Appreciate

If there is someone whom you owe for guiding you at one of life’s crossroads or for changing the direction of your life for the better, do not wait for later to express your appreciation. You may never get the opportunity again.

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Be a Vegetarian

I was preparing for my Toastmasters speech last week, and found out that being a vegetarian is one of the best things you can do to your body, especially in the United States. Here is the complete text of my speech to explain why:

Fellow Toastmasters,

Let me tell you something about myself. I am 100% vegetarian. I have never, ever tasted meat of any kind in my life. I don’t know what it tastes like or feels like. I am a vegetarian by birth, not by choice. I never gave a serious thought about the reasons behind this fact, until I came to this country.

Shortly after I landed in US, I started going out to lunches/dinners with local people. On seeing what I was eating, people were amazed and started asking me questions like “are you allergic to chicken, how can you survive without any meat, how do you get your nutrition or umm..so what do you eat..only salad?” To them, I was like a person from another planet.

After getting bombarded with questions like these, I asked myself this for the first time: why am I vegetarian? Why should I be a vegetarian? Sure there are ethical reasons, and religious ones too, and Indian food tastes so good with vegetables and spices, but is there something scientific and tangible behind it? I did some research and found out a lot of facts in favor of vegetarianism, some of which I will share with you today.

Overall it is a consensus that being vegetarian is good for you and the benefits fall in 3 groups: environmental, ethical and health.

The Environment

Eating animals wouldn’t harm the environment if it were done on a much smaller scale. But modern meat production involves intensive use–and often misuse–of grain, water, energy, and grazing areas and contributes heavily to all sorts of pollution and soil erosion.

For example, Thirty million tons of methane–a gas that contributes to global warming–come from manure in sewage ponds or heaps.

One third of original U.S. cropland has been permanently removed from production due to excessive soil erosion.

Livestock production is the largest polluter of water in the US, topping all other industries that produce toxic wastes. A farm in Milford, Utah, which raises 2.5 million pigs every year, creates more waste than the entire city of Los Angeles.

Raising animals for food is an extremely inefficient way to feed a growing human population. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, but just 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat. It takes 15 pounds of feed to get one pound of meat. But if the grain were given directly to people, there would be enough food to feed the entire planet.

The world’s cattle – excluding pigs and chickens – consume quantity of food the equivalent to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. That’s nearly double the entire population of the world today. This is a very inefficient way to produce food.

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Ethics

Animals suffer from pain and fear just as much as we do. They spend their last hours locked in a truck, packed into a cage with hundreds of other terrified animals and then cruelly pushed into a blood soaked death chamber. Their body parts are even fed to other animals. Cruelty to such animals in captivity is a serious ethical issue and should make one repeal the ways of modern factory farming.

Pigs and sheep are far more intelligent than 6-week old children, which is something to think about.

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Health

On the health front, there are plenty of studies conducted and the consumption of animal products has been conclusively linked with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of pesticide residue in our diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products. 15 million pounds of antibiotics are used in animal production every year- These drugs end up in your milk and meat.

Meat-eating and a lack of dietary fiber are linked to colon cancer. Only plant foods contain fiber.

By reducing your consumption of meat, dairy products and eggs by 50%, you reduce your risk of a heart attack by 45%. By following a pure vegetarian diet (no animal products at all) you reduce your risk by 90%.

Also if one thinks practically, a sausage can contain ground up intestines. How can anyone be sure that the intestines are empty when they are ground up? Do you really want to eat the content of a pig’s intestines? Also, have you ever heard of cabbage flu or mad carrot disease? No, only bird flu or mad cow disease.

Including animal products in your diet is like playing Russian roulette with your life.

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Personal finance

– Being healthier from a vegetarian diet means spending less on health care.
– Vegetarian food tends to cost less than meat-based items.
– Replacing meat, chicken and fish with vegetables and fruits is estimated to cut food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.

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Well, since coming to US, things have certainly changed in this country. Vegetarian societies are coming up, famous celebrities are going meatless and voicing their opinions. As for myself, I now know that even though I accidentally am vegetarian by birth, it is for all the good reasons.

Luxuries

“No matter what you can afford, save great wine for special occasions…a silk blouse a special treat…it’s a way to make sure that you can continue to experience pleasure.” – Barry Schwartz in his recent book, The Paradox of Choice.

That is right, a luxury is no longer a luxury when you experience it often.

Self-discipline and values

Recently, I came across a few people from India who gave up their vegetarianism because of external circumstances and expressed guilt about doing so. They were also amazed on knowing that me and a few of my friends have continued being vegetarians even after several years of living in mostly meat-eating country of United States, when the fact should be hardly surprising.

I realized that if you have weak self-discipline and compromise (even if only once) on a core value you have always cherished, you will forever have a guilt about it somewhere deep within yourself. The guilt accentuates, or at least surfaces in your conscious thought upon meeting someone who did not give up those values.

Lesson: Believe strongly in a core set of values and guard them aggressively. This will go a long way in maintaining and enhancing self-confidence and pride in who you are.

Meeting the right people

“I used to think of all the billions of people in the world, and of all those people, how was I going to meet the right ones? The right ones to be my friends, the right one to be my husband. Now I just believe you meet the people you’re supposed to meet.” – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, The Quest, 1995

Perception and expectation for achievements

Others perceive you based on what you have done until now, whereas you perceive yourself based on what you think you can do. And the farther away in past your biggest accomplishments are, the greater could be the difference between the two perceptions.

Solution…one simply has to keep doing bigger and better things.

Note: If you accomplish something good, you set higher level of expectation for others for the next time. More you achieve, the better and bigger feats you are expected to perform each time. But by then you also expect yourself to achieve greater heights every time, and that is good. Also, many a times one needs to prove himself more than once.

Thanks to my wife for discussing this thought with me.

Exclusivity

All jobs that are held in high regard by general public have one thing in common: high barrier to entry. If it is extremely difficult to get in, it is held in high esteem, even if the job afterwards is not that difficult to perform.

Examples: IAS (Indian Administrative Services), Mckinsey associate, etc., or in some cases even a software engineer at Microsoft/Google.

Another common trait to most of these jobs is pressure. One may have pressure at other jobs as well, such as backoffice operations, but since the barrier at entry is not high, it is not regarded in high esteem.

Coming to US for work/study from India was once difficult (financially and preparation-wise), but not anymore.

Also, one can choose to join at some place which many people have access to, but he/she will keep facing competition at every step and thus the career path will remain tough in terms of competition.

Looks to me like one can either struggle hard to get in and then enjoy benefits, or get somewhere quick and easy but fight for a longer duration to shine.

Ways to increase fuel efficiency

Other than the usuals such as maintaning good tire pressure, not driving fast, and driving to make use of brakes as little as possible, here are a few more based on my driving style:

1. Put the car on cruise at around speed limit, as much as you can, especially for long drives. And remember, higher the speed, lower is the mileage.

2. If you are going to be at a stop light for a long time, turn off the engines. I realize that this is not the culture in U.S., but is the norm in India. Idling at a stop light for 5 minutes can really bring down your mileage.

3. While taking exit, put your car in neutral gear (I drive stick shift) and let the car slow down smoothly from 55-65 mph to 25 mph at the exit ramp curve. This might require some practice. Do accelerate in between, if needed, to avoid honks from the guy behind you.

Managing the uncommitted

Need
An Uncommitted needs to have clear goals, standards, and expectations established and then communicated to him. He also needs close monitoring to see how he is performing.

The solution
Try to find training and development opportunities for a Not-My-Job-er. Oftentimes he wants growth and advancement, but when he feels he is on a dead-end career road, he loses his enthusiasm for work and tries to do as little as possible.

Lessons from life

Lessons from life by Maya Angelou (taken from Worthwhile Magazine):

  • I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
  • I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  • I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
  • I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
  • I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
  • I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
  • I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
  • I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
  • I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
  • I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
  • I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

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