Idea Machine : Day 4/200 (Friends!)

Meeting up with friends is always cathartic. I should do it more often. Spending an entire day just hanging out, starting with brunch to a NGO board meeting and then drinks and dinner, means a day truly well spent. The discussions ranged from all the happenings at ZS to the world issues to the technological advancements of the future to the stock market and lastly, our personal lives. It feels good to be yourself. I sometimes feel myself more around such friends than my family members. I mean it is a different level of being connected – with similar mindsets, educational background and age. In fact, four of us share our birthdays within a couple of weeks of each other.

Anyways, I need to sleep early with a packed day waiting tomorrow. So here we go with the routine

‘One new idea related to technology’ : Self cleaning car
It came up as a joke with the friends but a self-cleaning car would be amazing. It probably could be very basic but the coating material could be such that it doesn’t let dust and other dirt settle on it, so the wind can blow it away. Maybe there are tiny nozzles around that spray the car with clean water. The areas where the window rolls down to can be another innovative space to clean the window panes.

‘One new scientific learning’
It is not necessarily a learning  but a realization that our ‘self’ is merely a projection of our brain’s perspective, which in itself is simply a collection of fading memories. Self necessitates a continuity that is provided by the need to have the biological vitals within a very narrow survival range. I am increasingly curious to understand the workings of the brain.

‘One new life lesson’
Music has played an increasingly important role in my life. I probably never listened to music as a kid. I remember actively listening to music beginning only in 11th/12th grade. In college, it increased exponentially. However, last few years living alone, has made me appreciate music from multiple perspectives. It allows you to immerse in pain, which is intoxicating in its own evil way.

Life is not a collection of days but moments. Moments that bring experience and excitement in its own special way. There is no purpose for those moments. They are not meant to help others. They could make for good stories but that is about it. From being a protected, smart, angry kid of 90s, I evolved into a carefree, selfish young man during college. The success did not elude so the crash was very painful. However, no one succeeds in life without big failures, whether personal or professional or both as in my case. The experience in last few years have brought a wealth of life capturing moments for which I was never prepared. No one can understand or help you during those tough times.

Music brings those moments to life and makes you feel alive. It fires neurons in the brain that you never knew existed. It tugs you into a world for which you were never prepared. The real world.

The self developed coping mechanisms, whether it is immersing yourself in work or hobbies, allow you to survive that world. They have made me into a much more self-aware, still selfish, more calm and patient, more curious young man.

‘One new idea related to work’
Network, network and network. Send emails to ex-colleagues at ZS like Christian Bennett. Send emails to people looking at my LinkedIn profile, especially people from Healthcare Startups. Atleast, you open up doors of opportunity and then decide whether it is a good fit or not. Open as many doors as possible.

‘One new idea related to love/relationships’

Why are we so possessive? Or atleast why am I so possessive? Is it simply a by product of my previous relationship that has formed a defining stamp of love in my mind? However, simply put, the need for love is simply addiction. The need for those happy hormones that are released due to someone desiring you. But why do we crave attention? What is the ancestral association? Maybe attraction leads to the biological need to reproduce. And that is where most discussions end. However, I still do not understand the biological need to reproduce. Yes, I know we need to do that to survive as a species and reproduction is the only means to pass on our DNA and hence, our genetic information. But why? Why cannot a species simply be happy to live and die as an organism rather than think of the species? If reproduction happens, it happens – well and good. If it doesn’t, then forget it. The universe will carry on just as if Earth did not exist. It is not as if the living species on Earth is running the universe.
Maybe a part of the answer lies in the origins of life. How and why cells formed that lead to living species on earth. I crave to understand that better. The theory of ‘primordial soup’ has its holes but probably the most accepted in today’s world. I still fail to understand many nuances here.
One answer I read on Quora mentioned that evolution does not really care about individual human beings. Evolution is optimizing for replication of genes, where the organism itself or its physical form is simply a disposable vehicle to transport genes through time and hence stay immortal. Sexual reproduction allows for further optimization as it picks the best characteristics from both organisms and continues to propagate through time. And once a better version of the organism has been born in the form of the offspring, the parent is disposable and in fact, a liability on the finite resources available. There is a need for organisms to be mortal. This also answers why hasn’t evolution continued to make any organisms immortal or atleast make an effort towards that.

‘One new idea to further explore/learn’
Not necessarily new, but I need to further explore Origins of life!! It is not a passing thought anymore. It comes up as a common thread across various ideas and thoughts. I need to get a book for this. ‘The Selfish Gene’ might be a good start. Need to explore.


Innovation Culture – Limitations of Education System?

Growing up, I always dreamt of creating / innovating things. However, I distinctly remember the thought that most things have been already invented. That thought is miles away from my mind now, however, it bugs me as to how could I be so disconnected from reality? Those thoughts cannot be further away from truth. There were unlimited innovations to be done then and there are still unlimited innovations to be done now, and there will be unlimited innovations to be done at any point in the future.

I should still feel lucky that I had very supportive parents and a few teachers who allowed me to expand my creativity. Designing and building my own website and newsletter; and then the biggest one being writing down the ‘Kaun Banega Saupati’ software, were some highlights during my high school years. However, I attribute these achievements despite the Indian education system.

Beyond these formative years, as I finished my tenth grade, it was the right time to further explore my interests and learnings. However, I had been drilled since childhood that the only future is in being either an engineer or a doctor. I realize its a cliche but could not be more true. The education system was geared to learn the sciences and just aim to get marks. I never really wanted to go deeper into any of the subjects despite doing really well in school. I was simply happy being ranked one after every examination.

To avoid it becoming a crib post, I do want to stress that this is all very easy to say in hindsight. I am indeed very grateful for all the amazing foundation of my schooling that has allowed me to reach today’s status and hopefully much higher in the future. From growing up in a small town in the Himalayas, to studying in a metropolitan city like New Delhi and then moving to US and working here, has been a very exciting journey. All the life experiences, and there have been many ups and downs, have further fueled my ambitions.

Thought Bubbles!

Waking up in the middle of the night is usually not a pleasant experience. What is more irritating is the inability to fall back asleep. Last night, when I woke up at four in the morning, I couldn’t fall back asleep even after a few indiscernible minutes. At that frustrating moment, out of the blue, I thought to apply the most basic and the only meditation technique I knew – focus on my breathing.
It wasn’t easy as my mind strayed to random thoughts. It quickly became a haze as my sleepy mind registered the reason for my lack of focus. The inability to clear my mind and focus on the task at hand leads to the state of mental obscurity. Usually, at that point I would fall asleep, however, this time I decided to do something about these stray thoughts.
I wanted to observe those thoughts from a third person perspective. It was easier said than done as thoughts at four in the morning are immensely personal as well as fuzzy.
I focused on the first thought that sprang up – my parents’ happiness and them worrying about me and my brother. As I forced myself to separate that thought from the entire fuzziness of 4am, I realized the need to also disassociate myself from the feelings related to that thought. Without that disassociation, I would easily dig a deeper hole and get lost in the haze.
I need to stress that it wasn’t easy. It felt like pushing a ball against a hard wall. In fact, to my surprise, I unconsciously began to focus on that ball and could unmistakably visualize it. It was the closest to a Eureka feeling that I ever had. I could feel being a bystander as I observed the ball pushing against the wall. It was trying to free itself from the mangled collection of thoughts on one side to the clarity on the other side (spherical such that the sphere held the mangled thoughts with the free space outside it).
As I visualized the wall boundary being stretched, the ball suddenly broke free and passed through the boundary. It floated into the space on the other side surrounded by calm and peace. It was my first thought bubble and I felt so clear-headed. Probably this post does not do justice to the experience, but at that moment, I figured out an amazing process of clearing my mind to focus on a task. I picked up the next thought – my feelings towards my love – and let it form a floating bubble as well. I felt so light. 
In those moments, I realized I had stepped upon a highly personal meditative tool to bring sanity into my life. There are just too many things in my mind at one moment that I can never get to the task at hand. It is frustrating.
I realize that the application of thought bubble creation process is going to take practice and immense effort to translate it into a habit. However, I feel very excited about this new way to bring sanity to my current muddled state of mind.