Mindfulness digest Vol 16 : Creative process 🌟

Short Summary of the learning

Mindful Creative Process

All of us create. Perhaps a beautiful piece of art, a mesmerising musical composition, a deep and meaningful prose of writing, or a really creative presentation at work. Most famous creatives are very mindful about their creative processes. For instance, Oscar winning music director A.R. Rahman derives his inspiration from connection with infinity. If you have heard his music, the connection can be experienced. I find that fascinating…

My creative process is completely organic. The more I have created, the more I have learnt patterns and built some heuristics that I would like to share with you.

Mental model – How to think about creative processes?

Creative processes can be divided into two parts. Inspiration and synthesis. Inspiration is random. This has profound implications. You cannot sit in one place and wait for inspiration. Moreover, you cannot schedule creativity. You do however need a mechanism, to capture inspiration when it occurs. Once captured, you also need to be able to make sense of it.

For instance, when I was reading about BTS last week, I learnt about how their music has a much deeper connection with the world. I wrote down a thought to study BTS’ creative process. A few steps later, this piece of writing was born.

Understanding & using triggers for a creative process

I have a 4 year old. Therefore cleaning-up is a constant truth in our lives. This is a very conducive activity for inspiration. I have observed that other menial tasks such as taking a shower, brisk walks really help. After a hard days of work, if I am reading a book, I also pause and spend some time reflecting, sometimes reminiscing.

The triggers for you might be different, but I suspect you know what I am talking about. It is good to be mindful about these triggers. For instance, when my mind is restless about a topic, I often resort to a menial task.

Tools I use to log and synthesize

When inspiration occurs, you need to be able to log it somewhere. A cloud based note taking system such as Evernote, Notion are perfect for this. I use Notion as it provides very useful features for managing my creative processes. Notion provides a hierarchical system in which you can organise your notes, any links you found on the internet while researching. You can even embed YouTube videos, Tweets and much more.

Twitter is a goldmine of inspiration. I use Twitter for discovering inspiration as well as testing it in public. Testing here refers to engagement, you can understand if a topic will resonate with your audience. This is not always necessary though. I create for myself, engagement is a second order goal to ensure I can reach as many people as possible.

Inspiration is not always original, in fact, many successful non-fiction authors borrow ideas and package it in incredible ways. For instance, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is one of the bestsellers. This book has a collection of non original but brilliantly illustrated ideas and processes.

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

Ability to work between devices is extremely powerful with Notion. I make full use of this. For instance, I synthesize for about 40 minutes at my desk, might feel bored and I take a break. I then come back to it on my phone when I wake up, with a cup of coffee in my hand.

Canva is another great tool if you wish to graphically illustrate something. It can give you the right image  sizes for various social portals, it also has a variety of templates. For instance, with Canva, I created Mindfulness Shorts. They are designed for Twitter. It has a headline message and when you click on it, it expands into some detail. While I am not an artist, I love to illustrate with hand, there is something magical about it.


Once you get habituated to logging all of your inspiration, the next step is to synthesize. Synthesis here refers to converting incoherent and disparate pieces of information into a coherent whole. This is a synchronous process. In other words, you do it sitting down in one place, with as fewer breaks as possible. This also has profound implications. For instance, I usually synthesize when I have blocks of 2 hours or more. Ideally late evenings or weekends work best. When I am synthesizing, I do not have to worry so much about being creative.

Synthesis is about connecting the dots and refining your creation until you are happy with it. For instance, imagine that I have a notion page with 11 logged thoughts about Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. My intention is to create an article summarising the key takeaways from this book. I first elaborate every one of 11 thoughts. Then, I find that some thoughts are not relevant and I delete them. Moreover, I discover that thoughts 3 & 7 are linked with each other, and I merge them. I might create a structure where 5, and 6 are part of 4 in which case, I will nest them within point 4. Very quickly, structure emerges and you keep tweaking it until you have got it right.

It is important to spend a lot of time, and proof read your article, script, or presentation. You will discover ways to make it better, if you have a second pair of eyes that you trust, that is even better!


All of us have different sources of inspiration, and our creative processes differ, but mindful consideration of this can give us an edge.


Mindfulness Digest Vol 15: Entropy🌡️

Mindfulness learning : Entropy & organisational leadership

Coffee and tea rounds are aplenty in our house! Trips to the microwave to reheat them are a plenty too 😁. I blame the entropy!

Seriously though, entropy is all around us. It’s not just applicable to thermodynamics. For instance, rooms become dusty when they are not maintained, furniture creaks after extended use, coffees become cold after a while, relationships grow apart over time, and our health slowly descends as the years pass..

In other words, all systems will descend into more and more disorder and eventually collapse until an external force maintains them at equilibrium.

In nature, chaos is regular and order is irregular.

Organisations, teams, projects are especially subject to entropy. They are complex systems within their own right.

People might grow complascent in their roles, worse they might become apathetic and bored. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when you have enough of such people, disorder will follow. It will keep growing till it’s natural endpoint of people leaving or worse the organisation going bankrupt. There are many possible interventions. We must provide regular training to people. We must keep them busy with a challenging purpose. It is also helpful to introduce a bit of chaos into their routines, perhaps try out a new kind of task, give a very different challenge that is focused on a different competency.

On projects, entropy comes down to actively managing structure, bureaucracy, risks, complexity and much more. At many organisations, bureaucracy reigns supreme. You might feel like your main job is to bend rules to get anything accomplished. However, entropy teaches us that this is not an exception it is a norm.

In either case, leadership is of paramount importance, and while we have indeed embraced remote culture, we are at risk. Entropy is a force of nature and even the universe is not spared!

In physics, entropy is a law; in social systems, it’s a mere tendency — though a strong one, to be sure. – FS Blog

Key takeaway for me, is to keep this at the back of my mind while dealing with any complex system. Similar to 80-20 principle. A great mental model…💎

An Inspiration 💯 : DJ Patil

Born in India, raised in the United States, Dhanurjay Patil was christened DJ by his friends. Flunked many math classes, got kicked out, got suspended in his first year of high school and even got arrested.

Self studied to get over his weakness and turned it into his strength. Studied every math class at UC San Diego, and went to University of Maryland where he studied chaos theory with the person who coined the term! Has been in data science ever since.

Worked in Department of Defence and served on the Threat Anticipation Project. Worked with Greylock partners, served as the first ever US Chief data scientist during the Obama administration.

Famously kept the below card in his white House notebook! Awesome advice, don’t you think?

You are such an inspiration, sir!

Source: Twitter

Josh Waitzkin’s mental models 🏞️

Waitzkin is a Chess prodigy and a national champion, Tai chi 2x world champion, first of a kind black belt in Jiu Jitsu, currently mastering surfing 🌊.

George Mack has compiled a thread on this and I think it’s awesomeness.

  1. Depth over width – has an elaborate methodology for learning where he goes in depth until he understands an area for its first principles. E.g. chess and importance of center pieces.
  2. Locus of control – argues we internalize an external locus of control. For instance, we label weather as bad, and avoid doing certain things whereas it’s purely an interpretation that can be changed. You can still go out on a worst day and enjoy the storm in all its glory…
  3. Stress & Recovery – argues that intense work performance is possible when followed by intense relaxation. Most people are mediocre at both work performance and rest.
  4. Challenging the subconscious – while greatest minds cut through complexity easily they also get stuck for long on a few things. He argues we need to avoid this trap and sleep over it and let our subconscious deal with it.
  5. Deconstructing common root structures – as you spend more time going into depth of a field, your original assumptions might get challenged or even replaced with new ones. My interpretation of this was being very aware of something you didn’t know well and that you now know better; the ability to deconstruct deeply held beliefs and change them as needed.

Original thread click here


Mindfulness Digest Vol. 14 : Reactance & Storytelling 🐦

Mindfulness learning: Reactance & Freedom

If you don’t manage your energy levels, having time to spare is useless. If you don’t manage time, you can’t get any meaningful work done. Despite the gift of energy and ideas, often we don’t have the time.

Morgan Housel in his book, Psychology of Money talks of Reactance. “People like to feel they are in control – in the driver’s seat. When we try to get them to do something, they feel disempowered”. 

Doing something you love on a schedule you can’t control can feel like doing something you hate. Psychologists call it reactance.

Morgan Housel, Psychology of Money
Psychology of money
Psychology of money

Housel gives us an insight into how wealth can create the ability to do what we want, when we want and for as long as we want. This is the highest dividend wealth can pay. 

  1. Wealth can give us a strong sense of being in control of our life, this is a predictor of positive feelings of wellbeing
  2. People make money decisions based on prior experience and emotions, and not based on facts they studied – this is wrong.
  3. Don’t focus on individuals, everyone has a different path, focus on broad patterns instead. Luck and risk are powerful forces guiding your financial success.
  4. Do not have a relative mindset – do not compare your journey of wealth to the other guy, as this comparison never ends, instead focus on making small positive changes consistently. Warren Buffet started investing when he was 10, by 30 he had USD 9 million. However, most of his wealth came after he hit 50. 
  5. Never do something to impress others, people may like the swanky car that you just got, but they don’t like you because of it. Learn the difference. Housel calls this Man in the car paradox.
  6. Wealth has more to do with generating and saving than investing (counterintuitive) 
  7. Avoid planning extreme goals. Be flexible as life changes, you should change too. 

If you are experiencing reactance, reduce clutter and simplify your life. You should also change the way you look at creating wealth. You are creating freedom from reactance.

Read a great summary of this book here

Inspiration of the week: Tobi Lutke 🛒

Born, Germany, 1981. Learnt to code at 12, dropped out of school at 16 and took up computer programming apprenticeship. 2002 moved to Canada. At age 23, launched an eCommerce startup called Snowdevil to sell snowboards online. This turned into Shopify! Net worth USD 9.6 Bn. This is not all, Tobi consistently applies mental models and is very vocal about them. For instance, Tobi and team decided against using “Powered by Shopify” on the storefronts even though it may have created a growth loop VC’s would have loved. He suggested that Shopify would like to see Merchants become successful, in the long run this is what would matter the most. Turns out, the long term value mental model was immensely successful. Merchants sold 5.1 Billion USD on Shopify on Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) Weekend.

Tobi Lutke – CEO, Shopify (Image Courtesy, Wikipedia)

My wife runs a business on Shopify and I know that nothing else even comes close. Tobi… What an inspiration! See this amazing thread by George Mack that lists all of the mental models that Tobi uses.

Fab read of the week: Storytelling tips from Pixar 💡

Storytelling is an underrated skill. Human beings are drawn to stories like moths to a flame. Great storytelling can improve your persuasion, personality, leadership and overall success.

Pixar has given us countless gifts over the years! The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Toy Story etc. are amazing feats of beautiful storytelling. We can learn a lot from Pixar.

Courtesy Brian’s blog post

6 principles we can incorporate in our storytelling

  1. Have a clear structure to the story – for instance a beginning, climax and the end. This is trivial, but a lot of people don’t even complete their stories.
  2. Basic human experiences can be universal and if we can appeal to it, we have workings of a great story. For instance, if you have experienced irrational fears as a child, play on those in your story. Focus on why you experienced something, and that will help you elicit a similar response in your audience.
  3. There is always an underdog to root for…For instance, if you are telling your own story, portraying yourself as an underdog that comes out victorious from a difficult time is incredibly impactful. Needs to be done in good taste, though. I shall leave that to your imagination.
  4. Appeal to our deepest emotions. Ability to recognise emotions in yourself and explain why these emotions exist is key to an awesome story. For instance, fear, love, desire, etc. there are many emotions that can be elicited through narration, tonality, backdrop, pauses, and sometimes simply words.
  5. Have twists in the plot. Our brains love a random surprise. As a result, too predictable stories don’t win any brownie points.
  6. Keep it simple and focused on the topic you want to address, complex plots hardly work. For instance, I have never loved stories about 6 couples going through 6 different things in their lives. Inception was probably the only complex plot that I loved. That sort of plot is an exception and requires masterful craft, which most of us do not possess. Stick to the simple.

Read the original article here.


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Mindfulness Digest Vol 13: Unbundle 🎟

An Inspiration: Melissa Moore

Melissa Moore. Chief Scientific Officer at Moderna Inc. Mapped out mRNA at MIT in 1990’s. Spent most career in academia. In 2013, pitched for a job at Moderna. Didn’t want the regret of not trying to “apply” her knowledge. Left a tenured professorship at MIT for good.

Melissa Moore
Melissa Moore

2020, world’s first mRNA based vaccine prepared before anyone else. Second company to report preliminary ph. 3 clinical trial results. Incredible 94.5% efficacy. Unlike other, mRNA is a platform. Wide applicability and warp speed.

In conclusion, sometimes we need to pivot and apply our skills. What an inspiration!

Mindfulness learning: Unbundle

There are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle

Marc Andreessen

These are golden words. For instance, your mobile operator has likely bundled streaming services. Amazon has possibly created world’s most desirable bundle by combining streaming, music, and free shipping. As a result, you have many offers, packaged into an amazing combined offer. What could possibly compete with this?

Let’s play along. I pay for Spotify, despite free access to Amazon Music via prime. This is because, I love their experience including curation of playlists. Spotify does streaming incredibly well. Therefore, despite Apple, Google, and Amazon’s bundles, it has thrived! Interestingly, Spotify itself is a result of unbundling. It pays artists per streaming session rather than you paying for the whole album. There you have it! Music, unbundled.

To conclude, technology enables new kinds of bundling and unbundling. Now, think about yourself for a minute. I bet your journey has been incredibly unique and along the way you have learnt many lessons. You have gone through so much!

Did it ever occur to you that you are a living & breathing bundle of skills, experiences, memories, and knowledge?

Abhi Shah

Unbundle yourself to unlock hidden value. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Use YouTube to unleash the creative or perhaps geeky genius in you.
  2. Write a blog and share your incredibly powerful experiences.
  3. Create virtual networks / groups to further the fascinating causes that you believe in e.g. Education
  4. Create a Twitter account and be the best source of analysis for a particular niche you are super knowledgable about
  5. Create online courses for the skill you have honed for years
  6. Write a book and publish it using Kindle direct publishing
  7. If your situation allows, try selling online, setup a Shopify storefront
  8. Become a coach, a mentor, perhaps a counsellor
  9. Teach young children, that deserve better education
  10. Become an activist, raise funds, further social causes such as poverty

This unlocked value will massively complement your personal brand! hit me up, if you need some help starting.

Fab reading: The age of infinite leverage

Unbundle and force multiply

In line with unbundling, this article expands on egalitarian skills that can be leveraged as a force multiplier.

It doesn’t cost money, it doesn’t take permission. It is likely to give you x times returns over long term. There is a lot of competition out there, so stick to your strengths, and when you succeed pay it forward 😇

Read original article here.

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Mindfulness Digest Vol 12: Tenacity & Consistency

An inspiration called Joe Biden!

Biden – 5th youngest senator in 1972! A month later, lost wife and young daughter in an accident! 2 sons badly injured. Considered suicide. Commuted 4 hours every evening to be with his sons. 2 Brain Surgeries. 2 unproductive presidential campaigns, 2 stints as VP. 2020, age 77, oldest presidential nominee for Democrats, and now president-elect. Highest ever votes for a presidential candidate…and the toughest job in the world hasn’t even started!

Joe Biden with Barack Obama

Lesson? it’s never too late! what an inspiration.

A Mindfulness learning –   Consistency

This week I read an incredible book on behavioural psychology called “Persuation” by Robert Cialdini. Cialdini suggests that an individual whose words, beliefs and actions don’t match, is seen as two faced or mentally incoherent. On the other hand, an individual who is consistent in his actions, beliefs and words is associated as intellectually and generally strong. The fascinating thing is, it doesn’t matter who is right. Therein lies the biggest danger. Two examples.

  1. Political propaganda: We are continuously bombarded with shaped narratives. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth! Even in the face of mounting evidence of misgivings, blatant issues, we choose to believe something on the side of consistency.
  2. Promises at work: We often think out aloud at work. It is easy to fall into the trap and commit to something only to realise later that it is not easy to follow-through! Don’t commit easily, but when you do, don’t back down. If you do, you risk a reputation as two-faced.

Agile commitments do not work.

Curators are awesome

There is too much content. Much like freshly cut vegetables, the curated content makes life easy. People want to learn things in a bite sized manner. For instance, it’s hard to search for the right educational content on YouTube. Curators provide personal brands that we can connect with much like a newspaper!

Choice fatigue is underrated Photo by Clay Banks

Two key takeaways. First, if you are an expert in an area, curation is a great way to to build an audience and a personal brand and probably make extra cash if you are successful in the end.

Second, most work we do in a corporate is interconnected, complex, and often laden with a learning curve. A great opportunity to create value & advance your career. Curate.

Original article here

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