This year- Go to 11

As we begin this year I am reminded of a witty quip made half a lifetime ago by my friend Arvind Mathur, a couple of years junior in college. To welcome the fresh batch of students at our college, we had set up a talent show and asked people to fill out a form. Being clever and all, we thought of tripping the freshers with a googly. We asked- “What is your name? Please tell us why“. We got the usual lame answers about the meaning of people’s names, going somewhat like “My name is Gaurav because my parents are proud of me”. Gaurav means pride. (As a side note, meanings of first names are a big deal in India, but a completely alien concept here in the US. Peter means father and rock, but John? John’s just a number between 1 and 3). All answers were lame except for one guy- Arvind, who wrote back an answer that has stuck in my mind even though I am sure he has himself forgotten it. He wrote, “My name is Arvind. Why? Because I am used to the best“! No tripe about what the name means and whether it’s unique or not. No sir. I don’t settle for less in anything, so why would I compromise on my name?!

Consider this your guidance for the rest of this year! Get used to the best!

For the new year, my sincerest wish is for everyone to set their dial to 11. Don’t settle for artificial limits placed on what is possible and what is right for you to do. Don’t give in to nonsense about what is safe and what needs fixing. Ignore those naysayers who ask you to stay within the limits of zero-to-ten. Don’t freeze at 5 because that’s the safe thing to do. Don’t balk at 3, thinking the guys at 5 will scoff at you! Don’t panic when you first redline past 9. Don’t stop, keep going, keep up the momentum and push the pedal harder, until the rattle becomes a hum and the noise trails off, pushing limits you didn’t think possible, harder until you lose your fear of the ordinary, what was extreme now appearingĀ  normal and what was normal appearing inadequate, gathering momentum till you don’t remember, and don’t care, where you started from, aware more of your new-found energy than you are of your two bit start (don’t stop), afraid to stop doing what you’re on to, because that would be harder, ordinary rules of grammar and logic stop applying to you anymore, destiny asking you to go on, not stop, because now you are a force unto yourself, a force of nature that doesn’t stop when the gauge hits 10.

Go to eleven, because you are who you are, and in what you do, YOU go to eleven. Let others stay cozy at a mediocre 6 on a 10-point-scale.

Stop doing things out of habit. Stop doing things you’re not good at (except if they are hygiene items like brushing and flossing). Stop doing things that take up your time and mindshare. Clear out all that clutter, and create space for things that you are good great at. Things that you can go to eleven on. Then go to eleven.

Speaking for myself, this means I want to be a net contributor of content, not a net-consumer of content. I want to convey more ideas more succinctly than anyone has ever done before. I have replaced my twin-blade razor with a six-blade razor. My expensive “good” car with an even more expensive “great” car (Oh! Joy!). My ballpoint pen with a fountainpen and bulletproof ink. (Take that, forgers!). My high fiber cereal with a triple-dose-fiber-max cereal-o-saurus. I’m pulling all stops. I am going to bring passion and energy to my favorite projects, leaving other projects to fate and others’ goodwill.

Starting 2011, I am planning to go to 11, and so should you.

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PS: The “goes to eleven” reference is a pop-culture reference from a mocumentary “This is Spinal Tap”. An excellent waste of time on this subject is here: TV Tropes Up to 11