“He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed.”
– William James
Here’s your midweek newsletter — a gentle nudge to make your week more interesting, thoughtful and productive.
This Just In: You Can’t Please Everyone
As much as I go out of my way to differentiate my opinion, it is in my innate nature (and perhaps, every other person’s) to be liked by everyone.
This becomes an issue, though when you’re continually over-prioritising other’s opinions as well as disrespecting your boundaries and health.
I was in a similar situation last year when I acknowledged that I just wanted everyone to be fine with me. That’s when my therapist did a sort of experiment.
“Can you close your eyes for a bit?” She asked. “Yes, sure,” I said as I closed my eyes.
“Now imagine, it’s 20 years from now. The BBC has a large-scale, international broadcast going on. Everyone is tuning in from all over the world and all devices. ‘This just in’, the headline goes across the screen. ‘We’ve found him. We finally found someone who has managed to please everyone! This person never disappoints anyone and does everything as others want him to. Deepansh Khurana!'”
It was at about this point I started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” She asked me, “Isn’t this what you’re trying to achieve?”
“It sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud,” I chuckled endlessly.
“How would you feel if you managed to achieve that, though?” Her tone shifted.
“I guess, if I managed to please everyone I would be doing just that, and probably be terribly unhappy myself.”
“These are your words, not mine.”
This experiment has stuck with me since, and it took away my need to please everyone. I’m okay with disappointing people now. Even though I still regress to being a goody-two-shoes, I’ve learned to manage my need to please everyone better.
So, while you probably won’t need a session with the therapist, imagine the ridiculous headline for once the next time you decide to overstep a boundary, not start a project, not quit your job and so on. Any decision or activity that you feel is important to you, you make it, and you do it.
If the only thing stopping you is your need to please everyone in your life, remember the broadcast, and remember how absurd it sounds.
Then do what you want.
On Jazz and Working with Other People
On a casual evening in March this year, as I made the gross mistake of assuming we’ll have more time during the lockdown, I sent a message on a group on Whatsapp.
“Anyone want to start a podcast?”
Two others agreed, and we decided to wait for someone else to respond. No one did, and there it began. We decided to use our weekends to work on a project we had no clue about.
What followed was trying about seven different ways and formats to record a podcast remotely, bandwidth issues, scratching two episodes out because we didn’t think they were as good, losing two entire recordings, finally figuring out a pipeline to get an episode recorded, dividing tasks appropriately, feedback from a limited audience, restructuring the episodes and re-recording them.
Now, we’re in a position where we have a schedule and a pipeline ready. We should be out next month, and we don’t even care if the podcast will seem good to others.
What I want to talk about though is this: None of this felt difficult or hard or disappointing to us!
I think that’s where Ray Dalio’s amazing principle comes into play: Great Collaboration Feels Like Playing Jazz.
Ray’s comparison for collaboration to Jazz is the perfect #MixAndMerge, in my opinion. Authentic Jazz and not the elevator music that we identify with it is all about different players doing what they do best while collaborating in real-time.
In La La Land, the 2016 movie starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, Ryan’s character Sebastian says this about how Jazz began,
“I just feel that people, when they say that they, you know, hate Jazz… they just… they don’t have context, they don’t know where it comes from. You know? Jazz was born in a little flophouse in New Orleans, and it just, because people were crammed in there, they spoke five different languages, they couldn’t talk to each other. The only way they could communicate was with Jazz.”
The last few lines are all about collaboration. Each of us has different creative styles, different routines, which are, in fact, our languages of productivity.
Some people are night owls and prefer it. I prefer waking up early. Some people improvise at the moment, and some people are not as good at it.
However, when the tune hits perfectly, what you get is just fantastic music.
You don’t know what’s happening in the background, but like some perfect piece of ingenious machinery, everything is done as it should be done.
That’s Jazz. That’s collaboration.
Reading List: The Will to Believe by William James
“To know is one thing, and to know for certain that we know is another.“
I made it a point to consume as much existential literature and philosophy this year as I could. That journey is still going on, and the recent pit-stop was William James’ The Will to Believe. This is less of a book and more of a written lecture and argument that goes through ten sections, the last being the main argument.
This is his argument towards the believability in religion despite there being no concrete proof. Through a series of arguments, James argues about there being a certain will to believe in something despite there being no empirical or physical proof of knowledge of said thing or phenomenon.
The entire argument is not about religion though but in the general presence of there being belief without true knowledge of something. It surely was a difficult read but there were a few gems I found. One of them is the way he ends the book with a quote from Fitz James Stephen, part of which is:
What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes… If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.’
P.S. You can get a brilliant gist of the entire thing from Wikipedia itself.
Quick Update On Nudge › How
I wrote about my iteration of the Notecard System popularised by Robert Greene (The 48 Laws of Power) and Ryan Holiday (The Daily Stoic). I built my approach earlier this year entirely on Google Keep. I’ve been using it since, and I felt it was a good idea to share my process and why I think it’s better with everyone. If you do try it, shoot me an email to let me know. I’d love to talk about it.
Also, fellow self-improvement enthusiast, Craig Burgess is coming out with his book Press Start this Friday which you can pre-order before then at a 50% discount. It’s a book about, you know, stopping inaction and pressing start and on whatever it is that you want to begin.
Craig has been building it for a while now. I’ve read the book in its initial drafts, and it’s a jazz-like collaboration of design and wisdom. There’s a chapter that features our discussion about the How To Reboot Your Canon article from the blog as well. I think you’ll like it.
I hope this added some value to your week. Stay safe, stay inspired, and I’ll talk to you next week.