Fringe and Geekery

Fringe Topics and Geekery Track of The Goa Project 2016

Navin Kabra

@ngkabra

Practical Lessons from the Gita for modern life: Entrepreneurship, Relationships, Social Media

Submitted Jan 14, 2016

Modern life is quite different from the world our parents grew up in; and a lot of what we do in our lives and careers has no parallels in what they did. So it appears that we’re on our own as far as navigating this new world is concerned. I take timeless advice from the Gita and show how, with appropriate mappings to modern concepts, the advice is surprisingly effective. And I show how it parallels advice from gurus like Paul Graham, Marc Andreessen, and Scott Adams. This is not about ancient-India-was-great, but practical, useful tips to bring order to the chaos of the internet-enabled life.

Outline

While we’ve all grown up hearing quotes from the Gita (including Karmanye vaadhikaraste), I found that applications of those to daily life were not common. Some years ago, I decided to seriously read the Gita and then see what parts of it could actually be applied to modern life, and whether any of it appeals to my (modern/western/atheistic) sensibilities.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that if you’re just paying attention, there is a lot of actionable advice in there. It applies to common situations you regularly run into as an entrepreneur; as someone active on social media; as someone who has to maintain professional relationships with all kinds of people. I’ve also noticed that some of the advice initially goes against my instincts, but makes a lot of sense if I’m able to step back and analyse it in terms of the long-term, instead of the short term.

In the talk, I’ll pick out selected passages from the Gita (there’s a lot I rejected as not being relevant to this talk, and to my sensibilities as a materialistic atheist). For each one of those, I will give examples of situations from entrepreneurship, or professional/family relationships, or even simply social media management. The Gita’s wisdom is a useful framework to evaluate alternative courses of action. In some cases, there will also be examples of advice from Graham/Andreessen/Adams that is roughly equivalent.

Requirements

An open mind, tolerance, a willingness to ask questions, and a willingness to share. The focus is not on dissecting the Gita, or debate historical accuracies, but rather to extract actionable insights that we can take home.

Speaker bio

I am currently a co-founder and CTO at ReliScore, a startup focused on helping companies filter job candidates based on evaluation of actual job-related skills. I am also one of the creators of PuneTech.com, a portal for the tech community in Pune, India, and PuneConnect.com, one of the largest start-up showcases in Pune. In the past I’ve worked for large companies, and small; worked in India and in the US; experienced a successful exit and a dotcom failure; been involved with product development and also research labs; written consumer and enterprise software; and been a developer, an architect, and a manager (but hated it). I’ve been a top writer on Quora for 2 years in a row before I gave up Quora.

I have a PhD in Computer Sciences from the University of Wisconsin, USA, a B.Tech. in Computer Sciences from IIT-Bombay before that; I have 19 patents in the US, 2 in Europe, and 1 in Japan; but for some reason, people are most impressed by the fact that I had a JEE rank of 14 28 years ago.

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