The Zen master’s dog loved his evening walks with his master. The dog would run to fetch a stick, then run back to the master, and wait eagerly for the next round.

One day, the Zen master decided to take one of his favorite disciples. He was the brightest of his disciples. He was intelligent and so rational that he was troubled by the contradictions in Buddhist doctrine.

‘You must understand,’ said the master, ‘that words are only guideposts. Never let the words or the symbols get in the way of truth. Here, I will show you.’

Having said that, the master called his dog.

‘Fetch me the moon,’ said the master and pointed to the full moon.

‘Where is my dog looking?’ asked the master to his bright disciple.

‘He’s looking at your finger,’ replied the boy.

‘Exactly. Don’t be like my dog,’ said the master, ‘Don’t confuse the pointing finger with the thing that is being pointed at. The Buddhist words are simply guideposts. Every man fights his way through other men’s words to find his own truth.’

Moral of the Story

It would be best if you found your truth by discernment; religious texts, articles, books, and other materials are guideposts for enlightenment. As per the story above, focus on the moon, not the pointing finger, your purpose (intention), and not necessarily the process. Your path differs from where you are headed or your reason for going there. There are usually multiple paths to reaching your goal; the journey is the reward. Don’t get caught up in reaching your goal; you lose sight of your ultimate aim.

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”

In 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career, four-time Olympian and marathoner Meb Keflezighi shares the life lessons he’s learned from each of the twenty-six marathons in his running career.

The book is organized by marathon, one per chapter, presented chronologically. The lessons cover everything that contributed to my success, which is to say pretty much everything imaginable—pacing and race tactics, family and faith, nutrition and training, mental toughness and goal setting.

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He is the first African-American president of the United States and a member of the Democratic Party. Obama had previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008 and as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004.

Early Childhood

Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was named after his father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., Kenyan senior governmental economist who met Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, while they were both students at the University of Hawaii. Obama Sr. got a scholarship through a special program to attend college in the United States. His parents married in 1961 and their union was dissolved in 1964.

Obama Sr. won a scholarship for a graduate fellowship in economics at Harvard University. He travelled to Cambridge, Massachusetts alone as the scholarship was not sufficient to support a family. After his degree, he returned to Kenya in 1964 to start work as a government economist.

Writing about his father in his autobiography, A Promised Land, Obama writes:

“Since I didn’t know my father, he didn’t have much input. I vaguely understood that he had worked for the Kenyan government for a time, and when I was ten, he travelled from Kenya to stay with us for a month in Honolulu. That was the first and last I saw of him; after that, I heard from him only through the occasional letter, written on thin blue airmail paper that was preprinted to fold and address without an envelope. “Your mother tells me you think you may want to study architecture,” one letter might read. “I think this is a very practical profession, and one that can be practiced anywhere in the world.”

“I DO KNOW that sometime in high school I started asking questions—about my father’s absence and my mother’s choices; about how it was I’d come to live in a place where few people looked like me”

In 1964, Obama’s mother met Indonesian oil company executive Lolo Soetoro in Hawaii, and they were married in 1967. The family left Hawaii and moved to Indonesia when Obama was six. He spent his early childhood in Indonesia. His half-sister Maya was born in Indonesia in 1970.

In 1971, the ten-year-old Obama was sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and attend Punahou, an elite college preparatory school to which he had attained a scholarship with his grandparents’ help.

“Despite the financial strain, she and my grandparents would send me to Punahou, Hawaii’s top prep school. The thought of me not going to college was never entertained. But no one in my family would ever have suggested I might hold public office someday. If you’d asked my mother, she might have imagined that I’d end up heading a philanthropic institution like the Ford Foundation. My grandparents would have loved to see me become a judge, or a great courtroom lawyer like Perry Mason.”

Education and Early Career

 After two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he transferred to Columbia University, where he studied political science and international relations. Following graduation in 1983, Obama worked in New York City, then became a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, coordinating with churches to improve housing conditions and set up job-training programs in a community hit hard by steel mill closures.

“MY INTEREST IN books probably explains why I not only survived high school but arrived at Occidental College in 1979 with a thin but passable knowledge of political issues and a series of half-baked opinions that I’d toss out during late-night bull sessions in the dorm.”

Columbia University

“After my sophomore year, I transferred to Columbia University, figuring it would be a new start. For three years in New York, holed up in a series of dilapidated apartments, largely shorn of old friends and bad habits, I lived like a monk—reading, writing, filling up journals, rarely bothering with college parties or even eating hot meals. I got lost in my head, preoccupied with questions that seemed to layer themselves one over the next. What made some movements succeed where others failed? Was it a sign of success when portions of a cause were absorbed by conventional politics, or was it a sign that the cause had been hijacked? When was compromise acceptable and when was it selling out, and how did one know the difference?”

For three years in New York, holed up in a series of dilapidated apartments, largely shorn of old friends and bad habits, I lived like a monk—reading, writing, filling up journals, rarely bothering with college parties or even eating hot meals.

Harvard Law School

“And so it was that in the fall of 1988, I took my ambitions to a place where ambition hardly stood out. Valedictorians, student body presidents, Latin scholars, debate champions—the people I found at Harvard Law School were generally impressive young men and women who, unlike me, had grown up with the justifiable conviction that they were destined to lead lives of consequence. That I ended up doing well there I attribute mostly to the fact that I was a few years older than my classmates. Whereas many felt burdened by the workload, for me days spent in the library—or, better yet, on the couch of my off-campus apartment, a ball game on with the sound muted—felt like an absolute luxury after three years of organizing community meetings and knocking on doors in the cold.”

“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies, I tell my daughters—and at least that was true for me at Harvard. In my second year, I was elected the first Black head of the Law Review, which generated a bit of national press. I signed a contract to write a book. Job offers arrived from around the country, and it was assumed that my path was now charted, just as it had been for my predecessors at the Law Review: I’d clerk for a Supreme ”

In 1990, Obama became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating from Harvard, he returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

A Vision Board is a visual representation of your goals. It is a collage of all the things you want to get done, places you want to visit, and goals you want to achieve.  It is a tool recommended by some of the most successful people in the world such as Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Harvey, John Assaraf, and Jim Carrey among others. By Visualizing your goals, you impress them on your subconscious mind but you have to first set the goals and write down your goals. As author Napoleon Hill said in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it. Our belief system drives our behavior. By impressing your goals on your mind constantly, and seeing your goals continuously, you stand a greater chance of achieving them. One of my favorite examples of the power of visualization is from a story shared by Comedian Jim Carrey. In a 1997 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Carrey described how he used visualization to earn $10 million through a check he had written earlier for services rendered.

With more than 60 combined years of elite rock climbing experience, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have scaled some of the largest—and most extreme—walls in the world. Now the stars of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall teamed up to share their tried-and-true techniques for tackling any wall. From the fundamentals of footwork and body and hand positioning to mental exercises and advanced holds and movements, you’ll learn how to take on new challenges and push yourself further on and off the wall.

The Salutation to the Dawn poem is often attributed to Classical Sanskrit author Kalidasa. In his book: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, author Dale Carnegie writes:

John Ruskin had on his desk a simple piece of stone on which was carved one word: TODAY. And while I haven’t a piece of stone on my desk, I do have a poem pasted on my mirror where I can see it when I shave every morning—a poem that Sir William Osier always kept on his desk—a poem written by the famous Indian dramatist, Kalidasa:

In psychoanalytic theory, the taking of one’s own ego or body as a sexual object or focus of the libido or the seeking or choice of another for relational purposes on the basis of his or her similarity to the self. 1 A little bit of narcissism is needed for self-belief and self-confidence. Too much obsession with one self is what leads to malignant and grandiose narcissism.

It’s not that we heal and then we start living again, it’s that we make thedecision to start living again, and that’s when we start to heal.

In Out of the Fog, licensed psychotherapist, Dana Morningstar compares and contrasts healthy and unhealthy behaviors, strategies for getting out of the fog of confusion in abusive relationships, and into the clarity of building healthy relationships. Dana does a great job comparing and contrasting what a good, normal, healthy relationship is and what crazymaking, abusive, manipulative relationships look like. If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, psychopath, sociopath, and other personality disordered individuals, you would relate to most of the behaviors and characteristics of the emotionally manipulative.

Conan O’Brien, American television host, comedian, writer, podcaster, and producer. He is best known for hosting the late-night talk shows Late Night with Conan O’BrienThe Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, and since 2010, Conan on the cable channel TBS. Before his hosting career, he was a writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.

Conan delivered the Commencement Address to the 2011 graduating students at Dartmouth.

“An unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates

2020 has been one of those years that was filled with challenges and uncertainties. Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, the year was kind of tough. Just like every other year, it was a roller coaster of a year, ups and downs, smiles and frowns, peaks and valleys. All in all, the year was kind of depressing with the turmoil in the world, but in the end, we stay grinding and moving forward.

My year in a Nutshell

Work from Home

The COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown meant I had to work from home starting from March 2020 till now. It was not easy adjusting to that way of working, but it is the new normal now. It meant setting up a new routine, setting up an office space at home (I did not set up the office desk and table until October).

100 Books Reading Challenge 2020

At the beginning of 2020, I set a goal of reading 100 books and listening to 50 audiobooks by the end of the year. It was not easy getting in the grove to read most days, but with discipline, commitment, and a daily routine was able to do the following:

IT Security Certification Exams

One of my major highlights of 2020 was writing multiple Cyber Security/Cloud Computing Certification exams in which I passed some and failed some.

Passed – 6

Attempted (Failed)

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate – Feb 08, 2020
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate – Mar 17, 2020
  • CCSP – Certified Cloud Security Professional – Aug 31st 2020
  • CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional – October 20,2020
  • CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional – December 29, 2020

Failing these exams have been extremely tough, with the sleepless nights and study time dedicated for preparing for the exam, not to talk of the financial commitment of writing these exams as they are not cheap exams. What has kept me going is my WHY for writing these exams, the big picture, my daily routine, and the opportunity to become more self-aware because of the experience.

Sometimes you WIN, sometimes you LEARN, do not let success get into your head, and do not let failure get into your heart. The key is to keep pushing, learning, and unlearning, trusting the process and become a better version of what you can become. I would be attempting to pass the exams; I did not pass in 2020 again in 2021.

‘Never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart.’

Commitment to Life Long Learning

One of the great things that happened during the pandemic is the ability to have more personal development time. I tried to explore self-education more during this period and was on the lookout for platforms that would enhance my self-education. I stumbled on the following platforms, and I have been obsessed with them:


  • MasterClass is a streaming platform that makes it possible for anyone to learn from the very best. MasterClass is an online membership – accessible on your phone, web, Apple TV, Roku devices, and Amazon Fire TV – that offers classes on a wide variety of topics taught by 90+ world-class masters at the top of their fields.

MasterClass Annual Membership

Great Courses Plus

  • The Great Courses is the global leader in lifelong learning and our video-on-demand service The Great Courses Plus gives you unlimited, uninterrupted access to a world of learning anytime and anywhere you want it. With courses on thousands of topics, you are sure to find something that will ignite your curiosity and invigorate your passion for learning.


Learn life-changing skills with audio courses led by 200+ of the world’s leading experts. Invest in yourself anytime, anywhere.

Daily Routine

I was able to commit to a daily routine, and it made all the difference. After reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear, earlier in the year, I committed to setting micro habits such as having my bath twice a day, Calm Morning Wake Up (8 Minutes stretch), Using the five-minute Journal, daily long handwriting routine with a yellow pad. These micro daily routines made all the difference during the turmoil in 2020.


I took a 2-hour walk every late afternoon after work in the summer, and I listened to Audiobooks during those walks. One of my favorite apps for 2020 is the Calm App that helps with Meditation, Sleep, and morning stretch.

Getting Laid Off

In late October, I got laid off from the financial institution I was working with. The CEO had earlier announced that the bank was going to reduce its workforce by 5%, and I got affected by the downsizing. The COVID-19 pandemic also made the lay off faster with automation, digital transformation, and business requirements changes as the new watchword for most organizations.

It was a shock hearing about the lay-off from my manager, but after going through the roller coaster of emotions, the grief, and the adjustment – I am in a better place now. It has not been easy dealing with the lay-off challenge, but I am getting better every day, sticking with my routine, and becoming more dedicated to my personal development.

Daily Writing Routine

One of the habits that made the challenges of 2020 not too harrowing was the habit of longhand writing every morning and my commitment to have a blog post on I have posted at least one article on this blog since April 2020, and it has been very therapeutic for me, as the daily discipline and the routine is a great cross-training for the vicissitudes of life.

The Road Ahead

2021 is going to be a great year and I have set the following goals for the year:

  • Project Python 2021: Learn the Python Programming Language in 2021
  • 100 Books Reading Challenge: Read 100 Books in 2021
  • 50 Audiobooks Challenge: Listen to 50 Audiobooks in 2021
  • Pass 6 Cybersecurity/Cloud Computing Certifications in 2021
  • Daily Writing Routine: Write in longhand form on a yellow pad.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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