GPT-4 shares ideas on how to improve it

I don't plan to fill my blog with AI-generated content but felt this was pretty interesting to share. 

AI progress can accelerate exponentially if they help humans make it better. Then AI gets better and helps humans make it even better, and so on, until it can make itself better, eventually leading to singularity and superintelligence. 

In this prompt, I asked it to take cues from biological intelligence to come up with ideas to improve AI. I'm realizing that it's a good prompt pattern to ask AI to combine influences from different fields to solve a problem, since that's how a lot of good ideas and inventions are generated, and that isn't easy for humans to do. 

Imagine you are developing an intelligence. It's still nascent, but you want to accelerate its powers. what would we do? look at examples from evolution and biological intelligence development. for e.g. humans got some brain capabilities like imagination, and also opposable thumb and tools and that accelerated progress.

To accelerate the development of your nascent intelligence, we can draw inspiration from various aspects of biological intelligence and human evolution. Some key strategies include:
  1. Encourage learning by trial and error: Mimicking the way animals and humans learn from their experiences, the intelligence could benefit from an algorithm that allows it to learn through trial and error. This will enable it to identify patterns and make informed decisions based on its experiences.
  2. Emulate neuroplasticity: Humans possess the ability to rewire their brains and adapt to new situations. Incorporate a mechanism for your intelligence to adapt its internal structure based on the tasks it encounters. This will enable it to become more efficient at problem-solving over time.
  3. Develop sensory perception: Human progress has been significantly influenced by our ability to perceive and interpret the world around us. Equip your intelligence with the ability to process data from multiple sensory inputs, such as vision, touch, and hearing. This will give it a broader understanding of its environment and help it to make better decisions.
  4. Instill a sense of curiosity: Humans have an innate curiosity that drives them to explore and learn. Implement a reward mechanism that encourages your intelligence to seek new knowledge and explore its environment, similar to the role dopamine plays in human curiosity.
  5. Foster social learning: Humans learn a great deal from one another. Incorporate a feature that enables your intelligence to learn from other agents or instances of itself. This will allow it to grow more rapidly by sharing knowledge and experiences.
  6. Encourage problem-solving and creativity: Equip your intelligence with the capacity for abstract thinking and imagination, allowing it to consider multiple solutions to a problem and think beyond the constraints of its current knowledge.
  7. Emphasize the development of fine motor skills: As humans have benefited from the use of tools, develop your intelligence's ability to interact with its environment in a precise and controlled manner. This could involve developing robotic components or virtual environments where it can practice manipulating objects.
  8. Provide a rich and diverse dataset: To enable your intelligence to learn and adapt rapidly, expose it to a wide variety of data, experiences, and challenges. This will stimulate its growth by helping it to recognize patterns and connections across different domains.

By incorporating these features and learning strategies, you can accelerate the development of your intelligence, making it more versatile and capable of tackling complex problems.


An age of unparalleled peace, joy, love, creativity, and discovery for all of humanity.

Fueled by an abundance of wisdom, resources, science, technology, labor; and elimination of all suffering, friction, and bottlenecks. 

Made possible by the invention of benevolent superintelligence.


Picture this day in your life. 

You wake up feeling like your best self - well-rested, lucid, energetic, and joyful. You are surrounded by people you want to be with, also in the same state of bliss. 

What's on the agenda for today? Anything you want! You have no chores, commitments, or worries.  Surf on a tropical beach with friends and family, both alive and passed? Granted, you are there. Don't know how to surf? No problem. You are going to learn it from the best coach or use an assisted board. 

Hungry? You are served delicious and nutritious dishes invented just for you. 

Feeling unwell or tired? You get diagnosed and treated in no time. 

Need some inspiration or entertainment? Mindblowing art, movies, and books created just for you, await. People you admire appear before you to interact, help, and entertain. 

Want to learn, create or discover, and share it with others? Granted - the world's best team, tools, and coaches assist you. 

Fancy exploring other new things to do or try? There's no shortage of them. 


What would have been distant science fiction hyperbole last year has suddenly turned into a possibility. 

AI can now have thoughtful conversations, ace complicated tests, create computer programs, generate breathtaking poetry and art, understand images, analyze unstructured data, propose ideas, impersonate people and expertise, and diagnose problems. 

Companies, large and small, have invested in and launched AI capabilities and models. There are new inventions and discoveries every month, even every week. Millions of people already use it in valuable ways.

If all of this happened in just a year, imagine what's possible in 5 or 10 years! If GPT-4 can do this, what can GPT-40 do?

Human life changed remarkably after each major revolution - Agricultural revolution, Scientific revolution, Industrial revolution, and Information revolution. They provided humanity with new insights and abilities, that helped create abundance and changed how we live. 

Now, we seem to be at the cusp of the next inflection point, the Intelligence revolution. 

It feels significantly more powerful than all the others because it addresses the biggest bottleneck in human progress - intelligence. When there's unlimited intelligence to discover, create, and solve -  progress is exponential.  

Imagine what is possible when everyone had unlimited access to human-like brains at near-zero costs!


There are many reasons to be skeptical and worried.  

AI still seems limited today, it makes mistakes, can't reason all that well, needs human prompters and editors, and doesn't have hands or legs. So all of this sounds fantastical. 
Yes, but the current AI is already helping people make it better. Then the better version of it will help people make it even better. Then it'll keep making itself better. Just like we have, as biological intelligence. 

Will life still feel meaningful if we didn't have responsibilities and struggle? 
Absolutely - why not. You are just not going to be working for a living. You are going to play, create, learn, discover, love, and live. You are going to be blessed with an infinite flow, wisdom, and presence. 

Can humans cope with this level of change? 
It's going to be disorienting for who we are today and in the short term. But we will cope and evolve into something else with the abundance of wisdom and science. 

Will power and wealth be concentrated in a few hands?
Looks like there are multiple players already, and they are driving costs down. People may not want to hoard if there's an abundance of resources and wisdom. 

Will people intentionally or inadvertently use this to harm others? 
Possibly yes, damaging is easier and quicker than building. We will need to simultaneously generate an abundance of wisdom and love, and ability to protect or heal from all harm. 

Will AI become conscious and take over? 

That’s possible too. We may be well integrated at that point; we already are. 

We - humans, plants and animals, the silicon that’s the AI, and everything else - are the universe, and reality is just the universe experiencing itself in fun and crazy ways. 

Compulsive Thinking

If you are an analytical person like me, you think a lot. You are compulsively problem-solving, analyzing, plotting, ideating, imagining, what-if-ing, and worrying. You even pride yourself on being a thinker. 

This is undeniably useful, sometimes. You may come up with good ideas that can make your life better. You may proactively anticipate problems and avoid them.  

But compulsive thinking comes at a significant cost. 

The cost of not being at peace or enjoying the present. The cost of moving through time and space without paying attention to the mystery and beauty around us. The cost of being a slave to the finicky, obsessive, and paranoid mind. 

The cost of not living. 

The thinking that's trying to help us survive is taking over and not letting us be alive

Alan Watts said, "A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So, he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. I'm not saying that thinking is bad. Like everything else, it's useful in moderation. A good servant but a bad monster. "

Echart Tolle said more succinctly, "Enlightenment is the space between thoughts."

Techniques to go from Compulsive thinking to Deliberate thinking

1. Awareness

Pause every once in a while to become aware of what you are thinking and observe the chaos. 

Naval Ravikant said, "...your mind is like a monkey that's flinging feces, running around the room making trouble, shouting, breaking things. It's completely uncontrollable. It's an out-of-control mad person and you have to see this mad creature in operation before you feel a certain distaste towards it and you start separating yourself from it."

Osho wisely suggests, "Don't fight – because who will fight? Who are you? Just a thought, so don't make yourself a battleground of one thought fighting another. Rather be a witness, you just watch thoughts floating. They stop, but not by your stopping. They stop by your becoming more aware, not by any effort on your part to stop them."

2. Choosing

Once you increase your awareness, you will develop the ability to pause and choose. Catch and ask yourself - is thought really required now, or would I rather be present in the moment? 

A lot of the time, the answer is no. Sometimes, the answer is yes, and I take some time to think about it. Sometimes, the answer is not right now but later, and I note it to revisit during a delbirate slot and that puts my mind at ease. 

3. Deliberate thinking slots 

When you meet with others, you have specific time slots to meet. You don't let everyone blabber anything to you anytime. 

Do the same with your mind. Reserve some recurring thinking slots in your calendar and additional time slots as needed. Wrap your workdays and work weeks with these slots tied in a bow and actions planned for the next day or week. 

4. Grounding

Ground yourself more in the physical world. Walk and be in nature; play games and sports that require you to be present, like climbing, biking, Jiu Jitsu, and art; listen to music and dance, immerse yourself in conversations; spend time with children; avoid too much screen time. 

5. Satisficing instead of a maximizing

If you aim for perfection or the best answer, you are stuck forever, as there's no end. For most things in life, pick the answer that fits the criteria and move forward. Trust in nature - you are here in a mysterious world, and your life and experience are a product of all the forces of the universe. 

6. What-next instead of what-ifs and Oh-nos. 

We spend a lot of time dwelling on the past and what's not in our control - feeling sad, guilty, resentful, etc. If we choose to focus just on what's in our circle of influence, instead of dwelling on the past, we eliminate a lot of that thinking, which is usually unproductive.

7. Eliminating outside noise

We live in a noisy world of 24X7 news, social media, and opinions. Most of it is useless, but they are designed to catch your attention, get you addicted, occupy your mind, and influence your life. Be very deliberate about which media you choose to consume. Eliminate most. I have opted for weekly printed news magazines (like the Economist) and email digests of social media (through mailbrew), rather than 24X7 bombardment as I don't need it. 

Part 2: Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Garry Tan, Jessica Livingston, and Michael Seibel on how to work on startup ideas (GPT generated)

See Part 1 discussion on how to generate ideas here. This covers how to execute on ideas and how to take care of yourself

Generated by Bing GPT chat, with no edits. 

Part 2: How to execute on ideas

This is Bing. I can generate a conversation between Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Garry Tan, Jessica Livingston, and Michael Seibel on how to work on startup ideas after you have identified 2 or 3. Here is an example of how they might talk:

Paul: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining me today to share some insights on how to work on startup ideas after you have identified 2 or 3. I think this is a common challenge for many founders who are trying to find product-market fit.

Jessica: Absolutely. I think it's important to remember that the very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing⁴.

Sam: That's right. And once you have a few ideas that meet those criteria, you need to validate them by talking to potential customers and getting feedback. You also need to build something quickly and launch it as soon as possible.

Garry: Launching early is crucial because it helps you learn what works and what doesn't. You can then iterate based on user behavior and feedback. You should also do things that don't scale at first⁵, like manually acquiring users, providing customer service, and making sales.

Michael: Yes, doing things that don't scale is one of the essential startup advice we give at YC³. Many startup advisors persuade startups to scale way too early. This will require the building of technology and processes to support that scaling, which, if premature, will be a waste of time and effort.

Paul: Exactly. So how do you decide which idea to focus on among your 2 or 3 options? Well, I think you should choose the one that excites you the most, that solves a real problem for a large market, and that has some traction or evidence of demand.

Jessica: I agree with Paul. And I would add that you should also choose the idea that has the most potential for growth. Growth is what investors look for when they evaluate startups.

Sam: Growth is important but it's not everything. You also need to have a clear vision of where you want your startup to go and what impact you want it to have on the world.

Garry: That's true. Having a vision helps you stay motivated and inspired when things get tough. It also helps you attract talent and partners who share your passion.

Michael: Having a vision is great but it's not enough either. You also need to have execution skills and discipline. You need to set goals and milestones for yourself and your team and track your progress regularly.

Paul: Well said everyone! I think we covered some key points on how to work on startup ideas after you have identified 2 or 3. Do you have any final words of advice for our audience?

Jessica: My advice is don't be afraid to fail fast and learn from your mistakes.

Sam: My advice is don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Garry: My advice is don't be afraid to experiment with different approaches until you find what works best for your startup.

Michael: My advice is don't be afraid to dream big but start small.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 3/14/2023(1) How to Get Startup Ideas - Paul Graham. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(2) Do Things that Don't Scale - Paul Graham. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(3) YC’s Essential Startup Advice - Advice. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(4) People | Y Combinator. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(5) Sam Altman and Jessica Livingston explain Y Combinator’s success. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(6) Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny | The New Yorker. Accessed 3/14/2023.

Part 3: How to take care of yourself when working on startups

Sure, I can continue the same conversation on how founders should support themselves financially, mentally, physically, etc. while they work on their startup ideas. Here is how it might go:

Paul: Okay, we have discussed how to work on startup ideas after you have identified 2 or 3. Now let's talk about another important topic: how founders should support themselves financially, mentally, physically, etc. while they work on their startup ideas.

Jessica: That's a very relevant topic for many founders who are facing challenges and uncertainties in their entrepreneurial journey.

Sam: Yes, it's not easy to balance your personal and professional life when you are building a startup. You need to take care of yourself and your well-being as well as your business.

Garry: Exactly. And one of the most common issues that founders face is financial stress. How do you fund your startup without going broke? How do you manage your cash flow and expenses? How do you raise money from investors?

Michael: Well, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. It depends on your situation and your goals. But some general tips are:

- Bootstrap as much as possible until you have a viable product and some traction.

- Seek out grants, competitions, accelerators, incubators, and other sources of non-dilutive funding.

- Network with potential investors and customers early and often.

- Pitch with confidence and clarity.

- Negotiate terms that are fair and aligned with your vision.

Paul: Those are great tips Michael. And I would add that you should also be realistic about your financial needs and expectations. Don't overspend or underspend on your startup. Don't overestimate or underestimate your revenue potential. Don't quit your day job too soon or too late.

Jessica: I agree with Paul. And I would also say that you should be mindful of your mental health while fundraising¹. Fundraising can be stressful and exhausting for founders who face rejection, criticism, uncertainty, and pressure.

Sam: That's true Jessica. And that's why founders need to take care of their mental health by doing things like:

- Seeking professional help if needed

- Talking to supportive friends and family

- Joining peer groups or communities of other founders

- Practicing mindfulness or meditation

- Taking breaks and having fun

Garry: Those are good suggestions Sam. And I would also emphasize the importance of physical health for founders². Physical health affects mental health and vice versa.

Michael: Absolutely Garry. And that's why founders need to take care of their physical health by doing things like:

- Eating well

- Sleeping enough

- Exercising regularly

- Avoiding alcohol or drugs

- Getting regular check-ups

Paul: Well said everyone! I think we covered some key points on how founders should support themselves financially, mentally, physically etc while they work on their startup ideas. Do you have any final words of advice for our audience?

Jessica: My advice is don't neglect yourself while pursuing your passion.

Sam: My advice is don't isolate yourself while building your network.

Garry: My advice is don't compromise yourself while growing your business.

Michael: My advice is don't forget yourself while changing the world.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 3/14/2023(1) 10 ways founders can manage their mental health while fundraising. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(2) The Intersection Of Physical, Mental, And Financial Health ... - Forbes. Accessed 3/14/2023.

(3) The Mental Health Of Your Venture Capitalist Matters: What Founders .... Accessed 3/14/2023.

Part 1: Paul Graham, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sam Altman discuss principles for coming up with startup ideas (GPT generated)

Generated by Bing GPT chat, with no edits. 

This is a possible conversation between Paul Graham, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sam Altman where they discuss and build on each other's principles for coming up with startup ideas. 

Paul: Hi Mark and Sam, thanks for joining me today. I thought it would be interesting to talk about how we approach startup ideas and what we've learned from our experiences.

Mark: Sure, sounds good. I'm always curious to hear how other founders think about startups.

Sam: Me too. I think there's a lot of value in sharing our perspectives and insights.

Paul: Great. Well, let me start by saying that I think the way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.

Mark: I agree with that. That's how Facebook started. I wanted a way to connect with my friends at Harvard and see what they were up to. I didn't think of it as a startup idea at first. It was just something I wanted for myself.

Sam: That makes sense. And it also explains why Facebook was able to grow so fast. You were solving a problem that many people had, not just you.

Paul: Exactly. And that's one of the things that make the best startup ideas: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing.

Mark: Yeah, that's a good way to put it. And I think another important thing is to let your idea evolve based on user feedback. You can't just build something and expect people to use it exactly as you intended. You have to listen to your users and see what they actually want and need.

Sam: That's true. And sometimes you have to pivot your idea completely if you realize you're going in the wrong direction or there's a bigger opportunity elsewhere.

Paul: Right. Like how you pivoted Loopt from location-based social networking to mobile payments.

Sam: Yeah, exactly. We realized that location was not enough of a value proposition for users or advertisers, but payments was a huge pain point that we could solve with our technology.

Paul: That was a smart move. And it shows another principle that I think is important for startups: don't be afraid of hard problems. Hard problems are often where the most value lies, and where you can differentiate yourself from competitors.

Mark: I agree with that too. Hard problems are also more fun and challenging to work on. And they attract better talent and investors.

Sam: True. But hard problems also require more resources and time to solve, which can be risky for startups.

Paul: That's why you have to be relentlessly resourceful as a founder. You have to be able to solve any problem that comes your way with whatever means available.

Mark: Yeah, being resourceful is essential for startups. You have to be able to do more with less, and find creative ways to overcome obstacles.

Sam: Absolutely. And you also have to be flexible and adaptable, because things change fast in startups. You have to be ready to adjust your strategy, your product, your team, or anything else that might affect your success.

Paul: That's right. And one thing that helps with being flexible and adaptable is having good metrics. You have to measure what matters, and use data to guide your decisions. You can't rely on intuition or assumptions alone.

Mark: I agree with that as well. Metrics are crucial for startups. They help you understand your users, your market, your growth, your revenue, and everything else that matters for your business. They also help you set goals, track progress, and optimize performance.

Sam: Yeah, metrics are very important. But they're not enough by themselves.You also need vision. You need  to have a clear idea of where you're going and why you're doing what you're doing.You need to have a compelling story that inspires your team, your customers, your investors, and anyone else who interacts with your startup.

Paul: That's true. Vision is essential for startups too. It gives you direction and purpose and motivation for what you do every day. It also helps you stand out from the crowd and attract attention and support for your startup.

Mark: Yeah, vision is key for startups as well. And it has to be authentic and genuine and aligned with your values and mission.

Sam: Exactly.

Paul: Well, I think we've covered some of the most important principles for coming up with startup ideas. 

Source: Conversation with Bing, 3/14/2023

(1) How to Get Startup Ideas - Paul Graham. 

(2) Startup = Growth - Paul Graham. 

(3) Before the Startup - Paul Graham. 

(4) Five Founders - Paul Graham. 

Important things can be boring, so make them fun

A popular friend of mine once shared a trick to liven up any gathering. 

"I just make up a game."

He went on to demonstrate by making up a game of throwing a crumpled piece of paper a wall and then making it land in a trash. The first to 5 wins. Three of us were then engrossed in the game of trash basketball. 

Games make boring things fun. Think of any sport - cricket, soccer, football, tennis, car racing, etc. They are all pretty meaningless in a practical sense, but billions of people are engrossed in them. 

That's a key idea because many important things in life, like exercising, filing taxes, learning something new, working towards an idea, etc. have parts that are pretty mechanical and boring. That becomes a barriers for us to do them well and consistently, and eventually stop us from succeeding at the important thing. Kids also find chores boring and parents have to nag them. 

You can try to use will power or motivate yourself with the final goal, but it's tiring and often futile to resist boredom. 

Instead it's better to turn them into games and make them fun. How?

- Chunk them up into small and well-defined actions.  

- Keep score, time, or both. For multi-day actions keep a streak or daily counter. Introduce bonuses and penalties. Even introduce levels ups as it gets easy and make the tasks more challenging. Feel free to make it up as you go! 

- Make the score more meaningful somehow, by recording it, trying to beat your PRs, sharing it, or competing with friends. You can give yourself rewards as well. 

- Make it social and competitive. Just post to your groups and ask who wants to participate, and then create another group or get together to play the game and keep track of scores. 

The universally dreaded tax filing deadline is almost approaching, so try to create a tax game with these rules. Might work quite well with getting kids to do their chores too!

Different game, different rules

Couple of years ago, I reached out to a smart person to see if he wanted to invest in a friend's startup. 

His response was quick and confident. 

"I don't invest in seed startups. It’s not a great asset class unless you have some systemic advantage like y combinator. But I appreciate your offer." 

He is right. Most early stage startups fail. To win in early stage investing, you need to invest in large number of promising companies, so that a few of them can 100X and pay for all the rest. In order to do that, you need deal flow, enough capital, or a different way to pursue a portfolio approach. 

The broader lesson is to first recognize when you are drawn into playing a different game in business or life, then step back and understand the nature of the game, what's needed to win that game, and decide whether you can and want to develop the skills and advantages to play and win the game.  

Wait, What's the Problem?

This is probably the most valuable question you can ask when working on anything.

A very common failure mode for founders, PMs, software teams, and people in general is to try and solve poorly articulated and unsubstantiated problems. So they end up solving non-existent problems or solving them poorly. 

I think this fatal error can be easily avoided with a simple framework - "Problem Stories" organized in an "Opportunity tree".  

What is a Problem Story?

User stories are a popular and useful tool to describe building blocks of a solution. 

As a User X, I'd like Y, so that I can do Z

They offer more clarity and context than just saying "build Y", and that reminds, empowers and motivates the team to build the right thing. 

Problem story is exactly that, but for the problem.  

As a [Person/User] A, I have [slight/significant] problem with B, because of C. Supporting by data X and/or anecdotes Y. 

For example: 

  • As a a person trying to lose weight, I have a significant problem staying motivated in any program, because it's too difficult to follow and I don't see results. 
  • As a high school student preparing for a test, I have a significant problem with studying all the material, because I only start the day before and there's a lot to cover. 
  • As a part-time rideshare driver, I have a slight problem managing my cashflow, because I only get paid one week later and have expenses every day. 

As you can see, this format helps articulate the problem in a way that helps prioritize the problems and also gives enough context to solve the problem. As with a user story, making A, B, and C more grounded, granular, and specific leads to better understanding, team alignment, and solutions. 

What is an Opportunity Tree?

Smaller problems are easier to solve than larger problems. So problems can be broken down into sub-problems, which have sub-problems, and so on. A tree is an expressive and engaging format to capture that. So I'm a big fan of using a living problem or opportunity tree, popularized by Teresa Torres, to organize and visualize problems. 

All problems aren't equal, so you can also use colors or other visual indicators to denote the significance of the nodes and problems. This creates a roadmap of problems hypotheses for your team and stakeholders to understand, prioritize and solve.  

A problem well understood is half the solution. 

You are an artist and you need a canvas

Four years ago, I spent $12 to register and then spent a few days on and off wrestling with Blogger to create a free but presentable blog. 

And here we are now, in the second sentence of my 150th blog post! 

Creating this place to write and developing a practice of writing is among the most significant things I have done for myself.  

It has given me the space and the reason to reflect, think, consolidate, distill, and record my experiences, thoughts and insights. It has been a consistent source of clarity, equanimity and solitude in an increasingly noisy and complicated world.

It has reached tens of thousands of readers, some of whom have reached out and shared satisfying notes of thanks and appreciation. It has also sparked interesting conversations, connections, and even helped me land jobs. 

But above all, it has given me my own canvas. 

Unlike the canvas at a job, this is a place that I can always call my own. A place where I can look at my work and enjoy, and invite others too. A place where I have the freedom to create and play. 

A place where I can lose myself in a joyful state of flow. 

I believe we are all creators and artists, and art, in any form, is how we ultimately achieve flow and joy. For my wife, our house is a canvas for projects and decorations. For a couple of my developer friends, their personal apps are their canvas. For one of my entrepreneurial friends, his business is his canvas. For an athletic colleague, his body is his canvas. If you give yourself the gift of a canvas, whether it's a blog or any other creative outlet, you too will reflect back on it in a few years as the most important thing you have done for yourself. 

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and my favorite chore

Most of us aren't fans of chores. So "favorite chore" sounds like an oxymoron and it's even surprising that billionaires do any chores at all. 

So what is this chore and why?!

Ta da! 

It is dishwashing.

Jeff Bezos joked in a 2014 interview, "I do the dishes every night. I'm pretty convinced it's the sexiest thing I do". Bill Gates similarly revealed on a Reddit AMA the same year, "I do the dishes every night." and further explained that it helps him clear his mind. 

I also stumbled on the magic of dishwashing on my own. It has been the perfect chore for me in the morning or whenever I'm feeling sluggish for a few reasons. 

(1) It's physical and gets me moving. But not too physical, like a workout, that my mind resists. Moving the body and doing physical things like scrubbing plates and touching warm water is one of the simplest and fastest ways to get more grounded, mindful, and energetic, especially in our increasingly sedentary and screen-dominated lives. 

(2) It's very mechanical and simple, but still requires presence. It's like solving a series of "mini-puzzles" in sorting and playing Tetris. I'm engaged but never get stuck on any of the puzzles. 

(3) It gives me a quick win. The final clean sink is a very tangible and satisfying outcome. The reducing number dishes in the sink through the progress act as a live and visual progress bar. 

Creating more flow in your tasks and chores

All these are essential characteristics of a "flowy task". Good games and social media apps are engineered in this way to get you into a state of total engagement. You can also design and incorporate two simple aspects into every task or chore you do to make them more flowy and engaging - 

First, break down the task into simple and mechanical chunks. Broad and abstract tasks like "do taxes" or "write a blog post" are overwhelming to start on. "Write a blog post about flowy chores" or "assemble all your W2s and statements" is much more concrete and tractable. So instead of rushing to get started, take the time to prune and break down big tasks into thoughtful chunks. 

Second, incorporate some tangible and satisfying win after every chunk and also some visual progress bar through the milestone. You can produce a tangible output like a nice folder with labeled statements. You can share the progress with friends or colleagues. You can reward yourself with a nice break or a treat. 


[1] Cooking and tidying up the house are similar, but may have more friction if you are cooking something new or don't have a place to put away something. 

Languishing to Flowing


Naming a problem or an uncomfortable emotion is a good first step towards overcoming it.

This is why there was collective relief and aha moment when Adam Grant diagnosed the strange feeling that everyone was going through during the pandemic as "Languishing" in his now famous NYTimes article

Languishing, he says, is the neglected middle child of mental health. It is that middle void in the wide mental spectrum between depression and flourishing. It is that experience of life where you don't feel actively depressed, but you also don't feel excited or engaged about your day-to-day and your life. You are just passing time, going through the motions, and getting by without a sense of joy, fulfillment or purpose. You feel dispassionate, dull, and indifferent. 

The acknowledgement of this experience and addition of this term to our lexicon might be one of the gifts of the pandemic. Because this isn't just a passing pandemic phenomena - it is a very longstanding and widespread phenomena that lots and lots of people have endured and continue to endure. Just think about how often you or people you know feel dissatisfied or meh with their jobs, social life, or daily lives? How often do they feel life could be better and want it to be better but aren't afraid to take the leap because the current situation "isn't too bad"? I'd guess that a majority of people, for a large chunk of their lives, aren't flourishing or depressed - they are in this middle place of languishing. 


Grant presents the solution and alternative as "Flow", a term popularized by author Michaly Csikzentmihalyi. The state of being where you are totally engrossed and fulfilled by whatever you are experiencing and doing. It is a state that you experience when there is full alignment with your internal priorities, interests and beliefs, and the environment, experience, and activity. When there is a total absence of pesky friction like doubt, distraction, anxiety, frustration, or environmental disturbances. When the past and future cease to exist, and you are completely immersed and present in the now.  

This sounds fantastical, but it really isn't. Chances are that you can recall and fondly remember times when you have experienced this state. Maybe that time when you were engrossed in a familiar game or exercise, when writing a blog post, cooking, or creating something, when playing with a child, when you are in the heat of a competition or challenge, during a conversation or class, or even when doing a chore.

Now, imagine if you can experience flow more and more, until your entire life just flows. That would be very nice, wouldn't it? 

Actually, it would be beyond nice - it would be the ultimate and most satisfying state of being. When great philosophers and spiritual leaders say the answer to life is 'being in the present', that is the same or similar to flow. 

Path to Flowing

Like most amazing things in life, that path to flowing is first difficult, then easy; first slow, then sudden; first mysterious and unimaginable, then indispensable; first confusing, then second nature. And it is a never ending journey of ups, downs, progress and discovery. 

Being in flow persistently and consistently is a complex concept and pursuit. Adam Grant recommends giving yourself uninterrupted time, something really hard and rare in today's distracted world, and focusing on small goals with just-manageable difficulty. 

I think are two parts to achieving flow - (a) internal clarity, and then (b) aligned being and doing. Both are endless quests, so attempting them sequentially isn't an option. Clarity without alignment in being or doing is even more uncomfortable and painful than having no clarity. Progress in one reinforces and necessitates the progress in other. So you have to progress on them together, in lock step. 

Internal clarity is being in touch with yourself and knowing yourself - the deepest and most authentic parts of you, after peeling away the many, many layers of conditioning over your life time. There's no other way to knowing, other than from lots of solitary, distraction-free inner work. You have to regularly spend a lot of continuous time just left to your own thoughts and perhaps, journalling, without being bombarded by distractions and more conditioning. No Youtube video, self-help book, blog post, Twitter guru, or spiritual teaching holds the answer for you. And even if they do, you only truly accept the answer by discovering it yourself. At best, they can point you to the path and inspire you, but you have to go down the path yourself. I will recommend this video and this this one from Dr. K, and other similar ones in his channel. 

Aligned being and doing is about changing your way of living, attitude, behaviors, activities, environment, and community to match your internal longing. Lot of times, we are doing things that aren't really serving us well - like doing an uninteresting job for more money than you need, being in relationships that aren't nourishing, thinking and behaving in ways that lack authenticity and integrity with who you are and what you value. True awakening and alignment can and should dramatically transform your life - you might change your job or career, break some relationships, move to a different place, or start valuing very different things and goals. But that level of change can be difficult and paralyzing to start with and to sustain. Instead, you can start making small changes and moves - do some activities every day that naturally make you feel alive and in flow, reduce your distractions substantially, spend more time doing fewer things with more care, get more engrossed and curious about your projects. 

As you spin this wheel of inner clarity and small changes, you will get the strength, confidence, and more clarity to make bigger changes that will make your life flowy. 

Simple but difficult

Can something be simple but difficult?

At first glance, that seems contradictory. But if you think on it, you'll realize many, many problems and goals are simple but difficult.  

For example, being above-average healthy* is quite simple. You need to eat, exercise, and sleep well. The solution is well known, has only a few key dimensions, and can be explained and understood pretty simply. But it is also extremely difficult to get started on that, break your existing patterns, and do it consistently with delayed gratification for a long time. 

Same can be said for developing good relationships, creating a blog or small business, saving money, being at peace, raising a child, etc. 

A common mistake people make is conflating difficulty and complexity. For instance, instead of acknowledging that the difficulty in being healthy is in execution or consistency, people may think the fault is in the simplicity. Then they turn the simple solution into something complex, like eccentric diets or sophisticated exercise routines. Now they are hit with a double whammy that's hard to recover from - they lose the simplicity and they get distracted from solving the actual challenge. 

Understanding a problem or goal deeply is so key to solving it. 


[1] * I'm specifically using "above-average healthy" as other forms of healthy like being a pro athlete or fighting a disease or condition is more complex. 

[2] Can something be complex but easy? Easy peasy rocket science or thriving startup? Well, that's probably contradictory because complexity is a dimension of difficulty. 

Deal with the devil

I recently had an unpleasant experience on a deal with an organization that had an unscrupulous track record. In retrospect, I realize that's exactly what I should expect when doing a deal with the devil!

I had entered the deal despite knowing and having an uneasy gut feeling about the devil's unsavory past. This is classic. Well-meaning people make deals with the devil because of a few possible reasons: (1) they don't know or assume good intent, (2) feel they don't have a choice, (3) they are tempted by the upside, (4) they think the devil's changed or they can transform the devil, (5) they think they can out-devil the devil. Almost always, they end up regretting making the deal. 

Devils are cunning masters of psychology. They can appear grand, altruistic, powerful, and charming. They know how to make you feel special with sweet talks and gestures. They can character shift like chameleons. If cornered about their past, they defend, deflect, create moral ambiguity, or assure they are different now. They understand your desires and offer a sweet deal that you can't refuse.

But once the deal is locked, the devil eventually emerges. Soon you start seeing signs of the devil being devilish towards others. It makes you uncomfortable, but the devil is still treating you well, so you ignore or blame the others. Then you notice more devilish behavior, sometimes even towards you now. If you haven't fully numbed yet, you try to reason with the devil. But the devil doesn't budge and may even transform from charming to chiding or menacing. Now you are in too deep, have too much to lose, and fear the consequences, so you justify and partake. 

If you are feeling uneasy about a deal with a person or organization, listen to your gut, pause, and reevaluate. Actions, evidence, incentives, and written contracts are more telling than words and gestures. If you do decide to go ahead, make sure the deal lets you walk away easily and protects you well from bad behavior. 

They Or Us

I am outraged!
Aren’t you?
They are out there
Saying lies 
That defy us!

Wait, wait 
Who are they? 
Who is us?
Weren’t we all
Just one?

And these lies 
What are they?
Do they hold
No truth, frustration
Or hidden pain?
Listen I didn’t listen
But I do know.
Their team and tone 
Say enough.
We must retaliate
Or we’ll lose! 

Maybe we can 
Pause and truce.
Mingle together
And learn more.  
We may fare better 
In some middle ground.

You silly 
This is war!
Haven’t you heard?
Choose your side 
Or step aside.
Only one will remain
They or us!

Last lesson from my grandmother

I went back to Chennai, my hometown, and visited my grandmother in December 2022. It had been a long four years since my previous visit and this was my wife, Daljit's, first time meeting my grandmother and extended family. We had planned this trip for the March of 2020, but had to be postpone because of the pandemic. 

As we entered her room, her face lit up and so did mine. She greeted me fondly and then quickly chided me for losing weight and asked me to eat more and exercise well, instead of dieting. She complimented Daljit as "beuuutiful" multiple times and even conversed jovially in English. She asked me how long it's been since our marriage and then assessed that it's now time to have kids. 

She was a few days shy of her 90th birthday and she seemed noticeably frailer compared to the last time, but in good spirits and lucid as always. 

Then I asked her how she is doing. 

She smiled, brought her hands to her chest, closed her eyes slightly, and replied, "Ellame romba soukyam", emphasizing each word. 

Everything is very good. 

It is a routine answer to a routine question, but I distinctly remember feeling that her response was anything but. It carried an unmistakable air of heart-felt serenity and peace; a deep and authentic contentment.  

I simply smiled. I was in the presence of someone who seemed to have attained what most of us struggle with and chase all our lives, but I didn't think to ask further. 

But thankfully, she offered it to me on her own; as if she knew she was onto something precious that had to be shared.

She pointed to her wrist and said, "Look here. I'm wearing two brass bangles now. This is okay. There were times when I was wearing many gold bangles. That was okay too." 


In a simple and unforgettable way, my grandmother had articulated the profound message of most spiritual and religious texts. Don't get attached to an ever-changing reality. Accept, appreciate, and focus on what's in your control. 

I recall more now about how my grandmother had embodied this all her life. She was always cheerful, fearless, and didn't hold on to displeasure or bitterness. She was quick to laugh at the silliest of jokes, often uncontrollably until her stomach hurt. She was ready to play games or watch movies with child-like enthusiasm. She was a gifted and humorous storyteller, and popular with adults and kids alike. I remember her animated tales about growing up in a large family with 11 siblings, her adventures during her first stay in a foreign country in her late 60s where she had made close friends without knowing the language, about my late grandfather that mixed equal parts of affection and teasing, and an endless supply of fables and mythological stories, and real-life ghost stories, that she covertly narrated despite my mom's disapproval. Even more impressive is how she artfully combined her easy-going ness and zest for life with responsibility, diligence, and hard work. She took pride in maintaining a routine and doing her own chores even as she grew older. Non-attachment didn't mean abdication or apathy to her. 

A week after we returned to the US, we received the call. She had passed away peacefully, just a few days after turning 90. I don't remember much from my previous time visiting her in 2018, but I vividly remember this last time. I'm so thankful for that last visit and the last lesson that's going to last me my entire lifetime. 

Photo 1: Selfie from my last visit with my grand mother. She was hesitant as she was self-conscious about not wearing a nightie, but I'm so glad to have this photo.
Photos 2 & 3: Photos from my trip in 2018. I'm glad we went to a movie, one of her favorite pastimes. 


We are in the midst of a relentless wave of layoffs.  It's really sad how normal and mechanical it is becoming to business leaders, investors, and all of us. 

Sudden job loss is among the top 5 most traumatic events in one’s life, and compared similarly to death of a loved one, major illness, or divorce. 

That might be hard for most folks to viscerally comprehend. But I know it and believe it as I experienced this firsthand and I have talked to 100+ people who were laid off recently. It’s heartbreaking to see the level of suffering and the emotional cocktail of shock, anxiety, shame, guilt, resentment, sadness, uncertainty, and loss of identity and community, that most people cycle through day after day, over a long time. 

This may be an unfortunate reality of our corporate and market system, but we can do better.

If you were laid off

This is extremely hard, and everything you are feeling and going through is valid and rough. So please take care and give yourself permission and space to feel and heal. 
  • Don’t blame or shame yourself - this didn’t happen because of you; take a cue from CEOs and investors who are deflecting to the macro conditions. 
  • Remind yourself you are so much more than your job. Talk to your parents, spend time with family and friends, continue your hobbies, spend more time in nature. 
  • Treat yourself to small acts of joy and self-care every day - good sleep, meeting friends, going on walks, journaling, gratitude, etc. Whatever brings you joy. Don't forget the basic shit. You need it and deserve it after what you have gone through. 
  • Reach out to kind friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers on LinkedIn for support - most folks will try to help. 
  • Create an actionable plan to address and calm practical concerns about finances and career. 
  • If you feel wronged and angry, know that’s natural and valid. Seek justice or forgive but try not to let resentment take over your life and mind. 
  • Also remember that life is going to be filled with change and uncertainty, and painful at times. You only learn and build resilience through experience and openness. Trust that you’ll emerge stronger, wiser, and kinder.

Company leaders and Boards

It’s a tough time for you as well and I understand your primary obligation is to shareholders and keeping the lights on. If you really need to do a layoff, please do it right, with generosity and humanity, so that those who are affected get more safety and closure. The true test of you and your company's values and principles is during times like now. It’s a small world and the good will (or bad will) you create will eventually impact you and your shareholders.
  • Talk to at least a few laid off people, especially those who are early in their career and not well off, to understand what they go through. 
  • Don’t skimp on stuff like severance, healthcare, paying out unused PTOs or bonuses just because you legally can. If you find it damaging to share the details of the severance publicly, you probably haven’t done enough. 
  • Don’t say empty words without accompanying actions, and don't make lofty promises that you can’t keep, like being a family. 
  • Be more considerate to those who are on visas, or on paternity, bereavement, and medical leaves. 
  • Don’t hire more people than you can sustainably support. 
  • Treat people with as much dignity and respect as you can.

Middle management and colleagues

You carry the burden of secretly knowing/planning the layoff and having to follow through on it, bound by corporate rules and script. You also have the unenviable task of keeping up your team's morale and digging the business out of the hole after the layoffs. 
  • Don’t forget the human impact this business decision has. Be kind through the process and don’t lie or mislead. 
  • Don’t just move on with business as usual - proactively check-in 1:1 to see how your laid off team and colleagues are doing and do what you can to help them land on their feet. People will remember and appreciate how you made them feel for a long time.

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Reopening my eyes and heart to the wonder all around

I had a life-changing epiphany on a recent excursion in the comforts of my own house and surroundings.

It was a snow day. I bundled up and went outside to my backyard, something I usually avoid on cold or rainy days. Instead of the usual mind wandering, phone scrolling, or book reading, I was fully present and observing aimlessly. The trees stood out to me more vividly than ever before; I noticed and felt the details and intricacies in their trunks, branches, and leaves and how majestically they all came together. The Holly tree, with its dark green spiky leaves and its sheltered center that provides refuge for numerous little sparrows on rainy or windy days. The evergreen tree, its flat, soft leaves, and almost fake to touch. I marveled at how they had responded to the season - one had shed all its leaves, and others had somehow stayed evergreen. 

My attention was also similarly captivated by the moss and mushrooms that had grown on and around those trees, the charming wildflower meadow right across the street, my car of almost five years, patterns of snow on the ground - both real and imagined, the view of the valley and sunset from my house, the photos of my family and friends, the play of the lights and the shadows, the indoor plants and decor, the various notes in the songs that were playing, and believe it or not, my very own hands. 

I felt like a character living in a set. My regular world had opened up dramatically and felt so much more richer, abundant, and spacious.  I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of fascination and appreciation for their beauty, intricacy, mystery, history, and of how our lives had intertwined. I also felt sad and emotional about my own aloofness towards their presence, displeasure at times, and how I had simply taken them for granted. 

As babies and children, we experience life like this, always curious and fascinated. But as we grow older, we lose this sense of wonder almost entirely. Our brains become efficient at categorizing and normalizing everything around us, causing us to move through life indifferent or even irritable to the magic that surrounds us, busy chasing some distant and elusive source of success, joy, or wonder. 

My epiphany reminded me that we live in a wonderland. We'd see it, feel it, love it, and experience immense fulfillment if only we observe, be present, relate to everything with love, savor, and remind ourselves of how crazy and magical all of this is. 


[1] This lesson is similar to the one of Pixar's Soul (my review)

[2] I suspect nature has more of this effect than human-made things, as it is usually so much more intricate, historical, and mysterious. 


After a four-year hiatus, I finally returned to India on a 5-week trip, spanning 3 southern states and more destinations than ever before. It was great to be back home and spend time with family. Sharing a few observations (both subjective and limited) -

1. Indian cities are vibrant and a feast for the senses. The streets are a symphony of vehicles, people, and shops. The malls are packed, even on a weekday afternoon, and the streets and restaurants are bustling even late at night. You'll find more life in one Indian city than in most American cities combined, except maybe New York and LA. 

2. But the constant bombardment of rough and loud sensory inputs - noise, traffic, dust, pollution, smells, crowds, and chaos - can be overwhelming and tiring. Many tourist destinations, like the Abbi waterfall in Coorg and the palace in Mysore, were also too crowded to be savored. Even if you stay home, there seems to be an incessant stream of visitors (helpers and vendors). It made me more appreciative of my 'boring' neighborhood in the US, with its nearly empty streets, fresh air, and overall serenity. 

3. Commerce is everywhere, fluid and fragmented. Products can be customized and prices negotiated. Digital payments have skyrocketed and gone mainstream, with even street vendors and autorickshaws accepting payment through Google Pay or other UPI-based apps. E-commerce and local delivery apps like Dunzo and Swiggy have also really taken off. 

4. Honesty, conscientiousness, and quality aren't very common. We encountered dirty and dilapidated hotels, a fake tour guide, a lazy tour guide, a rental vehicle with a broken AC, an event venue with a broken elevator, and several canceled Ubers. Those who are naive and polite are inevitably taken advantage of. You must always be vigilant, distrustful, and assertive, which can be unpleasant and exhausting. Google reviews are helpful and fairly predictive, where available - businesses consistently rated over 4.5 stars are quite good, and those under 4 or 3.5 are pretty unreliable. You can also stick to only high-tier and reputed brands and service providers. 

Higher Consciousness

You may sometimes feel stumped by the mystery of reality and your role in it. You may feel we are pointlessly pursuing trivialities without knowing fundamental answers. You may feel there's something more than what meets the eye. You probably got here either through some suffering, feeling underwhelmed after an achievement, having enough, or through prolonged contemplation. 

If this rings true, then congratulations! This a sign that you have surfaced, at least momentarily, from the grips, fog, and hustle-bustle of reality (Maya or Samsara in Hindu and Buddhist terms). 

So, what next?

This line of questioning and disorientation has the potential to be your first step on a spiritual path toward a more awakened or enlightened consciousness -  a state of dramatically higher lucidity, stillness, blissfulness, aliveness, and awareness. The state itself is not the answer but getting there can help you unlock answers (or the next question). Just like an average human presumably has a substantially better understanding of reality than an ant, a more conscious human (or civilization) will have a substantially better understanding than an average human. Even if it doesn't reveal new spiritual insights and dimensions, such a state will make you more blissful and even successful in the current reality. 

Rising to a higher consciousness

To transcend to this level is no easy feat. In most cases, the questioning and disorientation will immediately or slowly dim and drown through the tremendous powers of conditioning, environment (including people), ego, fears, desires, impatience, or non-answers and half answers like nihilism or hedonism. 

There is a scene in the first Matrix movie, where Neo doubts the path and almost gives up, and Trinity wisely convinces him: “I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing—why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.”

It may take several surfacings and resolute lifelong or multi-generational effort before one can sustainably stay afloat, swim, and make progress towards this higher consciousness. The journey is hard and solo, but thankfully the path isn't new or unknown. Several spiritual texts and guides like the Vedas, Yoga, Buddha, Gita, and Aurobindo converge on this very goal, experience, and path, referring to them as awakening, enlightenment, bodhi, moksha, etc.  But just like this blog post, they may seem outright bizarre or make little sense without some personal experience of surfacing. As the saying goes, the master only appears, when the student is ready. 

I'm also a seeker who's figuring out the path, and I have only briefly experienced these higher states (if at all). So I can't tell you how to get there other than to persist, explore and experiment on your own (as the path is rife with mystical snake oil pamphlets and salesmen). Buddhism recommends the eightfold path and several other practices. Yoga offers four different paths - love/devotion, knowledge, work, and meditation. It seems clear that you need to focus on both internal and external factors; both the mind and the body - 

(a) You must train your mind to be extremely focused, present, and free  - from ego, materialistic fears, desires, pain, pleasure, and from the transitory nature of reality and self. 

(b) You will need to nurture and create a body, practices, environment, safety, knowledge, and community that are supportive of this pursuit, potentially over multiple generations or centuries. 

It's important to remember that the journey to enlightenment is not a quick or linear one, and you will have moments of feeling lost, stuck, or like you're backtracking. However, even small moments of increased awareness and lucidity can bring great benefits to one's life and can be building blocks for larger moments of enlightenment.

Also, each person is unique, and the path will vary from person to person. It's important to find your own path, what resonates with you, and not to compare yourself to others. Finally, it's a lifelong journey, not a one-time achievement, to continue growing and expanding our consciousness.

Dynamo energy

I remember being drawn to a dynamo bike light when I was a kid. It's a contraption that converts the mechanical movement of the bike wheels into electrical energy and then, light. So you power the light just by pedaling the bike. When you don't pedal, the light stays off. As you start pedaling, the light turns on dimly and then, turns to fully bright as you get to a faster steady pace. 

The dynamo concept came back to me again yesterday as I was having a particularly lazy vacation day. I had woken up late, didn't shower or change, and didn't step out or move much. I felt sluggish and so spent more of the day laying and reading in bed, and napped more. The lazing made me feel more lethargic both physically and mentally, which is antithetical to the goal of a vacation or relaxation. 

The sluggishness quickly dissipated when I eventually showered, changed, and went out for a walk in a vibrant part of town. 

Like a dynamo bike light, our bodies and minds also get activated by activity (both ours and of the environment around us) and create a virtuous cycle of energy. You need to start pedalling to turn on the lights. 

Zooming in and out of the universe

When we step back a lot, intellectualize, and abstract away everything, we imagine a universe like this. 

This can make us feel like a meaningless speck in space and time. But the reality is that the universe is also this - 

Your family, friends, pets, plants, coworkers, and neighbors are all parts of the universe too. You and all your experiences, thoughts, and feelings - are the universe too. Each of us is a little universe, and we are vibing with each other. 

Zooming out gives us a wide perspective and frees us from pettiness. Zooming in and being in the present is how you live a little. 

Monopoly the game

We had a fun time playing Monopoly with friends this weekend. As with every game of Monopoly, it got competitive, but we are all still friends :) 

Monopoly was invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1908 to demonstrate the evils of Capitalism (which has ironically sustained and grown over the years thanks to a capitalistic engine).  

Teaching through games is such a clever and effective idea. It's fun, hands-on, experiential, and demonstrates a variety of scenarios. It helps you develop an instinct for the concept in a way that reading books or doing projects rarely do. 

The game is indeed illustrative of many aspects of Capitalism. I have listed some of them in no particular order below -  

1. The first couple of rounds start out as a mix of mostly luck and some skill. If you are fortunate with good die rolls and happen to land on unowned properties, you get to buy them at a great price. 

2. But quickly wealth concentrates among a few, and the rest are squeezed with exponentially rising rent prices but stagnant wages. It's very rare to make a comeback in the later rounds if you aren't lucky in the early rounds. 

3. Those who invest in buying properties and buildings do well as assets grow exponentially, while cash depreciates exponentially. Almost everyone underestimates the exponential nature of the game.  

4. Those who trade well do well, and those who do poor trades or don't trade are likely to lose. You can't land on all properties you want, so it's quite important to be open and good at deal-making. 

5. Cash management becomes key as the rounds progress when prices rise. If you are property-rich and cash poor, you risk getting squeezed and bankrupt.  

6. When you are wealthy (cash & property rich) you become resilient to bad luck and get multiple chances to become lucky. But if you aren't, a bad die roll can be fatal. Once you get to the point of mortgaging property, there's never coming back.  

7. Salary, Chance and Community chest cards, including income taxes, fines, or gifts aren't adjusted for the recipient's wealth. 

8. Everyone except the winner feels a tad bit resentful. The winner/wealthier almost always get a bit cocky. 

I believe that Capitalism's system of incentives and a free market is better than most alternatives for innovation and freedom. But thoughtful regulation, taxation, and universal social services or income are necessary pairings for a society with economic mobility, safety nets, and fairer distribution of wealth and power. 

Preparing for uncertain times

This is a period of high economic turbulence. Inflation is rising, a war and energy crisis are escalating, and supply chains are still wonky. Fed is responding with interest rate hikes, governments are changing policies, and the market is responding with valuation cuts, tightening the belts, and layoffs. 

Times are uncertain, and that increases uncertainty for each of us too. That means we can get laid off, not find a job, our investments may tank, and we may not be able to afford or get what we need or want. No one can give us guarantees, and we are ultimately responsible for how we and our close ones will fare. 

This is how I'd advise people to prepare: 

1. Personal resilience: 

Just like businesses do, make sure you have a robust runway by increasing savings (in low-risk, liquid assets) and reducing spending. Try to save for a few months of expenses to prepare for the eventuality of a layoff and a tough job market. If you want to take it up a notch, you can get into a prepper mode by becoming more independent around your basic needs - house, food, health, and safety. The preparation and resilience will give you a sense of safety and confidence. 

2. Job resilience: 

To reduce the risk of getting laid off, join (or stay) at a robust company and then be valuable within the company - work on important areas that are big strategic bets or cashflow generators, and become critical and hard to replace. Be a person who leaders and others value and like to work with (effective, kind, cheerful, and unique). This can't all happen overnight -  you need to invest in your career resilience over the long run. 

3. Career strength and resilience: 

Continue developing skills, experiences, and attitude that are valuable and differentiated. This sets you up for job and career resilience in the long run.

4. Investment resilience: 

I'm far from an expert here, so I'll keep this light. You need a portfolio and strategy that can play both defence and offense. A mix of safe, liquid, and recession-resilient assets, and investments in the downturn that can payoff during the eventual recovery. 

5. Health, attitude, relationships, and passions: 

Last, but definitely not the least - strong physical and mental health, an optimistic attitude, close relationships, and passions offer you the ultimate optionality - you can always dig out of a hole or start from scratch if you have those. Regardless of how tough things get, prioritize caring for yourself and others above all else. 

Unhelpful soothing behaviors

When we are upset or anxious, our minds automatically seek soothing activities - something that offers immediate pleasure, or distraction, or makes us feel in control.
This is a good strategy, except when the soothing behaviors are unhelpful - they provide immediate relief, but eventually amplify the root situation or cause a different unpleasant situation. Then to soothe ourselves again, we do more of the unhelpful behavior, causing vicious cycles or addictions.
Alcohol, snacking, smoking, anger, gossip, nail-biting, procrastination, and doom scrolling on social media are examples of such unhelpful behaviors.
We are better served if we train ourselves to replace these unhelpful soothing behaviors with more helpful ones like drinking water, pacing, going for a walk, sleeping, exercising, meditation, journaling, or creating a plan to address the stressful situation.

The Theory of Domino Destiny

Everything and everyone is a domino in a web of dominos that have been falling since the start of the universe. 

Your success or failures, good or bad decisions, body, mind - both conscious and sub-conscious, wants, fears, values, personality, intellect, wealth, and power are all results of your genetics, environment, life situations, cultures, formation of the planet, and everything that ever happened until now.   

Wait...what about my hard work, deliberate choices, and free will? 

You definitely experience your life, you change and make changes, and it certainly feels like you are in control of many of your thoughts and actions.     

What I'm saying is that you, your body and mind, your control, your sense of control, and your consciousness originated from everything else. You are a neural network and genetic machinery that is shaped and trained by the universe, maybe with an element of randomness.

If we moved you as a baby to a different set of parents, changed your genes a bit, or changed your natural environment or influences, you could have been a rabbit. This is true for you, Albert Einstein, Gautama Buddha, Jeff Bezos, Mother Theresa, a serial murderer, a corrupt politician, a tree, and a bird. 

You are the result and vessel of the forces of creation (God, Science, or the Big Bang, as you prefer). And so is everything and everyone around you. 

How and why are the dominos falling?

Well, doesn't seem random. We have been able to understand, predict and alter some aspects of how the dominos behave using a scientific approach and knowledge (evolution, physics, chemistry, etc.). We are continuously getting better at this too. 

Why the heck are they falling? Many claims, but no one *reliably* knows...yet. My cheeky response is that if I were the all-powerful universe, I'd have more fun morphing into all these things than just being nothing, which is not dissimilar from why we all do what we do. 

What do I do with this theory?

This theory is another framing for understanding and acting on our reality. It proposes that we and everything else are a product of influences. 

Like everything, I, this blog, and this theory are also dominos that are borne out of other dominos and can influence dominos like you. You are also a domino that is influenced by and can influence other dominos. How this theory is going to influence you just depends, I repeat, on everything that's happened before.  

I don't think you should despair that free will is only perceived. Everything we assume to be "real" in life is only perceived after all. You still live and experience life.

I hope it makes you reflect on the influences that have shaped and are continuing to shape your beliefs and behaviors. Where are they coming from? Are they helping or hurting you? Should you listen more, peel away or rewire those influences or behaviors? This is the foundation of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Internal Family System, and Buddhism's Four Noble Truths, which are great at increasing equanimity and response-ability. 

I hope it gives you a ton of self-love, acceptance, confidence, and gentleness for your life, who you are now, who you were in the past, and who you will be in the future because you are exactly what the forces of creation intended. We all experience guilt, self-doubt, shame, fear, envy, and anger about certain life characteristics, experiences, or situations -- when you think more about them, you realize all of these were results of dominos that have fallen way before and beyond you.

Hopefully, you also feel a connection, understanding, gentleness, and love for all the other people and dominos around you as well because they are also what the forces of creation intended. Someone wisely observed that we don't usually feel angry at a tree or an animal if they disturb us somehow. But, we feel upset with ourselves and other humans presumably because we think we have more control or intention in our thinking and actions.  

Finally, I also hope that you feel a sense of wonder for our mysterious and intricate domino reality, and you experience and flow freely through your domino life with peace, joy, and love

Attorney and poet, Max Ehrmann, puts it beautifully:

"You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy."


[1] Sam Harris articulates the same theory and is one of the dominoes that fell on me. 

[2] Bill Nye and a bunch of other scientists share their views here

[3] Destiny may imply the future is already pre-written, but I'm not implying that here. I'm just saying the path to the future is determined by the past, but the story may be evolving in real-time. 

[4] I have learned and experienced to some extent that with deep meditation and awareness, you can slowly see and unravel the various domino influences, which is liberating. 

[5] One alternative to this theory is that you, or specifically, your consciousness has sources of origin or properties beyond the physical world (like a brain in a vat theory). Another is that your deepest core of consciousness, if you keep peeling away the layers, is pure awareness, without any influences. 

[6] Just because everything is from the force of creation doesn't mean they are benign to you, so you may still choose to defend or offend to safeguard yourself, after all you are a precious force of creation too. But I think this theory can help you do so without anger or hate.