Do you connect with your future self?

Have you ever postponed your work to another day even when you are aware you are the one who is going to do it anyway? If you answered yes, it’s probably because you don’t consider your future self as yourself.

Let’s dwell into a little psychology for the matter. Hershfield HE’s research suggests that a lot of people tend to put their present selves ahead of future selves when making decisions that could affect their future significantly. This is the case for behavioural, financial and health decisions and many others too.

People often treat the future self as if it is in fact another person. On a general level, individuals make attributions about the future self in the same manner that they do for others, for example, by attributing the future self’s behavior to dispositional factors rather than situational ones, and to make decisions for the future self using a similar process that they use to make decisions for other individual.

The truth is that we are bad at predicting what effect our current actions — be it good or bad — will have on our future and blindly go through it in an impulse. That would explain many financial ruins (mainly retirees), heat-of-the-moment scuffles and passionate crimes.

If we spent a few seconds thinking about what that course of action will lead us into, maybe we won’t put ourselves in that situation. I guess that’s why we have the saying Look before you leap, to serve us a warning.

So, next time you think of postponing your work, assume you are assigning the work to a different person and imagine what their response would be when they are shoved more work without a valid reason. Most likely, an actual different person will not like what you are doing and why should your future self like it any better?


Inertia and procrastination vs Persistent starting

Procrastination is one big game killer for me. Slacker, procrastinator, lazy are some of the words that are used to describe me. I won’t deny that they are pretty accurate descriptions of me.

I always had a huge inertia towards work — can’t quickly get into a mind frame for doing work. Instead of doing school work, I spend time surfing through Internet, trawling around in social network sites, playing online games, contributing to open source communities and many other time wasting schemes.


During one such time-wasting visit to the Internet, I picked up a neat little motivation tip — persistent starting — that helped me beat my inertia. Funnily enough, I found it on reddit, a place infamous for being a huge time sink. Let me quote Chyndonax’s comment for you:

It’s called persistent starting. Pick something you want to do but keep putting off. It can be anything. Tell yourself you’ll spend five minutes doing it and then quit after five minutes if you still don’t want to do it. After five minutes if you still want to quit then quit. No tricks or mind games. You won’t want to quit. What happens is the part of our brain that plans and carries out our day to day actions takes over our bodies and we just keep doing what we’re doing. Planning the next step, executing the current one. Autopilot in a way.

To put it simply, we start thinking about when we can start a task instead of thinking about when can finish it. This simple shift in mentality works wonders as you trick your mind to believing it has options and once you start on the task, that initial inertia against work is dealt with and you are now facing an inertia against not doing work. 🙂

This motivation tip, persistent starting, was part of the book The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I’m yet to read the book but am confident it will be worthwhile.

Hope you find this little tip useful for boosting your productivity.

The word “interesting”

Interesting is a colourless word. If I say something was interesting, it probably means I have nothing to really talk about it. It could mean I was barely impressed. It has joined the laundry list of words that give absolutely nothing away to the listeners. And yet, it’s been used all over the place, from describing a person and their character to commenting on a new film and what not. Frankly speaking, you can spot the word in places where one voices their opinions.

For what its worth, “interesting” could very well be a synonym for boring. It has been misused and overused to the point that the word has lost all of its true meaning. These days, it has been limited to just a filler word, the word you use to cover up the awkward pause as you try to think of something interesting to say to others.

Calvin calls it ‘interesting times’ but he doesn’t really mean it. Now, if only we had accurate words to exactly express what we feel. Oh wait.

As has been the case always, someone has already felt the same pain as mine, ranted about it and did a good job at it too. Let me present to you Rick Manelius’ “Interesting” is a Boring, Overused, and Lifeless Word:

It’s overused because it’s become a go-to filler word when we become too lazy to use something more precise. It’s misused because we often hide behind it instead of saying what we truly think and feel.

And that’s simply the truth. There are enough alternatives that can do a better job than what ‘interesting’ is doing. So maybe we should vow to stop using ‘interesting’ as much as possible and use words that are more revealing (not in a risque manner, mind you). That should be one neat trick for improving your vocabulary too!


Regrets come in many flavours. From the lost aspirations to the broken relationships, from the silly ones to the life destroyers, people have plenty of things to regret about and reproach themselves. I’ve had (and still have) a fair share of them myself.

I regret not learning Hindi. I regret not getting actively involved in sports. I regret wasting time on online conversations when I could have spent that time working on my statistics homework (this particular one had very significant impact on my future career decisions). This list of regrets goes on.

Carrying these regrets was boggling me down and quite severely too. I constantly drifted into a pensive mode, evaluating my life choices and wondering where I would have been if I had paid a little more attention to statistic lessons.

It was James Altucher who saved me, my go to man for everything philosophical these days. He tells me regrets aren’t good for anything:

Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read. Today it starts all over again. Every tomorrow is determined by every today.

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t have to know and I don’t want to know how things could have shaped if I had done some things differently. They also tell me people are more likely to regret things they haven’t done as opposed to regretting things they actually have done.

Today’s here and I should work on preventing any possible regrets that I might cause myself in the future. And I shall do just that by posting this.

So, go forth and live a happy life, free of regrets and be sure to cherish this new found freedom.

Generating ideas and some more

If you are thinking you need to be creative or inspired to generate beautiful ideas, you are in the wrong. Because ideas don’t quite work that way. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

Many ideas to bigger idea

Firstly, you generate some ideas. And then some more. Over time, you slowly grow your creative muscle and get better at it. It’s similar to learning how to juggle. You don’t just became a world-class juggler overnight without any practice.

Luckily for me, I had James Altucher to teach me the importance of generating ideas:

But WHENEVER I’ve been stuck on the floor I knew the only way to kick into action was to start building my idea muscle again. Because it is in those moments that my brain had become smaller, damaged, and my idea muscle had atrophied. And from that moment it takes six months (on average) to 100% change my life around.

And that was when I realized the naked truth about creating ideas and its real impact on one’s life. And be warned that it can change your life – for better or for worse.

Jotting ’em down

Now I hope I have convinced you about the importance of generating ideas. But it doesn’t stop there. One of the (two) crucial bits people forget about ideas is getting them jotted down immediately and with vivid details.

Most people mistake their memory to be expertly good at remembering their ideas and they have unconsciously failed at the art of ideas right away. A good ideator (that’s a partially made up word :-)) is one who makes sure he has scribbled down his idea somewhere for future reference – no matter how bad the idea is – because he knows the value of ideas.

Ideas when on bed

The hardworking brain

Moving on, a lot of us get some of the smartest ideas right before we are about to fall asleep. It’s almost like our brain is doing it on purpose to taunt us. If you are lazy or imagine yourself to be able to remember the details of the idea when you wake up, you have lost it. The key thing to do is to keep a notepad nearly just for this worst-case scenario. Or you can use the notes app on your smartphone. Anything that works as long as you have jotted it down somewhere.

Ideas are social

If there is one secret most “creative” people have kept away from the plebians, it’s this. Ideas are insanely social. By that, I mean if you have one idea in mind, there is a very high likelihood of having many more ideas. And they grow so fast it is almost scary. But don’t be scared if you are jotting them as they visit you.

Sharing ideas

The other crucial bit people don’t realize about ideas is that sharing ideas is actually good and beneficial. I am going to let Seth Godin argue this point:

How dare we criticize an inventor or an author or a leader for, “stealing someone else’s ideas.” Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger.

Then again, there are two aspects of sharing: giving and receiving. Even as you contribute your ideas to the pool, you should also put effort in learning about others’ ideas. If you notice, “creative” people turn out to be one of the most vociferous readers out there. If you want an idea (ha!), here’s Steve Jobs’ reading list.

I guess it’s time to leave you on your journey of creating a thousand and one ideas. Good luck!

Heroes don’t exist

How’s life, girls and booze?, I inquired my friend. I hadn’t seen him around for some time and I just wanted to catch up with him. Now, this question is not something I usually ponder upon, but his reply made me self-reflective and dwell in my world. So, join me for a ride as I turn my heart inside out, will ya?

This is the first blog post on the topic Life, girls and booze as I talk, comment, explore or blabber about it.

Heroes don’t exist


Know him? Superman, arguably the most popular superhero in the world, has everything to do with this blog post. Because heroes don’t exist. Not in the world we live. They only do in books, comics, movies and other fictional works — much like Superman, Batman and a host of other superheroes.

It’s rather unfortunate we are culturally trained to worship people as “heroes” when they do good deeds. Doing so categorically moves the actions of “heroes” into the extraordinary / supernatural category and the common man will make no effort to remotely emulate those actions. Because, only heroes can do that!

Terming a person as ‘hero’ is a convenient way to appreciate the actions yet quickly move away from doing so yourselves. Instead, consider them nothing more than a fellow human being and their actions will no longer look monumental and you might even be persuaded to replicate their actions.

Besides, heroes don’t actually exist. There is a Mr Hyde in every Dr Jekyll and that is not excepting the “heroes”. Molly Willms puts her case against heroism so eloquently in her Ditch your heroes: they don’t exist1:

Hello, my name is Humanity, and I have a hero problem.

I know the concept of heroizing is varying degrees of importance from culture to culture, but many of us have a tendency to idolize and idealize those who do things we deem “good.”

Think about it: when it comes to scandals and discussion, there’s little that measures up to the attention we give “good guys” when they do something bad.

As much as we are quick to worship heroes, we are also quick enough to throw dirt at them, as soon as they fall from grace. If only we recalled the little fact that they are not meant to be infallible! It’s not like they claimed to one either.

Big names, from the recent famous infamous Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods to the historic ones like Gandhi and Mother Theresa, all had their unpopular sides. Molly makes a case against several other prominent people (take a look!) and I don’t want to dwell in the misdeeds — not because it would leave a bad taste but rather because it would make my point too strong. 😉

I’ll leave you with this beautiful dialogue from one of the episodes of Sherlock.

Heroes don’t exist, John. -- Sherlock Holmes


Dr. John Watson: There are lives at stake Sherlock. Actual human lives. Jus-Just so I know, do you care about that at all?
Sherlock Holmes: Will caring about them help save them?
Watson: Nope.
Sherlock: Then I’ll continue to not make that mistake.
Watson: And you find that easy, do you?
Sherlock: Yes. Very. Is that news to you?
Watson: No. No.
Sherlock: I’ve disappointed you.
Watson: Good. That’s good deduction. Yeah.
Sherlock: Don’t make people into heroes John. Heroes don’t exist and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.

If you were wondering what my friend replied to my question How’s life, girls and booze?, this is what he had to say: Life is boring, girls are complex and I can’t drink booze. Another teetotaler I presume.

  1. For whatever reason, the entire website is down. Here’s a useful link to an archive of the entire article. 

When Open Source software get nothing in return

There have been a lot of success stories of big governmental organizations switching to Open Source solutions to cut down costs. The latest one doing the rounds: French Gendarmerie switching to Ubuntu and cutting down IT costs by an impressive 40%.

Using an open source desktop lowers the total cost of ownership by 40%, in savings on proprietary software licences and by reducing costs on IT management. Using Ubuntu Linux massively reduces the number of local technical interventions, says Major Stéphane Dumond. “The direct benefits of saving on licences are the tip of the iceberg. An industrialised open source desktop is a powerful lever for IT governance.”

All’s well and good when you put it in the perspective of such organizations. But, what does the Open Source software community get in return? Some good name and a gentle pat in the back. Is that enough? Not much really.

There was a slight compensation when the German city of Munich reportedly were planning to distribute free CDs of Ubuntu 12.04 to its residents. That’s a step forward but certainly not good enough. Why I say it’s not good enough is because they can do more – a lot more than what they are currently doing.

Since these organizations will more than likely have their own support team and not rely on purchasing support contracts, the only reasonable source of revenue via clients buying support contracts for Open Source software gets blocked.

Now, if we can get them to exercise some Corporate Social Responsibility, all of us can have a happy ending. For a start, they can maybe donate a part of their savings to a FOSS organization or a company. I believe that’s reasonable and fair for all sides.

If that sounds too much, hiring a developer or two and getting them to work on their upstream software is a good bargain at the least.

It’s possible I don’t have a full picture of what the organizations do with their savings. And I would be very glad if they do share my thoughts on how they can benefit Open Source that benefit them. After all, that’s the underlying philosophy behind Open Source.

Contrarianism is the new sexy

I have been a prude for just too long. I am not comfortable being one anymore. I want to be different, a pioneer in a field I am deeply interested in. I don’t want to be just another guy in yet another also-ran situation. It’s boring and uninspiring.

Michael Lazerow sums up my thoughts in his Why Weirdos Outperform Normals:

I like when they call me weird. Weird is good, I tell them. Normal is blah.
You don’t want to be blah. Blah is boring. Boring people are forgettable.

Yes, really! How boring is it to be normal.

Historically, successful contrarians were regarded as revolutionaries. Shakespeare’s sonnets, Wright brothers with their airplane, Steve Job with his Macbook and the list will go on. These people are memorable only because they are out-of-the-ordinary. No one remembers a Captain Oats1.

The point is, don’t be afraid to be different just because it is — You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Remember 15 minutes of Fame? Fight for your chance at glory and you can turn the tide.

Kelly Clarkson’s People Like Us is an inspiring song on that note.

We come into this world unknown.
But know that we are not alone.
They try and knock us down.
But change is coming, it’s our time now.

People like us, we’ve gotta stick together.
Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever.
Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten —
It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom.

We are all misfits living in a world on fire.

But hold on for a second. Contrarianism is not for everyone. It isn’t — because of science; because of cognitive dissonance. Unless you feed people strong reasons to change their current views and beliefs, they won’t want to change them2.

Anyway, if you want heads to turn — turn towards you and not away — you have to learn the mantra: It is alright to be different. Just don’t be indifferent.

1: OK, some of you polar expedition fans might remember him.
2: Think of it as the Newton’s first law of motion but for people.

Open your eyes Mr Thingamabob! And your mind too.

The city bus was jam packed. I was a lonely tall gentleman amidst — what seemed like — a sea of young women, mostly shorter than me and presumably are college students too. It was an early morning ride (mind you, I am not an early riser) and it was quite a bit refreshing to see so many people buzzing with activity.

The ride was a long one. An hour into it and I am pretty tired. I have been standing in a bus cramped for space and I could barely move my feet or adjust my shoulder blades. Just then, someone in the seats was about to get down. The empty seat was right in front of me. I thought maybe my legs could use some rest. No, not really. I heard a voice. It was sweet. I heard the voice saying ‘Excuse me.’ The owner of the voice was motioning towards the empty seat. I knew the seat was in the general section and realized what it was all about. I shrugged and forced a smile on my lips. ‘Give me a minute’, I told her. I squeezed and made some space for her to get to the seat. She took the seat and didn’t reciprocate my kind gesture. I tried hard not to care.

Some were deeply involved in their own conversations. The laughter felt genuine. I found it comparable to watching the deep dark sky filled with stars. The tenderness and the grace wasn’t that easy to miss.

As I found myself in an internal monologue, I was reminded of this beautiful verse from Na Muthu Kumar’s poetry.

அந்த கடவுள் அடடா ஆண்கள் நெஞ்சை மெழுகில் செய்தானடி
அது ஒவ்வொரு நொடியும் பெண்ணைக் கண்டால் உருகிட வைத்தானடி

For the unfortunate who can’t read Tamil, here’s the translated version:

That God made men’s heart in wax
And every second it sees women, it melts

It seemed very apt for what I was going through. I found myself mouthing the lyrics. I don’t think anyone noticed me do that and that wasn’t my intention anyway. Soon enough, I hopped off the bus at my stop.

The whole episode got me interested in getting out of my comfort zone and explore more. I now simply want to get comfortable out of my comfort zone. And I mentally prepared myself for another early morning ride. This time a train.

Don’t buy Dell laptops, really

This comes from someone who bought a Dell laptop (Inspiron 14R N4010) about two years ago. I totally regret buying Dell laptop right now. The hardware starts sucking once you pass the first year mark. The battery got spoilt more than a year ago and recently, the laptop started overheating once I start using the laptop for more than 10 minutes.

The only part that I am relatively satisfactory about Dell is that most components work out of the box with Ubuntu. Initially, I had problems with WiFi drivers in 10.04 and 10.10, but luckily those were sorted once in 11.04 onwards.

However, I still have not gotten my Bluetooth working. Actually, I don’t even remember being able to use Bluetooth in Ubuntu. I am not sure whether it is Dell hardware to be blamed or the Linux kernels but I’ll blame both of them just to be safe. 😉

Anyway, I have developed an immense dislike towards Dell hardware. Add to the fact that I broke my laptop screen last year and it took more than three weeks to get it replaced thanks to the awesome customer support at Dell. And one other thing: One of my friends b0rked his laptop because it ended up overheating to such an extent that BIOS did not even let the computer boot up and I totally don’t want to end up like him.

I know Linux kernels in Ubuntu took a drastic hit in power management since 10.10 onwards, but it still doesn’t mean the batteries can get spoilt to such an extent that it can barely hold power for more than 5 minutes or so. Because of this, my laptop has been effectively reduced to being a mere portable desktop, having to plug in to a power socket if I ever intend to do anything useful or productive.

And, as if the spoilt battery is not enough, now the cooling fans are blazing at full speed for most part of the time. It barely slows down and has been very annoying and worrying at the same time. I even got myself an laptop cooling pad but it doesn’t really help the case. And, don’t tell me it was Unity’s fault for this overheating. The same happens when I am using Unity, GNOME or even Unity-2D. Lubuntu has been somewhat gentler compared to the rest but I don’t like the bluish feel of Lubuntu. 😦 KDE has been somewhat of a compromise between looks and hardware constraints and I have been using it for quite some time now. Though I don’t really like the looks of Qt apps in KDE and I would really like the looks of Gtk apps in GNOME or Unity.

What were we talking about again? Ah, yes. Dell hardware is pathetic. I am looking forward to getting myself a new laptop as soon as possible. Looking at the alternatives, it looks like I’ll get myself a Thinkpad.

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