Thinking inside versus outside the box

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Think outside the box – a cliché in business world. If you agree that creation is essentially dual in nature, and that seemingly opposite principles are ‘bound’ to each other by tangible or intangible forces, then it should not be difficult to understand that the conceptual opposites – problem and solution – should also occur in pairs. In highly competitive business environments where heavy-weight words like radical change, groundbreaking technology, breakthrough invention, innovation, etc. are tossed around abundantly because they are required at times, misunderstood some times, and sounds fashionable many a time, it’s difficult to see the sensibility and practicality of ‘thinking inside the box’. This approach looks at the problem as a part of the system that has one or a few ‘wrong notes’; a local-area malfunctioning that requires fixing and that is all. The fixing or the intervention is done from within the system using the very elements and processes of the system. This is an organic approach, and by its very nature thinking-inside-the-box approach gives a sustainable solution to the problem. It is sustainable because the solution is brought about from within the system by using its own constituents without introducing a foreign element. When a totally new element or process is brought in to a system to address a problem, which is what a think- outside-the-box approach would do, the new element dominates the existing system due to the importance attached to it by human intervention, and it tends to change the entire set-up around it in compliance with it’s own nature. Eventually, the whole system is subjected to unnecessary change, when all that is required is a simple, local addressing of the problem area. Yes, sometimes the very foundation requires change. But that is altogether a different situation. The situation in this case is a need for invention. And this requires out-of-the-box thinking because thinking out of the box is essentially a creative and inventive act. But for finding solutions to problems and even for improving a situation, the way is to think inside the box. It would do much good if we know what we are addressing and what we want – whether a problem or a system-change and whether a solution or an invention. The following quote sums it well:

“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. But if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid.”
– Christopher Peterson

Delayed in the shortcut lanes of life

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Why are shortcuts so tempting? Because that is the nature of ‘bad  stuffs’… that is their selling-point: easy and quick. Most scandals and misbehavior involve shortcuts, and it is a well-known fact that, in most of the cases, shortcut approach fails. The reason being, any objective worth attaining requires our time and energy. The experience and the consolidation of the knowledge /skill that happens as one walks the ‘long route’ to one’s goal is bypassed and missed while taking the shortcut route. This is the main reason why shortcuts fail. They are character-deficient paths. Anybody can walk a shortcut path – and that leads to the other reason why shortcuts usually fail us: since it is an easy and seemingly a ‘smart’  choice, the crowd in the narrow lanes of shortcuts is more. In other words, there is more (unethical) competition in shortcut routes than in the long routes of life. There is always less competition where discipline, dedication, perseverance and ethics are involved. None of the above mentioned qualities are any ‘quickies’. These are robust qualities that are essentially built for, and built

while

travelling the long routes of life, which are the logical and definite paths to our goals.
Always remember…
“Short cuts make long delays.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien

Not this, not this – choosing through negation

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“We are our choices.”
– Jean Paul sartre

Choices are given to man so that he can make mistakes! I am sorry for sounding pessimistic, but I don’t have a negative outlook about mistakes. They have their place and purpose in life. But that does not warrant us to make mistakes, especially avoidable mistakes. It is natural to get confused when we are confronted with too many choices, or for that matter, even the presence of just two choices can cause great confusion. Indian philosophy has a very powerful technique to understand the ultimate reality or truth. It gets to the real nature of the self by rejecting, one by one, that which is not real or false. It’s called ‘Neti Neti’ in Sanskrit language, which means ‘not this, not this.’ Apophatic theology or the negative theology of the West is a similar concept wherein the religious experience and language about the divine good is understood through discernment. Of course, these are grand concepts that I am talking about, but nevertheless they could be applied to mundane choices of life too. When there are too many choices, and when they are all seemingly equal in ‘weight’, focus on what you don’t like or what is deficient in each of the choices. ‘NO’ is always more powerful than ‘YES’. So, start with what each choice does NOT have, and eliminate it from your pool of choices. And start from the one that has the biggest deficiency in whatever are your parameters or specifications required for the situation. This is the quickest and reasonable way to make the right choice. At the least, it will reduce the number of contestant and make your selection process more easy.

“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”
– Cassandra Clare

Be Judgemental !

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What is wrong in being judgemental ? And why is so much negativity attached to this word? We respect the words ‘Judge’ and ‘Judiciary ‘  but we abhor the word ‘judgemental’!! We are repeatedly and strongly advised against being judgemental, while every nation has a supreme or an apex court, numerous sub-judiciaries, committees, and cultures that pass judgements, which a civilized society reveres and obeys. Why is this kind of self-contradiction and hypocrisy when it comes to judging at a micro, individual level?  Every sane human being will judge, either consciously or sub-consciously, and whether he or she likes it or not. We are advised to think logically. We are trained to make rational decisions. How can logic and rationality be present without the presence of judgment? Most people have no problem if a situation is judged, but if it is a person that is being judged, the alarm buzzes! Is there any situation that is devoid of the involvement of human beings? Who creates the situation? We, the humans. Then it is just a matter of common sense that in order to judge a situation, the people involved in it should be judged too. But there is one important condition here –  do not judge if it is not necessary. Most of the time, most of us, waste precious time and mental energy in judging people and situations that are not necessary. Probably this is the reason why, eventually, the act of judging at individual level came to be criticized. When there is less of reason and more of emotion involved in judging, then of course, it is a definite No. But otherwise, do judge; judge with reason only those that the faculty of reasoning sanctions you to judge, and make sound decisions.

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

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“What is it that you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?”

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“That’s everything?”

“I believe, that’s everything!”

– Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse

– The famous dialogue from  Hermann Hesse’s great novel, Siddhartha. This is the reply the protagonist, Siddhartha, gives to his prospect employer who interviews him on his knowledge and job skills. This novel and I, grew up together…. It has given me different meanings and answers to the same questions I asked at different stages of my life. Today, when I sat to write my weekend blog and had trouble focusing and got vexed in the process, this dialogue from my ‘guide’ knocked at the doors of my mind.

Can I think?
Yes,  a lot!

We all can think. But ‘a lot’ is the problem. Do we think only that which is necessary? And are we able to think with the required degrees of attention about which we are supposed to think?  In majority of the cases, the answer in no. We think too much about unnecessary things and too little about the necessary ones. In a day, almost 90 % of our thinking is either repetitive, redundant, unnecessary or imaginative. Conscious imagination is a wonderful work of the mind, but an unconscious creation or recreation is a mere waste of time and energy. Nothing is more detrimental to a productive and peaceful life than a mind that is on an ‘auto-run’ mode.

And the next, can I wait?
Hardly.
To wait means to be patient. And to be patient means to respect the pace of life. There is no point in trying to run ahead of life. We simply cannot outsmart life. It is similar to running within a moving train with a hope that our running would take us to our destination faster. The best way to wait is to shift the focus of the mind from the object of waiting to something else. This method is effective because the perception of time is nothing but the perception of an experience /incident. In waiting, there is no experience or any incident happening, and so, time comes to a standstill which is very difficult for the mind to handle. The best way is to engage the mind in some activity during the waiting period. That is how some of the great books were born in prisons and exiles.
 
And finally, can I fast?
Very occasionally and with great difficulty…

What is the psychology and spirituality behind fasting? Fasting increases our sustaining capacity, tolerance level and will power. The will power is not just about bearing the physical hunger, but at a higher level, it is also about bearing  mental and emotional hungers, and agonies of life. This is the deeper meaning behind the ritual of fasting which is practiced in almost all the religions of the world. All those who can survive through tough times without succumbing are the ones who can fast –  those who can fast their pride, egos, desires, and aspirations. There are no short cuts to learn the art of fasting. It comes only by practice and determination.

Siddhartha was a smart man. He knew no trade or craft but knew well the fundamental skills required for survival. And he was right when he said, “I believe, that’s all.”