Harsha's Life Blog

300+ articles on life, career and change

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    Negation is not endorsement

    Negation is not endorsement

    Just because I doubt the rigour of a (negative) statement about X, that does not mean I have any (positive) view about X. Negation is NOT endorsement. Negation is negation. Yet, many seem unable to grasp this.  Clinging to beliefs People are often so invested in their...

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    Recharging just to drain yourself

    Recharging just to drain yourself

    We, moderns, are so obsessed with achieving that even leisure is required to have a purpose. To serve as “recharging”, so that one can do even more achieving! Yet, this is a form of recharging just to drain yourself again.  Living in order to work  It is as if...

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    Iron Law of Bureaucracy

    Iron Law of Bureaucracy

    When I first read Jerry Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy, I felt he had given words to a deep truth. A truth that I, and probably many of you, can confirm from lived experience within organisations.  The Iron Law  Pournelle’s iron law considers organisations as...

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    Optionality in doing what you love

    Optionality in doing what you love

    Beyond the joy of it, there is embedded optionality in doing what you love. If things really work out commercially, you gain (if such gains interest you that is). If not, you are doing what deeply interests you anyway!  Shift in mindset  So, the optionality in doing...

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    Putting-up a front

    Putting-up a front

    Everyone puts up a front, the only question is how much? It may be a big front some of the time, a bit of a front all of the time, or any mixture in between. Whatever the particular flavour, putting up a front is behaviour that is deeply human. I do it, you do it, we...

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    Cat as coach?

    Cat as coach?

    Someone recently asked me if after a few coaching sessions they would be able to ‘get things on track’. My response, which will not surprise some of you, was that the answer is unknowable —maybe, maybe not. I pointed out the epistemic uncertainty around if my...

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    No.1 survival skill in modernity

    No.1 survival skill in modernity

    Being able to cut through the noise is the No.1 survival skill in modernity. In our information age of vast and mass communication, we must either cut through noise or else drown in it.   Inherent property  Generating patterns and narratives is an inherent property of...

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    The good life

    The good life

    With every inch of material advancement, we seem to be adding a mile of psychological derangement.  Despite our material progress, or perhaps because of it, modernity is producing more-and-more chronic anxiety and mental tension. It is as if our species’ very success...

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    Declutter your mind

    Declutter your mind

    We can clutter our minds in the same way that we clutter our homes. And the result is very much the same. Feeling cramped for space, confusion around where things are, wasted energy and frustration. Luckily, decluttering your mind is much simpler than you might...

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    Inner freedom in the everyday

    Inner freedom in the everyday

    How can we live with a sense of inner freedom? To feel like life isn’t an uphill struggle with foes to vanquish at every turn. The truth is, you often stand in your shadow, and you just need to get out of your own way. But, the mind is a tricky customer that loves to...

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    Corporate employment is like school

    Corporate employment is like school

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how corporate employment is much like school. It shares so many of the undesirable features of mainstream education that it’s kind of scary. And, I am not sure what’s worse— that corporate employment is like school, or that school is...

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    Everything is useful, everything is useless

    Everything is useful, everything is useless

    Through the use of logic, you see the limits of logic. Through the limits of logic, you see the use of logic. Everything is useful in some way and useless in another. So, you cannot ask a fish to cross the Serengeti in the same way that cannot ask a cheetah to swim...

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    What really inspires you?

    What really inspires you?

    I’ve discussed the value of asking what you would do if money wasn’t a problem in relation to career change. But, figuring out what really inspires you is not always easy. In today’s blog, I offer a few ideas to try and tease out what may be too shy to show itself. ...

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    Your deeper motivation

    Your deeper motivation

    The deeper motivation for doing what you do is everything. It is the engine that powers the entire process. It is the driving force behind all that unfolds and as such, you must get to know it. To see it and really understand it. So, what are your real motivations for...

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    Ouroboros of mind

    Ouroboros of mind

    Many psychological knots are self-perpetuating — like Ouroboros, the serpent that eats its own tail. We often become anxious about anxiety, sad about sadness, and fearful of fear.  Psychological knots  What makes psychological knots, knotty, is that you are attempting...

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    No passion, no problem

    No passion, no problem

    I’ve always had a strong sense for what inspires me, for what I want to do with my time. The key constraints in my life, once upon a time, were time and energy. This was fundamentally why I decided to do my own thing a few years ago. What has become clearer to me over...

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    Saints and sinners

    Saints and sinners

    I recently read that Stanley Milgram’s controversial electric-shock experiment from the early 60’s was faked. Apparently, he massively cherry-picked the data to fit his narrative. Milgram claimed to have shown how obedience to authority led people to do unconscionable...

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    Preference or truth?

    Preference or truth?

    Many so-called battles for the ‘truth’ are really disputes about preferences — like chocolate vs. vanilla. One is no-more or no-less valid than the other. Don’t confuse what-you-like with some notion of absolute reality. It is always worth asking — are we talking...

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    Self-renewal

    Self-renewal

    The Amazonian Pirahãs, one of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes, have an intriguing tradition of changing their names every 10 years or so. For the Pirahãs, people are not the same in different stages of their lives and name changes are meant to...

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    Finding meaning

    Finding meaning

    Finding meaning is one of those trendy phrases that gets thrown around a lot these days. But, what does finding meaning really involve? What the bloody-hell is it and how do we find it? Here’s a thought. Rather than trying to find meaning in life, find what feels...

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    Void of achievement

    Void of achievement

    Looking to try something different in 2021? STOP desperately trying to ‘achieve’. The space that is left by freeing-up the energy wasted on proving yourself is fertile ground for growth. This is the void of achievement.   Be wary of positive advice   The world is full...

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    2020 in review

    2020 in review

    Friends, 2020 has certainly been crazy, but I tried to get on with things despite it all. Self-published my first book on my own terms Coached by video throughout the pandemic Got a bicycle Walked in nature more Wrote 143 blog posts Attended Nassim Taleb's Real World...

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    Theory of mind

    Theory of mind

    Why do we get worked-up over the behaviour of other humans? Why do we have expectations of people in the same way we wouldn’t of other animals? Because the human animal has what is known as theory of mind. Choice and action Theory of mind is the ability to attribute...

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    Projecting yourself

    Projecting yourself

    People are always projecting themselves on to others. This is almost axiomatic. The only question is around how much one does it. How aware are you of when you might be projecting yourself on to others? Projection is fundamental to how the human animal lives and we...

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    Reflections on Eastern Philosophies

    Reflections on Eastern Philosophies

    Transcript of my talk, "Chuang Tzu to Alan Watts — Reflections on Eastern Philosophy".  Given at the Mandarin Club on 17th December 2020, on the special brew of thought that is Chan Buddhism. My interest in Eastern Philosophy, and other philosophies, stems from trying...

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    On risk sharing

    On risk sharing

    Risk sharing is something we all do. Whether explicitly through contractual arrangements or implicitly through casual, unspoken agreement. And, risk sharing is easiest when trust is high. When parties know each other’s circumstances intimately and when each has the...

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    Be careful whom you copy

    Be careful whom you copy

    You can always learn from other people. If not what to do, then what not-to-do. If not how to be, then how not-to-be. But, it isn’t always easy to distinguish between the two. We may falsely attribute success to know-how, not realising that the former does...

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    So critical because you care

    So critical because you care

    The things that we really care about can be the hardest to do because we care so much. We can put immense pressure on ourselves to do it well —straightaway(!) — rather than engage in playful exploration. Our inner critic can be crippling.  Inner critic distracts  We...

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    Denying to yourself

    Denying to yourself

    Denying to yourself how you feel is like trying to keep a wild elephant in a wooden shed. It will break free, most likely producing much chaos. Better to acknowledge the truth of experience and save yourself the hassle. What’s more, such noticing allows you to find...

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    Finger is not the moon

    Finger is not the moon

    Wisdom begins with curiosity and with questions. Questions about how things work, questions about yourself — questions about life and being. And, in all of this, we must remember that the finger is not the moon.  Thinking  The man who thinks that he knows it all, in...

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    Human fodder

    Human fodder

    Modernity specialises in producing fodder, whether it is McDonalds, Miley Cyrus or mainstream media. And, what is fodder, exactly? Noun: food, especially dried hay or straw, for cattle and other livestock.  But there is another layer to this — there's fodder and...

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    The experience of creating

    The experience of creating

    What does it mean to create? The word conjures up all sorts of images from abstract art to founding a business. But, are its essential features clear? Importantly, what can we say about the experience of creating?   Out of nothing  The Late Middle English origin of...

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    Whose game do you want to play?

    Whose game do you want to play?

    Playing someone else’s game is a sure way to stifle the human spirit. Whatever the dangled carrot, there is always a hidden stick waiting to strike if you deviate from their terms. Play your game on your terms. Whatever the difficulties, at least you hold your own...

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    Help to think

    Help to think

    I often share vignettes from coaching sessions where something not obvious emerged. But, today I’d like to talk about the value of helping someone to simply think through a problem, even one that appears straightforward. To really listen and to pose questions that...

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    Reassurance of consumerism

    Reassurance of consumerism

    Much of consumerism is about sub-consciously seeking reassurance. The hidden belief is that consuming what is thought should be consumed — often what others are seen to be consuming — will somehow bring validation. So, the reassurance of consumerism is when doing what...

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    Squeezed to fit

    Squeezed to fit

    Lazy explanations are easily hatched. Often, it takes much more discipline and consideration to realise that we do not know something. The certainty of the known is very attractive — too attractive — and that is why it leads us astray.   Control  The human mind craves...

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    Stop adding value

    Stop adding value

    If you need to ask yourself if you are ‘adding value’ at work, you are very likely doing something that is not valuable. Let me put it this way, a plumber is not going to turn up at your house, fix the pipes and then ask if he has added value. Neither is a nurse. The...

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    Golden cage

    Golden cage

    “Wild fowl get a peck once in ten steps, a drink once in a hundred. Yet, they do not want to be fed in a cage. For although they would thus be able to command food, they would not be free.” This caution, attributed to the Chinese Philosopher, Chuang Tzu (4th century...

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    Russian-novel problem

    Russian-novel problem

    The “Russian-novel Problem”, coined by the psychologist David Premack, arises when so many events occur in the lives of two individuals over time, that it is impossible to know what caused what. The greater the number of interactions — all potentially connected in...

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    Obsession with being productive

    Obsession with being productive

    We are living amidst more than one pandemic. The second is the obsession with being productive, where even to sit for a moment and enjoy a coffee is somehow experienced with furrowed brow. With a nagging feeling that you are somehow doing something wrong or not...

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    Confusion about consciousness

    Confusion about consciousness

    Discussions around Consciousness generally have a fundamental pre-supposition baked-in —that humankind is somehow special. That we are somehow different to the entire realm of nature. Yet, if we take a first principles approach that the entire universe comprises of...

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    Last day on earth

    Last day on earth

    How would you change your schedule if you had, say one week or one day left to live? If the answer is “not by much”, you are truly blessed. If the answer is “f@&!, totally” it’s probably time to take a hard look at your choices.  Funny question?  Okay, so this is...

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    Your response-ability

    Your response-ability

    Personal agency begins with taking responsibility. And, "responsibility" is quite simply the ability to respond. Whatever happens then, you always have choice in how you respond, both inwardly —within yourself — and outwardly. The Latin roots of the word...

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    Medicine for a closed mind

    Medicine for a closed mind

    Diverse life experiences can be good medicine for a closed mind. The state of one’s mind is often laid bare in those situations that challenge your deepest beliefs. That challenge your view of the world and how you believe things should be. Vastness of experience But,...

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    Self-actualisation is not self-improvement

    Self-actualisation is not self-improvement

    When people talk about self-actualisation they inevitably invoke Maslow with visually appealing colourful pyramids. They present self-actualisation as if it is somehow ‘self-improvement’. The reality is that this is a mischaracterisation. Self-actualisation is not...

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    Negativity of positive thinking

    Negativity of positive thinking

    Positive thinking is a dangerous game. One that brushes over and risks suppressing the so-called negative, such that it remains hidden — its importance missed. That’s not all, the ‘negative’ that is ignored often surfaces with great force when you least expect it....

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    Bound by culture

    Bound by culture

    We can so easily forget just how much we are bound by culture. How culture influences us through the force of our surroundings and the mimicry of others. Just think of the reaction to Coronavirus as a display of cultural tendencies. Wearing a mask is second nature to...

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    Career success is for suckers

    Career success is for suckers

    Have you noticed that people who either love what they do, or are really making money never talk about “career success”? Why? Because they are too busy loving what they do or making money! “Career success” is a sucker’s game.  Second best  “Career success, career...

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    Four types of people

    Four types of people

    There are four types of people when it comes to discourse. Those who (1) understand quickly (2) understand with (some) guidance (3) understand superficially, at most (4) are not even trying to understand. People in type 4 are most likely acting in bad faith and you...

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    Clinging to definitions

    Clinging to definitions

    One may cling to definitions of self to find meaning — I’m this and that, blah blah blah. Actually, one can find more meaning by letting-go of these inherently partial narratives that we box ourselves into. What is left is the purest essence of who you are. ...

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