Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't be good

My friend Kashish Bhatia is the culprit for this post. The title here is the summary of a two-hour rant we shared a few nights back. The man is a quiet person mostly, but was on fire that day. Try not to take it at face value :-)

We are all taught to be good from childhood. The problem is, in our homes, and in our communities, and in our education systems, we are taught only the things that are wrong or completely useless.

No one teaches us how to negotiate, or how to think in such and such situation, or how to do something constructive instead of wasting time on the internet. 

Additionally, our childhood experience revolved around making people happy. Parents, teachers, coaches, elders, the peer group, you name it. Apparently, even saying "Bye" to visitors is an important thing.

Somewhere along the line, we grow up. And we forget the difference between behaving well and doing things that we like. It is one thing to have a good relationship with your team lead, but it is another thing to miss family and work weekends just because you are an important resource for the team, in your TL's words.

What Kashish "ji" taught me that night is that it is really important to not give a fuck. While arguing with a client, it is worth not quoting down just to win a contract. Shitty work for a shitty price is worse than no work and some stress. Ditto for all professional and personal relationships. Our teachers, elders and seniors are right only as long as they are right. A moment of doubt is a moment of chasing our own intuition rather than what someone else, who most likely has never been in our situation tells us.

The best part about this advice is that it is just like capitalism. At least in theory. You do what you want. You get what you want. If not from your current situation, you do something to change the situation. An important inference is to make sure you don't get into All-Eggs-in-a-Single-Basket situations. I am almost in one right now. Not cool.

The ability to walk away from a situation, no matter how important for you, is the most important thing between your current position and success. And by success, I also mean happiness. If nothing else, it gives you a psychological advantage. I have worked at a place where they made you wear formal clothes. And I was stupid enough to want that job that much. It is atleast worth it to negotiate for better, which I did not do at that time.

This brings us to the next thing: red flags. No matter how tempting at the time, don't touch the following things even with a long stick: workplaces that offer you a fast paced environment, people intent on knowing your past romantic experiences, clients wanting you to offer a low price just this once, and of course, 2 pizzas at the price of 1. The last one is just unhealthy! Feel free to make up your own red flags.

What is more important is that with this way of thinking no one takes anyone else for granted. You don't get in the way of your parents'/children's hobbies, and they don't get in the way of yours. This does not mean you can't have any family time, of course.

As Kashish pointed out, it is important to draw a balance somewhere. It is worth missing football today because your grandmother is having a heart bypass, but not because you need to work for 16 hours. Or, 16 hours is fine if you have been able to negotiate a better situation: more money or compensatory leave later :-)

Here goes down the drain my attempt at keeping blog posts short. But who gives a fuck anymore?