Why are we rich but hopeless

1/ The world is more materially abundant than ever, we’ve eliminated several diseases, lifted millions out of poverty.

Yet, people aren’t reporting higher levels of meaning or happiness than before.

via Sustainable Degrowth Through More Amateur Economy

2/ Why is this happening? Rising income or material abundance does not automatically lead to a higher satisfaction. And not just at a global level, but also at a personal level. Why?

3/ What’s happening is nothing new. Humanity has always sold to itself the idea of progress. Any idea of progress, because it comes from our linear thinking, is always unidimensional but life is incomprehensibly multidimensional. ...  Read the entire post →

Life is fractal, but markets are square

I recently read Venkat’s synopsis of the book Seeing like a state, which I followed up by an excellent blog post titled The Meridian of Her Greatness. Venkat challenged people to summarize the most important ideas from that post in a tweetstorm. He said if it gets more than 100 likes, on Twitter he’ll give away $1. I thought it was a fair deal, so here’s my attempt to distill some of the ideas into a visual essay.

1/ When humans wield their power in the world, they are limited by the linear nature of their thinking. The best example of this linearization is the top-down planning of modern suburbs. Contrast this with how nations and states emerged in a bottom-up fashion. ...  Read the entire post →

The meaning of life is unthinkable

What’s the meaning of life?

This question has haunted me for as far as my memory goes. Fourteen years ago – in 2005, when I was 18 – I wrote on my blog:

Purpose/Aim of life

First things first. Everybody says one should have some definite aim in life. But I consider living life to live, nothing else. Consider this, nobody lives after their death. So why waste ur whole life chasing an aim? Even if you get there. I mean even if you achieve so called aim, what next? Enjoyment or yet another aim? Enjoyment is OK. But there are many other ways in which u can enjoy ur life without wasting ur life in chasing an aim. No matter what, U are going to live. I don’t know if I am making any sense. But it is what I want to convey. ...  Read the entire post →

Modes of living

One of the many wonderful things about life is that like a good game, it allows players to develop their own playing styles. This essay is an attempt to document the two most salient dimensions of playing the game of life. Note that there’s no objectively right way of playing and the lack of “best practices” is what makes living interesting.

Think of the following classifications as an example of meta-mental models. Hopefully, a good understanding of the modes of living will help you reflect how you play right now and how you want to play in future. ...  Read the entire post →

How to get rich by investing your savings

I’ve recently relooked at my personal portfolio and realized I have a thing or two to say about investments. So here it goes:

1/ For goodness’s sake, do NOT keep your money lying in a savings account or do a fixed deposit (FD).

We generally inherit this financial laziness from parents. You can do better than them, no?

2/ Realise that you are actively *burning* money in FDs / savings account.

If you incorporate inflation and tax on interest income, your corpus is likely getting smaller every passing day.

3/ What if I told you that a couple of hours invested in pushing some buttons online can give you 13x the returns that you get from FDs...  Read the entire post →

What Gita teaches us and what it doesn’t

1/ I recently finished Menon’s translation of Bhagavad Gita, the holy book of Hindus. There’s a lot to like about it, but it leaves a few issues unresolved.

Here are my notes.

2/ The story revolves around the warrior Arjuna who faces conflict during a war with his cousins. He simply cannot bring himself to kill the people he grew up with. So he tells his charioteer, Krishna, that he’d rather die than go to war.

3/ This conflict is used as a backdrop by Krishna, who actually is an incarnation of God, to reveal the truth of the world to Arjuna. The ideas and concepts in Gita are consistent with other Hindu philosophies and ideas.

4/ The key philosophical teaching in Gita is that the human soul is one with Brahmana, the ultimate God. However, that soul is embodied and unaware that it is one with God.

5/ So, the body must go through Samsara, the cycle of birth and rebirth until it realizes its oneness. Gita stresses that the real condition is of non-separateness. That only Brahmana exists that’s beyond time, space and quality.

6/ It’s only because of Maya, the illusion, that it seems reality consists of separate beings (souls). This idea was expressed in Ramayana as well when Hanuman meets Ram.

7/ Krishna tells Arjun that each soul has a karmic accounting going on. If after death, there’s positive karma, souls are sent to heaven where they enjoy until they end up using all their balance and then they’re sent back to the Earth.

8/ If the karmic balance is negative, souls get reborn as ‘lower’ creatures.

9/ The only way to get free of this constant cycle of birth and rebirth is by

seeking a zero balance of karma while being alive ...  Read the entire post →

What is truth?

A tweet-thread like micro-blog on a topic that I’ve been obsessing over lately.

1/ Whenever someone says “this is true”, or “I’m a truth-seeker”, ask them to first define truth. (Or if you’re asking this question, answer what evidence will constitute truth for you).

2/ Getting a hold of the definition being used for truth is especially important when talking about complex systems like business, politics, economics, ecology or essentially any field where you usually can’t just read error-free data from a well-isolated system.

3/ This privilege of substituting data with the truth is mostly available only to physicists. But even there, interpretations of truth can be widely debated – is 5-sigma a good enough threshold for declaring the Higgs boson to be true? Well, it’s anybody’s guess.

4/ The word ‘truth’ is bothersome because it’s ill-defined. If something is ‘true’, it won’t be debated. If something is debated but is ‘true’, how would you differentiate ‘truth’ from ‘falsity’? You’d use your subjective judgment to assess the evidence and then make that distinction. If you’d do that, so will everybody else and they can arrive at an opposite conclusion. (Much to your chagrin, they usually do). How can your truth be different from someone else’s truth?

5/ As you can see,

this ‘truth’ business is a slippery slope. I’d much rather prefer to use the word ‘satisfaction’ ...  Read the entire post →

You cannot plan for happiness (but you can discover it)

Most of our waking moments are spent either doing things that we expect will make us happy or trying to be happy. It’s like happiness is a currency and we want to hoard it as much as we can, as fast as we can. But the more we chase happiness, the less we’re able to get it. Yet if we momentarily forget about our desire to be happy, we find ourselves to be happy.

Before dissecting this contradictory nature of happiness, it’ll help to first define happiness. Everyone has their pet definition of happiness and each dictionary will define it in its own way. There’s no United Nations mandate specifying ingredients for happiness. It seems that happiness is hard to pin down and, as you’ll see, that’s precisely why you cannot plan for happiness.

The happiness paradox

Happiness is fundamentally an emotional feeling. You see, we feel happy. If happiness was a physical object located somewhere in our 4D spacetime, we could have sent space missions to find it and bring it back to us. If happiness was an idea, we could have ordered a book on Amazon and wrote reviews about it. If happiness was a person, we could marry it and be done for life. But happiness is none of it. If we knew what happiness was and how to get it, the entire self-help industry would have been long bankrupt. Yet the market for heres-how-you-get-happy is thriving because we’re suckers for happiness.

What I find most paradoxical about happiness is that we often think about it. Thinking is a process where we state some assumptions and work through their implications. Thinking is full of biases and is limited in its capacity (we aren’t able to store more than a couple of assumptions in our working memory). Thinking works best when there are a few variables involved. You’re fine thinking about whether Socrates is mortal (or discovering quantum mechanics), but you’re not ok thinking about how the future will unfold because it has far too many variables than what you can hold in your head.

Emotional feelings like love, disgust or happiness are a product of millions of years of evolution of our mind. There’s no single thing or principle that makes us happy. There’s no grand unified theory of happiness. Yet, we deploy our thinking hats trying to plan for a happier life. Thinking is significantly underpowered for this simulation: how our body and mind will react to billions of combinations of ingredients that make up our daily life and its context.

Miswanting: wanting things that won’t make you happy

There’s an idea in psychology called miswanting. It’s the difficulty we have in predicting what’ll make us happy. Here’s a simple example to illustrate miswanting. Suppose you think a beach holiday will make you happy. Since thinking is linear and full of biases, what leaps to your mind is pristine beaches, sun, beer and perhaps good food. Feeling pleasant and excited, you book your tickets. When the day arrives, you discover that the flight is delayed, or there was a cranky baby in the flight. Or when you reach the hotel, you find out that you forgot to pack sandals. On the beach, you get irritated by all the sand that’s stuck on your feet. There are tourists everywhere. It’s loud. Sun is harsher than you thought.

When you’re planning for a holiday (or any other experience you expect to derive happiness from), you obviously cannot think of all the nuances that’ll ruin the experience you planned for ...  Read the entire post →

Writing is defragging brain

I write for myself.

I write when there’s an incredibly hard idea that I need to teach myself. I write when I have a glimpse of an insight that’ll remain hidden until caught and penned down. Writing is a way of having long conversations with myself.

Sometimes I use the double column technique to reason out emotions. Every day I do garbage collection in my mind and dump it on a todo list. I maintain two dairies: one for distilled insights from stuff I’m reading and thinking about, and the second for rough sketches and workings.

Ideas are vague, floating and ephemeral. Putting them on a piece of paper (or up on a blog) makes them concrete and bundle them in a crystal-shape that you can show to other people.

Speaking and talking is cheap and usually off-the-record. Writing things makes them official – your claims are then on the record, so writing forces you think better.

Most good ideas are nuanced. There are a thousand caveats associated with anything worth talking about. These caveats – spoken – will bore the listener. Unspoken, they will misguide the listener (especially, if that listener is you). Writing gives you the ability to take all those caveats and convey them in a powerful and cohesive whole.

Some people prefer a one-line summary. They prefer fortune-cookie sized wisdom. But good things come with an effort. That’s why I like to read and write long, well-argued essays, full with a gazzilian caveats, sparking a bazzilian consequent ideas.

Good writing should be done first and foremost for oneself. Good writing should be done every time the mind is overloaded with activity arising either due to confusion or insight.

Write well, and write often because it’ll help you think confidently. Treat writing as an extension of your mind, so you can either discard things you don’t need by writing stuff on disposable pages, or crystallize ideas that aren’t letting you sleep well by putting them on a blog.

Inverted Passion 2018 in Review

Last year in December, I decided to take two months off for a sabbatical. What I wanted to do in that period was to write a book on my experience and learnings bootstrapping Wingify to a multi-million dollar SaaS company. What I ended up doing is starting this blog and a community around it. A year later, it’s a perfect time to reflect on this thing which was never planned to be.

Inverted Passion in Numbers

  • Members in the Slack community: 446
  • Sessions on  the blog: 190 per day
  • Unique visits to the blog (in one year): 45,000

Best Posts of Inverted Passion

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Most Retweeted Threads

I think the future generations will look at the lack of universal basic income and the extent of wealth inequality in the same way we look at slavery.

Just like we now ask how could you ‘own’ another human, they will ask: how could you let a human die out of hunger? ...  Read the entire post →