Changing old behaviors is hard
When I was a kid, my grandma told me the story of a hard headed man who decided that he didn’t like that his dog had a curved tale. He took the tail and encased it in a tube and left it like that for over a decade, confident that the tail would come out straight. A decade later, when he removed the tube, the tail was still crooked. It is a weird thing to remember especially since I am contemplating my own behavior modifications.
Or perhaps it is a realization that one of the hardest things to do in life is changing and modifying deeply ingrained behaviors. The longer you live, the harder it becomes to make the requisite adjustments. Sure, mortality, or more appropriately the fear of death, forced me to give up smoking (after chain smoking for nearly 25 years) and most of other bad behaviors — I am finding that there are some behaviors that are proving to be pretty hard to modify.
Many of them are actually relatively recent — and most of them are around — Internet, how I use it and how it played a part in my professional life – especially over past decade, just after blogging become more of a profession. Blogging in the early days was no different than writing a diary or akin to making a series of short notes. It was irreverent and the jokes were sometimes good, but mostly bad. There was a sense of deep gloom after the first Internet Bust. It was mostly for bonding with a few people who were still left.
As things started to get worse in techlandia, the ranks of tech media started to shrink. I started to blog the little bits of news I picked up on a daily basis, when talking to sources in the industry. Still, there was an easy casual vibe to writing up these tidbits. I had no idea that I was becoming part of the invention of a new form of news. At least it didn’t feel like that at the time. It was around 2004 when things started to become a little more formal — and the blog posts started to take on the sheen of more traditional news stories — though with a degree of irreverence and flamboyance that was the hallmark of early blogging.
Blogging for me in the early aughts meant writing, short bursts, multiple times a day. That meant being hot wired into the news cycles and constantly monitoring what was happening in the industry. Unknowingly, my mind was being programmed to react and write to the flow of the news. As I have said before, this is a narcotic. My awareness of this problem is because I continue to struggle — that is react to the “news cycle” and often find myself writing blog posts that are well, news-focused blog posts that were the hallmark of the post-investment phase of Gigaom. I am acutely aware of this, because I am trying to turn back the clock to an older time when my blogging was decoupled from the happenings on the front page (or in my case business page) of the daily newspapers.
When I saw this piece about “internet running out of capacity” in the NewScientist, I felt the need to debunk this clearly clickbait of a piece. Yes, there are challenges when it comes to the Internet. Yet, Netflix and others are sucking up a lot of bandwidth because we are streaming the “House of Cards.” But no, Internet isn’t running out of capacity. A lot of the world’s optical infrastructure is underutilized. Boring old technology companies have made new gear. There is so many knobs and dials — all technical, mind you — to fiddle around. I let that one slide.
The same “news trigger” prompted me to start writing about the demise of FAO Schwartz and the rise of online commerce, but I decided to stop myself before it became just another piece about e-commerce. I ended up asking myself the question — why was I so pained by the shutdown of a store, even though I have no memories of the place and the only time I visited the store was to pick up a gift on behalf of a friend. Infact, growing up in India, I don’t have any memory of going to a formal toy store till very late in my life. Then why was I looking at this news headline and reacting — and the only conclusion I could come to, because it is a behavioral trigger. By pausing — I ended up coming to a conclusion that in itself is worth more pondering and perhaps would make a more meaningful piece to write.
On this cold and foggy Sunday morning I am a little annoyed. I want to explore new styles of writing, now that it isn’t my livelihood. Pi.co has allowed me to explore “interviews.” I want to try writing travelogues, but mostly centered around innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. But mostly, I want to mostly because I want to reinvent my writing, perhaps make it more personal, more intimate and more relaxed. It has been over a year, and yet the struggle continues. It seems quitting smoking was just easier.
May 17, 2015, San Francisco