Monday, September 13, 2010

A Letter from my Past - A letter from my 20 year old self

I've traveled in life this far, from the year 2000 with some advice. Unfortunately, I can only time travel in one direction: forward. I can't go back and tell myself: "You should have gone out of this country and made a few more bucks than being here".

But perhaps some of my advice will be useful to people who were where I was then: 20 yrs.

Save, Save and Save More: I've always had good jobs, but I haven't always spent what I got wisely. I'm not saying that I should have been a penny pincher, exactly. But there's a big difference between buying everything on a whim, and buying nothing.

I wish I had been a little more conscious of that balance. Catching up later in life is much harder than starting early. Even starting a few years later can have a big impact. A Simple Recurring Deposit of Rs 1L for 20 years(at an interest rate of 7.75%) yields an interest of Rs.155000 + Original. 10 years later, its only Rs. 77500.

I almost wrote a Rs.10 Cr. (back then) check on my name when I was 20 to invest in my retirement -- as a kind of forced savings plan. I was good(or probably scared) at paying off loans quickly, but not so good at just saving money. I've regretted not doing that.

Buy just what's needed: In the movie Fight Club, Tyler says "The stuff you own ends up owning you". That statement has really resonated with me. On the one hand, everything is saying "buy more": TV, magazines, the Internet, buses and bus stops even. Everyone wants you to buy their stuff. Getting stuff is often much easier than getting rid of it. "Just throw it away" I hear you saying... I've found it's not as easy as it sounds to throw away a perfectly good - whatever, even if you aren't using it.

These days I think hard (and probably still not as hard as I should) before I buy something new. I admire the people who are trying to live with less stuff, even though I'll probably never be one of them.The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to keep organized. The more gadgets you have, the more you need to ensure them and the more you need to protect them.

Follow Your Bliss: This has really made my life enjoyable(or sometimes miserable). I get paid for doing what I'd be doing anyway. For me, it's working with computers. I really, truly, love that. I'm convinced that everyone can make a living at doing something they really want to do. Well then you might ask, who is going to clean the garbage outside my house? Funny you should ask. I had a friend back in high school, his father was a professor at the University. During our summer holidays, he used to call the folks in our colony on every sunday morning and we used to clean our community. Figure out what you really like to do, and spend some effort trying to come up with a way to make money at it. I truly truly believe, that a job you love is worth much more than a job that pays well which you hate.

Follow through, till the end: I love starting new things, and i mean starting. It's easy and exciting to start something. Buying a fancy universal remote control kit is fun! Then you realize there are a zillion little pieces, all similar, that you have to, sand, glue, realize you did it wrong, and fix...

That thing that was so great when looked at from a distance can really become tedious when you're in the trenches doing the work to make it a reality.After a string of half completed projects, it starts to get pretty oppressive...and sometimes leads into severe trauma, that would take years to fix.

I am right now very very careful about starting new projects, be it my theatre, or my music or anything fun, outside my job. If I'm going to start something new, I have to decide what existing project I'll give up on. Or can this new, exciting project wait until an existing project is done?

I really enjoy the satisfaction of having something done, and being able to make use of -- whatever I was working on.

The tool called "Perception": For quite a long while, confused with the topics like "start with the end in mind", in any project, i was only seeing the boring things that stand between me and the completion.Very recently, I have started looking at similar projects and think about how good it will feel to be done with it. This has been instrumental in improving my follow-through.

And this all comes from (and trust me, I hate this cliche) looking on the bright side. So, don't concentrate on having to get up early, deal with the traffic and travelling, spend long hours inside an AC room, starting at your 17inch beast, among other things.... Imagine you are on a miracle flight, that could change things. I know, i know its a very very cheap trick. I know, but like placebos(The placebo effect:, its shockingly effective.

Believe, Believe and Believe that you can do anything: This is almost my superpower. It's not so much that I know I can do anything, it's more the converse; I don't know that there's anything I can't do. And you would be surprised to know that i learnt that just a few days back, in a very trivial circumstance. That attitude has made it so that I pretty much can do anything... This is another cheap trick like the above, but it's one i believe is serving me well now. If you decide you can't do something, you're probably going to end up being right.

Learn to leave your frustrations: This has really been the hard part for me, all these years. The biggest stumbling block to the above idea in "Belief" for me, also stems from here. One thing, if at all, i have to say has been strong in my life, is the belief in God. And someone, recently told me this, which was very very inspiring(or cliche if you are an atheist): "God sends you flowers every morning. Trust me, he is crazy about you. God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but he did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and the light for the day. If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it". One of my friends recently asked me this : "What is that one thing for which you could give up anything else in your life". I probably didn't have an answer then, and then i realized, that when that one thing wasn't obvious then, why get frustrated about something because that "something" is not all that important in your life, probably.The band, the WeatherThans ( have this song where they say "Throw away my misery; It never meant that much to me; It never sent a get-well card." Just let go of what makes you mad or sad. If you focus on it, you're just giving it power. Let your frustrations go and give power to the successes. I could go on with this, probably even publish a paper or two on this. For me, its more of an internal healing process.

And Finally: Now go forth watch of Bill and Ted ( who said "Be excellent to one-another." And party on, guys :). Life, is, after all a roller coaster ride :).

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