Journal

I have tried to actualize the concept of being a great writer many times. Every time it has resulted in exactly one result: failure. But I realized that posting more, short bursts and really understanding what this blog is about should make a difference.

This is a journal.

Where I digitally record the most interesting things I come across. This is not a writers blog. I don’t compel you to enjoy it. But I hope instead of posting interesting snippets on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be delighted by the things I come across. Feel free to subscribe to my blog at the end of this post and I hope to hear your thoughts.

 

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That 5 second rule about food on the floor.

I have heard this so many times. That you can drop food but if you pick it up within 5 seconds, you’ll be safe from Bacteria.
Turns out that’s a load of BS.

  • No matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it.
  • Carpet had a very low rate of transmission of bacteria compared with tile and stainless steel; transfer rates from wood varied.
  • Watermelon, with its moisture, drew the highest rate of contamination and the gummy candy the least.
  • Men are more likely to pick up food on the floor than women.

 

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Building culture in an organization.

corporate-culture-comics-improve-culture

 

What is the most important thing in a company? What is the hardest thing to build in an organization? Culture.

Why is it so hard? Because unlike cash flow statements or product metrics that are measured, defined and monitored by numbers, culture is measured by people. When there’s a lot of people, it gets messy.

It’s easy to not care about it and hope the task of building culture is blurred by dangling high compensation salary and benefits to new joinees. What a lot of CEO’s don’t get or they get and don’t actively spend time on is people don’t join just for the money. There are a lot that do and once your work is done with them you should part ways but for those that you want to be troopers to the end and the true pillars of your movement, you need to spend time on grooming the culture and attracting them.

A famous talk about what makes great companies great by Simon Sinek illustrates this point. People don’t buy what you do or how you do it, they buy the why you do it. I recommend that you put aside 18 minutes to view the talk. It is quite profound.

What you do is make great products. How you do it is by hiring great people. Why do you do it is where the culture is embedded. Why should people join you? Why should people notice you ? Why should people stay at your company? All of this is answered by that one word, Culture.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast – Peter Drucker

A lot of Indian organizations struggle with culture. The Indian media talks a ton about achievements, role models (and some terrible ones) and profits. Very few talk about culture. Because building culture is a long hard road and the results are seen many years later. In a world of listicles and quick wins, culture doesn’t stand out as sexy.

I have worked with many startups in India and almost all of them struggle with building great culture. Given the unnecessary media attention on quarter results, it is easy to believe the let’s just work far more, keep hustling and results will speak for themselves. There are 2 problems with this. The people that get burnt away and aren’t cared for are sometimes your best people and focusing on results alone is akin to placing all your eggs in one basket. You focus on the eggs laid, not the hen itself.

I listened to this talk by Laszlo Bock, head of VP operations at Google. I recommend the listen. He talks about how Google, widely considered one of the best organizations in terms of culture, goes about this whole process.

Here are my notes

  • Google drew inspiration from Bell Labs, the US military and others on how they spent time thinking about how people interacted and how spaces were built. There is a direct line in how Google runs at it’s cafes so that people can bump into each other and strangers become friends. This is the idea of engineering moments of serendipity.
  • How do you take someone on paper that has a high school education and then turn them into raw leaders? Take raw material and turn them as exceptional?
  • People are fundamentally good and they’ll do better stuff if they feel like it’s theirs
    • Everyone gets stock irrespective of where you join in the world
    • Being transparent in the company and why. Weekly meet up with the founders and CEO. Tremendous
    • Everyone’s goals are visible to everyone. If it’s your thing you should know how it’s being affected
    • Give a lot of channels to give their voice. Where you sit on the hierarchy doesn’t matter since it’s all our thing
  • Managers are usually made redundant and everyone is given the freedom away from titles
    • The upside is that you do better work and don’t feel pressurized into being afraid of making mistakes. They are looking for guidance not control and this makes people stay longer and enjoy it more
    • The downside is that if you want to make a big change, it can take a while. It can be really slow
  • Google follows a power law distribution on bonuses, stocks and salaries where there is a wide variation on the pay
    • Usually people think that the 80/20 rule works where 80 percent of the revenue is generated by 20 percent of the people. That is human performance is “normally” distributed
    • In a lot of fields, very best people contribute way way more than that. They generate far more value. The very best people 95/98% type of value. So it means that you are underpaying the best people if you pay them equal to those that aren’t performing
    • This means you need a system that is just and fair and this system rewards the top performers so that they don’t leave
  • Google spends an enormous amount of time in finding the best people
    • The biggest constraint when you are growing rapidly is how can you find great people fast? Google started off with the brute force method where you hire many recruiters and look at the smartest schools and just pick them up in droves
      • But this didn’t turn out to be too productive, the interviews weren’t that great, the hiring wasn’t fast enough and the people weren’t great
    • So they dived into data and started looking at numbers.
      • How many interviews do you need before you can decide the candidate is a fit?
      • Undergraduate experience and test scores doesn’t matter that much
      • They followed their gut and the gut can usually be wrong
    • Rather than doing brain teasers and stuff they looked at for pure IQ so instead looked at people they liked at Google and were the top performers and started quantifying requirements of great people
    • They found 4 basic attributes in the end
      • General cognitive ability – smarts, learning ability and general problem solving ability (not just your SAT scores)
      • Emergent leadership – not where you were promoted or were captain. If you see a problem do you step in and help and do you relinquish power
      • Googly-ness – conscientiousness will people think like owners when they are here, and intellectual humility which is the type that if you get new facts will you revise your opinion based on the facts?
      • Can you do the job? Because if you have the other 3 covered this usually takes care of it
    • Women tend to be more self aware and exhibit higher EQ than most men do.
    • A great question asked was Michaelangelo never wanted to paint but was pushed into it, Martin Luther King didnt want to be the leader of the civil rights movement? How do you find talent that isn’t looking to be found?
      • This touches on the topic of emergent leadership. People who want to step up and improve the surroundings.
      • Project Aristotle was inspired by an article talking about Shane Battier written by Michael Lewis where it observed that Shane wasn’t an all star candidate on the field but whenever he was around everyone just played better.
        • The project was what makes teams better? And where does innovation come from? The underlying one is pyschological safety where members of the teams that have the safety tend to step up and innovate more

What companies have you found to exhibit great culture?

 

 

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Words to live by.

“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967.

The other thing I highly recommend is one of my favourite poems, If by Rudyard Kipling.

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My year of 2014 and it’s goals.

I made resolutions all the time. I never kept them for more than a few months at most. Except growing my hair. How do you keep them?I have a few thoughts.

If you just want to know what to do, skip to the end.

The year of 2014.
2014 was one of the best years I have had. Not for my blog. It was probably the worst for my blog because I didn’t write anything at all. I promised myself a few things for 2014.

1. Travel to a new country
2. Write on my blog tri weekly
3. Learn a new language
4. Lose tons of weight
5. Grow my hair out
6. Work in gaming for another year
7. Learn that one field I’d want to be a specialist in

I’m well aware that talking about your goals means you won’t accomplish them in most cases. But those were my goals in 2014.

How did I fare with my goals?

1. Travel to a new country
I started with this to make myself feel good. I moved to Singapore. Although I’m moving back soon.

2. Write on my blog tri weekly.
I wrote 7 posts after my welcome 2014 post. That means I wrote 0.13 posts a week. An average post contains about 500-600 words. So I wrote about 74 words in the whole of 2014. On average. Total shit progress. To give you some more clarity (and show you how numbers can be interesting, I have already written over 220 words till this line).

3. Learn a new language
I set out to learn Arabic, German and Spanish. I learnt Singlish. Shit progress here too walao.

4. Lose tons of weight
This I actually did to some extent but then had a fracture and went back to my pizza eating ways. But now that my fractures gone, I’m tackling this again.

5. Grow my hair out
Grew it since February. Recently cut it after reaching shoulder length. Here’s a pic with the amazing Razer team where it’s almost shoulder length.

team razer dreamhack

6. Work in gaming for another year.
Post Disney, as the above pic depicts. I worked with Razer for the better part of 2014. I met some amazing people here. Great exposure into the company that makes the best gaming products in the world. These are actual products by the way; Mice/keyboards/An amazing mic/Speakers and of course fantastic software that I worked on.

7. Choose a field to specialize in.
For years I struggled in this one. YEARS. I couldn’t decide on what I wanted to do. Sometimes I was too pussy to do what I should have but it all serendipity and a bunch of circumstances hit and I chanced up on what I would like to do. I now know what I should build my expertise in.


How do you keep goals?
I didn’t keep my goals because I was thinking in terms of numbers and sign posts I had to cross and not the path. The goal in itself while noble is a hard thing to achieve when you start out. Therefore you build systems of practice in which the focus is to do one better than the previous day which eventually leads you to surpassing your goals.

A system of practice is inspired by Kaizen which is getting better daily.  Take one thing one day at a time and do it better than the previous day. Eventually you’ll hit the goal without thinking about it daily.

Do you know why this is easy? Because 10 pushups over 9 pushups the previous day is totally achievable. 100 pushups by the end of the month already defeats you in thinking about the massive number. You’ll achieve the same later or earlier, doesn’t matter, when your idea is just progressing daily and doing one better than the previous day, you are well on your way.

So how would/should have my goals been structured.

The learning of the language for example. I should have chosen one language and immersed myself in it. The culture, the interactions, learning one word a day. Or learning 10 words a day, then learning 11 words the next day instead of saying learn the language. Learning a language is not measurable by any means. How do you know when you “know” the language? When you can give a speech? When you can read a whole book? It’s hard to measure or tick off. But learning newer words daily? That’s easy? Learning a new sentence daily? That’s easy too.

Here’s to a fantastic new year 2015 to all of you. How did your 2014 go?

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Singapore.

 

Marina Bay sands.

Singapore is like white rice. It is clean, pristine, well regulated in quantity and it fills you.  Everything is controlled, watched, ruled upon and functional. A fantastic place that works as a eastern equivalent to the melting pot (America on the west in case you need to know). The problem with Singapore and the problem with white rice is that they have no independent flavor.

Ever been to a Thai restaurant? The secret is in the sauces. The spices. The vegetables. The meat. Not the rice. The rice is an accompaniment. You need it to complete a meal. But it is not a complete meal by itself. Too much of white rice? Just a bloated feeling of incompleteness.

India, on the other hand, is chaotic, unclean, unregulated, disparate but has flavor in every aspect. A meal in every bite because the bites are so large, so variant, so wonderfully resplendent to the senses. You don’t know when something is going to happen, whether that something will happen and if it’ll happen in the way you planned. Singapore you can predict it to the tee. You can be sure that if someone doesn’t deliver you can be protected by laws.

Yet too much of India can get you an upset stomach, even if you are an Indian.

Hat tip:  Andrew.

 

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Take 3.

batman-gonzo

I had a long busy year and I forgot about writing till someone mentioned it today saying “Oh you are the only one I know who blogs”.

I haven’t blogged in half a year. The last post was a quote, so that doesn’t count. I lost tons of my data shifting domains. But something interesting really happened in the last few months.

I realised a few things.

1. Intersection.
I want to be in is the intersection of Technology and Entertainment. Most of my life has been around these two things. Technology is dealing with the tools we use either on the phone or on the web (pc/tablet devices etc). Entertainment, well, is everything that gives you a good time eh? Occasional sprays on things lifehacking or otherwise can fall under this banner, but for the most part I’ll stay relevant. I work in product management so something of that should come out somewhere.

2. Choosing
A long time back I wrote a post on the fallacy of choice. Where you wait for someone to tell you what to do. I have come to realise, begrundgingly, that life is what you make out of it. You make it out of choosing the things you want to do and the person you want to be. That hasn’t formulated yet fully but I would presume that in the evolution that would fall somewhere.

The choice now is to observe the interaction.

 

 

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arsene-wenger

“I think in England you eat too much sugar and meat and not enough vegetables,” Wenger told them of his philosophy for the future. “I lived for two years in Japan and it was the best diet I ever had. The whole way of life there is linked to health. The people there are known to work harder than anywhere else and they have the highest life expectancy. Their diet is basically boiled vegetables, fish and rice. No fat, no sugar. You notice when you live there that there are no fat people. Well, no fat people among the middle-aged and elderly.”

– Arsene Wenger, Coach, Arsenal.

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Goals for this year.

I haven’t updated anything for a while, because I have been reading far too many books of late, but remember those goals I talked about a while back? Here they are.

Learn WordPress completely.
I started a website www.igamemag.com, with my views into gaming and stuff. It’s something I wish to take higher, maybe even get it to sponsorships and stuff. Right now it’s an experiment to learn WordPress, phpmyadmin and other popular tools.

Learn PHP
The only reason is to fix my scripts, but I see that consulting with this an option too. No really I’m not the coder type, I’m more a designer types, but sometimes it’s useful to know who is bullshitting you and who is not.

Learn everything about Online Monetization
This is something that’s increasingly become something that I want to dibble in. It’s a dream to be your own master and to get blogging going on by sitting at home and earning. Many have done it before, so it’s not something that is undoable.

Art of prioritization
Something that’s heavily been disturbing is my lack of focus and priorities, so here’s learning the tools of efficiency and how to go about making sure that I learn to prioritize.

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