May 27, 2022

Book Review: Everything is f*cked by Mark Manson

 I read Mark Manson's "The subtle art of not giving a f*ck" last Sept. It was hard-hitting and clarified a lot of niggling questions in me. I loved the book and I'd re-read it soon.

The author's second book "Everything is f*cked - A book about Hope" is yet another hard-hitting one, questioning many of our preconditioned beliefs. He starts with the importance of hope in our lives and how it helps us to deal with the Uncomfortable Truth. As he expands on the factors that bring hope, the chapter on self-control was full of brilliant insights. He correlates our Consciousness to a car. There can only be a single driver, who takes decisions on which direction to go, where to take a left/right turn, when to stop etc - is this driver our Thinking brain or Feeling brain? I was honestly surprised by the answer. The author says, "The Feeling brain drives our Consciousness Car because ultimately, we are moved to action only by emotion." He also reiterates, "Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason, but rather, of emotion".

He then goes on to explain different concepts that attempt to provide Hope and their associated pitfalls - religion, ideology, extreme lifestyles, and our values. He then makes a convincing argument on why we shouldn't be relying on Hope in the first place - "Hope depends on the rejection of what currently is". A similar thought I read in J Krishnamurti's books as well.

Another powerful chapter for me was the "Feelings economy" where the author declares that the world runs on one thing - feelings. It was super interesting to read about how ideas and diversions that help people to avoid or numb their pain are the reason behind the psychological fragility of the present generation.

A few of my favorite lines:

"The opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference."

"Values cannot be changed through reason, only through experience."

"Rituals are visual and experiential representations of what we deem important."

"The only logical way to improve the world is through improving ourselves - by growing up and becoming more virtuous"

"There is an always a separation between what we experience and how we interpret that experience"

"Don't hope for better. Just be better"

The individual chapters made a lot of sense in isolation, but I couldn't find the connection as a whole or understand how certain topics within each chapter are linked to Hope. It is certainly denser and heavier, as compared to his earlier book.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of takeaways and aha moments for me. And I'd highly recommend you to check out this book.

May 23, 2022

What do you value?

 A few months back, I came across a post from Dr. Nicole LePera (the holistic psychologist). She stated that our triggers are our best teachers. It was an amazing insight that left such a deep impact on me.

Triggers help us to identify what we value the most. For eg, I get triggered quite a bit when someone schedules a meeting at a particular time but delays without informing me in advance. What do I value in this scenario? Time and Respect.

I also get triggered when someone in my family wastes a resource (food, water, money, reusable stuff). What do I value in this scenario? Effective use of resources and opportunity cost incurred in procuring the same.

Once this awareness came in, I started noting down the triggers and my associated values. This exercise helped me understand myself a little deeper.

The trade-offs we make in every decision also help to determine our values and the order in which we rank them. For eg, if I get triggered by a family member for wasting food, I'm making a trade-off in my reaction to them - relationship vs effective use of the resource. 

Also, some of our daily lifestyle choices could mean valuing instant gratification over long-term health (or vice-versa).

Another realization hit me harder when I observed how elderly members get triggered or affected by situations more strongly.

Values are like seeds in our 20s and 30s. The more we value something, the more it takes deep roots and determines our quality of life in our 60s and 70s. For eg, if a person values himself as superior to other family members/relatives, he continues to act that way in his adulthood. The value gets deep-rooted and when he hits his 60s/70s, he wants to assert the same superiority over others.

This makes it all the more important to identify our values in our 20s and 30s and analyze whether they are life-serving or life-crippling. If we find that certain values aren't going to help us in the long run OR they contradict one another, then we can gently wean ourselves off by reasoning.

We don't need to invest a lot of time and effort into this exercise. Gaining an awareness of our values is a good start.

May 20, 2022

When does a person become responsible?

My uncle visited me after many years. And this is the first time he tasted my home-cooked food. He was very appreciative and said, "romba nalla pannirukke" ("You have prepared well") after every meal. He was also pleasantly surprised to hear that I make all spice powders and staples at home. His perception of me was based on his earlier interactions with me as a child, a teenager, and a young adult. But I have changed a LOT in the past 10 years. As I was thinking about what changed in me, the answer that popped immediately was "taking on more responsibilities".

I have always been a responsible person with respect to my studies and career, but on health, family, cooking, and other home-related aspects, it started only after D was born.

When does a person become responsible?

"Responsibility comes automatically when there are no alternatives/options".

I expected a few people from my family to support/guide me when I had just delivered D. But I ended up disappointed when I didn't get the help I needed. Some of the comments and behaviors left such a deep scar, that even after 10 years, the pent-up feelings and unresolved emotions make me more resentful towards them.

Resentment affects my emotional state and it does not affect the other parties in any way. I wanted to get rid of this resentment for the sake of my mental peace and move on. My feeling brain understands this but my thinking brain wants a logical explanation to connect the dots. And I think I finally found a convincing answer.

As I didn't get the support that I expected, I didn't have any other alternative but to make myself responsible and independent in those areas that were new to me - raising a child, planning and cooking meals, managing home and kitchen, taking care of my health.

IF I had gotten the support from other family members, I may not have learned or gotten the hands-on experience in these areas. I might have blindly trusted the parenting ways that others advocated without questioning them. I might not have prioritized working on these responsibilities. I may not have developed an interest and passion for food, nutrition, and wellness.

I now feel grateful to them for NOT providing any alternatives at that point, that helped me become more responsible. I could now feel my resentment and grudge having faded. Everything happens for a reason. Every person comes into our lives for a reason.

May 18, 2022

Energy management

 Energy - the word, the feeling, the concept that I'm super curious about.

Spend an hour with a person who laughs, smiles, exudes a lot of love, actively listens and shares interesting insights, and shows mutual respect for everyone and everything - you feel energized at the end of the hour.

Spend 15 minutes with a person who criticizes you for who you are, blames everyone and everything, has a grumpy face, feels entitled, and is egoistic - your energy is zapped within a few minutes of interacting with such a person.

Our energies not only get impacted by others in our day-to-day interactions but also by our thoughts, words, and actions. For the past couple of days, I felt exhausted and drained. My quick energy charger is to go for a walk on the terrace, but the continuous rains spoiled all chances to step outside my home. Instead of resisting the feeling, I accepted that I was low on energy and took it easy.

As I woke up this morning, I felt a sudden rush of energy through my nerves. It felt like my battery got fully charged after a good night's sleep. My mind was racing with a bunch of todos to complete. My hands were busy, cooking breakfast and lunch, multitasking with all three stove burners ON. As I was quickly chopping a raw banana into small cubes for a dry curry, I accidentally cut my left thumb with a sharp knife. Blood was oozing out, it was a deep cut. I washed my hand a few times and then K helped me with a band-aid. I sat down for a few minutes and took a few deep breaths.

As I pondered over what happened, I realized that there was no need for me to rush through this morning. I could have sat down for a few minutes and jotted down all thoughts and todos rushing into my mind (thought dump technique).

After slowly winding up the remaining kitchen work, I ate my breakfast and then did a 30-minute guided meditation. It felt so relaxing and I could feel that my mind had slowed down.

This experience taught me an important lesson - 

"It is not about how much energy we have or don't have. What matters is how we manage our energy. Energy management is more crucial than time management. Understand how the energy reserve can be sustained throughout the day, instead of exhausting it in quick bursts by overdoing or multitasking."

May 13, 2022

Book Review: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

 This book often pops up as a recommendation by bookstagrammers and so I was curious to read it. And I must say it didn't disappoint. It is a short, easy-to-read 130 pager. The author succinctly conveys four guiding principles that lead to personal freedom. These are based on wisdom passed down from the Toltec philosophers of Mexico.

The four agreements though might sound simple, are extremely impactful when practiced on a daily basis.
  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don't take anything personally
  • Don't make assumptions
  • Always do your best
As the author explains the context behind each of these agreements, I'm sure most of us would nod our heads as these are relatable to our lives and situations we have faced.

Apart from these agreements, the one idea that made a strong impact on me was about the domestication of humans and our belief system. The author correlates our beliefs to a Book of Law that rules our mind. The inner Judge uses this Book of Law to judge everything we think, feel and do.

"Everything lives under the tyranny of this Judge. Everytime we do something that goes against the Book of Law, the Judge says we are guilty, we need to be punished, we should be ashamed. This happens many times a day, day after day, for all the years of our lives."

A few favorite lines from this book:
"Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about "me"."
"When we believe something, we assume we are right about it to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position."
"Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you're expecting a reward.........If you take action because you have to, then there is no way you are going to do your best."
"We must forgive those we feel have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don't want to keep paying for the injustice"

Do check out this book for more such powerful insights conveyed in simple writing.

May 3, 2022

Book Review: Essentialism by Greg McKeown


This book had been on my wishlist for a while. And I finally bought a copy and read it over the past few weeks.

If you find prices of certain books on Amazon/Flipkart to be high, then do checkout This site offers some good deals and discounts.
I bought this book for Rs.199.

Essentialism provides a neat 4-step framework to simplify our life across multiple aspects with a core theme "Less but better". The framework doesn't stop at a conceptual level. Rather, each step is explained through a series of actionable verbs.

The author has shared multiple anecdotes to explain the framework. What surprised me the most is that he gives a lot more emphasis to our work lives and how one could go about separating the vital few from the trivial many.

He sets the context of the Essentialist mindset right from the beginning - "If you don't prioritise your time, someone else will". Social pressure, increased number of choices, opinion overload, pressure to "have it all" - all these aspects push us into the non-essential mode of living. The most impactful step for me is the 3rd - Eliminate, where the author talks about the importance of gaining clarity, saying No, editing our life to cut out the unimportant and how to go about setting boundaries.

Though I loved the overall structure of the book, it felt a bit repetitive in most places and sometimes, a little dry too. But this doesn't dilute the effect of the powerful messages being conveyed. A few samples below:

"Our options may be things but a choice is an action"
"In order to have focus, we need to escape to focus"
"Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritise"
"Of all forms of human motivation, the most effective one is progress"
"Boundaries are a little like the walls of a sandcastle. The second we let one fall over, the rest of them come crashing down."
"When we have strong internal clarity, it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the non-essentials coming at us from all directions"

Do pick up this book, if simplifying your life is something you intend to do and looking for inspiration.

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