Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Confessions. And News.

It was the first semester of IIT. Actually the start of the second semester. I had gone to collect my first semester grade sheet from my course adviser. I had managed an average, not-too-flashy-but-not-too-bad SGPA/CGPA of 6.6. (This was to prove to be the highest SGPA I ever scored, a fact I did not know at that point of time, but that is another story). Which was kind of uplifting, and kind of depressing. Uplifting because I had not put in much effort during this first semester, and depressing because my pre-major totals (PMTs) had been among the top quarter of my class, and hence a GPA of 7.5-8 did not seem too much away. Before I blew the majors, that is.

The course adviser is the professor who is supposed to monitor your academic performance, and counsel you on your courses. My course adviser was the coolest professor in the campus. Imagine WG Grace shrinking to 5'6" and a 100 kilos. That was my course adviser. He had a long grey unkempt beard, a round belly, and teeth that had been spoiled from long years of smoking. He was not even 60, but he looked 80. He used to enjoy his smoke, and smelled of cigarette too. What really set him apart was his open buttoned shirt, which exposed his white vest more often than not. When he talked, words seemed to get caught in his WG Grace-ish beard, and you really had to pay close attention when he was speaking to understand him. But it was a treat to talk to him. For, he was one of the smartest persons I have met, and one-on-one discussions with him were like embarking on a river of philosophy and electrical engineering. Not like I did follow the second path much. Me being me. I totally respected him, and my respect for him only grew when an accidental browsing through the history of his office's computer took me and the other students to :D

So well, I was there with the professor. He had not really offered any radical advice to anyone else. He looked at my grade sheet, and said "6.6 - that is not really good enough." Then he smiled showing his crooked teeth, and said the words which have haunted me ever since, "You should quit IIT." I was stunned, and asked him why. To which his answer was something on the lines of I would not be able to do well here. And when enquired upon why he thought so, he told me, "Because you have to really work hard in IIT, and I do not think you will be able to do that." And I said, "Then what should I do". And he replied, almost nonchalantly, smiling at me, "You have cleared JEE, the toughest exam in the world. You can make money in anything you do. Join Politics, and you will make money there. Just quit IIT." And I said I would think about it, but in my heart I knew, I did not have the guts to give it all away, the future that an IIT degree promised.

And so I stayed. I flunked some courses, and did badly in others, but even my bad results could not motivate me to work harder on my studies. Having had it easy in my academic life beforehand, I believed just my ingrained academic ability will be able to carry me through. However, in academics, unlike arts/sports, pure talent is nothing unless corroborated by hard work. The fact that my talent for learning counted for nothing in my courses made me hate them even more. My CGPA feel from 6.6 to 5.75 within the course of the four years. On the other hand, I worked hard, really hard in other aspects of hostel life. But those required a right-brained talent, while I was more left-brained. So I ended up caught up somewhere in between. A low GPA, an above average but not dazzling co-curriculars. And just realised that I had made a mistake not leaving IIT when I could easily have. My life was going nowhere, and I thought of a bleak future.

And then I took CAT. The exam was easily crackable (to use a popular Joka term), and it inculcated a feeling in me that management degree, finally, would have courses that asked for more inborn talent than hard work. Either you are a born manager/leader or you are not, I thought. And I could not have been wrong. The realization that I had made a second successive mistake, depressed me. My grades again suffered, and the depression also made me quit pursuing other co-curricular activities. I had a low GPA, and I did not have anything else to show during my two year stay. I was also too much of a pussy to quit, even though I knew nothing was going my way. The future promised too much. I was royally screwed, and was actually wondering about what to do.

When this interview for my current job happened. It passed by a haze because I was drunk, but by the end of it, I was able to crack it because of my potential than anything else. And so I thought maybe consulting and my job would be where I might be able to pass through with my potential than an over reliance on hard working, something I have never been able to do, and now I am confirmed, I will never be able to do. I was getting some decent money and the future looked great. But I was wrong again, and after an initial honeymoon period, I realised I was going nowhere in my job, just like my IIT and IIM experiences, and it was because I could not really work hard.

But, this time I am not being a pussy for a change. I am quitting, and I am telling it to everyone. I will do something I like from now on, and which maximizes my potential. And which does not involve too much hard work. Dear Course Adviser Sir, may you be happy. It has come eight and a half years too late, but it has come as a result of your talk that day. Fuck the hopes of a better future. It is the present that matters. And I am happier now, than I have been in the past nine years. Quitting is a nice feeling.

K to consulting and to IITs and IIMs and their "easy, non-related to the courses" selection processes.

All I wanna do is analyse random data and analyse it to come up with arbit frameworks. Or maybe join politics, and aid parties with data analytics. Or maybe just write random articles on business. Please follow this space for more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The SZ matrix of life

The Consulting Hypothesis: And then there is this thing called life. Science has not been able to define it yet, (or had not when I last studied biology, which arguably was 12 years ago), but being a consultant, there is nothing I cannot do, and hence I will undertake to define life.
Moreover, being a consultant, as I can never do anything really useful, except confusing my audiences and clients with complex "strategic frameworks" in 2-d graphs or 3-d matrices, I will describe a new framework.
The SZ Matrix of Life: Imagine, my dear readers, a 3-d space. (A 3-d space, for those of you mathematically naive, is a three dimensional space. It is what you see. The height, breadth and width - which can also be said to be the three axis of the space). Now imagine the three axis of this 3-d space to be professional life, personal life and the social life (the x,y and z axis respectively, represented as (x,y,z) from now on). We call this space, for want of a better name, the SZ matrix of life, in honour of the two men who came up with this matrix, one being yours truly and the other, my co-consultant in the latest "consulting" project I am doing. But more of the "consulting" project we are doing later.
For now, more gyaan on the three axis which make up this matrix:
Professional Life: Consists of your work life. You know, the quality of work, the amount of money you earn and other such things.
Personal Life:The so-called important part. Includes your family, relatives, and your significant others. Includes The people you are supposedly closest to, and your relationship with them.
Social Life: Your social life. Consists of your friendships, your social networks, and generally everything not covered in the first two axis. Such as your tennis club. Or the book reading group you are a part of.
The SISO method: Now that we are clear on what the axis are, here is a little exercise for you. In consulting, we call it the workshop method. I call it the SISO method. Which is short for Shit In Shit Out. So, its basically you giving me ideas, and I presenting it back to you with some shitty analysis thrown in. Sounds interesting, right? So lets get into the exercise head-on.
Ideation: Imagine your life on this framework, and give yourself a rating between (0,10) on the three axis. About how you think your life is heading in each direction. And how good you think is each aspect of your life turning out to be. A higher rating means a better quality of life parameter. So if you think you are doing great in your professional life, but your personal life is only half perfect, while your social life is non-existant, give yourself a rating of (10,5,0). Doing this, give yourself a rating of (x1,y1,z1) for the current state in your life. This is your SZ matrix coordinates. Keep them ready with you for the time being.
Weights (for stronger analysis) (SI): Now, just to make things more confusing (in consulting terms, to make the analysis more "holistic"), please assign your own weights to the three axis. Now assigning weights is a slightly tricky task, so please read carefully. Your weights should be indicative of the relative importance you give to the three axis, and the sum of the three weights should equal 1. Not less, not more, but absolutely 1. Moreover, none of the weights should be less than 0 (or more than 1). So if your three weights are w1,w2,w3 for the x,y and z axis respectively, then w1,w2,w3 should fulfil the following two conditions:
1>= w1,w2,w3 >= 0;
w1+w2+w3 = 1;
Examples: For example, Chatur will give weights of (0.8,0.2,0) or (0.9,0.1,0) or (1,0,0) while Rancho will give weights of (0,0.2,0.8)or (0,0,1) while Hari will give weights of (0.1,0.8,0.1) - depending on their preferences for glory in different fields. Please note in each case, the weights add up to one, and while weights can be 0 or 1, they cannot be negative or greater than 1. So please have the (w1,w2,w3) ready as well.
The calculations: Now comes the hard part. You need to calculate your SZ matrix of life score which is given by the following mathematical equation : SZ matrix of life score = {w1*(x1)^2+ w2*(x2)^2+ w3*(x3)^2}^(1/2) (For the mathematically inclined, this is the weighted distance formula. For the mathematically naive, well I don't believe anyone of you has actually cared to read till here anyways, so forget it). As a check, your SZ matrix of life score should be between 0 and 10. Both inclusive.
Special Analysis (SO): So now that you have a SZ matrix of life score between 0 and 10, our special consulting team (me) will tell you what to do with your life.
Score of 0: Are you even alive? The good news for you is that you are absolutely rock bottom, and you cannot go much deeper, even if you tried digging. The bad news is that you are rock bottom. You really don't have anything going for you, and I am just wondering what you are doing reading this. Get off my blog fast!!!
Score of (0-2.5): Is your life worth it, you often wonder? There is not much right going on with it, and you are often depressed. A failed love affair perhaps, or a really, really bad job can be key elements. Or maybe both. Add to that the fact that you have no real friends, right?
Score of [2.5-5): Not the most ideal place to be, but you could do worse, and probably will over time. You are not a very happy person inside, but you complain about most things, though nothing is really wrong with your life. You should also look at the analysis of the previous scoring bracket, because that is where you will fall in some years if you do not start getting happy with what you have.
Score of [5-7.5): Life could be better, but you are doing fine with what it is. Over time, your life will improve. Or so you hope. And that thought is what keeps you happy. Good going.
Score of [7.5-10): Life is great! And will continue being so. While not perfect, your life has all the elements of a well-paid and down to earth rockstar. What else can a person ask for?
Score of 10: Are you a living person? You are totally contented, and have nothing to look forward to in life. You are like the Indian hero at the end of a movie, who lives happily ever after. The only bad news for you is your life might seem useless from this time on, because you have already reached the top and there is no way to go but down. Get off my blog, before I become totally jealous of you. And your life.
Further Reading and Recommendations: The SZ matrix of life scale is time dependent, and you should always look to maximize your score on the SZ matrix of life. Whenever taking a decision which affects any of the three axis or more than one axis, compare your current score with your proposed score, and only go ahead if your SZ matrix of life score increases. Further research on the SZ matrix is being conducted, and results are not yet conducive.
For further queries, please respond on the comments section below, and the author will get back to you. Individual consultancy, based on your exact score, are also available.
Disclaimer: The author, like all consulting firms, is not responsible for any decision you take and any losses you suffer based on my recommendations. These are just guidelines, and finally you should only do what your mind tells you. Especially if it is a sick, demented mind. Because you do need to blame someone for your decisions, but consultants are always blemish free.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Mind Fuck and other stories

1. The Shock: "Help! Help! Help" he shouted, as the 440 V current flowed through his body. He was stuck to the overhead electrical cables above his house. On the roof. He did not remember how. But he knew he was fixed to the cables, and he knew it was not a nice position to be in. His entire life flashed between his eyes for what seemed like an eternity. He felt pain like he had never experienced. It was as if his entire body was forced to act under some huge pressure. He could see the people below, working in the field, oblivious to his state, and not responding to his loud cries of help. Over what seemed liked ages. His eyes went blank for an instant, and then,a thousand images and a thousand colours, colours he had never imagined before, and did not know existed, filled his eyes, as he felt pain he had never experienced before.But he could see other shapes around him, much nearer. He could almost hear them as well, calling out to him. And he wanted to reach out to those shapes around him but he could not, for he was fixed to the wires. And he soon found a strange He thought, "so this is what death feels like. Strange I don't feel anything, except pain".
He woke up in the hospital, and remembered. He remembered seeing himself hanging from the cables and shaking, the woman in the fields raising a shout for help, his neighbours coming up to the roof to remove him from the wire. His mom standing stunned seeing him hanging. The neighbours using the dry sticks to remove him. He remembered seeing it all. And then he rose from the bed. After what seemed like ages. But it was only an hour since he had "died". What had happened had not killed him, but it had him shaken. And stirred, if you like.

2. The Suicide: So life had to end like this, he thought. A large dose of some anti-depressants had to do the trick. He was tired of his lonesome and generally boring life. He had just decided he had made the worst of his life, and that there was no way out of this misery. Things had just gone from bad to worse. Or so he thought. He had been lonely during childhood too, but much happier, often inventing games out of nothing. He had innovated playing book cricket, for example. He also predicted results of the cricket and football world cups through playing random games. In school, however, he was an extrovert. And generally popular, through participation in whatever little activities his school organized. Despite his extroversion, there were times when he needed to be alone. And just play his self invented games. And then the shock happened. And the dark thoughts started appearing, as he left school to enter college.
And the participation, enthusiasm and the popularity continued in college. However, the need to be alone at times also stayed, and it was in college, that at first the dark thoughts came to him. Why did his parents, relatives and his friends loved him, he wondered, when he was such a good-for-nothing guy? Did they have some hidden agenda for loving him, or did they just showed they loved him? Such thoughts clouded his reasoning. His thoughts about people, about the world generally turned grey. They taunted him, and he started believing them. He knew he was a nice guy, but the thoughts told him he was not. He started feeling guilty for not being as good a guy as he claimed he was, and the more he thought about it, the worse it became. His thoughts when he was alone turned more and more evil, and the blacker his thoughts became, the worse it became for him. The persistently happy person then started turning sadder, and consequently his attitude towards people, which used to be very welcoming earlier, took a 180 degree turn. He started hating people, and people generally started avoiding him. Which made him feel worse. And depressed. His grades at college suffered, and he flunked many courses. This made him question the meaning of the life, universe and everything. And the more he thought about it, the more he became certain that life was not worth living.
And so he met a shrink, to give life a last chance. However, all he got from the shrink was a subscription. To different anti-depressants. He got a full month's supply, and had his first daily dose. It didn't seem to help. He had another. Long before, he had the entire month's supplies down his throat. And he was waiting to die. And laughing about it.
He closed his eyes, and saw himself lying on the bed. Eyes closed. And he saw the shapes again calling out to him. And he moved out, towards the shapes. He could pass through the door he realized. He could do whatever he wanted. He felt, so I am finally dead now. He could not remember anything after this. Except that he woke up one day later. After vomiting all over the bed. He had been unable to die, once again.

3. Mind Fuck: "And the funny thing is," he wondered, "is that 99% people will donate their right hand to be where I have been. A well paying job. Degrees in B.Tech and MBA from the best colleges in the country. A constant adoration from everyone in the family for being among the most educated. A large group of friends. Trips to China, US, and Western Europe. And still I am like this." He had managed to overcome his depression in the ensuing years mainly through his decision to be happy, and take things as they come. And have his share of fun, which included drinking binges every weekend. And sometimes get really high. Live life like a rock star - with lesser money and no girls that is - and generally not taking tension about anything. But this job had changed it all. Working till 2 am on most days had meant absolutely no time for other pursuits. And he started feeling that his work was useless, and he hated his job. And wondered, how life had come to this.
He was feeling absolutely useless about himself. His job gave him no satisfaction. His personal life gave him no instant satisfaction. Alcohol and ganja also seemed to lose their charm. And his mind again started playing games on him. The shock kept coming back to haunt him. He imagined walking through the world, vibrating and shaking and feeling the electrical current running through his body. He even imagined himself as Kalki out to save the world. His mind was twisted, as he failed to reason between reality and imagination. Once in office, he imagining himself as Kalki had hit a senior with a pen which acted as a sword, hurting his eye. He was given a sabbatical after that, to try and regroup himself, and cure himself, but the long hours at home alone, only made his condition worse.
He was shown to many doctors but none could cure him. He was sent to a mental asylum where he just managed to aggravate himself further. He was now acting like Kalki and moved around as if he was riding the white horse. And fought imaginary enemies, even hurting many people in the process. And one day, fighting the demons, he imagined he had been hit by a sword, and it was a fatal blow. He just would not get up after that. And as he closed his eyes, he could see the shapes, again. They had finally come to get him this time. And he moved out towards the shapes, but this time there was no going back. He had cheated death many times. It was death's turn to cheat him now.