The last two weeks have been very hectic. A new project has commenced and we have been running all over the place to put everything in order. Mercifully, we’ve settled down and all the “processes” are right on track and functioning the way we intended them to. (Now, if you’ve worked in a corporate company and have achieved such a feat, pat yourself on the back, you must!) It’s been maddening because we are required to attend meetings to decide what should be done; then we’re scheduled to attend trainings to learn how to expertly do our jobs; and finally when we’ve lasted through all that, we’re expected to get down to our workstations and put what we’ve decided and learnt into practice. So, at any given point of time we may be in a room trying to get our hyphens in the right place, on another we’re in a room deciding what the look and feel of the product will be, and after all of it, if we have the time, we’re at our desks typing away to glory! In all this humdrum there is absolutely no leisure to take in the aroma of your coffee (if you don’t drink the coffee from the vending machine and buy it at the canteen instead, coffee has aroma). And you don’t even have the concentration to text your friends back confirming if you’re meeting them on the weekend (if I SMSed you myself in the last two weeks, feel privileged). In short, life’s been fast.

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What I’ve surmised from all the trainings that I underwent in the last 2 weeks is that there is a world of difference between British and American English. Even the mildly aware people know the glaring audacious changes that the Americans have administered to the English language; a la color for colour, organize for organise and the likes. But well, there a lot more! So much so that after a point of time you forget what you were taught in school. These days English, for me, is like looking at a document loaded with huge chunks of text that is akin to the interior of a machine to me. It’s like taking parts constructed out of the alphabet and using them to build a paragraph that looks like the American interpretation of the Queen’s language. (I hereby confess that I am a hardcore British English supporter and will be till my dying day.) So, getting back to the point—nowadays I look at a blob of text and observe its parts—the verbs, nouns, spellings, commas; more precisely serial commas, hyphens and the tone. It has to “look” American. It has to “sound” American. When I started writing American English as a part of my job a year ago, I was miserable. It took me a while to accept the culture shock. Learning to write in American English was sacrilege to me. Today, I just look at is as a part of my job and I come back and write British English here. (Hah!) To be honest, it is extremely uncomfortable juggling between the two forms of writing and if this post sounds neither American nor British, you now know why!

It’s not easy to me a master of multiple things. If you think you can do a lot of things at the same time, properly, stop lying to yourself. If you really want to be an expert at something, you have to sideline everything else. You can’t adulterate what you do, and then think you’ll be good at it. Sorry, that isn’t possible. I’ve realised this because when we sit in that room trying to get what we do right, I’ve seen that there is a sea of technicalities involved. You have to look at every nuance, at every aspect and see if you’re doing it right. The more you do something, the more you begin to realise that there are a hundred things you have to do to get it ABSOLUTELY right. With every small rule you apply to what you do, there is another rule waiting to jump at you. To do something up to mark requires a lot of work. And understanding. And repetition. So, for example, if you want to write in perfect English, you’ve got to start with the basics, the you choose one form, then you look at the sentence construction, verbs, hyphens, commas, serial commas, tone and so on and so forth. At the end of it, you have a basic English text. If you want to go one level up, you have to go and open some more rule books.

The point that I’m trying to drive home is that perfection cannot be attained by a stroke of luck. It really isn’t about sparks flying across the skies. You have to work on different levels to be extremely good at what you do, and keep at it. Perfection is not a quick fix. Never.

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The other day I was talking to my sister about the Cricket World Cup 2011. Cricket, is something that my sister knows inside out and as I sit here and write this, she’s screaming at/for Virender Sehwag outside. (By the way, I saw the run-out that Sachin had to endure, and it was simply stupid.) So, any technical mistakes in what I’m about to say further are mine. My sister and I were talking about how Australia has won 3 consecutive cricket World Cups under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting. She was telling me, and I loosely quote, “If you observe Australia play, they’ve never won a World Cup because of luck or any other factor. They’ve won it by winning every single match they’ve played. They’re never like: Ok so, we lost this match and we still have the points to make it to the next level; no. They charge down every team, win every single game and when they reach the finals, they don’t have an ounce of over-confidence about themselves, they play it like any other game they’ve played and they win it. They’re not an over-confident team. They know they’re good, but they’re never lax about it.” Even if you loosely follow Cricket, you’d know that until recently, when most Australian players retired, they were the World Champions in cricket for many years and very deservingly so. From what I remember, they hardly ever lost. They knew their game and maybe, they even knew that they would win, but that fact never went to their head when they played. And that’s why they always won.

Over-confidence is a disease that can render talent ill. You may be really good at something, after hours and hours of work; don’t let over-confidence spoil all of it.

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I’m reading the book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb a second time. Yes, a second time. Holden Caulfield says in The Catcher in the Rye, and once again I loosely quote, “An author is good not when you read his book and you like it; it is when you read his book a second time.” Kicking myself back from the digression; I’m reading the book and in it Mr. Taleb talks about scalable and non-scalable jobs. Non-scalable jobs are those that you have to keep doing to sustain your reputation and your income. For example, if you’re a baker you have to keep baking correctly every single day to satisfy an additional customer and to make a living—this is a non-scalable job. But if you are a writer and you write one book that becomes a best-seller (like J. K. Rowling), every additional copy that someone buys will bring you income—this is a scalable job. Most jobs in the world are non-scalable. You have to do them and do them over and over to perform them properly. So, if you have to do something over and over again to earn money, why not do something you like?  Because, like I said earlier, if you really WANT to be good at something there are a lot of technicalities involved and it requires you to immerse yourself into it.

To wrap up I’d say if you end up doing a non-scalable job, do something you like.

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It was Valentine’s Day sometime ago and I had planned to write a poem because…well…it’s been long since I wrote a poem. But I couldn’t (because I was running from pillar to post). So, since I didn’t mark that day on my blog, I’d say—If you want a perfect relationship, you have to work towards it. It’s never a result of a stroke of luck. If you want your relationship to last, never get complacent/over-confident about it. And finally, if you love someone, muster the guts and tell them.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Let there be love.

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Happy Hard Working Life. Let there be perfection.

– Sameen

P.S.: Seeti Baajake, Dhul Chatade…De ghumake! Go India!