Lighthouse No. 28

Three Pillars

Hello there!

Welcome to the 28th Edition of the Lighthouse! As always, thanks a lot for your wonderful support here, and on Twitter. After sending out my previous edition, many of you reached out to me here as well as on Twitter encouraging me to keep this going. I’m grateful for your words of thanks, inspiration, and kindness. It was overwhelming!

Also, you’re getting this edition later than normal because I write to you with a heavy heart. Yesterday, one of our business associates passed away after an accident. The past two weeks have been difficult for us as an organization because he was a part of it for over 30 years. When someone sticks around for 30 years, they become family. It was a battle of over 2 weeks, and he breathed his last yesterday. He was very kind, supportive, and a guide through turbulent times. He has left a vacuum that is going to take a long time to fill. My heart goes out to his family. I hope you will join me in praying for this gentle soul.

So, here goes…


Three Pillars

Click here, if you prefer to read this post on my blog.

In February, I was invited to preside over an event conducted Undergraduate Students who were completing their Management Studies. I was asked to address a gathering of over 300 students. This was the first time I was addressing students, and I did not want to bore them with the specifics of managing a business. Instead, I wanted to talk to them about three pillars that have helped me support and run a business for over 15 years. Here’s a transcript of the speech.

Thank you!

That's the first thing I'd like to say – for having me here and for allowing me to be a part of this event!

I did some hard thinking about what I wanted to say, but it all came down to what it is that I strongly feel about life in general and running a business - that was the best I could share.

There's nothing here that hasn't already been said before, but I'm going to go on and say it anyway!

Be grateful and mindful - David Foster Wallace quoted a simple little parable - There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?" That's how the world works – you take a lot of things for granted. Here are few things that make it to this list – turning your tap on every time, going to sleep, opening your refrigerator, taking your next breath. They all seem so minute, so effortless. Think about this – you've gotten some soap into your eyes, you turn the tap on only to find that it's dry. Or, you go to sleep, and a loved one doesn't wake up in the morning. After a tiring day, you're hungry, and you open your refrigerator to find an empty one staring back at you or suddenly you're not able to take your next breath. That's how life works – some moments will hurt you when you least expect them to. Set aside a few moments to be thankful, and to be grateful for all the luxuries in life that you have and for all the pain that you do not have. 

Be curious, ask questions, and learn – Some of our most memorable moments in life are a result of being curious, asking a question or making a gigantic mistake. I remember when a customer approached us and wanted to coat/ cover some of the transformers that we'd already supplied to prevent them from getting corroded. These were transformers for a naval application which would expose them to vagaries of nature - humidity and extreme heat in this case. We kept looking at this from a transformer point of view. After considerable discussions, we made headway albeit an expensive one wherein it was decided that some compounds would be imported and applied on the transformer. This wasn't a tested method either. I wasn't happy with it; yes we were going to make money, but then that isn't why we exist. We're here to solve problems. We needed to rethink this. The fundamental problem was this – we just had to prevent corrosion of parts, and it had to be a reliable approach. Curiosity piqued me; I asked myself a basic question – how to stop any part from corroding? It hit me from nowhere, and I asked them – What are you painting ships with? The solution to the problem was in the question. Use the same thing on the transformer! So sometimes, going back to the very basic questions help. I may have sounded a bit foolish asking a simple question, but we did manage to find a solution and save a lot of money. Most of the times, people focus on the answers, but sometimes the best answers are a product of the best questions.

Be honest – These two words speak enough. I do not have any anecdote, or event in my life to tell you about this - when you talk about the truth you only need to talk about one thing; but, when you start with a lie, then you end up writing a whole book about it. You will always need a lie to cover another one, and soon you're having a mountain of lies that you cannot hide anymore.

These three things that have kept me going for the last fifteen years, and I hope they serve as a guide in your lives too. 

I'd like to conclude with a few lines from Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", which I'm sure many of you would have heard earlier –

"Do not gentle into that good night, 

Old age should burn and rave at the close of day, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light".

Thank you, everyone, and I'm sure the best is yet to come for all of us!


Here's some interesting stuff I came across last week. A couple of these links are about birds, and I was delighted to read these pieces. So if you’re keen about nature or birds, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it too!

  • When Bad Things Happen In Slow Motion by Ivan Amato: We’ve all had painful memories of traumatic moments. If there’s one thing common to all of us, it’s that these moments are recorded almost perfectly in our memories. It doesn’t take long for us to go back to that moment and see it play in front of us clearly. Ivan explores why does it seem like bad things happen in slow motion. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read this week.

  • To survive frigid nights, hummingbirds cool themselves to record-low temperatures by Lucy Hicks: “Among vertebrates, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism for their size. With a metabolic rate roughly 77 times that of an average human, they need to feed nearly continuously. But when it gets too cold or dark to forage, maintaining a normal body temperature is energetically draining. Instead, the small animals can cool their internal temperature by 10°C to 30°C. This slows their metabolism by as much as 95% and protects them from starvation, says Blair Wolf, a physiological ecologist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. In this state, called torpor, a bird is motionless and unresponsive. “You wouldn’t even know it was alive if you picked it up,” Wolf says. But when the morning comes and it’s time to feed, he says, the birds quickly warm themselves back up again. “It’s like hibernation but regulated on an even tighter schedule.”

  • Why Birds Can Fly Over Mount Everest by Walter Murch: “Their new lungs were so efficient that when oxygen levels crept slowly back up to 20 percent over the next many tens of millions of years, dinosaurs were able to get very big—bigger than land mammals like elephants have ever gotten, or ever could get. The super-efficient lungs of many dinosaurs could deliver oxygen to every part of their massive bodies. And having hollow bones helped to reduce their overall weight. When birds evolved from dinosaurs they were able to make very good use of this super-efficient lung system. So that’s how dinosaurs got so big and why bar-headed geese can fly over the Himalayas!”

  • The Lesson To Unlearn by Paul Graham: “Why, I would ask myself, do they always make things so complicated? And then one day I realized this was not a rhetorical question….Why did founders tie themselves in knots doing the wrong things when the answer was right in front of them? Because that was what they'd been trained to do. Their education had taught them that the way to win was to hack the test. And without even telling them they were being trained to do this. The younger ones, the recent graduates, had never faced a non-artificial test. They thought this was just how the world worked: that the first thing you did, when facing any kind of challenge, was to figure out what the trick was for hacking the test. That's why the conversation would always start with how to raise money, because that read as the test. It came at the end of YC. It had numbers attached to it, and higher numbers seemed to be better. It must be the test.”

  • Jumping to conclusions: the inference-observation confusion by Anne-Laure Le Cunff: “Often, jumping to conclusions comes from good intentions. To sound compassionate and invested in what someone is telling us, we may interrupt them by saying “wow”, “what a shame”, or “I know what you’re going to say!” When, in fact, we have no idea how the person wants us to feel nor what they are going to say next.”


Here’s a thought I’m ruminating on: “Everything turns on your assumptions about it, and that’s on you. You can pluck out the hasty judgment at will, and like steering a ship around the point, you will find calm seas, fair weather and a safe port.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.22

Till next weekend,

Take care,

Prashanth


If you would love to discuss anything I’ve written about and shared, please reach out to me by replying to this email or sending a direct message on Twitter 🐦 @iam__prashanth. The tribe there is 1500+ members strong and continues to grow. 

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