Vipassana – almost begins

 

Since my graduation – there has always been some sort of an interest in “figuring out life”. The vast abyss that life is – sometimes scares me, sometimes inspires me and sometimes makes me just plain lazy. I seek education in the hope that I might be able to make leaps in my journey of “figuring out life”.

  • Year 2003 – I took the “Art of Living” course. Sudarshan Kriya was just phenomenal. However, I left the course with a bad taste. I felt like there were elements of “cultish behaviour” in the Art Of Living Centre, Bangalore.
  • Year 2009 – I took the Landmark Forum. What started off as a tremendously insightful program that moved several aspects of my life – landed up as a disappointingly obnoxious experience 5 years later. I had dreamed of being a Seminar Leader at Landmark. But the kind of experience I had in the first few months of 2014 – made me drastically rethink whether I really wanted to submit my life to these people. The education was really great. But some of the people were questionable.
  • Year 2010 – 2012: KFI Study Centre Retreats. Krishnamurthi is a breath of fresh air. He is so simple that he is not easy. Study Centre Retreat, in my opinion, is the absolute best way to inquire into fundamental questions about life and discover deep insights within oneself. Some of the learnings I gathered from these retreats shaped a lot of my thinking about life, work, profession and living.
  • Year 2011 – 2015: Lots of independent study of Existentialism (Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Gary Cox) and Present Moment Awareness (Dan Millman, Eckhart Tolle). Existentialism is a treat for the philosophically inclined. The framework of thought in Existentialism (comprising of Negation (nothingness), Being, Freedom, Responsibility, Facticity & Transcendence) offers a brilliant set of tools to take a look at one’s life.

In spite of a lot of hits and a few misses, I felt that there is something I don’t yet KNOW. When I say Know, I mean know from within. There is enough knowing because of all the books I have read and because of all the people I have listened to. But there isnt enough knowing stemming from personal inquiry.

Just when I was pondering over what I could do next, a good friend & mentor of mine – Dr. Sudarshan Rao suggested that I take up a 10 day course on Vipassana Meditation. From what he told me – I gathered that it was a 10 day silent meditation retreat, where participants are made to sit for meditation 11 hours every day and abstain from all sorts of communication (verbal, textual & non-verbal) during that time.

Short of having one’s hand stuck under a rock in Blue John Canyon, the experience is pretty much like what Aaron Ralston goes through in 127 hours. After watching that movie I came back with a feeling that if anyone is subjected to 100+ hours of being with themselves, they are bound to come back with deep insights that would transform their whole life.

I felt drawn to the idea of Vipassana because of the nature of the course. 10 days – silence – just sit and meditate. Not much else is taught apart from the act of meditation itself. I spoke with my wife about it and she encouraged me to take it up.  So I applied for a course starting Jan 13 (yes two days from now) sometime in September/October last year. Last Friday I received confirmation that my application has been accepted. And at that point, it became very real for me that I will be undergoing this course.

Right now, it scares the sh** out of me that I will have to live with myself for 100+ hours without any chance of escape. Even at a very shallow level I know that my mind is full of sh**. The thought of being with it for 100+ hours sends a chill down my spine. I know that my body will ache, my mind will scream AND I have to be with it all, without having the luxury of speaking to anyone. I cannot even speak to myself out loud. It is almost like I am going to be put into a solitary confinement in a prison, with no chance of parole.

But some part of me really wants to do this. I just hope that I wont run away mid-way. It would be a shame if I did.

I will come back and write about what I got.

School timetable – does it really work?

Almost every school I have seen in my life so far follows a “simple” timetable structure for its activities.

  1. Each day is divided into 8 “classes”, so 40 classes a week.
  2. Each “class” focusses on one subject and lasts for some 40 minutes.
  3. Almost immediately after one class, the next would begin. Unless there is a snack / lunch break coming up.

Students are required to generate interest for the subject begin taught in the current class within minutes of it starting. They should pay total attention to whatever the teacher is teaching. 40 minutes later, they should learn to switch off their mind from the current subject and generate interest about the new subject. If they don’t manage to do that, the child  is labelled as someone having an “attention deficit disorder”. If not such a brutal tag, the child is atleast subjected to a interpretation – “this kiddo lacks focus or concentration”.

The child’s parents are called for a parent-teacher meeting; where the teacher assumes that he/she has the holy right & the moral authority to pass judgement. Parents, knowing no better, accept or in many cases deeply resist such tags doled out by the teachers to their child. Either way they are trying to either fix their child’s “attention-deficit-disorder” or come up with proof that the child doesnt have it. For the former, they are advised (by their teachers) on corrective measures that need to be taken at home if the “child should have a good future”. For the latter, the child is subjected to a sort of “reverse-interpretation” from the parent. The child is unconsciously groomed to prove that he/she doesnt have attention-deficit-disorder, which eventually is a kind of pressure to fit into the “40-minute-attention” mould.

Whats interesting is that these tags are given by teachers who teach the same subject to different sets of kids for 4-5 times in day. Its not like a teacher will teach Math for 40 minutes and the same teacher will teach Chemistry for the next 40 and the same teacher will teach Physics for the next 40. No. No. No. A single teacher typically teaches one subject (say Chemistry) to 4 separate groups of students and has a solid 40 minute break in between. Students have no such luxury.

I find this whole system extremely violent. I find the phenomenon of using timetable at school very violent. At the very least it is inconsistent with the way in which we would like our children (& ourselves too) to explore their world.

Perhaps a child is super caught up about biology right now. Shouldn’t he/she explore it more fully? Shouldn’t the teacher’s role be that of someone who is basically around providing a support structure than be an “imposing-know-it-all-so-learn-only-from-me-otherwise-I-will-judge-you” kind of person?

We __do__ need to drastically re-imagine our schools. Perhaps, instead of having 8 classes per day – should we have 1? Maybe thats a starting point? Maybe we should let the kid pick (at the beginning of the day) what he/she chooses to focus on? I am no educator. Neither have I thought through this issue fully enough to share a deep insight. So I am in no position to give gyan on how to run schools. I guess there are other educators out there who would have practical ideas for implementation, that doesnt kill a child’s ability to focus. I hope to explore some of those ideas.

Punyakoti – India’s first ever Sanskrit Animation film!

My friend Ravi Shankar has been talking about making an animated movie since the time I first met him in 2012. He is someone who is passionate about telling a story (this story in particular) and is genuinely moved by the impact it will have on people when the story is listened to, seen and experienced).

Its a story that celebrates integrity. I had heard the story when I was a kid. And several times later as well. Here is the story in short:

Once upon a time in a small village in Karnataka, there lived a herd of cows. Each day in the morning they would unwillingly leave behind their little calves and go to the hill where they will graze on fresh grass. In the evening they will come back, care-for and feed their little ones.

One day when they are in the hills, a tiger called “Arbhuta” comes and attacks. The tiger had grown weak and had been unsuccessful in hunting for food and had therefore been very hungry. It catches hold of one cow in particular called “Punyakoti”.

Just before Arbhuta bites into the flesh of Punyakoti, he hears the cow saying – “Please let me go for now. I have a little calf waiting for me back home. It will be very hungry. Let me go back and feed the little one. And then I will come back.” The tiger is taken aback by this strange request. And for some reason, it makes up its mind to let go of Punyakoti. It then waits for her to come back.

And sure enough later that night, Punyakoti comes back and says – “Here I am, as promised. You can eat me now!” The tiger is super-surprised by this. It lets the cow go for good and disappears into the woods.

Punkyakoti (the movie) dives into unanswered questions like – “why did the tiger let go of the cow, instead of eating it?”, “why did the cow come back, knowing fully well that it would be killed?” and “why did the tiger let go of the cow again?”. The story aims to inspire you into thinking – can you and I as human beings give our word and put our everything (including our life) to honouring it? And what does it mean for us to honour our word? Can it move the world and make the impossible – possible?

Like I said, its a story that celebrates Integrity. Its a story that celebrates truth, kindness and majesty.

Its also story of Ravi Shankar dreaming of making a animation movie and transcending all his personal barriers to actually making it.

Its a story that inspired Ilayaraja to work with young, not-so-experienced film makers. Simply because the story is powerful and worth telling.

Its a story of 7 people (Girish, Anwar, Manoj, Baiju, Rakesh, Sindu and Ravi Shankar) coming together to compose an experience for an international audience based on a story thats authentically Indian. Its also a story of how these seven people brought even more people into the making of this movie.

Its a story of 100+ backers who lent their moral and financial support to make this dream come true.

Its a story where human-possibilities win against all odds!

Support it please. The effort is really worth supporting.

Media Mentions:
[1] http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/ancient-language-modern-execution/article7361387.ece

MacBook Pro – the best notebook I have ever bought!

On February 2013, I bought a 15″ MacBook Pro Retina Display Notebook. It came with a 512GB solid state drive, 16 GB of RAM, 2.7 GHz i7 processor running Mac OS 10.8.

Over the years I have upgraded the OS to Mavericks and now Yosemite. It will be 2 years since I bought the laptop in 4 months. And it still feels new!

I am not a newbie to notebooks. My father had bought his first IBM Thinkpad notebook in 2000. My brother bought his first HP notebook in 2006, then upgraded to a new one in 2010. My wife bought a Sony notebook in 2009. A good friend of mine had bought a high end Sony notebook around the same time. I have friends who own Acer, Samsung, Lenovo notebooks as well. My first notebook was a Dell Inspiron Notebook in 2005, then I bought a Dell XPS in 2008 and then another one in 2011. Each time I went for top-end specs available in their lineup of notebooks. So they obviously cost a lot of money. But then, I was always very happy when I got to use the notebook because I would get the money’s worth.

But a constant feeling associated with all of those notebooks (both mine and the ones that my friends and folks owned) was that they would feel old, clunky, slow and generally uninspiring after about a year’s usage. I could never point my finger on what exactly was it that made the notebook “feel” old.

  • Perhaps it was the fact that those notebooks would make a lot of noise (processor fan, moving parts in the hard-disk),
  • or that the battery backup would keep getting worse each month (providing 3 hours backup in the beginning to roughly 30 minutes by one year),
  • or the fact that the hard-disk would make a lot of noise (giving me an impression that the system is working really really hard),
  • or that it would become hot and I would find keeping my hand on the keyboard a challenge
  • or that the UI of the respective operating systems (mostly Windows) would seem aged and out-of-fashion.

Within a year of using those notebooks, I would begin counting my days for the completion of the 3 year timeline (I had set for myself) before I could go shopping for a new one.

I was always a Apple hater (although I had never used their products) because of the steep cost of their products. I would always reason “I can get two laptops, each having far better hardware for the price of a single MacBook Pro; so why should I spend so much money on it?” My cousin brother, Aadithya Udupa, started using MacBook Pro at his work (Akamai). Within a couple of weeks he started speaking highly of the notebook. He was encouraging me to go for one. Finally, I relented and decided to give it a try.

February 2013, I bought “the” MacBook Pro!

The joy of owning this notebook started with the unboxing itself. The simplicity of packaging coupled with the sheer beauty of the package itself made me realise that Apple is a whole league apart. Even the power-cable was beautifully crafted. The connector would attach to the notebook with a magnetic lock. The power-cable was all white and “thin”. The notebook’s body was all aluminium. It did not weigh like a “dumbbell”. Fewer connector ports. Retina Display. And most important of all OSX!

Over the past ~2 years of usage, I have found using the MacBook Pro an absolute pleasure. They say that small things make a big difference. That is absolutely true of the MacBook Pro. Some of the things I relish in the notebook are

  1. When close the lid, the computer goes to sleep. It doesnt secretly stay awake, like my Dell notebooks, and boil within my bag.
  2. There is absolutely no noise. (No moving parts in the hard-disk, no processor cooling fan noises etc).
  3. Hard Disk speed has remained the same since I bought my computer – so it feels just as fast as it did a year ago!
  4. No crapware! I don’t have a McAfee Antivirus force-installed on my computer – which constantly reminds me to buy the full version.
  5. Fewer built-in applications. The built-in ones WORK! Mail, Calendar, Safari, iTunes, QuickTime, Dictionary, iMovie, iPhoto and Notes – they all work, ~100% of the time.
  6. Unix Shell!
  7. Battery lasts ~6 hours on normal usage. My notebook lasts an entire flight journey (home -> airport + waiting time at airport + time within the flight + airport -> destination) on a single charge.
  8. OSX looks inspiringly pretty. Timely updates keeps my notebook looking new every year. Upgrades simply work without compromising on speed. I never had that experience with Windows.
  9. Mouse trackpad works – in exactly the stated way – 100% of the time. The swipe gestures are extremely logical.
  10. Keyboard on the MacBook Pro is exceptionally smooth.

When I bought my notebook, Apple was still not giving away Pages, Numbers and Keynote for free along with the purchase. So, I bought Microsoft Office 2011 along with the notebook. I used VirtualBox for a while and found it frustrating to use. So I bought Parallels.

The whole package cost me a lot, I mean a real lot. In India we pay a lot more for Apple products than the folks at US. So I did end up paying a lot more for my notebook + Microsoft Office 2011 + Parallels than most folks at US would have. But I would still say that it is worth every penny.

I still enjoy owning a MacBook Pro. I know that I would use it for another 3 years atleast (making it 5 in all).

I have been suggesting to everybody at home, office and friends group(s) to go for an Apple product. One of my colleagues at work has recently bought a MacBook Pro 13″ and he is loving it! I might go for an iPhone next year purely because my experience on one Apple product has been extraordinary. They cost a lot, but I believe they are worth it.

Deploy your dreams into the world!

On 13th September 2014, I gave a talk on “Deploying your dreams” to a group of 60+ 2nd year MCA students at BMS College of Engineering, Bengaluru. The talk was organised as a part of “Entrepreneurship Development” drive at BMS-MCA Department, where their intention is to groom students to graduate as entrepreneurs.

I spoke, from my experience of running VCreate Logic for the past 9 years, about the key skills, principles and lessons that are a must for an entrepreneur. While I lay them down; I want to confess four things at the very beginning.

  • I am not an expert in the field of entrepreneurship. I am not someone who has made it in this field. I am as much a beginner as most other people. However, I am not a shallow-gyan-giver either. Having been someone who has bootstrapped a business into a successful venture; I have had the opportunity to gather skills, understand principles and learn some really good lessons; which in my opinion are really useful for entrepreneurs in general.
  • I don’t want to come off as someone who is doling out a bunch of time-tested or fool-proof formula. What works for me may not work for another. I don’t know “the” path or the secret or the technique for deploying your dreams.
  • While I share about the lessons, skills and principles that I have learned during my journey as an entrepreneur – I don’t claim that I have mastered them. I am not an expert at leveraging those lessons, skills and principles to produce results in my life. But I do see their value and am inspired to master them.
  • I don’t hold a patent for any of the things I share below. All of the things I share below have been told by lots of other people in the same way and in several other ways.

So, here we go:

In my view, an entrepreneur is someone who is passionate about deploying his dreams into the world. And in the process, (s)he impacts other people with it, includes other people into it and shares whatever value that gets created with the people that are involved in it. My talk was oriented around what would leave one empowered to deploy their dreams in the world. I shared five key skills, lessons, principles that I have had an opportunity to discover during my journey so far.

  1. Freedom
  2. Focusing on one’s centre of influence
  3. We (will) have weaknesses, and its ok.
  4. Price of a product/service is always a function of the value it creates for the customer
  5. There is no secret

FREEDOM!
The first and most important thing one must generate in order to “deploy their dreams in the world” is FREEDOM. Now when I say freedom, I don’t mean “independence”. I mean freedom. One has independence when one is not stopped by another or a group of others or by any external entity. Freedom is when one doesn’t stop oneself from doing or thinking or being whatever one wants to do, think or be. While most of us have a good enough degree of independence, are we free? We stop ourselves, don’t we – from doing what we want to do, from thinking what we want to think, from being who we want to be.

For instance some of us want to write a novel, but we doubt if we have it in us. Some of us want to travel the world, but feel that we don’t have the finances / physical strength for it. Some of us want to direct a movie, but we warn ourselves that its too risky. Some of us want to start a business – but we remind ourselves that we are no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. No one is stopping us from writing that novel, from traveling the world, from directing a movie, from starting a business. We are all independent, but are we free?

An interesting thing is that, we use the tools that are effective in generating / gaining independence to generate / gain freedom. But they just don’t work! Its like trying to use a hammer to fix a software bug. It just doesn’t work! Tools like protesting, resisting, blaming, politicising, fighting, shouting slogans, running away, gossiping are very effective to gain independence. Because there is an external force from which one wants to gain independence and those tools are useful to make an impact on that external force in order to get liberated from it.

But those tools are of no use whatsoever for generating freedom. The litmus test for checking if one experiences freedom is to ask an honest question to oneself: “Am I doing what I really want to do?” If the answer to that question is NO, then honestly asking oneself “how come?” will reveal very insightful answers. The answers are mostly in the form of reasons, blame, resistance, fight, gossip, resignation or cynicism. Blaming the current state of affairs in one’s country / family, protesting against nay-sayers, fighting with family, shouting slogans against imaginary oppressors, reasons like “life is risky” or “family depends on me for money” or “its a tough world out there” or “the circumstances are not right” or any other reason for that matter are not going to generate freedom for one to really do what one wants to do.

I have used a lot of “independence-gaining tools” to deal with my lack-of-capacity-to-generate-freedom and I have sufficiently harmed myself. I still do it a lot – and I get myself a wound every time!

Generating freedom requires us to give up those tools while answering the question: “How come I am not doing what I really want to do?”. When we give up using all “independence-gaining tools” to answer that question; we will be left with the honesty, strength and courage to simply say – “I am not doing what I really want to do, because I am not doing it”. What happens there after naturally generates freedom. And freedom is always “generated”. Its never given.

For an entrepreneur, freedom is very important. An entrepreneur should be “free” to pursue his/her dreams, to boldly share his/her vision with people, to hold his/her head up in the space of criticism and resignation, to allow other people to mould and impact his/her life, to allow oneself to be coachable, to approach a problem and solve it, to sell, to include other people into his/her vision and if necessary to fire/let-go of people who don’t fit that vision.

FOCUS ON ONE’s CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
The Seven Habits of Highly Effectively People from Stephen Covey – was a life changing book for me. In that book he says that – of all the things in the world that can have an effect/influence on us (called circle of concern), there is a subset of things that we can do something about. He calls it the circle of influence. He says that if we focus on the circle of concern, we end-up reducing our capacity to influence things in our life. All the independence-gaining tools leave us with reduced influence on our lives.

On the other hand, if we focus our our circle of influence – then we expand on the range of things we can influence and actuate in our life.

I recently came across “Effectuation” (http://www.effectuation.org/) – an approach to entrepreneurship that fosters a logic of thinking for building successful ventures. I have come to really like and endorse Effectuation in my life. Effectuation was co-founded by Prof. Saras Sarasvathy. She encourages budding entrepreneurs to focus on “the bird in hand” – to focus on the means that an entrepreneur already has. It starts with getting clear about “who I am”, “what I know” and “who I know”. It starts bang in the middle of one’s centre of influence. And builds from there. I really love that approach. I have used that approach and have noticed that it really works.

Suppose that I want to write a novel and get it published. I could focus on my circle of concern: “who is going to publish a novel from an absolute new comer?”, “what if the story is not all that great”, “where will I find time to write a novel, my 9-5 job requires me out of home from 7-9!”. In which case I will never get to writing it. Or; I could focus on my circle of influence: “write the first page of my novel today during lunch break”, “write 2 more pages on saturday afternoon”, “talk about my story with my family & friends”, “design the cover page of my novel”. And when the novel is done: “create a PDF and share it with a few people and ask for feedback”, “print 5-8 copies and knock on the doors of a few publishers”. I bet Chetan Bhagat did that when he started off. Today his circle of influence has expanded to include Bollywood. I am sure producers and directors wait for his book releases to make a movie.

(Off Topic: I think writing a novel is just as entrepreneurial as starting a business.)

If one wants to start a business: one can start by putting together a rough sketch of the business into a business model canvas, look for co-founders, meet as frequently as possible with the co-founders, fine tune the business model, create a prototype, get feedback, print visiting card(s) etc. Focussing on one’s circle of influence causes one’s influence to expand.

WE WILL HAVE WEAKNESSES, AND ITS OK.
We are all good at some things, bad at some things and down-right pathetic in a lot of others. And its Ok! Infact, I think it is necessary to be good at only few things and to actually be bad at a lot of other things. Knowing that one is bad in certain areas – leaves one with the humility to collaborate with others who are strong at that and be compassionate about weaknesses in other people. Entrepreneurship is always a team game! A good team is one that has people with complementary skills – not one where there is one rockstar and rest are playing a supporting role. The humility and compassion that comes from knowing one’s weaknesses makes it possible to put-together and be in a strong team.

For a really really long time, I played the game of “being smart” at my office. It was really important for me to be the “smartest person in the office”. So I never hired people that were smarter, faster, better than I was. I HAD to be the best. What better way to massage my ego than to hire people with whom I can blatantly win the “smartness” game. And that really cost my business. Our company remained stagnant. We never made any significant progress.

(In no particular sequence) I am bad at QA, at project management, at administration, at operations, at marketing, at sales, at UX design. I am good (not the best though) in software design and development. I am good in leading training programs on technology platforms. Recognising that and being open about that (albeit very late in my career) allowed me to collaborate with people who were good in those things that I was really bad at. That collaboration resulted in the creation of a solid team, which in turn resulted in much better growth than ever before.

I think for an entrepreneur, it is really important to be aware of strengths. But it is even more important to be aware of weaknesses. It is really important to have weaknesses. The humility and compassion that comes from knowing one’s weaknesses is really valuable.

THE PRICE OF A PRODUCT/SERVICE IS A FUNCTION OF THE VALUE IT GENERATES FOR THE CUSTOMER
For a really long time, I priced products and services offered by our company based on the answer to this question: “How much money do we/I need to survive?” The price that I determined (and charged) on the basis of the answer to that question allowed me to do just that – “survive”. It did not make the business to “thrive”. The billing rates we used for our software development services were abysmally low when compared to the value we were generating for our customer. Our customers were obviously happy, given the low prices and good quality of work. But we were having a foot-to-mouth existence.

As an entrepreneur one must be very clear about the “economic value to the customer” (EVC) for every product/service offered – and price it as a function of EVC. I was never clear about the “economic value” of the products and services we were offering. I was always clear of the “software development quality value”, “software design value”, “code cleanliness value”, “enthusiasm value” of every product/service we offered. But was really clueless about – how much  worth it was in really money to the customer. That resulted in me under-pricing our products and services in most cases and also over-pricing in a few other cases. We lost some contracts because of over-pricing and we didn’t leverage a few contracts enough because we under-priced.

I learned this lesson really really late in my career. I made some course corrections after that. But it was really late in a lot of cases. But, better late than never!

THERE IS NO SECRET
For me, Kung Fu Panda is one of the most awesome movies of all time. I particularly like the scene where Panda gets hold of the scroll which is supposed to contain a secret that only a “master” can read and understand. And the secret gets revealed to him. The secret really is – “there is no secret!” Watch it here.

This year, between April and June I participated in Stanford Ignite – a program on Entrepreneurship from Stanford GSB. Prof. Yossi, then faculty director of the Ignite program, took a session on “Entrepreneurship”. We were given a couple of case studies to read and infer mostly based on those case studies the list of top five traits that an entrepreneur and business idea must have to be really successful. I went with “guts”, “vision”, “clarity”, “solid product” and “marketing excellence” as top-five traits for an entrepreneur and/or business-idea to be successful. That was in my opinion the “secret sauce”. Everyone from our cohort had their own version of the “secret sauce”. Prof. Yossi heard it all, put them all on the board and orchestrated a discussion that led us to throw them all out of the board as non-essential or generic traits. He concluded that session with a profound statement – “The key thing for an entrepreneur is to not have any pre-defined image or notion of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.”

There is no secret sauce. There is no secret ingredient.


(Click here to watch the video on YouTube)

I especially like Steve Job’s rendition of this profound truth:


(Click here to watch the video on YouTube)

I wish for everyone to have their dreams be deployed into the world! I sure am waiting to be impacted by your dreams and for participating in your dreams. May the force be with you!

All the self-improvement programs…

I have gone through a lot of self-improvement, self-actualisation, self-realisation and “enlightenment” courses in my 33 years of life. The first self-improvement program I attended was when I was 15 years old! I recently finished my almost 5 year stint at Landmark, of which 1.5 years was as a Introduction Leader.

At this point – I am no longer a supporter, proponent or endorser of Landmark Forum and/or any other program they offer. I highly doubt their effectiveness. I can say that they have had little to no impact on me (although I did claim that they did make a difference in my life, primarily because I was told that it did and I accepted that notion like a jack-ass). I did land up having a lot of people sign up for their programs, because I believed it when they said that having people do the Landmark Forum was a very enlivening and satisfying experience personally and was a way to make a profound difference in the world. When I look back, I wish I had told them – “bull-shit” when they presented that ridiculous idea. Anyways, I now accept that I left myself be brainwashed and manipulated by them beyond limits that I allow anyone else. It is among the worst mistakes of my life.

For people reading this post – if you are considering to do the Landmark Forum – DONT! You and your life and people in your life are far better already and will continue to be far better without the Landmark Forum.

As I look back, I do cherish some of the programs that I attended before the Landmark Forum. The first one I did was back when I was 15 years old. I attended a program called Winners conducted by Dr. Bharath Chandra. I reap benefits of the skills I picked up from that program to this date.

  • I learned all about the art of public-speaking from that program. The ability to speak boldly in public and make sense to and engage your audience is very crucial for an entrepreneur.
  • At Winners, I picked up a few memory tricks – which I later taught in numerous schools and colleges. All of that helped me build self-confidence.
  • I also learned about progressive and deep muscle relaxation; both of which work very well on me. Whenever I feel stuck, creatively, I practice relaxation for a couple of days and then I am good to go.

I used to frequent KFI Study Centre and study some of Jiddu Krishnamurti‘s works. Jiddu Krishnamurti’s approach to “enlightenment” (which the Landmark Forum also claims to offer) is in my opinion far more natural and effective. There are enough insights to gain from participating at KFI – to enliven self.

I also cherish that 4 month marathon running training program – informally conducted by my friend Kowshik. I managed to train myself to run and complete the 2014 Auroville half-marathon. When I started the training – I could hardly complete a 500 meter run! The whole experience left me more confident physically.

I recently completed Stanford Ignite – a 9 week program on entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business. It was an outstanding program. We had the best faculty in the WORLD teaching us various subjects. As a hands-on training, it was super impactful for me. I will write a whole other blog on it – because there is so much to write. There is some news cooking in my life post my graduation from Stanford Ignite. I am going to write all about that in a couple of months time, when I have something more concrete to share.