The value of a 4 day week

I started my career with manufacturing and process engineering. The companies I worked for gave me Sunday to relax, enjoy and rejuvenate.

A Sunday wasn’t enough. A half-day on Saturday is what used to long for. 

That was a decade back.

Now I have switched jobs and work in an industry where 5 day work week is a norm. I value this norm. It gives me more time to relax, enjoy and rejuvenate. 

Now there is a new emerging trend, the 4 day week. 

One poll asked, how do you wish to use an additional day. 

Left me thinking. 

What would it solve for me?

Will it offer a better work-life balance?

The answer to work-life balance is an additional day off? That’s it?

How would you feel on a Monday after you take a 3 day weekend?

How would you feel if you were to sprint through the 4 days to get the tasks done?

Would you work for 12 hours instead of the usual 10 hours that you spend? 

Over the years I have realized that work-life balance has little to do with how you unwind on weekends.

It has more to do with how you manage your workday and still get enough time and mindfulness that enables you to reset, spend time with your close ones. 

If you look at the history, was there even a concept of weekend? Humans don’t mind working everyday as long as they are in a flow, and get enough breaks to reset their minds.

Then there were extended periods of rest, off-seasons and long breaks.

But that was past, let us not go there.

Today there are freelancers who never take a day off.

Manufacturing still has the 6 day work week. 

How do they even manage?

Any thoughts?

Mental peace is more of a Shift+Delete game

Take a deep breath, and reflect what is occupying your mind now.

This is not a meditation exercise, it is my attempt to make you understand need to resolve your mind.

For me, personally, my mind is peaceful when I don’t wish to resolve anything.

I feel the discomfort when I have something unresolved running at the back of my mind.

It is occupying my mental RAM (random access memory) that doesn’t support me to move on to the next demanding task.

If you open the task manager on your PC, you may find a list of processes and apps that you might have opened a while ago to complete some task. Now probably you have moved to some other task that needs your attention. For the sake of argument, it is a heavy design application or a spreadsheet that you wish you work on. However, with the limited available RAM your PC struggles to run these heavy applications. 

It stalls, current applications crash and you get annoyed. If you  are a little tech savvy, you might proceed to quit apps that are occupying significant memory.

You may force quit certain RAM hungry applications.

And then get back to what was important.

Our mind sometimes works in similar ways.

Small conflicts, and pending tasks can occupy a lot of mind space.

Unfortunately, there is no force quit button that we could use. We just can’t quit processes, they need to be resolved. 

What needs to be resolved, needs to be resolved. Everything needs resolution, that new mobile phone you might need. The repair your fridge needs. That difficult conversation you need to have with your boss. That time you need to give to your partner in order to set the relationship right.

That will free-up your mind for next big tasks that you have to prioritize.

The root of Stress and Anxiety

We often perceive stress and anxiety as abstract and relate it to personal experiences.

Here is my attempt to simplify these two. Thank me later 🙂

Anxiety comes for uncertainty and unclarity, you are not sure about the outcome.

Stress comes when you try to achieve the unclear outcome in an inefficient manner.

Work related stress comes when there is more on your plate than you can chew, followed by poor ways of dealing with the work demand in order to meet unrealistic deadlines.

Basically, anxiety and stress go hand in hand.

For instance, you need to reach to the airport at peak traffic hours to pick your old mom.

You know that you cannot leave office before 5:30 PM. The flight will land at 6:30 PM

It is just a 40 minute drive, without the peak traffic but now you are uncertain that you will reach to the airport on time or not.

All this is uncertainty, you are not able to imagine the clear outcome.

Can you leave a little early? Will your boss allow? It was only yesterday that you had asked her (boss) for a half-day. Will you reach or will you not? How will you reach, is there any alternate route? Where you are going to park your car? 

Here, you are not sure about the outcome. This leads to anxiety.

Stress follows when the situation demands action that is way beyond your usual potential and set routines.

Asking and convincing your boss, leaving early, navigating through peak traffic, aggressively honking and overtaking, waiting for the signal to turn green, hoping that the flight gets a little delayed and finally finding the parking spot.

Here you are stressed. You heart is beating 30 beats above your resting heart rate.

This was just once instance, but imagine going through this on a daily basis.

Clear outcomes lead to planned actions.

Had you known what outcome to expect from your boss, you would have taken either of the two steps

  1. Boss says yes : Leave sufficiently early to reach comfortably to pick your mom
  2. Boss says no : Arrange for someone else to pick your mom

Both ways you could have managed the unnecessary anxiety and stress.

I know like is little too uncertain, we can’t imagine all the outcomes. But wherever we can, we should define the outcomes for better actions. 🙂

The value of being in the “Present”

Driving is full of micro decisions. If you don’t have an automatic car, it demands all your senses to co-ordinate in tandem. Spice this up with traffic signals, careless pedestrians, and cars that are just inches away.

The micro decisions are stress inducing, even if you take the same route everyday. 

One day, I was back at home after driving for 40 minutes in a dense traffic. 

Sipping tea, I was sitting across my wife who was asking about my day.

I like to explain my day in detail. Once I was done, I asked her, how was yours?

As she started narrating her day, my mind started drifting.

I was no longer in the present. I was thinking about my own day and random thoughts.

My wife noticed this, are you even listening?

Little irritated, she said “you teach listening to others, why don’t you even practice it?”

I said, I am not able to.

And then we discussed something else.

The present was lost, forever. 

I realised that being in the present demands efforts and energy.

You are at peace when “being in the present” comes naturally to you.

You are not so peaceful when you struggle to be in the “now”, struggle to read a book or enjoy a movie with your loved ones.

How do you solve this?

I believe sometimes the awareness that you are not in the present is enough, your body will do the rest.

You don’t have to solve that, you just need to be aware. 🙂

You will realise the value of being in the present when you struggle to be in the present.

Indecisiveness, Stress, Recovery

When I was a runner in the making, I could manage a couple of kilometres before my calf muscles gave-up.

My legs went through a structural stress because of the weight of my body and the shocks from the road. This stress was painful. Some suggested to dip my legs in cold water, few others claimed it will go on its own.

Every time I went through pain, I was apprehensive to return next day for my run.

Should I even run? if this is what it takes?

But then I pushed myself and faced the reality. Underwent stress and pain and took the much needed time to recover. This became a loop. Over the period of time, my legs muscles became strong. 

Now the early memories of pain are faint. Have I became a good runner? to an extent yes. Once I fixed my legs, it was time to fix my core muscles and heart muscle for endurance. The 2km limit has definitely expanded to 10km and sometimes 12km.

If you feel you aren’t growing personally or professionally, there are three key elements we need to manage.

  1. The resistance or worry before you go through stress. Call it indecisiveness
  2. The stress itself which comes after the desired action
  3. and then the much needed recovery which follows action

If you compromise on any one of these elements, you might suffer in the long run.

The resistance is usually the analysis/paralysis mode, should I go or should I not go.

The stress is where you take action, you might go to that much awaited trip to the mountains. Take a new job or shift to a new home. Action will lead to some stress. Every new action in new situation or event will develop high stress. 

Without action you will be trapped in the infinite loop of being indecisive or apprehensive about a possibility.

This loop leads to an organic restructuring in our brains, our muscles. 

After action, you recover the way I used to dip my feet in cold water. You can only take so much stress and then take a pause to heal. If you don’t relax, the stress harms you.

Once you take enough rest, you are ready for the three steps again. Because if you get trapped in the loop of infinite rest, you might not make any progress in the desired direction.

Do you celebrate outcomes or processes?

A few days back there was a meme that went viral. It goes like this:

Who we are? 

Indians

What do we want?

Medals

What do we want our child to be?

Engineers or Doctors

We need glorious outcomes but we are not ready to pursue the appropriate means to achieve those outcomes.

Moreover, we celebrate outcomes to death. However, we don’t celebrate the processes, behaviors, and efforts that eventually lead to those outcomes.

So many organizations have declared millions, cars, and gifts for those who won the Olympic medals but how many have really invested in the processes or infrastructure that will enable us to win more medals in future events?

The outcome is rewarded but the effort is not. Efforts are the details that we wish to conveniently drop from the plot.

Let us borrow a page from Bollywood, shall we?

Bollywood takes every opportunity to reinforce an outcome-driven mentality.

I recall Dhadkan, starring Shilpa Shetty, Sunil Shetty, and Akshay Kumar.

Ok, I regret watching this movie, had to watch it while traveling (typical Volvo bus movies).

But I recall one scene so distinctly for obvious reasons.

When Sunil Shetty confronts Shilpa and declares that “when you left me, I didn’t even have 50 paise in my pocket, but now I have 500 Crores”

The audience is left bereft of the details as to how Sunil made this possible. Bollywood just doesn’t bother to explain.

But that’s Bollywood for you in a nutshell. Had it been a Hollywood or European movie, Sunil’s rags-to-riches story would deserve a sub-plot.

Likewise, we are still bereft of the details and know-how of what it takes to achieve excellence as Neeraj Chopra did. 

Those details seldom surface. 

We want documentaries that narrate the hardships and challenges and not prime-time news feed that only glorifies.

Let us also celebrate the infrastructure, processes and standards, and efforts of those who might enable sustained excellence in the future.

The three crucial competencies (pick any two)

These days everyone wishes to retire early. People in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s and people who are in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s.

Here are some of the common approaches that are all over the internet:

1. Generate passive income somehow through a side hustle
2. Invest consciously in risky instruments and keep on doing so till the returns match your expected income
3. Create content and monetize it
4. Create courses and sell them
5. Coach/ develop others
6. Influencing/ endorse products

How this is possible?

1. Internet: it allows you to act as an individual unit and connect with millions 
2. Platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube
3. Tech: Mobile, Laptops, Accessories 

How people in their 20s wish to retire in their 30s?

1. Create kickass content that goes viral
2. Invest in Bitcoin (or other risky instruments) and hope that Cryptocurrency rules the world in their 30s
3. Create organizations, processes, and systems that disrupt

How people in their 30s wish to retire in their 40s?

1. Use the skills they developed in their 20s and teach-back/coach
2. Invest in equity/SIP/small case(or relatively less risky instruments)
3. Build businesses that offer sustainable returns in the 40s
4. Invest in disruptive businesses (eg Tesla)

What people in their 20s might lack?

Focus/attention span, the value of perseverance, and patience

What people in their 30s might lack?

Exponential Mindset

Two broad themes emerge here:

1. Create/curate content and distribute it to the masses
2. Channelize your funds towards businesses/technologies that are promising 
(Pick one)

Three competencies that will make you win at this age:

1. Learning agility 
2. Financial Acumen
3. Creativity
(Pick any two)

Leave comments. 🙂

#learning#skills#career#finance#content

The father-child bond

Stages of relationship with my father

He is the world:
This is always the first stage. I would comply with his ideas, opinions, and worldview. Followed his ideologies and ideals. Had similar political/economic views. 

What if he is wrong? 
Second stage. Fathers are the early role models. In my late teens and early twenties, I started doubting his opinions and ideologies as I was slowly developing my own understanding. Nevertheless, I was still under his influence. Tried to live up to his vision and dreams.

Inflection point:
Inflection point. Started challenging his opinions and way of life. Became more independent. This was the zone of divergence. There was friction, debate, and chaos. But we learned to keep our differences aside. 

Parity:
We both found a zone where we could agree to disagree. 

Throughout my journey, my father supported me in all my endeavors and failures. Fathers are like launch pads. Eventually, you will be nothing like your father. You are not meant to be. It is a paradox. 

Every stage that I mentioned above is crucial to growing in life. 

Imagine what if father influences your decisions for most of your life?

Imagine if you never challenge his views?
Sometimes the objective is not to please (as I did in my formative years) but to follow your own track. I feel the inflection point needs to arrive as early as possible. 

Imagine you both don’t learn to manage the differences?

I have seen many relationships go for a toss because the last stage isn’t managed properly. I think father-child bond is tricky to manage. Because it has more to do with managing expectations. 🙂

A mother-child bond is relatively easier. 

The Wrath of Sunk Cost Bias

On Wednesday’s we usually do a short-distance fast pace run.

We woke up at 5:00 am and it was drizzling. It was cold and dark. 

I told my wife, we better skip running today. 

Madhu said, what’s the point of waking up at 5:00 am?

C’mon, don’t be lazy let us get ready.

I reluctantly started getting ready, watched the drizzle getting a little intense. 

Now we were both falling for the sunk cost bias. We had already invested the time and effort into this. 

We hit the road at 5:25 am.

As I started my watch, I had no GPS signal. Thanks to the big dark clouds right above me.

After a few minutes, I got the signal. We started off. The drizzle was showing some signs of receding.

After 2km or so, it started drizzling again. After 2.5k it was pouring. We stopped under a tree. 

Now we were arguing.

See I told you to skip, you don’t listen to me or my predictions!

After a few minutes, no luck. We headed home. Sat in the verandah and watched the rain. Madhu cursed it. I was frustrated too but I was reflecting on the fact that I was so damn right.

We decided to buy running jackets. The following day we headed to Decathalon. We not only bought the jackets but random paraphernalia which was not even needed. 

The next day it was time for a long run. Madhu was all prepared and anticipated rain so that she could wear the new waterproof jacket. I wasn’t so sure if it was going to rain.

I decided not to wear the jacket. If it doesn’t rain, the humidity will kill me, I thought.

4km, 6km, 8km, no rain.

The sun was up now. I could only imagine what Madhu was thinking and feeling now. 

10km, 11km no rain.

I finished my run at 12k. Saw Madhu walking towards home. She was not wearing the jacket. Obviously, she did not enjoy the run.

We walked home joked and laughed about the whole episode. 

We (especially Madhu) had fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy. 

Running goal is a trivial matter but sunk cost fallacy has the tendency to do much worse. 

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money, or effort)

I bet you must have gone through similar episodes in your life.

Sometimes it is just ok to quit and write off your losses. 🙂

#bias#perspective#decisionmaking#choices#lifeadvice

I wrote an email to Jack Welch

Back in 2014, my boss told me to draft an email to Jack Welch (you read it right). I never dared to ask why we are even doing this. I thought why would Jack Welch or his team even read this email and reply.

But Jack’s team replied:

“With Mr. Welch’s current schedule, a trip quite this far, unfortunately, doesn’t look feasible for this fall. To give you some general information, Mr. Welch has a two date guarantee for international appearances, with each appearance at an honorarium of $150,000 (a total of $300,000) plus private plane expenses, one suite, and one standard room at the hotel of his choice, security, ground transportation and meals for two.”

It was not a surprise or shock. 

Why did we even write to him in the first place?

Were we stupid? Maybe.

In hindsight, was my boss aiming for the stars, in the hope of finding a moon? Who knows?

Back then, “Make in India” had different traction altogether. The attempt was to invite such luminaries to deliver a speech on digital transformation in manufacturing in India. The plan was to give it good media coverage and launch a program for the manufacturing group under that media Buzz.

The underlying belief was that sometimes some people are more accessible than you think they are.

We not only wrote to Jack Welch but also reached out to Seth Godin, Clayton Christensen, and some Harvard professors. Every time we received a very warm reply. Some kindly declined and some quoted obscene amounts. 

The result? We consolidated the findings and reported them to the management. There were discussions around budget and approach. One thing led to another. Eventually, we settled for some IIM Professors. 

Was it a big success? Not really. However, the event started moving things. It gave us the required momentum to progress. We were comfortable inviting people and conducting events. 

Cost of trying and failing in digital world is too small. It is worth taking that moonshot.