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?!”

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(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.

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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.

Ray Dalio, Randall Munroe and I Think Alike – Culture of Courage & Candor

On the matter of bad behavior of complaining against others behind their backs, Ray Dalio, Randall Munroe and I share the same viewpoint. This article starts with Randall’s cartoon, Ray’s and my quotes on the subject and then discusses the causes of and solutions for this problem. Please note that this article is not about ethical whistleblowers, people who have no choice but to complain secretly about someone in a position of great power and formal authority above them engaged in wrongdoing. Backstabbing (the subject of this article) and whistle-blowing are two completely different things.1 This post is about someone complaining against his peers, those he sees as  competition or those who may be in his way.

Cartoon from XKCD by Randall Munroe

Ray’s quote:

I learned that I want the people I deal with to say what they really believe and to listen to what others say in reply, in order to find out what is true. I learned that one of the greatest sources of problems in our society arises from people having loads of wrong theories in their heads—often theories that are critical of others—that they won’t test by speaking to the relevant people about them. Instead, they talk behind people’s backs, which leads to pervasive misinformation. I learned to hate this because I could see that making judgments about people so that they are tried and sentenced in your head, without asking them for their perspective, is both unethical and unproductive.2 So I learned to love real integrity (saying the same things as one believes)3 and to despise the lack of it.4

— Ray Dalio, an American businessman and founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates. Bridgewater is the world’s largest hedge fund company with US$122 billion in assets under management (as of 2011). In 2012, Dalio appeared on the annual Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2011 and 2012 he was listed by Bloomberg Markets as one of the 50 Most Influential people. Institutional Investor’s Alpha ranked him No. 2 on their 2012 Rich List.
Quote sourced from Principles by Ray Dalio. Emphasis mine. Brief bio of Ray Dalio from Wikipedia. Thanks to my colleague Leon Shklar for introducing me to Ray’s philosophy.

My quote:

When someone complains negatively about a problem, person or situation it often indicates a lack of courage, skill, desire & collaboration required to solve it. Worse, it may be for nefarious reasons.

Senior executives should listen to and reward employees who focus on solutions and support their coworkers. People in leadership should be wary of people who habitually complain about others. Since complainers misleadingly pretend to be smart or helpful, you should always question their motives, challenge their statements and let them know you will ask for others’ viewpoints.

Once you know about such behavior, you should strongly discourage it. The first step is to make sure you don’t reward it. When a senior executive simply listens to a complainer and does not challenge their statements and does not tell they will solicit others opinions as well, the complainer may feel rewarded with the executive’s attention and implicit approval. Things an executive hearing the complaints can say:

  • What did [the target person] say in response when you told them this?
  • Have you spoken to [the target person] about this clearly, honestly and comprehensively? I will reach out to them to understand their viewpoint. (This makes it clear to the complainer that they can’t get away misrepresenting things behind another’s back.)
  • Do you have a collaborative solution to offer that makes it a win/win for both you and [the target person]?

— Rajiv Pant
Quote originally published on Rajiv’s Google+ Page

Why badmouthing others behind their backs is bad for business…

Its toxicity kills productivity. Robert I. Sutton, Professor of Management science at the Stanford Engineering School and a researcher in the field of Evidence-based management writes: [emphasis mine]

… if you want people to think you are smart, apparently you can feed their stereotypes by demeaning others…  I should also warn you that although unleashing your inner asshole may help persuade people of your intellectual superiority, we also show in The Knowing-Doing Gap and Hard Facts that the climate of fear created by such nastiness undermines team and organizational effectiveness.  Potential victims become afraid to try (or even mention) new ideas and hesitate to report mistakes or problems out of fear that the resulting anger and humiliation will be aimed at them.

It creates distrust among coworkers which hurts collaboration and productivity. It distracts focus away from productive work to “watching your back”. It lowers morale at work, which is also bad for business.

On the perpetrator’s side, it diverts creative energy away from business innovation, solving problems and achieving greatness. Instead the perpetrator’s talents, time and tricks are applied towards crafty, cunning and cruel behavior that only hurts the organization.

At its worst, when it becomes a rampant problem, it can lead to costly lawsuits against the organization. When you develop a habit of badmouthing someone behind their back thinking your accusations will remain secret, and you keep getting away with it for a while, you are likely to start saying things that cross the line.

 

Why it happens…

So why do people engage in smear campaigns? Simply because they have found them to be useful for their benefit in the past. There is ample evidence in multiple fields ranging from election campaigns to organizational behavior that despite being immoral, unethical and unfair, smear campaigns can sometimes be highly effective for the perpetrators. At least for the short term. In an organization with a bad culture it benefits the perpetrator every time they do it and there are minimal harmful consequences to the perpetrator.

I asked my friend Professor Jeffery Pfeffer, a well-respected guru of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business why such behavior exists. He explained that “It persists because it often works, and it often works because negativity and criticism seem more profound than positive statements.” He pointed me to his5 article The Smart-Talk Trap published in Harvard Business Review and the article Brilliant but Cruel by Teresa Amabile, now a professor at Harvard Business School. (The word “brilliant” here alludes to a pretense of brilliance, not the real thing.) Those two articles explain that people who disparage others or the work of others falsely appear to look smart and competent, even when they are not so in reality. Basically, it is a cheap trick that works until it is exposed.

The false feeling of being honest (when in reality they are being dishonest) in supposedly exposing  the flaws in others and/or other’s work provides misguided gratification to the perpetrators. When the important person to whom the clandestine complaint is being made to (and it is usually an important person) listens to the complainer in private and engages in that conversation, the complainer sees that as a reward. This encourages more of such bad behavior.

An even bigger mistake a person in a position of power can make after hearing a one-sided complaint is to substantially reward the complainer. By a substantial reward, I mean giving a promotion, power or pleasure of winning. That is not only unjust, unfair and unwise, but a display of poor judgement.

A root cause of this problem is lack of courage. Another is insecurity. It takes courage to walk up to someone you have a problem with, to tell them that on their face with candor especially when you are insecure inside that your accusations will be able to sustain to a fair trial. It is much easier to be a coward and do it hoping the accused will never find out, at least not until it is too late.

Insecurity and an inner lack of confidence in the merits of their accusations are behind complaints that are supposedly backed by unverifiable sources. When someone complains about another and says “others have also complained about [the target person], but they confided in me privately and wish to remain anonymous,” the listeners’ alarm bells should go off. This method of trying to sully someone’s reputation by adding the supposed support of unidentified others is weak at best and disingenuous at worst. There is no way for the leader to know what the unknown people actually said, and if they did complain in what context and what state of mind it happened. Worse, this perpetrator could have baited them unwittingly into speaking negatively about someone they otherwise wouldn’t have. Remember that the complainer is not an unbiased journalist with integrity writing an article citing anonymous sources (and even they have to verify their sources to an Editor), but is most likely an opinionated person with an agenda. If you are a leader, think like a judge or a journalist. Don’t just believe what you hear, especially this type of BS.

On the leader’s side, the one to whom the one-sided complaint is brought, the problem is also a lack of courage. It takes courage to tell someone who is seemingly confiding in you and appears to be trusting you that you do not entertain such bad behavior and that you will put this person and yourself in a deeply uncomfortable position by bringing the accused in to the discussion.

Especially in this day and age of political correctness, being sneaky, disingenuous and cowardly is much easier than being open, honest and courageous.

Unless your organization has a great culture.

…and how to discourage it

So how should executives in an organization discourage such bad behavior? With a culture of continuous and consistent fairness.

In many cases, complaining behind others’ backs also badly backfires. I mentioned earlier that it is cheap trick that works until it is exposed. An effective way to hinder such behavior is to spread awareness about it, for example, by sharing this article. By making it a well-known fact in your organization that such behavior is bad for the business and backfires for the perpetrator, you eliminate its effectiveness.

People for whom such behavior has backfired, causing them harm instead of benefitting them, learn to not do it anymore, provided they quickly realized that it was their bad behavior that hurt them. The human mind learns best when the feedback is immediate or comes soon after.

Therein lies the key to solving this problem in your organization.

Senior executives should build and maintain a culture holds open courts. What does that mean? This:

  • There are no trials held in private. Both parties must be present when any arguments are made in front of the judges (deciders, people with power). In other words, senior executives never entertain clandestine complaints made secretly behind the accused’s backs.
  • The accused always gets a fair hearing. If the accused does not have the debating skills to defend their case, the senior executives should assign someone strong to support them in a public-defender-like role. Winners should not be decided on the basis or their ability to win debates, but on the merits of their case.
  • Senior executives should be careful to never reward this bad behavior, and not even give the complainer the pleasure of indulging them in such a conversation.
  • Most importantly, senior executives must model good, desirable and fair behavior themselves.

The last point is especially important. People look up to successful, effective senior executives. People copy the behaviors they see emanating from the successful person. If senior executives badmouth other people behind their backs, people who look up to them are likely to emulate that behavior. If they see senior executives as respectful, supportive and caring of others, they will learn that. Mirror neurons in action. Which reminds me:

Look in the mirror.

Further Reading

Some neuroscience research related to this

(Shared by Cameron Brown)

 In person learning

badmouthing-behind-back-bad-for-business-cover-slide

  1. For whistle-blowing, there are formal established means. For example, speaking with legal authorities, human resources, or journalists, depending on the situation. []
  2. It is unethical because a basic principle of justice is that everyone has the right to face his accuser. And it is unproductive because it does not lead to the exploration of “Is it true?” which can lead to understanding and improvement. — Ray Dalio []
  3. I do not mean that you should say everything you think, just that what you do say matches your thoughts. — Ray Dalio []
  4. The word “integrity” is from the Latin root “integer,” which means “one” i.e., that you are the same inside and out. Most people would be insulted if you told them that they don’t have integrity—but how many people do you know who tell people what they really think? — Ray Dalio []
  5. co-authored with Bob Sutton  []

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Book Review)

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. It is a book about adventures, travels, cultures, customs, ancient wisdom, evolution, anatomy, biology, footwear, anthropology, friendships and human nature. It is also a book about long distance running.

Through the stories of his warm characters, Christopher McDougall teaches that long distance running is more about cooperation, camaraderie and caring than about competition. It reminded me of my favorite quote: Victory is winning others, not defeating others.

Rating: ★★★★★

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.

Consumers, Confidence & the Economy: What You Can Do to Help

We individual consumers should, as a community, take steps to support and strengthen the U.S. and global economy. People’s confidence and our actions resulting from it are an important factor in rescuing and rebuilding the economy.

Yes, we need to be cautious about spending and should save money during this economic time, but we need to balance that with continuing to buying products and services to fuel the economy and keep the markets running. In today’s world, our jobs in various sectors are deeply interrelated in ways we don’t realize.

For example, if we stop eating at restaurants or shopping at stores, the restaurant and shops’ employees would lose jobs. The restaurants and shops would in turn stop spending money on advertising, resulting in job losses in the advertising sector. The suppliers to the restaurants and shops would also suffer. Sooner than we realize, it would come back and hit us. It is within our power as a community to save the situation.

We need to keep doing our part in the economy, supporting the businesses around us, so that they are able to keep supporting us.

Optimism and confidence are essential to human success. I urge you to consider doing some of the following each day:

  • When you talk with your friends about the economic situation, talk about how you as an individual and community can do to help instead of talking about doom and gloom.
  • Replace pessimism and fear with practical optimism and confidence. Value what you do have: Remember there are people in parts of this world to whom survival literally means keeping their families and themselves alive.
  • Buy something. Avail of a service. This is a good time to get good deals on products and services.
  • If you are in a position of influence in your organization, encourage your company to not lay off employees. Suggest alternatives to putting people out of work. Across the board pay reductions are far better for the economy than people losing jobs.
  • Go online to learn about the current situation and the proposals out there to fix it. Urge your elected officials to take action on the proposals you believe would help.
  • Share this or a similar message of your own with other people.

Respect and the American Way

Respect must be earned and maintained not expected and demanded.

Unlike in some other cultures, I believe the American way is to give respect to those and when the respect comes out of my heart. I do not believe in giving respect to people due their being in a position of power, richer, older or better off in some way. Respect should not be given out of fear or out of feeling of inferiority. Respect is based on what someone does and not who someone is.

It saddens my heart when I see people not giving due respect to women and to young people who have earned it or are trying to earn it. To assume that someone is any less capable just because that someone is a woman, young, unconventionally educated without formal degrees, or comes from a less privileged background is incorrect. It is also unethical, unwise, immature and un-American.

I speak from experience. I worked hard from early on in my career, treating people with sincerity and caring along the way. At age 26, I became Vice President at a large media company, a position that I held for about three years before leaving to start my own company. Over the years, I worked with many of my colleagues and people reporting to me who had children my age. Some of these people, both within my company and outside, were initially hesitant about me because of my young age. Over time, I built great relationships of mutual respect with almost all of the people who were initially unsure about me. For this, I have greater love and respect for the American culture.

Some people say America has no culture of respect. They mention other societies where respect and honor are big values. We do have these values in America, and I’d argue we have them in their purest form, but you can’t demand them. You must earn them and maintain them, like all good things in a society with democratic values with capitalist ideals.

Sometimes when I meet executives from other countries, people tell me before hand to treat them with respect their way. They suggest things like bowing low to them, offering them a particular seat in the room, exchanging business cards in a certain way, and generally behaving in a foreign way. Instead of treating strangers with artificial flattery, I treat them with sincerity, caring, friendliness and a desire to gain mutual respect. I have found that sincere behavior has lead to lasting friendships and true mutual respect, even with much older people coming from countries with very orthodox cultures. When people from other cultures come to America, I want them to see that American culture does have strong values. When they are here, they should get familiar with our ways as they expect us to be familiar with theirs.

Lessons from martial arts that apply to life

Interacting with and helping other people

  • Some encounters are not worth the experience. If you spar with Mike Tyson, you will get hurt and have a headache afterwards.
  • Your vulnerabilities get exposed when you do certain things. It is ok to be vulnerable while you are doing what you believe is the right thing. Do remember to always guard your vital points, however.
  • Do not assume you have understood someone fully based on their past actions. Don’t wish for surprises, but be prepared for them.
  • Bow to the other person with sincere respect, but watch them and be on your guard even as you do that.
  • Be good, not evil. Analyze and improve your character with every experience. Be good and wise, not good and foolish.
  • Pick the right fundamentals and stick by them. Change your interface to suit the situation, but don’t let anything change your core self.
  • No matter how good you are, there will be times when the other person wins. Don’t allow a loss to crush you, and you will not be defeated. Look at the positive side. You put in a sincere effort and learnt things. Don’t have bitter feelings afterwards.
  • The most important lesson isn’t learning how to fall. It is learning to be able to get up.
  • True victory is when you win others, rather than defeat them.
  • Use logic to override emotion. Your brain is your most important shield and weapon. Use it to its fullest, but only for good.
  • Do not give up easily, even when things don’t seem to be working right. Have faith. Put in a sincere, hardworking, and good effort without thinking of results. Do the right things and the right results will follow. If they don’t, you are still a better person.
  • Some games are best not continued, even when the match appears exciting. When you find that, end the game. However, don’t suddenly turn your back without first telling what you are doing.

Can multiple contradicting religions all be true? An imaginary discussion between two people

Cast:
Rex, a philosopher.
Fanatic, a religious fanatic who believes all other religions are false.

Rex: Do you believe in God?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: Do you believe God can do anything?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: Is God above human sciences, logic and reasoning?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: Can God do something that we humans can not understand or that we find impossible or contradictory?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: For example, can God make two plus two equal five?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: How about this: Can God make two plus two equal five and at the same time also have two plus two equal four?
Fanatic: Yes.

Rex: And, how about this: Can God have multiple religions which all seem contradictory to us by logic and reasoning, but still have them all ultimately true?
Fanatic: Hmm… Yes.

On Relationships, Romance & Love

Q. How long does it take to build a lasting relationship? 6 months? 1 Year? 2 Years? 5 Years? 10 years?

A. None of the above. It takes a lifetime of commitment.

It is easy, perhaps, to start a romantic relationship. What takes effort, though, is to keep improving it while at the same time, not letting it fall.

You may have gone out with someone for years and may think you have them figured out. That is unwise thinking. In the first place, you can’t know another person’s mind that well. In the second place, people change, situations change. You are never “done” building your relationship. To make it last a lifetime, you have to work on it a lifetime. However, work does not mean a burden. True, it takes effort to do any work, but work can be satisfying and pleasurable. Seemingly tedious work done in building a relationship can lead to a lot of long term peace of mind, happiness, and even great pleasures. A lasting relationship that gives pleasure throughout life and lets you have peace of mind is much better for your life than short term relationship that gives only pleasure on the short term.

Q. How does one find the right person?

A. When you look for the right person, don’t look for someone with all the qualities you desire. The probability of finding such a person is low, unless you commit a major part of your life to the search. (If you do that, other aspects of your life may suffer, making you a less desirable person.)

Look for someone who shows the potential of someone willing and able to build a lasting, happy relationship. Look for someone who has commitment. If you are both the types who will and continue to work hard to make it work, the chances are that you won’t have to work too hard.

Plan your life around long term goals. Before you start seriously dating someone, think if they are the right person for you in the long term.

Q. Is it ok to live with someone before marriage?

A. I’m not an authority on religious ethics, so that’s something you should first check with your belief structure. I will give some practical reasons why I believe that it is often not a wise idea. By living together unmarried, you build barriers between the two of you that don’t disappear after marriage. For example, you get used to separating your certain key finances that (in my opinion) a husband and wife should share. You get used to living without the special commitment to each other that is required of a marriage.

What ends up happening often is that not much changes after marriage. Now if you were a special committed couple and were already sharing all aspects of your life that a couple should (certain finances, responsibility without keeping accounts of who did how much), you are fine. However, in many cases, the life together without marriage only looks like a marriage from the outside, but isn’t anything like marriage on the inside. There is major and fundamental difference between almost married and married. Marriage is not defined by sex. Marriage is not defined by a close friendship. Marriage is not even defined by having children. Marriage is defined by an unfailing commitment to another human being. Your spouse is the relative that you choose, not a relative by birth. You should chose well, but then you should stick with what you choose. (This does apply to a marriage, but it may not apply to other things in life like a job. They are different things.)

Pleasure isn’t something you should have to seek. Pleasure comes automatically when things go well, when good things happen