Another lesson from Varalakshmi

Vara has been trying new tricks these days. She wants to do everything’ all by myself’-wants to wear her shirt, shoes and eat with a spoon all by herself. Vara does not wait for others around her to tell whether it is correct or not. She does things by her intuition and gut and does not care what others are thinking about her. It is my way or highway.
It was around December 1975. I was listening to an evening talk by J Krishnamurthy, popularly known as JK at the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai. The evening was tranquil except for the chirping of the birds on the trees. I am sure two hundred people would have gathered to listen to Krishnaji. I remember him talking about ‘here and now’, and referring to the flight of a bird. When the bird flies, it does not leave a mark. She lives by the moment and enjoys the flight immensely. The bird does not care where it has left a mark. She does not wait for reviews from other birds.
I live these days very differently and always worry about what the others are thinking of me. I look for feedback on whatever I do. If I want to read a book, watch a Netflix show or go to a restaurant, I want to know the opinion of others. I want to check on the star rating before I do any activity — likes on Facebook and Instagram stars on Goodreads, Michelin stars on restaurants. It has become a habit to read the reviews before I make any purchase on Amazon. Besides, recommendation algorithms are all over the e-commerce sites. They immediately tell what book you should read, whom should I follow, what movie you should watch or what garment I should buy. I recently watched a movie on Netflix and purchased a book on Amazon based on reviews, and both were a disaster. Feedback has been my Oxygen, and looking for input from others has become a new norm of living. My thinking is shaped by what others think. The contours of my life have become a mess.
Feedback and review have been around for some time. The annual review process in organisations, for example, has become a big business. Several in Human Resource departments make a living and career in this review process. I am sure you would have heard of five-point and seven-point rating scales and three-sixty degree processes. I do not think that any of the tools have improved my personal growth as an individual. Many organisations have scrapped these processes as these are a waste of time and drain on company resources. Another example is credit reviews. These numbers decide how stakeholders treat me, and my investment decisions depend on these. Banks, credit card companies, car financing companies and dealers use these numbers to determine whether I can get credit or not.
I learnt the word ‘Feedback’ from the Control Systems text by Benjamin Kuo. There are two types of feedback- positive and negative. The whole idea is to sample a small amount of output and compare with input in a feedback loop. The positive feedback puts the system in oscillation, where the negative feedback provides stability, in theory. Reality is different — negative feedback in individuals impacts in an unpredictable way, while positive feedback enhances the day. Bad news and good news come as a package every day. The ability to respond with a central perspective makes my day.
Let me retrace my steps and go back to the beginning. Vara is experimenting and learning a lot without feedback. I am sure it is the right way for me, as well. Maybe I was also like Vara when I grew up, and I lost out this attribute somewhere along the way. I will be a better individual without any review. My daily conversations and close observations teach me how to behave genuinely. I believe this model of learning will stay with me long. Am I making sense?

Photo by Eugene Golovesov on Unsplash

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Dravida Seetharam

Dravida Seetharam

Life long learner with interests in reading and writing