The Television Conundrum

I live as a "bachelor" in Mumbai.

If you are from Mumbai, you'd get it. If not, its a (often derogatory) term used to define people who are un-married, live without parents in accommodations that are sparsely furnished (no beds, tables - just the bare minimum furniture). Often these bachelors "engage" in wild parties, keep the place unclean and in general, lower the standard of living at the community you live at.

From personal experience, in large part this is true. And in some parts, as far from truth as things could be.

Of course its not unusual to live as a bachelor. Blame it on urban mobility, concentration of jobs in certain pockets etc. What is unusual is that at my age, very few people live like that. Either they get married (India!) or they step up enough in life to start owning assets and make enough money to actually buy designer furniture, state-of-the-art gadgets and other things vain. None of the above two is true for me.

So I've lived like a bachelor for about 10 years now. In cities like Gurgaon, Chennai and Mumbai. And because I've had a fairly limited access to money, I never had the fancy places. And while I have wanted to buy things that could take me out of the perceived bachelorhood, I havent been able to afford those. Plus whatever little I could buy, I did not because my sense of decor is fairly fucked.

And I've always remained light. I mean when I moved last, I had 2 bags of clothes, 1 guitar, 1 writing table and few cartons of books. Unknowingly I was being Steve Jobs ;P

The point is, I did not have any material possessions. And because I was growing old (not up), I saw all these friends, acquaintances around me growing old and up and getting things that I've dreamt of since I was a kid. And of course I am / was jealous and I long /ed for them.

So, when in the last year I made some money I started to splurge on things. I bought a book shelf. I got a shoe stand (to make space for those numerous pairs of shoes that I buy by the dozen and do not wear). And I got a TV!
The next in queue, after a TV is a car and then, a house. And then, world domination! 

The TV Conundrum
If you ask the brand planner in me about three things that transform a house from a bachelor pad to a home, I'd say it would be a double bed with a proper mattress, a clean and functioning kitchen and a television!

The place that I live at came with a double bed and almost functional kitchen. So all I needed was a TV.  And I have wanted one for a long time. I dont know why. May be to tell myself that I am not too far behind from my peers?

Anyhow, since I got the TV, I have rearranged my entire house to make the TV the focal point. I mean I don't even remember how the hall looked like when we did not have a TV. I mean the houses where they don't have a TV, where do the sofas and other seating structures face? Ask Simpsons ;P

The Reason
So, coming to the REAL reason why I started writing this post. I want to analyze the decision. And then may be bookmark this post, remind me often of the foolishness that I epitomize. Yes, I believe that buying the damned TV was a wrong decision.

When I had the money to be able to buy one and I decided that I want one, I knew of a few things. Here is a list, categorized into positives, negatives and neutral.

  • A TV becomes the focal point of the house and the bachelor pad starts looking like a home. I wanted that (as mentioned above). Call it my mid-life crisis. Or call it the rat race. I wanted one. While this looks like a negative, this to me is a positive. 
  • Allows my parents to kill time when they visit me. If they visit me. Thats all they do now that they are retired. Not trying to be derogatory. But thats how it is. And thats ok. Not everyone is on a mission.  

  • Its a good to have thing. Like a checkbox in that long form! 

  • Money. My budget was 50K. No, its not a small amount by any stretch of imagination. For 50K I could've bought a holiday and dont know what all. 
  • Maintenance. I will have to lug it around when I move houses (I still live at a rented accommodation - and its contingent on whims and fancies of the owner of the house). Plus its an electronic product - it will get damaged and will stop working. It will give me unnecessary heartbreak when that happens. 
  • Time sink. With Netflix and others, a TV is such a time sink that its not funny. No wonder its called an Idiot Box. 

Apart from these three, here are few more notes that I dont know where to categorize...  
  • It was not an impulse purchase. For some weird reason I wanted a TV for a long time. I actually looked online. I went to the stores. And I sat on the decision for at least a month. And then finally one fine day I got it. 
  • Since I've got the TV, after the first few days, I have hardly used it. Key reason being, I dont have cable TV. I rely on Netflix and since I have a bad connection at home, I cant spend time on it. Which is a good thing. 
  • A great influencer on the decision was the 15K worth of reward points that I had on one of my credit cards. It made "sense" to buy a 60K TV for 45K. I could see a bargain. I made the classic mistake of looking at potential savings and not at the money I'd have to spend. A great case where points look good to you, but are bad! 
  • Ideally, in life I want to be at a place where I dont have to think too much about money and these decisions. But till the time I reach that point, these incidents are interesting milestones, to help sharpen the decision-making acumen. 

As I was making the list, I automatically realised that the list of cons outweigh pros already. I dont have to think too much about it. The decision was a fucked one. I shouldn't have bought the TV. But just to make a list, the mental models at play were Loss Aversion (did not want the points to expire), Validation aka Social Proof (from society about not being a bachelor), Constant chase of excitement (I bought it when I was probably not doing so well in personal / work life - though I have no way to validate this), FOMO (obviously), Envy. These are the ones I can think of. And I am sure there are more at play. What could those be? 

That's about it. You are welcome to see the Smart TV I bought :). And here's to making wiser decisions. What do you think waise? 

Saturday breakfast / Powai, Mumbai

Sent the following email on my alumni group. Got a lot of people to write into me. And thus, pushing it here as well, hoping to get more participation.

Hi Guys, 
I introduce myself as Saurabh Garg, PGPM class of 2006, MDI Gurgaon. In my day job, I run C4 Events - we are going to be THE finest events agency in the country in the next 5 years. And when I am not working on C4E, I try and chase "worldly wisdom" - the kinds Prof. Bakshi taught us using finance as a tool. Just that I am teaching myself (hello, Internet) and I don't really go deep - I merely scratch the surface. I mean I could go deep but I love knowing a little about a lot of things (the proverbial "Jack"). Feynman actually advised against the kind of learning that I engage in and with all respect to RF, I enjoy being an edge surfer and thus I choose to ignore him.

Coming to the point, one tenet of trying to be wise is to think on a large number (both quality and quantity) of problems, especially the ones where outcome does not affect me directly. Think of a doctor. More patients that the doctor works on, better he becomes. And larger the variety of medical problems he looks at, better he gets as a GP. No, I don't want to be an expert, Like I said, I love being the Jack.

So, I am / was looking for ways to get access to various problems to think on.

And this is where I thought that if I create a forum where anyone could sit across the table from me and tell me what they're perplexed with. And I could jam with them to come up with actionable insights. Now, I am not an expert but I like to believe that I am good at seeing a problem from various vantage points. And the shift in vantage point is often what it takes to crack things!

So, here's the offer. Lets meet on Saturday morning for coffee. Lets jam on things that you've been wanting to get an opinion on. Lets crack em! A typical set of questions could look like...
  1. Want to write a book. Dont know where to or how to start. Lemme tell you how I worked on my book.
  2. Want to expand your professional network? Well, I dont know that one but we can jam!
  3. Launch plan for your startup? Well...
  4. Want to get more done in a day?
  5. Want to chase a new hobby outside of work?
  6. Etc etc.
I dont have a specific tool or a talisman. I am a mere bouncing board, a fly on the wall (while you talk to yourself about the things in your head) or even a coach for that matter!

Think of me as a one-member board where you as a company goto find a solution to a business problem. I am one of the navratnas (nine wisemen) at your majesty's service. I am the Birbal, oh Akbar. I am the Krishna to the Arjuna in you. I am the Robin, the quintessential sidekick that opens the door while you go chase the Joker! Wait! did the Nolan version have Robin in it? Enough of hyperbole...

I mean ask other MDI alums like REDACTED and so many others. They can vouch for advantages of brainstorming with me. Bhai log, please kuch bolo :D.

In terms of output, I don't promise any tangibles but I do promise the discussion will not be a waste of your time. It WILL help you. And if you think that it was a waste and did not help you, I will buy you a book of your choice (upto Rs. 500)!

So, after this long a sales pitch, I am hoping to host the first session on Saturday, July the 29th, at Starbucks, Powai. To make it useful, I will restrict the meetup to 4 people. As always, first come, first serve. Lemme know if you are in. The coffee is on me.

Oh, one more thing. Each session I will try and get someone super wise to these sessions.

P.S.: Apart from the selfish motive of trying to get smart, I have a few questions of my own that I need answers to. More on this when we meet on Saturday:)
So, are you in?

Credits: Thanks to Raunak from Mensa Mumbai for inspiration. 

Untitled - 16 July 2017

So I am at a Starbucks. Here since 720ish. On a Sunday morning. Was looking forward to this time - so that I may focus on things and get things done. I cant seem to get anything done at office. May be I need a closed space to do things?

Digressing. Coming back. 

The point of this post is that I cant seem to focus for some reason. I had a mile long todo list and I am determined to do those. But the brain aint no functioning. Nothing has changed. I managed that 2-3 hour of sleep (blame on my nasal polyp) and I am as fresh as I could be. I took a long cold shower and listened to some great music while I made my way here. And yet once I found a comfortable place to seat, I cant seem to focus! The flow is missing.

I may argue that the todo list would have chores that I want to avoid. I have noticed a pattern with that. I tend to procrastinate on things that I dont want to work on. Things that I think that dont deserve my time, I keep delaying those. Till they become so urgent, so last minute that I swallow the poison and get over with it.

Digressing. Coming back. 

One of the things that I had planned to work on is the next book. I want to work on it. I want it out. I am committed to it. I know the basic plot as well. I have characters mapped clearly in my head. I have a final deadline in my head - if I cant get the book ready by then, I will drop writing altogether - rather focus on other things. And yet for some reason I could not do it. 

Then I tried to while time on twitter and youtube. I could not concentrate on that either. While its binging and there's very low friction to it, I could not. 

Finally I had to resort to this. Blog. Free-writing. Without a context or agenda. Vomit of my thoughts on a public platform. To what end? I dont know. I could rather be working on C4E, AWSl, xT, Book2, onWriting or any of those one thousand ideas that I have floating around! 

If only I could focus :(

Thank you, Anusha

Normally I dont participate in these things but since Anusha asked me, I had to.

1. What would be your name if you kept a name for yourself?
Steve. Partly inspired by Steve Jobs. Partly because Saurabh and Steve start with S :D

The other way to answer this could be to give names to my kids. After all we want our kids to do things that we couldn't. Also, I am not sure if I'd ever "get" my own kids but if I do, I would call em Kabeer, Meera. Why? I love the whole mysticism around them! 

2. Who is your best friend?
The list will be a mile long. But if I have to pick one name, it will be Neo.

3. How will you distinguish need and want?
I dont know how to answer this. May be by saying that things that are wants for most people are need for me. Things like AirCon, expensive laptops, fancy holidays etc etc. 

And then, the want for me would be changing the world, impacting a billion lives, doing things at a global scale. 

No, there is no love, affection that I need or want or crave for. 

Makes sense?

4. What does lust mean to you?
In one word? Chase. 

I lust for things that I crave, things that I dont have. I lust on things that are shiny and I know I cant achieve. To me lust is a such a powerful emotion. It makes me want to do things that I havent dont. It pushes me. Motivates me to do better! 

Of course the classical, biblical definition is "strong sexual desire." And may I expand sexual desire into desire of anything that gives you pleasure? That to me is not negative. If I desire something, I as a free man, a free-willed man must be free to chase the desire. The chase! 

In fact, in my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story, I delved on the concept of lust (and other sins) in great detail

5. Which is better to watch: Sunrise or sunset?

After sunrise, there is the known, the monotony, the day. So while I am watching it and the world is coming to life, I know that I am looking at going back to the monotonous life. 

After sunset, there is dark, the unknown, the chase. The exploration. And when I watch a sunset, I know that the world would probably sleep and I would get to explore and get an unfair advantage!

6. If you received a card and flowers from a stranger, what would be your reaction?I'd say thank you, to start with. 

And then I would brag like hell to the world. Cos I think its a very thoughtful gesture. Not a lot of people get flowers / cards etc. Plus I dont think I have any friends or something that would ever send me these mushy things. So yeah, gratitude and showoff. 

P.S.: I'd also try to pay it forward. Send em to someone else :) 

7. Write a small 4 line story.
The toughest of them all. A, brevity is not my strong suit. B, I have to work hard to be able to write. I think in Hindi, translate in English and then write. And most times when I write, I dont have plots or stories. I have characters and what they want!

So, I am going to skip this one. 

8. Do you think love marriages are better than arranged marriages?
None. The concept of marriage is broken. It was a need for humans to settle in pairs, in groups, in communities. While communities are still important, the 1-v-1 bonding and mating has ceased to serve any purpose. 

If I had to pick one, I'd say love.

9. Have you been in dilemma that you have never been able to come out from?
Tons. Of. Times.

10. Who are you?
I'd like to answer this question by sharing a couplet from one of the songs of my favorite singer - Rabbi Shergill. The song's inspired by the writing of Bulleh Shah

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana, Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
Maethon hor na koi siyaana, Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun

This translates into, 
I am the first, I am the last, None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all, Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Credits for translation and complete lyrics: Rabbism.

Thats about it. Thank you, Anusha! 

Masters of Scale

Few things.

Each month, I send an email to all contacts at C4E. This month I wanted to send out work from award winners at Cannes (here's the newsletter that I finally sent, featured 3). And rather than sending anything at random, I wanted to curate a list of 5 (or 10) pieces that I have loved from all those that are on showcase. While I was going through the list of winners and seeing their work, I realised that the quality of work, the scale at which things happen and where we I stand in comparison.

I was unwell yesterday the day I started to write this and since I dont take medicines, I was uneasy. And I was irritable. To the point that I was alone. And when I was at my wits ends, I succumbed to the temptation and subscribed to Netflix to kill time. 

And once I got it, I put on House of Cards. I started with S3E1 and in there, Doug succumbs to alcohol. Thats not the point (the similarity between Doug and I). The point is that in that episode I realised that work could be so important for people that they'd lay their lives for it. I mean Doug gets a sliver of window to meet the President and even though he cant walk and he breaks his arm while showering, he goes through excruciating pain and makes it to the meeting. People and their work means so much to them. And here I am. Rather than doing things that scale, I am blogging about it.

Then I saw an episode of Elementary. I was reminded of my love for the series because of the way Sherlock and Watson go under the skin of people and decode them. I wish I was as brilliant. I wish I could read things. I wish I could solve individual problems that were unsolvable. What I currently do can be done by anyone in the world. Where is my individuality? What makes me unique? Am I making sense? 

. . .

What defines me? What boils my blood? Why am I alive? What is my raison d'etre? This one I know - to entertain and enable others. But thats not the point. Point is, what am I doing about it? Why am I content with being a paper-pusher? I mean my work is great and I know why I do what I do. But where is scale? Or Impact? How many people have I entertained? Impacted? Enabled?

I feel I am stuck at where most other people are. I have an ok career. Ok life. Ok things. Everything is ok about what I do and where I am. Mediocre. Nothing is great. Nothing is extraordinary. I dont make any difference to anyone's life. Maybe I do, once in a while. But where is the perpetual excitement of having moved a ball?

I think, the other thing is lack of impact at scale. Most of what I do remains at the individual level (when I spend time with some great people with whom I work). Or at a few hundreds at best (when I put together an event and that too for the duration of the event). There is no perpetual change. I dont tilt the Earth. I dont make a ding in the universe. Worse, I dont create. The largest thing that I've ever created is the book. And that too has sold less than 2500 copies. That means I have not entertained even 2500 people! 

And you know what sucks the most? I dont have anything in my hand that allows me to do that even in the future. And I dont know how to go about it. And I dont know who to talk to about this. 

P.S.: So, I agree that House of Cards and Elementary are fictional pieces. I agree that no one starts working at scale from day zero. I know that you have to work towards it. I know there is a time and place and all that. The question is, where is mine? When would I do things that would make me exhausted with happiness? 

P.P.S.: Title inspired by RH's podcast - Masters of Scale. You HAVE to listen to this if you want a better life for yourself.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?