Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What “wanting it on his face” taught me about insights.

Recently, I arranged to pick my friend up for a drink. He was back in town after a long time. He must have waited for me for about 10 minutes at our rendezvous point, getting baked  in the scorching heat. As soon as he got into the car, he tried to adjust the AC duct on the passenger side and I immediately gave him my “don’t mess with the settings” look, from the corner of my eye. He simply responded, “I want it on my face!”.

You would probably have expected me to continue on a particular train of thought, perhaps a cheeky reply or a dirty joke, even. Either ways, it could have been a moment invoking laughter, except that it wasn’t. In fact, the effect was quite the opposite. I was ashamed. Ashamed of myself, for not replacing the broken knob on the AC duct, when I saw the perspiration dripping down his face. Not only did I miss out on a potential joke, it amplified the shame I was feeling. The entire situation could have been neutralized or even made enjoyable, with a simple “I always knew it” or “you totally have the face for it” 

Later that day, I was reflecting on my day’s learnings and had an “AHA!” moment about Insights. I thought, “how many more of these moments must I be missing because of my emotional reactions to situations?” Now this was a far bigger problem than you initially think, especially, if you happen to be a Brand Strategist. At this point, the mindfulness movement would say “we keep telling ya!”.   But the bitter truth is, it’s difficult. Our emotions are triggered instantly and more often than not, it’s difficult to tune in to unconscious signals. William James suggested that our experiences are like a stream of consciousness. If they were in “bursts of consciousness” it would have been easier, at least for insight miners like us. But this is what makes the search for insight a meaningful one worthy of pursuit.
So, what did I learn from this simple, stupid encounter?

1    1) No “simple, stupid” encounter is actually a simple or stupid one­, because seemingly mundane situations can reveal a lot, provided you ask the right questions.

2    2)  Understand how your mindset works. What are your most easily triggered emotions and thought patterns? Chances are, they act as blinders and you will miss out on connecting those critical dots that make the fresh connections. This is a massive blow to insights mining.

3    3) Overcome these negative emotions and patterns of thought, by challenging them. In my case, being self-conscious has cost me dearly. A long time ago, I wrote a book on insight mining and spent almost five years doing it. After much hard work, my partner secured several interested parties including Wiley and Random House, and eventually secured a contract from McGraw Hill. I was so insecure, paralyzed by my self-consciousness, that I never published it. I was skeptical of my ability to be successful. I was frightened of failing, because the scars would never heal and fade away, or so I thought. In stark contrast to this, last week we published, perhaps the first ever Insight mining course, online, drawing material from the unpublished manuscript as well as from cutting edge scientific research. What changed? It’s the realization that in the eye of existence, both success and failure will soon be forgotten and, in the end, just treated alike. 

Want to become a better insight miner? Check out our Udemy course “Aha! A practical guide to have more insight” Or use the coupon code SANAKELIYA to get a surprise price:) Follow this page to master the craft of insight mining.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My friend Jack is...

The other day, my partner and I were in the car, the radio playing the very catchy BoneyM tune from the 80’s. Having grown up in the disco era, we did what most of us would do – make up our own lyrics to the tune based on what we thought we heard in the song. While I heard something like “My Friend Jack is Shwedagon”, my partner obviously heard something completely different. Her’s was …” My friend Jack is chivalrous!”.That made some sense, considering that Jack is after all a man and Chivalry is a quality desired in men,by most women, and even some men.
Before we move on, click here to listen to this catchy tune and make up your own lyric...

So what lyrics did you make up for it? If you heard Shwedagon or Chivalrous obviously you have been nudged by this article. My lyric of Shwedagon makes no sense at all,considering that Jack cannot be the golden Stupa in Burma. Clearly that was quite absurd. I am sure most of you heard it as “Chivalrous” considering it is meaningful, especially with the follow up lyrics. But then, that’s the problem – a problem unique to us humans. 

We assign meaning to what we sense. Things may appear to be meaningful because we are nudged by what’s surrounding the subject in question or even our own biases. Now, this was ok, because it was just a song, we were having fun as we drove around, and we were not going to fret over it. But the more news and social media I consume, it seems that people are declaring war on simple, stupid and meaningless things without understanding what primed them to see it the way they see it in the first place. If we draw a big insight from Existentialism, it’s the idea that everything in this world is inherently devoid of meaning. It becomes meaningful only because we assign meaning to it. Then we should keep all of it to our own selves. I think the time is ripe to start the “Meaningless Movement”

By the way,the lyric in the song is actually ..”My friend Jack eats sugar loaves” - scary, considering everything we know about diabetes and such.

Have a light and stimulating 2015!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We make our happiness beyond our own reach

Today, I asked a few people how happy they were on a scale of 1-10. One person said she was a 7 because she had bought a pair of earrings. So I asked her what it would have been, had she not bought them. She said “I wouldn't be so happy then”. Another said “I am not very happy because if I am very happy, the chances are I will be unhappy soon” A few more people gave somewhat similar answers. It was obvious that these people felt that they aren't in control of their own happiness. They sought for their happiness in the external; other people and things such as another new gadget, a new friend, further education, more money, blah blah blah..none of which will ever bring them the lasting happiness they yearn for.Happiness is beyond our reach simply because of one insight; we look for it in all the wrong places.

Reaching outside ourselves for our happiness is akin to chasing a mirage in the middle of nowhere. No matter how close you get, you will never truly experience it. Eventually, you die feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. We have given the remote control to our happiness, to others, without relying on ourselves for our own happiness, while overwhelming evidence suggests that “Happiness is an inside job”. It is illogical to place such a central concept to our existence, in the hands of others, because nobody else can relate to you perfectly, each and every time. Making ourselves happy should be our own number one priority that isn't worth giving up for any reason. It’s your birthright to be happy every single moment of every single day, day after day. I am going to wrap up this short post with a couple of questions which I hope you spend a few moments pondering over; - How happy are you right now? Why do you feel the way you do? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Meaning of Life

It’s what we dread the most, having to ever stop and think about the meaning of life. This question has bothered everyone,be they sinners or saints, politicians or philosophers. So, have I found the answer? I am sure everyone would be very skeptical about it, but then you have every right to be. So, here’s my answer..I found the meaning of life to be absolutely meaningless. But then I realized the profound nature of this meaninglessness, it being tied to one of the most important things we pursue in life; freedom. So, to put it directly, in plain and simple language, it’s the meaninglessness of life that gives us the freedom to pursue what we want. Imagine for a moment that there was some meaning to life. Then we will have no choice but to follow this meaning and our lives would be imprisoned, locked inside this meaning, unable to deviate from it.

I would assume that if there was a common meaning to life, there would be a far greater number of depressed, unhappy people jumping off balconies because of their inability to engineer their own lives. So the absence of a meaning is the ultimate blessing in disguise, because now we can assign meaning to our own lives in whichever way we want and follow that from the very core of our beings. So, here’s to the meaninglessness of life!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being an out of form cricketer

The form of just one or two players in every tournament can ruin our hopes of winning it. Now that the T20 World cup is gathering momentum, we are likely to see a few players going through a bad patch. Here’s a quick take on it from a psychological perspective based on the conscious competence learning model. The best way to explain this is to wind back to our own childhood days and think of something that we really wanted to do. In my case, Cricket.

Rohit Sharma - under fire 
When I was about four years old, I was unconsciously incompetent, meaning that I didn’t even know whether I can play cricket or not. Then I started bugging just about anyone who could throw a ball at my tiny plastic bat. Even though the ball came at me at the speed of a thousandth of a Malinga delivery, most often than not, I missed, fumbled and fell. Now I had successfully graduated to being consciously incompetent. Then I tried playing more often, before school, after school, inside and outside the house and later on, by going for cricket practices. That was my attempt to be consciously competent. But that still won’t make a great batsman like Kholi, Amla or Mahela. That also explains why I am only writing this article and not playing in the tournament. As one keeps practicing, one becomes unconsciously competent. You no longer have to think of the shots to play, where to place them, how hard and at which angle to hit them. All of it comes naturally, almost like the ball wants to be caressed by the bat. That’s when you are a good batsman. You are on autopilot.
Thinking is an exhaustive process and a player can’t bat through many overs with higher levels of mental exhaustion. So, a few shots after a batsman has walked in to the middle, his autopilot needs to take over.  Imagine the kind of pressure the reflective system that handles thinking has to deal with; playing for the country, the atmosphere, the target to reach and the overs remaining, with the speed of the delivery, the spin, the angle, the muscle co-ordination. It’s just too much. That’s when a batsman miss -times a ball and gets out. It’s purely because the reflective system in the brain is slower and this is further hampered by the situational pressures. He can play only a few deliveries with this kind of pressure but can’t keep it up for long. It is when the transition from the reflective system to the autopilot mode doesn’t happen, that a batsman is out of form, much to our dismay.

Not being a sportsman doesn’t mean you’re spared from being out of form. It is something we all go through, in our daily lives. Fortunately for us though, the entire world isn’t watching us when that happens


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Selling the unsellable

I just can’t get enough of this. Enjoy!