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A zen monk was watering a plant, a follower was puzzled as the monk was watering the plant which was full of thorns, people have been injured regularly from the pricks. The disciple went to the monk and quizzed about why a plant which harms others is being nurtured. The monk replied, I am watering the plants for the beautiful roses that will bloom, it is the roses I care for and nurture it.

As many of us are not monks, I think most of the rules and regulations are centered around preventing something from happening than making things easy. It is evident in the corporate world, in simple things like office libraries. It defeats the purpose of having a library if a user cannot browse through books. I had a habit of going to the library after lunch and browse through a few books, if interested read for 15-20 minutes and then get back to work.

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I was able to read a lot of books during my breaks, it is when I changed jobs and went to a new office that I realised people can lock libraries. We had to stir up a movement to get the administration to open up the library for casual reading instead of lending only policy which was put in place to prevent book theft.

Most of the systems are designed to be like this, in order to reduce the undesirable activity by a small margin, we tend to impact good behaviour on a larger scale. It is also the result of measuring the wrong things, like an admin being measured on reducing bad debts. There are some initiatives of coming up with designs that promote good behaviour like smart speed bumps but it does not gain traction as people in charge don’t have any incentive to design it that way. So everyone of us will have to go over that nasty speed bump in the neighbourhood for years to come because some random idiot will speed through.

20 years ago I walked into my college with the arrogance of a teenager who knows a lot of things, with the thinking that know-how of knowledge and intelligence is enough to win anything thrown at me. Looking back I realise that I had barely memories of about 10-12 years but had the attitude of know it all.

College life is called head fake, it is not much about the course you have taken to learn, instead it prepares you for the unstructured life ahead. Randy Pausch talks about this in his last lecture which I realised that my entire college life was a head fake preparing me to be ready for the world with collaboration and social skills. Life as an individual is not enough, you have to learn to live together. Here are somethings that I learnt during college and later years which helped in the longer run.

Friendships – I thought friendships last a lifetime, but it is very situational. Barring a handful, most of them will not care to keep in touch. It is fruitless going out of the way to help people, the bad memories for people often carry a huge weightage compared to the good things that happened. We just should not be a jerk, good friendships will just happen over time.

Politics – Not taking sides is a best way to stay neutral and not get involved in politics; but the moment you take a stand on what is right, you are already neck deep into politics. Politics is every where as long as humans are involved, just pick your battles wisely else everyday goes into fighting pointless things.

Learning never stops – There is so much to learn, the more you learn the more you become aware that you have learnt less than what is out there. My magnitude of learning increased multifold only after I started doing internships, knowing how to write calculator program was just enough to give you that 80% in classroom. Solving real world problems involved intensive learning and unlearning, often there was only one shot at solving the problems thrown at you so you have to be ready to face new problems not structured predictable textbook problems.

Managing money – Managing small sums of money that comes as pocket money prepares you well ahead for the monthly salaried life. Planning for a month seems to be hard at first, you start learning only after you spend the entire pocket money within 10 days and then have to borrow from friends, lose some friendships over money before learning to save and spread spending over time.

College is the last stage of a structured life for most of us, the unstructured life just flies by and we will be sitting on a couch on a holiday and wonder how the last 20 years flew by.

Marketing is quite powerful and can impact us so much that we take many decisions based on the biased knowledge we have been imparted with. A recent experience with diet made me find a lot of loopholes exploited by the food industry and how it is the same product that had been there for many years with just some labels and some phrase changes. The biggest one is ‘No added sugar’. I have been believing this label until I found out the truth the hard way by cutting down on refined sugar in the diet. The number of sick days in a year went down considerably when the refined sugar in the diet came down to near zero.

spoon-2426623_640.jpgNo added sugar test

Take this following test – Try drinking fresh fruit juice without sugar, if you had been accustomed juice with sugar, this is unpalatable. But if you continue doing this for about a week your taste buds gets adjusted (caveat: Cut down sweets as well for that week to make it easily observable). The craving is hard to resist but promise yourselves a cheat treat if you pass one week.

By the end of a week or so the taste buds would have adjusted such that you begin to appreciate the subtle flavours and natural sweetness in the fruit juices. At this point of time, have two fruit juices of the same fruit side by side, one freshly prepared without sugar and another with a popular ‘No added sugar’ brand. Try the difference in the taste between them, see that the ‘No added sugar’ is significantly sweeter.

Why is that even with ‘No added sugar’ the branded drinks appear to be sweet? They have the following marketing tricks up their sleeve to substitute the word sugar. 

Dehydrated cane juice – Excuse me, isn’t that sugar. This was the most outrageous disguise I have found. Dehydrated cane juice is apparently not sugar for many people. This helps in adding the same amount of sugar as a sugared juice.

Some juice concentrate – This is pure genius, If you take apple juice, the label will often read ‘apple juice concentrate’ which helps to boost the per ml sugar content in the juice from the natural sugars in the fruit. We end up taking the same amount of sugar dose for a sugared juice which can be as high as two teaspoons for every 100 ml.

While a lot of people are trying to fight lifestyle and overconsumption related diseases there is a group of people who are working hard to trick people into making poor lifestyle choices. By doing so they are getting rewarded big at the expense of a unhealthy greater good. There is no big difference between an adulterer and these marketing gurus in the way they trick people to become wealthy.

There are a lot more, try to find what ‘No added preservatives‘ mean.