Here’s some stuff I am reading and thinking about this weekend…
Book I’m Reading – Siddhartha
Siddhartha is a beautiful novel by Hermann Hesse, first published in 1922 in Germany, that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha.
The book follows this young man named Siddhartha on his journey to find the true meaning of life and peace. One passage that is particularly enlightening for me is when a ferryman, Vasudeva, the spiritual guide of Siddhartha, consoles him after the latter’s son (also Siddhartha) from a courtesan woman (Kamala) doesn’t seem to be interested in reciprocating well to his father’s love and advice, and seems like running away to a path of his own that looks dangerous to his father –
“You see into my heart,” said Siddhartha sadly. “…look, he has no gentle heart – so how I can put him in that world? Will he not become haughty, will he not surrender to pleasure and power, will he not repeat all his father’s mistakes, will he not perhaps lose himself entirely in samsara?”
The ferryman’s smile beamed bright; he gently touched Siddhartha’s arm and said: “Ask the river, my friend! Hear it laugh at that! Do you really believe you committed your follies to spare your son? And can you shield your son against samsara? How? Through teaching, through praying, through admonishing? My friend, have you fully forgotten that tale, that instructive tale you once told me here, about Siddhartha, the Brahmin’s son. Who saved Siddhartha the samana from samsara, from sin, from greed, from folly? Could his father’s piety, his teachers’ admonitions, his own knowing, his own seeking, save him? What father, what teacher could shield him from living his own life, soiling himself with life, burdening himself with guilt, drinking the bitter drink himself, finding his path himself? Do you really believe, dear friend, that anyone at all is spared this path? Perhaps your little son because you love him, because you would like to spare him pain and sorrow and disillusion? But even if you died for him ten times over, you could not take away even the tiniest bit of his destiny.”
This passage reminds me of another beautiful composition, this time from Kahlil Gibran who wrote On Children –
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
Articles I’m Reading
Continuing with kids, and focusing on teenagers, Scott Galloway who has written this nice book titled The Four, has composed a scary piece about social media and its impact on kids. Now, what’s scary is the part where Galloway writes how social media runs on rage and why it has gotten so hard for us to protect our kids from it –
…in an attempt to sanitize our kids’ lives, we’ve used so many clean wipes that our children’s immune system is arrested. Our concierge parenting, clearing out all the obstacles, and protecting children from real-life experiences creates fragile adults who are then more prone to depression.
The rise in both digital media and mental health problems is correlated. The chaser is the introduction of social media, which, more so in girls, has created massive amounts of FOBLO (fear of being left out), the more hurtful version of FOMO. It’s one thing to hear about a party you weren’t invited to, and another to see it unfold real-time on your Instagram feed, alone in your room.
Teenagers are more “safe” than previous decades — they drink less, smoke less, are safer drivers, and wait longer to have sex. But other trends are less positive, even distressing: teenagers are less rebellious, less happy, unprepared for adulthood. The toxic cocktail: helicopter parenting plus the allure of screens. Teenagers are physically safer than ever, yet they are more mentally vulnerable than before the introduction of smartphones.
Being a father of two kids, one a teenager now, these findings matters hugely for me. Though my teenager is yet to start using the smartphone meaningfully and is still away from social media, and that as Siddhartha is told in the above passage that parents cannot take away even the tiniest bit of their kids’ destiny, I am certainly keeping a watchful eye and my fingers crossed.
Is value investing a good idea? Here’s an answer by Jack Schwager, author of Market Wizards series, who invokes the wisdom of Joel Greenblatt, one of the foremost experts on value investing, while answering the question –
Value investing doesn’t always work. The market doesn’t always agree with you. Over time, value is roughly the way the market prices stocks, but over the short term, which sometimes can be as long as two or three years, there are periods when it doesn’t work. And that is a very good thing. The fact that our value approach doesn’t work over periods of time is precisely the reason why it continues to work over the long term.
Jason Fried is one of my favourite business owners and thinkers. He is the founder and CEO at Basecamp, but more importantly for me the author of Rework, one book that has inspired me tremendously in my entrepreneurial pursuits. In a post he wrote some time back on his blog, Jason recounted a crucial lesson from Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos that he shared with the former’s team a few years ago –
During one of his answers, he shared an enlightened observation about people who are “right a lot”.
He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.
He’s observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a well-formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary.
Great advice, indeed!
Continuing with Jeff Bezos, here us what he told his employees recently while addressing their concerns on the question – Where is Amazon headed?
Amazon is not too big to fail. In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.
The key to prolonging that demise is for the company to obsess over customers and to avoid looking inward, worrying about itself.
If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end. We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible.
Wish more corporate managers understood reality as Bezos does, rather than having illusions about their future.
Thought I’m Meditating On
The rotten pretence of the man who says, ‘I prefer to be honest with you’! What are you on about, man? No need for this preface – the reality will show. It should be written on your forehead, immediately clear in the tone of your voice and the light of your eyes, just as the loved one can immediately read all in the glance of his lovers. In short, the good and honest man should have the same effect as the unwashed – anyone close by as he passes detects the aura, willy-nilly, at once. Calculated honesty is a stiletto*. There is nothing more degrading than the friendship of wolves: avoid that above all. The good, honest, kindly man has it in his eyes, and you cannot mistake him. ~ Marcus Aurelius in Meditations
* ‘Stiletto’ is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, primarily intended as a stabbing weapon.
Enjoy your weekend,