Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sum of small moments

In 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job.
No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Brailsford was asked to change that.
His approach was simple.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1% margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.
They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else:

discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels,
testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and
teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection.
They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.
He was wrong. They won it in three years.
In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.
In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains:
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.
Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.
Often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal,we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words.) If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.
In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. In other words, it won’t impact you very much today. But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. 
This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

On a related note, this is why I love setting a schedule for important things, planning for failure, and using the “never miss twice” rule. I know that it’s not a big deal if I make a mistake or slip up on a habit every now and then. It’s the compound effect of never getting back on track that causes problems. By setting a schedule to never miss twice, you can prevent simple errors from snowballing out of control.
The Bottom Line:
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. - Jim Rohn
You probably won’t find yourself in the Tour de France anytime soon, but the concept of aggregating marginal gains can be useful all the same.
Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth isthat most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.
There is power in small wins and slow gains.
This is why average speed yields above average results.
This is why the system is greater than the goal.
This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.
When are you starting the 1 percent improvements in your life?
--by James Clear

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Truth : Subjective or Objective

One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. "Look at the fish swimming about," said Chuang Tzu, "They are really enjoying themselves."

"You are not a fish," replied the friend, "So you can't truly know that they are enjoying themselves."

"You are not me," said Chuang Tzu. "So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?"



“Imagine a wall that's green on one side and red on the other. You stand on one side and only see green. I stand on the other side and only see red. We'll both be right about the color we see, even though we disagree on what color the wall is. Being able to realize that the other person has a valid point, even if you disagree with it, that's maturity.” 
― Oliver Gaspirtz

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Disciple

A Zen master named Gettan lived in the latter part of the Tokugawa era. He used to say: "There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain the temples and shrines, and then
there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers."
Gasan expressed the same idea. When he was studying under Tekisui, his teacher was very severe.

Sometimes he even beat him. Other pupils would not stand this kind of teaching and quit. Gasan remained, saying: "A poor disciple utilizes a teacher's influence. A fair disciple admires a teacher's kindness. A good disciple grows strong under a teacher's discipline."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Master

Tajima no Kami was fencing master to the Shogun.
One of the Shogun's bodyguards came to him one day asking to be trained in swordsmanship.
"I have watched you carefully," said Tajima no Kami, "and you seem to be a master in the art yourself.
Before taking you on as a pupil, I request you to tell me what master you studied under."
The bodyguard replied, "I have never studied the art under anyone."
"You cannot fool me," said the teacher. "I have a discerning eye and it never fails."
"I do not mean to contradict your excellency," said the guard, "but I really do not know a thing about fencing."
The teacher engaged the man in swordplay for a few minutes then stopped and said, "Since you say you have never learned the art, I take your word for it. But you are some kind of master. Tell me about yourself."
"There is one thing," said the guard. "When I was a child I was told by a samurai that a man should never fear death. I therefore faced the question of death till it ceased to cause me the slightest anxiety."
"So that's what it is," said Tajima no Kami. "The ultimate secret of swordsmanship lies in being free from the fear of death. You need no training. You are a master in your own right."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Listen to Your Heart !!

It was the beginning of summer. I was boarding Udyan Express at Gulbarga railway station. My destination was Bangalore. As I boarded the train, I saw that the second-class reserved compartment was jam-packed with people. I sat down and was pushed to the corner of the berth. Though it was meant for three people, there were already six of us sitting on it...
The ticket collector came in and started checking people's tickets and reservations.
Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, 'What about your ticket?'
'I have already shown my ticket to you,' I said.
'Not you, madam, the girl hiding below your berth. Hey, come out, where is your ticket?'
I realized that someone was sitting below my berth. When the collector yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding.
She was thin, dark, scared and looked like she had been crying profusely. She must have been about thirteen or fourteen years old.She had uncombed hair and was dressed in a torn skirt and blouse. She was trembling and folded both her hands.. The collector started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling. I stood up and called out to the collector. 'Sir, I will pay for her ticket,' I said.
Then he looked at me and said, 'Madam, if you give her ten rupees, she will be much happier with that than with the ticket.'
I did not listen to him. I told the collector to give me a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted.
Slowly, she started talking. She told me that her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father had remarried and had two sons with her stepmother. But a few months ago, her father had died. Her stepmother started beating her often and did not give her food. She was tired of that life. She did not have anybody to support her so she left home in search of something better.
By this time, the train had reached Bangalore. I said goodbye to Chitra and got down from the train. My driver came and picked up my bags. I felt someone watching me. When I turned back, Chitra was standing there and looking at me with sad eyes. But there was nothing more that I could do. I had paid her ticket out of compassion but I had never thought that she was going to be my responsibility!...
I told her to get into my car. My driver looked at the girl curiously. I told him to take us to my friend Ram's place. Ram ran separate shelter homes for boys and girls. We at the Infosys Foundation supported him financially. I thought Chitra could stay there for some time and we could talk about her future after I came back from my tours.
I was not sure if Chitra would even be there. But to my surprise, I saw Chitra looking much happier than before. Ram suggested that Chitra could go to a high school nearby. I immediately agreed and said that I would sponsor her expenses as long as she continued to study. I left the shelter knowing that Chitra had found a home and a new direction in her life.
I got busier and my visits to the shelter reduced to once a year. But I always enquired about Chitra's well-being over the phone. I knew that she was studying well and that her progress was good.. I offered to sponsor her college studies if she wanted to continue studying. But she said, 'No, Akka. I have talked to my friends and made up my mind. I would like to do my diploma in computer science so that I can immediately get a job after three years.' She wanted to become economically independent as soon as possible.. Chitra obtained her diploma with flying colours. She also got a job in a software company as an assistant testing engineer. When she got her first salary, she came to my office with a sari and a box of sweets.
One day, when I was in Delhi, I got a call from Chitra. She was very happy. 'Akka, my company is sending me to USA! I wanted to meet you and take your blessings but you are not here in Bangalore.'.
Years passed. Occasionally, I received an e-mail from Chitra. She was doing very well in her career. She was posted across several cities in USA and was enjoying life. I silently prayed that she should always be happy wherever she was.
Years later, I was invited to deliver a lecture in San Francisco for Kannada Koota, an organization where families who speak Kannada meet and organize events. The lecture was in a convention hall of a hotel and I decided to stay at the same hotel. After the lecture, I was planning to leave for the airport. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception counter to pay the bill, the receptionist said, 'Ma'am, you don't need to pay us anything. The lady over there has already settled your bill. She must know you pretty well.' I turned around and found Chitra there.

She was standing with a young white man and wore a beautiful sari. She was looking very pretty with short hair. Her dark eyes were beaming with happiness and pride. As soon as she saw me, she gave me a brilliant smile, hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy and did not know what to say. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question. 'Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill? That is not right.' suddenly sobbing, she hugged me and said, 'Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay(Mumbai) to Bangalore!'

By Sudha Murthy
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

I don’t know, and I don’t think that anybody else knows either.
Philosophy is a useless passion. I am using Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, he says ’Man is a useless
passion.’ I say man is NOT a useless passion but philosophy is.

You ask me, ’What is philosophy?’
Nobody has ever defined it. It has remained vague. Not that definitions have not been given to it,
millions of definitions have been given; but THE definition is still missing. Each philosopher gives a
definition, and others contradict it. It is a game, enjoying the gymnastics of logic, it is logic-chopping.
It is like chess – a very intellectual game, very absorbing – but there is no conclusion in it; it is nonconclusive.
The game continues from generation to generation. Slowly slowly, out of this game two
things have arisen: one is science, the other is religion. Science is objective, religion is subjective.
Science is experimental, religion is experiential. Philosophy is neither. It is just hanging in a limbo
between the two. And slowly slowly it is disappearing because that which is objective is being taken
by science every day, and that which is subjective has already been taken by religion. Nothing is
left for philosophy. So now modern philosophy only goes on thinking about language – language
analysis.

The philosophers are asking the most absurd questions because they have lost all the meaningful
questions. Either those questions have been covered by science or by religion. Philosophy is
becoming more and more empty. They cannot find even their own questions now, so either they
take questions from science and they think about them, or they take questions from religion and
they think about them. Their questions are borrowed. Philosophy is a dying phenomenon. It will
not be a surprise that one day you suddenly come to know that philosophy has died. It is on its
deathbed. And you can go to any university and you can see philosophy on its deathbed.
But why have you asked the question? That is more relevant, more important to think about.

I am not teaching philosophy here. What I am saying has nothing to do with philosophy, it is
absolutely experimental and experiential. My effort is to create a scientific religion – the psychology
of the Buddhas. So I am giving you experiments and I am giving you possibilities to experience
something that you have not experienced yet. This is a lab, a workshop. We are bent upon doing
something. I mean business here! Philosophy is not the concern at all. I am very anti-philosophic
and I avoid philosophy because it is playing with shadows, thoughts, speculation. And you can go
on playing infinitely, AD INFINITUM, AD NAUSEAM; there is no end to it. One word creates another
word, one theory creates another theory, and you can go on and on and on. In five thousand years
much philosophy has existed in the world, and to no purpose at all.
But there are people who have the philosophic attitude. And if you are one of them, please drop it;
otherwise you and your energy will be lost in a desert.
I will tell you about the four stages of philosophy in four stories.

The first stage of philosophy, the first story:
One of my favourite stories is that of a boy and girl in New England where sleigh riding is popular
during the cold winters. While riding one Sunday afternoon, bundled up in their blankets, the girl
snuggled up to the boy and said, ’Johnny, I’m cold.’
Johnny looked over to her and said, ’I’m cold, too, Jane. Why not tuck in the blankets?’
So Jane pulled the blankets closer, but pretty soon she moved even closer to Johnny and said, ’My
hands are still cold.’
He didn’t pay much attention to her and soon she nudged him with her elbow and said, ’Johnny, did
you hear me? My hands are cold... and besides nobody loves me.’
This time he looked over to her and said, ’Jane, remember that God loves you, and you can always
sit on your hands to keep them warm.’
This is the first stage of being philosophic.

The second stage, the second story:
A study group of philosophers had been meeting for years to study the Talmud. One member of the
group had a pernicious habit of sipping a little brandy during the meeting. One night he drank just a
little more than usual and became quite tipsy. His companions decided to teach him a lesson. While
he was in his drunken stupor, they carried him off to the cemetery and laid him prone among the
tombstones.
After a while the philosopher woke up. He looked about him, frightened and aghast. Then he started
to reason, ’Am I alive? Or am I dead? If I’m alive, what could I be doing here in the graveyard on top
of the graves? And if I’m dead, then why do I feel that I must go to the bathroom immediately?’
This is the second stage of philosophy.

And the third stage, the third story:
Professor Steinberg had been having his lunch in the same Lower East Side restaurant for twenty
years. Every day he left his office at noon, went to the restaurant and ordered a bowl of chicken
soup – never a change.
But one day the professor called the waiter back after receiving his soup.
’Yes, professor?’ enquired the waiter. ’Waiter, please taste the soup.’
’What do you mean, taste the soup? For twenty years you’ve been eating the same chicken soup
here, every day, yes? Has it ever been any different?’
The professor ignored the waiter’s comments. ’Please, taste this soup,’ he repeated.
’Professor, what’s the matter with you? I know what the chicken soup tastes like.’
’Taste the soup,’ the professor demanded.
’All right, all right, I’ll taste. Where’s the spoon?’
’Aha!’ cried the professor.
This is the third stage.

And the fourth stage, the fourth story:
A woman went to a philosophic psychologist for treatment of her delusion that she was covered with
feathers. After a few sessions the philosopher said to her, ’I feel that we have gotten to the root of
this problem through our discussions and analysis, and it is now behind us. What do you think, Mrs
Smith?’
’Oh,’ said Mrs Smith, ’I think we have had some wonderful sessions and I do feel that the problem
has been taken care of. But,’ she added, ’the only thing that bothers me now is what I’m going to do
with these feathers.’
She raised her hand to her shoulders and began to brush, and the psychologist, the philosopher,
suddenly jumped back.
’Now, hold on just a minute, Mrs Smith, don’t brush those feathers onto me.’
This is the fourth stage.
Slowly slowly, philosophy becomes a kind of madness. It leads you into neurosis because philosophy
is a mind phenomenon. Science has taken the body, religion has taken the soul, only the mind is
left for philosophy. And mind is potential madness. If you go on too much into the mind, you will be
moving slowly slowly towards madness. It is very rare to find a philosopher who is sane. And vice
versa is also true: it is very rare to find a madman who is not a philosopher.


I am not teaching philosophy here, because I am teaching no-mind. And if you become a no-mind
all philosophy disappears: Christian, Hindu, Mohammedan, Buddhist – all philosophies disappear;
Hegelian, Kantian, Russellian – all philosophies disappear. If the mind disappears, where can the
philosophy exist? where can it grow? Mind is the breeding ground of philosophy.
Let the mind disappear. And the beauty is: when there is no mind and nobody to philosophize and
nothing to philosophize about, one comes to know. Philosophy is the blind man’s effort. It is said:
Philosophy is a blind man in a dark room on a dark night, searching for a black cat which is not
there...

From The Secret of Secrets, Osho

Friday, March 21, 2014

You Are Just Like Everyone Else

"Tattoo inside your eyelids this reminder:

'you are the messenger, not the message. You are just like everyone else.' "
This was the advice given by a charismatic Zen teacher to a class of Zen teachers-in-training.


"What do you mean?" they asked her.


"I'll begin with a story about a besieged town that was surrounded by enemies who would slaughter all the inhabitants if help didn't arrive. Just when things looked hopeless, a messenger slipped through enemy lines with the message that the army of the Shogun would attack in the morning and drive off the
invaders.


"The townspeople were so enraptured with this news that they treated the messenger like a hero. And after the Shogun's army left, they elected the messenger mayor. Though a pleasant fellow, the messenger turned out to be a thoroughly inept leader and was soon sent away in disgrace.


"The lesson here is never confuse the message--which is the precious gift of Buddha--with the messenger. You are only a messenger.
"When you stun an audience with the wisdom of a lecture, when your students cede to you the molding of their minds, when you are treated as someone special, focus on the message inside your eyelids:


You are the messenger, not the message.
You are just like everyone else."