What matters more – the rule or the spirit of the rule?

This simple question has been on my mind for quite some time now. I never really thought about it before that but a few instances have come up which require me to examine this statement.

For example, at airport security I was allowed to carry ~90ml of liquid after I had transferred it in to a smaller bottle of 100 ml, but I was carrying the same ~90ml of liquid in a 300 ml bottle and even though it was half empty, I was asked to buy an empty smaller bottle and transfer the liquid.  It would not have bothered me, if airport security had been able to explain the logic behind this. From what I understood, amounts more than 100 ml can be used to create the liquid explosive bomb or other such substance, which is why airport authorities try and restrict the amount.

Another example – In my work, we get a compensated day off to be used within a month, if we work on a non – working day.  The idea is that no employee should be over – worked in any given month.  If I ask for my compensated off day for 1 month + 1 day, should I be given the day off? Most people would say yes, but my manager said no because that’s what the rule says and he could not explain why it was an issue.

I have no problems following rules. My problem arises when implementers of the rule have no idea of the logic or spirit behind the rule.

Let’s look at the second scenario first. I have a close relationship with my manager and speak with him regularly.  I like to think that we have a fairly well – understood mutually beneficial relationship.  Despite this, he did not want to give me the day off since it was 1 day past the rule limit. We are a small organization and people are fairly street smart.  I don’t blame him for it, since what he did probably arose because of his previous experiences and the fact that we are used to following the million or so “rules” (either by law or imposed by society) without questioning the logic or reasoning behind it. I feel that if we were to have a closer look at all the “rules” we follow, a lot of them probably do not make sense in today’s world.

If we look at the first scenario, one might say that when there are thousands of security personnel to be trained in a public system it makes more sense to ask them to stick to the rule.  This assumes that security will break the rule often if not asked to stick to it, or will not have the sense of judgment to understand the spirit behind the rule.   It does not matter which one of these assumptions is true. If one or both are, do we really want that kind of security personnel? Is it really security or is it lip – service security or security for display?

I think every one imposing a rule should have the logic and reasoning to support it’s implementation.  If it is not intuitive, they should be made to understand it until it is completely clear. Matters like days off or transferring liquid are not the point, the point is that there is a clear lack of knowledge of the spirit of the rule – which, in my opinion, is much more important than the actual rule as written.

What is “passion”? Should you follow your passion?

Given that there has been a lot of talk of passion especially since the 2008 crisis, I’ve read a lot of articles (case in point here from Harvard Business Review) which are telling people not to follow their passion. It outrages me when I see that.  Even more bothersome is the fact that few articles bother to define what they mean by passion.

For me passion is something that you believe in completely, that is driven by a personal desire and something that you will not give up on and that attracts you inherently.  Art is created when someone is working with passion.

I think one should always ask why they are so passionate about something, which really is the driver behind a “true” passion. What is “true” passion? There are many who say “I am passionate about learning about businesses” or “about private equity” or “running businesses” or “creating social change”. These are not true and honest passions. No one in the world is passionate about “businesses”; passion is for the product / service and business is the means to get to the perfect product / service.  You cannot be passionate about “social change / helping people”; you can be passionate about providing better education (because you did not get a good education) or eliminating malnutrition (because you lost a loved one because of this) or sexual abuse (because you were abused) and social enterprise / NGO’s are one way to help you get there.

I believe people who say the above fit their passions to where they imagine themselves to be, rather than the other way round.  They haven’t completely thought trough or are afraid to do so. Why afraid? Because sometimes finding one’s passion and following that can be harder to accept and live with than just not knowing about it or thinking about it which allows you to continue on with the current job or life (which typically pays the bills and/or makes you look good in the eyes of others / society).

The second part of my question was, should one follow their passions? Absolutely and completely, as long as it is an honest reflection of what you want to do. I feel if you are truly passionate you will never be satisfied if you do not follow it.  I don’t think that reaching your goal (or realizing your passion) is going to be easy or without it’s troubles – another reason why everyone need to really think through and find that real passion.  There are always various ways to fulfill one’s passion and the key is to think about a way that fits your needs best. If it does not work out, there are always other options. Will you be disheartened? Will the pretty picture in your mind break? Will you struggle to pay your bills? Maybe and most likely. But this is the same for anything you do.  However, if you think you will not give up (if you think you cannot give up) despite these struggles, go for it.


Why is success so important? AND Is it important to be successful?

A lot people I meet want to be successful, in fact everyone I meet wants to be successful. There are millions of articles printed in magazines, newspapers and the website which tell people (the “secrets”) how they can also be successful.

“Failure is the key to success”, “persistence is the key to success”, “being social is the key to success”, “positive thinking is the way to success” and so on.

In my opinion, there is no one – five – ten answer(s) to how someone can be successful because success is very subjective.  Of course, what the articles refer to is the artificial definition of success. Irrespective, the point of this post is not to discuss the how to be successful, but to understand why we even need to be successful in the first place, if at all.

I have not come across anything except this article here which discusses why success is important. Various answers that the author has come across –

1. It gives you money, prosperity, and everything that you want in life.

2. It gives you a good feeling.

3. It gives you motivation to work further.

4. It is a matter of survival for the lion and the deer. The lion hunts the deer and the lion may starve or the deer may die due to the failure of either.

5. Life is nothing without success.

6. It is an illusion.

One of his observations while discussing success, rings very true in my ear.

The very question makes people feel as if their most prized possession – the feeling of success – will be snatched away from them should they fail in answering my question and thus instead of answering my question, people mostly tend to slip into that arena of psychological insecurity. Having said that, I must admit, its normal human behavior. If someone else had posed the question to me, I would have also reacted in the same way. Just by asking the question, it does not put me at any different pedestal.

The author of the article concludes that there really is no real reason why people want to be successful but that it is a necessity for survival. He also says that there is a “blind race” for success as defined by society.

I agree with him partially. I disagree with the way success is defined – as a necessity.

I believe there is a core reason why one might want to be successful, but it is not of critical importance nor crucial to survival – at least not in today’s world.

I think “success” (as defined in the next sentence) can earn respect, from your self and from others who you respect/love, which, according to me, is the main reason to be successful. Success is to know what your goal is, why that is your goal and try and to achieve it, in a way you want to.

It’s great if you are successful but it’s also great if you do not achieve your goal. I can imagine this coming as a shock to a lot of people.  But take some time to think about it, for it to sink in.

Success can give you money (but it also may not) since it depends on what the goal was.  Success can give you a good feeling, but it cannot also if it was not your own success you were chasing or if the journey was not to your liking. Success can definitely be a motivation to work further but again the main motivator is never success (never dependent on someone, something else).  It is passion or an internal desire that is typically the main motivator.  There is a lot to life apart from success. Success is only an illusion if it is not your success but someone else’s goals you achieve.

Not being successful (or not achieving your goal) does not take anyway away from you.  The important thing is to want to work towards the goal, in a manner that is enjoyable.  Only when this happens, can you say what Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed xyz times.  I have not failed once. I have successfully discovered xyz ways to not make a light bulb.”

Why is honesty such an issue? Or Since when has it become ok to lie? Or Why have we stopped talking about honesty? (Part II/II)

I thought this was going to be a long post, which is why I had divided the question in two parts.  But the second part has turned out to be actually quite short.

We have stopped talking about honesty (or being honest) because being honest requires courage and self – awareness. Courage to overcome our fears and insecurities, which requires an understanding what those fears and insecurities are.

Why is honesty such an issue? Or Since when has it become ok to lie? Or Why have we stopped talking about honesty? (Part I/II)

Think about the following questions and note down your thoughts. Would love to hear them via comments.

  • When was the last time you thought about what honesty or integrity – not the same thing – mean to you?
  • If you haven’t thought about it for a while, then why not?
  • Personally, honesty important and crucial in relationships, work and life.  Everyone agrees with that but why doesn’t anyone (want to) really think about it?

Let me explain what “type” of honesty I am speaking about.  I am not speaking about being brutally honest – where someone is truthful but insensitive, nor do I mean white lies – which someone may say to not offend the other person.

Below, I provide 5 examples of the type of “lies” I am talking about –

  • At work to co-workers, boss (or friends) and clients
    • “I’m really busy at work” when in fact you’re not that busy
    • “Client X, I think you should buy this product” when you think the product is terrible and your job as a consultant was to tell whether or not the product was crap
  • To friends
    • “It was so much fun last night”, when in fact the party/club was quite boring
  • To yourself (friends / family)
    • “I do this job because this is what I am passionate about and it’s intellectually challenging and full of smart people” where as you are really doing it for the money, find the job repetitive and you think most of your bosses / coworkers are quite stupid and/or lazy
    • “What I really want in a man/woman is honesty” and you don’t even know what that means for you

These are not said once in a blue moon, but fairly frequently.

Now, you should now know that I have said all of those lies at some point in my life. For many years, I lied without even thinking about it because I was so used to it. When someone asks me ‘how I feel’, I would answer the question ‘what I should be feeling’.  I got conditioned to being dishonest – to convince myself and others that I was what I thought I was “supposed” to be. This “should” arises from my own perceptions about myself, others and my insecurities. So I became busy because I was supposed to be busy at work. Successful, smart, intelligent people are always working hard and I am (or want to be) successful, smart and intelligent.  The party was fun because it was supposed to be fun.  Cool people enjoy parties and I am cool. I’m supposed to value honesty in a partner and so that’s what I value.

When I saw others (especially people I respect) around me doing it, being slightly dishonest became acceptable“Everyone does it and that’s how it works, how it’s always worked” was the mantra I repeated to myself.  Everyone tells the clients what they want to hear, so we should also do that.  It’s easier.  So if client x thinks they should buy the product, well then our recommendation is going to be that they should buy the product. It’s ok to do that since all other consulting firms are also doing it.

But mostly, I was lying to myself because not lying was just too difficult. It would result in me knowing things I might not want to know/admit. Of course, I work at xyz place because of passion, intellectual environment and co – workers. If I did not say this to myself, I would have to admit that I was working for the money, which says something about the kind of person I am. And I don’t like this about myself. So I will lie to myself.  It’s easier.

Why did I not know this poem till now?

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s “The Invitation”

Maybe I have read this poem in school but never got it because we never discussed the essence of poems. We just read and copied what the teacher said and wrote that down in the exams.  Or maybe I just never read this, inside or outside classroom, because my classroom experience put me off poetry. I wish I knew this, and thought about what it meant while I was growing up.

Why do we need an education? OR What is the purpose of education? and What constitutes a “good” education?

“Reforming education” is a topic that has been on the minds of a people over the last few years resulting in heavy debate.  However, few people ask whether there is still a need for an education in today’s day, and if there is – what it’s goals/aims are and what it means to be educated.

Let’s start with the first question – Why do we need an education? or What is the purpose of an education today?

There are mainly two answers to this question that I have heard.

  • Get the best value (measure is economic) from human resources
    • Take every student/ child (resource), put them through classes to pick out the “best” and allocate jobs accordingly
    • It is not possible to pick everyone out in one year, so you test every year and accordingly you get allocated to “better” or “worse” universities and masters program and according to this you get a “good” or “bad” job. A good job is measured by income level, just like “best in class” is measured by grades.
  • To grow personally and intellectually
    • This includes “prepare children for the future”, “broaden our horizon”, “create better life”, “to reach our goals”, “acquire knowledge”, “how to be creative”, “reach full potential as human beings” etc.

My theory is closer to the second one, but still different.

But before I get down to the details let us first have a very quick look at how education came in to being.  Education began as a way to pass on knowledge and skills from one generation to the other. According to Wikipedia, the evolution of culture, and human beings as a species depended on this practice of transmitting knowledge.  Once we learnt to write, all that was known grew since it was no longer one generation passing information but a culmination of many, formal education was born.

In very simple terms, without education we could still be living in forests and caves (if we were still existing as a species) and would be building fire by banging two stones together.  FYI – I have spent exorbitant money on my vacation to do exactly this. I was sold when I read in the brochure something along the lines of “learn basic life and survival skills in the forest”. Obviously my education had failed to teach me this very basic life skill – and for good reason. It is not a skill that is required any more. A lot of what is taught in schools and colleges is useless in the modern world.  In fact, the entire purpose of an education needs to be re-defined.  (Also see Sir Ken Robinson’s thoughts on how education is outdated.)

Since we have moved on from where our ancestors were and do not need to know what they had been taught in school, is there still a point of an education?  Is the point to create adults (“good” citizens) as what they “ought” to be? Acquisition of knowledge, reading of books, and learning facts? I don’t think so.  To answer the question, I go a little further to think what the human race desires and lives for. In my opinion, what we all are looking for is happiness, which is immeasurable and subjective and I believe that education can be a way to achieve this happiness.

Now we can look at the second question – What constitutes a “good” education?

If we look at what makes a person happy, science shows that close family and good relationships, doing and pushing yourself in what you like to do and are passionate about, knowing (and reaching) your satisfaction level in terms of income, “freedom” (from societal norms etc), forgiveness / gratitude / giving (empathy) and good health.  If this changes, education needs to change.

Obviously, different societies and individuals worldwide have different issues to deal with and accordingly weight given to each of the above parameters of happiness will differ.

Assuming this science is correct, I list down what I believe today’s education should be “teaching” our children

    • Ability to think for yourself
      • Creativity
      • Understand what is “best”, “good” according to your standards
      • Question norms, teachers, parents and “authority”
      • Imagination and dreams
    • To be comfortable with yourself
      • Recognize strengths and weaknesses and be ok with both
      • Realizing your passion
      • Confidence in yourself
      • Self reflection
    • Desire to know more and push oneself further
      • Healthy competitiveness (with yourself and others)
      • Healthy ambition, perseverance
      • Lifelong curiosity
      • Taking initiative and “risks”
    • Empathy for others around you (and yourself)
      • Understanding different perspectives
      • Flexibility and adaptability
      • Collaboration and leading by influence
      • Forgiving yourself, being gentle with yourself
    • Understanding importance of values (sense of what is “right”)
      • Honesty, integrity, gratitude, humility, respect, patience
      • Being true to yourself under stress, being courageous
    • Understanding of where we are now as a society
      • How we got here, what we have learnt so far (and what it means for the future) across all fields from science to arts and music.

Education today focuses mainly on the last point with too strong an emphasis on the “income” part of happiness. Using various curricula, and sports among few other activities, today’s education potentially covers a couple of sub – bullets in other points. However, since the aim is to win a sports game, or get a high grade or be smarter/better than x person, without emphasis, the important learning’s are lost.

One may argue that a lot of the points in the list “should” be learnt in an informal education or at home, which again brings up the question of what then should be learnt in school and via formal education? Note that I use “learnt” not “taught”.


..And welcome to yet another blog on the internet.  Honestly, I am not quite sure if I belong here because I am not much of a writer and blogtech-handicapped (don’t know about SEO, other blogging stuff).  However, we are in the 21st century and I do imagine this to be a good medium to share and exchange ideas / thoughts. 

The main idea behind this blog is to discuss the “why” of things (can also be “what if, when, how, where, what etc.) I have been known to ask “too many why’s” and typically do not get answers to my satisfaction. I also don’t think people ask enough “why’s” but that is a separate discussion. The aim of this blog is to explore these questions as and when they arise.  I will post weekly (or almost / at least weekly), and look forward to comments you may have.

It is a bit weird to me to post my innermost thoughts on a public forum for I would typically discuss these privately with close friends/family but I hope you find reason to enjoy them and/or dwell on them yourself.

PS: I don’t know how to link it but the source for my blog picture or blavatar is this.