My next chapter

This isn’t something I thought I’d be writing – if you read my recent piece on Thrive Journal, you’d know how excited I was to join Thrive Global. I’d long admired Arianna, and when we met it was immediately clear that we share so much: mission, values, a dedication to science-based approaches – along with a lot of common friends and even our foreign accents. And I wrote about the twist of fate – several twists, in fact, that it took to bring me to Thrive.

And now life has thrown me another twist, which is that I’ve just accepted a job as Chief Product & Technology Officer at The Wall Street Journal. It was an emotionally difficult decision – when I joined Thrive I felt then, and still do, that living my life by the Thrive principles and helping others do the same was my calling.

Working with the team at Thrive has been everything I thought it would be, and has only deepened my passion for the mission. And personally, it’s been especially rewarding working with Arianna. We hit it off right away and that’s only continued since. I’ve learned so much from her that I’ll take with me in my life ahead. Most of all, her incredible ability to connect warmly and authentically with everybody around her — not just about their work, but about their lives away from the office. You don’t just join the team, you become part of a family. And that’s why this was such an emotional decision.

But this role at The Wall Street Journal is no ordinary opportunity, and I certainly wouldn’t be leaving if it were. There were several considerations: this is a newly created position and represents the culmination of what I’ve been working towards my entire career. It’s also a chance to reunite with several former co-workers who have remained dear friends. In the end, after a lot of persuasion, and an opportunity too good to refuse, I decided to make the move.

I’m excited, but also sad to leave. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built at Thrive Global. In three months we launched a media platform, a behavior change platform, an e-learning site, an e-commerce site and a number of specialty apps, including for Android, iOS, Amazon Alexa, and Chrome.

I am incredibly grateful not only for what I’ve learned but also for the friendships I’ve built and that I know will continue. And I’m especially grateful to Arianna for bringing me into Thrive and into her extended family. If I’ve learned one thing from this experience it’s that we never know what twists of fate the future may bring, but what I do know is that incorporating our Thrive principles into my daily life and my work at The Wall Street Journal will make both me and my colleagues healthier, happier and more productive.

Why I Joined Thrive Global

Sometimes in life, we reach a new starting line where we sense that everything we have experienced and done so far has been preparing us for this next step. When I met Arianna Huffington and we talked about her new venture, Thrive Global, I immediately knew I wanted Thrive to be the next chapter in my life. Before I tell you why, let me give you some background.

Background

I have had the honor to work as a CTO at great companies with exceptionally talented and effective people including some of the best software developers in the world.

Since I left The New York Times, I’ve been through a learning journey in my professional and personal life. I joined a promising startup full-time pledging 20% of my equity to charity. When the venture funding I had hoped for didn’t materialize, I transitioned to an advisory role and continue to root for their success. I co-founded a consulting business which led to a client asking me to join full-time to build their team in New York City. In a twist of fate, soon after I joined and hired some exceptional talent, the company had a change in ownership and asked us all to move to Los Angeles. While the relocation offer was compelling, I couldn’t bear the thought of being so far away from Fitz Raj, my 4-year-old son. My (now former) wife Julie and I had recently separated. If you think persuading your spouse to move the family across the country is hard, imagine trying to convince your ex-spouse. Yes, I tried because LA offers great opportunities in her line of work. No, she politely declined.

If you think persuading your spouse to move the family across the country is hard, imagine trying to convince your ex-spouse.

So, I decided to return to my consulting practice in NYC. While I was consulting, two well-known, highly-respected companies asked me to join them full-time. While I was mulling over whether to join one of them as CTO & chief product officer or to continue building my consulting business, I was invited to a party. It was there I met Arianna for the first time and we talked about Thrive. It was the professional equivalent of love at first sight.

We found numerous connections we had in common: mission, shared values, the scientific evidence based approach, former colleagues, friends, and foreign accents. Arianna had even spent some time studying at Santiniketan Visva-Bharati University in India, where my grandmother Jayanti Devi Pant had studied for her advanced degrees under Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. (My grandma was reasonably fluent in eleven languages, a family record I can only surpass if I count programming languages.)

Meeting Arianna and discussing Thrive was the professional equivalent of love at first sight.

What makes a great match? Why do we work?

When you seek to join an organization, you should look for three things:

  1. Do you support the organization’s mission?
  2. Do you have the skills, experience, and knowledge to help the organization succeed?
  3. Do you fit into the organization’s and your team’s culture?

They are three dimensions to help determine the location where you should be. In Thrive Global, my answer to all these is a strong yes, and I also found spiritual connections that transcend them.

Even before I learned about the company Thrive Global, I have passionately believed in the practical wisdom that Arianna’s works present, practice and teach. Having had my own wake up calls, I’ve worked to incorporate some of these lessons in my life and work, and I’ve championed them to colleagues, friends, and family.

Intentional Serendipity

In her book, Arianna describes coincidences as “life’s secret door to wonder”. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer referred to coincidences as “wonderful pre-established harmony.”

Soon after I decided I will not move to LA, my friend and coworker Melanie sent me a Business Insider article about Thrive Global followed by the text: (quote) “Your new job?!”

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-10-08-55-am
(published with permission from Melanie)

Two months later, I received another message from Melanie: “Hi Rajiv! So great to see you last week! I read again about [Arianna Huffington’s] new venture and thought of you. Looks so interesting and I’m sure she can use your help!” This time she included a link to an NYTimes article about Thrive.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-10-12-04-am
(published with permission from Melanie)

A few days later, an invite to a speakeasy-themed party showed up in my Inbox. What caught my cybersecurity-enthusiast brain’s attention was it said you needed a password to get in.

During our interviews at Arianna’s home, I also had conversations with her coworkers, family, and friends. She greatly values a personal connection in additional to professional experience. After all, as a CEO, she needs people she can rely on.

Like most CEOs, Arianna looks for competence, skills, experience, knowledge, and cultural fit when interviewing candidates. However, I found that for critical roles, she also looks for a spiritual kind of personal connection: Someone who shares her values, but also brings complementary traits; Someone she can trust, but who also has the courage to disagree with her. Someone who is kind at heart, but one you don’t want to mess with. I fit right in.

Working with her for four months has upheld what I had initially felt about Arianna’s leadership style. She sets a high bar, demands excellence, and does not hesitate to be direct and tough but she respects, empowers, and supports teammates who earn her trust. She respects and defers to others’ expertise. As a fellow human being and as a friend, she genuinely cares about the well-being of other people. Despite being a well-respected and well-liked celebrity CEO with power, I’ve experienced firsthand that she has both the humbleness and courage to apologize to someone in her team.

img_7995-for-web

I met Arianna on a Thursday evening. Following intense conversations about work and life and reference checks over the next three days, I started full-time at Thrive the following Monday before either side had signed any papers. Genuine trust beats legal contracts any day of the week, twice on a Sunday. Yes, my longtime employment attorney couldn’t believe it either.

I met Arianna for the first time on a Thursday evening and started as CTO at Thrive the following Monday.

I feel that I serendipitously found the job that is my calling. After all, the party where I met Arianna required the password ‘Intentional Serendipity’ to get in.

Genuine trust beats legal contracts any day of the week, twice on a Sunday.

It seemed the ancient Greek and Hindu Gods had rigged the decision in both Thrive’s and my favor. Which reminds of something Arianna said to me quoting the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”

“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” – Rumi

Besides serendipity, there are rational reasons why I feel Thrive is my calling.

5 Reasons why Thrive Global connects with me

  1. Feel – I’ve felt passionate about this mission since long before I had heard of Thrive. My family, friends, and I personally experience the problems in this world that Thrive aims to solve. I’ve always wanted to work in a job where we aim to help anyone and everyone, not a select demographic. Thrive fits the bill.
  2. Improve –  During the past year, I faced tough challenges in my personal and professional life. Thrive principles are the way for me to improve using behavior change science. Continuous personal development is necessary to be able to thrive in life and work. Application of behavioral, social, and cognitive science is necessary to bridge the knowing-doing gap.
  3. Learn directly from Arianna. She accomplished multiple great successes while facing life’s challenges and imperfections.
  4. Evangelize –  Be a public face and spokesperson for something I deeply care about: Thrive Global’s concepts and the science supporting them.
  5. Grow professionally in and beyond product, technology, and design. Master organizational culture, well-being, and productivity. Gain the most effective, science-backed skills to manage organizations, teams, and myself.

Application of behavioral, social, and cognitive science is necessary to bridge the knowing-doing gap.

As an engineer, I have a strong preference for data, and Thrive’s scientific approach with evidence based learning resonates with me.

As a technologist, I am concerned that we are more worried about recharging our devices, than recharging ourselves.

That brings me to what organizations should do to succeed. There must be a clear, well-known, and good primary reason behind every product, service, and project.

3 ‘M’s: Why we do projects at Thrive Global

  1. Mission: Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.
  2. Money: To be successful in its mission, Thrive needs to make substantial and recurring revenues and be profitable.
  3. Marketing: To achieve the first two, Thrive needs to continuously become increasingly well-known, widely-respected, and highly influential.

All work should primarily support one of the 3 ‘M’s: mission, money, or marketing.

Where we go from here

Practicing what one preaches is often hard. I have a long way to go in my own journey and won’t pretend I have already incorporated the practice of most of the Thrive principles in my own life. If it were that simple, you wouldn’t need Thrive Global as a company. Everyone could just buy Arianna’s book and need nothing more.

There are no shortcuts to success, but there are microsteps.

In the book, Arianna writes “The second truth is that we’re all going to veer away from that place [of being centered] again and again. That’s the nature of life. […] The question is how quickly we can get back to that centered place of wisdom, harmony, and strength.”

As Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

There are no shortcuts to success, but there are microsteps.

Kindness is Powerful

Kindness is Power
Photo of a an umbrella a stranger gave me in the pouring rain in Manhattan.

Last night in New York City I was walking home, getting soaked in the pouring rain. Along the way I noticed other people’s umbrellas wishing I had brought mine. As the cold water drenched my hair and neck, I hoped I wouldn’t fall sick. Then the unexpected happened.

Noticing my plight, a stranger about to enter an apartment building turned to me and asked, “Why don’t you take my umbrella? I’ve reached my building, so I don’t need it anymore.”

As I continued my journey home touched by the Good Samaritan’s kindness, I realized this nice big blue umbrella would remind me of three things:

  • Charitable actions, big and small, make others smile and the world a better place.
  • I must give more to others in need.
  • Kindness is power.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I originally posted this on: Facebook.

Gym Memberships: Tips for Getting a Good Deal

Treadmill at Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
Touch Screen Display of Treadmill at Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

My fiancee and I joined a Bally‘s gym and swimming pool near our apartment in Manhattan recently. I recommend joining a gym to everyone who is able to. A gym is a great environment for working out. Going to a gym is a community activity, where you are inspired by other people exercising. It is good for both mental and physical health.

Given the current economy and market conditions, here are some tips on getting a good deal at a gym:

  • Research. Go online and view the Gym’s Web site if they have one. They sometimes offer online specials: low month-to-month contracts with no long-term commitments and zero or almost-zero enrollment fees. Read the gym’s reviews at other sites and research their lowest fees.
  • Negotiate. In this economy, do not agree to pay the gym’s advertised list prices, nor simply accept the discounts they are offering. Gyms are always offering discounts. The sales person wants you to sign up the same day to lock in their commission, so don’t fall for any “today only” discounts. I prefer the name your price approach to negotiating. Before you go to the gym, determine how much would you be willing and able to pay. Determine a number that is a fair and would be a win/win for both parties. Take into account what value you would be getting from the service and the market conditions. In our case, we determined that for two people a total of $80/month for unlimited access to the gym and pool would be fair for us and the gym. Negotiate respectfully and nicely. Be courteous and kind to the other party. Let the sales agent know you are serious about joining and that you will join but only if you get the deal you are asking for. You are more likely to get a happy outcome if you behave as a good human being and try to make it a win/win for both. If they don’t give you a fair deal that you are willing and able to accept, don’t take their offer. Go to another gym or set up a system to work out at home or elsewhere.
  • Only sign up for a month-to-month membership, where you can cancel anytime without any penalty. Do not sign a long term contract, no matter how hard the gym sales agent try to sell you. I respectfully, nicely and firmly told them upfront that I was only interested in a month-to-month membership that I could cancel anytime for no penalty.
  • Do not prepay for a year in advance. It may seem to you like that they are giving you a lower rate, but you are better off having the money in your bank account or investments where it is earning you interest, not the gym. Especially in this economy, when some gyms have filed for bankruptcy, you should not give them your money in advance. They tried to sell me this option, which I politely declined.
  • Ask the sales agent to show you the prices for their lowest monthly rates. They will not show you these prices unless you ask them. The agent told me that since I asked to see the lowest prices, she was obligated to show them.
  • Do not fall into the trap of buying one of those unlimited access to all their gyms in the city plan. Going to a gym should be part of your routine and discipline. Choose one gym location that is convenient to you. Ask the sales agent specifically for a membership to that one gym location only. It makes no sense to pay every month for access to other gym locations you are not going to use. They told me that for just a little more per month, I’d have access to all their gyms in the New York and New Jersey area. I politely explained that that was of no value to us and that instead, we would prefer to save money.
  • If you plan to only work out three days a week, ask the gym to show you their limited weekly access plans. These plans are cheaper and if you can maintain the discipline of sticking to a schedule, such a plan will save you money. we evaluated, but did not opt for this since we prefer the flexibility of being able to use the gym all days of the week. Our goal was to get the best value for our money.
  • Ask the sales agent to explain all the payments, including initiation fees, card fees, etc. to ensure you uncover all hidden costs and know the total amount of money you will need to pay. Then ask them to reduce those prices unless they are already reasonably low. They offered me a “discounted” $99 one-time initiation fee, which upon negotiation, they dropped to $49. For the second person (in a couple membership), they waived the initiation fee. They also charged a one-time $10/person membership card fee. All this for two people totaled to ~ $70 one-time joining fees, which was acceptable to us.

By using these tips, we were able to get a month-to-month, no long-term commitment membership to the gym and swimming pool for two people at $79/month, which is what some of my friends in Manhattan pay for one person per month and they are on one or three year contracts.

For those looking for even better money savings, the not-for-profit New York City Department of Parks & Recreation offers memberships to their recreation center gyms for $50/year ($75/year for recreation centers with a gym and swimming pool). Yes, you read that correct: Their annual fee is less than what most for-profit gyms charge for one month. They have 22 recreation centers across New York City. If you live away from New York City, search if similar organizations exist in your area. We explored this option before joining Bally’s. The location of their nearest recreation center was not convenient for us.

Omega Wall Clock at Gym, Taj Majal Hotel, New Delhi
Omega Wall Clock at Gym, Taj Majal Hotel, New Delhi
Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
Gym at Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

Last but not least, our most important advice to you is: Use the gym on a regular basis, on at least 2 days a week, preferably more.

Photos: The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, India has a excellent gym with a courteous and helpful staff. We worked out there in the mornings during our recent vacation to India.

Diary of Julie & Rajiv’s India Trip

Background

The following is a diary of some events from our recent trip to India. I created it using Twitter and Yahoo Pipes. We posted regular status updates to Twitter during the trip, mostly using text messages from my mobile phone. I’ve done some minor editing in the post below. The timestamps are in New York time (USA Eastern). More information on how this was generated is at the end of this post.

Compilation of Status Updates From Our India Trip

Julie and I are excited about our vacation to India. We will arrive in New Delhi on the 29th.
Sun, Dec 28, 2008 9:27 AM

Vik is helping Rajiv & Julie with getting ready to head to the Newark airport for the India trip.
Sun, Dec 28, 2008 1:56 PM

Julie & I just checked in at the Newark airport and are now checking out the shops near our gate.
Sun, Dec 28, 2008 6:39 PM

Julie & Rajiv are inside the plane headed to New Delhi. We are looking forward to visting India after the 14 hour flight.
Sun, Dec 28, 2008 8:11 PM

Julie & Rajiv’s plane just landed in New Delhi. We are excited to start this vacation.
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 10:23 AM

Julie & Rajiv are in a car with Rajiv’s family headed to their home in New Delhi and then will head to Taj hotel.
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 11:27 AM

J&R are at the Taj Mahal Hotel. The staff’s hospitality to us has been awesome. Thanks to dear friend Anshul’s connections in the Indian …
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 1:08 PM

J&R woke up early today. Our wake up call isn’t due for another 3 hours! The weather here is great. We look forward to exploring New Delhi.
Mon, Dec 29, 2008 7:07 PM

Julie & Rajiv had a great workout at the gym this morning at the Taj Mahal hotel in New Delhi.The hospitality at the gym was excellent too.
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 2:06 AM

Julie & Rajiv are walking inside JNU Campus in New Delhi visiting the places where Rajiv grew up.
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 3:09 AM

Julie & Rajiv are getting ready to go for dinner. India is a country of contrasts: The New Delhi outside the Taj Mahal Hotel is an example.
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 10:13 AM

Julie & Rajiv had a delicious dinner and fun conversation at the Machan restaurant with Rajiv’s childhood friend Princy & his wife Daisy.
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 3:01 PM

New Delhi is a collage of colors & contrasts. Julie & Rajiv’s photos of the trip so far are being uploaded to http://photos.rajiv.com/share/3IJ90SbngI922
Tue, Dec 30, 2008 7:38 PM

The hospitality at the Taj gym was impressive again this morning. Friendly personal trainers giving one on one workout sessions are great.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 1:25 AM

Julie & Rajiv plan to meet some friends in New Delhi and explore some places today.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 1:27 AM

The kids at Rajiv’s family’s home in New Delhi have become huge Julie fans! They love her gifts and playing with her.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 5:15 AM

Julie & Rajiv are back after a tour of the Qutub Minar historical monument, followed by a tour of JN University with Rajiv’s family.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 7:36 AM

Rajiv’s nieces are playing with Julie. They are currently drawing using crayons. We are eating and will soon go to a New Year celebration.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 10:32 AM

Julie & Rajiv are eating a late night New Year dinner at Rajiv’s family’s home in New Delhi. About 5 more minutes for 2009!
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 1:26 PM

Happy New Year from Julie & Rajiv visiting New Delhi. We had a busy day exploring yesterday. We also visited Rajiv’s high school SPV.
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 11:33 PM

Julie & Rajiv loved the warm hospitality at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi. Now headed to the Himalayan foothills.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 3:21 AM

J&R are in car heading out of New Delhi towards town Haldwani. We plan to spend the next few days visiting family in the Himalayan foothills
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 4:04 AM

Passing fields of green and yellow, having left the urban landscape behind. Cows, bicycles and Hindi language signs abound.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:11 AM

Car seems to be having problems. We have stopped on the side of the road and the driver is checking it out. At a village along highway.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:22 AM

At a mechanic’s shop on the highway. They are checking out the car.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:26 AM

Back on the road now headed again towards the town of Haldwani.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:35 AM

Julie just spotted a monkey… They are everywhere along the road. Taking photos…
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:42 AM

Continuing on the highway. Still in awe of all the monkeys we just saw. One was sitting on a tractor where the driver would normally sit!
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 5:46 AM

The car horn, like the manual stick shift, is an essential driving device on Indian roads.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 7:35 AM

Julie & Rajiv are with Rajiv’s parents at their home in Haldwani. A wonderful welcome!
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 10:37 AM

Julie & Rajiv just woke up to a beautiful morning in Haldwani, India.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 9:27 PM

J&R are buying a room heater. It is cold in the Himalayan foothills at night :-) Great, mild weather outside, right now.
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 11:54 PM

Julie & Rajiv are headed to an Internet cafe to check emails in Haldwani since we have not had broadband high-speed access since we got here
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 12:05 AM

Electricity went out, so no luck at the Internet cafe. Oh well :-) Now we are headed back home and then to the mountain town of Nainital.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 12:44 AM

In car heading to Nainital. Awesome mountain roads!
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 1:36 AM

Just saw lots of monkeys hanging out near the mountain road we are driving on.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 1:41 AM

Visiting lake town of Bhimtal on way to Nainital.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 2:15 AM

Leaving Bhimtal with some great photographs. Next stop, another lake town Naukuchiatal (literally: lake with nine corners).
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 2:41 AM

In the beautiful mountain lake town of Nainital. The mosaic of colors and diversity is spectacular.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 6:00 AM

Today I visited the ruins of my ancestral home in Bhowali where I played as a child. It burned down in a fire in 2003. Emotional experience
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 9:34 AM

Julie & I are catching up on our emails at a family friend’s Internet cafe in Haldwani. He is kindly letting us use it late after hours.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 9:39 AM

Rajiv is watching people make arrangements for the engagement party while Julie is resting inside in anticipation of the busy day ahead.
Sat, Jan 3, 2009 11:53 PM

Julie & Rajiv are amazed by the hospitality and generosity of the people they have met in India.
Sun, Jan 4, 2009 2:16 AM

Uploading photos from an Internet cafe and checking email.
Sun, Jan 4, 2009 11:27 PM

Julie & Rajiv are in a car heading to New Delhi from Haldwani. Beautiful sunny day. Lots of goodbyes, love and blessings.
Tue, Jan 6, 2009 1:58 AM

Beautiful, sunny day at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Checking out the garden area and exploring in the fresh air. Feels good.
Wed, Jan 7, 2009 2:21 AM

Julie, Rajiv and Indrajit are at the India International Centre for lunch. So many childhood memories of this place.
Wed, Jan 7, 2009 3:28 AM

We just returned from their morning workout at the gym at the India Habit Centre in New Delhi where we are staying.
Thu, Jan 8, 2009 12:03 AM

The India Habitat Center hosts cultural activities, includes: large conference center, film & theater auditoriums, guest house & restaurants
Thu, Jan 8, 2009 12:06 AM

Last night, J&R had dinner with Rajiv’s high school friends Prashant and Nisheeth at the Delhi Golf Club
Fri, Jan 9, 2009 2:43 AM

Julie & Rajiv are exploring Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi. Off to a Bollywood film later in the day.
Fri, Jan 9, 2009 2:45 AM

Julie & Rajiv are heading from New Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal (historic monument, not hotel :-)
Fri, Jan 9, 2009 7:57 PM

J&R’s last day in New Delhi. Heading to meet a few more relatives and then off to the airport in the night. Namaskaar!
Sun, Jan 11, 2009 12:38 AM

Family (Indrajit & Pushpesh) are taking Julie & Rajiv to the New Delhi airport. It was a great trip. Namaskaar India! See you again.
Sun, Jan 11, 2009 8:40 AM

Julie & Rajiv are at their gate inside the New Delhi Airport. The staff at the airport are friendly and courteous.
Sun, Jan 11, 2009 10:37 AM

Julie & Rajiv are back in New York from their trip to New Delhi, India. In a car headed home now.
Mon, Jan 12, 2009 6:05 AM

Catching up with both personal life and job after return from India vacation.
Tue, Jan 13, 2009 5:20 PM

Photos from Julie & Rajiv’s India trip are at http://photos.rajiv.com/share/3IJ90SbngI922
Sat, Jan 17, 2009 6:27 PM

The Technology Behind This

We posted regular updates to Twitter during this trip. This enabled our families to receive a running commentary of our trip on their mobile phones via txt messages. They were happy to have regular updates of our well being and to learn where we were and what we were up to. The list of events we posted are saved on Twitter’s Web site. Since Twitter lists the updates in reverse chronological order, I used Yahoo Pipes to receive an RSS/Atom feed from Twitter and sort it chronologically.

The Kindness of Taxi Drivers

It happened to me yet again! Another taxi driver refused to take money from me. I don’t fully understand why, but it happens to me every couple of months. Over the past several years, taxi drivers in San Jose, California; Chicago; Philadelphia; New York City and other cities have insisted to me that the ride was complimentary. Sometimes I’ve succeeded in persuading them to accept my payment. Sometimes, I’ve just had to drop the money in the seat next to them since they wouldn’t take it. A few times, like today, I just could not convince them to take the money.

This has happened to me with taxi drivers of different ethnicities and cultures. Often, this kindness has been shown to me by people from Pakistan, which is interesting considering that I am an American of Indian origin and I have a Hindu name. (I classify myself as spiritual and open to all religions.)

I tend to strike up conversations with strangers. Earlier today, on the New York subway, I saw the person next to me had a Nikon D3 camera and started a conversation about it and soon another DSLR camera owner sitting in front of us joined in the conversation.

Today I took a taxi in Manhattan. Hearing the driver’s accent and reading his name in the taxi, I asked if he spoke the Urdu language. He did and we talked about the sport of cricket, about the economy, about the recent elections and about India and Pakistan. When the ride ended, he said he was happy to give me a ride and didn’t want payment. I insisted on paying, but the gentleman was adamant that it was ok. He didn’t want me to pay. I tried to compromise, requested that he at least accept $5, but he wouldn’t even take that. He said to me that he would be driving around anyway and he was happy to give me a ride. Since he was so adamant despite my insistence to pay, I didn’t want to be rude so I politely thanked him for the ride.

The kindness shown by people is what I love. It is not about the money. I’d much rather they accept my payment. While I felt disappointed he didn’t accept payment, his gesture made my day, especially considering that his business is not doing well in the current economic situation in NYC.

I’m touched yet again by the kindness of strangers. Goodness is contagious. Spread it around.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Amazon NowNow Gives Politically Incorrect Answer on Where To Learn Spanish

The Amazon Kindle mobile reading device comes with their NowNow service included, where you can ask any question you like and you get a response from a paid human researcher. I asked a question and got the unexpected answer below.

I do believe this was an honest mistake by a researcher trying to be helpful. NowNow is a useful and good service.

Update: Amazon resolved the issue. See their follow up responses that I’ve posted in the comments section below.

Rating: ★★★½☆

—–Original Message—–
From: NowNow [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tue 1/22/2008 10:48 PM
To: Rajiv Pant
Subject: RE: What are some good places to learn Spanish in evenings and/or weekends in Manhattan New York City?

Your Question:
What are some good places to learn Spanish in evenings and/or weekends in Manhattan New York City?

Answer from NowNow:
Get a job at any restaurant and work in the back.

Get a job in the back of a restaurant and you will make money and learn spanish from your co-workers.

Source:
Opinion

NowNow, let us be politically correct :-)

If they had said instead a Spanish or Mexican restaurant, that would have been acceptable, but in the back of any restaurant? That’s presumptuous.

If you’d like to suggest a better answer to my question about learning Spanish, please feel welcome to leave a comment here.

Happy New Year 2007! Highlights from December/January

paris-2006-dec.jpgNAA 20 Under 40The closing of 2006 and beginning of 2007 has been exciting. I’d like to share some highlights from December/January:

  • In Paris: I celebrated New Years’; spent a memorable week; photographed hundreds of beautiful moments; learned some French; practiced Spanish; made new friends and relaxed on the train to London. http://photos.rajiv.com/2006
  • In the USA: The Newspaper Association of America awarded me their 20 Under 40 Recognition for 2006. http://www.rajiv.com/20under40
  • In Mexico: I explored the ancient Mayan Ruins in Tulum; attended my friends’ wedding in Playa del Carmen; was spellbound by beautiful colors, diversity and extremes; and learned some more Spanish. http://photos.rajiv.com/2007

Snow and Ice in Atlanta

When I moved to Atlanta, GA, I didn’t realize I’d get photo opportunities featuring snow and ice in the city known as Hotlanta.

It only snows on one or two days per year here. Almost all my neighbors were staying cozy indoors. I headed out with my camera and took photographs, including some of leaves, berries and branches beautifully frozen inside crystal clear ice.

http://photos.rajiv.com/gallery/376446