Monthly Archives: May 2015

The secret to becoming interesting

Be Boring #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Daily routines of famous people

Be boring to be interesting

P.G. Wodehouse – Woke up at 7:30; performed calisthenics exercise, made & ate breakfast, read a ‘breakfast book’ and walked the dog, wrote from 9am to 2pm; followed by lunch and a walk; at 3:30 watch his favourite soap opera ‘Edge of Night’, had tea, snoozed and got in some more work till about 6pm; evening was cocktails and a quiet dinner with his wife, Ethel followed by some reading before bed. All this even at the ripe young age of 89.

Mozart – By 6am had his hair done and by 7am dressed and done with breakfast; he composed from 7am to 9am; 9am to 1pm he gave lessons; 1pm to 5pm was devoted to lunch and whiling away; 5pm to 9pm was spent either performing at a concert or composing; 9pm to 11pm was time spent with Constanze; he spent a couple of more hours composing before going to bed at 1am.

Albert Einstein (Life @ Princeton) – 9am to 10am had his breakfast and read the newspaper; he then walked to Princeton and worked there from 10:30am to 1:30pm; he returned home for lunch, took a nap, spent the rest of the afternoon balancing visitors, work and correspondence; he broke for supper at 6:30pm and followed it up with more work before retiring to bed.

Mark Twain – Post breakfast to 5pm in his study, sans lunch; evenings read his work to his family and children; Sundays was time spent with family and day dreaming.

Van Gogh – On most days he had a pretty straight forward life, 7am to 6pm paint with some food in between; post supper paint again till midnight.

Mason Curry in his book Daily Rituals, has written about the daily routines of 604 famous personalities, ranging from painters, writers, and musicians to philosophers and scientists, in an attempt to find out what they did differently that made them so incredibly good at their profession.

Some started work at dawn, while some worked best from dusk. Some were organized, while some thrived in chaos. Some worked round the clock, while some took long naps and strolls in between. Many had their own idiosyncrasies which probably gave them their super powers – Hemingway wrote standing, Proust wrote almost exclusively in bed, lying with his body almost completely horizontal and his head propped up by two pillows, Beethoven went for long vigorous walks to aid his creativity, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec did his best work at night, sketching at cabarets or setting up his easel in brothels, the list goes on.

I found only one thing common between all these marvels that have etched their name in History. All of them seemed to be diligently disciplined about their daily work routines to the point of being as boring as a tame boar. Mason has put in a lot of research to prove that the outward lifestyles we see of the rock stars is but a myth. That creativity doesn’t come through bursts of inspiration.

There seems to be no other formula to excel other than find what work process and schedule works best for you and keep at it, day in and day out. Haruki Murakami seems to have the same belief saying “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

The irony is that by being boring, you become interesting, maybe even immortal.

Brothers in Arms

Oh what a day, what a lovely day, to start off with ‘Brothers in Arms’ I say #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Mad Max: Fury Road blew my mind. The scenes along with the soundtrack is still playing in my head. At a surface level, it’s just a 2 hour relentless chase movie that doesn’t take its foot off the accelerator. The choreography, the energy and the visual spectacle of post apocalyptic dystopia is something that I haven’t seen or experienced before and am unlikely to for a while.

At a ‘reading in between the non-existent dialogues level’ it’s also about a couple of unlikely ‘Brothers in Arms’ fighting their way through ‘Fury Road’ and giving it a shot at redemption. It’s not much unlike life or even a startup, where it becomes easier, and dare I say, fun, to overcome obstacles and bury all ‘fury’, when done with ‘Brothers in Arms’.

Bonus: The music track of Brothers in Arms from the movie to start the day. It’s sure to drive away the Monday morning blues and get your energy levels revved up for the week.

A one sided love affair

A one sided love affair,
Is not a story many would share,
Cos we’ve created a world
Where we are embarrassed with anything short of gold.

But tell me o’ friend
Is it really the end,
When I am lucky to have felt the ecstasy of endless love,
Then to have felt the evanescent joy of a treasure trove.

However the question does remain,
How long do I live with the pain?
The answer that I hear whispered in my ear, 
Is just wait, soon the light I shall see, I need not fear.

The Universe will do what is best,
All I have to do is live in zest.

Give. And a full life you shall live!

“Giving is an act that returns itself double fold.” – Brian Colbert #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Is Salman Khan reaping the benefits of good karma (or plain and simple ‘giving’ for those who do not believe in the ‘dharma’ of ‘karma’)?

I’m usually wont to offer opinions. I prefer sitting on the fence, watching the show. I’ve been watching ‘Jail Ho’ & ‘Chal Mere Bhai’ jokes and debates over social media and occasionally live. Amidst the ‘Being Human’ cries and the ‘Being Animal’ howls, two quotes, neither related to the Salman verdict, caught my eye.

The first is today’s MondayMorningWakeUpCall. “Giving is an act that returns itself double fold.” – Brian Colbert

The second, “What you meet in life is destiny! How you meet it is free will.” – Swami Chinmayananda.

This is the first line from last Friday’s Speaking Tree article where Swami Chinmayananda goes on to explain how our shastras compare the omnipotent power of God to rain. The rain is common and equal in its blessings to all. Different seeds, nourished by the rain, grow, each to its individual stature, with different qualities.

He compares the tendencies of our mind, called vasanas, to the seeds. They come about, exist, burst into expression, all according to a law. Thought by thought, new channels can be created,­ flowering seeds sown, weeds plucked out, and in time, the jungle in our mind can be rendered into a fragrant garden.

In short, maybe we can carve out our destiny.

I too agree that granting bail to Salman after being convicted, has made a mockery (again!) of our judicial system. I hope these incidents help in shaking and waking up people to create change for the better.

At a fundamental level it’s obvious that Salman is maximizing the benefits of the flaws in our judicial system, maximizing the benefits of being rich and famous. I don’t think that’s cool.

At the same time, at a deeper level, I cannot but help wonder if a higher power, the Universe, is giving back the good he gave, double fold.

For it is in giving that we receive. That I think is cool. (Caveat: Giving, expecting something in return, ain’t)

So you think you can write!

“The two kinds of people are those who think they can write, and those who think they can’t. (And too often both are wrong!) – Ann Handley

Even if we aren’t professional writers, most of our professions require us to write, every day. We write to communicate, to persuade, and with the advent of the internet, simply share. Yet we pay little or no attention to improving our writing skills. Most likely because we think we can write well enough for the person at the other end to understand what we are saying and we can get by our jobs (mostly the ones which are not linked to professional writing) without any real need to improve.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s not.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, I decided to blog from this year (2015). So I figured, if by the off chance, people stumble upon my ramblings, then I owe it to the unfortunate reader to allay the horrors that may come his/her way. With that in mind I recently devoured a highly recommended book by Amazon – Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide To Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley.

I recommend it too (not highly) if you are looking to improve your writing, for professional purposes or otherwise. She covers 75 very very practical tips that cover how to write better, grammar and usage, telling a story, publishing, social media writing tips and content tools that you can use.

But then I know that you are too busy, which in my parlance is lazy, to read 282 pages of what you think you already are a master at. So in my attempt to earn ‘good karma’ brownie points, I’m sharing my top take away and learnings, (which I shall also try to apply bit by bit), for the good souls who want to improve but are too lazy, er busy to learn. After all, she argues that “writing is a habit, not an art.”

  1. Quality content means content that is packed with clear utility and is brimming with inspiration, and it has relentless empathy for the audience. “Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analysis. Optimize with love.”
  2. Follow a writing GPS – Good writing takes planning and preparation; it doesn’t just emerge, fully formed, out of the head of Zeus. Or your own head, for that matter.
  3. Organize – Good writing is like math: it has logic and structure. (There’s no single way to organize a piece of writing though)
  4. Swap Places with Your Reader – Good writing serves the reader, not the writer. It isn’t self-indulgent. Good writing anticipates the questions that readers might have as they’re reading a piece, and it answers them.
  5. Develop pathological empathy – Use a customer/audience-centric POV. Replace ‘I’ or ‘we’ with ‘you’ to shift the focus to the audience/customer’s point of view.
  6. Put some extra thought to writing a good lede (Opening). Some ideas are –
    1. Put your reader or someone just like your reader into the story.
    2. Describe a problem your reader can relate to.
    3. Set a stage.
    4. Ask a question.
    5. Quote a crazy or controversial bit of data.
    6. Tell a story or relay a personal anecdote.
    7. Other options – Start with a quote. Use an analogy. Make a bold statement.
  7. Place the most important words (and ideas) at the beginning of each sentence. Hence, phrases to avoid at the start of a sentences – (You can tack them onto the end, or insert them somewhere in the middle—if you must use them at all.)
    1. According to…
    2. There is a…
    3. It is [important, critical, advised, suggested, and so on]…
    4. In my opinion…
    5. The purpose of this [email, post, article] is…
    6. In 2014 [or any year]…
    7. I think [believe] that
  8. Ditch Weakling Verbs – Instead of: In his anger, he accidentally cut his finger. Try: In his anger, he accidentally slashed his finger.
  9. Limit moralizing or preaching. So avoid phrases or words like –
    1. Don’t forget…
    2. Never…
    3. Avoid…
    4. Don’t…
    5. Remember to…
    6. Always remember to…
  10. Break some grammar rules (these 5)
    1. Never start a sentence with and, but, or because.
    2. Avoid sentence fragments. It’s perfectly fine to sparingly add sentence fragments for emphasis. At least, sometimes. (Like that.) (And that too.) (And this.)
    3. Never split infinitives.
    4. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
      1. One big unless: “You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition when the sentence would mean the same thing if you left off the preposition,” Grammar Girl notes. “That means ‘Where are you at?’ is wrong because ‘Where are you?’ means the same thing.
    5. Never write a paragraph that’s a mere one sentence long.

If you’re still curious for more… social media writing advice, tips like ideal length of FB posts, Tweets, Blog lengths, writing headlines or landing pages or even a repository of content tools to simplify your writing process, you’ll have to take that little bit of extra effort to go through the 282 pages of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide To Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley.

What ‘if’?

Our job is ‘if’ – Tony Stark #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

If we can give everyone everywhere access to internet then…

If we can make 77 sales calls in a week then…

If we can run households, cities, countries entirely on solar energy then…

If we can wake up 14 minutes earlier then…

If we can set out to achieve our 6 month goal in 6 weeks then…

If we can make it possible for every child to learn to read then…

If we can take out 14 minutes every day to read then…

If we can put a smile on our customer’s face (or anyone’s face) on every interaction then…

If we can find a cure for anger, greed, pride, envy, self-doubt then…

If we can inspire and enable the busiest, laziest and most apathetic to pursue their passion then…

Then your guess is as good as mine.