understanding invariants

Maturity hurts. It’s a weapon you carry in your inventory, embellished with the pains of your past, that adds to its ferocity in battle. When you carry it, you become slower, but therefore more calculated. You become tired easily, but also calmer. The stronger your sword becomes, the less you have to use it. One day then, you’ll have to leave the sword, and the person who carries it from you will have to learn to handle its weight.

I’ve been called ‘mature’ since I was young, without ever understanding what that meant. I’d nod my head, and say ‘Thank you, sir’ . I never thought I was ever mature though. I was curious – that was probably the better word for me. ‘Curiosity killed the Cat’ right? Well, I let myself face death, danger and disgrace many times in my life.

My curiosity was derived from a dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that was fed by my environment’s challenge to always be better. It was initially academic, and once I discovered I had a handle on studying, I wanted to deepen my knowledge of more fields. I wanted to be a better adventurer, a better leader, a better social butterfly. As I entered into these fields, I faced my first big hurdle. Rejection. People told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t fit for it. I was distraught , disgraced even. Then I gained my first taste of maturity. My parents and friends presented me the sword. ‘You’re growing up’ , they said. ‘You’ll need this’. I wiped the blood of my wounds on it, and felt its strength. I walked forward, and claimed my place. People won’t define who I am, I said, and did what I knew was right.

The problem with carrying a sword as powerful as maturity though, is that you think you’re prepared for any battle. I walked into the military, thinking I could handle this without a stretch. I was brought down immediately. Hubris and physical toil hit me hard. I remember so many times being at the end of my limits, and having to dig deeper. I had to remember my family back home, so that I could continue on my mission. I had to remember my platoon mates had families too, so that I could help them build their shellscrapes. I had to remember my own mission to be better, and that helped me get a Gold in my fitness test. People yelled in my ear : ‘Is this how you want to go down, Rovik?’ , and I realised my sword was definitely in need of more embellishing. I wiped the blood of my wounds on it, and felt its strength. I became a better leader, and a better soldier. I saw my friends almost die, from all kinds of ailments and physical conditions, and realised how truly sacred life is, not to be meddled with.  I was going to take life and security a lot more seriously.

The moment when you decide to start teaching others how to wield a sword is an interesting one. I had the benefit of mentors since I was 18; people who invested in me as a person and gave me personalised advice. When I started The Hidden Good, I was put in a position to train people and envision the same future I was seeing. More than that, I wanted them to add to it – to share it with me. I realised I was building an army then. An army of mature, wise and passionate individuals who knew how to wield their own swords and carry on the good fight. While teaching them, I too learnt how to better wield my own sword. I had to be confident in my lessons, and uphold them , bettering myself as I went on.

Perhaps the most forgotten aspect of swords is that while they’re heavily offensive, they play defensive roles as well – protecting you from the vile forces of others. I’ve let down my sword too many times. I trusted people too many times or I was tired of the weight of the sword and wanted to forget it, lapsing into immaturity. I had to remember to carry my sword again, and I would be reminded why it was so heavy in the first place.

Why is this topic important now? Because I’m realising how fleeting almost anything I do in college can be. My maturity, in its limited capacity, has reminded me that there is no point stressing or worrying about aspects that honestly would be forgotten in a few years. I’m reminded to invest in things that last – relationships, lives and futures. Love more, live more, smile more.

And in all of it, carry your sword with pride.


the need to influence

I’ve worked in the ‘Influence Economy’ in the past 3 years, and have gained so much from it. The most profound truth I’ve taken away from all of it though, is that in this day and age, we’re all essentially influencers in our own right. With the normalisation of social media, everyone’s voice has the opportunity to hold clout, as long as it holds the powers of logic, ease of understanding or emotion. Notice that not all of them have to exist together for something to be of influence, but I’ve found the best of them do.

I’ve committed myself to the pursuit of some sort of influence over the communities I exist in, to pursue spreading progressive ideas and goodwill in environments that are unhealthy and sadly caustic. Yet for all it is worth, 3 years later, I’m realising there’s still so much needed for more people to wield their own influence powerfully.

Micro-influence is severely underestimated, and when not utilised leads to the phenomenon known as the ‘the silent majority’. The people who do speak are the ones whose voices get heard, and they have the most potential to do damage or incredible good to the people who listen to them. It’s natural for there to be some form of inequity here , there will always be people who have an interest and ability to communicate, and will do so regardless of anyone else’s participation. But for those who disregard their own ability to be of influence, this is for you.

Most people think I’m obsessed with social media. In a lot of ways, its undeniable that I have a love for the ability to communicate with people through various mediums. There’s so much knowledge to be gained, and your world opens up when you’re able to exchange perspectives and experiences. But an aspect of that obsession also comes from my desire to form some sort of a mastery on this new normal. I want to understand content marketing, social media metrics and campaign pacing so that I can use it well for powerful ideas that I may be interested in spreading as I grow older.

Take your Facebook page as an example. It’s perhaps the most fundamental resource every person who’s acquainted with social media possesses. Facebook popularised the idea of a newsfeed ,something many other social media applications have in some form or another now. A newsfeed is a stream of information published and crowdsourced from your friends and communities, indicating things that may prove to be of interest to you. There’s a bunch of different aspects to the algorithm that decides what goes to the top of the newsfeed, but essentially if something is popular , that’s what you’ll see.  I’ve topped the newsfeed of my more than 3000 friends pretty regularly, and that’s because of a tried and tested method of understanding how people interact with content online. Yet, if anyone else was able to do that, they too can experience the power of their words and pictures in shaping how users consume.

If enough people was to share useful and interesting perspectives and thoughts, they could collectively keep setting new normals, normals that could be so much better than some of the dire states our online communities are in now. Spread good messages, those of hope or of caution, of filtered, measured and verified truths, and even of reflection and reminiscing.

If you’ve followed my blog, you would know my ultimate goal is to use my blog to testbed some of my philosophies and principles on life, and hopefully develop some mastery on them. Thought leadership is perhaps the ultimate form of influence, more powerful and more useful than the kind wielded by bloggers , YouTubers and even artistes. Thought leadership is when what you say makes sense because it has proven to be universally applicable, and more importantly, credible because of who you are as a person. There’s a lot that needs to be done in this world, and while core fields such as science, technology and policy are still crucial to addressing those needs, influence wielded by those who are of good mind and heart is equally important.

Look at Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Malala Yousafzi or even Emma Watson. All of them are thought of as celebrities, but their true titles match those of Thought Leaders a lot more. They use their influence to invite others to think about what they say , and to imagine a new normal with them. The power of inspiration and planting an idea supersedes anything else, because an inspired idea is a furious fire , desiring only more. If we could collectively move the people of the world to use whatever micro-influence they posses to advance a goal, then that would be the ultimate milestone, a crowdsourced new normal. One that isn’t merely motivated by the hopes of the few and powerful, but instead shared by the hearts of the many.

That’s the power of influence. The question is, would you use yours?