Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Until history repeats itself...

We feel the pain, sure... 
But choose to remain quiet about it... 
Slowly, the pain subsides... 
Then we go back to our private little security bubbles... 
Of pursuing career goals and immersing in entertainment... 
Until suddenly, our own bubble bursts... 
People mourn the tragedy that struck us... 
Then they too get busy creating their imaginary security bubbles... 
Until history repeats itself...

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Jordan Peterson's Achilles Heel: Reflections on His Interview with Decca Aitkenhead

Listening to the unedited version of Prof. Jordan Peterson's interview with Decca Aitkenhead (a journalist for The Times, UK) would make even a cold-hearted person be filled with compassion for Peterson and his family. The kind of hardship that they have gone through over the past few years makes me feel like one of the most blessed human beings on Earth (and those who are close to me know that I have been through some deep shit in life). Yet, when the feminist Decca Aitkenhead publishes her article in The Times, it is full of spite towards Peterson, and attributing his family's problems to Peterson's "Toxic Masculinity."

It would be mind-boggling for any rational human being to find even micro traces of "Toxic Masculinity" in Peterson's interview; if anything, he is extremely vulnerable in the interview, which is considered a feminine characteristic. But when you have been bitten by the feminism virus, you can't help but see anything but "Toxic Masculinity" around you. The irony is that if anyone should be more compassionate, it should be Decca Aitkenhead, because her "Toxically Masculine" partner literally gave up his life to save their son from drowning in the sea. "Enlightened" Aitkenhead, of course, had no compunctions garnering sympathies for herself when she wrote a book on the pains of losing her partner to the tragic accident, but then how could she be empathetic to Peterson, who is a "cis-gendered" white man?

Well, my ranting aside, what is the moral of the story here? It’s simple, don’t be like Jordan Peterson.

“But I thought, you admired Jordan Peterson!”

Yes, I do. I admire Peterson’s intellect, his penetrating reasoning abilities, his level-headedness, his intellectual honesty, his self-reflective nature, and his resilience. But he has a major weakness, and that is that he is a nice human being, who easily trusts people, and is compassionate towards them. In the language of Personality Psychology, he is too high on the trait of Agreeableness. That is his Achilles heel.

How do I know this? Because I’m pretty high on the Agreeableness dimension myself. Similar to Peterson, it’s this personality trait that also brought me into the helping professions of counseling and teaching. And like Peterson, I also let my high Agreeableness influence some of the major decisions in life. However, unlike Peterson, I was not very lucky, and those decisions cost me dearly. Paradoxically, my bad luck was actually lucky for me, because I have woke up to the dangers of high agreeableness sooner in life than probably Peterson has in his life.

Prof. Peterson would be able to explain it way better than me about the negative side of Agreeableness, especially for men. The paradox of life is that the most benevolent men get branded as being “toxically masculine.” That’s pretty much the reason why over the past few years, I have invested heavily on awakening the inner asshole in me. It’s high time Peterson did the same. He should know better given the experiences that he has had with Cathy Newman, Helen Lewis, and now, Decca Aitkenhead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mishra's Double 90-9-1 Rule


90% of the people you know do not care about your life's problems.

9% are happy that you have them.

That leaves you with only 1% who will truly feel sorry for you.

But 90% of this 1% won't even lift a finger to help you.

9% of the 1% will help you but they will be so incompetent, you'd be better off not taking their help.

Now, it’s your choice if you want to go on a wild goose chase of the last 1% of 1%...

Or just shut the F up and take charge of your own life.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Is Change Possible? Reflections on "Ek Ritu Aaye, Ek Ritu Jaaye"

Most of you know that I have two Youtube channels, one titled "Dr. Mishra sings" to share music, and the other titled "Dr. Mishra speaks" to share ideas. There used to be a time when I used to write short blog posts on all my music uploads, but I deleted them all to allow the uploads to stand on their own. More importantly, I didn't want to be just sharing links to my uploads on my blog unless the post added any additional value to my readers. That is the reason, I am sharing the link to my latest music cover upload. I think it adds to the conversation that I had started on New Year's resolutions in my previous post.

The song Ek ritu aaye, ek ritu jaaye is no doubt a beautiful composition based roughly on Raga Ahir Bhairav. But the lyrics of the song are very depressing. "Seasons come and seasons go, years come and years go, but the pathetic conditions of life remain the same." Can there be anything more depressing than that? But strangely, I find those lines inspiring. They remind me that change does not happen automatically. The year 2020 was horrible for a lot of people on this planet, but things won't get better just because a number on our calendars has changed. As a social media meme said, "We know that it is 2021, but the virus doesn't know that." My purpose here is to not express pessimism about 2021. Rather, it is to highlight the truth expressed in the song that misery tends to persist for extremely long periods of time.

The idea that misery persists may seem contrary to the idea that everything changes, including good times and bad times. However, that would be a premature conclusion. It is true that everything changes, but things change at different rates of time. For example, while it is true that the darkest periods of our history eventually led to times of happiness and prosperity, but it is also true that those darkest periods often lasted for centuries. In other words, several generations of people have lived through miserable times; things changed, but not in their lifetimes. We cannot and should not passively hope that things will get better for us, now that we are starting a new year or a new decade. When stated explicitly, it is clear to all of us that passively hoping for things to get better is foolish, but all of us engage in such self-deception.

So, the point of this post (and the song) is to remind you (and myself) to take matters into one's own hands. You may be a person who is not miserable, but all of us, irrespective of how well or poorly we are doing, have areas of life that could benefit from improvement or even a major overhaul. So, I hope the song and this post inspires you to take ownership of your life, as it has for me. [The use of the word "hope" in my previous sentence may seem ironical, given that I criticized hope as a passive form of self-deception in the previous paragraph. However, understand that I can only take responsibility for myself, not for you. I can only hope for you.]

If we go by statistics, at least a quarter of the people who had made New Year's resolutions have already faltered on it. This should not be interpreted as we being incorrigible. Rather, it should be a time to reflect on why we faltered and what we can do to move forward despite having faltered. In my next post, I will share some specific tips on what to bounce back from such small but significant disappointments on the path of self-transformation.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

To do or not to do: Reflection on New Year's Resolutions

It was the New Year of 1993. I was a freshman in the Zoology department of Ravenshaw College. Our senior students had arranged a party to welcome us, freshmen. I remember some of my classmates being a little anxious before the party because ragging was common at such events. I don't think anyone was expecting things to turn too nasty at the party because the event was happening on the department premises where our professors would be around. Still, I think there was some apprehension in the air because most people don't enjoy being put in the spotlight and laughed at for social gaffes.

In any case, the reason I am recollecting this New Year party from 28 years ago is that it was a significant turning point in my life. The party was my first ever party away from home and parents, but more importantly, I aced the party. I don't remember what my mental state was before the party--I might have been a little anxious as well--but I do remember enjoying the party thoroughly and coming out of it more confident and happy than I was before.

The thing is that our seniors had a two-prong method of ridiculing us. One was to ask questions which we would likely fail to answer, and second, to give us tasks that we would either be too shy to attempt or fumble if we did try them. As luck would have it, they asked me to sing, which because of my music background, I could easily impress them with. Then they asked me a couple of riddles, which again, as luck would have it, I was familiar with, so I could give them the correct answers. Then, they asked me to pick a girl in the room and propose to her. By this time, the small wins had already given me enough confidence to deal with the challenge. I picked a girl whom I knew well enough to trust that she would take this in the playful spirit and wouldn't be upset for putting her in the spot. So, the proposal scene turned out great as well, leading to a good amount of applause.

Finally, one of the seniors asked me about my New Year resolutions. I was a person committed to personal development even then, so I indeed had made some New Year resolutions, but I didn't want to share them publicly. Thankfully, there was enough adrenaline in my system to think on my feet, and I replied, "I just made one resolution. [Pause] That is to NOT make any New Year resolutions... because most New Year resolutions fail anyway. [Another pause, and a wink] You never know, I may have already failed on mine too." The delivery of those lines with those appropriate pauses had enough of a dramatic effect to crack everyone up. I was now a cool guy in the department.

But then as luck would have it, a certain turn of unfortunate events--which would be another story for another time--led me to leave Ravenshaw College after a month or so, and I did not get much opportunity to leverage those positive impressions I had created at that New Year's day party.

The purpose of sharing the above story was not to boast about some accomplishments from 28 years ago (Okay, maybe a little 😂). But, the primary reason I shared the story is that it provides context to certain life lessons that I have gained pertaining to New Year resolutions. In this post, I will focus on Lesson 1 (More in later posts).

Lesson 1: New Year's resolutions are unrealistically optimistic, but still, they have their uses.

We see two kinds of thoughts shared about New Year resolutions. One is that they are stupid and a complete waste. People subscribing to this viewpoint will make fun of you when they hear about you making New Year resolutions. There is sufficient validity to this viewpoint because there are numerous studies demonstrating the extremely high failure rate of New Year resolutions. For example, one of the studies found that people, on average, make the same New Year resolution 10 times. That means they have failed at sticking to their resolution 10 times!

The second view is that the New Year and the corresponding resolutions are a great opportunity to reconfigure ourselves into a better and improved version of ourselves. There is certainly less empirical support for this point of view, but it is true that many people, although they are a small minority, do succeed in changing their lives for the better with New Year's resolutions.

I have fluctuated between these two extreme points of view in the past, but over the years, I have come to realize the truth lies somewhere in between. It is easy to make fun of people making New Year's resolutions. "How can people be so stupid to not realize that they will most likely fail, if not in a few days, then in a few weeks or months?" The failure rate here is certainly high, but it is high in many other endeavors as well, entrepreneurship, for instance. Yet, we don't make fun of failed entrepreneurs. We may even admire their courage for having tried their hands at entrepreneurial ventures. My point is that there is no value in making fun of somebody only because of the high failure rate. In fact, such derision may often be a cognitive defensive mechanism for people to play it safe and not try things themselves.

Personally, I have benefited immensely from New Year resolutions, even though I too have failed to stick to them for long periods of time. Let's say, my New Year resolution was to exercise 5 times per week and let's say I could sustain this resolution only for a month. That would count as a failure in a research study, but that is still one full month of healthy physical activities that I would not have engaged in had I not made the resolution because of harboring pessimistic views about New Year's resolutions.

Yes, I have failed in my resolutions and repeatedly so, but over the years, I have gotten better at keeping them for longer periods of time. Most importantly, I have even succeeded in creating an "improved" version of myself, despite these failures. Going back to the example of fitness, despite my repeated failures, I have evolved as a fitter individual than many of my friends and acquaintances who did not set such resolutions for fear of failing at them.

That is why I would say that it is wise to set resolutions than to not. But being happy by comparing oneself with those who did not attempt to change themselves is setting a pretty low bar. In my next post, I will start sharing tips on what can be done to reduce the failure rate of New Year's resolutions such that one can move faster on the path of self-improvement and achieve substantial goals in life.

... To be Continued.