Mind Manipulation Maneuver

Every indulged in it? Or been a victim of it? It happens often enough and on a regular basis.

Whether it is in corporate world, brands manipulating the consumers, politicians or even in personal relationships.

The essence of the maneuver is perception management. Create and manage a perception so well that it becomes real.

The best exponents of course are the politicians. I don’t know how many would have watched the movie “Wag the Dog” but it pretty much exemplifies how politicians play with perceptions. Think about it. Once the Cold Wad threat was over, what did the western world (specifically US) have to keep calling themselves saviours of the free world? Nothing! So bring on the battles with the oil rich belts. Even in our country, political parties have created this illusion of non Hindus and allegedly backward classes being exploited that everyone or at least the “intellectual” majority believes that is the case.

In the corporate world, there are always those individuals who create an aura around them that makes them seem like MVP in the set up. The organisations they work for, do their best to retain them and also others want to hire them. You can do average work but build a great self PR around it and people will believe. They would want to quote your quotes. You become an expert on leadership and corporate culture and pretty much everything.

When it comes to brands, Apple mastered this maneuver. Yes it’s good technology (I use it) but the hysteria that surrounds every launch, does it deserve that? Perhaps not. But it tapped into our desire to be different from the masses and rest is of course evident for everyone. Look at me, even I am quoting the brand to make a point!

Perception is something that has driven most of the communication that brands have with communication. Obscure research data to prove why brand X is better over brand Y that consumers lap up and buy. When competing on those terms become tough, indulge in social causes to sound ‘oh so holy’. Works very well when you pick a cause close to consumer’s heart.

Awards are another way of creating a perception of being superior. Works rather well in automobile category. Car of the year is a great thing to talk about.

Talking about ‘talking about’, it always helps when you get some influential writers to say nice things about you or start a negative conversation about competition or a trend that is detrimental to your cause.

Social media has become a great platform for such endeavours. Creating a reputation or destroying one, has become easy. Stayzilla is a case in point. Who really knows the truth? Truth is what you get people to perceive.

Perception either creates a reality or helps you hide the facts. You can hide your incompetence by questioning competence of someone else (great tool in organisational politics).

When we get into a relationship, we spend a lot of time to build perceptions about us. We indulge in social engineering to an extent that the other person accepts all of it and falls for you. Keep working on it long enough and it becomes reality. Most relationships, of course, turn sour when the mask slips.

We tend to spend hell of a lot of time on these manipulating maneuvers. I think as a society we have reached a point that it is very hard for us to differentiate perception from reality. More importantly we don’t want to spend time in making that differentiation. And you know why? Because that will take away time from us building a certain predisposition towards ourselves. Plus the fact that perceptions help us in keeping our sanity. Help us rationalise the choices we make.

We are living in an era where our lives are led virtually and it has made things all so easy when it comes to manipulation. But we opted for it. For our selfish gains. So we can’t blame others when we get manipulated. Someone out there was a more adept manipulator that you.



Apart from Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher is another favourite character of mine. Long back I written about how both are quite similar. Won’t go on about that. What sparked this post (as it happens, not the first time I have read the following passage but trigger happens when it is meant to 🙂

Jack Reacher – “I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I’m carrying spare pants. Then I’d need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and I’m filling out all kinds of forms”

Pretty sharp statement about how people lead lives, if you ask me. Process of evolution we call it. From the Stone ages when all that mattered was foraging for food, we move on to various things – clothes, shelter, transport, community, society, values defined by society. We keep adding stuff or bettering what we have (we call it process of evolution). 

Somewhere along the line, the size of the suitcase gets bigger and bigger… and heavier. We have started stuffing it with stuff that society and the world around us tells us should go into the suitcase. The suitcase doesn’t carry fun stuff anymore. It carries the weight of responsibilities. They are taking up all the space. Also taking up space are our expectations. You are lugging it around, burdened by what you are carrying. And mind you, it always is YOUR suitcase. No one will help you carry it because they are carrying their own. If anything, they would expect you to carry theirs too!

But the thing is, all along, your life as a suitcase  became fancier to match the stuff you got inside. You don’t even realise the weight of it all till one day, you try lifting it. First with one hand and then with both hands. But the weight is so much! Probably the handle comes off. The suitcase is bursting at it’s sides.

And that’s the time you sit on that very suitcase and wonder. How did it get this way? What was I filling it up with? What was I thinking?! What did I do wrong? I was doing precisely what I was expected to do. 

Last week I was having a discussion and the person said (not verbatim) – ” isn’t life about being born, growing up, having a great job, getting married, having kids, taking care of kids, taking care of parents, grand children and then dying”

My question was – ” who said this is how life is supposed to be?” The answer was – “society”. Question – who said you have to follow what society says? Answer – “Samir we are social beings, part of a larger society and we should conform to what society says.

Can’t argue with that.

Of course the discussion carried on much longer but the point of mentioning this bit here was, the suitcase… this thinking leads to it becoming heavy.

My point is, it is our suitcase. Shouldn’t we decide what goes into it? Don’t we fill our suitcase with the stuff WE want when we travel? We don’t let others tell us what we should carry. If it’s weekend travel, we know what to carry. If it’s a longer trip, domestic or international, we know what to carry. If it’s air travel, we know how much weight to carry etc.

So why did we go wrong with the suitcase called life?? Why have we let others decide what goes in? Why have we let others dictate? We kept stuffing it because there was no limit to how much can we carry? If we carry 20kgs else airlines will ask us to pay for more, why didn’t we have a limit in mind as to how much we should carry. Of course if the airlines didn’t have the limit, we would have probably carried our whole household!

Greed and wanting more is what makes us fill it up. Bigger house, bigger car, more money, status,…. we keep it making the suitcase heavier. We look around and see people carrying bigger ones and we want ours to be even bigger.

We had looked at duration of travel and filled our travel suitcase accordingly. Why didn’t we look at life as a length of travel and filled ours too in keeping with the length?

The difference perhaps is that we look at life as work travel and not holiday travel. Work travel is all about files, documents, gadgets, formal attire… while holiday is fun! Somewhere through the travel called life, we stopped having fun. There is nothing in our suitcase that says life is fun. It’s a pity.

The strange thing is that only when the travel is supposed to end is when we start wondering about the weight. Too late.. the handle has come off, we can’t get a suitcase any bigger and stuff is overflowing and that is it.

Yes am pontificating because I have also been guilty of filling my suitcase with a whole lot of unwanted stuff and now it is not possible to let go of all that. But am going to give it a shot. Can’t empty the whole suitcase out but perhaps start putting some fun in and remove the baggage of expectations.

Ryan Bingham in the movie “Up in the Air” uses backpack as a metaphor and back in 2009 when I watched the movie, the thought had crossed my mind but back then too I was busy filling up with what is considered right. This is about taking stock again.

Worth a watch again. This scene.

You don’t look that old!

This exclamation ranks right up there with the lies you would have heard along with “seriously you have two kids?!” Or “you have lost lot of weight!” Or the very fake “congratulations!!” Or “yes we believe in team culture” or “the best way forward is collaboration” or “cheque is in the mail” “or am with you all the way, do your thing and I will back you up”.

These lies are intended to make us feel good. And we would be really dumb if we don’t see them for what they are. Condescending, fake and conniving.

Lost lot of weight for instance. Hmm so you think i was really fat earlier? Never heard you say that am fat! Don’t look old essentially says “hell you are old as a fossil but let me not rain on your parade”

Cheque is in the mail or payment will surely happen next week. We have all heard that when we are chasing 90 days outstanding or even more.

Lying is convenient. If it makes the current situation better, even if momentarily, we will use a lie.

Cooking up of accounts books to show the world how well you are doing, is akin to saying “you don’t look old”. It makes things look all good and rosy.

Lying is just a tool to hide what you really think, do or feel.

We all indulge in that. In our work life and in our personal life. When telling the truth is detrimental, we lie.

Can you imagine the consequences if you were to say “you have put on weight”?!

When management talks of collaborative culture, it essentially is about gaining control of what you are doing. We are in this together means that if things go south, there is someone to blame.

All the congratulatory messages you get on LinkedIn (when you join a new places or get promoted), how many really are genuine? Or when you congratulate, aren’t you making a future investment? Same goes for facebook or any social media. There is always an axe to grind.

Self preservation and betterment of self is what drives us.

Try to tell things the way they are and see what happens.

What is your worth?

If you were asked this question… how will you answer? What will you say? How will you define your worth? Or lets say calculate your worth…

For most of us I guess, our possessions would be a great starting point. A quick mental calculation will happen of all the gold in the locker and in the cupboard. All the real estate owned. And I don’t know what else. And then depending on the person you are talking to and your estimate of ‘his’ worth, either your smile will disappear or it will turn into a grin. After all the value we put to ourselves is in the context of others.

So lets say if I was to remove all things material from the equation in terms of calculating the worth… what happens then? Will you then struggle to figure it out? 

The others would talk about their importance in the organisation and the value they bring to the entire process. Will mark up promotions as their worth to the organisation.

The profound ones will then turn to analyse all their relationships… and try to figure out who values them more than others… There surely will be a few relationships where you have given more than taking… isn’t that how we judge the value of relationships? How much we give and how much we get in return.

Now I get it, in the context of society and how we have been brought up, it is either the money or the favourable balance of accounts in matters of relationship that we can calculate the worth.

So what if I was to remove the relationships too from the equation? What happens then?

Are we totally at a loss? Or do we then look deep inside us to figure out our self worth?

I think that’s the time, devoid of material assets and relationships, we assess our worth. For who we are as a person.

That’s the time, we realise that our worth is in the negative. We don’t have any.

We have spent so much time acquiring worth in the context of everything around us that we forgot who we are.

We stopped doing things that enhance our worth in our own eyes. We started believing that money and what people think of us became the defining thing.

The problem starts real young. Our parents instill this worth thing in the context of what they believe is required. We don’t question. As we move through life, every step there are people defining it for us… telling us what they think of us…

It’s only when you get to my age, that you start wondering (or maybe not everyone does… it is difficult to get off the treadmill), is that all there was to it?

Yeah yeah utterly boring and random post but hey… sometimes it’s good to have utterly random thoughts.

The Bubble

Everything is absolutely fine with the world.

iPhone 7 has been launched and people are figuring out how to upgrade quickly.

Amazon, flipkart, snapdeal… all are claiming huge turnout for buys… they are sending out message to tier I cities that its the tier II and tier III cities are buying stuff like crazy. More importantly, telling the world that people are spending money!

Navratras are on.

Festive season is round the corner. The malls will go on sale.

Automobiles had a great September.

Monsoon has been fairly decent.

The social chatter all of last week had been about how we are proud to be Indians.

The pubs are full (even on weekdays) and beer is flowing (oktoberfest you know).

This weekend all flights are packed, so are the trains. Hotel rates have skyrocketed.

America will get a new President and the world awaits… after all America rules the world and whoever leads America, we need to bow down to our new leader.

Joy, happiness and excitement all around…

So why am I restless. Why do I feel that the pressure is building and the bubble is becoming bigger… It is not ready to burst yet.

Am not an economist or a financial wiz. Nor am I a social scientist who is a keen follower of trends… but something is amiss…

Anyone knows what? Or am I going to be branded as a cynic who is never happy because the world is happy…

The Beast


Most of us would deny. Some even vehemently… but there is a beast in all of us. It hibernates. It waits. It operates in stealth mode. It is dormant perhaps.

It waits for the slightest bit of provocation. Then it recoils and launches itself. Look at the events around the world in past couple of months and even closer home. Rape, murder, terrorist (or supposedly terrorist) attacks. The scale of violence has gone up. It was almost like it was building up for a while and now the beast has been unleashed.

Lets talk about fanaticism and terrorism. The fanatics would like to believe that the violence they unleash is for a cause. It is not. It is just a sorry excuse. It allows them to cater to their animal instinct where they can just kill people. The cause becomes the crutch they use to pander to the beast in them. There is not one religion in the world which explicitly states that it is alright to take lives. But we interpret it for our own convenience because the beast inside us is hungry. And all it takes is some rabid speech for it to get going.

But that is at a level which we cannot even comprehend. Through time immemorial, wars have been waged, battles have been fought, lives have been taken. All in the name of religion. And there will be no end to it. In the name of peace, we will wage wars. Because it is the collective beast.

But am talking of the beast in us at an individual level. All it takes is a little bump to our vehicle on the road and its set free. At school, while teachers call it punishment for disobedience, it actually is whats inside us that is getting unleashed. A husband raising a hand on his wife. Physical abuse or even mental abuse by a woman of the man… believe it or not, it is the animal inside us.

A man raping a woman. It is a provocation. Not by what a woman is wearing or not wearing, it is just a female form… the gender. Else how would one explain a man raping a 5 year old or seven year old… those kids had done nothing to provoke a man in the way they dressed.

Yes as we evolve, as we get educated and culturally move our mindset out of dark ages, we perhaps learn to tame the beast a bit. No we do not kill it completely. We just tame it because we want it inside us. We all wait for provocation. Of course, because we are cultured, any slightest bit of provocation wont do.

And let me say that it is not about just men, the beast lurks inside women too. While they may not resort to physical violence, there are enough instances through the history and even in current news, where they have used men as surrogate to unleash the beast in them.

Do I have the beast in me? Yes i probably do. Maybe I haven’t been provoked enough.

This was just a random post… provoked by what has been happening all around. The shooting at the gay bar, Istanbul, Dhaka… the stuff I read in newspapers.

(pic courtesy investorshub.adfvn.com)

When the levee breaks

The title of the post is courtesy Led Zeppelin. Though not in the context of the song.

When the levee breaks, you are inundated.. Flooded… The waves that break through the levee washes you away.

It could be a flood of work, stress, emotions… If the levee of your mind is not strong enough, you will be washed away. And getting washed away here means that you react to a situation to get through the emergency. You make decisions that you think will shore up the barrier. A temporary arrangement which you think is a permanent solution. It never is. And the next big wave shows you that. And it is but natural… When you are about to drown, the only thought in your head is to keep that head above water. You are not thinking of ways to swim to safety.. I have read somewhere that most people drown because they are fighting the current. That is what happens to most of us.

What if we conditioned ourselves to be devoid of fear, devoid of insecurity, devoid of all emotions that cause panic… Won’t it allow our response to be lot better? 

That conditioning actually will make the levee much stronger and even if it breaks, we will have the surf board in our mind that will help us to ride the waves to a new shore.

Through the evolution of life on this planet, destruction has always led to birth of a new life… For something new to happen, something old has to give way…