How to be a messy thinker

I love thinking about thinking. Give me a research paper on rationality, cognitive biases or mental models, and I’ll gobble it up. Given the amount of knowledge I’ve ingested on these topics, I had always assumed that I’m a clear thinker.

Recently, though, it hit me like a lightning strike that this belief is counter-productive. That’s because is you “know” that you’re a clear thinker, you’re less likely to suspect that you might be missing something big in your thought process. After all, if you are convinced that you think clearly by default, why would you put in any extra effort to scrutinize your thought process? ...  Read the entire post →

A primer on dopamine

1/ I recently made notes on the book “Hooked” but wasn’t satisfied by the depth of explanation in it.

2/ I wanted to get down into neuroscience of habit-forming products and that inevitably lead me to the (in)famous neurotransmitter dopamine.

3/ Before we dive into what dopamine does, let’s first make one thing clear: dopamine does NOT generate pleasurable feelings. (In fact, it is the other way around – pleasurable feelings generate dopamine)

The neural circuits that lead us to “liking” are separate from the circuits that generate “wanting”...  Read the entire post →

Review of 2023

Time is strange – 2023 simultaneously felt too long and too short. It was short because I remember recently writing my 2022 review, and it was long because I ended up packing a lot of stuff into it.

✅ Train 5 days a week (including Mixed Martial Arts)

I did manage to train 5 days per week (at least for the latter part of the year). Training every weekday has become a habit now, and it’s something I wish to never give up on.

And yes, it’s three days of strength training and two days of MMA!

✅ Got myself a tattoo!

I’m endlessly fascinated by the concept of time, and how one can never grab it still. Time starts when we become aware of it, and ends with death. So, in many ways, we’re nothing but time.  ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from the book “Hooked”

I re-read the book Hooked by Nir Eyal and these are my notes.

1/ The key question that the book answers is: how to make habit-forming products. And its answer is a model that involves four stages: a) trigger; b) action; c) variable reward; d) investment

2/ Why should products be habit-forming? It’s because only those products that become part of someone’s daily life go on to become valuable. So, whether a product has habit formation potential is a leading indicator for whether the product will turn out to be valuable. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes on how Facebook ads work

I was studying Facebook ads system for Nintee, made some notes that you might find useful.

  • Facebook ads work through auction: each ad opportunity has an auction, the winner of which is decided by total value, which is So in this case, your ad will be shown to more people if
    • You have a higher bid
    • Or, more people are likely to take action that you care about
    • Or, the quality of ad is high (not spammy etc)
    • Bidding is mostly automatic by Facebook, and the way it does for maximizing results is that it starts with low bids but then gradually increases it ads don’t end up winning the auction (i.e. has lower total value) Let’s say you have two products: a) highly attractive cake (low cost and super yummy) and b) broccoli, and both are competing for the auction
      • If the objective is to find the highest volume for a given total cost (let’s say Rs 1000)
        • FB will start with low bids for both, and since more people are likely to click on the cake ad, its estimated action rate will go up and for the same bid, it will end up winning the auction
        • The only way for the broccoli ad to win an action is to increase the bid
        • So given a fixed budget Rs 1000, the cost per click of broccoli ad will be much higher than for cake (purely because more people are interested in cake v/s broccoli)
        This is why running ads for a concept before building it could give an honest signal of its attractiveness
        • Since Facebook always tries to give maximum value to advertiser and the most relevant ads to its users, you can imagine it as a matchmaking machine that minimizes the cost it takes for advertisers to reach a relevant audience
        • So, a low cost per action from FB ads tells you clearly that a significant number of people are going to find it attractive

        A good analogy to understand all this is to think about is a game: ...  Read the entire post →

Notes on how Supercell is run

Supercell, the company behind the massively popular Clash of Clans game, has one of the highest valuation per employee figures out there: they’re valued at $32mn per employee. That’s insane! How do they do it?

Via The World’s Most Valuable Per Employee Company: Supercell

1/ What struck me is the sheer number of games they kill each year?

They seem to be killing 9 games for each game they release. Some of these games have been in development for years, and have the potential to be in the top 25 games worldwide. And, yet, they get killed.

2/ Why are they killed? It’s because these games don’t meet their internal benchmarks (primary of which is 30-day retention).  ...  Read the entire post →

The Anti-Productivity Manifesto

After a barrage of recommendations on my twitter, I finally ended up reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks. The central premise of the book is simple: everyone has got about four thousand weeks to live, and spending that limited time chasing efficiency is wrongheaded.

The message seems old. The entire self-help industry revolves around saying variations of it. Stay in the present. Enjoy the moment. Seize the day. But where the book differs from the rest is that it’s both poetic and philosophical. It’s the kind of the book that, once you finish, you end up mumbling: gosh, I should have written it...  Read the entire post →

Notes from “Ogilvy on Advertising”

This one is a dated book – it describes advertising in the age when digital channels didn’t exist. But that doesn’t make it irrelevant.

Rather, the basic principles that made a great ad in the TV/print era remain the same. Consumer psychology is shaped by a million years of evolution, so while mediums change, what makes people buy stuff doesn’t.

A beautiful book!

My notes from the book

How to work with an agency

  • Leaf through the medium you’re interested in and see which ads strike you the most
  • Find out who made those ads
  • Talk to their head and creative director
  • Ask them to give their best ads
  • Go with the one who appeal you the most

Principles of writing headlines

  • Spend a lot of time getting the headline right (5 times more people read it vs copy)
  • Headline should promise the reader a clear benefit
  • News style headlines work (introducing, amazing, now, suddenly)
  • Include brand name in headline (most people don’t read copy and wouldn’t know what product is being advertised)
  • Personalise. If a product targets certain people, put a word in the headline to address them.
  • Specifics work better than generics.
  • Helpful information work great as headline (e.g. how to do xyz).
  • Don’t put full stops in headlines, as they stop the reader.
  • Use a standard font that everyone can read easily (those that people are accustomed to reading)
  • Drama belongs to what you say, not in the typeface.

Principles of illustrations

  • The job of illustrations is to catch interest while the reader is leafing, though. It should inspire curiosity (what’s going on), that the copy will answer.
  • Photos work better than drawings.
  • Keep illustrations simple (one person)
  • Before and after ads work great
  • People notice advertisements that feature models of their own sex only (men notice men, while women notice women)
  • More people read captions under images than copy, so always put captions under images. The caption should include brand name and promise.

Principles of copy

  • Write in story format (hook people)
  • Write in everyday language (simple words)
  • Don’t use analogies (people don’t understand)
  • Don’t use celebrities (people remember them, not the product)
  • Include the price always (people move on when they don’t know the price)
  • Long copy works better than short copy (as the more facts you tell, the more you sell), but with long copy, the first paragraph should be a grabber (and not generic)
  • A subheadline helps whet the appetite for the copy
  • Limit opening paragraph to 11 words


  • Readers first look at illustration, then at headline, then at copy (so put them in that order)
  • Headlines below illustration are read by 10% more than headlines above illustration
  • Advertisements shouldn’t look like ads (they should look like editorial)


  • Copy what’s working (don’t innovate until you have a better idea)
  • Pretend you’re an editor (not an ad creator) and you’ll get more sign-ups
  • Never set copy in black background over white (they’re hard to read)

Posters ...  Read the entire post →

How to change habits

What’s the most effective way to change habits?

I’ve been diving deep into this topic lately, and here’s what I’ve learned. Relied mainly on two sources:

Why habits are important?

Habits allow for certain actions to happen by default whenever a certain context/cue is encountered. You wake up and you brush your teeth. It’s not something you do with any cognitive load. It just happens.

This automaticity of habits makes them powerful because you can pretty much rely on you executing the actions you’re habitual to. For example, research has found out that healthy eaters don’t inhibit themselves in front of unhealthy snacks. Instead, they simply eat better and exercise without conscious thought. That’s the power of habits. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from the book: “The Spike”

Recently finished “The Spike: An Epic Journey Through The Brain in 2.1 Seconds” by Mark Humphries and here are my notes from it.

1/ As the book’s subtitle suggests, it’s about the neural code our brain uses for doing what it does.

The book is rich with details and I learned a lot of new facts and ideas about the brain. I highly recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in neuroscience.

2/ Since writing about an object as complex as the brain can fill encyclopedias, I will focus my notes on what I know now that I didn’t know before reading the book. ...  Read the entire post →