Saturday, October 07, 2006

The three 'ists' that define People!

After trudging through a couple of topics, not knowing where to end or how to end, eventually leaving them incomplete and unpublished, here I am writing about a topic inspired by a friend who set me thinking on this one.

In this cluttered world of extreme market segmentation, where every new attribute is broken up into different classes, taking a macro-view on people helps. The dictionary defines 'ist' as a person who follows a distinctive doctrine, theory, system or practice. I essentially feel that there are three kinds - Optimists, Pessimists and Realists.

Ask anyone in this world or for that matter yourself whether he/she is a pessimist? The answer, most if not all the time would be an overwhelming NO. They would rather classify themselves as 'realists', someone who know the ways of the world. We have different words for the same set of people - a slightly more optimistic term would be 'Pragmatists' while a pessimistic term would be a 'Cyncist'. How about each one of us? Different types of reactions for three different words - Optimist or a Realist, you feel good and termed as Pessimist or Cyncist, you rise to defend yourself staunchly.

Why do people react negatively when others associate them with slightly negative terms (does the term 'pessimist' or 'cynicist' connote a negative meaning is a totally different argument)? Hope is a very siginificant part of anyone's personality. Hope denotes Optimistic view of the future. Optimism correlates very strongly with self-esteem and psychological well-being and hence by corollary, we expect all people in the world to be Optimists. However, the number of studies that have been done on Pessimism are far more in number than those done on Optimism. Does that serve as any indicator to how most people think?

How about being called a 'Realistic' personality? A feel good factor probably - knowing the perfect balance between what is optimism and pessimism! But probably that is the way we should function. In psychological terms, Optimism and Pessimism are not opposites. Having more of one thing does not mean you have less of another. The factors that reduce one do not necessarily increase another. The dilemma/conundrum as is the case with every human tendency is the balance of the two, to achieve harmony in a personality - a task which might be difficult, if not impossible.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Waves of optimism and pessimism might make a man disbelieve in time-tested principles but no matter what happens, he would never waver from his prejudiced thought process - Benjamin Graham

Prejudice - The word itself leads me to two different conclusions: One that this is the right way of looking and interpreting things and two, it is a wrong way of looking at things. Various words have originated out of this one base word of Prejudice - Feminism, Sexism, Racism, Religious intolerance etc. How do we actually define prejudice? Is it some judgement we come to by means of an experience in the past? Then, why would we call Experience as our Best teacher! Is prejudice something learnt in childhood or do we get prejudiced every day? Is manipulation by gross commercialists and politicians by way of slogans and advertisements contributing to our way of looking at things?

What does the dictionary have to say about the word 'prejudice'? Prejudice is defined as: An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. Simply stated, it is a preconceived judgement, in a negative fashion. Going by the definition, is it right for me to say that various religious views thrust upon me since chldhood which have held the test of time prejudiced me the way I look at the world? This particular word, usually used to accuse someone else - saying, so and so was prejudiced against me. By uttering that mere statement, aren't you prejudicing your conclusion?

Lots of questions!! Further food for thought - People are prejudiced because they lack sufficient experience, is a common argument we hear. However my question is, how much experience do you need to satisfactorily say that his point of view is not prejudiced? If no amount of experience entitles a person to a point of view, then the word 'objectivity' loses its meaning and charm. Fallacious extensions of one's own experiences will lead to a horribly colored view of the scenario. We had had innumerable number of such examples - Anti-Semitism, Nazism, Racism to name a few, which have led to destruction of human life.

Taking the discussion a bit further, I take pride in the fact that the decisions I make or the suggestions I give to others are entirely objective - based on proper analytical facts, weighing pros and cons. But isn't the analysis itself flawed if the basis of my assumptions is itself prejudiced? Analytical that I am, I wanted to have an answer to this complex conundrum. The answer being - There is a continuum between decisions based on prejudice and decisions based on experience. Most of our decisions fall under this continuum - atleast that is what I think (prejudiced again?? ;))

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Relationships - Conversations = NULL

There are two types of conversations - Memorable ones and the others. Memorable ones needn't necessarily be the ones in which you laughed your lungs out, they might also be the ones in which you cried, the ones in which you felt 'one' with the other person - essentially the ones which weren't bound by space nor time.

How often do we come across conversations like these? A brief conversation with a stranger, a conversation between long lost friends, conversations which gave you a new dimension about your thought process, silent conversations, violent conversations and so on and so forth - each one of them highly significant, each one a brick to build something. There are other conversations which counted little in terms of spoken matter, but counted a lot in terms of the value it built into a relationship. For that matter, how do wonderful relationships develop? Don't they develop by conversing from sweet nothings to profound thoughts all in the same breath? Doesn't a relationship base its foundations on some of the memorable conversations - on the phone, in a bus, during a walk, on the beach, on the Net or during lunch/dinner. Conversations interspersed between lots of talk and long moments of silence - silence which conveys infinitely more messages than lots of talk.

Some of my best conversations have happened at places least expected - On the ground (in my Engg days-some crisis as we would call it), in the middle of heavy traffic, at 3 in the morning while working on a paper, in an auto (where nothing was said and everything was communicated), on the beach (invariably philosophical), during the early hours of some event. There are infinitely many more - at various instances, at various places and various times. Each conversation - postive and negative - has been a brick into making the foundation stronger and its memories extremely fond.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


How often do you come across something accidentally, a book or a piece of paper you had totally forgotten about, a long lost friend whom you can recognise by face but can't recollect his/her name, a childhood photograph which you never really cared to have a serious look then or the little dress you had worn when you were born - and makes you totally happy no matter which situation/mood you are in!!

Two days back, something very similar happened to me. I was in the most irritable mood possible, a situation wherein I had no patience to deal with anything or anyone. I was just plain fussy, for reasons unknown. In such a desperate situation, I was looking for something in my suitcase and as usual, when you are looking for something desperately, it usually eludes you. However, accidentally, I did stumble across the scrap book of my MBA(nothing very flashy, a very small and a plain spiral pad) - filled in prominently by many of my seniors I admire and respect. The 'Lines for Me' section is the best of them all. One from my wing leader(he has been inspirational in everyway) said - 'Know Goal, Reach Goal'. A simple, four-worded statement, but then it hit me like a bullet considering the situation I was in. Another one said, 'Good, Better, Best - Never let it rest. Till the Good becomes Better and Better the Best'. A lovely line, striving for perfection all the time. Another one said ' Live and Let Live' - I should say, pretty good view of life ;). 'Be HONEST with...yourself atleast', 'Be the way you are, that will take you places' - some of them written in jest, some of them written with a heavy heart but all of them having a profound influence. I would be extremely delighted to get back to those days - but then as one of my senior wrote 'We meet to create memories, we part to cherish them'. A true ending to what was one of my best phases in my life - and back to the present, the irritable situation just vanished(as mysteriously as it had come about) by just reliving those memories!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Play to Play OR Play to Win??

Interesting proposition! I was conversing with one of my friends yesterday and the conversation veered towards whether we have to Play to Play or Play to Win! This topic set me thinking for quite some time for the simple reason that it is contradictory and yet convincing.

To begin with, in any game, everyone is not a pro - each one of us has a learning phase and then you mature at how the game is played. To bring in the argument at this juncture, Playing to play the game - I believe, we will never learn. Only when you have the desire to win the game, however small the desire, only then something can be learnt. I did hear some of them say, 'I just play for playing sake'. Well, I don't believe it. If you are in the game, you are always trying to win it - that is when the adrenaline can flow, that is when you get the kind of excitement in learning the game. Playing to play will evoke no interest to participate in the game. I can say with my own personal experience, when I play to play - the result is often disastrous, losing is just the start - your opponent would lose any further interest to play with you.

Looking at the larger issue of life(as a game itself), I believe you need to play to win everyday. You win some, you lose some - but at the end of the day, you learn. Learning is the key to any aspect of life. When you play just to play everyday, you drift along in life, eventually getting monotonous. Life is a challenge, tackle it - the only way to do it is to be prepared all the time, to develop the instinct to win all the time. Life is a dream, realise it - dreams into reality will require courage and a willingness to challenge, action on it and win it.

However, there is one subtle issue to be looked at here. Not getting too philosophical, disappointment is bound to follow if after putting all the efforts you dont get to win. It is, but natural. But it depends on your character as to whether you allow the disappointment to get better of you or you take that disappointment as a stepping stone to a new level of learning and experience. Once again, when you play to play - there is bound to be little disappointment, and a lost chance of inculcating a new experience, a learning chance gone a begging.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Time and with it Confusion!!

People just don't seem to have the time for anything nowadays. They don't have time to spend with their family, friends, with their books, sleep nor work. One such case is an excuse of not finding enough time to BLOG. Wonder how? or rather why? Am amused that I don't even have time to answer that question.

The question remains - what do I do with my time? I have no idea. Maybe fulfill some of my needs - talking to people, trying to work and thereby earn some money and worse still, idle around. It's been kind of funny over the past month - tried to do many things in too short a time and ended up doing none. Or maybe I did, but not to my satisfaction!! Wonder why this question pops up time and again - Is time too short or is your need too insatiable??

I can already hear people reading this piece talk about managing your time well, how effectively would a planner work, books on managing time etc. Effectively what remains is whether you are spending your time in the way YOU want to or are you trying to fit in what people want YOU to do in the 24 hrs possible? Difficult question to answer - Needs and wants have to be satisfied through all the things people want YOU to do and We generally get under the false notion(or is it hope) that what they want US to do is what we actually want to do! Confusing - yeah, same here :-)

There are moments where time just seems to fly by and you have enjoyed every moment of it. I want those moments to repeat - maybe many times over, just because of the fact that I did what I wanted to do. There are other times where time drags on forever - reason, people want me to do it and I have no choice about it. People talk about doing what their heart tells them to do, and listen to noone - they say. 'You got to spend your time the way you want to all the time' is a common comment. Nice to hear, I say - but how many of us have the choice? Everyone has their own constraints, own beliefs and own ways of dealing with the world. Even to do what we want to do, we need to know what we want to do! How many of us really know what we actually want to do or what we are really capable of? I am not, I have certainly thought about it but could not arrive at any concrete answer. I am certainly not living the way I want to all the time - for the simple reason that my time moves like a sinusoidal wave, sometimes fleeting and sometimes dragging like a snail. I am confused (and am sure you are too :-) ). Any Answers??

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

People and their Opinions!?

I often wonder why am I not able to seperate people from their opinions? One of the more challenging tasks I face in discussions, meetings or interactions is to look at someone's opinion objectively. More often than not, we make a sweeping assumption that people are defined(and are represented) by their opinions and not otherwise. How do we keep the discussion restricted to issues on hand rather than dragging the personalities involved is a difficult task, deftly handled by a few.

The best debates(and often the most passionate ones) happen when two people can argue on one issue in diametrically opposite directions without any risk that personal equations might get affected. Let me take this issue in a more broader sense. In a team of four, if all the four tend to think alike, then that group is wasted. If people start thinking in different directions, that is when creative ideas sprout. Creative solutions to problems are often not without conflict with other's ideas but the ability to cope up with this conflict and build upon it.

We are all trying to arrive at creative solutions. But then why do we find getting to such a situation so difficult? The answer lies in the fact that we personalize an opinion rather than evaluating the merit of the opinion. We often tend to look at who is making an opinion rather than the opinion itself, and therein we miss the wood from the trees.

To achieve balance is very difficult - something I have to grapple with all the time. However I have come across people like S, H, P, C, O...with whom I can have exactly the type of conversation mentioned above and needless to say, these have been my most memorable discussions so far.

I will strive to the level where I can perfectly insulate the opinion or argument from the person...a typical case of shoot the message and not the messenger!! If this requires practice and reflection, so be it...will find time for it!!