knew that already?!
Wow.. I had NO idea.

I'm a huge failure, by current standards of success.

At this pivotal juncture in my life… I've achieved nothing I can boast about.
Forget boast, I can't even talk about anything worth talking about.

At a time when people my age are settling down into stable, secure and lucrative careers; when they're investing in pension funds and planning their families- I'm struggling to keep  my head above the water.
I have my fingers stuck in four or five different things- each of which give me immense joy but no money.
No dough. No dice.
No fridge. No ice.
No pizza. No slice.

I'll stop now.

As hard as it is to believe… I don't make a living out of my geniusness.
Geniusness can't make you rich.
Only brilliant.

If someone asks me what I 'do' today- I fumble.

Half my brain begins praying for a divine interruption.
Preferably Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney air-lifting me out after proclaiming to everyone that I'm the coolest person they know.

But anything would do.
Beggars can't be choosers. 

The other half stumbles over itself to come up with a cohesive response.

Should I mention the blog?! Nope. That's stupid. Don't talk about the blog. Everyone blogs. Should I say home accessory design? Well… it's not like you're designing right now. Or that you've sold your first collection. That's like a caterpillar calling himself a butterfly. Should I say I trade forex? Are you sure you want to do that? Coz then they'll just ask for your view on different currency markets and you won't have a view coz you only day trade … and then they're going to think you're lying. Or stupid. Or lying. Or both.

Footnote: How smart is my brain for coming up with the caterpillar-butterfly analogy?!?

Then after a few sheepish smiles and a gazillion 'ums' and 'uhs' and floundering around like a flibbertigibbet (more on that word, later) - the person loses interest and starts talking to someone else.
And my brain goes- 'YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!' complete with the fist punch in the air.
And then it does the Cleopatra dance- although I'm not sure that's got anything to do with anything.
So I am one person that knows failure well.
I can't say that we are friends.
Failure and I.

More like failure's the annoying guy with body odor that I keep bumping in to in the elevator.
Or the neighbors dog who keeps peeing on my car tire every morning.
What's the deal with that ?!
The car is MINE.

To the extent that- when everyone else thought that I had succeeded, I had actually failed. I'm talking - as usual- about my glamorous banking job in London.
I know.
I just can't seem to talk enough about it.

So in this post, I speak with more authority than ever before.
Failure, as a topic of discussion, is my forte.
Even more than geniusness or theories of eating or anger or hard work.

And I'm going to draw on my life experiences to prove my point.
I'll leave out the gory details for your benefit.

My first venture.
The restaurant.

My business partner and I knew exactly what it was that we wanted.
We wanted a cafĂ©…
We knew the colors we wanted on the walls and the furniture; we knew exactly what we wanted on the menu; we had excel spreadsheets and million folders with all the details; we knew what we wanted- dang it!  
And we were more focused than bees on flowers.
Or honey.
Or bears on honey.
Or bees on bears that are stealing the honey.

We had expectations from our efforts.
Clear cut and unambiguous.
Anything else would be a failure.

And that's what it was.
A failure.
Because we eventually gave up.
At least at that time.

I guess what I'm trying to say two things… which are:

  • You obviously haven't failed until you've given up.
If you haven't given up- then you're still trying.
Which means you haven't failed yet.
If A=B and B=C then A=C

A being Not giving up
B being Still trying
C being Not failed

There you go.
Simple calculus.
I was a math whiz in high school.

  • The more clear cut your expectations are from your efforts- the higher the likelihood of failure.
Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.
 -Mahatma Gandhi
And how do I know this is true?
Other than the fact that Mahatma Gandhi never lied…

Life has taught me.

Everything I've done since then- has been with zero expectations.

Case no. 1.
When I started studying technical analysis- I didn't have a purpose in mind.
I mean sure I could get a job.
Or use it some other way.
Or become a self-employed technical trader.

Things were fuzzy though.
Not 'cute teddy bear' fuzzy.
More like 'I can't see, I'm getting a head-ache' fuzzy.
Or 'HELP ME! I'm falling into the deep abyss of self-doubt' fuzzy.

There are so many different types of fuzzy- it's important to clarify.

What happened?
I studied hard for the love of the subject more than anything else.

And then what happened?
I won a prestigious award for getting the highest score in 2010, the world over.
I'm not even kidding.

And it's not like I abandoned it after that.
I still try to trade as much as I can- I'm in the learning phase.
Have been for like 18 months now.
But that's besides the point.

The point is- can you say that I've failed as a trader?!?
I mean, those of you who try to actually 'say it' say it-  sure you can say it.
You can say anything you want.
Except … maybe… saying flibbertigibbet ten times without getting tongue tied.
But can you mean it?

I haven't succeeded yet.
I agree.
But I haven't really failed.

Case no. 2.
When I saw all the waste wood lying around the house - during our renovation work. And I began designing stuff out of it. And I did the whole catalogue and sent it out to a bunch of places.

I didn't think I had any idea of
(a) designing stuff;
(b) taking photographs;
(c) writing out and putting together a whole catalogue.

Did I think anyone was going to buy this stuff?
Well, yeah.
I was hoping.

To be honest I thought I'd just use the stuff in my own house, if no one else wanted it.
I quite like the stuff.

But my expectations were…. You guessed it…. FUZZY.

What happened?
I did it anyway.
And I did it for the fun of it.
I ate, talked, walked and slept design- if you know what I mean.
I, practically had wooden pieces floating around my head 24 hours of the day.
I loved it.

And then what happened?
I got a few responses from companies.
They didn't work out because of export technicalities- but my work was appreciated
And I still keep sending the catalogue out to new people.

So can you say I failed as a home accessory designer?
I know.
I know you can say it.

But is it accurate to say that I failed?

I haven't stopped trying yet.
So I haven't succeeded- but I haven't exactly failed.

I have more cases. But I think you get the point.

The point is:
Remember in the Social Network movie- when the friend wants to monetize 'The Facebook' and Mark Zuckerberg says:

'We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know what it can be, we don’t know what it will be.'

Not knowing 'what it is or will be' is the best thing that could happen to you.

Having said all of this.
Here's another truth, that I'm only too familiar with.

Expectations are not really under our control.
You begin expecting stuff without even realizing it.
It's called fantasizing.
Or dreaming.

It originates in our brain.
And I've already demonstrated that our brain is totally out of our control.
So I suggest a game of Whack-a-mole.
Except with expectations.
Like 'whack-an-expectation'.
You couldn't come up with a wittier name - if you tried.
And you know it.
I am a self-proclaimed goal opponent.
I think it does more damage than good.
And 'expectation' is a longer version of the word 'goal'.

Sure they goad you towards action.
But I think your goal should be the action itself.

You know the saying, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it-
you will land among the stars?!

That's all okay.
What it doesn't tell you is that when you expect the moon and only get a star- you feel like a failure. You're disappointed and hurt.
Your star looks like mud to you.

Before everyone jumps on me and says that low aims only serve to perpetuate mediocrity- I'll tell ya.
I couldn't agree more.

I'm just saying that goals limit you.
Irrespective of whether it's high or low.
Not having a goal- and just doing what you love - with a fuzzy goal-
lets you achieve a lot more without imposing the limit of a goal.

No one travels so high as he who knows not whither he is going.
And he's the guy that had the guts to overthrow the British monarchy in the 17th century.
And he was voted one of top 10 greatest Britons in history, in 2002- about 400 years after he died.

I digress.

The point of this post is this:

Failure and expectations are buddies.
They work together.
Together they'll trick you into jumping off the cliff of depression.
Like in cartoon shows.
Fuzziness and failure- are enemies.
They fight each other.
Try as hard as it might, if you have fuzziness by your side- failure can't touch you.

Unless you're a flibbertigibbet.

I khudn'th shay ith thhen thiimes…
My thongue ish thied.

By the way… this isn't over.

I still have more to say on the matter- but a little later.
Need to get my thoughts together.

I have lots of thoughts, if you haven't noticed.


You may notice that there's a difference in the cartoons in this post.
Don't worry.
Nothing's wrong.

I just got a new ream of paper.
So you won't find those annoying notebook lines in the cartoons anymore.
Until I run out of paper again.
And then there's no saying WHAT will happen.

But you can breathe easy.
For now.


September 12, 2011

The Rise of the Dimwits

So I'm not a very smart person.
Some people think I'm intelligent… but NO one thinks I'm sharp.

In high school I was sent to this Young Leader's Conference.
Which turned out to be a glorified summer camp mostly.

And, there, someone asked about what my thoughts were on the death penalty.

I drew a big blank.

I was all of 16 years old and all my philosophical thinking, thus far, had been limited to pressing questions like

'How does my mom's college photograph have the same hipster jeans that I wear?
Does history really just repeat itself?'
'Hipster' jeans were 'in' in the late 1990s.

Anyway, the smart, sharp thing to do would be to go with what everyone else was saying. Everyone seemed to be against it.

Repeat the same idea in different words and I'd have made a contribution to the discussion.
Scraped through as a "young leader" with a vision for the future.

But … idiotically… I didn't do that.

I think my exact words were:

"I think I'm okay with it. A little. Maybe."
Tee. Hee.

For those of you who have their mouths open in disbelief…
It happened.
I…  *sigh*…  giggled.

That put an abrupt end to my budding 'young leadership' career.

By the way, that's the day I lost all respect for that saying:
'It's better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt.'

How on God's green earth can you be silent, when a question is directed right at you?!?!

I'm as sharp as the day is dark.
Except in Antarctica.
During summer.
Where you don't see the sun for months… even during the day.
Does knowing that count as sharpness?

This lack of sharpness (hereon referred to as bluntness) is also responsible for my failure in the school debating team and my dreams of becoming a lawyer.

I'm often too busy listening with rapt attention to the information, statistics and quotes cleverly woven into my opponents eloquent speech to jot down arguments to defend the point of view I'm supposed to be defending.
Give me a logical argument and information I didn't previously have, and I'm yours.
Or at least until I come across something more logical and informative.

All this has contributed to my present condition where my lips twitch nervously, my intestines tighten into knots and my chest caves inward like one of those buttoned cushions, every time I am at a social gathering where the conversation leads to an information intensive topic.
Like history.
Or war.
Or history of war.
Or religion.
Or history of religion.
Or war of religions.
Or any other combination of the words religion, history and war.
Oh yea.
And of course, the death penalty.

If I'm lucky, I can ask a few intelligent questions during the discussion but mostly, I try to keep away and go to my happy place.
And it's neighboring territories… Superfast Metabolistan and Calorie Killer County. 
It's not that I'm stupid or that I'm incapable of thinking.
I can think pretty well, I think.

But, I'm uncomfortable in talking about things in which I don't have complete information. 

I have an opinion, based on my information set.
But give me some new information and I'm back to being lost and undecided.

So this intellectual fickleness, coupled with the knowledge of the fact that I can't possibly know enough to form an irrefutable opinion…  has earned me the label of a dimwit.

I have spent most of my life believing that my brain was a snail in it's previous life.
That's the only explanation for the sluggishness of my brain.
And my love for Gary the snail from SpongeBob SquarePants. 
And I know I'm not the only one.
Maybe the only one with an unexplained liking for slugs.
But NOT the only one who's been labeled a dimwit for these reasons.

I'm not the only one that gets nauseated by the people who use obscure jargon and fancy-shmancy words to establish their intellectual superiority.

And I'm not the only one that's disgusted by the constant deification of the virtues of 'confidence' and pig-headed insistence of one's point of view, even in the face of new information or logic.

But then I read this book.
The Black Swan.
I'm still reading the book, but the parts I've read contained this idea.

And I want to talk about this idea, because it glorifies the Dimwit.

Not only does it free us from the dark dungeons of perceived stupidity but, it in fact, asserts our intellectual superiority over conventional intellectuals.

At least that's what I understood of it.
Now I'm having doubts about my interpretation of the information I've read.

I dwell in a never-ending vicious circle of doubt.
It's an ugly place to dwell.

But for the purpose of this post, let's pretend I don't dwell there.
And while we are on the subject of pretending… another request.

The author, is this really smart person.
And he's against quoting.
He says that if you look hard enough you will always find something written or said by someone which seems to confirm your point of view.
So quoting anyone from anywhere is basically useless and doesn’t prove anything.

So let's pretend he didn’t say that.
Coz I'm gonna quote him.
This post is practically an excerpt from his book.

Moving on.

I'm not sure about other professions, but I know this about the banking world.

The guy that feigns confidence- even about something that is blatantly wrong-
He wins.

The one that expresses doubt is the loser.

It better to make something up that's wrong- than admit that you don't know.
To say 'I don't know' is a one-way ticket to unemployment.

And that's how it is with most intellectual circles.

Just the other day I was having an argument with a self-proclaimed smart person, who prided herself on her breadth of knowledge of all things spirituality related- on *shudder* religion.

I admit it.
A part of the motivation for this post is to get back at her.
She doesn't read my blog.
But I'm pretending she does.

I said that I didn't agree with her claim that a religion could be inherently evil, it's all a matter of interpretation. But I can't tell her my interpretation because I haven't really read the holy text myself. And any book I read on the subject, is only going to be someone else's interpretation. There's just going to be too much lost in translation. 

To which she replied, 'That's just a really nice way of complimenting yourself. You've effectively excused yourself from any discussion on the topic by saying you don't know enough and those who do discuss it, have no right to unless they've read the holy text.'

And herein, says the Black Swan, lies the 'toxicity of knowledge'.

Side note: Considering the geniusness of the author, a PhD, quant trader, and everything else I felt the moral obligation to accompany as many of his words as I could, with a smart graphical representation of the same.
Also, I had a lot of free time.
And it was fun.
For example:
'We are demonstrably arrogant about what we think we know. We certainly know a lot, but we have a built in tendency to think that we know a little bit more than we actually do.'
'The problem is that our ideas are sticky: once we produce a theory, we are not likely to change our minds. So those who delay developing their theories are better off. (…) Remember that we treat ideas like possessions, and it will be hard for us to part with them.'
'We are not predisposed to respect humble people, those who try to suspend judgment. (…) Think of someone heavily introspective, tortured by the awareness of his own ignorance. He lacks the courage of the idiot, yet has the rare guts to say 'I don't know.' (…) This does not necessarily mean that he lacks confidence, only that he holds his own knowledge to be suspect. I will call such a person an epistemocrat. (…) To me, utopia is an epistemocracy.'
'Alas, one cannot assert authority by accepting one's own fallibility. Simply- people need to be blinded by knowledge.'

'Once in awhile you encounter members of the human species with so much intellectual superiority that they can change their minds effortlessly.'
I seriously wish it was possible for me to type this whole chapter out- to rub my intellectual superiority in my self-proclaimed intellectual friend's face- but, I can't.
But I would.
If I could.

The Pious Hippie translation for all of the above is this:

Dimwits are better than idiots.
Dimwits have guts.
People who deride Dimwits are blind.
Dimwits are intellectually superior.
Dimwits rule.

So here's my message to all the dimwits of the world:

Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know'.
Don't be afraid to change your mind if you want to.
It's the mark of an open-minded person.


I realize I haven't mentioned disco anywhere.
But I just really wanted to say 'shmisco'.
I like the sound of the word.

When I get a dog… I'm going to name it Shmisco.
This is to notify the readers that this is not an advertisement for the book.

Dr. Taleb, the author of the book, has no idea of the existence of my blog. In all likelihood, if he ever reads this post, he's not going to like it. He might even go on to say that I missed the point of the book completely.
I'm pretty sure, it wasn't to celebrate dimwittedness.

But I don't care.
It's still the most awesomest book I've ever read.

If anyone reading this knows Dr. Taleb, please tell him I said this:

September 7, 2011

Life Saver No.1

So as a part of the Pious Hippie life-saving programme, I would like to present my first guest post - on my best friend's blog.

Which of these is the most likely to save lives?
The person who guesses correctly, will get the rare opportunity to rub their smartness in everyone's faces!
You're welcome.

  1. A sentimental, cloyingly sweet list of the ways I love my best friend.
  2. A slideshow of photographs of our college life - with the acoustic version of 'Summer of '69' playing in the background.
  3. A pasta recipe.

Yea… I know. 
My question sort of gave it away.

Pasta saves my life once every week.
Or maybe once in every two weeks, if I'm on a diet.
It would save my life everyday, if I had my way.
But I don't.
I don't have my way.
Stupid slow metabolism.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

For those who picked option A, you were close.

All I can say is, she is my soul mate.
I got dibs on that designation.

I'm not sure where that leaves V… 
her husband.

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The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.