I joined the listserve website in the month of May, 2012. It’s a wonderful concept: One person a day wins a chance to write to the growing list of subscribers. The count currently stands at around 27,000 subscribers. For each one to get a fair chance, it would currently take about 73 years! So they pick one random winner everyday, and the winner gets to address the entire audience via their email. I have loved the concept from the day I heard about it and it was a great surprise when I got the email informing me that I had won.

Now, I have never addressed an audience of more than 1000 something people. I must say I was nervous, but I didn’t have the liberty of time as I found myself penning down the email in 10 mins whilst sitting in a hospital. After I sent the mail, I got about 150 odd people from all over the world writing to me and expressing their love/hate for what I had written. There were additions to the content of the email and also people who invited me to their homes for coffee/dinner. Here’s my letter

Picture the list serve site

The Letter

Subject: ಜೀವನದ ಒಂಬತ್ತು ಸೂತ್ರಗಳು

Subject written in Kannada roughly translates to: “9 tips to make your life more comfortable” or “9 tips for contentment”

All,

My name is Ritesh and I am from Bangalore, India. I am an engineer by profession and I’m currently pursuing my dream of creating a software product startup. In my spare time, I read as much as time permits, play the guitar, take nature walks, and enjoy birdwatching. I also dabble a bit in photography and video making. I am a big fan of satire and dark comedy, and I’m writing some material that I hope to present at a comedy club.

After graduation, I found myself in an IT job and married my long time sweetheart Prateeksha. Both Prateeksha and I are rationalists and realists, and live in a crazy country called India. Having being born in an era where we had access to cable television, western media, and the internet; our values are a mixture of Indian conservatism and western liberalism, and we started realizing very early on the differences in culture, living standards, and expectations from life.

We both decided to follow some rules to make our lives more comfortable and I thought it is best to share these ideas with the listserve crowd.

  1. Do what you love and be the best at it. No recession or economic downturn can affect your earning prospects.
  2. Pick up a hobby. Learn to play an instrument, pick up photography or just watch nature. It will give you peace of mind and will also keep you occupied.
  3. Stay close to your workplace. It might be more expensive, but the time saved is priceless, and it gives you more time with your partner and for your hobbies.
  4. Buy a really comfortable bed - you sleep for almost a third of your life, why compromise on comfort?
  5. Whatever tools and technologies your work requires, buy the best the money can buy. If you are a professional guitarist, buy the best guitar money can buy. If you use computers, buy the latest greatest thing. Better tools improve productivity and reduce frustration.
  6. Eat healthy and eat at the appropriate times of the day. Don’t skip meals. During my post grad days, I neglected eating and sleeping at the right times and paid a terrible price for it.
  7. TRAVEL - that’s all there’s to it in life. Experience everything life, culture and nature has to offer. Take at least 2 vacations a year. Need not be exotic but you should make a habit of it. Be aggressive about it.
  8. Socialize - make new friends, speak to old ones and build long relationships. Travel with friends. Visit every wedding, get together and birthday party. Don’t expect anything from anyone but play your part. Remember that your family and friends are you support structure in your time of need.
  9. Find a partner who you can relate to. A person once told me, ”you can probably have sex 30 mins in a day, the rest of the time, you need to talk“. Make sure you find a companion with who you can talk for hours.

That’s it. I followed these simple rules and have found great joy and contentment in life. Every decision I take in my life, I assess the impact on these factors and I immediately find the answers I am looking for.

If you have things that you want to add to this list, I would love to hear about it. Write to me and I shall collate all of them and put it out there (with the appropriate credits). Lastly, try Indian food. While the western world was urbanizing, mechanizing and growing their economies, we Indians were innovating on food. Ask an Indian friend for suggestions (should be easy to find one, there are more than a billion of us).


Replies

Here are some points that people wrote in with:

  1. We make 80% of life’s most important decisions before 30 - Madison
  2. Ayla had this to say: “There is contentment in life when you strip away the job title, the partner, and best camera money can pay for, a great education, and the most grand of beds. A gourmet kitchen with lovely products is a blessing that so many are without, but contentment and happiness can’t be measured by it. Hopefully you can find that sense of inner peace that is unwavering and true wether you have the home of your dreams or are sleeping in the back of a hollowed out car. There is a unique joy inside us all and when we learn how to feed it with almost nothing, we become unstoppable because no one can take away anything that defines us or powers us forward.”
  3. Read. Everything, anything. Reading expands your base of awareness, and your mind. - Stephanie

  4. “Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” - Sachi Mohanty
  5. Find a sport you love and play regularly. Exercise will never be a chore and the rest of your life (health, mind & spirit) will all benefit from it. Your social circles will be larger and more diverse, too. - Luke Melia
  6. Timothy said, “I did want to point out that many of these suggestions are only achievable by people in upper income brackets. So perhaps you should add “Be born wealthy” somewhere at the top.“
  7. “Always try to be a better person than yesterday.Be it at work, your hobby, your family, your relationships, always try to improve even if it’s just a little bit, always try to learn something new, even if it’s a new word (and I’m sure you do that already because you read as much as possible). The compound incremental improvements will make you an exponentially better person in years to come.” - Angel Leon
  8. Be compassionate. Don’t forget the poor, the ill, those who are lonely. Smile at strangers and be open to all people. We are all here together. - Eileen S
  9. “fuck it and just have fun. We’re all gonna die, sooner than most of us would like, and we worry too much of the time about stuff that ultimately will never matter. That’s time that could be spent having fun (at least 30 mins a day ;), and it’s a way to honor the glory of existence by reveling in it as much as possible. Not to be selfish, and of course there’s more to life than pure pleasure, but I think the latter is important and, at least in some countries and by some people, too-often neglected” - Abraham Epton
  10. Discover your artistic side- it will keep you creating and expressing yourself in such a beautiful, therapeutic way. I speak almost 6 languages and each one really contributes to how I can see the world and how i can express myself…But there is something so beautiful about the expression of art- no words, just feelings. - Michelle Soufian
  11. Practice a sport.the best thing is the boost in self-esteem and also self-confidence that practising a sport can give you! You don’t even have to train very hard, you just have to find a sport that gives you please and that is fun for you. - Paulo Ribeiro

  12. “A higher price doesn’t automatically make a better tool. Spend enough money to get adequate tools. If they make money for you, then upgrade if you want. ‘Eat at regular times’ is a bit of conventional “wisdom” which is mostly false. - Howard Harkness
  13. “ to listen to read the greatest epic poetry available to you.” - Michael Hopkins
    1. Fire / remove / avoid all people in life who do not have your best interests in mind. They are toxic and can kill you. 2.Pursue enlightenment (perhaps through the teachings of Anthony DeMello). But this can be off putting, painful, and lead people down the wrong path if not truly open to it. So I’m cautious on suggesting this. 3. Think and act logically, ideally with no religious pretenses. Being a non-theist is the best way I know to think rationally and open-mindedly. See Sam Harris on YouTube and elsewhere. - Kevin Brophy It was fun reading all these additions to the list and thanks to everyone for writing in.