Tag Archives: life

Life and Chess: Who’s playing?

All chess games habe drei Stufen,,en,die Eröffnung,,en,die Mitte des Spiels und das Endspiel,,en,Und ein Schachspiel ist eine einigermaßen gute Metapher für das Leben,,en,Schach,,en,Leben,,en,Sinnlosigkeit,,en,Als meine Mutter mich zur Welt brachte,,en,Es war eine Touch-and-Go-Situation,,en,Ich wurde mit einem ungewöhnlich großen Kopf geschaffen,,en,worauf ich bestehen möchte, ist mit einem Gehirn von der Größe eines kleinen Planeten gefüllt,,en,Ob wegen des Kopfes oder aus einem anderen medizinischen Grund,,en,Meine Mutter musste sich einem Notfall-Kaiserschnitt unterziehen,,en,Merken,,en,Dies war vor mehr als einem halben Jahrhundert in einer abgelegenen Bergstation in der Nähe von Munnar in Kerala,,en,Mid-Life-Krise,,en,Sinnlosigkeit,,en,Freund aus Kindertagen,,en,Als ich ein Kind war,,en,Ich hatte einen Freund in der Nachbarschaft,,en,Ein kluger,,en,und leicht nerdig,,en,Kind,,en,nicht anders als ich,,en,Wir haben immer rumgehangen,,en,Badminton spielen und physikalische Experimente machen,,en,Zu der Zeit waren wir Teenager,,en,wir trieben irgendwie auseinander,,en: the opening, the mid-game and the endgame. And a chess game is a reasonably good metaphor for life.

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Life is full of contradictions.

I am attending a research retreat on mindfulness and contemplative practices at the beautiful Garrison Institute. I am learning a lot of interesting things, und viel treffen,,en,Gleichgesinnte und hervorragende Menschen,,en,die Art von Menschen, mit denen ich mich tief über die Unwirklichkeit der Realität unterhalten konnte,,en,Im Gegensatz zu den meisten Menschen aus anderen Lebensbereichen würden sie sich höflich und taktvoll entschuldigen, wenn ich etwas unwirklich werde,,en,Meditation,,en,Eine Unterrichtserfahrung,,en,Ich habe gerade mein erstes Semester als Professor an der Singapore Management University beendet,,en,Ich unterrichtete einen Grundkurs namens Computer als Analysewerkzeug,,en,Das ist auf Geschäftsmodellierung und datengesteuerte Entscheidungsunterstützung,,en,Ich hatte ungefähr,,en,Studenten,,en,in drei Abschnitten zu je drei Unterrichtsstunden pro Woche,,en,Ich muss sagen, das Ganze war eine sehr bereichernde Erfahrung,,en,Die Gründe für diese Aussage werden am erläutert,,en,theoretisiert und hypothetisiert,,en,Das ist Unreal Blog,,en,Pensionierung,,en,Lehren,,en,Work-Life-Balance,,en,Zwielichtjahre,,en like-minded and excellent people – the kind of people with whom I could have deep conversation about the unreal nature of reality, unlike most people from other walks of life would politely and tactfully excuse themselves when I get a bit unreal.

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Twilight Years

Irgendwann in unserem Leben,,en,Wir akzeptieren, dass wir dem Tod näher sind als dem Leben,,en,Was vor uns liegt, ist definitiv weniger wichtig als das, was zurückbleibt,,en,Dies sind die Dämmerungsjahre,,en,und ich bin gekommen, um sie anzunehmen,,en,Mit Dunkelheit über den Horizonten,,en,und die langen Schatten fehlgeschlagener Jahre und entgangener menschlicher Verhältnisse, die überall um mich herum glitten,,en,Ich schaue in die Leere,,en,in eine Ewigkeit der Stille und Traumlosigkeit,,en,Es ist,,en,Fast Zeit,,en,Sonnenuntergang Karriere,,en,Lehren ist eine edle und lohnende Berufung,,en,Als meine Sonnenuntergangskarriere,,en,Ich habe eine Fakultätsstelle bei angenommen,,en,Singapore Management University,,en,Unterricht in Datenanalyse und Geschäftsmodellierung an der School of Information Systems,,en,Diese Themen passen gut zu meinen,,en,unternehmerische Unternehmungen,,en,ab Anfang dieses Jahres Datenanalyse und Prozessautomatisierung,,en, we come to accept the fact we are closer to death than life. What lies ahead is definitely less significant than what is left behind. These are the twilight years, and I have come to accept them. With darkness descending over the horizons, and the long shadows of misspent years and evaded human conditions slithering all around me, I peer into the void, into an eternity of silence and dreamlessness. It is almost time.

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Driving in India

I have had the pleasure of driving in many parts of the world. Being fairly observant and having a tendency to theorize about everything, I have come to form a general theory about driving habits as well.

You see, each place has a set of driving norms, a grammar or a dialect of driving, if you will. In Marseille, France, for instance, if you switch on your turn signal on a multilane street, people will immediately let you in. It’s not because they are polite and considerate drivers (quite the contrary, in fact), but a turn signal indicates the drivers’ intention to change lanes, not a request to let them. They are not seeking permission; they are merely letting you know. You’d better let them in unless you want a collision. In Geneva (Switzerland), on the other hand, the turn signal is really a request, which is usually denied.

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Internal and External Successes

Success can be internal or external. External success is easily measured in terms of money and material possessions. The internal one is measured in terms of less palpable yardsticks, like happiness, peace of mind etc. External success is related to extrovert qualities, like articulation, and depends on what others think of you. The internal one, on the other hand, depends on what you think of yourself. It is made up of things like duty, honor etc. Confusing one with the other leads to misconceptions like identifying money with happiness, for instance. You need one for the other, but they are definitely not the same.

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How to be Successful in Life?

When I talked about the dimensions of success, I used the word dimension with an ulterior motive. I want to define success for you in a formal way. You see, an entity that has many dimensions is a space, similar to the three dimensional space we live in. When we have such a complex multi-dimensional space to define success in, we have to apply some good techniques from physics to do it right. Don’t worry, i am here to help.

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Dimensions of Success

Money is only one dimension along which success can be defined. There are many others, such as sports, music, art, acting, politics, professions and even more abstract things like articulation, soft skills, philanthropy, wisdom, knowledge etc. Excellence in any one of them can be thought of us success. Success is easy to spot — look at any one of the celebrities and ask yourself why you know them. The answer is usually one of the dimensions of success — and fame its byproduct.

Excellence in any field can translate to money, which is what Eddie Felson in the Color of Money tells the younger pool player. This transformability often leads us to mistake money for the measure success, which, by the way, is the theme of the afore-mentioned movie. Towards the end of the movie, when Felson realizes that there is more to life than money, he says, “I just want your best game.” Ability to hang with the best game anybody can dish out in any field is excellence; and it has to be reckoned as success. This excellence is probably what the ancient Greeks called arete.

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Definition of Success

We all want to be successful in life. What does success mean to us? Because success is goal in life, when it is not achieved, we get disappointed. We are then, to be blunt, unsuccessful. But the word success can hold anything within. So if you we don’t know what success is, disappointment is inevitable. We really do need to define it.

Let’s go through a few common definitions of success and see if we can draw any conclusions from it. By the end of this series of posts, I hope to give you a good definition that will make you successful in life. What more can you ask of a blog?

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Autism and Genius

Most things in life are distributed normally, which means they all show a bell curve when quantified using a sensible measure. For instance, the marks scored by a large enough number of students has a normal distribution, with very few scoring close to zero or close to 100%, and most bunching around the class average. This distribution is the basis for letter grading. Of course, this assumes a sensible test — if the test is too easy (like a primary school test given to university students), everybody would score close to 100% and there would be no bell curve, nor any reasonable way of letter-grading the results.

If we could sensibly quantify traits like intelligence, insanity, autism, athleticism, musical aptitude etc, they should all form normal Gaussian distributions. Where you find yourself on the curve is a matter of luck. If you are lucky, you fall on the right side of the distribution close to the tail, and if you are unlucky, you would find yourself near the wrong end. But this statement is a bit too simplistic. Nothing in life is quite that straight-forward. The various distributions have strange correlations. Even in the absence of correlations, purely mathematical considerations will indicate that the likelihood of finding yourself in the right end of multiple desirable traits is slim. That is to say, if you are in the top 0.1% of your cohort academically, and in terms of your looks, and in athleticism, you are already one in a billionwhich is why you don’t find many strikingly handsome theoretical physicists who are also ranked tennis players.

The recent world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, is also a fashion model, which is news precisely because it is the exception that proves the rule. By the way, I just figured out what that mysterious expression “exception that proves the rule” actually meant — something looks like an exception only because as a general rule, it doesn’t exist or happen, which proves that there is a rule.

Getting back to our theme, in addition to the minuscule probability for genius as prescribed by mathematics, we also find correlations between genius and behavioral pathologies like insanity and autism. A genius brain is probably wired differently. Anything different from the norm is also, well, abnormal. Behavior abnormal when judged against the society’s rules is the definition of insanity. So there is a only a fine line separating insanity from true genius, I believe. The personal lives of many geniuses point to this conclusion. Einstein had strange personal relationships, and a son who was clinically insane. Many geniuses actually ended up in the looney bin. And some afflicted with autism show astonishing gifts like photographic memory, mathematical prowess etc. Take for instance, the case of autistic savants. Or consider cases like Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, who is only slightly better than (or different from) the Rain Man.

I believe the reason for the correlation is the fact that the same slight abnormalities in the brain can often manifest themselves as talents or genius on the positive side, or as questionable gifts on the negative side. I guess my message is that anybody away from the average in any distribution, be it brilliance or insanity, should take it with neither pride nor rancor. It is merely a statistical fluctuation. I know this post won’t ease the pain of those who are afflicted on the negative side, or eliminate the arrogance of the ones on the positive side. But here’s hoping that it will at least diminish the intensity of those feelings
Photo by Arturo de Albornoz

Pride and Pretention

What has been of intense personal satisfaction for me was mydiscoveryrelated to GRBs and radio sources alluded to earlier. Strangely, it is also the origin of most of things that I’m not proud of. You see, when you feel that you have found the purpose of your life, it is great. When you feel that you have achieved the purpose, it is greater still. But then comes the questionnow what? Life in some sense ends with the perceived attainment of the professed goals. A life without goals is a clearly a life without much motivation. It is a journey past its destination. As many before me have discovered, it is the journey toward an unknown destination that drives us. The journey’s end, the arrival, is troublesome, because it is death. With the honest conviction of this attainment of the goals then comes the disturbing feeling that life is over. Now there are only rituals left to perform. As a deep-seated, ingrained notion, this conviction of mine has led to personality traits that I regret. It has led to a level of detachment in everyday situations where detachment was perhaps not warranted, and a certain recklessness in choices where a more mature consideration was perhaps indicated.

The recklessness led to many strange career choices. Eigentlich,,en,Unsere früheren Abschnitte über die statische Struktur der Bank und die zeitliche Entwicklung des Handels waren in Vorbereitung auf diesen letzten Abschnitt,,en,In den nächsten Beiträgen,,en,Wir werden sehen, wie die Quants,,en,quantitative Entwickler und die Middle Office-Profis,,en,und der Rest,,en,siehe Handel und Handelsaktivität,,en,Ihre Ansichten sind wichtig und müssen in der Designphilosophie jeder Handelsplattform berücksichtigt werden,,en,Woher kommen diese Perspektiven und warum müssen wir sie kennen,,en,Die Handelsperspektiven basieren auf dem für jeden Geschäftsbereich spezifischen Arbeitsparadigma,,en,Aufgrund dessen, auf welchen Aspekt der Handelsaktivität sich eine Gruppe konzentriert,,en,Sie entwickeln ein Paradigma,,en,oder ein mentales Modell,,en,das funktioniert am besten für sie,,en,Um zu verstehen,,en, I feel as though I lived many different lives in my time. In most roles I attempted, I managed to move near the top of the field. As an undergrad, I got into the most prestigious university in India. As a scientist later on, I worked with the best at that Mecca of physics, CERN. As a writer, I had the rare privilege of invited book commissions and regular column requests. During my short foray into quantitative finance, I am quite happy with my sojourn in banking, despite my ethical misgivings about it. Even as a blogger and a hobby programmer, I had quite a bit success. Now, as the hour to bow out draws near, I feel as though I have been an actor who had the good fortune of landing several successful roles. As though the successes belonged to the characters, and my own contribution was a modicum of acting talent. I guess that detachment comes of trying too many things. Or is it just the grumbling restlessness in my soul?