सोमवार, १८ एप्रिल, २०११

St. Paul's Cathedral

I love photography. I love technology. I love web technology in particular...I like to visit places...I love art...I love historical art in particular...

This particular application is culmination of all I love in a single place!

St. Paul's Cathedral

If there is nirvana...this must be it!

शनिवार, ९ एप्रिल, २०११

Seven Keys to Happiness

We live in a world where instant gratification is the new mantra. Attention spans have probably dropped precipitously in a last decade or so. If we can’t tweet our thoughts then they are too lengthy to worth any time.
In this brave new world, we will explore the evergreen topic of (well…almost) all human activity –- Pursuit of Happiness. We would explore seven keys to unlock the yet unexplored treasure of happiness.
Oxford English Dictionary defines happiness as state of good fortune or luck in life or in a particular affair; success, prosperity (among dozen or so others).
Before we dive in the keys, let’s make sure that we know how to read important things. Visualize that you are stuck in an elevator. You have given a page that gives you instructions on how you can get yourself out (alive). The catch is the page is going to destroy itself after you have read it once and lastly if you miss one step then the elevator is going to explode, killing you instantly. How would you read those instructions? Got it?
Now to the next part…how would you make sure that you have really learned it? Follow this simple method (not easy just simple!).
1. Read the key
2. Re-read the key
3. Close your eyes and think about what you just read. Don’t repeat the sentence in your head! Think!
4. Find a way to say that same thought in a different way
5. If you were writing the key, how would you write it?
6. Imagine that you are going to give a speech in United Nations on that key. What would you say? What would you highlight?
7. Think of examples where you would apply the key
8. Visualize applying the key successfully in your daily life
9. Last but not least, make a game plan to try it out.
Enough time spent in preparation…let us talk about happiness for real now!
1. Attention: This one key could unlock more than just happiness for you. Attention is our ability to attend to things. Forget the mental chatter that is going on constantly in the background and giving the present moment the center stage that it truly deserves. Start paying attention to minute details of everyday life. It can be as simple as the texture of the soapy water in the bath in the morning or the fragrance of the incense stick or the texture of the anger you feel when the idiot cuts right in front of you on the expressway or frustration of waiting in line for some mundane thing. When you start to be present in your own life, miracles will start to happen. They will be what I call private miracles. You will notice things that you did not notice before. You will start doing things little different. You may react differently or not react at all……and these moments will add up and they will eventually make all the difference.
2. Breath: Have you ever wondered. What is the most important thing in your life? If your answer is not breath, then I suggest a small experiment to convince you.
1. Hold your breath for as long as you can hold
2. Don’t breathe unless you are convinced.
Well? That was easy! We take our breath for granted. We never realize that the one we are taking in right now may be the last one we will ever take. Minding your breath once in a while gives a different perspective. Attending to your breath with the respect it deserves will help you in weird ways. Not sure what it will do to you but it will make things different for sure. At the very least you will wonder about your priorities. Try it!
3. Focus: Most folks confuse concentration with focus, others confuse between focus and attention. They are cousins but not the same thing. Concentration has an inherent intensity to it whereas attention has temporal element to it. Focus on the other hand stands like a philosopher watching stuff of life with a spotlight on a particular aspect. Try to focus on larger picture and then switch your zoom level to focus on smaller details of that same picture. They look different. Very different. Make this a habit. Look at things with infinite levels of focus before acting. Remember “Thinking is free. Action is irreversible.”
4. Postpone: This is continuation of the previous key but we will focus on an aspect of decision making that will save your lunchbox (and in rare instances may save lives!). Postponing things is lot of things but it is critical that we differentiate it from procrastination. When you know what you must do and not do it…you are procrastinating. If you don’t know the right course if you decide to sleep on it or not act right this second…then that is postponing. When you feel weird feeling in your stomach in a situation then take a deep breath…(the one we learned earlier can kill if not taken routinely) and see if you must act!
5. Act: This is mirror image of the key above…sometimes you must act…how do you know when you should act and when you should postpone? Take a deep breath, pay attention, focus on the moment…see what you see. If you must act then you must. This one needs a little practice (or a whole lot of practice depending on how thick skinned you are…). If you practice then you will be able to tell the difference between postpone and procrastination.
6. Let Go: Stuff happens! Bad stuff happens in spite of your best intensions. Remember nothing is permanent! Not convinced? Let’s try a small experiment (this will feel almost exactly like the one we tried earlier but the teaching is different even though the steps are exactly the same…)
1. Hold your breath for as long as you can hold
2. Don’t breathe unless you are convinced that nothing is permanent including the breath you are holding. You have to let go off the one you are done with and take a new one. You can’t take in a new one unless you let go off the one you are holding on to!
7. Listen: Have you ever tried listening? Most people make mistake in thinking that listening involves other people. Nothing can be further from the truth. Anybody who has not learned to listen to their own inner voice has no capability to listen to others (I am assuming that you are more important to yourself than others!). How does one begin listening? Well…Keep Quite! Don’t respond. Listen to the chatter in your head. See if you can learn to differentiate between chatter and dialog. Between noise and chatter. Later you may learn to differentiate between dialog and information…
By this time I am almost close to certain that you don’t feel this is a valuable teaching or it is going to change you fundamentally. Well…I want to break a sad news to you…any valuable learning has a price to pay. Generally things like Happiness need to be paid with your life!
Nothing less will matter, nothing more is required.

सोमवार, २८ फेब्रुवारी, २०११

Capability Incubation & Capability Nurturing

I started thinking about "capability" be it personal, professional or for a corporation a while back.

OED says Capability is "The quality of being capable in various senses"...so I looked up Capable. Among many definitions few of these stood out.."The Quality of having room for any thing" or "ability to to receive or contain". OED further goes on and says..."able to perceive or comprehend" and finally the one I like to dwell more on is..."An undeveloped faculty or property; a condition physical or otherwise, capable of being converted or turned to use"

Incubation in the usual sense of the word means "To sit upon (eggs) in order to hatch them; to hatch (eggs) by sitting upon them or by some equivalent process".

So we can concatenate...to hatch an undeveloped faculty or property by sitting on it or to hatch an undeveloped faculty or condition; physical or otherwise by sitting upon it so that it can be converted or turned to use.

You probably noticed I look at nurturing as a separate capability. Activities involved in both may look same but they are fundamentally different. Nurturing will happen after Incubation.

A capability is incubated then it must be nurtured and eventually turned into a competency which could be later improved upon iteratively.

In a corporation...incubation may involve socializing an idea, getting buy-in at highest levels. Nurturing will involve those activities but at different levels. In nurturing (hopefully) the Sr. Leadership is already on-board and you are evangelizing to the masses now...

I could write another short essay if we use the word competency instead of capability.

We can also spend time exploring the process, steps, life-cycle; if there is any interest.

(I noticed that although these concepts exists to some extent these phrases do not. I wrote this short essay so as to help folks understand what I do...)


रविवार, २७ फेब्रुवारी, २०११

Running Out of Time

I am reading Daniel Quinn's books (Ishmael, Story of B, My Ishmael...) last few weeks...

Few comments.

1. Two words - Mind Blowing.
2. Some books have ability to truly change your way of thinking. They achieve a paradigm shift. These book take you to a higher orbit. You are transformed to a higher energy state....Ishmael is such a book.
3. Message is very simple (not easy) - Our way of life is not based on evolutionary stable strategy. If we don't change our way radically. Right now. We will be extinct in next century or so...

And there you have it...

Publishing 2.0 & Music 2.0 (Part 2)

Before we really start, one small but important detail, I am a passionate follower of Edward De Bono's "Lateral Thinking" for couple of decades. No wonder, if you will find references to Lateral Thinking in further pages.

Thus, my advice is based on my first hand experiences of the similar situation, which you are facing or may face in coming future. So, how about continuing the discussion ahead.

Second prominent example I have observed as a practitioner was rapid decline of film photography. I have been trying my hand at photography for good ten years. Like many of us I started with film. I was obsessed with film, so much so that I was not ready to believe that digital photography will ever catch up. I started investing in more film SLR setup at the beginning of DSLR revolution. I was blind. I was dumb. I thought this whole digital photography thing will never catch up. It will be a niche market.

Who in their right minds will want to replace good ol' prints?!? You can touch it! You can feel it! It almost takes you there!!!

I was mesmerized by the stories of Ansel Adams and "the Zone System" as well as the f/64 club. It is amazing to see what he could achieve with the technology of the time. True father of the B&W photography. My fascination with Ansel Adams kept me blind to the advances in the digital photography.

That brings us to the next part of this story. Kodak and Polaroid was sitting pretty on a huge pile of customers and idiots like me who were burning billion exposures a day of their product worldwide. I am close to certain that almost 99.999% of those pictures never made it past the family albums (and never will). I also feel that may be 10-20% of those shots never made it even on paper because of some problem or other with the exposure and lighting (I know I have been there!).

Digital revolution started in earnest early nineties. It is interesting to note that Kodak came with one of the earlier professional digital camera's (1991) that used to cost around $13,000 based on a Nikon body. In my opinion though that was not the tipping point for the technology.

I think some time in mid-nineties consumers started embraced the format and rest is history.

Film was out of favor overnight. If you ask me that it happened so fast that most filmmakers didn't even realize what hit them.

There are numerous more examples like spread all around us if we care to look. Horse carts to Horseless carts (Yes! That's what they were called). Mainframes to PCs, Snail mail to email, phone call to Instant Message....

Point of the story is...it will keep happening around us. Delivery mechanisms change but the function doesn't change. Aha! What do we have here?

What is the function of Maps (Paper or Digital or Yet Uninvented format)? What is the function of Photography? What is the function of carts? What is the function of computers? What is the function of mail?

Humans like to claim that we have evolved over number of years but if we really look at the core fundamentals the veneer of sophistication is just that veneer. Our core necessities, needs and wants have not changed much. It is easy to show that we keep inventing different ways of doing things around core human needs (and lately mostly wants).

We want to believe that products or ideas are selected based on their need, want, quality features, prices, performance, value, emotion, community value, status...this list is infinite.

My sense is all of the above is true in some percent for every product. Some products share more of the one than the other. For example people tend to care more about their cars (emotion) than say toilet paper (function). At the same time if you have used a cheap toilet paper found in restaurants & compared to the one you used in your home...you would have noticed the difference in quality hence the product selection.

The idea of "Democracy of Selection" is interesting. Folks select because they feel something. I have deliberately kept this sentence vague as some of you may notice that the idea of democracy of selection is infinitely broad. Play some thought experiments and you will be blown away... :)

Let's wander in to Music (& content publishing in general)...

What's going on in that field?

Hope you have been watching rise of iTunes. Sony PS3. Kindle (the WiFi kind), Android phones...

I will not waste your time talking about this often talked subject...instead focus your attention to something more interesting.

Content creators (Musicians, Writers) will soon find a different platform to sell their wares. They were distributed by the middlemen once (record labels, publishers) now they will be distributed by their digital counter parts (Apple, Amazon).

Middlemen exist because content producers don't know how (or don't care or don't want ) to distribute their product.

As long as content producers remember the motto - Content is King. They will do fine.

Otherwise we will see what the title of my blog entry boldly predicts at the very beginning...

Music 2.0 and Publishing 2.0!

मंगळवार, १३ जुलै, २०१०

Pray Hard! Really Hard!!

Once a student of the way asked the Master, "Will the Lord show up if I pray hard?".

"Absolutely, without a doubt!", replied the Master with faint smile on her face, as she perfectly knew where this conversation was heading.

"When will the Lord show himself?", inquired the student of the way.

"If you pray hard enough, he will surely present himself", replied the Master with a continued smile on her face.

"How would I know that I have prayed hard enough?", asked student with doubt in his voice.

"You will know it when the Lord shows up", came the reply. "But even after I prayed hard the Lord does not bless me, then what should I do?", said the student with increasing doubt in his voice.

"Your job is to pray. Lord's job is to determine if you are praying hard enough or not. You just do your job, he will take care of his. As long you are not praying hard enough the Lord wont show up...so increase the passion and depth in your prayers. When he shows up, then you would have found out the right depth required", concluded the Master with a twinkle in her eyes.


मंगळवार, १६ फेब्रुवारी, २०१०

Publishing 2.0 & Music 2.0 (Part 1)

I was chatting with a dear friend few days ago. I told him my thoughts on how Publishing and Music industry may eventually turn out...he urged me to write about it....so here it goes. Thanks Eric for pushing!

I am watching with much interest the beginning of the demise of the Publishing and Record Industry as we know it...

For survival of this industry, few steps are necessary. First and foremost, the non-content creators and non-artists in the industry, if you are reading this....you should ask couple of questions to yourself and answer them honestly:

1) Are You Racing Straight Toward The Finish Line, Or Running In Circles?

2) Are Some Changes In Order For Your Life? If your bathtub is overflowing, do you first clean up the water or turn off the faucet?

Probably, honest answers to these questions will help you find the right way out. My advise, "Get up immediately, get out and upgrade your skills. Do something else ... Change is the only permanent thing in this world! If you will not take charge of your life at this moment, some idiot in C-suite will do that. And remember, your career prospect and your family is not their problem, at all."

I see, you are probably thinking, this is easy for me to preach from the pulpit ... I request you to keep aside your judgment till you complete reading this passage. If, I am wrong, you can go your merry way confirmed that I am an idiot. Yes, nothing to loose, but, may be something to earn.

Secondly the reason you should read this note is, I have been there and done that...just in a different industry.

Let's roll our clocks back to 1998. I came to States from India in search of work. I started working for the largest privately held Mapmaker in the world. We had it nailed! We had businesses where we had near absolute monopoly (90%+ market share ) Virtually, we were ruling the market. We made printed road maps. Our circulation was only challenged by the Holy Bible alone ... We were selling 66+ million printed pieces of maps a year! My leadership was probably thinking nothing can go wrong and we could do no mistake. Right? Wrong!

We got blindsided!

All of you know, how this one unfolds.

Something called MapQuest happened. As if, that was not enough ... Yahoo, Google and Microsoft decided to duck it out in our space. Well, I can talk for hours about why they may have selected mapping as the field to fight instead of their respective bread and butter competencies ... but, let's keep the debate for another day!

Our sales dropped precipitously across ALL product categories! First ones were the local maps, quickly followed by regional maps and so it went.

We dabbled in digital maps (online, GPS ...) for few years, but, never with the killer instinct that a leader should (and invariable will) demonstrate (except one notable exception in 2001).

Doom spread far and wide in the business like a virus. Our core product lines were facing challenges from left right and center. We started firing cartographers, in hope that computer algorithms can be used to "clean" the data to build maps. Map company firing cartographers is like hospitals firing doctors! Market had lost the appetite for printed maps overnight.

I no longer work in that industry ... as I took my own advice couple of years ago (Yes! I know it took me that loooooong!). But, in my humble opinion printed Map is not really a business any more ... It is probably a niche market ... but days of selling 66+ million maps are certainly behind us.

In next part of this series we will look at some other industries from the past. I have not shed blood, sweat and tears in them, but we all can empathize with our brethren.

It is critically important not to jump to conclusions till we have spent quality time in the history lest we are doomed to repeat it.

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, critique or anything you wish to share...

Thanks Sanjay for reading the first draft!

मंगळवार, २५ डिसेंबर, २००७

Krishna, Buddha, Jesus - Religion or Sprituality?

I truly believe that Krishna was a realized soul. If you read his message in Gita, it is crystal clear. He knew what he was talking about. Arjuna seems to stumble at times. But the Lord delivers him deftly.

Same can be said about Buddha and Jesus who tirelessly try to liberate us. It is really very interesting to note following things.

1. If you look really deep inside the teachings of these great teachers then they are almost identical. Sometimes they even use same examples. Don't wonder why though - they have been commenting on human misery and that hasn't changed a bit in all this time.

2. None of these great teachers actually wrote down their words. Gita was told by Lord Krishna. It was written by somebody else. Dhammapada was told by Lord Buddha. It was written by somebody else. Bible was not written by Lord Jesus. Why is that?

3. All these great teachers were truly capable of changing the world around them. Some may say that they did change the world around them. I think they didn't. I think they taught us that nothing needs changing.

Krishna and Buddha are different in a sense that both were prince. Krishna was a king. Buddha could have been a King. Nobody was out there challenging their kingdom. Then why did they go out of their way to do what they did?

Lord Jesus on the other hand was a common carpenter. All existing establishment opposed him. They wanted him dead. They got their wish fulfilled. If you ask me - Lord Jesus himself made sure of that. Why is that?

I think that the message these great teachers wanted us to hear cannot be captured in words (and here I am another blabbermouth trying to pen it down something that is impossible to pen down by definition). They knew that. They wanted us to see their lives and follow in their footsteps. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Each life is completely unique and exactly identical at the same time. It is completely unique from a point of view of "I am separate". It is exactly identical from a point of view of we are all humans and share the same - Big I.

I think Deepak Chopra said this beautifully : Listen to the one who is listening!

Exceedingly simple to do. Exceedingly difficult to stay the course.

Christmas, 2007

सोमवार, २३ एप्रिल, २००७

I Wonder

Hi there,
Sitting here on a Sunday night, thinking about tomorrow. Back to work again. How many of us do this routine everyday of our lives. My parents did the same thing. Their parents did the same thing. I don't know for sure, but their parents probably did the same thing too...

Where am I going? Am I supposed to be going somewhere? Is this thing we call life has a deeper meaning and all. Or we are just a random event on a disinterested planet? I wonder.

What does good deed mean? What does a bad deed mean? Is this what society decided what things are - so that it can function? Or they have a deeper relationship to who we are and what we do? I wonder.

Karma manifests itself many times over. Why then it takes me so much effort to have faith. Belief is easy. Faith, that's a different story. Is this because I am too worried about being me? I wonder.

I wonder, why and what. I wonder, how and where. I wonder, who and when.

Do you wonder too?

(This post was written on my blog Feb 28th 2005.)

Global Warming or Global Warning?

If you have not heard about global warming then either we, earthlings should go with you to the planet you came from or I don't know what to do with you.....but I do pray that you are not one of the gas- guzzlers.

Is it just me or you have noticed too that we hear a lot about of natural disasters. They seem more frequent, more visious, more damaging - causing havoc. Taking life, property, trees and everything else that comes in its way.

Is this nature's way of saying - now it's my turn! Let's see if you can stop me...

We humans, somehow deep down somewhere believe that we can stop the "tyranny" of nature and finally gain our rightful place in this universe - at the top of food chain?

I am amazed at the rate, which we are destroying things around us. Our corporate warlords are not interested in hearing about any responsible corporate citizenship bullshit - and about being responsible human beings where we not only acknowledge that we are just a tiny part of this thing call nature, but that we are at the top of the food chain so we have a unique responsibility to protect and preserve.

This environmental laws are very funny thing. I really love the whole arrangement.

Most corporations will claim that they follow the guidelines set forth by the national environmental laws (in which ever country they operate in). Some accidental (and some deliberate) slips occur, in those cases if the corporation is caught (which is rare) then they are tried in the court of law (which is more rare, as proving these things are much more difficult then one would think...). Then the corporation is fined.

Let's get back to the law : So when these laws are made, then at least in the US ( I don't think following steps will be much different in any country....at least the end result will be predictable), these large corporations hire powerful lobbyist. Who will use their government connections to push any agenda and block anything that may harm these corporations businesses. So government will in first place will not pass any laws with real teeth. After much debate whatever skeleton stuff gets passed....these corporations can bend those rules to suite their needs.....and after all this if they are caught breaking these laws, then courts can be used to achieve any goal.

Take the minimum gas mileage for SUV's in the US. I believe that the government is saying that increasing those limits will adversely affect the auto industry. The part I don't understand is why can't government make law that will bar from selling any vehicle that does not satisfy that minimum requirement. I guess not - else Detroit will not spend money in the next election. Do you get the picture?

So here we are sitting and wondering if the global warming thing going to get us or not. I am already worried about my son's future. Aren't you? What kind of earth he is going to inherit from me. Shoot, thinking about his future with our "ethical" standards sends shivers through my spine.

What about you?

(This post was written on my blog Sunday, March 27th 2005 - Actually way before Al Gore came up with the title for his Oscar winning movie -
An Inconvenient Truth - A Global Warning.)

Let us celebrate that...

I visited India for a couple of weeks in December. This time I had a particularly lousy flight right from Chicago. After a grueling thirty-hour journey, airline had just told me that my luggage was missing, my connecting flights ticket was lost, and I had to wait at the domestic terminal for a connection for ten hours. Briefly, my mood was not particularly great.

At that time I heard some commotion at the immigration counter – some middle aged expatriate gentleman(?) was shouting from top of his voice – “This is the reason India is still so backward – Indians deserve to be treated like dirt” etc. etc. Many foreigners were watching and listening to this with mild interest. I smiled at the airline agent, who was trying to keep his cool, as he had to take care of many passengers like me who had lost their luggage. He told me this is a usual scene at the airport from many returning NRIs.

That really got me thinking - What do I like about India after leaving abroad many years. I have always returned to my homeland with same nostalgia and love. My gut tells me that I will keep returning for long time to come. Living abroad is a harsh but practical reality. I know somewhere deep down that I will one day in not distant future will sure return.

Back to what I like about India…our so-called third world country with a very young democracy has shown much resilience under terrible pressures. Anybody who doesn’t believe this should just take look next door at Pakistan – democracy failed to take root in Pakistan after same number of years of independence.

Let us experiment. Close your eyes and imagine military coup in Pakistan. Can you do that? Can you imagine a military coup in Pakistan? Ok, I know anybody with minimal knowledge of history can do that. Ok, let us try that again. Close your eyes and imagine a military coup in India. I know you cannot imagine that. Why? That inability to find a “why?” is something every Indian should celebrate on this Republic day.

Do you know that we are only the second democracy in the modern world to give power to a woman? First woman prime minister is a very close neighbor – Sri Lanka elected the first woman prime minister in the world in 1960. Many advanced democracies like United States and Japan have yet to elect a woman ruler – yet we hesitate to call them backward. Our ability as a nation to let a woman rule our country is something we should celebrate.

How many countries have elected a poet as a prime minister? How many countries have a minority president and minority prime minister at the same time? How many countries have an acclaimed scientist as their President? I do not know a single country whose prime minister is not a politician but a world famous economist. I want you to celebrate that on this republic day.

We are very quick to find faults in our system but sometimes we fail to see our accomplishments. Comment and criticize, when that is needed. Then let us not forget to celebrate who we are and what we have achieved in such a short time.

I bet most of you either do not celebrate Independence Day or Republic day or celebrate it because you work in the government or school and you don’t have a choice. I am going to give you reason why you should be happy on this Republic day – India is still independent. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We are poised to become a super power. If you think that has happened with out your participation then you really do not know what a nation is – A nation is not its capital or its flag – a nation is made of YOU and ME! Nations achievements are actually your achievements and national losses are your losses. So let us celebrate that promotion you received or the pay hike you received on this republic day! Because if India was failing then you wouldn’t have received those things.

Let us celebrate this Republic Day for personal reasons alone. Just because this nation is standing there providing you with opportunity to feed your family.

(I have reproduced this article from my old blog http://vasudeo.blogspot.com. This article was written on January 26th, 2006)