Project Happiness

Our “big” annual vacation typically happens around May-June. But at least six months of preparation precedes it, and my levels of preparation (which D has now been almost coerced into) might be considered way too orchestrated for practical purposes. My defense is that in all probability, this would be the only time we visit the place, so I’d like to make it as hassle-free as possible. Also, the fear of missing out.

As a species, we are uniquely capable of projecting our future in our own minds. My plan is supposed to make us happy. The expectations are already set. And that means that things can go wrong in many ways. For instance, things might not go as planned because of events outside of my control. Or we see other possibilities once we’re in a place but we’ve already committed to our plans in terms of time/money/emotions! More

..the question remains

It has been more than a couple of years since I wrote on the subject of planning – the acceptance of destiny vs free will in The Uncertainty Principles and the balance between change and stasis in its follow up. In my mind, the debate continues to rage, with flash points on a regular basis, thanks to various life scenarios and the things I read. I also realised that the recent narrative posts (1,2) are also a different way of framing this debate. Like I wrote in the posts, some narratives are already chosen for us, and some we choose, but these are all our attempts to fulfill our sense of belonging. In other words, our endeavour to find the reason for our existence – our purpose. Does one find it by working towards something or by dealing with life on a real time basis?

A few days back, I read an article in HBR titled “It takes purpose to be a billionaire“, in which the author classifies ‘purpose’ into three buckets. Not that everyone’s idea of ‘purpose’ is to become a billionaire, but this is very clearly a planned path to achieve something that contributes to the sense of purpose. While the article does not mention it, the category I have always wondered about consists of people who have followed their passion – sports people, artists etc who have worked on a skill and honed it to near perfection. A very interesting perspective I read on that premise is the Scott Adams’ “Practice and Genes“, which takes a look at the theories on the subject and finally states that the critical element is luck. The most important skill involved in success is knowing how and when to switch to a game with better odds for you.

Which brings me back to purpose and how we find it, and my introspection. “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes” ~ Carl Jung. (via) I thought about the ‘living in the moment’ perspective that finds a place in Buddhism texts and several other works of wisdom. At first, I thought it supported the destiny and real time approach, specially because it is difficult not to have baggage associated with the plans one makes. (literally and otherwise!) But then I realised that it was less to do with the planning aspect and more to do with how we deal with scenarios. Even if one works on a plan, how one deals with a setback to it is where the advice has value. In essence, that won’t help solve the debate.


There are profound statements that support both ways of looking at it. I continue to rack my brains to find the path that will fit me, or make it. I think there is an element of subjectivity involved. That does not make the job easier, in fact, it probably makes it tougher. After all, “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” Lao Tzu

until next time, the clock ticks away in real time

That’s the plan for now

This ‘what could have been’ post on FB Platform and the broader theme of ‘move fast, break things’ made me think about planning – brand as well as business, how technology is reshaping it, and the fine balance that is required to ensure business growth goes hand in hand with retaining the trust of the ecosystem.

Brand planning has always been an interest area, and I’ve had the good fortune of knowing a few brilliant planners, and learning what I could from them. Still continue to. A simple search would throw up a number of planning frameworks, and many of the fundamentals would still hold.  However, technology is throwing open more options in terms of manifestation/output. I found some good perspectives in this article which is about that CMOs can learn from technologists. The fundamental theme is dynamism. But such are the challenges that they remind me of We are trapped in our inadequate mental models ~ John Edwarrd Huth (via)

I’d think that brand narratives are (also) shaped by the story telling devices at their disposal. As Mitch Joel points out here, the nuances of marketing vs advertising need to be understood as brands struggle to transition from the mass advertising era. One-way media allowed a linear flow, but current platforms demand flexibility, and customised rendition across contexts and platforms. If consumers are the new media, the stories should be ones that they can identify with, fit into their personal narratives, and therefore inclined to share.

Many of the familiar narrative devices have focused on getting attention, but that is increasingly difficult. It’s not that ‘awareness’ can be ignored, but not only is it not enough, but attention for the sake of itself cannot work. I really liked this post (again by Paul Isakson) where he encapsulates the thought in the title itself Adding Value > Getting Attention. The > works not just as ‘greater than’ but also as ‘leads to’. Or, in other words, Be the Company Customers can’t Live Without.

In a highly fragmented media and consumption scenario, how does a brand/business know what to focus on and when to shift from it?A wonderful blog I have discovered recently is that of Paul Isakson. This post, for instance, throws light on the need for the brand to stay true to its own story, and therefore focus on specific audiences. Another of my favourite posts focuses on something that I have always believed in and liked – the back story, and its relevance for brands. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow ~ Buddha

To get there involves a cultural change, and tectonic shifts. I also think that this will force brands to think about scale. In a mass media world, a brand could get ‘reach’ by throwing money. That can still be done, even on social platforms, but when attention is not the only thing that matters, the challenge is to build relevancy and scale it – across time. That requires new planning frameworks, and possibly means a



We started with FB, so let’s go full circle. Even as late as last year, there was massive skepticism around Facebook’s ability to adapt and thrive in the mobile space. In the last earnings call, they reported that mobile had contributed 41% to revenue. (read) It would seem that Facebook knew its story, what to focus on,  and stuck to it.

until next time, refresh

Friendship grants

In Rediff’s review of Kai Po Che, there’s a line that goes “Quoting from Bollywood, impromptu excursions and taking each other for granted without guilt is the prerogative of buddy-dom,…” That’s probably arguable, but if it is right, I now understand why my buddy count has been low since inception.

The first – excursions – I think, can be handled. That’s despite my obsession with planning. :) The second is a completely different story though. I hate taking people for granted and if I end up doing it and realising it later, I get guilt pangs even after apologising. It probably comes from the premise that I hate being taken for granted and thus the “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” gets applied. More

A larger plan

Most of everyone who knows me would agree that I am a compulsive planner. This habit has been reinforced on several occasions when I have been better prepared than others in situations. However, I also believe that it is quite a trade-off – between the safety of knowing in advance what to expect and the thrill and joy of leaving oneself open to an experience. The middle path is quite difficult to achieve in this case.

That was why I was very intrigued by the phrase – Negative Capabilitythe willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity. From experience, it is forced upon us too. The best laid plans can go awry often because even the best of minds cannot sometimes envision every possible scenario. That’s not the only time I have been humbled by the limitations of the human mind. From something as simple as understanding what’s really going on in another person’s mind (not to mention my own understanding of my mind) even as they tell you things to larger questions on purpose and destiny, we’d be fools to think that we can know the mechanism of everything around us.

But as humanity progresses, is there a tendency to convert everything to science, or a skill/process that anyone so inclined can master? As we discover more, I wonder if there is a collective ego that develops and one that says we can understand and control everything around us. As a race, are we becoming increasingly intolerant towards uncertainty?

But as this post says, the idea that the current version of our mind is only one step in evolution is very compelling. I wonder if, by increasingly closing our mind to uncertainty, we are moving in a direction opposite the one that will help us solve the greatest puzzle of it all – why are we here?

until next time, what’s your plan?