Jan 29, 2024

Insta-only doctors and their medical advice

 I switched from being a software developer to a product manager back in 2008. Except for writing SQL queries, I haven't done any coding in all these years. I don't have experience in engineering management either. Now imagine that I scream out loud on social media that engineers should always follow test-driven development and write detailed unit test cases. I give gyaan on TDD (make reels, Insta guides) picked up from various popular blogs and expert opinions, without understanding the ground realities. Is TDD needed for all teams? What is the priority of the team at this point - quality code or ship MVP faster? How would on-the-ground engineers and engineering managers react to such posts?

The same is happening in the medical field rampantly on social media. There are many Insta-only doctors (MBBS by qualification but not practicing for decades), giving advice such as "Drinking Diet Coke won't harm you unless you drink in gallons". Or calling traditional alternative streams of medicine pseudo-science without doing any research.

When we are used to eating packaged foods and wouldn't want to quit or reduce our consumption,

  • if we hear someone saying "Avoid packaged foods as much as possible", it makes us feel uncomfortable. It sounds like a piece of bad news that we don't want to hear.
  • if we hear a "medical doctor" saying "Eat packaged foods, don't fall for fear-mongering tactics", we feel reassured and happy. We wouldn't need to make any tough decisions to correct our lifestyle.

Many doctors who practice in the field usually end up working long hours, attending to emergencies, and treating outpatients without any breaks for hours.

These Insta-only doctors take the easy route. They not only give general gyaan gleaned from easily available resources but also give irresponsible advice without knowing the ground realities. Are we 100% sure that such advice is not being "funded" by vicious groups?

Please don't fall for such advice (that feels good to hear but not good for our health) even if they adichify karpooram or agarbathi.

Jan 25, 2024

Is your Success yours?

 Imagine this scenario.

It's a bright, sunny Monday morning in June in Bengaluru. You are the founder of a startup and are currently in the process of finalizing a deal with an investor Mr. YC.

You meet up with Mr. YC, do a fantastic presentation, and answer his questions/concerns about the market size, business scope, and revenue model with such flair and confidence. Mr.YC is impressed and has verbally agreed to the terms.

After the meeting, you call up your spouse and convey the good news, "Dear, I did it. I clinched the deal !! All my efforts in the past 2 years have paid off".

The above is the summarized scenario. Let's get into the finer details.

The previous night, you are putting together the presentation. And you wanted some specific data on market growth and your app engagement metrics. You immediately call up your product manager/marketing manager to pull up some numbers. He is busy with his family at a function in his home, but he immediately pulls out his laptop and spends an hour getting the data points you need.

You wrap up the presentation around 11 PM. It's been pouring heavily for the past couple of hours due to South West monsoons.

You wake up early the next morning with a splitting headache. As you scroll through your news feed, you realize that many areas in Bengaluru were flooded. But your locality didn't get affected by the rains. And the Sun is shining brightly.

You got ready for the important meeting, though the intensity of the headache was increasing. Meanwhile, your spouse has got breakfast ready and has got the kids ready for school.

You booked an Uber, as you didn't want to drive on top of the unpredictable, pot-holed roads.

The Uber driver arrives on time and takes you to your destination faster (a posh cafe) via a shortcut route.

You still had 30 min left for the meeting to begin.

You order a cup of coffee and the waiter brings it promptly. The coffee tasted refreshing and piping hot. You felt a lot better.

Mr.YC calls you and says that he is almost there and should reach in 5 minutes. He sounded cheerful.

The meeting started well after the informal pleasantries exchanged. You did a fantastic presentation and answered his questions/concerns about the market size, business scope, and revenue model with such flair and confidence. Mr.YC is impressed and has verbally agreed to the terms.

After the meeting, you call up your spouse and convey the good news, "Dear, I did it. I clinched the deal !! All my efforts in the past 2 years have paid off".

Let's reflect and introspect on the finer details.

Is it really YOU who clinched the deal?

Is it really YOU who did it?

There is the contribution from nature (The Sun shining brightly after the rains!).

There is the contribution from the family (Spouse).

There is the contribution from your colleagues (product manager).

There is contribution from strangers (Uber driver, waiter).

There is contribution from indirect people (those who grew the coffee, those who laid the roads of your locality very well so that the water didn't stagnate).

There is the contribution from the investor too (Mr. YC who didn't create an egoistic scene just because of his power of being THE investor!)

Every action we do involves contributions from so many known and unknown faces. If our ego tries to claim ALL the credit, then we ignore or dismiss these contributions.

Before we announce on social media about our accomplishments, let's also introspect on the contributions of everyone around us and send out the energy of gratitude through our thoughts and words.

P.S. Inspiration for this post from one of Arun Sir's lectures that I was fortunate to hear at SVYASA.

Jan 24, 2024

Seek right knowledge

 We are noticing a certain "reels" trend off late and it is between two groups -

Group A is "apparently" fear-mongering about packaged/junk foods and claiming that they are poison/cause cancer.

Group B mocks group A and makes fun of them by saying that they are exaggerating.

I don't belong to either group, though I used to write detailed reviews of packaged foods in 2017-18 before the reels era.

When it comes to packaged foods, I would rather stay cautious than be lackadaisical/careless. The long-term effects of many of the ingredients have not been researched conclusively yet.

There is huge money at play and influencers (including people who are in the medical field) are being "incentivized" to be part of Group B OR circulate videos made by Group B.

I'm not saying that Group A is completely right in their execution, though their intentions might be in the right place.

Right knowledge will empower us.

Right knowledge will help us make the right decisions (power of "Viveka" or discrimination as given by our "buddhi").

Right knowledge will NOT trigger fear or panic in us.

From a content consumer point of view, as I have been saying repeatedly, let's take charge of our health.

Do not believe blindly whatever content shows up on social media.

Do your due diligence.

Do not expect the right knowledge to be spoon-fed

This is exactly the reason why I stopped writing reviews of packaged foods after sharing detailed articles on 80+ products.

When people still send a DM and ask, "Is this brand healthy?", then it means I have not done a good job of empowering people to help people decode nutrition labels. I didn't intend to be the gatekeeper to certify the ingredients and nutrition facts. It is up to every one of us to do it for ourselves and our families.

When information is conveyed in a 30-second reel, then it will not be sufficient enough to persuade our "Viveka".

Let's get back our attention and revive our habit of reading articles, research papers, and books and listening to long podcasts. The knowledge gained through these mediums will not only empower us but also sustain our motivation to make long-term changes.

Jan 23, 2024

How our subconscious gets affected by the food we feed our minds?

I had the opportunity to attend the live lectures of Arun Sir as part of my course "Vedas, Upanishads and Darshanas" last few days.

One insight after another

One aha moment after another

One revelation after another

Many questions I had got cleared thanks to his amazing lectures. I was trying to jot down as many of these insights as possible, but couldn't keep up with the speed!

I want to share with you one powerful insight that is so relevant in today's times of content overload, especially through movies/web-series that we consume through OTTs.

I had watched a movie a few weeks back. It was an engaging thriller and an unexpected twist towards the end (not gory or violent). I didn't brood over the movie or the story after watching it.

A few days back, I was in a similar situation as shown in the movie. There was some bit of fear/anxiety and I consciously ensured that I didn't repeat the actions made by one of the characters in the movie. My mind immediately related to a particular scene of the movie, which caused such uncomfortable reactions of doubt, mistrust, and fear.

Everything we see, watch, hear, and read affects our subconscious. How do we know something has affected our subconscious? If you come across a situation, observe your reactions to it. These instant reactions are coming directly from our subconscious - through the impressions from our present or past lives.

When I heard this insight from Sir, I was just nodding my head vigorously as I could relate it to it through my experience.

Though movie makers might claim they are making "realistic" movies (movies that intend to showcase a reality of the society - violence against women or children for example), such movies affect our minds deeply without our awareness. Exposure to such content has been on the rise in the last few years. If we are not aware, our instant reactions to life situations will stem from a state of fear and panic.

Jan 11, 2024

Book Review: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari


First book of 2024, is a gripping, eye-opening read in many aspects. Though I have read some of the principles and factors in other books like Digital Minimalism, Deep Work, Indistractable, and Why We Sleep, Johann Hari's Stolen Focus is an informative compilation of 12 different factors that have stolen our focus and attention.

What I liked about the writing is that the author doesn't talk from the perspective of giving advice. His experiences on his relationship with devices, steps taken towards digital detox, and various factors that he attributes to the deterioration of his focus make the reader feel easily connected with the author. Anecdotal and relatable, that's how the book begins in the first few chapters.

The author then slowly unravels the factors one by one, with his personal life experiences, interviews with experts, and related examples. Depending on the factor(s) that impact your attention the most, you will be able to relate to certain chapters more than the others. Frequent switching of tasks, multitasking, lack of sleep, diet, pollution, and stress all have a direct impact on our ability to pay attention.

The chapter on cruel optimism was an eye-opener for me, as I hadn't thought about this perspective. For concerns related to our diet, mental health, and attention, we get fixated on the changes we should take up at an individual level. The author argues that changes taken solely at an individual level aren't sustainable enough and that we should push for changes at the societal/collective/systemic level.

The two chapters on how technology products track and manipulate us are quite important for all tech users. For those who aren't part of the industry, these revelations might seem shocking. Attention economy thrives when people are hooked onto their devices, which contributes to an increase in the core North Star metric of "user engagement".

The author also briefly touches upon attention issues in kids and the role of the environment (which was the primary focus in the book "Scattered Minds").

We have not just lost the ability to focus on a particular task, we have also lost our ability to let our minds wander freely. Given a minute of boredom, we seek refuge in our devices - be it waiting in a queue, waiting in a restaurant, waiting for a meeting, etc.

A must-read book for anyone who is struggling to stay focused on activities that take up time and effort like reading a book :-) 

Jan 9, 2024

Three steps to sustain motivation

 It's been a week since the New Year began. How are the resolutions or habits (that you wanted to kickstart/drop) coming along?

Are you able to keep up the motivation or has it dipped after a few days of feeling good?

Many health and wellness apps, gym memberships, and online workshops capitalize on this sudden surge of motivation of the general public during this New Year timeframe. There is a steep increase in their topline revenue and subscriptions/renewals in the first week of January.

Except for a few, the majority tend to discontinue or are unable to sustain the motivation for long.

In my 20s, I used to try new resolutions, but invariably I'd end up quitting after a few days or weeks.

In my early 30s, I decided not to pursue the path of resolutions and instead, pursue clearly-defined habits. I realized I was able to continue on certain habits while I was struggling with others.

In my late 30s, I moved on to setting broad themes for the Year, that would help me identify and pursue related initiatives.

Now in my early 40s - better sense prevails. No resolutions, no habits, no themes.

Just go with the flow, accept life as it is, and gather knowledge and perspectives that will automatically trigger change on any given day. Do not wait for Jan 1st or any auspicious day to reset life.

Sustained motivation is a topic very dear to me. I had written a detailed article a few months back.

Sustaining motivation happens when we focus on these three aspects:

  1. When choosing a habit or a lifestyle change, before immediately jumping onto it, it is highly beneficial if we do some prior research. Gather enough knowledge, information, and perspectives. For eg, if the habit you want to start is "Quit junk food", research the ingredients, and get enough knowledge on the impact of processed foods, high sugar/sodium, transfats, etc on your health. Knowledge empowers you to start AND sustain change.
  2. Be crystal clear on why you want to take up this habit. What's your motivation? Dig deeper to understand the intrinsic need(s) it will fulfill. For the habit "Quit junk food", if the motivation is "I want to reduce acne and look good in selfies that I post on my social media feed", then you may not be able to sustain the habit beyond a few days. Rather, if the motivation is "I care about my body and I want to be fit and healthy without getting into the trap of lifestyle ailments", the reason is much more stronger and sustainable.
  3. Avoid getting too fixated on immediate results. After pursuing a habit for a few days, if you don't see any change, do you feel your motivation dips? Results take time. Results require patience. Results are also dependent on factors other than the habit we are pursuing. Our objective should be to focus completely on the habit AND enjoy doing it every day, irrespective of the time it takes for the results to show up.

For any habit, if you have worked on the first two aspects, then you are ready to kickstart it on any day/any week/any month.

Every brand new day is filled with possibilities for change.

Jan 8, 2024

Identities are like the shirts we wear

Identities are like the shirts we wear.

  • Some shirts are very precious to us as they might have been gifted to us by someone special
  • Some shirts are a must in our wardrobe. Though we may not like them, we choose to wear them to get accepted by society or if society demands it (formal full sleeves for example)
  • We hold onto some shirts, thinking "What if we need them in the future?". Though it might have gone out of fashion or we might have outgrown it (due to size, taste, age, etc), we don't dare to get rid of them.
  • Some shirts are so comfortable that even after they are worn out, faded, or torn a little bit, we continue to wear them
  • Some shirts are the statement we choose to send out to the world. Through looks, color, and fit, we convey a lot about ourselves to the world we interact with.
  • Some shirts are not our current size. We might choose to wear a tight "M" size, though our size might have moved onto "L". It could be due to a lack of acceptance of our new size OR due to aspiration to get back to our previous size.

(1) Think of all those identities that you strongly cling to. Make a list.

For eg, a sample of my list could look like "woman, mother, wife, Indian, yoga instructor, avid book reader, vegetarian, etc"

(2) From this list, which shirt description matches closely to those identities?

Why do we choose to link ourselves to those identities?

Is due to attachment, want of acceptance, security, habitual pattern, comfort, self-projection, aspiration, or lack of self-acceptance?

(3) Once you have this awareness, think of all the ways by which these identities are limiting you or blocking you from the path of happiness and peace.

If we closely attach ourselves to an identity and if it is taken away for some reason, we feel lost and disoriented.

For eg,

If one gives too much importance to his job role/title, if that gets taken away due to layoff/retirement, he feels debilitated and lost.

If one is extremely proud of the fact that he doesn't have grey hair even in his 60s and then baldness starts to show up all of a sudden due to aging, he feels that a core part of his identity is lost and he feels dejected.

Identities or Labels have an objective - to communicate the subjective meaning of ourselves to the world.

If we cling to them, they end up creating internal conflict and turmoil in multiple ways, leading to disruption in our mental well-being, relationships, and self-growth.

Jan 7, 2024

Spiritual inquiry from childhood


  1. Is there a shloka to pray for the safety of planet Earth?
  2. What is the difference between courage (dhairyam) and fearlessness (nirbhayam)? Aren't they the same?
  3. Does Lord Hanuman exist on the planet now? How can we see him?
  4. Why is Lord Krishna called the guru of the Universe?
  5. What is the scientific proof of the Mahabali story?
  6. Where is the original book on Veda kept? Who wrote it?
  7. Why do we have to chant a nama japa 108 times? Why not 10, 20 times?
  8. How is chanting "shree rama rama rameti" equivalent to chanting Vishnu Sahasranama?
  9. Is Hayagreeva a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu? Why not?
  10. When we chant "asatoma sadgamaya", which God is it addressed to?

This is only a sample of the plethora of questions asked by little kids (5 of them aged 5-12 years) in the shloka chanting classes I have been conducting in my apartment in the last 2 months. Their curiosity, interest, and inquisitiveness drive me to come prepared for the classes and share relevant answers as much as possible. One of the most satisfying and fulfilling initiatives I've taken up in all these years!

When they close their eyes and chant or sing, these children have been able to experience certain changes. 

A 10-year-old told me, "Aunty, I could feel my heartbeat slowing down when I sing karpura gauram".

A 7-year-old felt very happy after chanting "jnanandam" - "I felt some energy inside me".

We discussed the meaning of a shloka from Bhagavad Gita (the classic "karmanye vaadhikaraste") and that triggered many questions and thoughts in their minds. During such conversations, I see that they have quite a lot of concern about the environment, climate change, and the misuse of natural resources. 

Children of today's times have a wide range of perspectives, on which they would like to discuss, share and raise questions. If the right environment is available - adults who can give them time and attention and actively listen without interrupting or barging in with their opinions - many of the modern-age problems can be looked at from a fresh perspective.

Jan 2, 2024

Book Review: Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate

 The book that kept me engrossed in the last 2 weeks of Dec, it was neither on my to-read list nor recommended by anyone. Somehow, this book grabbed my attention and I have been raving about it to everyone I have spoken to. Though the focus of this book is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), it delves into deeper aspects of parenting attitudes, current challenges, behavioral repercussions, and more. As you read through the book, many of the examples and behaviors discussed seem very much relatable - either observed in ourselves, spouses, parents, in-laws, or our children.

The author ends the book with this beautiful line - 

"If we can actively love, there will be no attention deficit and no disorder"

That's the premise of this book - the role of love, the importance of attachment relationship, meeting the attunement needs of young kids, unhindered access to primary caregiver during the initial years, acceptance and attention without any condition. I'd consider this book as a parenting guide, especially for today's time-starved, nuclear families.

In the first half, the author elaborates on the various traits, symptoms, and nature of ADD. There is quite a bit of coverage on the development of the neurophysiological system, the importance of various neurotransmitters, the role of the prefrontal cortex, and its communication with the lower brain. It was an eye-opener when the author talked about how an infant can sense the mother's emotions through her eye contact, facial expressions, and body language.

The fundamental requirement the author brings up repeatedly is "unconditioned positive regard" when it comes to parenting our kids.

Many topics discussed would help you either reflect on your parenting style or recollect childhood experiences when you were being raised by your parents.

His perspectives on medications being used as the first line of treatment and how children's autonomy gets violated when schools (or parents) push for medications to deal with problematic behavior are thought-provoking.

Parents need to develop self-knowledge first before they embark on the parenting journey. If parents are unable to self-regulate their emotions, then it is very likely that their knee-jerk reactions and lashing out disproportionately for minor disturbances can have a devastating impact on a young child.

This statement strikes a chord - "It is often not our child's behavior but our inability to tolerate her negative responses that create the greatest difficulties".

A must-read book for ALL parents. I can't recommend this book enough. 

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