FF Daily #265: How often do you experience a state of flow?

January 5, 2021: Trendspotting with Haresh Chawla (and a conversation with Nandan Nilekani); A curator’s reflections on 2020; Our blessed homeland, and their barbarous wastes, updated

Founding Fuel

[Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash]

Good morning,

Pixar’s latest movie Soul makes a reference to the flow state. Here’s how the dialogue goes. 

22: You know how when you humans are really into something and it feels like you're in another place? Feels like you're in the zone, right?

Joe: Yeah.

22: Well, this is the zone. It's the space between the physical and spiritual.

Joe: Wait a minute. I was here. Today, doing my audition. This must be where musicians come when they get into a flow.

22: Not just musicians. Watch this.

What follows is a funny scene (Watch the movie!) but it also underlines the point that every activity gives a chance to get into a state of flow. 

In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi takes us through the phenomenon using the example of surgery. 

Csikszentmihalyi writes, “Few jobs involve so much responsibility, or bestow so much status on its practitioners. Certainly if challenges and skills are significant factors, then surgeons must find their job exhilarating. And in fact many surgeons say that they are addicted to their work, that nothing else in their lives compares with it in terms of enjoyment, that anything that takes them away from the hospital—a Caribbean vacation, a night at the opera—feels like a waste of time.

“But not every surgeon is as enthusiastic about his job. Some grow so bored by it that they take up drinking, gambling, or a fast life-style to forget its drudgery. How can such widely diverging views of the same profession be possible? One reason is that surgeons who settle down for well-paid but repetitive routines soon begin to feel their tedium. There are surgeons who only cut out appendices, or tonsils; a few even specialize in piercing earlobes. Such specialization can be lucrative, but it makes enjoying the job more difficult. 

“At the other extreme, there are competitive supersurgeons who go off the deep end in the other direction, constantly needing new challenges, wanting to perform spectacular new surgical procedures until they finally can’t meet the expectations they have set for themselves. Surgical pioneers burn out for the opposite reason of the routine specialist: they have accomplished the impossible once, but they haven’t found a way to do it again.

“Those surgeons who enjoy their work usually practice in hospitals that allow variety and a certain amount of experimentation with the latest techniques, and that make research and teaching part of the job. The surgeons who like what they do mention money, prestige, and saving lives as being important to them, but they state that their greatest enthusiasm is for the intrinsic aspects of the job. What makes surgery so special for them is the feeling one gets from the activity itself. And the way they describe that feeling is in almost every detail similar to the flow experiences reported by athletes, artists [and cooks].”

How often do you experience flow? Tell us about it!

In this issue:

  • Trendspotting with Haresh Chawla (and a conversation with Nandan Nilekani)
  • A curator’s reflections on 2020 
  • Our blessed homeland, and their barbarous wastes, updated. 

Have a great day!

Trendspotting 2021 with Haresh Chawla 

Haresh Chawla is back with his trends for 2021. It’s deep and wide ranging, so instead of giving you an extract, we will share with you the intro. 

“If you ever planned a startup, 2021 would be the year to start!”


Chawla starts his survey of the immediate future thus: 

“There are years that should not exist. 2020 takes one helluva bite of that bitter lemon cake. 

“No lengthy preamble here: 2020 simply broke the line that joins the past and the future. The Great Reset is creating new winners and losers. And we are getting early glimpses of that—Tesla’s market cap has grown larger than the rest of the global auto industry, Amazon’s adds up to more than all its offline competitors combined. Apple cruises above $2 trillion—unshakeable in its hold over the world’s wealthiest who follow its whims like the proverbial piper.

“Digital was in favour before the virus. Now we have a divide—the digital, and the dying. 

“Some things won’t be there anymore. Like the bank tellers vanished with the advent of the ATM—none of us even remember getting a token number and then waiting to be called to a window to collect and count cash. Now the neighbourhood bank branch itself will vanish, and you wouldn’t notice.  

“Trendspotting in 2021 is both hard and easy: It’s hard to imagine the second order effects of such deep dislocations, but the first order effects themselves give you so much to think about. I promise not to use the word ‘unprecedented’ except for this once in this piece. Without much ado, let’s dive in.”

Read the full piece here: Trendspotting 2021: Inside the Great Digital Reset

This is not all. We are delighted to invite you to a learning session with Nandan Nilekani and Haresh Chawla on the trends to watch in 2021. Do join us.  

Where: Livestream on Facebook

When: Friday, January 08, 2021, 6.30 pm – 7.15 pm

Register here: http://bit.ly/FFTrendspotting 

A curator’s reflections on 2020 

In an earlier avatar, R Sriram co-founded the Crossword bookstore chain with K Anita. Old-timers recall with much nostalgia how when in doubt, they would turn to a rack labelled “Sriram Recommends”. He was the curator everyone was waiting for. Since then though, Sriram has moved on to do other things. 

“Just like hope, that enduring feeling behind our wishes, books are powerful.”


In an attempt to recreate the magic of Sriram’s curation, we asked him to curate links to content he thinks relevant. He most graciously agreed. The outcome is an essay that contains his reflections on the past year.

“One of my responses to the Covid-19 pandemic was to set myself this daily reminder: ‘Be positive. Be kind. Be helpful.’ My goal has been to achieve all three every day, but I haven’t always succeeded,” he writes.

Having said that, what follows are his thoughts, commentary and pointers to the finest content on leadership, inequality, happiness, thinking, kindness, gratitude, hope and some more.

Dig Deeper     

Our blessed homeland, and their barbarous wastes, updated 

Here’s an updated version of Tom Gauld’s brilliant cartoon we spotted on Reddit. Apt for our polarized times, don’t you think?

(Via Reddit)

Tell us what you think and find noteworthy. Head over to our our Slack channel.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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