Objective lens to understand mental health

People usually struggle at three levels when they try to manage their mental health. 

I learned about this in Jonah Hill’s mental health documentary on Netflix. One of the tools that I could really appreciate and relate to was called the three levels of life force.

The three levels are like a pyramid. The first level is called; the relationship with your own body. It is as simple as taking the right amount of sleep, eating the right food, and exercising. These are basic things in life, and if you are not able to perform these at the very basic level then probably there is a disconnect between you and your body.

The second level is the quality of your relationship with people, the community, and close ones. We are social beings, and social disconnect has its cost. We like to share and feel connected.

And the third level is your relationship with your own self or the unconscious. There connection between you and your authentic self. 

I personally feel balancing all three is difficult. There are trade-offs. Winning on two fronts is great. Having complete control over one level and juggling the other two is still okay. 

Losing all three puts you into chaos which needs an intervention.

What do you think? Where are you on the three levels?

You always need a conflict

Growth only happens when you resolve your existing conflicts. Just recall all the movies that you have seen so far. Almost all movie scripts are based on a conflict. Here are the types of conflicts that are used in movie plots.

Character vs. self (Joker)
Character vs. character (Dark Knight)
Character vs. society ( Rang De Basanti)
Character vs. supernatural (Dr. Strange)
Character vs. technology (Avatar)
Character vs. nature (Interstellar, or any dystopian movie)

From a viewer’s perspective, they see a character growing through these conflicts. It is entertaining.

Conflict gives a purpose and direction to the plot. Conflict enables character development.

Our lives are no different from character curves. Conflicts provide us with an opportunity to grow and have a direction. No conflict, no growth.

What’s your conflict? 

The root of all evil

Our careers and lives are shaped around the type of insecurities that we all harbor within ourselves. 

Our insecurities bring out the worst in us. When we are insecure we pick the extremes. Fight or flight. 

For instance, financial insecurity might lead you to choose a stable job with poor growth opportunities or a very high-paying job with a poor work-life balance. Saying “Yes” to things that are not aligned with our values and beliefs. 

Insecure about your position? You tend to deploy all the deviant and unacceptable behaviors to secure it. Work long hours take credit for someone else’s work, backbiting, the list goes on. 

Insecure about your image/appearance/self-worth? You might start belittling others, compare and avoid others whom you feel are better than you.

Insecure about the relationship? You might end up becoming the controller, aggressor or simply become submissive. 

Insecurities intensify when we feel life and progress are a 0-sum game.

What’s your take?

Just blame it on the environment!

The tallest mountain on Mars is called Olympus Mons. It is 16 miles (24 kilometers) high which makes it about three times higher than Mt. Everest.

What makes it so tall? 

Lower gravity as compared to earth allows volcanic formations on mars to grow higher. 

Why I am even telling you all this?

The environment has always played a major role in shaping things and lives.

A life form that thrives in the depths of the ocean has poor sight or even no sight. They simply don’t need it.

So environment matters. Home, workplace, or your neighborhood shape you in ways you never imagined.

So sometimes when you put all the blame on your surroundings and the people you hang out with, guess what, maybe you are right!

Don’t be so harsh on yourself. 

The challenge is there is too much developmental burden put on the shoulders of the individual.

Thanks to self-help books and Warikoo’s of the world.

Why there is so much emphasis on self-development? There is no good answer for this but perhaps it makes more business sense. 

Why there is no focus on managing the environment? because it is very tough. 

By no means I am undermining self-development.

But it helps if we also have a look at the environmental factors that might be disabling us. 

There is a reason we don’t have a Sachin Tendulkar in Kenya or a Michael Schumacher in India. 

What’s your take?


Are you a 7-11?

Are you a 7-11? Or Ram ki Bandi? 

7-11 is a famous grocery chain that is open 24 hours a day. You don’t have to worry when it is open, it is always open.

“Availability” is the keyword here. Stores like to be “available” that’s how they differentiate.

If you are not from Hyderabad (India), you might have not heard about Ram ki Bandi. 

Ram ki Bandi is a famous Dosa/breakfast joint in Hyderabad that only opens from 3 am to 9 am in the morning. 

Back in 2015 when I was working in Hyderabad, I could never visit the place. 

I only heard anecdotes about its fame. 

Anyway, the small joint worked on “exclusivity”. It differentiated on product and did not care so much about availability. The owner expected people to turn up in the wee hours, still sleepy but excited enough for the offerings. 

So are you a 7-11 or Ram ki Bandi?

Are you playing on “availability” or “exclusivity”?

I see so many people working hard to be more “available” when it comes to working.

Very few work on building the competence to be “exclusive”. 

Is there anything wrong with being more available? 

Depends on the “cost” you are paying to be more available. Oftentimes the cost is poor work-life balance. 

What’s your take?

The value of a lie.

I visited this hair cutting salon for the very first time.

There was just one customer who was having a haircut. One more was waiting for his turn.

I asked the barber, there is just one waiting right? Are you the only one available today?

There was a hesitance on my face that he read. A prompt reply with a smile followed “ there is one more person who has gone out to get tea”

I was a little relieved after hearing that. I assumed that I don’t have to wait for my turn. 

Much to my dismay, after 5 minutes or so, the person who returned was just a teen boy, holding three teacups. I was taken aback.

The boy was just a support staff running errands. 

And now the person who was already waiting had made himself comfortable on the barber’s seat. 

It was apparent that I was told a lie that an additional resource will service my request.

The barber now smiled apologetically and said just give me 10 minutes, iske baad aapka turn”

Maybe he knew this situation arises all the time. His response had some finesse to it. A mixture of shame and apology.

He disarmed me. I didn’t know how to respond to him.

The situation was diffused. I wasn’t so bothered now as I became more aware of my surroundings.

I could see how 7 chairs were idle. The business had hit rock bottom.

On one corner, a note read “we are low on staff, expect a delay in service”

On one wall, there was a Shahrukh Khan painting with some quotes on fate. On other walls, there were nicely done sketches of Ranvir Singh.

The errand boy offered me a cup of tea as I sat there waiting for my turn.

Morality is a tricky area. The kind of morality sold to us through movies, books, religions are based on basic scenarios. 

Morality is much more complex to deal with. The background and context matter. 

In that barber’s shop, I digested a lie sold to me. I was in a dilemma, should I question it? or just keep quiet and never return?

Was it justified because he didn’t want to lose an impatient customer?

Who knows 🙂


The fridge Vs Hyperlocal Delivery

A recent ad by Dunzo, a hyperlocal delivery app goes as “Ab Fridge ka Kya Kam hai” (what’s the use of the fridge now?)

Time for a lesson on operations management. Here we go!

Seems like the 10-minute delivery proposition erodes the utility of a fridge.

It is a battle of inventory Vs JIT (Just in Time)

We hold inventory to eliminate variability. In short the vagaries of the supply chain. Do you sense a shortage? Hoard more!

Holding inventory requires some planning and accurate forecasting. You need to take into account the quantity and time factors here. When to order and how much to order. Needless to mention the active monitoring, how much garlic do we really have in stock?

Forecasting takes into account the trend of past consumption. All this leads to the frequency of ordering. I and my wife have set this frequency to once a week. We order on Sunday evening and get a Big Basket delivery on Monday morning. 

The downside of inventory?

Holding costs. We might unnecessarily hold items that might not be consumed immediately. What’s the point of ordering paneer on Sunday evening if I am not going to consume it until Thursday noon. 

The second big challenge is that human estimates are subjected to errors. I might order fruits that I might forget to consume. Or I might forget to order fruits altogether. 

Actually, inventory is a waste. We maintain inventory because we have not yet cracked the equation to match supply and demand in real-time. (at household level)

And that’s where JIT or just in time comes into the picture. Japan mastered this art in the 70s and attacked the west on its own home turf. Overnight eroding the competence of giants like Ford. But that’s a different story. 

Coming to the present.

The fridge is like a micro warehouse that holds inventory.

The 10-minute delivery is JIT.

Holding the inventory needs planning, forecasting skills, time, and effort to order many things at one go and at a set frequency. This also comes with slippages and waste.

JIT works on a whim, you are out of lemons and coriander? Just order it now! JIT gives you the power of now. Don’t plan, just order. 

So it all boils down to the human behavior of Planning Vs Impulse.

The power of now will win in the long term. Because the sticky behaviors are the ones that are easy to adopt. 

Attention is a limited resource, use it carefully

Attention is a limited resource, use it carefully. 

If you are reading this, I have grabbed your attention for a few seconds.

If not, you would have spent your attention watching or reading something else.

If data is the new oil, attention is your spending power or currency.

Every day you wake up with a fixed unit of attention.

You might spend this on Instagram, LinkedIn, reading emails, responding to emails, YouTube. 

You may listen to music or podcast. Or listening to someone in a meeting.

Anyway, the point is attention is limited.

When you consume your daily quota, you may realize that you are not able to be mindful. 

You might struggle to focus, show your presence while talking to someone, or struggle to comprehend a situation.

Are there any measures to control this?

In a world where everyone is hungry for your attention, there is limited we can do.

Being mindful that attention is limited could be the first step.


If we have a brain, we have a bias

7-year-old Aakash while riding his bicycle accidentally brushed the shoulder of 6-year-old Nidhi who was playing with her friends.

Aakash lost his balance and fell down. 

It was a Sunday evening, people were taking their leisure strolls.

Half a dozen people gathered around the scene including me.

Aakash had a minor bruise on his elbow, he was used to this.

Nevertheless, he had taken a fall and was slowly recovering to pick his cycle.

I know Aakash because he is my neighbor’s kid. Aakash is a hyperactive kid and is very expressive.

Everyone was around Nidhi asking her if she was okay. Nidhi seemed to be fine. 

Aakash on the other hand was hurt.

As the crowd started dispersing, Aakash shouted, It was I who was hurt right?

I could see the discontent in his eyes. How he did not get the required attention despite being hurt.

Aakash recovered soon and was found playing with his friends after some time.

Goes without saying that Aakash wasn’t seen as vulnerable despite taking a fall because he was a boy. 

Is there a moral to this story? 


If we have a brain, we have a bias. 

Can we get rid of our brains?


How do you perceive your problems?

A couple of months back, my password-protected door lock started giving issues. When I closed the door, the electronic mechanism just beeped and said “it’s intercepted” instead of the comforting “It’s locked”.

The best I could do to fix this problem was to change the batteries. But no luck. I assumed this complex mechanism has some deep issues pertaining to its software, circuitry, or mechanical linkages that rotate the lever with the help of battery power.

Nevertheless, the door lock remained functional. We could use the key to enter instead of the password. We got used to the “it’s intercepted” voice every time we latched the door.

All this while I dismissed my wife’s request to get the door fixed by calling the support. I began to procrastinate on the repair. In my mind, the problem was too big. First, it will need an expert. Two, the diagnostics will certainly demand a replacement and three the costs for doing this will be prohibitive. Who will explain the issue to the house owner who resides in New York? will he even agree to replace the lock? or do I have to bear the whole expenses?

On the other hand, security was paramount. We live in a safe gated society but the other day we were shocked to realize that our maid could simply walk into the house. Since the doorbell was off, she tried knocking on the door and finally just pressed the door lever and walked in.

We were no longer safe. “It’s intercepted” meant the door lock wasn’t doing its job.

It was an alarm to wake up and ask for support. A few more days passed. We longer relied on the locking system. We simply used the manual door latch.

Today we finally called the support. We raised a ticket and a technician was sent to us. I explained the problem. He quickly checked the batteries and pointed out that one of the batteries had leaked after getting fully discharged. The chemicals have entered the circuit and caused issues. He quickly dismantled the lock, sat down on the floor, sprayed some liquid, thoroughly cleaned the parts, and assembled them. This was done in 5 mins.

He told me, “If it works, you are lucky”.

He closed the door and I heard the comforting “it’s locked” after a long time.

He just advised me to change the batteries frequently and don’t let them drain.

I did not pay a penny, the ticket was closed, and he left.

I learned a big lesson. The bigger the problem in your head, the greater will be your tendency to procrastinate.

Most of the problems in your life need one small action step. A call, booking an appointment, writing an email, raising a ticket. Just take that step.