The idea for this post struck me last evening while watching “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” Lately, and especially in the recent past, I find myself being asked two questions quite a lot:
I’m not an expert on meditation. However, meditating regularly for the past four years and having tried a few different kinds earlier, I have some thoughts on these two questions, shaped purely from my personal experiences. More about my meditation journey here.
From my journey, I categorize meditations into three types:
This broad classification, rooted in my experiences, is subject to evolve, yet serves as a framework for the present discussion.
Possibly where most begin, and where I too initiated my journey. Seemingly an effortless way to attain concentration, and for organized religions, a channel to disseminate their word.
The instructions are clear: repeat a name or mantra. Despite its simplicity, after two years, I discovered its reach is only at the surface level since it engages only the conscious mind. Here are a few kinds:
Mantra Meditation: Repeating a word or series silently or aloud to focus the mind.
Rosary Prayer/Japa Mala: Repetition of prayers or mantras, utilizing beads for tracking and fostering spirituality.
Kirtan or Chanting: Collective repetition of sacred sounds or words in a call-and-response format.
This is a very common kind of meditation out there and I tried it very briefly. It might sound like the most logical way to concentrate the mind, and if the goal is concentration, as we’ve seen in “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” it could work.
The instructions are simple: you close your eyes and visualize something. It could be a red dot on the forehead, a zero in the body, or an image of someone (mostly someone referred to as God/Goddess).
When your mind, as it will, brings up other thoughts, you bring your focus back to the visualization. Organized religions have versions which fall under this category, alongside practices like Chakra meditation.
When I say “you do nothing,” I don’t mean you just sit there and let your mind wander. “You do nothing” here signifies making a conscious decision to engage in non-doing and simply observe whatever unfolds in your mind. Be it thoughts of fear, love, hunger, hate — whatever comes up, you observe without reacting (to the best of your ability).
While it sounds simple, it’s far from easy. Holding a mantra or visualizing a Divine image is kindergarten stuff in comparison to the effort here. Your monkey mind throws everything at you, and perhaps, for the first time, you come face to face with everything lurking in your subconscious.
Sitting still and quiet for extended periods of time, watching what surfaces, can be a journey. It can take quite a while to even grasp these simple instructions, let alone master the practice. It demands significant effort to learn but, from my experience, offers the most impactful change on deeply rooted habit patterns.
This style of meditation, epitomized by Vipassana meditation, has been the most worthwhile thing I’ve done in my life.
Now, the second part of the question poses a bit more of a challenge — what is the best meditation you can do? I’m aiming to keep this as objective as possible, hence, we won’t settle for saying, “Remember that the ‘best’ meditation is the one that resonates with you and supports your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.”
When folks hit the gym, they generally understand that (in most cases) the tougher the workout, the better the outcomes. I’ve found this to hold true in meditation as well — the practice that demands the most effort tends to be the most rewarding. NAVY SEAL training is crafted to create an elite force. Pressure molds diamonds. And so on.
By this logic, more fruitful outcomes will demand more exertion. And as someone who has experienced all three kinds of meditation,
I can confidently say the effort required for Vipassana is unparalleled (and so are the rewards).
Here’s a visual summary of this post:
Let me clarify once more: I’m a beginner myself. I haven’t devoured all the books on Zen or any other meditation practices. My knowledge springs from a handful of books and, most pivotally, from my personal experiences navigating through various meditative practices.
I’m not here to push or advertise the ‘do nothing’ approach, despite its profound impact on my life. I fully acknowledge it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
My core intention with this piece was to offer a semblance of clarity or a framework to help navigate through the myriad of meditations out there, especially for those who are stepping into or already exploring this vast, often perplexing world. May your journey through it bring the serenity and insight you seek.
You might also like: deveshuba.com/why-meditation-is-more-than-just-another-atomic-habit
In my first medium post, I wrote about the big transformation of becoming a morning person. At that time, I had made the switch to becoming a morning person but didn’t have a morning routine. In this post, I’ll delve into my morning routine.
I’ve also realized nothing impacts my overall happiness like ‘my morning routine.’ Both my productivity and wellbeing skyrocket when I stick with it. Today is the perfect day to share my ideal morning routine, as that’s exactly how my day started.
Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.— Richard Whately
And I want to bring this disclaimer upfront: the routine is not set in stone. I’m not an Olympian or a Military General; I could just sleep in sometimes if I feel like it (that’s rare, though).
Sometimes I might exercise for just 30 minutes and read a bit more. If the weather’s good, I might go for a long walk or run in the ravine and cut back on reading. But no matter the tweaks, I make sure my routine covers my body, mind, and intellect.
Most importantly, I don’t use alarms to wake up early. In this post, I’m sharing both my ideal and regular routine. I do aim for the ideal, but it doesn’t happen all the time.
The only thing non-negotiable is my 1-hour morning meditation sit after I wake up. I can’t remember missing that in the last three years.
- 3:33 AM: Wake up (I’ve got no clue how it happens exactly at 3:33, but it does)
- 3:50 AM to 5:00 AM: Morning meditation
- 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM: Freewriting, note-making, and some quality reading
- 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM: Physical exercise (be it at the gym, running, hiking, light yoga at home, whatever)
- 7:15 AM to 8:30–9:00 AM: Planning out the day and tackling stuff that needs my full focus
As mentioned, I love it when I do the ‘ideal,’ but mostly it’s my regular morning routine:
- 4:30 AM: Wake up
- 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM: Meditation
- 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM: Gym, running, hiking, exercise at home
- 7:15 AM to 8:30–9:00 AM: Planning the day, tackling tasks that require focus
This one feels a bit too light compared to my ideal routine. But compared to where I was a few years ago, waking up at 8 or 9 AM — this is life-changing.
Well, I started from there, but I’ve graduated. The days I wake up at 5 AM or later, I’m just struggling to catch up. Don’t think I can sleep beyond 6 AM anyway these days.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”— Aristotle
I’ll admit making the change from being a ‘night-owl’ for so many years and now being a morning person wasn’t easy, but it has been hugely transformational. I also want to acknowledge the role of Vipassana meditation in this habit building.
So there it is, my morning routine, the linchpin of my entire day. It’s been a game-changer, turning me from a night owl into someone who actually wants to seize the day, every day. Your routine doesn’t have to look like mine, but find what elevates your own life. Trust me, getting your morning right is that 1% that shifts the rest of your day in unimaginable ways. Nail it, and the rest will follow.
This post is inspired by a true story.
A UX designer friend of mine, let’s call him Alex, found himself jobless this month and reached out to me for help.
I immediately got on a call with him, suggested he send me his resume and portfolio, and concurrently started reaching out to my network to check for any available opportunities. I even dialed up my previous workplace, a renowned UX agency, to see if they had any openings — luckily, they did.
Taking a look at Alex’s resume and portfolio, a wave of disappointment washed over me. It began with the stereotypical, “Hello, I’m [Name]. I’m a UX designer based in…”. Following this was a mishmash of design terminologies thrown together in an attempt to cover all bases of product design.
Is this method going to land you a job? Will it catch someone’s attention? Will it showcase that you are superior to the rest? Or, at the very least, will it articulate your suitability for an interview?
I am afraid not. This approach might be the most effortless, but it is also the most unimaginative. Especially in these challenging times, playing safe and echoing what everyone else is doing isn’t going to cut it.
I started my career in advertising. Having worked with some of the top agencies in the world, one crucial lesson I learned was — you don’t always have to be better, but you absolutely have to be different. Today, nothing irks me more than the monotonous parade of identical portfolios and resumes. It’s like wading through a field of clones.
“It’s worth remembering that for everyone who likes to call themselves creative. Don’t just try to be better than other people, be different.”— Dave Trott
The safe, ordinary advertising, which makes up about 90% of all ads, is often quickly forgotten. The same applies to portfolios in the UX world.
Therefore, rather than getting caught up in aesthetics of your portfolio, it’s crucial to focus on your narrative — a narrative that sets you apart from the rest. When working on your narrative/career story remember my rule of thumb: “I was born to do this job, it is not something I choose to do”.
Alex’s narrative could benefit from his education and work experience in sustainable architecture. But he didn’t highlight it on his profile. His story could communicate the tale of how buildings transform into digital products. How he has been putting users first all these years in architecture and now UX design.
This intersection where architecture meets UX design is where Alex’s unique value proposition lies. It could make his profile stand out amidst a sea of competitors. His portfolio now goes beyond a list of credentials, it tells a story — a narrative that aligns with his unique journey and expertise.
Even though these are my suggestions to Alex, the choice to use them rests with him. However, it is apparent to me, and I hope to him too, that he was born to design, to build — it’s not just a career path, but his calling.
This was Alex’s story, with a background in Architecture. But even if you’re a junior designer with not much work experience, you can still be creative. Every person has a story or perspective that’s unique to them.
If you’re feeling stuck, I can share a very simple framework from advertising. You don’t need to hire a ‘coach’ or a ‘resume reviewer’ if you apply this framework. Much of the best advertising and human interaction hinges on it.
The framework is Impact, Communicate, and Persuade. YouTube link here to learn more.
This step is all about ‘getting noticed’. What’s your story? What differentiates you? How can you make others notice you? Here, you need to be ‘noticeable’. And to achieve that, you have to be remarkable. Merely doing what everyone else does won’t cut it. It requires both creativity and ‘boldness’. If you play it safe, you’ll only be average. And if you’re really in need of a job, you might be inclined to avoid risks. But isn’t that what everyone else is doing?
After grabbing their attention, tell them what you want, directly. I’ve seen cover letters that capture my interest with a clever introduction but then lose focus. They elaborate on their expertise, but that’s not what this is about. Save the detailed qualifications for your resume and interview. To me, cover letters are like advertisements. They need a compelling headline, a succinct sub-heading, and minimal body text. The objective? Progress to the next stage.
This is where you answer the question, “Why should they care?” It might seem tempting to showcase all your professional experiences here, but that’s not the essence. It’s more about your personal ‘Why’, your narrative, than about your tasks or roles.
This ‘Impact, Communicate, Persuade’ methodology isn’t exclusive to UX designers. Anyone, in any profession or business, can use it to their advantage. As Seth Godin once said, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
To conclude, standing out isn’t just about outdoing others; it’s about being authentically, distinctively you.
I’m a branding enthusiast who’s transitioned into being a Product Manager. I was lucky enough to start my career in advertising as a brand associate at Leo Burnett, then I worked at other top ad-agencies. I even had a stint as a brand manager at an ed-tech startup.
Now, I’m a product manager at an Insuretech startup. Even though my professional role has shifted, my passion for branding remains. I still read a ton of branding books and tune into brand strategy podcasts (a big shout out to Terry O’Reily) whenever I can.
Before my current role as a Product Manager, I had the opportunity to work as a product strategist at a top UX design firm in LA. In addition to that, I’ve worked with numerous UX designers on various freelance projects over the years.
Having navigated through these experiences, it’s safe to say that I’ve been in the trenches with both brand designers and UX-UI/Product designers. For many founders/business owners a designer is a designer but that can’t be farther from the truth. Based on my experience let’s see what makes them so different?
“An ad agency is one of the few remaining safe spaces for weird or eccentric people in the worlds of business and government.”— Rory Sutherland
Now that we’ve established the differences, you might be wondering how they manifest in the work produced by these agencies, right?
Let’s explore this through a case study. For this exercise, we will focus solely on logo redesign, not the entire branding effort, and observe how the two agencies respond to the same creative brief.
The Brand: Prefinery is a no-code SaaS tool that enables marketing teams and founders to build pre-launch waiting lists. One of the pioneers in the pre-launch waiting lists business, their product has been used by both startups and enterprises like Microsoft, Atlassian and WealthSimple.
Among startups, Prefinery is considered an essential, no-code marketing tool, since refer-a-friend and pre-launch waiting list campaigns are an integral part of a product’s early adoption toolkit.
The Challenge: Prefinery’s previous logo (and overall branding) failed to resonate with its target audience — startup founders. Our research revealed that many people mistook Prefinery for an energy business, due in part to the graphic of the ‘P’ in their logo resembling a drop of oil. Pair that with ‘refinery’ in the name, and the confusion is understandable. However, this perception was far from reality.
Moreover, due to its poor branding and marketing, Prefinery, which was once a pioneer and market leader, began to lose its competitive edge. New entrants with similar products but better marketing and user experience seized the opportunity, causing Prefinery to fall from its leader rank to that of a follower. The challenge was clear: Prefinery needed to revamp its branding to better reflect its true identity and regain its position in the market.
To Summarize: Prefinery’s logo felt antiquated and void of significance. What was needed was a logo that mirrored the contemporary, dynamic, and tech-savvy nature of the company — something that echoed ‘no-code’, ‘SaaS’, and ‘startups’.
I took the lead on this rebrand in late 2021, and for the project, I teamed up with a seasoned art director I’ve known for a while. He’s a pro in brand identity design and has spent his career at some of the big-name ad agencies. We have a history of working together. He’s my first call for any brand design work.
I won’t go through the entire logo-design process here. To keep things short, let’s dive straight into what we created for Prefinery.
What we accomplished:
Post logo redesign, we delved into rebranding, but things didn’t progress to launch. I keep tabs on Prefinery via social media and recently spotted this post on Prefinery’s LinkedIn:
I was thrilled to see the brand finally got the makeover it deserved — executed by a UX/UI agency. I assume they received the same brief. Let’s take a closer look at their logo redesign:
More about the logo, from Linkedin:
The new logo features the magenta-colored circles that signify points on a graph, embodying our commitment to growth and continuous improvement.
We’ve also updated our signature orange color with a captivating gradient of magenta to a new tone of orange, which is like the warmth and energy of a sunrise in a way. This symbolizes the jump-start of your product, celebrating the new era that begins as you launch your product with our flagship feature: the pre-launch waiting list. Most importantly, this is YOUR own journey of success and we want to incorporate that into our logo.
Before drawing any conclusions, let’s make a side-by-side comparison of the logos along with the brand tagline:
Having seen them side by side, it becomes apparent that UI/UX and branding agencies have distinct areas of expertise and approaches to design.
If you’re looking to create a brand that strikes a chord with your audience, branding agencies are the way to go. If it’s about crafting an intuitive user experience for a digital product, then UI/UX agencies should be your choice. It’s essential to know what you need for your project and make an informed decision.
By the way, which logo did you like better? Just curious — no hard feelings either way! Drop a line in the comments.
This post is all about habits, specifically about the one habit that turned things around for me — meditation. I started building this practice in 2019, and I gotta tell you, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.— Blaise Pascal
If you’re here, you probably get it — the culprit is our distracted mind. You might’ve heard about this thing called ‘the monkey mind’ that Buddhist monks often talk about. This chatterbox constantly spews out ‘thoughts,’ and you find yourself bouncing from one to another, aimlessly floating through life.
The constant barrage of thoughts, like a pesky fly at a picnic, keeps pulling you away from the ‘now’, bringing you deep unhappiness. That’s it — that’s the bare truth! I’m sharing this from not just the wisdom of books but from my personal, hard-earned insights.
And all of this is taking place at the sub-conscious level of the mind. Now, I’m not a numbers guy, but here’s a statistic from the book ‘The Talent Code’ that’ll demonstrate the scale of the challenge: “the unconscious mind is able to process 11 million pieces of information per second, while the conscious mind can manage a mere 40” And that’s precisely why this stuff is so hard — you’re wrestling with this 11-million-bits-per-second beast inside you!
Mindfulness requires effort and discipline for the simple reason that the forces that work against our being mindful, namely our habitual unawareness and automaticity, are exceedingly tenacious.— Jon Kabat-Zinn
This could be like opening Pandora’s box. I don’t talk much about my practice because, with so many types of meditation and gurus out there, having a meaningful discussion becomes challenging. But let’s approach it with an open mind and make it as objective as possible. As a natural skeptic, I sampled a few spiritual practices, and my checklist was very clear:
From my personal experience, only Vipassana Meditation checks those boxes. So, after trying a few practices, I knew after just one Vipassana course that this was it. And in July 2019, following my 2nd 10-day Vipassana course, I made a commitment to building a meditation habit.
By the way, ‘Vipassana’ literally means ‘seeing things as they really are.’ It’s a technique that was rediscovered by the Buddha, but it’s important to note that there’s no religious or sectarian affiliation involved. At the Centres where these courses are held, you won’t find any images or statues of the Buddha or any other teacher.
Furthermore, the Centres are open to everyone, and there are no fees charged for the course, food, or lodging. Let that sink in for a moment. N O — F E E S — C H A R G E D in this day and age of rampant commercialism.
As I’ve noted above, this journey is a massive undertaking but truly worthwhile. This practice has single-handedly transformed my life.
I do my best to sit for two one-hour sessions every day (morning and evening).The one hour morning sit wasn’t so hard to incorporate — I can’t even remember the last time I missed it. But the evening sit? Now, that’s a challenge. Regardless, I’ve been holding up pretty well this summer, managing both my morning and evening sits consistently.
I wouldn’t keep at it if I weren’t reaping the benefits. Some of the apparent benefits include:
And then there are life-changing benefits:
Taking the first step is quite intimidating for most people. To learn Vipassana meditation, you have to enroll in a ten-day course. Yes, you read that right — there’s no app or cozy retreat — it’s akin to a bootcamp where you wake up at 4am and meditate most of the day, in silence.
After going through 4–5 of these courses, I can say with confidence:
After the course ends, you return to your life and are suggested to do two one-hour daily sits — one in the morning and one in the evening. This is the practice and, believe me, building this habit can be daunting. It is extremely hard to commit and it took me a long time to make a strong determination to do my two daily sits.
Sitting meditation is not a matter of taking on a special body posture, however powerful that may be. It is adopting a particular posture toward the mind. It is mind sitting.— Jon Kabat-Zinn
Vipassana meditation is about changing the habit patterns of your mind. And, let me tell you, it is a massive undertaking. That’s the reason so many meditators are able to quit smoking and alcohol (or other habits) after developing the practice.
With all the context above, I hope I’ve hammered home two things very clearly:
Yes, it is this one habit that changed everything for me. And there’s really no shortcut to it. And since we’re talking about habits how can we not bring up James Clear’s Atomic Habits?
I remember the book Atomic Habits getting popular around the time I was trying to build my meditation habit. My friends were raving about it on social media, and a client of mine even gifted me a copy, proclaiming it to be “life-altering.” I was skeptical. After reading it, I thought, “What’s the big deal?” I mean, yes, it’s on the bestseller list, but I wonder how can it help with building monumental habits like waking up at 4am or practicing Vipassana meditation. Those were my use-cases at that time anyway.
Flash forward to 2023, and I stumble upon James Clear on a podcast with none other than Tim Ferriss. They’re diving deep into the subject of positive habits and, lo and behold, meditation crops up.
James Clear talks about his four laws for creating habits: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. I was curious how will James apply ‘make it easy’ principle to meditation practice.
“Make it easy. So rather than doing 15 or 20 minutes or 30 minutes of meditation, which hey, that sounds great because your favorite guru does it. But listen, why not just do 60 seconds?” — James Clear (Courtesy: The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss)
60 seconds of meditation? Wait, hold up, what? From my experience, I can say you might get 60 seconds of meditation if you sit for 60 minutes! That’s how much effort is required.
And why the effort? Why it can’t be made easy? We touched on this earlier. We’re dealing with years, even decades, of a mind that has been running amok, unchecked and largely unknown to us. This mind has been set in its ways for so long, and the only way to truly see and alter these patterns is through patience and unwavering determination. Or in other words by spending a lot of time on the cushion.
So here’s where I see James Clear’s angle. He’s breaking down habits into smaller, digestible pieces for the general masses. But meditation, especially Vipassana, is like scaling Mount Everest barefoot. There are no shortcuts, no cheat codes, and you can’t ‘make it easy’. Because when you do, you won’t experience the benefits.
Sorry Tim Ferriss, but there’s no life hack for this one. And to James Clear, sorry, but when it comes to meditation, we’re talking nuclear, not atomic. It’s not about making it easy; it’s about embracing the hard and diving into the depths of your being.
Only that day dawns to which we are awake.— Henry David Thoreau
So, to my friends who might be reading this, think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. I shared my journey and insights to make it crystal clear that for monumental, high-leverage habits like Vipassana meditation, effort is the currency. It’s not about seeking shortcuts or watering down the practice for convenience. The immense transformation that comes from such habits is directly proportional to the dedication and work you put in.
I hope you take the first step, or the next step (whatever the case may be).