Happy new year folks! This is the first Could be Worse of 2022. The nature of Could be Worse has always been a cynical take on events that unfold around us, laughing at the mess that is our world and saying, “oh, well.”
2020 tested the hilarity of it so much that I went into 2021 quite jaded and:
Expecting it to be worse than 2020 and
Taking no specific goals but instead ungoals for the year (only half jokingly).
‘Survive 2021’ was the unsaid goal. Between India’s third wave, continued restrictions across countries and continued impact on mental health and the economy extending from 2020, it certainly felt that way.
Personally, 2021 wasn’t a bad year. It just was an odd year.
Cool boredom 🧘♂️
I recently learnt about the existence of an idea that probably captures my state of 2021 most accurately. It’s called cool boredom and it comes from Buddhist meditation practice:
Boredom is important in meditation practice; it increases the psychological sophistication of the practitioners. They begin to appreciate boredom and they develop their sophistication until the boredom begins to become cool boredom, like a mountain river. It flows and flows and flows, methodically and repeatedly, but it is very cooling, very refreshing.
If that was vague, contrast it with hot boredom. That’s the kind of boredom that makes you feel like you are in a cage and need to get out. Instead, when in cool boredom you feel calmer and are at peace without a desperate need to break free. That was 2021 for me.
Or to use a 2020 example, I was the Ever Given, just chilling as chaos raged around me in the suez canal of life. Nowhere to go. Nothing much to do.
Performance against my ungoals 🦥
Even by the laissez-faire standards of how I approached setting my 2021 goals, I give myself a score of 40% (just-pass). I read just about 23-odd books (tailing off significantly in Q4 where I read maybe just 1 book). This reflected in the writing too. While I wrote a lot to myself (unpublished long forms, journals, self notes, etc.), I didn’t write enough in this newsletter or anywhere else. A mere 12 newsletter emails. There were other ungoals where I failed more miserably.
For example on lifting weights and working out core, this is what I wrote then:
Like an indictment of who I am, I’ve been told that my core is weak and I need to tighten, stretch and administer some friendly abuse to it. Also, I recently explored the area in the gym where they have these dark heavy wheels stacked up like medieval weaponry. I am going to try lifting them more multiple times.
Now, having exhausted 2021, my core is still weak and my acquaintance with weights didn’t extend beyond a passing glance at them. The one thing I did really well is walk. I walked something close to 1500 kms last year and that has kept me sane.
To be clear, I am not one to brood over missed goals (can’t afford to given how much I regularly miss them). And 2021 was mostly a happy year. I managed to travel back home to meet my parents after nearly two years, worked from beautiful beach towns in parts, spent a lot of high quality time together with N (a lot more than a typical working year would allow) and had a productive work life with good progress.
But as cycles go, this has left me feeling a little restless for 2022.
Word for 2022: Eudaimonia 🚶♂️
I found a word for what I am looking for in 2022: EUDAIMONIA. So what is it?
“…well-being is not so much an outcome or end state as it is a process of fulfilling or realizing one’s daimon or true nature—that is, of fulfilling one’s virtuous potentials and living as one was inherently intended to live.”
A simpler interpretation: “Eudaimonia is the blissful state when you travel intentionally towards a destination”.
The travel here isn’t just literal but the steps you take towards fulfilling your “true nature”. So, to use a ‘LinkedIn’ term grudgingly - more intention and purpose. I will be doing things that are more aligned with my “true nature” and with more discipline (even if it means work or stress in the short term). I am setting myself some real goals and plan to work a little more intentionally and harder especially on writing and fitness. Let’s go!
I am not going to list my goals here. This year I am planning to talk about it only half way through the year after I have achieved the mid year targets.
2022 will be better 🥳
Speaking of turning a new leaf, I think 2022 will not be 2020 too. I am not saying this basis any detailed research but relying on the power of my gut to tell me the truth. My gut says 2022 will be fantastic. So, there. Let’s send this positive vibe into the universe.
But if you are looking for specific beacons at the end of the tunnel, here are some of them:
Omicron induced immunity 🙏
Look, Omicron is bad. Deadly infectious and spreads like wildfire. Wear a mask, avoid crowded places (especially indoors) and generally be empathetic because even small fatalities in a population of billions is a big number.
But it is likely that Omicron is nature’s vaccine and get large population herd immunized. This could end the pandemic as we know it. There are 4 seasonal corona viruses we’ve been living with all our lives and Covid-19 may end up becoming the fifth seasonal coronavirus. It will probably circulate with minimal to moderate impact for the rest of our lives but hopefully remain mild.
Does this mean we all party and let it spread like wildfire right now? Absolutely not, being an idiot never helps. And if hospitals get overwhelmed, we’ll have a much worse year in store than this variant deserves.
Indian startup scene 🚀
In 2021, Indian startups received a record $36 billion in funding up 3x from 2020 (2.5x from 2019). The number of deals didn’t change drastically, up only 22% from 2019. A bulk of this enormous number was driven by the average size of the deal which went up to $32.9 million from $14.6 million in 2020. Let’s not get carried away though. A bulk of this value is investors trying to bet on a small number of available options in late-stage as the IPO route started to become visible. 2021 was like a headline grabbing, feel good funding year but the real impact is likely to be in the years to come as I expect these things will likely happen:
Explosion in startups. With several success stories, we will see an exponential rise in number of startups (hopefully)
More investments in early stage as having seen exit paths (and even made money on some), investors will bet at various early and mid stage making #1 more viable.
China is getting riskier and so more investments will likely flow into India
So why is this so exciting personally? Just sheer opportunities to both work on exciting things and create wealth is always a good place to be as a country. It feels like a definite optimism story - one I am hoping will sweep up more of India into its fold from being a narrow niche today.
Bring on the movies 🍿
In keeping with the theme of 2021, I’ve fallen behind quite a bit on movies. Or even anticipating them. I have a huge running tab of movies from 2021 I am yet to watch:
The Matrix (the new one)
Spiderman (the new one)
James Bond (the new one)
(Even the movies feel like covid, releasing new variants of the same thing again and again)
In fact, I’ve watched no movies in theatres all of last year. By contrast, I think I watched two movies a month in theatres back in 2019 in Bangalore and in the process being a top customer for PVR’s overpriced food and beverage business.
In 2022, I want to go back to the joy of movies, even if it is to be diluted by watching on Netflix. Some movies I am looking forward to:
Thor: Love and Thunder from Taika Waititi. I am really hoping theatres open up again in time for this. If it’s even half as good as Thor Ragnarok (best MCU movie by far), I will be happy as a clam
The Batman. Should be fantastic if the spectacularly dark trailer is anything to go by.
MI7. I wouldn’t mind again watching an ageing Tom Cruise scale buildings or jump out of planes.
Bullet Train: David Leitch’s movie about five assassins on a Japanese bullet train starring Brad Pitt. Enough said.
Canterbury Glass: The cast sounds intense: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie. Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, John David Washington, Mike Myers, Chris Rock….what? Aside: David O’Russell (the director) is quite unhinged as a character.
Crimes of the future: David cronenberg remaking his 70s scifi/horror film.
2022 is going to be the year of some fantastic escapes.
Science & Tech 👩🔬
Ok, don’t roll your eyes. We are in the midst of an exciting acceleration tech, science and data explosion. 2022 promises (and this is in no way exhaustive) a lot of exciting progress:
Exascale computers are coming. These computers (mainframes) can carry out one quintillion (1018) calculations per second. We need the power to solve the complex world problems. This is going to accelerate new discoveries.
Moon will be getting busy in 2022. Artemis 1 is going to go around the moon. Starship will likely go to orbit once. South Korea will send a moon orbiter. India will send Chandraayan 3. Russia will land Luna-25. A Japanese company will send a lander. Nasa is sending three robotic landers. Phew! Is it Moon or Silkboard junction?
Malaria vaccine arrives. Not sure if you missed this but we now have a vaccine for malaria! This is a huge deal (even if the vaccine offers imperfect protection).
China shows the nuclear way. On the edge of Gobi desert, China is likely to turn on the first ‘clean’ thorium based nuclear reactor. Overall, the world is slowly turning a corner from irrational fear or nuclear power to realizing that is the clean source that can save our planet.
We’ve been talking about travel exploding for a couple of years now. I don’t really know if that is going to be the case but this is more of a personal excitement. This year, I am really hoping for the following:
International travel opens up so I can do 1 trip to another country and something from the bucket list. The joy of strapping in the plane, being woken up at 3 am to eat lunch, landing at an odd hour in a new country, sleep deprived and confused on what to do next is unparalleled. I am not even joking.
Family and friends visiting us in Thailand. We originally intended our house as a free stay place for known travelers. Really hope to host parents and other visitors this year and take them around to mind blowingly beautiful places.
Revisit all the surreally beautiful but tourist-free Thai islands just to realize how good it was. In more seriousness, I want to see a bit of the tourist bustle even if it will get annoying pretty soon.
Crypto and web 3 🔗
This is again a personally exciting thing. Purely as something for me to learn. A new toy to play with. A science fiction version of technology that almost exists in a world of its own. Almost.
Web 3 will continue to bleed into real world bit by bit but I presume it would take a better part of the decade until we find the real teeth to tools and applications that change our lives completely (imagine being able to click a button on app and get most things to your doorstep two decades back).
I intend to learn and see how this evolves in 2022 into new, exciting and importantly weird places. Perhaps even write a few posts sharing useful resources. Let’s see.
What excites you about 2022? Share in comments or reply to the email. Also, what would you like for me to write more on in 2022 in this newsletter? Options: Pop-culture (books, movies), Science and tech, Web 3, Billionaire shenanigans, conspiracy theories? Anything goes. Let me know.
Will be better,
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