Monday, December 22, 2008

Principles of socializing

Socializing is a process where one meets people from different strata of society and from different societies. It is based on communication i.e. one needs to articulate the ideas one has in their mind so that the other person who is the subject of communication understands these ideas as is. This communication is about reality where the topics can range from concrete to abstract, as follows: small-talk, job, family, friends circle, movies and music, a profession, politics, motivation and self-actualization, art and meta-thinking.

However, people have different notions of reality some have wrong models and some have models that are closer to reality. The objective of the socializing process is to understand the other person i.e. his ideas and distinguish between what is correct i.e. closer to reality and what is wrong i.e. far from reality. Once this difference is clear one should articulate this difference. If one does not have this ability then one should develop the tact of keeping ones distance from the subject in the matter of the particular discussion or listen to him to understand about the ideas if the discussing is not abusive. If one feels pushed one can stop the discussion and think about it later. In any case the end objective is to understand the ideas and thus be able to ascertain their degree of truth.

In any case it is important to learn to recognize a dead-end discussion i.e. a circular debate and stop debating if a dead-end is reached in the discussion.

The below text has been added on 19 Feb 2009

One important aspect of socializing that has to be mentioned is that when one is interacting with a person who does not have a realistic view of the topic being discussed it might be a good idea not to make it blatantly apparent to him/her and to use tact to address the person.

It may also be the case that the person being addressed is not ready to listen to the new persepctive in which case it might be a very good idea to not pursue the discussion. What this means for me is that I should, in such situations, try to 'empathize' with the 'other' and just enjoy his/her 'company' while possibly trying to understand him/her better.

This has for me led to another kind of social experience that is very interesting where 'reality' is not being discussed, just enjoyed!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How I measure my grasp of reality

There has to be a criterion to measure my grasp of reality. For me this is the degree to which I can predict and control myself and the external world along a certain set of factors. These factors can be divided into two categories: Intrinsic factors – that have to do with myself and extrinsic factors – that have to do with the environment outside of me.

The list of intrinsic factors along with the method to gauge how far I can predict and control these factors are as follows:
1. Factor: Knowledge.
Method to gauge: This would be easiest if we were assessing the knowledge of structured course subjects such as those taught in University programs and measure our expertise in it by giving tests designed by subject experts.
2. Factor: Skill - clear thinking + clear communication
Method to gauge: To measure this we can use the 1-page, 5-page, 10-page and 15-page test where these are the number of pages that one should be able to write on any topic clearly
3. Factor: Skill - social skills
Method to gauge:
a. “Degree” to which I can predict and control the outcome of a meeting with people I have interacted with over 30 hours (Not sure if it should be 30 hours, more or less).
b. “Number of hours” spent with another person to be able to predict and control the outcome of the meeting with him/her.
c. “Range of people” with whom I can predict and control the outcome of the interaction, given that a certain minimum number of hours have been spent with that person.
4. Factor: Skill – stop watch time at self-discipline i.e. the time it takes to get myself to do an act which requires the exercise of will power for the next five minutes. This degree of will power required however will wary with the following three factors:
a. Difficulty of the initial conditions. For the purposes of the stop watch test these conditions should be normal, i.e. not harder or easier than usual.
b. Difficultly of the act to perform. For the purposes of the stop watch test the act should be of average difficulty.
c. How harsh are the consequences. This factor can be eliminated. Example: Shooting myself in the foot without anesthetics does not count because the impact of that on my will power will be exerted even after I have shot myself.

The list of extrinsic factors along with the method to gauge how far I can predict and control these factors are as follows:

1. Factor: Nature of job
Method to gauge: Of all the jobs that I have heard of am I doing the one that I enjoy most?
2. Factor: Salary
Method to gauge: Statistically how am I doing compared to other people in society?
3. Factor: Circle of friends
Method to gauge: Do I have a close-knit circle of friends who I can relate to well.
4. Factor: Health of relationships within family
Method to gauge: Is anyone in my immediate family in any trouble that I can help out with and am I helping out. Secondly the degree to which I am happily married.

There are a number of things that are beyond my ability to predict and control such as an event in which I meet a serious accident or let’s say the chances that I develop cancer. In these and other similar matters my place is that of a Fakir (beggar) in relation to God and nature.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The ultimate formula to success

The first part of the ultimate formula to success in achieving happiness requires one to first decide on what to do. For me the answer lies in the five categories I have identified. These categories are learning, focusing myself to think about a problem to get to a solution, socializing, completing chores and finally exercising.

Having identified the categories I had to decide how to tackle each category. For the learning category it required determining what to learn, prioritizing the subjects to learn – the most immediate subjects at any time would be sufficient for this purpose- and finally deciding a time I would dedicate for learning. For the next category which was to focus myself to think about a problem and get to a solution, I used my job as the pivot and practiced it on the work I had to achieve. To be able to handle the third category i.e. socializing I developed rules to socialize, decided time I would dedicate for this task and then practiced the art. The fourth category which was to complete chores I had to do, whatever their nature might be, as long as they were necessary I dedicated a certain time for these chores as well. The final category was to exercise and thus keep myself fit, an activity for which I had to similarly dedicate a specific time.

Having so far decided what to do and having explored a concrete framework for each category the next and most important task to do was to break the barrier to achieve self-discipline. This was a task that had become easier since I now knew where to focus myself. To see how I was progressing in this area I use a technique called the “stop watch” technique. This technique measures the time it takes to get myself to do what I have to do and don’t enjoy doing i.e. the time it takes to achieve a task requiring the exercise of will power. Now to reduce the “stop-watch” time I had three rules. The first rule was the “right here right now rule” which pinned down for me what I had to do in the next five minutes. Having identified the task at hand I would then only think about the problem at hand without exception to any other kind of thought irrespective of how interesting the thought might be. The final step was simply to practice the above two rules and keep getting better at the “stop-watch”.

I think this is the ultimate formula for success and I must say that by far the most thrilling thing to do is to get yourself to do what you know has to be done.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Breaking Barriers

Acts are things we do. Some acts are doable i.e. acts that a person can do. These can be complex or simple acts and are doable owing to the training through cultural upbringing, family upbringing, schooling or socializing. Some acts are not doable i.e. acts that a person cannot do. These too can be complex or simple acts and are similarly not doable owing to the training through cultural upbringing, family upbringing, schooling or socializing. A barrier is some act that is not doable because it is an act one finds difficult to do. An example can be of a person who finds getting into a physical fight doable and talking to a girl not doable. Another person can find it doable to talk to a girl and getting into a physical fight not doable.

Barriers are good because they are opportunities to grow. I will now give an example of a person for whom talking to girls was a barrier and also show how he got over it. This person was raised in Pakistan and went to UK to work. There he worked in a fast food restaurant. He was sent on a workshop and towards the end of his workshop his female instructor talked to him one-on-one and asked him why he never addressed her directly and instead would communicate through his colleagues. After the workshop the instructor called up his manager and asked the manager to send him for another workshop. The second workshop had 92 people: 1 the instructor from the previous workshop, 2 the person himself and 90 women. The instructor from the previous workshop asked him to conduct this workshop which was about dating. He had two options to conduct this workshop: the first was he could teach the material to all of them collectively and the second option was to teach each of them separately. He choose to have a one-on-one conversation with each of the 90 girls teaching them the material directly. After the second workshop the manager of the person promoted him to the counter because of the feedback he received of him. The second result was that there was a constant flock of girls at that counter owing to his social skills and his newly acquired confidence.

It took only 1 week to break a very strong barrier.

A person who can think can educate himself and thus will be able to do anything he wants. The only thing that will stop a person from achieving any success he imagines is the barriers that he has.

This reminds me of a dialogue from a movie I saw and quoted earlier.

Person A: "Embrace the pain Mr. Green"
Person B: "If you change the rules on what controls you, you change the rules on what you can control"
Person A: "Just how radical are you prepared to be?"

Concretizing my growth

There are three areas in which I have directed my growth. This effort will make my growth focused. These three areas are: Learning, Job and Extras.

The first area is learning which I will do on weekdays after office hours and on Sundays. This is based on two principles. The first principle is not to study abstract subjects such as philosophy. This is because studying a philosophy essay by Aristotle is very exciting owing to its potential implications and solutions but one can’t completely relate to it. The second principle is to study concrete subjects. The reasons for this are because it is easy to study, I can immediately apply this to my life, and there is a pre-defined syllabus I can follow. The course work that I plan to study is as follows: The first course is in learning how to think well. This I will do by studying Logic following the course taught at IBA in the BBA Program. The second course is aimed at learning how to communicate well. For this I will follow the composition course taught at LUMS. The remaining sets of subjects are aimed at internalizing the courses from my MBA degree that are relevant to my career as a business analyst. These include two courses on marketing which are Principles of marketing and Marketing Management, one course on finance, another on management/organizational structure, another on strategic management and the final two courses covering the basics of economics: microeconomics and macroeconomics.

The second area that I will focus on is my job. This I will do during office hours from 8:30 to 5:30 during weekdays. There are two approaches to my job. The first is to understand the big picture of my job. The big picture would include understanding the different departments in my company and their relationship, the culture of the organization, the vision, mission, objectives and strategy of the company, where I fit into this strategy and finally how my current job is in line with my career. The second approach is to understand the small picture and the way to do this is to firstly prioritize the list of outstanding tasks I have and secondly to create time-boundaries for tasks. Tasks should be time bounded in three ways: firstly as tasks I have to do in the next five minutes, tasks I have to do in the day and tasks I have to do in the next three days.

The third area I call the extras for which I have dedicated Saturday. These include tasks such as buying trousers, getting the car fixed and socializing with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How I am going to move forward

There are two essential ingredients to moving ahead:
1.Progress in thought
2.Progress in actualization

I will explain these two “ingredients” below and also explain their relationship.

Progress in thought: Education emanates from “well thought out and processed” material that explains important ideas that can help us predict our environment to a better degree. Each educational experience thus being a “chain of ideas” that have a complementary relationship with each other can help us. However this is only possible if we can “internalize” these ideas, i.e. we understand these ideas and bring them to a level of awareness where we can use these ideas as easily as we can use the ideas of “why we need to open the door to cross it” or “what is left and what is right” (in terms of direction). However there are many books out there and many subjects that vary in degree of complexity.

So the question is how do we decide what to choose to help us progress our thought or “knowledge base”?

What I am doing is analyzing my own blog at the moment. I am doing this by writing a one line description of each of my posts i.e. the central idea of each post and finding the relationships between these statements. What this will result in is the discovery of a few fundamental “concepts” on which my entire blog stands as a table top stands on its four legs.

Having done this exercise I will then look towards Wikipedia to shed more light on these concepts which I can do for a concept such as “justice” by "breaking it down" into its smallest components by removing the clutter of vocabulary in the article to discover the “ideas” embedded in the article. These ideas I will then outline and add to my “knowledge base”. After understanding the concepts related to my blog I will move on to related concepts.

Progress in actualization: The process of “internalization” is not complete till we “|act|ualize” our ideas. This is only possible if you “act” the ideas out. This process of course requires discipline which is simply doing activities in “time-bound” ways. For example we dedicate a certain time to our “job” and actualize the ideas related to our job in that period of time. We then allocation a certain time to “socializing” and actualize our ideas related to socializing in that time period.

Relationship of “progress in thought” and “progress in actualization”: The relationship is that we need to think, then understand and finally actualize thus updating our selves/"our software"/our mind. The process of updating our software continuously and in ideas that we think are most relevant to our lives we can “grow" to "control our environment” in the most “optimum” way.