Change your perspective or get S.T.U.N.N.E.D

All of us are on a journey through life. If you belong to the ‘fatalistic’ school, you believe that it will get you to that place that you deserve or destined to be. If you subscribe to the opposite school, then you believe you are in a constant state of tussle with the nature to shape your journey the way you want it – speed, direction, path, and destination. Who succeeds in the end – the jury is still out on this one.

One of the smaller sub-journeys that many of us take in our lifetime is a ‘Plane journey’. That journey is completely a fatalistic experience. You are bound to land up where the pilot wants to go, or rather as dictated by the airline schedule. You can’t do a thing to change it. Some of us take too many of them – as depicted by the numb, robotic and number obsessed character played by George Clooney in ‘Up in the Air’. I am not one of them, neither do I wish for anyone to be in that situation. To have your name on a plane is nice, but there are easier ways of achieving that rather than sit in a plane 300 days a year…… there I go meandering again. Getting back on track…..

I do dabble in aviation once in a while.  Wow – that sounded exotic! Like I pilot my own private plane or helicopter or something like that. Personally I would opt for either the Gravitube or the ‘Beam me up Scotty’ means of transport, if they existed. But since we are only in 2011 and at least a trillion years away from either of them, I choose the more mundane option. I pick an airline, pay the ticket price, sit back, enjoy a book and collect loyalty points (which are never redeemed).

Travelling back from US to Europe a couple of weeks back, zipping through time zones, the S.T.U.N bug hit me. This bug called S.T.U.N (Sleepless Traveller nUmbed by moNotony), is rumoured to live in a secret chamber designed into every airline seat in the world. There are many tell tale signs that the seat you are sitting on is teeming with S.T.U.N.s. These can range from the fact that the a/c vent above your seat can either be set to blast you continuously with frigid air that can drive even a polar bear away or completely off – no mid way setting possible. Another could be that the ‘lamp’ button on your seat controls the lights of a fellow passenger sitting 30 rows away on the seat 42D. Your unending quest to try to switch on your light by continually pressing the button in every conceivable position, pressure, frequency etc has put the passenger on 42D in either a state of frantic rage or a blissful hypnotic stupor. The sure shot sign is the presence of strange pieces of small white calciferous bits in the seat pocket in front of you. You probably mistook them for small crumbs of nuts that the airline attendant failed to clean, but in reality are the remaining pieces of bone of the last passenger that was devoured by the S.T.U.N bug. Rumor has it that the bug has been deliberately planted by the airline companies. Apparently, the passengers bitten by this bug, in their state of paranoia and desperation, contribute vastly to the airline’s coffers by buying vast amounts of useless items from the duty free catalogue. If you have ever bought something from an airline duty free catalogue – blame it on the S.T.U.N bug.

Anyway, the bug bit me. While I skillfully managed to avoid the last described fate, but there I was – wide awake and trying out all the exercises recommended by the airline booklet to keep the blood circulation in my legs going. I got up to take a small stroll and reached the back of the aisle. Standing there, the following image presented itself in front my eyes. A pretty normal sight, people glued to the TV screens, struggling to make out the details of the movie on the washed out, tiny screen while straining to hear the dialogue on the ineffective airline headphones.  While some of them may have been genuinely enjoying the movies, probably many of them were unknowingly sinking deeper into the traps set for them by the S.T.U.N bugs.

Just that brief respite of being away from the S.T.U.Nning seat brought a sense of normalcy, not experienced in the last 4 hrs. Suddenly a realization hit me. Isn’t this small, unimportant incident so similar to situations that affront us often? Many a times, when people are stuck with a problem or an issue – they will often keep trying the limited number of ways that they can immediately ‘see’ from their point of view. And there will often come a point when each of these ways will be exhausted and the problem will be declared ‘too difficult to solve’ or ‘each of the ways of solving the issue as useless’. I remember talking to one of my team members about this, who was in the same situation about a project, and was unable to solve the issue at hand. Talking to the person, it became clear that by repeating the same old tried and trusted methods, the issue was becoming like quicksand and pulling that person deeper into it. So very typical …

What people don’t do enough of is the following –

  • Stop repeating the same old, time tested methods
  • Take a breather and step back for a minute
  • Ask for an opinion of a colleague, a friend or someone else
  • Change the environment in which you have been trying to solve the problem. Small stuff like move away from your office or desk, call for a meeting in an unusual place like the office lawn etc. It’s surprising how often these small things make a world of difference
  • Basically, try to look at the issue from a different perspective

It is human nature to think that one probably has all the answers and the solutions. Einstein famously said – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I fully agree with him (even though he meant it differently and was trying to prove a different point). There is far too little time on our hands to waste on doing the same thing over and over again.

That little moment of realization was another reaffirmation of the fact that your point of reference, changes how you perceive a given situation and how you act on it. Before I took that small walk till the end of the aisle, my vantage point was my seat; a couple of feet away from the flickering screen. All I could think about was which movie to watch to fill the time till I land. Suddenly being away from the seat and be able to see the ‘bigger picture’ (so to speak), got my mind working on an altogether different plane.

So next time your umpteenth crack at a problem has failed – stop. Stand up, clear your head and try a different vantage point. If all else fails, take the BA flight that I was on, go stand at the end of the aisle and you might see the issue or the world around you differently. And while you are at it, please apologize to the passenger on seat 42D, for he still might be there in a state of stupor.

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Stuff That futurE shouLd brinG (STELG) – If future is coming



I recall seeing a science fiction movie as a kid. The movie depicted the world as it might be in 2010 or whereabouts. It had all the clichés that we associate with the future : flying cars, robots as household helpers, a hopelessly polluted world, people daily commuting to Mars for work by private space shuttles, everyone wearing pointy, golden coloured costumes, compressed food palettes that miraculously turn into a scrumptious pizza or roast chicken when treated for 10 seconds in machines that are a funkier version of today’s microwave ovens. It is 2011 now, but none of these things are around. With the notable exception of flying cars. What? You haven’t seen them yet? James Bond has had one since 1960. Closer still, my son has hundreds of them. Ok, back to the topic at hand. Chances are the same producer is busy making another film that will depict the world as it will be in 2300. It will surely stretch our imagination and show new wonders that will amaze and eventually evade us. On second thoughts, maybe he/she should get in touch with Mr Kurzweil and take a reality check. 

But the trouble with science fiction is that no-one seems to talk, care or think about mundane day-to-day things that surely need changing or evolving (some of them drastically). I can live with my current car, which doesn’t fly. But what I can’t live with is continue to having to endure the torturous visits to my dentist (I must admit she is nice, but don’t tell my wife!) where my I have to keep my jaws stretched open in all types of contorted positions while hundreds of precision instruments like water jets, minute suction pumps etc clank about my teeth and gums trying to remove plaque that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

I cannot create a new improved line of dentistry. But I consider myself to be more of a thinker (being very ambitious, I am thinking on the lines of Bertrand Russell crossed with Woody Allen) rather than an inventor or a scientist. So I, the unfortunate victim of today’s primitive dental techniques, hereby commit to starting a new line of posts where I would like to muse about Stuff That futurE shouLd brinG (STELG). Maybe this (thanks to mine and hopefully some of the reader’s ideas) will eventually morph into a veritable treasure trove of ideas about new stuff that future should bring. Now these may start off with rants about stuff, services, things, products that are broken, badly designed, half-thought through and need to be redesigned completely. Or it could just be something that doesn’t exist today and absolutely must exist tomorrow to make the future worthwhile. Or a wild wish that is lurking somewhere in the mind, waiting to find an outlet. The focus might be on things around us that seem irrelevant or too obvious for science fiction to think about, though i am sure occasionally things like flying cars will also make an appearance.

I am convinced that if I keep up with it, the ideas will evolve on the scales of imagination, importance, usability and maybe wackiness. We can then patent these ideas and sell them for millions of dollars (or whichever currency is the strongest at that time) by publishing them in swanky book with a bright & shiny jacket and quotes from important sounding people! You may scoff at it for it not being a new idea, but it is surely worth a shot. If nothing else, it should make fun reading years down the line. Remember “Hope springs eternal”

So the first one to follow soon…

The day the finger tappers took over the world

The other day while posting an entry on my blog, John Lennon’s Imagine was playing on the Cadence Amayas, and a freakish vision appeared – Mr Lennon’s apparition magically manifested from the electrostatic panels and asked me “Imagine a world which has been taken over by WordPress!”, but before i could offer an opinion, he vanished and was off to sign autographs in some remote parts of the andromeda galaxy.

Hmm … world domination by WordPress, a scary or welcome thought, depending on which way you swing. For the sake of not monopolizing the creative space, I leave the description of life on earth in such a scenario to a future George Orwell clone to think it up in another book like 1984. But using my immense powers of prediction, I can safely bet that following will be the national anthem for this new world.

Warning – The following may sound outright cheesy, stupid or funny to you, but remember beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder :-) …. For best results, sing along to the tune of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no conversation
Its easy if you write
No sounds surround us
Around us only words

Imagine all the people blogging for today
Imagine there’s no telephones
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to speak or hear for
And no shouted arguments too

Imagine all the people
Blogging away in peace …
You may say I’m a blogger
But I am not the only one
I hope some day you’ll blog like us
And the world will read as one

Imagine only muses and observations
I wonder if you can
No need for ears and tongues
A bloggerhood of man

Imagine all the people
Reporting all the world
You may say I’m a blogger
But I am not the only one
I hope some day you’ll blog like us
And the world will read as one …

I think we might soon come to this. The following cartoon convinced me.

A penny for your thoughts …