Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Why do some relationships fail? What can we do about them?

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment

These are again notes from an old Guru Poornima discourse by Swami Paramarthananda.

To understand the topic “Why do some relationships fail?” we need to understand two kinds of people first and their characteristics.

Two kinds of people


  1. Wise – Happy(read content) with himself
  2. Ignorant – Not happy(read not content) with himself
    This classification puts a vast majority of the people in the ignorant bucket.

When two ignorant try to strike a relationship (which is the most common case) these are the characteristics.

Characteristics of an ignorant-ignorant relationship


  • Both are not happy with themselves, and they try to gain happiness from each other
  • This is like Two unsteady people trying to hold each other in order to become steady (This is one of the best examples that one can attribute to such relationships).
  • They both try to influence (sometimes even manipulate) each other (in order to gain happiness)
  • Expectations keep mounting, No human can fulfill the expectation of other human – impractical
  • More complaints than joy as a result of the relationship
  • No question of progress / improvement – because maintenance itself is a struggle – Samsara

    Lower your expectations

    Well that kind of sets the expectations you can have from most of the relationships. So what kind of relationships you can trust on, the relationship with the content (wise) – Read – your Guru.

But, what about other relationships, which form a vast majority and which are most likely you run into. Well the only thing we can do is have lower expectations or better zero expectations when you get into such relationships.

You can read the notes (not transcript) that I made from the discourse here

Let go and move on


So next time your friend, relative does something that you did not like, or does not do something when it is really needed (It is not one way, you may also do something that your friends / relatives may not like or refrain from doing what they were expecting from you) – remind yourself this example

Two unsteady people are trying to hold each other in order to become steady

Lesser disappointment as a result. Any favourable outcome is rather an exception (not the norm). This simple and profound thought enables us to move on peacefully by letting go.

Seeking help from the right source when the situation is unfavourable

February 15, 2014 Leave a comment

The other day i listened to an excellent (all of Swami ji’s discourses are excellent, but you got to in the right mind-set to appreciate them) discourse from Swami Paramarthananda (a disciple of Swami Dayananda). It was a wonderful analysis of the problem “Seeking help when you need help from the right source”, Seeking help when the situation is unfavourable. I made a transcript of this discourse. These are snippets from the transcript. I encourage you to read the entire transcript. It is well worth your time.

The Problem

Every human being, being a samsaari subject to karma, goes through varieties of situations; both favourable and unfavourable. No human being can avoid difficult and challenging situations in life. To face the challenging situations the most important virtue we require is self confidence. But unfortunately every challenging situation knocks off the self confidence alone first.

Naturally when we don’t have confidence in ourselves because we have lost it the situation may be physical illness or any other situational problem. Naturally we look for help from outside.

I look for support from outside. I expect them to give me confidence and support. To our disappointment often what we get is not confidence and support. Most of the people, who come to (to help) me at the time of difficulty, give me a big discourse on the list of mistakes that I have done, because of which I am in this situation. A big lecture of wisdom is given. You should have done that, you shouldn’t have done that. They give a big advice. This is the most inopportune and wrong time to talk about my mistakes.

What I really seek is that somebody to come and tell me, ‘Don’t worry you have the resources to tide over the problem’. Or I want somebody to come and tell me, ‘I am with you, Don’t worry’. Or somebody to come and tell me, ‘We will together face the situation’. What I require is confidence building with the help of another, but instead of confidence, I get a big lecture on my mistakes. They will tell, I told you that day itself, you didn’t listen, That’s why. Swamiji says didn’t I tell you.

I don’t have confidence to face the situation and all other people are criticizing me for the past actions. Isn’t there anyone to help me or support me at all. There is an utter feeling of loneliness and an utter feeling of helplessness. This sense of loneliness and sense of helplessness is one of the powerful expressions of samsara. Samara can be defined in many ways. One of the powerful expressions of samsara is sense of loneliness that there is nobody even though many people of around. In spite of having people around me, I have a sense of loneliness and helplessness. This, every human being feels often in his life time. This feeling of loneliness and helplessness is prominent when the situations are not favourable.


The solutions


Solution 1

one method is that always remembering that the God is with me to support, to give me strength and to give me confidence. The very thought that I am not anatha: helpless, I have got anathanatha. Ananthanatha is the name of the Lord. I am not anatha:, but I have got the lord to help me.  The very thought that I have the help from lord, boosts my confidence. The beauty is what I require is not actual help from the Lord, really speaking what I require from the Lord is not actual help. The very thought that I have someone to help me, the very thought gives me confidence. So this is a psychological fact, What a human being actually requires is not help, but the very thought that I have someone to help me gives me enough confidence in myself. Once I have the confidence, I will discover the inner resources to handle the situation. Therefore, what I require is the offer of help, not help itself.

Dayananda Swamiji says ‘Seeking help when you need help from the right source is intelligence’.

An anecdote

The other day, one lady was telling me:

Swamiji I had to undergo cataract surgery. Only me and my husband are here, And I decided to undergo the surgery here (in my place) itself. My son who is away (in another place in India) offered to come and stay during that time. I told him that you need not unnecessarily give up your family work and all, we will somehow manage it no problem.

She told,

If he had not offered to help, I might have felt bad and helpless. The very offer of help was enough to give me the moral support that there is somebody to come and help.  The very offer of help gave me the confidence. I told him, you don’t come.  We two, even though we are old, who helps whom we don’t know, We managed and we are fine.

Root cause analysis

Samsara is not actually caused by the event itself. But samsara is caused by the event-centric thought pattern. Like that lady, what made her comfortable is not the help of the son, the son did not come, But it is the event-centric thought, Whenever I need I call my son. There is the offer of help from the son, it is the event-centric thought pattern that helped her, not the actual person. Therefore events are only the general cause of samsara. The specific cause of samsara is our thought pattern centred on the event. ‘Enakku aarume illainu aaspathirikki porache’ (when I go to the hospital thinking that I have no one to help) the suffering is more. ‘Enakku Paiyyan irukkan, venda podhu varuvaan gra thought oda aaspathirikku pora podhu’ (when I go to the hospital thinking that I have my son to help, he will come when I need) the suffering is less.

Therefore the external events are only samaanya karanam, the internal thought pattern is the vishesha karanam of samsara. Therefore what we do is, use the Vedantic teaching to change the thought pattern itself. Which is called Nidityasanam process. Instead of blindly and mechanically studying Vedanta,

Instead of blindly and mechanically writing notes, and the moment a situation comes all goes… In the class ‘Aham Bramhasmi’. Instead of blindly and mechanically preserving the cassettes, Why can’t you use this teaching to change your thought pattern.

Solution 2

Instead of saying the family members are there to help me and expecting help from them and they hesitating to offer, me feeling bad (I did so much, but they are not reciprocating, can’t they least offer?). Instead of feeling miserable, and instead of again shifting the dependence from family to God, which is another anathma (external source). Why can’t you learn to depend on your own resource by knowing your own true nature. Therefore gaining Self Knowledge, and changing the thought pattern is the method given by Vedanta. What is the Self Knowledge? The Self Knowledge is really speaking, I am the truth of the entire Universe. I don’t have to depend on the world. On the other hand the entire world of anathma is dependent on me the athma.

Therefore I am independent, Therefore I have all the strength in myself, Therefore I don’t need help and even if I seek help, the ‘Mithya World’ cannot give me help. Even if I seek help, the ‘Mithya World’ cannot me help, Therefore ‘Than Kaiye Thanakkutth Thunai’ Self Help is Best Help.

Read the notes from the entire discourse here

Link train–10X Productivity–Part 2–Flow

June 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Continuing on the topic of 10X Productivity, I will refer to this as “Flow” from here. I referred the following classics on the topic of Flow. A person with 10X productivity can be called a 10X-er or a Super-Star, I will use the term 10X-er from here.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition) by Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister

On Flow

Rao’s article lead me to Paul Graham’s “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”

…There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule…It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour…

…But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started…

…When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all?…

“Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” –

I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning.

I have been plagued by this and had felt guilty of this many times. But I am not alone Smile

Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams, Chapter 8 – Brain Time Versus Body Time

During single-minded work time, people are ideally in a state that psychologists call flow. Flow is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement. In this state, there is a gentle sense of euphoria, and one is largely unaware of the passage of time: "I began to work. I looked up, and three hours had passed." There is no consciousness of effort; the work just seems to, well, flow.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn on flow like a switch. It takes a slow descent into the subject, requiring fifteen minutes or more of concentration before the state is locked in. During this immersion period, you are particularly sensitive to noise and interruption. A disruptive environment can make it difficult or impossible to attain flow.

Just as important as the loss of effective time is the accompanying frustration. The worker who tries and tries to get into flow and is interrupted each time is not a happy person. He gets tantalizingly close to involvement only to be bounced back into awareness of his surroundings. Instead of the deep mindfulness that he craves, he is continually channelled into the promiscuous changing of direction that the modern office tries to force upon him.

A few days like that and anybody is ready to look for a new job. If you’re a manager, you may be relatively unsympathetic to the frustrations of being in no-flow. After all, you do most of your own work in interrupt mode—that’s management—but the people who work for you need to get into flow. Anything that keeps them from it will reduce their effectiveness and the satisfaction they take in their work.

Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience

…the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.

Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant at the time they occur. The swimmer’s muscles might have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs might have felt like exploding, and he might have been dizzy with fatigue—yet these could have been the best moments of his life. Getting control of life is never easy, and sometimes it can be definitely painful. But in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery—or perhaps better, a sense of participation in determining the content of life—that comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine.

…theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow—the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

Most people spend the largest part of their lives working and interacting with others, especially with members of their families. Therefore it is crucial that one learn to transform jobs into flow-producing activities, and to think of ways of making relations with parents, spouses, children, and friends more enjoyable.


  1. occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing 
  2. we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
    the concentration is usually possible because 
  3. the  task  undertaken  has  clear  goals  and  
  4. provides  immediate feedback., 
  5. one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.  
  6. allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.  
  7. concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. 
  8. the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.
    The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself. Even if initially undertaken for other reasons, the activity that consumes us becomes intrinsically rewarding. Surgeons speak of their work: “It is so enjoyable that I would do it even if I didn’t have to.” Sailors say: “I am spending a lot of money and time on this boat, but it is worth it—nothing quite compares with the feeling I get when I am out sailing.”
    The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.

Some of my own thoughts and conclusions based on the reading above and my personal experience with the concept of flow.

Even if you are 10X-er you productivity could vary based on


  • What if you are hiring and you have 2-3 15 min preliminary telephonic screen interviews spread over the day?
  • What if your stand up meeting is in the middle of the day to accommodate a distributed team in a different time zone?
  • IM is the new telephone, What if you get pings in the IM from recruiters for scheduling interviews, onsite development team for status, support.
  • What if you wear multiple hats, that of a developer which requires to manage your time on the maker’s schedule and that of a technical lead supporting a (distributed) team which assumes you manage your time on the manager’s schedule (accessible when needed).

Energy levels

What if you are going through a slump / bad patch / health issues and your energy levels are not 100%?

For whatever reasons if your optimal experiences dry out your intrinsic motivation sources dry out, and you start looking for extrinsic motivation. This contributes to a slump in energy levels contributing to a negative reinforcing loop / spiral. A 10X-er handles this situation poorly than the average person because he is not used this.

Link train–10X Productivity–Part 1–10X-ers or Superstars

June 17, 2012 1 comment

I was reading “Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed” in the Economist’s science and technology blog, I found the link via Prismatic. I found a bogie of links from this article and referred my book-shelf for a few classic books on the topic of productivity.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition) by Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister

Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules by Steve McConnell

“Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed”

…best programmers generally outperform the worst by a factor of ten, but that there was at least a tenfold difference in productivity among software organisations. Within individual firms, the difference in performance was only 20% or so. Clearly, the brightest programmers tended to congregate in places that had a reputation for attracting talented people; where the challenges were enticing, and the conditions conducive to good work. In many cases, that meant leaving large software companies to join smaller ones or to start their own

from Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed

It lead me to “Thrust, Drag and the 10X Effect” blog in Venkatesh Rao’s web site .

…Thrust items create high value. They are autotelic: they involve a mindful state of flow as discovered by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, which emerges when you are just beyond the edge of your current skill level, and have internalized the performance standards of the creative field, so that you are able to continuously monitor the quality of your own output via internal feedback…

…Generating thrust means you have to be capable of some sort of mindful-learning deliberate-practice behavior.In other words, you need a thrust engine…

Unfortunately, thrust engines have a lifespan (generally between 7-10 years). You have to get through an initial starter-motor phase, hit an ignition point, and then keep the engine running until it wears out. You’d better have another engine starting up by that point, or you’ll be in trouble

from “Thrust, Drag and the 10X Effect” –

I also searched for Joel’s article mentioned in “Super-star programmers – Difference engine: Wired for speed” and read that. The article is titled “Hitting the High Notes”

…The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.

Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years…

from “Hitting the High Notes” –

Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams, Chapter 8 – You never get anything done around here between 9 and 5

Three rules of thumb seem to apply whenever you measure variations in performance over a sample of individuals:

  1. Count on the best people outperforming the worst by about 10:1.
  2. Count on the best performer being about 2.5 times better than the median performer.
  3. Count on the half that are better-than-median performers outdoing the other half by more than 2:1.

Rapid Development – Taming Wild Software Schedules, Chapter 2 – Rapid Development Strategy

Since the late 1960s, study after study has found that the productivity of individual programmers with similar levels of experience does, indeed vary by a factor of at least 10 to 1 (Sackman, Erikson, and Grant 1968, Curtis 1981, Mills 1983, DeMarco arid Lister 1985, Curtis et al. 1986, Card 1987, Valett and McGarry 1989).
Studies have also found variations in the performance of entire teams on the order of 3, 4, or 5 to 1 (Weinberg and Schulman 1974; Boehm 1981; Mills 1983; Boehm, Gray, and Seewaldt 1984).

Some of my own thoughts on the same.

There is a possibility of building a 10X-er or a team of Super-stars, A High performing team (HPT).

The need may be because

  • Only a High performing team of 10X-ers can build the complex product / framework needed.
  • The High Performing team can build a product 2.5 times faster than a median / average performing team.

Hiring and maintaining a High Performance Team

  • If 1 in 4 people are capable of 10X productivity the hiring effort roughly quadruples.  If the recruitment team is not 10X then we may not be able to hire people for a High Performance team.
  • Running a team of 10X-ers requires a manager who is a 10X-er.
  • Running a team of 10X-ers requires more effort from the manager (may be 10X).
  • If your sales team estimates a project based on a HPT of 10X-ers and the delivery team is average or worse the estimates may be off by 2.5X or 10X or worse yet the delivery team may fail.

Clean up your attitude

May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered what makes you unhappy, discontented, dissatisfied and restless?

  1. Jealousy: Resentment of others’ success and prosperity.
  2. Persecution complex: The unhealthy belief that people are deliberately placing obstacles on our path to prevent us from achieving what we desire.
  3. Obsessive desire for perfection: The inability to be content with what we are and what we do.
  4. Needless regret over past decisions: It’s futile wishing to change the past, which cannot be changed.

To put it simply, we are unhappy because:

  • We can’t get what we want.
  • We are not satisfied with what we have.
  • We live in the past or fantasise about the future, and cannot live in the present.
  • We want to change conditions around us, or in some cases, we resist any change in our present conditions.

It is clear that unhappiness arises out of our unwillingness to accept life as it is.

I am sorry, I could not help but post the content from the article literally here. A great article, worth a read.

Read the entire article here. Found via a forum post in

What are some good short term rewards to motivate a child

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Found a great answer to this question – What are some good short term rewards to motivate a child? by Jane Chin