Moments in a Bottle

We have all had struggles with bottled up emotions, frustrations, unhappiness, embarrassment, guilt etc. But how about flipping it up bottling up your happiness, joy, love and so on. I do not mean bottling up in the conventional way of not expressing it to the outside world, but quite literally bottling it up. i.e writing it up and putting it inside a bottle.

This was an idea that was made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert of the novel ‘Eat,Pay,Love’. We heard it though from Tim Ferris who was coerced by a friend to use it to stop and celebrate, enjoy his success and happiness before moving onto the next thing.

Happiness Project: How is it done?

The moments in a bottle is also called as the Happiness Project. You write your about your happy moments in a small sheet of paper and put it in a jar. Simple.

Happiness Project: Why?

There are a lot of good reasons to do it :

  1. It is a simple way to freeze the happy moment. Just like taking a picture, by writing about the happy moments we freeze it for the future.
  2. When you write about the happy moment, you relive it one more time.
  3. You start to take note of little happy moments like stopping to smell the roses
  4. Makes you feel more grateful about life in general
  5. At moments when you are feeling down, a look at this happy stored may just be the medicine for you.
Happiness Jar
Happiness Jar

Our moments in the bottle

We have been following this for the last couple of years and even have color coded sheets. Red for happy moments together, Blue for Hari, my husband and Pink for me. Unless the original suggestion, we didnt write every day but we wrote atleast every week and remembered the happy moments as the ones that must go into the jars. The  moments were simple but extremely varied. For Example, the moment spent with a baby nephew, spotting tigers in a jungle, the friend who just called to say Hi, A new project, appreciation at work, kindness from a strangers. Simple moments, that would have slipped our mind if we had not bottled it up.

Touch wood, I never had to look back at the cards to stop myself from fighting with Hari. But I guess its a trick that could work pretty well.

So what are you waiting for, go bottle up your emotions  🙂

The magic of planning for the next day

Let’s rewind to your morning today. Did you wake up with purpose, knowing exactly what to do for the next six hours? Or did you open your eyes with your brain all clouded, knowing that you have zillions of things to do, but with no idea about where and how to start? In this confused state, it is very easy to pick activities that need very little effort. For instance, snooze the alarm & stay back in bed. It is very easy to cling to activities that make your brain feel busy, but you aren’t doing anything productive. For instance, reading the newspaper all morning, browsing your email or watching TV. Continue reading The magic of planning for the next day

5 things We learnt in Our One Year of Travel

Quitting our jobs and giving up our house, to travel around India for one year is one of the most radical things we had ever done. Now that we are back from the epic journey it is time to look back and reflect how the year has been for us and what we had learnt in the journey.

(1) Start before you are ready

Before every trip most people plan judiciously. A packing lists that covers all possible scenarios, like rain coat if it rains, 5 kinds of accessories, 3 colours of lipsticks etc to match the dress that we carry and might buy. Things to do before the trip like cancel the newspaper, inform the maid, close the water taps, get a new cylinder etc.  Even a short trip of one week can be overwhelming if we keep such exacting demands on ourselves to be prepared for everything and to look perfect in every part of the trip.

In reality, we can never be fully prepared and ready for all the demands of travel or life.

As Tim Ferris says ” The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually,’ just do it and correct course along the way.”

So like Nike says ‘Just do it.’ Atleast get started.

(2) Break it Down

Travelling around a country as vast as India is a daunting task,  even when one whole year. So overwhelming, that despite my deep desire and intentions I had put it off for over a decade. The decade’s wait came to an end, solely due to my Husband Hari’s programmer mind.

He broke down my wishlist of travel around India into a time bound states wise plan. Based on that we further decided on the list of activities and places, mode of transportation, route to be taken, reaching out to local people etc. This breaking it down clearly gave us our action items to move towards our plan as against my vague idea or wishlist.

As the saying goes, “How to eat an Elephant, one bite at a time.”

(3) Be flexible

A self- planned trip is a lot different from one planned by a tour operator, it has several benefits but it also has its own challenges and uncertainties. While we enjoyed the Hampi city and the history, the tourist buzz around the chariot felt like an hype. We also felt Badami was truly a hidden gem where we had not initially planned sufficient time for. Because we were flexible with our plans and schedules we were able to enjoy more of the places we like and skip or cut short places that were not to our liking.

This flexiblity also enabled us to manage better unforseen repairs on the road, sickness or just plain fatigue. While it is good to have a plan, be sure to improvise on road. You never know what the road has in store for you.

in the middle of nowhere
Face the inevitable

(4) Face the Inevitable without the drama

There were days we had to drive 100 + Km’s before we could find a tea shop. Sometimes stranded in the middle of nowhere with a bus breakdown or a puncture of our vehicle in a hilly road. At times, excellent roads abruptly stopped and we were facing non-existent roads with no tar, no shops, no villages, no signboards and sometimes even no people. We had to cross over rivers at three different times in our motorbike with the fast flowing currents threatening to damage the engine. We crashed multiple times with sensitive injuries.

There didn’t seem to be a way forward. Often there was no way back either. Even staying back was not an option. We took a lift when stranded, got the repairs done with a mechanic on the way, rode the punctured bike till the tyre shop, walked miles to get a phone signal to call for help, towed our bike with help of another. We did whatever had to be done to get us safely out. We were not always calm and composed. We did not always know what to do. But we did what best we could with the resources we had.

Difficulty is Inevitable. Drama is optional.

(5) Rest when you must

Travel is not as sexy as travel industry and even some travel movies make you believe. It is like shifting and looking for a new house every day, a new cook for every meal, a new mechanic, doctor etc. The surprises are sometimes pleasant, often not.

We had our set of nasty surprises and dramatic incidents. Motion sickness in our day long bus journeys, caught out with a sudden bike failure in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal or even any villages nearby, dramatic high speed falls with injuries and bruises all over our body, stuck in the middle of bad roads with no way forward and no way back.

Quitting not only crossed my mind, I had almost decided on it after our very first day on the bike riding 330 KM to Aurangabad from Mumbai. My back felt like it would fall apart. That day and each of the days we felt discouraged, the one thing that stopped us from quitting and let us go on was a good and sound sleep. Sometimes even in the day, sometimes even for a few days together.

The problems did not ofcourse go away when we woke up from our slumber but we had regained much of our will, reason and energy both physically and mentally and decided to push on one more day.

So if you are feeling tired, dejected, quit if you must, but first rest. Rest and evaluate and then decide.

Travel is often a proxy for life. It is life intensely lived every moment. It teaches you a lot, but it always comes dressed up an inconvenience and sometimes even a danger. So Live well. Travel Well. Learn Well.

Why have a reading plan

Reading is an activity fraught with choices and distractions. You know how it is when you walk to a book shelf at a library or a book store. Too many books call out to you and you are paralysed. Reading online is more difficult. Apart from millions of articles on a single topic, articles often have a rabbit-hole of hyperlinks leading to other articles or even other topics. In the post, Get more out of your reading, we explained how to avoid distractions and focus on what you are reading. We even suggested that you discard all content that isn’t relevant to your life. We gave you some good habits to follow to keep your reading fun.

What if you can fine-tune your reading even more, so that you get the best results from your sessions? What if you walk into a library and know exactly where to start and how to proceed in your next few visits? What if you set reading goals for your upcoming year? What if you set seasonal topics that you will stick to? What if you are more proactive with your reading, using techniques like note-taking and deliberately practising the skills introduced by your books. This post takes your reading experience to a new level where you will start mastering a few skills that you have always wanted to learn. Continue reading Why have a reading plan

Why thrifty saving is not the same as investing

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ is an adage you will hear so often that its sheer repetition will make you believe it to be true. But is it really true? Sure, money not spent right now is sitting to be spent on something else later. Economics defines this as opportunity cost. But in this article, I am going to argue against ‘thrifty saving’ as a way to ‘grow your money’ or to ‘get and live rich’. Continue reading Why thrifty saving is not the same as investing

Book Summary: The Richest Man in Babylon

This is one of the oldest books on investments and personal finance that has survived time and covers all the basic knowledge required for a beginner wealth builder. The fable covers simple advice to start wealth building to most common mistakes committed by those in their journey to financial independence.

The seven simple rules of wealth building:

(1) Start your Purse Fattening: Save money
(2) Control your expenses: Don’t spend more than you need
(3) Make your gold multiply: invest wisely
(4) Guard your treasures from loss: avoid investments in which you have no knowledge. Beware of promises that sound too good to be true.
(5) Make your dwelling a profitable investment : Own your home
(6) Ensure future income of your dependants and post retirement: Obtain life insurance
(7) Improve your ability to earn : Learn from the best in your field and obtain advice from them.

Stories of Wisdom from Babylon

The story anecdotes also covers the most common situations that we face in money – both lack of money and surplus of it without knowledge to handle them.

(1) Unexpected wealth brings with it many unreasonable requests from close relations and friends on business ideas that they have no experience in.  The story gives a clear framework on how to evaluate such project ideas and to reject the unreasonable and yet salvage the relation.

(2) There is a discussion on luck by the learned men of Babylon which bring out the probability of becoming wealthy by sheer luck such as gamble as against through proven principles of wealth building.

(3) The helpless feeling of having worked all our lives but yet end up with no savings and how to overcome such a situation.

(4) Relevance of insurance is discussed through Babylon’s impenetrable wall which saved its citizens from being invaded by neighbours, compared to real life unforeseen circumstances.

(5) The story of the wealthy camel trader who was once a debt ridden slave and how he redeemed himself through hard work is told as an inspiration.

(6) The story of how wealth created by hard work can be spent away in a few generation by children and heirs that have no respect for hard work.

(7) A story discusses how a professor of the current day who discovered the tablets followed the principles and got out of debt.

Warning and Limitation: Narrative style

The stories are a great read with a message. An excellent way to communicate simple but important truths over simply uninspiring prose. The language used though is archaic and  often distracting from the message itself.

Recommendation and Conclusion

This is a good first book to start for someone who is starting their journey of wealth building . Also suitable for someone who finds themselves in one of the financial trap stories above. This book is the only one most will require without having to go into the nitty grittiness of the ever growing complexity of the financial world. This book could be your step stone to wealth building.

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Book summary: Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass SunsteinBook title: Nudge
Author: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
ISBN-10: 0141040017
ISBN-13: 978-0141040011
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Nudge is a book written by American behavioural economist and nobel prize (Economics) winner Richard Thaler and lawyer Cass Sunstein, who takes deep interest in behavioural economics and ethics in law-making and government policies.

The premise of the book is that one can highly influences choices and decisions that people make by subtly modifying the way that choices are presented. In doing so, they describe a role named ‘choice architect’, whose responsibility is to carefully design choices so that choice-makers can be protected from bad choices and led to good choices. Continue reading Book summary: Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

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What’s your story?

This was a story narrated by Anthony Robbins in ‘Awaken the Giant Within‘. Reproducing the same from memory.

Life Stories
Life Stories

The Story

A drunkard father had two sons. He was a wife abuser and constantly beat his wife and his sons.

The sons grew up and moved away.

One son grew up to be a wife beater, frequent domestic violence and was hardly able to keep his jobs. He said, ‘That’s how my dad was, that’s all I have seen..and that’s all I know !! What else would you expect of the son of an abusive person like me’

The other son grew up to be a fine gentleman. He treated his wife and children with immense love and respect. He was in a respectable job and was a good citizen. He said ‘I know what it is like to be abused…and I’ll never let that happen to my wife or children.’

Same Family. Same circumstances. It was the narrative that made all the difference.

What is your story ?

I once met a farmer from Himachal Pradesh. He was in my group as part of an ambitious entrepreneurs journey called the Jagriti Yatra. We were introducing ourselves to the group. There were people from IIT’s, middle level managers in IT companies like myself, Doctors who had served in tribal area, UN worker from Jamaica etc. This humble farmer’s proudest moment was that he had completed his Post graduation. To me and to several others it sounded too simple and too obvious. After all, most of us knew we will graduate and complete post graduation in our lives.

Until we know his story. The nearest primary school was 5 Km’s from house. Even at the age of four years, he walked 5 Kms everyday to go to school. In Secondary he had to walk around 10 Kms across the hill to get to the next village to go to school every day. Higher secondary was even further away at 15 Km. College and post graduation at almost 25 Kms away in two buses everyday. He came home and helped his parents with their farms everyday and worked his way through school and college.

Dalailama on choice
Dalailama on choice

After listening to the story I admitted if I had to walk that further I would have probably never studied beyond Kindergarden. We don’t realise our privileges till we see someone who had been deprived of them. At that moment, I realised what a privilege it had been for me to have been born into a family and circumstances I could take so much for granted.

The privilege of legs is known only to the lame, the sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, family to an orphan.

We make our stories and then our stories make us. Choose Well.

The magic of a manifesto

Let’s start with a cliché. Our protagonist, Asha, is usually untidy, leaving her backpack on her bed and throwing her shoes in the middle of the hall after she comes back from work. Usually one of her socks finds its way under the furniture. A few pens spill out of the half open zipper of her backpack and fall on the bed. Asha has a hard time clearing out her bed every night she wants to sleep and an even harder time finding a matching pair of socks when she is in a hurry to leave for work. She is irritable and often harasses her mom to find her things for her.

Bunty wants to shed that extra fat from his tummy. He has enrolled for the gym and goes occasionally. But most of the time, life happens and Bunty either finds himself overeating while celebrating with friends or not going to the gym because he has something else to do. Even at the gym, he ambled around from machine to machine, getting a few reps, but doing anything effective.

On new year’s eve, both Asha and Bunty set resolutions. They vow to get tidy and get trim respectively. For the first week, everything works great. But, just after a week, things are back to what they were. Asha’s shoes are in the hall and Bunty is binging on extra large pizza, not having gone to the gym for two days.

How can we help Asha and Bunty stick to their resolutions? There are many solutions, but some of them work better than the others. My favourite is a method that political parties, engineering standards organisations and committees follow religiously. Writing and referring to a manifesto.

Continue reading The magic of a manifesto

Book Summary: To Sell is Human: Daniel Pink

to sell is humanTo Sell is Human Daniel Pink

  • ISBN-10: 0857867202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857867209

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Dan Pink in this book discusses the changing landscape of Selling where buyer is now the King and all of us are sellers in one way or other. He challenges a lot of accepted norms of selling. He also proposes new ways that has worked for people who thrive in this new environment. Dan has divided the book into three parts. Lets us now examine each part of the book individually.

Continue reading Book Summary: To Sell is Human: Daniel Pink

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