How to deal with loneliness today, if you want to?


Loneliness is a pandemic in itself. Isolation from the community you live in, isolation from family or isolation of any kind, sometimes self-inflicted as well, causes deep troubles to human beings. ‘Human’ being is a synonym for a ‘social’ being and we like to be around people. Most interactions that give us some kind of emotion, good or bad come from our interactions with others. Emotion is the basis of the human experience (yes, even plants and animals feel but let’s talk humans here). So, why do humans experience loneliness? Is this a new phenomenon or has it been a part of existence always? Did we begin to get lonely at a certain age in our development and growth as humans or has it been a phenomenon that everyone experiences? We also have to discuss if loneliness is a problem for everyone or only a few humans. Some people like being lonely but they don’t express it. They are ok to have company and they are ok to be alone but they don’t really mind being alone.

To understand why we feel lonely, we need to understand the root cause of loneliness. Alone or all by yourself means you have no physical body (another human being) around you. You are alone with your mind and the scores of thoughts that are inside that brain. With the kind of information overload we experience on a daily basis, we have a lot of material in the brain to ponder and work with, even if left alone. So the question comes up- Are we really alone today?

Thinking about it another way- Does loneliness mean we don’t have anyone to share the core of our being with? Perhaps. Every human craves company in some or the other form. When we find a partner for life, we want to share our core with our partner. Sometimes, this is being referred to as finding our ‘soulmate’ or some such name, but, in fact, it is about finding a really close friend who can understand us without speaking much.

Some causes of loneliness:

1.Feeling of being an outsider: When one ‘feels’ that they do not belong somewhere, whether it is a cohort or a group or a community or even a family, they start thinking about how there is nobody that understand how they feel. When this feeling intensifies, they start isolating themselves and start working with the material objects they have. If this turns towards books (bibliotherapy) and they get interested, one becomes a voracious reader with an ever increasing appetite for more knowledge. Else, they become obsessed with their mind and start inviting unnecessary thoughts that don’t stop unless you put conscious effort. Wait! That doesn’t work either.
Solution: Develop an attitude of gratitude for the people in your life, your parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, books etc. Each book is a new friend. When you feel grateful for what you already have, you are bound to appreciate the people and engage with them in a genuine way. You may also begin to lower your expectations of other people and start appreciating them for who they are. This is an exercise in self-development or personal growth and you begin to feel connected to others again. If you tried this and failed, read on.

Gratitude baby

2. Feeling that there’s something wrong with me: The anxiety that comes with having to meet other people can make you feel like you are not able to connect with others. When this feeling comes to your mind, it spirals into other thoughts of inadequacy and lacking feeling, feelings of emptiness and boredom with life. When this feeling intensifies, one begins to self-doubt and question every action leading to tremendous pressure on one’s mind. This can also lead to self-rejection of one’s own ideas and make them less confident in themselves.
Solution: When you notice yourself thinking about your social skills or have a feeling of self-doubt with regard to interacting with others, practice meeting yourself first. Look into your eyes in the mirror consciously and start observing your breath, your posture, your expressions and your eyes. Look deeply into them and try to find a connection with yourself first. As you gaze more into your own eyes, you may notice that you are getting to know yourself more intimately. Just a caution: initially, when you look into your own eyes, you may find it challenging to sustain it for a long time, but with continued practice, you will develop a positive perspective towards yourself and learn more about yourself (your feelings and your thoughts) in the present moment. If you want to take it a step further, write down your thoughts and feelings after you mirror gaze for a few minutes everyday. You will start acknowledging a new person- YOU, everyday.

3.Feeling that nobody understands me sincerely: Intimacy in connections develops over time and the feeling of intimacy can only develop when one is sincere. When you are sincere with yourself, your feelings, your thoughts and your actions, you begin to understand yourself more. But you also realize that you are not perfect and you have many vulnerabilities. As a social being, we want to show ourselves in a raw form to others and have others understand us. With the increasing ‘age of distraction’, nobody has the time to spend enough time to genuinely know you. You must start this exercise by understanding yourself sincerely. Are you lying to yourself about anything? Are you deceiving yourself of anything by writing off a feeling or a thought that originated? Are you able to live with yourself in a comfortable way or do you constantly feel like you are not truthful to yourself? When you have such feelings, you come to a place where your inside understand that the circuit is not rigged properly. Some of your neurons will fire the wrong way and send you signals that you are not a sincere person and you constantly look for shortcuts or ways to get out of stuff at the slightest taste of discomfort.
Solution: Recognizing our blindspots and learning to work with them and perhaps having a mirror that shows those internal blindspots is a tremendously useful exercise in resolving this feeling, if you want to. The mirror is our own conscience which knows if we are doing the right thing or not. When we feel capable of judgments, decisions and choices that we make everyday, we know what we like and dislike, to what extent we like and dislike and in what way we like or dislike something or someone. When we are true to our conscience that we have done the right thing, we become sincere in life. When someone points out our shortcomings, reflect if that is true by being sincere with yourself. You will then know who your true well-wishers and friends are, in life.

If you want to feel less lonely, watch out for someone in your family, friend circle or your community. Be the buddy who others want to be accountable to when they are on a journey of any kind. Be the support you wished you had as you were growing up. Exercise your talents in human communication and keep improving how to speak, how to speak with compassion, how to speak with persuasion every single day. Getting out of your home is the first step in combating loneliness. Get places and meet the new YOU.

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Is early detection of cancer possible?


There’s value if you can predict something that our mind cannot predict. For this, you need tools. If your mind can think of a logic that helps it predict the future, it is connecting past information it has and using its vast neural network to make the prediction. In the case of a biomedical problem like early cancer detection dilemma, how do you catch it young? It is an established fact that many cancers do not cause symptoms until later in the disease development stage. So, how do you predict if someone has cancer or is bound to get cancer say 2 years before they get their initial diagnosis? Do we have tools to detect cancer early in patients with symptoms? Yes. The World Health Organization launched the “Guide to cancer early diagnosis” in 2017 with the aim to facilitate timely cancer diagnosis and improve access to cancer treatment for all.  The three key steps mentioned in the guide are :

1.Awareness and accessing care
2.Clinical evaluation, diagnosis and staging
3.Access to treatment

Blood test (genetic testing)

A Nature Communication article described that it is possible to detect five types of cancer (1.Colorectal cancer, 2.Esophageal cancer, 3.Liver cancer, 4.Lung cancer, 5.Stomach cancer) through a blood test up to 4 years before conventional diagnosis. The data from the blood test is then scored using a machine-learning algorithm. This algorithm was a logistic regression algorithm that classified a plasma sample as belonging to a healthy person or a cancer patient.

Glioblastoma: In the case of a deadly invasive brain cancer called Glioblastoma (my favorite research topic), the early cancer cause is from a mutation in certain genes called trisomy 7. This mutation occurs in the first 6 to 39 cell divisions in a healthy brain. The authors mention that 90% of glioblastoma tumours contain single copy gains of chromosome 7, 19 or 20. These gains occur within the first 10% of molecular time, i.e. they arise very early in a patient’s lifetime. The loss of chromosome 10, and driver mutations in TP53 and EGFR are very early, preceding early gains of chromosomes 7, 19 and 20. We will dive deeper into this in another article.

The image below from reference 2 shows the genes and their mutations / losses / gains.

Timing of driver mutations using a preferential ordering diagram for CNS-GBM. Events with odds above 10 (either earlier or later) are highlighted. The prevalence of the event type in the cohort is displayed as a bar plot on the right.

Do we have algorithms that can source existing clinical data and predict the cancer stage in a person? Yes. How early is early? Early detection is a stage that is enough to take a reversible intervention on the cause of the cancer. The advantages of early detection are many but the main one is to prolong the life of a patient and reduce the cost of healthcare to that patient. An average breast cancer exam costs $350 per year and women above 40 are at a higher risk than younger women but it varies by race. You could take a simple test to assess your risk for developing cancer. The American Cancer Society asks you a few questions and you get a personalized Prevention Tips.

After taking the Defender Health Quiz on the American Cancer Society’s website (you can take it too, click on reference 3 at the end of this article) where I had to answer the questions about how many hours I sit in a day and how many minutes of moderate activity I do per week, how often I work up a sweat every week in minutes/week, how many cups of fruit I eat in a day, how many veggies are in my daily menu, whether I am a vegetarian or I eat what kind of meat, when I wear sun protection (cloudy/sunny/cold day or never), it gave me a list of Most Valuable Prevention Tips. I post them below so you get motivated to take the test.

My results from American Cancer Society’s Defender Cancer Risk Assessment Tool

References:

[1]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17316-z
[2]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1907-7
[3]https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/guide-to-cancer-early-diagnosis
[4]https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early.html

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About thoughts


“Let noble thoughts come to us from all directions” was the motto of my favorite school, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. It taught and encouraged the students to go beyond the limitations of ourselves and think nobly. I only learnt later that the origin of this motto was from the Rig Veda mantra ‘Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah”. We were preached to develop “noble thoughts”, those that strengthen the core of our person. Having the courage to encourage thoughts from all directions and building one’s self from the noble thoughts arising from those directions calls to action, the rapid progress in one’s search for the truth. Although we are all not on that path of searching for the truth, we could benefit from converting our thoughts that have the potential to transform us into better individuals on all planes of existence. Combining the above Rig Veda mantra with a much modern philosopher’s writings, we can begin to understand that the same feeling resonated in those writings. Here below is an excerpt from the book “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, a philosophical British writer from the late 1800s where the emphasis in this passage and the summarized table explain how we all are what we each think on a repeated basis.

“A man is not rightly conditioned until he is a happy, healthy, and prosperous being; and happiness, health, and prosperity are the result of a harmonious adjustment of the inner with the outer of the man with his surroundings. A man not only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life, and as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition and build himself up in strong and noble thoughts. Ceases to kick against circumstances but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.

A particular train of thought persisted in, be it good or bad cannot fail to produce its result on character and circumstances. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances but he can choose his thoughts, and so, indirectly yet surely, shape his circumstances. Nature helps every man to the gratification of the thoughts, which he most encourages and opportunities are presented which will most speedily bring to the surface, both the good and evil thoughts. Let a man cease from his sinful thoughts and all the world will soften towards him and be ready to help him. Let him put away his weakly and sickly thoughts and lo! opportunities will spring up on every hand to aid his strong results. Let him encourage good thoughts and no hard fate shall bind him to wretchedness and shame. The world is your kaleidoscope and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your every moving thoughts. So, you will be what you will to be.”

A wise man named Abdul Kalam once said in India “Dream, Dream Dream. Dreams transform into thoughts. And thoughts result in action.” This sums the power of thoughts and how they are a call to action. The quality of the thought decides the type of action. If the action we want to perform must be in tune with our values, our thoughts must be attuned to our values and beliefs. That’s the only way we will ever reach results that far outlive us. In a world where there are courses on Analytical thinking, Critical thinking, Strategic thinking, Design thinking etc., we need a course that helps us understand how thoughts work. Let this post stand as a reminder to correct our self-defeating and destructive thoughts and open our minds to pure and noble thoughts, ones that strengthen us and bring us the results we seek.

Story of the blue sky


I recently listened to the talk about ‘The Unattached Self’ by Swami Sarvapriyananda. Here is an excerpt that I loved and summarized his talk beautifully. I hope you get some value out of it as well. Happy reading! I encourage you to read this article out loud so you understand it more.

Your nature is infinite

Basic definitions to start with:
The very meaning of “I am” is “I exist” and the Sanskrit word Sat summarizes this primordial fact about ourself. ‘I am this body’ gives us a limited existence in space and time. If we remove these limitations, we are free. That unlimited “is” ness or existence is Sat सत्

That unlimited awareness that is behind all the fleeting thoughts is part of the “I am” and it is summarized by the Sanskrit word Chit चित्

Bliss is this very unlimited nature of existence-awareness (Sat-Chit). Anantha, or infinitude or Purnatvam or completelness is called Ananda आनंद

What is happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain?

Svamiji quotes an example Rupert Spira gave:
The vast blue sky is always there but imagine clouds have come. Because clouds cover everything, once in a while, a patch of blue sky appears. This patch which appears and gets covered over again is what we call “Pleasure”. The unaffected blue sky in all its vastness and infinitude is always there, but we don’t see it. When we see patches of it, we call it pleasure, happiness and we keep looking for that patch. And when the cloud comes and covers it, we have darkness and we call it pain and suffering. Notice that the original blue sky is always there and is completely unaffected by these passing clouds. That is Ananda or bliss. When the clouds part, a little bit of Ananda shines through and we call it ‘our pleasure, ‘our happiness’, ‘our fulfillment in life’ and we want to hold on to these. Inevitably, the clouds come and cover it and we call those clouds ‘unhappiness’. But, behind the clouds, whether the clouds are opening a window or closing up is the infinite blue sky, untouched by the clouds- the nature of bliss or Ananda. That Sat-chit-ananda सत् – चित् – आनंद, I am.

Svamiji says, Aham Avyayam, I am ‘undecaying’ i.e. not subject to death or destruction. Why not?

What is death and destruction? ‘It’ is created, ‘it’ exists and ‘it is destroyed. ‘It’ was born, ‘it’ lived and then ‘it’ died. This is vyaya or decay or in other words, oldage, disease and death, now and then, i.e. subject to time. But ‘time’ itself is an appearance in you, the ‘I am’. You are not in time. Time is in you. There can be no beginning or end of you in time. Hence you are avyayam, you are not subject to death. Similarly, you are not limited by space. Here and There. All of this space is appearing in you, the ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ is not in space. We think, “I am a tiny being in the vastness of space”. Why? Because I am identified with the body.

For example, in a dream, when we are identified with one body, the entire space in the dream looks like a vast world in which I am walking around and experiencing things. But the truth is, when we wake up, that entire thing was in my mind. Similarly, this entire universe is in the ‘I am’. Space is in the ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ is not in the space. Therefore, nothing in this space can ever destroy you, can affect you or change you. This ‘I am’ is non-dual. Other than this ‘I am’ or ‘Brahman’ or ‘Satchitananda’ there is nothing else. If there is something other than existence, it will be non-existent. There is nothing apart from the infinite ‘isness-awareness’ which is our reality, which we are.
The ‘I am’ is avyaya, beyond death or beyond disease.

Asangoham Asangoham Asangoham Punah Punah
Satchitananda rupoham ahameva aham avyayah

Meaning: Ahameva = I verily am
Asangoham = Unattached am I (to what? to all the appearances).
Notice this again and again throughout life.

When asked what is your spiritual practice, one of the greatest monks Svami Sarvapriyananda met answered in one word – “Asanga”.

Then what is my nature? What is the nature of the “unattached I am” ?
Ans: Your nature is unrestricted, infinite is-ness immortal being. There’s no death for you. Death is something that happens in time. Even time is an appearance within you. I am of the nature of infinite ‘is-ness’. I am of the nature of infinite awareness. There is no unconsciousness for you. Even if the mind fails and goes to sleep, the blankness of the mind is also watched by you.

Remember that vast blue sky. It is of the nature of unlimited happiness, unlimited bliss, which is once in a while manifested through our minds as little patches of blue sky in the midst of the clouds. But that whole blue sky, ‘I am’. That is my real nature. This is the deep philosophy of ‘Asanga’- the unattached self.

Finch lake trail


We recently hiked in the Rockies (Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder, Colorado) to celebrate Neha’s birthday. Driving nearly 10.5 hrs from Odessa, Texas to Boulder, Colorado was a fun journey, mostly on the I-25 N. It took us 12.5 hrs with stops for scenic highway spots. A portion of the route passes through Northeastern portion of New Mexico and we get a glimpse of the dormant Capulin volcano on US-87 , which has a cinder cone shape around the mouth and last erupted nearly 60000 years ago, Picture 1.

Capulin Volcano (cinder cone shape), New Mexico

The first place of entry into Colorado was Trinidad. The entry into the mountain terrain begins way before we hit the colorful state of Colorado. The next big city en route is Colorado Springs and the majestic Pikes Peak can be spotted from the highway.

FINCH LAKE TRAIL details

The next day, we entered the RMNP driving from Louisville, CO, about a 1 hr drive. Starting at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, we head south on Mary’s Lake Rd and drive to the Wild Basin Entrance Station. We stop at the Finch lake Trailhead and take a strenuous sub-alpine hike with increasing elevation into the mountains. This is a 90% rocky trail with a gradual uphill for 2 miles and levels off for the remainder 1.2 miles. One must be careful to prevent ankle-injuries from tripping or twisting the foot. The total hike to reach the Finch lake is 5 miles from the trailhead but even making it half way along the trail gives you beautiful vista views of mountains and a dense alpine forest, Picture 2. Since we started our hike from the trailhead at 11 AM there was snowfall once we reached the top and we proceeded further along the trail as the elevation kept increasing. It was surreal. Walking poles/sticks definitely help take some burden off your knees and protect your back keeping you upright, when climbing uphill. The initial hike to the top of the mountain before it turns takes about 40 minutes with quick gain in elevation (nearly 430 feet elevation gain/mile) with a highest elevation of 10114 ft.

Dense alpine forest on the trail. Stop, take pictures and breathe deep to enjoy refreshing air.

On our way up, there were patches of post-falls and patches of black ice. A few hundreds of meters upwards, we got used to being aware of our heartbeat. We took our first obtuse right turn changing the direction we were hiking in. If we were probably seeing ourselves with binoculars from a helicopter, it would look like we took a right turn on the mountain curve. As we proceeded there was a drastic change in the weather. We reached a picturesque point from where we were able to appreciate the Allenspark valley and its beauty got augmented with snowfall. We can get breathtaking views of Mount Meeker from this angle on the trail, Picture 3.

Mount Meeker, visible from an elevation on the Finch lake trail in Wild Basin, RMNP

We enjoyed a mixture of orange and green sub-alpine and Aspen vegetation amidst the snowfall. Although the pine cones we saw along the trail were not fully ripe and open, they were a beautiful sight to see on the post-snowfall. As we were gaining elevation, the snowfall ceased and the sun god blessed us with his appearance along our trail. Due to a lot of post-holing and a lot of snow patches, we had to call quits 3 miles into the 5 mile hike and turn around to prevent injury. It would have been difficult even with snow boots but once the snow melts in July, it may get easier to hike. The snow makes the terrain look flat even though it’s rocky and hilly so definitely watch out for that. The descent back to the trailhead was easier after hiking uphill. The entire hike took around 6 hours because of snow but it would have been shorter without the snow. After descending to the Finch lake trailhead, we took a hike to the Wild Basin Trailhead and visited the Copeland Upper Falls, Picture 4.

Copeland Upper Falls, RMNP Wild Basin.

What do you think of this trail? Let me know in the comments.

Be earthy while on the earth


We all call Earth our home. We are Earth beings more than Human beings. That is our generic category. Having an earthy attitude and behavior means being alive and imbibing the properties of the Earth. In short, one way to look at being earthy is to “be grounded”.  Being grounded in your interactions means having and showing authenticity in your emotions. You have the wherewithal to bring your Self into a sense of calm at all times. This is one of the great assets of earthy people. Earthiness brings about a sense of being balanced in ourselves and in our relationships with others. You are earthy when you know how to conduct yourself at all times in all circumstances and you do the right thing. When life throws curve balls at you, you know how to tackle them because you are very resourceful due to your earthy nature.

Here are some tips for earthy people to get more and tune with their selves:

Listen more. By being in the presence of others who love to talk and share, you learn a lot more than when you stay alone. This way, you gain a lot of new perspectives and share them either through your public speeches or by writing.

Breathe consciously at least for some time in your day. One simple way to do this is to count the number of breaths you take in a minute. Then you simply reduce the number of breaths that you take in a minute by inhaling and exhaling longer.

Drink beverages slowly and stay aware of how it feels when it trickles down your throat. In other words be conscious about the water or coffee you drink.

Focus on your sense inputs whether they are inputs that you see, or hear, or taste, or touch and stop and notice how you see, hear, taste or touch

Write down your thoughts in a journal. You free your mind when you pen your thoughts. The act of writing is therapy in itself and it can fulfill your destiny more than you have imagined.

Remember those feelings of being alive- when your senses are waking up from a deep night’s slumber, the feeling of cold water rushing down your skin in the shower, the feeling of the pain under your skin at the joint when you sprained your shoulder or ankle. These are some of the experiences that remind you that you are alive.

Care about being kind to the earth. You have an automatic impulse to be environmentally conscious, choose with more responsibility, create for more sustainability, and love for eternity. You believe in equality of life for all beings on the earth. Your choices inspire others too and you want them to share how they are being gentle towards the Earth.

Tatastha- watching from the shore


The Sanskrit word tatastha literally means “situated on the bank”. You must inculcate the practice of being a witness for the world. Your attention must go beyond the mind and be purified by the divine. This attention is manifest within you and the influences the world places on you is tremendous. Some of these influences are pure while some others are impure. Your discretion (ability to choose) must be very honest with you to understand which influence is pure and which is impure. Being a witness allows you to strengthen your discretion and be one with the world even more. The eternal connection you receive when you are in a state of thoughtless awareness gives you this discretionary ability. Going with the flow and having a reaction to everything you see in this world is not a conscious way to live. The art of living is in the ability to control and tame one’s reactions to most stimuli in the world. However much you read, however much you listen to or watch in the world compares nothing to what is already within you. The source within you is immense. It is charged and waiting to be awakened. Connect that source with the supreme source and you will know who you are. Becoming thoughtlessly aware is the ultimate gift you can give yourself. Once you do this, you will become the ultimate gift to this world, because you will then be conducting yourself in a conscious, peaceful and righteous manner that invites positivity whether you sit, stand or move. Tap into that immense potential energy within you and you will find the dynamism in every moment.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Wishing you a happy meditation journey! Meditate to feel calmer, lighter and peaceful.

What is the address of God?


In a train going to the holy city of Kashi, an atheist saw a Sanyasi (renouncer) reading the Bhagavad-Gita. 

“Svami, Do you really believe there is a God?” asked the atheist. 

The Sanyasi looked up at the atheist and nodded silently before going back to reading the Gita.

“I’m very curious to see God. Could you tell me his address?” asked the atheist in ridicule. 

The Sanyasi closed the book and smilingly “I’ll tell you a story. That may clarify your doubts. Once upon a time, in a city, the parents of a young girl planned her marriage with their neighbor’s boy but she didn’t agree to it. ‘If I ever marry, I’ll only marry the greatest of men but not this neighboring boy.’ Said the girl. 

‘Who will you marry then?’ Asked her mother.

‘Who is the greatest in our town?’ Asked the girl. 

‘Not just in our town, but the king is the greatest of all in our country’ told her father. 

‘I’ll marry the king” said the girl. 

She didn’t agree when she heard that was impossible. 

Not knowing what to do, the father said ‘yes’. 

The girl reached the capital city.  As she was about to ask the king ‘Marry me’, she saw him get out of the palanquin and prostate before a Sanyasi. 

The girl thought ‘If the king is bowing down to a Sanyasi, he must be greater than the king’. She changed her mind and decided to marry the Sanyasi. 

As she was going to the Sanyasi to ask him to marry her, she saw him doing a punishment consisting of sitting up and down a number of times in front of a Ganesha temple on the side of the road.

She then felt that Ganesha was the greatest and wanted to marry him. She went into the temple and saw a dog urinate near the idol of Ganesha. Changing her mind she wanted to marry the dog. As she was thinking thus, she saw a small boy throw a stone at the dog which made it cry and disperse. Learning that the boy must be greater than the dog, she wanted to marry him. Then a young man came and twisted the boy’s ear for hurting the poor animal. Now thinking this young man must be greater than the boy, she finally decided to marry him and went to the young man. That was the same young man from the neighboring home who was chosen by her parents initially. 

After narrating this story, the Sanyasi smilingly said this to the atheist traveller. “Our mind is like that girl. We search for GOD in all places but finally recognize that God resides in our very own hearts. God is to be found within and nowhere else. That’s the address of God. “

Core assets in life


Life gives us currency which we need to allocate judiciously so that the currency works for us at all times. Let the bulk of your life currency be invested in what’s most important. Your life is a series of micro decisions on several levels. These micro decisions must be integrated to understand how you are living.

How do doctors make decisions?
Using an algorithmic method based on evidence and data.
How do detective make decisions?
Using deductive reasoning to reach conclusions.
How does a CEO make decisions?
Maybe by using Game Theory.
How does an economist make a decision?
Using rational form of thinking.

ASPIRES is a model for structuring  your life to make integrated decisions so you get the best outcomes i.e. a maximum ROI of your assets. 
We have the following assets.
Safety assets: State of awareness and prevention that allows us to live life fully

Safety first!
Safe driving – no texting and driving.
Safe health – schedule preventing screenings such as blood screening, vision (eye) screening, dental screening, at home BP, heart rate
Safe workout – using the right gear, hydrate, know the summer risks, don’t overexercise
Safe cyberhealth – don’t download from unknown websites, keep antivirus updated, don’t use public networks for banking, don’t post too much private information on social networking site

Physical assets: Controllable (nutrition, exercise, blood sugar level, blood pressure level, cholesterol level) and uncontrollable (genetic predisposition, biochemical disposition, metabolism)  factors that make us feel well

Weight loss – cut 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week, eat slowly, use smaller plates, eat on time, more fresh nuts and veggies
Exercise –  Make time for it, do aerobic using POPSUGAR fitness (try 20 min, 30 min workouts), stretching, running and jogging, Yoga

Intellectual assets: Academic learning, vocational learning and life-experience learning along with mental state, concentration, focus and leisure

Mental rest – sleep, hot bath, meditation, massage, talk to yourself, smile looking into your eyes in the mirror, avoid information overload, declutter, use affirmations, forgive and forget, don’t underestimate yourself, laugh more

Relationship assets: Maintaining balanced conversations with life partner, family members, friends, colleagues

Core layer connections- best friends, life partner, immediate family
Middle-layer connections- cousins, aunts, uncles, extended family members
Outer layer- current and former colleagues, neighbors
Outermost layer- acquaintances

Effective verbal communication for relationship-building: pay sincere compliments that are specific and straight from the heart, use the person’s name, talking with a person who is not afraid to let his or her guard down invites the same openness in others
Effective non-verbal communication for relationship-building: broad, genuine, natural smile, eye contact, nodding if you agree, firm handshake (western culture), your body position and open posture, leaving space (2 feet) between you and the other person

Conflict management: be specific and don’t use “you always do this”, “you never do that” type of sentences, analyze the issue, give time to respond, admit to wrongdoing, agree to disagree.

Economic assets: Building sustainable income that you get by doing what you are good at and what is of value to the organization you’re a part of or this world in general

Conservative spending habits, know your net worth
Mandatory spending: food, beverages, clothing, rental fees, mortgages, transportation expenses, taxes, savings
Discretionary spending: eating out, fun trips

Good habits: Pay bills on time, go for bargains, ask questions before buying (do I really need it, what is an alternative, can I live without it), remember always that it’s easy to lose money than earn it (avoid losing it), don’t get emotional, don’t game the system, be aware of laws, get your affairs in order early

Spiritual assets: Having a sense of purpose, having comfort and understanding in hard times, having a sense of identity

Spirituality and religion, when understood and followed properly give us hope, inner peace and calm, comfort, ways to cope with adversity, a sense of connection, physical and mental benefits, free consultation with God.

Reference: Excerpts of this article have been derived from the book Optimal Living 360 by Sanjay Jain

Steven Chu


10/24/1997 Steven Chu, professor of physics, in laser lab. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Nobel laureate in Physics, 1997 – Stanford University

  • Doing math made my writing more linear and could form logical arguments
  • When you read papers: Ask: What’s the essence of the idea or kernel of the idea when you read a paper?
  • One remarkable quality I admire: make all your students feel special that they could do something. Get all students to live up to do the highest they could do without making them feel pressured or guilty. Working side by side with students as a colleague rather than as a professor.
  • Science is based on a lot of rediscovery
  • When you do experiments and get results or send a paper, go back and convince yourself that you are right. Be your own worst critic (try to prove yourself wrong). Then you can convince others. Ask : ‘Where are the weak points of my experiment or argument?’ 
  • If one wants to go into a new area, collaborate with people who spent their career in that specialty and learn from them
  • Get the feel for a new area because you have to ask/pick important questions that have a chance of being solved
  • There should be a feeling of excitement of the science and even though we were doing this, it was alright to move and do that, and you wouldn’t be considered a failure because you gave up this because something else even more exciting came along, either from your own lab or from a colleague’s lab or from the outside world.
  • There’s a few Eureka moments (your first calculation works!) you can have in science. Mostly they’re gradual eurekas (a refined calculation!)
  • In science, it’s hard for people and even the researchers in a field to think about what you can do with it, even if you force yourself, until you have it in hand, and you can then begin to see the abilities of this new method or technique. And then, it’s only after we have it we find many more applications for it and then begin to appreciate it. 
  • You don’t even have to be brilliant if you’re the first to look at something with a new tool. 
  • If you use an old tool to tackle a problem, you’re got to be really smarter than the rest of the folks because everybody has this tool. If you’re the first to look at something new, it’s like discovering a new world. 
  • Yogi Berra is one of my heroes “You could see a lot by watching”, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it”, “We may be lost, but we’re making great time.”
  • Recommendation to students to prepare for science:
    You’ve got to be very interested in what you’re doing. You have to attack it with a passion. You can’t give up. You have a plan, but if during the execution of whatever plan you had, something comes along, keep an open mind. 

Prerequisites for doing science well:

-Be interested genuinely in science

-Have a natural curiosity

-In Physics, you should have some mathematical ability

-Need to have driven curiosity to know the answer

-Have a real feel for science (intuition) and a beautiful way of understanding rather than just doing well in exams

-Passion to find out the answer and I’m not going to quit

-Inner drive to find answers

-Convincing through discussion and additional experiments- experiment is the high arbitrator