Leo Babuata on Becoming Trustable

Leo Babauta writes on Zen Habits on being trustable. I found the advice important enough in my relationship to reproduce th advice here in full.

I’m going to give some of the key learnings here:

  • Do your best to practice keeping your word. That means when you say you’re going to do something, really commit to making that happen. Sometimes that means sacrificing some comfort to make it happen. But make it a top priority, and take it seriously.
  • When you can’t keep your word, own up to it. Let them know ahead of time if you’re not able to do it. If you messed up, take responsibility and apologize, and let them know what you’ll do going forward to avoid the same mistake repeating. Do what you need to do to fix things.
  • Breathe deeply and slow down. When we’re jumpy and anxious, they will feel it. When we stand solidly, breathe deeply, and go slower … they feel this as solidity and trustability. As with all of this, it’s a learning process — you’ll have moments of anxiety, but you can learn to breathe deeply even here. You’ll have moments of fidgetyness and jumpiness … but you can learn to slow down even here, with practice.
  • Create structure for yourself and them. When you are committed to making certain things happen (taking care of the car, getting the groceries, paying the bills) … it will help greatly to have structure, like a schedule with reminders. When will this get taken care of? You might alter the structure, but having a structure for you and those around you helps them to know that things are in order and will be taken care of. Practice creating structure for others when it would serve them (without forcing it on them) — offer a plan, a schedule, a clear decision, an agreement.
  • When they complain about something you haven’t done … listen. Hold space for their complaint, and instead of taking it personally, see if there’s some way you can help them. But listen first, and get them. Then see what you can do to make it right, to create structure so they can trust it will get done, to clean up any mess you’ve accidentally made. You don’t need to feel blame or shame, but just get them.
  • Take things seriously. But not too seriously! OK, it’s good to have a sense of humor … but if you dismiss their concerns, or say, “Yeah yeah don’t worry” … they will worry. They can’t trust that you’re going to do your best. Give it your all. Hear their concerns. Make it clear that you’re going to take care of it.
  • Take full responsibility. Especially when you want to blame them. Instead of pointing the finger … look at what you might have done to contribute to this, or to allow this situation to happen. Have you not been clear? Have you not created an agreement around this? Have you not been acknowledging them for how great they are? Have you not been taking care of things? When you think you shouldn’t have to take on responsibility — that’s when you can take on more.
  • Take care of yourself. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you be trusted to take care of them? This means clean up your messes, put things in order, do some basic personal hygiene, take care of your emotions, give yourself rest when you’re feeling stressed or burned out. Being trustable doesn’t mean you have to take on so much that you’re overworked.
  • Always look for ways to be more trustable. Where have you dropped the ball? Is there something you could do to feel more solid to them? Where have you avoided taking on responsibility? Where have you let things lapse into a mess? This is a continual area of growth. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can continue to grow. For life.

My Thinking on Cryptocurrency

I am thinking of investing a small amount of money in cryptocurrency. For the last three weeks, I have been listening to and reading articles about the situation in India. What follows is my summary.

I had forgotten about cryptocurrencies for the longest time since my initial fascination for it in 2017. The fascination hit me again when I listened to an episode of Paisa Vaisa.

Coldfusion on YouTube has a video about the ways in which the financial system today is using blockchain technology. Cryptocurrency is also built on top of blockchain technology. Some banks are buying cryptocurrency as a hedge against fiat currency while others are using it to save heavily on international transfers.

Blockchain is now mainstream

In 2018, RBI had banned banks from allowing their accounts to be used for purchase or sale of cryptocurrency. Combined with a paper by a Finance Secretary in the Ministry of Finance suggesting that cryptocurrency be banned, the public interpreted this to mean that cryptocurrency was illegal.

In 2020, the Supreme Court said that RBI could not stop financial institutions from providing banking services to cryptocurrency exchanges. After the verdict, though, there have been news reports about banning trade in cryptocurrency and mining of cryptocurrency.

In the filings of Berkshire Hathaway, it was disclosed that they had sold banking stocks and had bought shares of a gold mining company. Robert Kiyosaki saw that as Warren Buffet losing confidence in fiat currency (the US dollar) and buying a stake in gold. In a podcast episode, Kiyosaki saw this as a validation of his position and a significant change in the market. He also makes a case for buying bitcoins on his blog, later in the day.

The Indian Rupee is not fully convertible with the US dollar. But, most international currencies are pegged to the dollar. Countries like Iran, China and Russia are trying to introduce their own cryptocurrencies in order to reduce their dependence on the US dollar. It is speculated that various central banks are purchasing cryptocurrency as a way to hedge their own position in the cryptocurrency market. In a globalized world, we could feel the impact at some point in the future. Maybe later than when it occurs elsewhere as our central bank protects the rupee.

People who fought the case in the Supreme Court against RBI’s ban say that the Government has stepped down it’s stance against cryptocurrency from wanting to ban it to wanting to regulate it.

Coindesk, a news organisation that reports on cryptocurrencies does talk about the limitations that India has in terms of cryptocurrencies. Mining or creating cryptocurrency is indirectly banned in India. The computers required to mine cryptocurrency are specific ones called ASIC machines. The import of these machines into India is banned. A few enthusiasts mine cryptocurrency using GPU. The Government further threatened miners by arresting a few of them. It seems that the remaining miners are planing to migrate to countries like Armenia.

The 2020 verdict however meant that cryptocurrency exchanges could now operate in India. This means that you can now buy using cryptocurrency by transferring money from an Indian bank account or a financial service provider. However, there is no regulation of cryptocurrency. Things now are working on good faith between exchanges and consumers who want to purchase cryptocurrency.

The exchanges want SEBI to be their regulator. They are already performing due diligence and complying to KYC requirements as mandated by SEBI. However, payments in cryptocurrency might require RBI regulation.

I do not see myself wanting to use cryptocurrency to make a payment. I wanted to hold the currency as a diversified asset that I can hold or one that I can accumulate over time just like one would hold gold or stocks.

If you are considering purchase of a cryptocurrency, please do not see this as professional advice. I am learning about this field as well. The Coindesk story that I mentioned above, does suggest that there is at least one cryptocurrency advisor whom you may want to consult if you plan to purchase in large amounts.

Pune to Palakkad

I moved to Palakkad, my home town from Pune in the second last week of July. We drove our car from Pune to Palakkad. I will write separately about that experience. In this post, I would like to document for posterity the reasons for my decisions.

When we entered lock down in March 2020, my initial expectation was that India was much better off than other countries at that point in time. Hence, my expectation then was that if we stayed put at home, we would be safe. Things would run their course and we might return to normalcy by June, at the latest.

As things unraveled, I realized that this was a much longer journey than I had anticipated. Things could remain unchanged for much longer. Colleagues at office were going to their native place in the months of May and June 2020. So, in June 2020, I decided to go to our native place.

Kerala had instituted a system of granting passes to the people entering the state. My application for travel to Kerala in June 2020 was declined. Many of my colleagues from work who were from Kerala traveled to the state at this time. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we might be stuck in Pune.

My main concern in staying on in Pune was the lack of a support system. If my wife was infected and had to be hospitalized, I was not sure if I would be able to take care of our daughter by myself. I could have got my relatives over but I did not want to complicate things for others for my incompetency.

So, when Unlock 1.0 started, we decided to apply again. Kerala then moved from a pass system to a registration system. Hence, we applied and received a pass on July 21. We started in the morning of July 23 and reached Palakkad in the evening of July 24.

Kadambari

I’ve had a writers block. I could record my podcast this week but couldn’t find anything to write.

Besides the gulmohar tree in front of my balcony was another tree. My wife who correctly identified the gulmohar could not identify the other correctly. She first thought it was ramphal (wild sweetsop). But, as the tree bore fruit, she confessed to me that it was not ramphal.

The Kadambari tree in our compound. The gulmohar shared earlier can be seen photo bombing. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

Sahil Khan fleeted a picture of the tree on Twitter. I asked him for the identity of the tree and he said it was the kadambari (burflower). So, what we thought of as a fruit was actually it’s flower!

I then read through the Wikipedia entry for the kadambari and I must say my inquisitiveness was piqued. This also led me to the eponymous romantic novel in Sanskrit.

Daughter’s School – First Working Day

Daughter ready for her online class in Nursery

It’s a new world.

The first day at school (yesterday – June 10) for my daughter involved an hour long session for Parents Orientation. My daughter, my wife and I sat in front of my laptop awaiting for the session to begin. Today (June 11) the working day begins.

Several parents logged in, tried playing with the settings. Muting audio and toggling the video settings. The pre-primary coordinator introduced us to the school, its founder and the principal. The principal made a brief statement welcoming us to the school’s family. She said that the times were unprecedented for both parents and teachers. She asked for our support during the first few days as we both adjusted to not being physically present.

We were asked to turn on the cameras and the students got to see their teachers for the first time on a video call on Teams.

Our laptop died on us right in the middle. It took us a few minutes of worry to switch to the mobile phone app. Afterwards, my wife took it to another repair shop as the guy who repaired it earlier was out of Pune for a two day visit to his parents. We got the laptop repaired in the evening.

In the QnA session thereafter, a parent asked if the school could start later in the day as kids wake up late.

Parents use the Teams chat feature to get other parents’ mobile numbers and started a WhatsApp group. My efforts to try and quit WhatsApp remain difficult. The conversation in the evening turned towards how unfair it was to have kids studying in Nursery take their class online. News from Karnataka added fuel to the fire.

Many parents felt that physical presence of teachers (who were trained for this) was needed. The stress on the parents has certainly increased. Working parents would find it difficult to sit with their children.

There is a triplet in our daughter’s class. Do the issues multiply 3x for them or do these things get better with scale?

The classes for the first two weeks is just an hour long. They begin with a “morning assembly”. That is followed with a 5 minute break. The first class begins at 9:30 am. This goes on for half an hour. This is followed by a 15 minute fruit break. Then there is another class for half an hour. This is followed by a 5 minute break. The day ends with a “closing assembly”.

Daughter’s First Day at School

Today is my daughter’s first day at school. She is in Nursery.

First, let me acknowledge my privilege in being able to afford a school that is starting on time during a pandemic. The classes are online. Being able to afford a separate laptop for her with enough internet bandwidth to attend class and for me to work from home is a blessing.

We were thinking of moving to Kerala in May 2020. I was working from home and schools were not slated to open till September 2020 this year. The interstate pass system had opened. We were applying for passes planning to drive down to Kerala. The request got rejected. On the evening of the same day, we got an email from my daughter’s school that school would open with online classes on June 10, 2020. June 10 is the day schools normally open in Maharashtra, where we are based now.

This stopped us from seeking a pass to go to Kerala and we decided to stay put here. Although classes are online, we were not sure how easy it would be to travel between Maharashtra and Kerala at some point in the future.

Many of the smaller private schools and government schools have still not opened and are wondering how to ensure that everyone can access academic content. There are concerns around content delivery and access. My daughter’s school has assumed that it’s parents have the privilege to access a laptop or a smartphone at home with good bandwidth.

A few days before the announcement, I was listening to Rukmini’s podcast, The Moving Curve. She was talking about the importance of opening up schools and day care facilities as a precursor to parents returning to work. In India, working parents choose and depend on schools to take care of their kids most of the day to enable them to go to work.

In a recent episode, Rukmini spoke of how a disruption of even a year in the student’s academic track leads to a loss in pay of about 15% per year later on in life. That’s getting one pay grade less than one deserves for the rest of life.

This helped me realize the importance of privilege of being able to have my daughter attend school now.

I was watching this video in Malayalam of efforts people are taking to prepare their child for school online. Cleaning up the background, setting up a desk for studying and providing water and sufficient lighting during studies. There are also health considerations like keeping a safe distance between the child’s eyes and the screen.

Online class about to begin… video in Malayalam

I lent the table and chair I was using for working from home to my daughter. We put a sofa cushion on the seat so that the camera is at the correct height that she can be seen. We have moved furniture around so that the background is our wall. We also did a few test runs with my parents last night.

My daughter’s classes are on Microsoft Teams, a software that even I was only introduced to last year while I was working with State Bank of India. She has her own email id for accessing content and for school work.

My best wishes for everyone who are on this journey.

Samkhya on YouTube

Since writing a summary of my search on reading up on Samkhya, I thought this update would help other seekers. This YouTube video (~ 30 minutes long, embedded below) is the best explanation that I have found online of the philosophy of Samkhya and Yoga. I have been looking for the Samkhya Karika translations online. There seem to be a lot of content for competitive exams but very little else.

What is Samkhya & Yoga Philosophy? by Vishwa Yoga

I am currently reading the pdf of the book by John Davies. After that, I hope to get D E Osto’s book that I mentioned in my earlier post.

Gulmohar

There was a gulmohar tree right outside my house.

Gulmohar before it bloomed. Image credit: Pradeep Mohandas

We moved into this building only last July. I never noticed this tree because I never sat in our balcony overlooking the tree. I didn’t have the time nor the inclination. I was mostly staring into a rectangular device.

After the lockdown, my family sat in the balcony in the evening. It started as a ritual to enjoy the afternoon tea with a cool breeze to keep us company. This practice also gifted us some magnificent sunsets.

The blooming gulmohar seen from our balcony. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

As the gulmohar bloomed, my wife identified it. After that we looked at it each day as it bloomed and turned into a place of refuge for winged refugees and a stray cat.