Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Big Picture

There was a frog that lived in a well. It lived its entire life in the well. It had never gone out of the well. One day another frog from the sea came to the well.

The frog from the well asked, “Where are you from?” “I’m from the sea”, replied the other frog.
“The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?”

The frog of the sea, "The sea  is much bigger than your tiny well.”

The frog took a leap and asked, "Is your sea this big?"

“No, sea is much bigger”

Then the frog took a leap from one side of the well to the other. "Is your sea so big?"

“You cannot compare sea with your little well”.

The frog of the well did not believe the other frog. It said, "Nothing can be bigger than my well.  This fellow is a liar."

Many of us live within similar well and fail to look beyond its narrow boundary.

Let’s look at our own work life. In our  EDA industry,  we develop and maintain software which is used in design and manufacture of electronic chips. These are very complex software products. There is algorithmic complexity, complexity due to lots of legacy code and above all, we support too many special customer flows.  Many a times, I have seen that while fixing a customer bug or developing a new feature, we do fix the immediate issue in hand. But at the same time, we break something else.  We break it in our own tool or we break the flow in some other downstream tool.  It happens because we lack the big picture.

From my experience so far, I feel that a critical customer issue has 3 parts: what, where and why. What part is the description of the problem. Why part is the most difficult part. An experienced person with the big picture can easily answer the why. For most of us, we spend a lot of time trying to locate the source of the bug. Most of the times, finding the location of the bug helps us find the reason of the bug.

In our profession, it takes some time to get the complete big picture. The big picture comes along with experience. But at the same time, we should also do due perseverance to understand the big picture. 

There are two advantages of understanding the big picture at work. First is clarity and second is self-fulfillment. You know why you are doing a certain work, how it fits into the overall flow, how your work will help the business etc. At the end of the day, your work will give you a sense of accomplishment.

In our personal life too, many times we fail to see the big picture.  We are limited by our own narrow interpretation, our own ego, and our own blind beliefs. We lack compassion, humility and brotherhood.  Brothers fight so badly over property disputes. Spouses fight endlessly.  Besides, there are so many fights, conflicts and even killings over issues like religion, language, caste, our skin color, our food habits and what not. Are these really worth it? Are we not living inside our own little wells like the frog?

Who are we actually? To know this, let us revisit Set Theory from Mathematics. Most of us in this room have studied Set Theory during our school or college days. In set theory, there is something called Universal Set denoted by uppercase letter U. A universal set is the collection of all objects in a particular context or theory.  To know who we are, it is important to know our Universal Set. That is nothing but our Universe.

We are inhabitants of an average size planet called earth in the solar system. Our star Sun is an average sized star in Milky Way Galaxy. Number of stars in Milky Way is about 200 to 400 billion. The diameter of our galaxy is about 100,000 light years! To understand the sheer size of our galaxy, if the solar system is considered to be equal to a US quarter coin, then Milky Way would approximately be the size of USA.

Milky Way is just one galaxy. There are 100 to 200 billion such galaxies in the Universe. The universe is about 14 billion year old.

Now, let us look at who we are relative to our universe. We are actually nothing.  We live for an average 70 years. It is such a short period! We should not waste our stay here in doing all negative and destructive work.  Rather we should live in harmony, peace, and love.

Whenever you feel you are too big, whenever you fight with your brother over some property, whenever you feel hatred for someone, please look at the vast sky above you. You will get the big picture.

Our ancient Upanishad teaches us Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It teaches us universal brotherhood. We will realize it from the bottom of our heart when we come out of the narrow boundaries of our well and understand the Big Picture.

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