Do you use hyperboles often?
I do. Mostly with close friends and family, but when necessary, with clients or my students. Helps convey the meaning or gravity of an idea or situation.
Like when Gordon Murray says something like,
“Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because you didn’t fucking cook it!”
However, when you’re in a responsible position and you’re talking statistics about an important matter, hyperboles (obviously!) do more damage than good.
What’s your favourite or funniest hyperbole you’ve used?
Mine are usually said in the moment, so I don’t really remember them later.
But one I’ve used a few times with clients who create assumptions on a business model and then go on to create multiple layers of assumptions atop those assumptions, I’ve said something like, ‘now, it’s like you’re trying to pick curtains for the windows of your castle in the sky.’
We humans have always dealt awkwardly with time. Some look for new ways to kill it. Others, better ways to fill it.
And the lockdown has really done a number on how we treat time; most likely amplifying our pre-Covid perception of time. So we have either gotten better at killing time (longer binge watching sessions), or a bit more efficient in some ways, to include the added house work (especially in places like India, where a lot of us were accustomed to having house help do a ton of the housework, but suddenly found ourselves needing to do it through the lockdown).
While I toggle between filling and killing time, I have struggled with trying to better manage it. And while I’ve always been aware of how short life is, the number of deaths in the last year have really highlighted the brevity of it.
Here are 4 habits I’ve been toying with in the hope of managing time better; with varying degrees of success:
- Instagram on Weekends only: Sometime during the lockdown last year, I saw the crazy amounts of time I was spending daily on Instagram and wondered, “WTF?!” While I would see a good meme or funny pic or a picture that helped me connect two random thoughts together, it still felt like a criminal waste of time. So, I got into the habit of installing the app only on weekends, and uninstalling it on Sunday night. No Instagram during the week! At first, you might feel a restlessness and urge to flip through the app. But that restlessness is not about how important Instagram is to your life. It’s more like life asking you why the hell you’re wasting it on seeing mugshots of people, cars and pets, or funny videos, and not on something more worth your while. Now, I don’t miss Instagram at all, and even forget to install it on some weekends. And either way, Sunday night, it has to go. In case some of you wondered why I take forever to reply to Instagram messages; sorry. 😛
- No Social media apps: Apart from maybe a WhatsApp, and any work related apps (like Slack, etc.) get rid of any social media type apps from your phone. Nothing to do with weekends, just get rid of them forever. Check them on the laptop if you must. No app, no temptation to keep checking them.
- Don’t Multitask: You’ve probably heard both sides of this. Multitasking is great. Multitasking doesn’t work. Sometime when I started working in the venture capital sector, I finally realized how scattered my attention is. And given the multitude of work tasks, the only solution for me was to run quickly through different tasks. And to multitask. Sure, it helped to an extent. But in the years since, I have also tried ‘not multitasking’. Over time, my verdict is, ‘don’t multitask’. It does not work, because you are half-assing everything, and no one can ever work on or create something they are proud of, with a multitasking mindset. Instead, set limits of 60-90 minutes to dedicate to each task. Do nothing else at that time. Ideally, not even listen to music. And see the difference. The upside to this is also that you’d hopefully become picky (in a good way) about the type of work you choose to do, since it’s easier to focus on work you love, than just random work. Of course, it is easier said than done, and I struggle with it too, but the few times I can, the results justify the effort.
- Single Topic Browser Tab: Here’s something that works well if you can stick with it. It is to do with browser tabs. Till recently, I prided myself in the diverse things going on in those 40-50 odd tabs that would be open in my web browser. But I’ve come to realize that it is the equivalent of multi-tasking. So what I do now, is starting with one tab, I limit the tabs to only those relevant to the task at hand at the moment. So for instance, if I was checking LinkedIn, only the LinkedIn page would be open – log in, check, reply to messages/comments, logout. Then if I were to research on some topic, if more than one tab is open, it would all be related to the topic and nothing else. Once I’m done, close all those tabs and move to the next. If checking Facebook is next, same deal – log in, check, logout.
Let me know what habits have been helping you better manage your time.
Two days ago, I was reminded of a Medium post I had read in the early days of the pandemic. One of the interesting things about it, was that the author attempted to understand and explain how the Covid-19 virus might be acting; and therefore, what might be working as a line of treatment, and what might not. Whether the details were right or wrong, there was a sincerity in the author’s approach and intention in trying to explain the virus in more detail than most governments, world bodies and news platforms have in all the months since.
You would agree that since early last year, most of us across countries have been subjected to copious amounts of fake or unverified news – be it from country leaders, news outlets, world bodies or the garbage dump that is social media. And some of them have caused plenty of death and damage – from people trying to drink sanitizers to procuring or injecting medicines without it being prescribed to them; or worse, an overwhelmed medical fraternity trying to cope while perhaps governments and world bodies were not being as transparent about what they knew.
What is really surprising (more like concerning), was that in the days after I read this particular article, when I tried to look for it to share with someone, I could not find it. The post was not there, and the particular account on Medium had been suspended. A bit premature, considering nobody had the faintest clue about the virus anyway?
On the upside, two days ago, I realized I had saved a copy of it on an app. Using the post and author details, I even found a ‘True or Fake’ post about it that broadly rubbished it. And I found another article written a few days after the post was published that debunks it too. However, the fact that it was posted on April 05, 2020, and was taken off in 12 hours of being posted, seemed odd, since it was not exactly suggesting witchcraft.
Here are a few highlights from the post itself, that I believe could have been useful in the world’s attempt at dealing with the virus, and could have saved many lives since last year. Now I am not from the biology field, so pardon my attempt to explain this. You’ll also find the full Medium article in the link below.
Here’s what I understood from the Medium article:
- How oxygen and blood works -oxygen enters the lungs, which has millions of alveoli (air sacs) which are surrounded by blood capillaries. The hemoglobin (iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells) in blood helps with the exchange – it absorbs the oxygen from the alveoli and carries it in the blood, circulating it across the body. The blood also collects Carbon Dioxide from the body and transfers it via the same process back into the lungs that exhale it.
- According to the author, the Covid-19 virus enters the lungs and binds with the heme groups (a metal complex, with iron as its central metal atom that binds and releases molecular oxygen) in hemoglobin, making it unable to absorb oxygen from the lungs and supply it to the various organs. This in turn, leads to multi-organ failure as the organs are deprived of oxygen.
- One of the key points of the 8-ish minute read, was that a large problem with Covid, is not that the lungs are incapable of pumping, But rather, that the oxygen going into the lungs is unable to be carried to the organs.
- The picture I got from the description, was that the virus that damaged the hemp groups, created a sort of layer on the alveoli/blood vessel interface.
- As the hemoglobin is permanently damaged, the kidneys release Erythropoietin, a hormone that instructs the bone marrow to create new red blood cells with functioning hemoglobin (elevated hemoglobin apparently being one of the indicators of the storm to come).
- It got into some more details around how the free iron from the infected hemoglobin is floating around the body, becoming increasingly difficult for the liver to deal with. The liver then secretes the aminotransferase (ALT) enzyme, another important sign to watch for as the patient’s condition grows critical.
- He then proceeds to say that the only solution left, is not a ventilator, but maxing out on oxygen given to the patient, even suggesting a hyperbaric chamber if one is available. A hyperbaric chamber is a pressurized chamber where air pressure is two to three times higher than normal air pressure. Used to treat conditions like decompression sickness, gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc., the chamber helps the lungs can gather much more oxygen than would be possible breathing even pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
- He highlights the importance of Hydroxychloroquine – In Malaria, the parasite targets hemoglobin as a food source, and hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine) are used to treat the condition. Since hemoglobin is affected in Covid-19 too, the author believes chloroquine would similarly help guard the hemoglobin from being affected by the virus.
This article is important and it being taken down last year is concerning for 3 reasons:
- Even though there is some debate around exactly what happens to the lungs with Covid-19, this author’s theory is comparatively similar to the ongoing one about how the cytokine storm caused by the virus and the treatment (steroids) can cause multi-organ failure.
- It states that ventilators don’t help at all. Since it isn’t about the lungs not being able to pump (for which you’d need a ventilator), but rather the body not receiving oxygen. Yet countries like India scrambled to manufacture tens of thousands of them when perhaps they should have been looking for something that actually addresses the problem.
- It clearly highlights the need for oxygen, which is not a solution in itself, but seems like the last straw that patients need while the main treatment takes effect. Yet countries like India were caught grossly short of medical oxygen during the second wave.
Simply put, the medical community is overwhelmed with just saving lives. So it was up to world bodies, research labs, world governments and their medical advisors and others, to get information, study it, trawl the web looking for potentials and possibilities in the flimsiest of notions, and helping find solutions.
And yet, where we as a world were suggested the most absurd of solutions, from banging utensils, to lighting lamps and chanting absurdities like ‘Go Corona Go’, to having a bright or UV light inside the body to kill the virus, or injecting the body with disinfectants; I think it was criminal on the part of Medium and whoever else involved, to have taken down that post on 5th April, 2020, even though it has gaping holes in the theory or solutions.
Here’s the link to download the article: Covid-19 had us all fooled – Mycahya Eggleston
(I’m sorry there are lines missing on the top and bottom of each page, was quite a challenge to convert it to PDF)
Here are two videos you should check out:
- Managing COVID 19 Through Timelines I Dr. Mathew Varghese – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffqYYWY06rs
- Top scientists shaken by revelations that Covid isn’t natural but a lab-made virus that ‘escaped’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlO8sKRynBY
What was missing before and during the 2007-08 global financial meltdown, and during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Or during the Spanish Flu? Or in Nazi Germany? Something that perhaps could have prevented the resulting tragedies?
In 2002, somewhere on the outskirts of Mangalore, I was part of the way through third-year engineering. One day, we had classes in an adjoining campus building, one we thought was exclusively for junior college which was also on campus.
After class on the first floor, a few of us close buddies were talking about random topic by a large open window. It was the first time we were in that building which seemed empty on that day. One of my buddies, this giant we call ‘Bear’, was suspiciously quiet through the conversation between the rest of us. Known for the occasional prank, it was almost as though he was concocting something sinister while the rest of us spoke. Then, and without warning, he picked me up, and held me outside the large window. It was a sunny afternoon, and I could feel myself slowly slipping out of the Bear’s hands. As I said, ‘WTF’ and asked him to pull me back in, he very calmly goes, ‘nothing’ll happen, man’. Horrified, my head was doing a ‘time-to-eventuality’ countdown, as I struggled without much success to get a grip on his arm. Finally, after the prank probably got boring, he got me back in. And while I was still breathing a sigh of relief, he seemed really calm, almost like he was confident of his estimates on the safety margin he had for that prank. And yet, I knew that I had little grip, and that I was mere seconds away from slipping to the tipping point from where there was nothing Bear could have done to stop the fall.
(Mis)calculations, and (over)confidence is a cocktail we humans seem addicted to. And sometimes we get the proportions right, and sometimes, terribly wrong. And the worst times are where we are overly confident of the proportions despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
This excerpt from the book ‘The Signal and the Noise’ by Nate Silver mentions one such instance. The global financial meltdown of 2007-08, triggered by the collapse of suspicious mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO). [Excerpt at the bottom of the post]
As per this excerpt, apart from overlooking the obvious risks of these precariously balanced investment instruments, even as late as 2005, S&P conducted a simulation to assess housing prices. It found a potential 20% drop over the next 2 years. But S&P perhaps was content in knowing that their simulation successfully captured the risk. And that was it.
Cut to more recent times. There are far lower chances of a developed or developing nation getting into a full-scale war, than there is of a virus outbreak.
And yet, most countries across the world, many of whom probably have dozens upon dozens of battle possibilities and multiple theatre scenarios, most were caught with their pants around their ankles when Covid-19 hit. From delaying shutting down international borders, to shutting state-borders and trying to contain the spread.
Covid-19 was of course, a virus more dangerous than most the world has seen in recent times. But yet, the countries that did manage to contain it in the months that followed, were not the most confident or the ones most capable or equipped in containing it. It was almost in all cases, those countries whose leaders accepted (either publicly or in private), that they were dealing with something beyond their abilities and experience; so they followed a more basic, first principles approach to tackle the challenge. And emerged largely successful.
As is common knowledge now, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns (Donald Rumsfeld). The quicker we accept the situation when something is outside the realm of our understanding, and resist the urge to apply our standard actions and reactions to it, the faster we can begin to deal with it.
The problem is, these instances keep repeating and will continue to repeat. In our personal lives, and also in more far-reaching world events. We are wired in such a manner, that each time a crisis is approaching or presents itself, we tend to react in the same manner. By wasting time in applying what we know, without attempting to first understand.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the face of humble leadership the world yearns for.
One of my mentors, Mr. Ramesh C. Sarin passed away on the 10th of April this year.
He was already long retired when I first met him. And he had this rare, dignified personality that reflected a wonderful blend of an unimaginably impressive corporate journey that he had had; and plenty of humility and grace. He climbed the ranks at the ITC Group to be the youngest person inducted to the Board, probably at the age of 39, if not a bit younger.
Meetings with him were enjoyable. I wasn’t exactly moving the earth, quite the opposite in fact – struggling to create a niche and presence in the field of innovation and design strategy. My updates to him would be over in a few quick minutes. Then came the wonderful part – a few minutes of conversation with him. While it was no easy task for him to even just entertain me at his age (he was nearing 80 at the time), he would take the effort of not just listening to all I have been up to, but also telling me little stories from his absolutely fascinating corporate life. Like when he was flown abroad on practically no notice for a meeting to discuss a job opportunity; and how the meeting got extended, and how worried his wife had been. Or how satisfying it was, completing the challenging Bhadrachalam Paperboards (it was before he turned 40!). He also kept inspiring, and on several occasions he told me he was glad I held on through challenging times.
There is a very interesting article about him from a few decades ago. It talks about his bold and radical efforts to set Voltas on a more solid growth path. In the article, there’s reference to Mr. Sarin being asked if he had ruffled a few feathers with his shake-up at Voltas. He replied, “Oh by god, yes!” Every time I’ve read that line in the article, I could almost hear Mr. Sarin actually say it. Because I’ve heard him say something along those lines in conversation.
The Voltas article is fascinating in two ways. Despite strong disagreements between him and Mr. A.H. Tobaccowala (his predecessor and then Chairman of the Voltas Board), their interactions and views of each other were extremely dignified. It shows the class of a different time. And more importantly, it offered a glimpse into the clarity of vision, the conviction, and the unstoppable force that Mr. Sarin was, in trying to make whichever company he worked for, the best version of itself. After all, which leader in recent times, has the candour to say something like, “”I have made some terrible mistakes, but I now see growth a head for Voltas: all it needs now for the strategy to work is time.”
[Read the Voltas article here]
He was of the view that good and challenging goals take time, and that it is important to stick with it and not give up. It is from him that I first learnt of the phrase, ‘staying power’; a phrase that continues to be a guiding force for me.
He once suggested I create a brochure for my consulting practice. On my next visit, he sat patiently and reviewed a few drafts I had taken. He also offered valuable inputs with great attention to detail. ‘Excellence’ seemed to be a word close to his heart. I remember him suggesting it as an addition to a draft. One needs to understand, this was not the word ‘excellence’ being dropped by a starry-eyed youngster, but by someone who had built businesses that excelled, before building other businesses that excelled too. So it was not just someone suggesting a word. It was probably him inspiring with words he had proven the meaning of by example.
It has been my observation that Mr. Sarin possessed a supremely important mindset and trait that was in short supply during his time, and that is exceedingly rare today. A mindset and a trait I completely believe in. It is that companies are built for a purpose, and that it is the duty of those working for the company to channel their efforts towards the best interest of the company. Even if that means locking horns with bosses or top management if they might be shortsighted or somehow not aligned with the company’s best interest. He will remain one of the most ideal role models one could aspire to be like – a visionary and a compassionate leader – one who inspired his troops to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Over the years, as I trudged along, I would send Mr. Sarin the occasional update, not wanting to trouble him too much with frequent visits. And twice in the past year, he had replied to my emails, telling me to drop by to catch up over coffee. Obviously I would not dream of risking visiting him in the middle of a pandemic, so I told him I will meet him as soon as things are safe again.
Nothing can describe the loss as adequately as Mr. Kanwal Jeet Jawa did in his obituary, where he wrote, “For those who have not had the good fate of knowing Mr. Sarin, and more so for those who have not had the better destiny of having been influenced by him and groomed by him, you have missed something all along but saved from the pain of losing him today.”
I will always remain grateful to him for inspiring me to keep working on getting better than I was.
Staying power: ON
Until we meet again, Mr. Sarin. 🥃
In my book, I briefly discussed the topic of quality in the world of innovation and automation.
My view was that through the quality revolution in the US and Japan and then other parts of the world, logically back then, someone visualizing the year 2021 might have assumed a world where everyone has quality integrated into their lives. From punctuality to cleanliness, to meeting deadlines and creating high quality products efficiently, and designing efficient processes and having employees adhere to them.
However, general human behaviour and smartphones really did a number on that possibility. Now, a lot of us tend to waste a lot of time mindlessly going down rabbit holes on the web. And how many of us are punctual? We also buy things we don’t need, and spend money we don’t have yet. And our general sense of quality isn’t much to aspire to.
So, what was the upside of the quality revolution, you might ask?
I think it was more of an educational diversion from our normal human behaviour so that we could then get our machines to be efficient instead of us.
And right now, I see something similar happening on the tech development front.
I recently got familiar with the project management software Jira. And user stories. And all I can think is, it isn’t going to be long before AI will handle a good part of all tech development. And we humans would simply have to communicate our tech requirements in a very simple manner to a system that will build it for us.
Tony Stark: Paint it.
Jarvis : Commencing automated assembly. Estimated completion time is five hours.
Imagine something similar with the next website or app you want to build in the coming years.
Not sure y’all heard, but Segway stopped production in 2020.
Founded in 2001, those incredible-looking, futuristic two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporters were priced at a prohibitive $5000-8000 a unit.
Probably why, despite their universal popularity and appeal, only some 140,000 sold in two decades.
Along the way, Chinese robotics startup Ninebot started selling Segway rip-offs.
They then raised funding (from Xiaomi and Sequoia), and acquired Segway in 2015, offering it as part of their mobility products portfolio.
However, as of June 2020 however, due to low sales and some past accidents, Ninebot decided to stop manufacturing Segways. They seem to be doing well selling their own range of kick scooters, go-karts and other personal transport products though.
An odd end for what was once a fascinating, seemingly ahead of its time, self-balancing personal mobility solution.
I suppose that’s how progress works.
And perhaps ‘affordability’ should be an important element of it? Especially if the product has a mass appeal and can be made cheaper than you are.