Reflections on Life and Work

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping a vast number of us indoors for extended periods, there has been a bit more time for self-reflection. Over the last week or so, I have been reflecting and writing down bits and pieces of ideas I feel are important to keep in mind, even as we try to navigate our way through these uncertain times. These are by no means absolute rules and only represent ideas I try to live by, even if I often fall short.

1. Develop a broad worldview and avoid taking absolute positions. A lot of life is nuanced and being rigid edges off potential opportunities. Be humble and acknowledge that there is a lot you do not know.

2. What you choose to invest your resources in is indicative of your priorities (or lack thereof). Bet on things with large intrinsic value and the potential to appreciate over time.

3. Think long-term and play long-term games.

4. Family is everything. So, choose your family carefully and invest in their lives.

5. Optimize for internal peace and congruence (your ideal self and actual experience being fairly consistent). External factors abound to drag you in different directions, so it is important to have a sense of purpose and clarity of thought. Meditate and pray (if you’re a Theist) often.

6. Character and honesty are the twin foundations on which peace of mind is built. Do not trade them for fleeting success.

7. Happiness comes from solving problems. It is in the activity, not the idea or destination. It is a constant work in progress.

8. The world needs more people who take on great challenges and try to make the world a truly better, more inclusive place for us all.

9. Be value oriented. Constantly keep evolving to create and maintain sustainable value wherever you are.

10. Have a personal differentiation strategy, just as there is product differentiation. What do you bring to the table? What makes you different from everyone else doing the same thing?

11. Mind your business, literally. Pay primary heed to what is important to your survival and advancement.

12. Do not fall into the trap of maintaining appearances. The thing is to do, not to talk about doing. If you can do more, why are you not doing more?

13. If you can do something today, do it. Tomorrow may be too late.

14. You view things very differently when you have skin in the game.

15. Being smart and talented doesn’t matter. Potential is just ink on paper. All that matters is showing up, focus and discipline.

16. Every week do something that moves you closer to your idea of yourself. Thoughts, decisions and actions today are bets on the future you envisage or want to create, so pay attention.

17. Nothing goes for nothing. Sacrifice is needed and involves being willing to continuously say no to the “good” in favour of “great”. True sacrifice is a victory as it builds your self-awareness.

18. The longer we numb our problems, the more the pain when the consequences hit us. Because people deny reality, they live a life of blame, anger, helplessness and despair.

19. It is all somewhat of a gamble, groping to find our way in the maze of darkness. You are not sure a random accident would not come along and cut short your life.

20. Never waste a crisis. Life is a cycle of ups and downs. Use the downturns to re-strategize and prepare for the upturns.

21. Accumulating material property would not make you happier, only more distracted.

22. Take intermittent social media breaks. All that hubris can be distracting.

23. Accumulate actionable knowledge and maintain a positive mindset. This is a great time to be alive. Make it count.

24. If you know you would not be proud if something you said or did got out to the public, think thrice before going ahead with it.

25. If you are feeling ill at ease or struggling to focus, it may be because you are avoiding confronting a long-pending issue. Figure out what that is and deal with it. Kicking the can down the road does no good.

26. Don’t be resistant to change. Engage in creative destruction. Model for potential threats and the odd Black Swan event that can threaten or disrupt your business, personal or professional life.

27. Risk assessments and predicting for future outcomes are both harder now (due to technological disruption) and easier too (again, due to technological disruption).

28. Have a flexible plan and account for possible contingencies. Plans serve as guides towards moving in the right direction.

29. Almost everything is inter-connected in a broad system. Recognize these connections, wherever you can. Focus on the stuff you can influence, understand what you cannot and never assume you are smarter than others.

30. Critical thinking is under-rated. It is the single, most important transferable skill.

31. Great attitude to work, rigour of approach and methodology are other important transferable skills, no matter the profession.

32. Build multi-dimensional relationships. The power of strong and wide networks cannot be over-emphasized.

33. Avoid negative people, as much as possible. You internalize what you hear or read consistently, so guard your environment.

34. Invest in others because you want to, because you enjoy seeing others succeed, not because you expect something in return.

35. Understanding people is at least a third of being successful. Being aware of the unspoken winds and forces at play can be the difference between survival and being eaten.

36. There is nothing like a fair world. People would not always treat you as you treat them. You would not always get your way. Do not take it personal. Learn your lessons and keep it moving.

37. Understanding and mastering love takes time and practice, just like any other skill. Be prepared to give it time. The pay-offs on healthy, loving relationships are exponential.

38. Eat and sleep well, and exercise. If your body breaks down, you would quickly lose the ability to fully enjoy some of the fruits of your toiling. All your big goals and dreams would have to take a pause anyway.

39. Have fun. Engage in your hobbies often. Youth is a mindset.

40. Be kind to yourself.