Monthly Archives: November 2015

Man’s quest for serotonin balance

It is not easy to look at all the faiths, meditation practices, yoga, and various other things from one perspective. Let me suggest one perspective, all of these are quests to keep our serotonin levels balanced.

Whether you are meditating twice a day, praying five times, or visiting a place of worship, all of these are focused on projecting happiness chemicals in our bodies to a balanced level.

Why is serotonin needed in our body?

Serotonin is known as the happiness chemical. It is a neurotransmitter and its twin brother dopamine is also discussed in the same context. Most people learn about serotonin when they or someone they know is suffering from depression. Prescribed Anti-depressant drugs are essentially serotonin inhibitors.

In a society addicted to consumption and over indulgence, it makes sense that more discussions are being brought up about depression over happiness and inspiration. Its analogous to talking about how to get rid of credit card debt vs how to save money.

Let me make an attempt to define the state of being inspired. One way to put it is as equanimous state of mind for the creative. Its not the state of happiness but state of calm. Left brain running at idle mode. Right brain full swing.

Limitations of electronic communication

Modern age makes us believe that technology can solve all the problems. It solves most of the problems except one and that is dealing with humans.

I read a quote somewhere sometime back and it was “If you can meet someone, don’t call. If you can call someone, don’t text or email”. Obviously it is little exaggerated but sends the point across well.

We can think of various reasons for it but first and foremost is that’s it’s very tough to be nasty when you are in front of someone. It’s very easy ( and would say cowardly) to sit behind keyboard and write nasty stuff.

Second as you can guess is body language. Body language plays almost 80% part in communication called non-verbal communication. If you take this part out communication is exactly  20% effective. On telephone you can introduce some body language so it’s definitely better than texting but does not beat in-person meetings.

I am not suggesting that all communication should be done in-person as that would overwhelm everyone but there should be a fine balance and you should err towards more human interaction than less.

I think it’s less of a problem for our generation but for the generation which is in school and colleges, they need to be taught emphatically about the limitations of electronic communication. If we do not do that, we will see many more jobs, relationships and marriages failing.

Electronic communication is a blessing for our times and I am in no way underestimating it’s importance. Mobile communication is another giant leap within that. It helps me stay productive no matter where I am. It’s just that it still does not catch all features of being human yet.

Demystifying Netflix

  • Cruise ship and iceberg

I had brief stay with Netflix many years back so I have a perspective. In a sentence, the whole company philosophy is based on the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

First, let me start with discounting the value of culture. There is a lot that has been written and said about company cultures. Most of the time, it’s overrated. I am saying overrated is because it is claimed to be directly related to the success of a company, which is not true.

Culture has a marginal short-term impact and a substantial long-term impact. When a company like Netflix is facing a lot of tail winds, it does not really matter whether they are treating employees royally or have a quarterly ritual of layoffs. When a company like Yahoo is facing a lot of headwind — no matter how hard and how sincerely Marissa Mayer tries to change culture — it will not change the course of the company. I remember reading in an article that while a ship is going to hit an iceberg, you do not spend time arranging deck chairs. I am a big admirer of Marissa and maybe would have done the same thing as she did — since you have to start somewhere — but it becomes challenging when you expect a big short term impact from that.

Coming back to Netflix, the company has an amazing business model. It has faced continuous tail winds since Blockbuster has gone bust. This is what prompts everyone to look for reasons behind company success; and they look inside.

Netflix has an unwritten policy that they will give you complete flexibility and if they think you are abusing it, they’ll let you go. It works great in that the company does not build any deadwood. It fails when you throw a baby out with bathwater (because both stink same) every few months.  It’s easy to measure deadwood as productivity can be measured by various metrics, but it’s impossible to measure the loss of babies who were thrown out with the bathwater. One can also argue that maybe the loss is not much because it’s the business model and momentum which drive growth rather than few rock start employees.

The Netflix model is great when you are an established player and have a lot of money to pay. It’s like when you are young and hot, everyone wants to sleep with you. Companies that are not so lucky need to work on nurturing employees. You need both performance and loyalty. You reward performers for loyalty because they had the choice to go somewhere else but they did not.