smokerings of my mind..

Life lessons from Randy Pausch

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand
Dream big
Earnest is better than hip
Don’t complain, just work harder
Treat the disease, not the symptom
Don’t obsess over what people think
Look for the best in everybody
Watch what people do, not what they say (judge people by what they do, rather than what they say)
Get people’s attention
Always say, `Thank you!’
All you have is what you bring with you
A bad apology is worse than no apology
Tell the truth
No job is beneath you
Never give up
Be a communitarian
All you have to do is ask. Don’t be afraid to appear ignorant.

I have deep admiration and respect for people like Randy Pausch who live their life to the last minute, and before dying leave a lasting gift (in this case, his last lecture) for posterity.


August 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Life and GMAT

Life’s a lot like a GMAT test, or vice versa.

It starts with questions/challenges of average difficulty. If you get the answer right, your next question will be slightly more difficult. If you get the answer wrong, your next question will be slightly easier. The underlying algorithm determines the level of difficulty of questions you are asked, based on your performance in answering previous questions. Difficult questions are weighted more heavily in scoring than easier questions. Eventually higher the level of difficulty you successfully tackle, higher the final score! 🙂

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Perception matters

I see that in professional life and in personal/social life as well.. perception matters. I wouldn’t want to always care about it, however there are times when it matters how others perceive you or what you do, and this is particularly important in a business scenario as the success of a service/product (and in turn, the business) depends greatly on what its customers perceive it to be. It does not really matter if you have the best product in town (according to you, again), and your customers don’t think of it that ways – eventually, they (customers) dictate if your product succeeds or not.

Many times the customers do not agree with our views on what the product/service does, and internally (within the company) everyone feels that customer is not getting it… and the argument/discussion goes on endlessly. People always perceive the way they want to based on their thoughts, experiences, beliefs, predispositions, personal agenda. Here, it is the customer, and customer’s perception matters for business success! So what can we do here? Temporary – do not disagree (so you need not agree as well) with what the customer says – there is a reason for them to say/believe what they say/believe unless they are highly irrational/unreasonable, and one needs to try to find that reason. And then dig into why this perception got created – something we did, or maybe the customer was biased for reasons beyond our control, or something else. In case of the second option, there’s really not much we can do. However, if we see many customers with similar sounding concerns then that means there’s a problem at our end and we are perhaps not relaying our message clearly, or doing something else wrong – and so then that’s what needs to be fixed.

At the end of the day, it really does not matter what we think of our product/service, what matters is what the users (for whom it is made) think of it. In business, they are the ones who are going to use it and (more importantly) pay for it.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s the beats, not really the alcohol

A good number of folks I know like loud heavy music, like to drink, and drink and get tipsy too at times… I often used to wonder as to what exactly hits them – is it the alcohol or the ear-drum-bursting music?? reason being, at times, when I saw them drink in places without any loud music, it didn’t seem to hit that fast and with that intensity.

So, I started observing more… and I think it’s the music.. the loud heavy beats when they start reverberating in the head coupled with the alcohol takes you into a zone where you experience the ultimate high.

For me, the loud beats on the Mark Levinson speakers in my car does the trick. 😉

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Jerry Yang – you owe it to the spirit of the valley

It was the meritocracy-based culture, the encouraging entrepreneurial spirit of silicon valley where your passion, smarts and bold moves make great things happen – that helped him directly/indirectly in taking Yahoo to great heights. No doubt he made more than his fair share of mistakes (some of which just can not be justified). He has the option to exit, or succumb to the pressures to exit… BUT for the very same spirit of the valley, he owes it to get his act together and get Yahoo back to its glory days.

Most of the articles that one reads these days talk about Yahoo being in shambles, and insinuating that it’s a gone case now and should sell itself off… indeed it is in shambles!, but it’s still worth $30 billion (shareholder value isn’t wiped off), it has 500mm unique monthly visitors, its net income for the first quarter of this year was $542 million – which is three times that of last year,  the product portfolio is also good — I mean, it’s a profit-making business, and just a while ago Microsoft did offer to buy it for $44 billion… moreover, the employees don’t really hate Jerry (at least I haven’t come across any post insinuating this). The point I am trying to make is – it is in a bad state, the morale of employees is at an all time low, the media is impatient, there’s huge exodus of some very key executives…BUT, there is hope and it’s not a gone case. Jerry Yang has the choice to exit, or prove his mettle once again – if he had it in him to get Yahoo to the glory once, he now has the opportunity to fight and get the same glory back for Yahoo. He can choose to go down the annals of history as one-time success, or take a shot at true glory (coming back up shining again, after having fallen in abyss from the top)!!

This sounds all emotions.. agreed.. but then almost always truly great acts have emanated from the emotions, the passions, the bold thinking combined with the smarts. I’m reminded of something JK Rowling recently said during her Harvard commencement speech – “…And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” This IS rock bottom for Yahoo, and I truly hope/wish that Yahoo makes this its foundation and that Jerry does it!

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.” – JK Rowling

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery of Right Time, Right Place..

We often hear that xyz has what they have because they were there at the right place at the right time. I’ve always wondered that this sounds so much ‘luck-based’..and that there’s something missing here. Over the years, I’ve now come to realize that it’s not just a matter of being at the right place at the right time but also being “prepared” at that point of time.. having the smarts to prove at that place/time that you deserve the opportunity, and grab and embrace it… and there you go, you’ve made it!

Update 6/20/08 – Hrishikesh pointed a very crucial point here… that you got to know (the awareness) that it IS the right time and the right place!!!

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Proud contribution

I’ve loved firefox since I got hooked on to it about 3 years back… and am proud to contribute to Download Day 2008. Make history, join the movement, help set a world record for the most software downloaded.. download Firefox 3 and spread the word..

UPDATE (6/19): 8.29 million downloads within 24-hours. World record!!

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Hiring / recruiting in the times to come..

Yesterday I read about how a Google Maps blogger (not a Google employee) got an offer from Google for the role of a Product Manager to promote Google Maps. His blog was THE unofficial Google Maps blog for 3 years.

This is quite symbolic and indicative of the direction that hiring is taking… in a year or two –

– resumes (as we know it) will start losing their importance and most likely, it’ll be done away with pretty soon..

– their will be open/public resumes – LinkedIn (and/or similar) profiles will take the center stage

– people will be hired on the basis of their demonstrated (publicly available, verifiable and validated) record… so no more BS-ing on the resume!!

– reference checks will happen through tools like LinkedIn Reference Search

– every potential employee will be google-d to check on different aspects of his/her life (which will be reflected in more ways on the internet)

– similarly, the candidates will be able to get inside information about the company, the potential manager, team members… Glassdoor seems to be working towards providing such info. ….this type of service will level the field in a big way for the candidates..

– more and more people will be hired through referals, professional networks..

Yeah we’re headed for exciting times… and a potential LinkedIn IPO!

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JK Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech 2008

After Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, it is the speech that JK Rowling gave at Harvard recently that impressed me a lot. My key take-aways were: importance/benefits of failure, imagination and hope. The gist of what she spoke is well represented in the word-cloud below –

Some immensely powerful statements made by her –

“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.” [as the saying goes – that which does not kills makes you stronger]

“…And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

“…failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.” [failure just rips apart all the clutter… and then all you see is what really matters]

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Some other good ones…

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.”

I read long time back, and now I believe, that when you really look for answers, they just come to you.. I read this speech early this month and liked it.. and that was it. Yesterday, I was just browsing the reader on my iphone and hit this speech again – and there it was.. in my face.. hitting right on at things that were bothering me for a while.. well, not exactly answering my questions, but offering a perspective with which to re-look at things.. 🙂

PS: I made the above ‘word-cloud’ using this cool tool Wordle.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rip the context.. skim the spirit

…and go make what ever meaning you want of it… and interpret it the way you want.

One good example of this is what’s happening with what Michelle Obama said about she being proud of America for the first time in her life…. Now, this can be really sensationalized (the way it is being done), over-looking the spirit in which she said. You hear the entire speech and remember the occasion… and any cool-headed person would construe that though her choice of word was incorrect (instead of “proud”, the word should’ve been “prouder”), the intent of what she wanted to convey was innocuous.

Anyways, this post is not about Michelle Obama’s defense. Her example was to put across the point. I have often seen one of the big causes of misunderstanding is when we try to derive meaning by merely looking at what is being said or done and taking that at face value, and overlooking the context in which it happens, the spirit in which it’s done… and most often, ignoring the complete picture leads us to a totally different meaning… and at times, it complicates things (further).

To make an objective assessment, I guess it it not only good but also imperative to keep in mind the context and the spirit behind the action – it is not an easy task to do it always, as many times the literal face value of the spoken word / act is so strong that you totally miss out thinking about the context… however, once some time has lapsed and you can think a bit more clearly on the subject, it helps to consider the context.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment