Amit Dhurandhar  Amit Dhurandhar photo         

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Research Scientist - machine learning, data mining
Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY USA


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More information:  Resume  |  Research Statement

Secret to happiness

Having the courage (overcoming our fears and mental blocks) to follow our hearts. Allow your heart (or right brain) to show you the way and use your mind (or left brain) to pick up the stones that are on it.

How can you be sure what your heart tells you is right?

This question plagued my mind for some time. How can I be sure of my judgement when somebody else has made a reasonable (not conclusive) argument against it? What should I do? Should I listen to him\her or should I trust my own heart. The answer after incessant thinking was simple; you cannot be sure your heart is right, but following it is the only way you are happy.


Though positive results help in raising our self-confidence (after a point our ego), they are mainly a relief mechanism where we feel satisfied filled with a sense of accomplishment. Positive results give us breathing time before we set out on our next venture. The degree of satisfaction however, depends on our commitment to what we are doing. Consequently, the more passionate we are about what we do the more the satisfaction.

Importance of enjoying the process

If our joy is primarily based on results, then most of the time in life we will be unhappy. Though many people believe that we shape our destiny, there is no denying the fact that our success also largely depends on factors beyond our immediate control. These factors may include actions of other people, unforseen and unfortunate events such as accidents etc. Hence, joy based mainly on favorable results is brittle. Joy based on the process however is a much more stable concept. Since, in this case the involved parties are just us and the thing we are doing. Moreover, enjoying the process makes us more patient with respect to what we are doing which in turn can help us in obtaining favorable results.


Knowing what to do.


Being wise and then doing it.

Paradigm Shift: Why people good in exact sciences are generally socially inept and vice-versa?

People in exact sciences are used to thinking through problems by considering all possible alternatives and coming up with solutions. For example, consider a math problem on a test. All the information necessary to solve the problem is given. All that is needed is to think of ways the problem can be solved from the information provided. Depending on the difficulty of the problem the solution can be obtained either by minimal or significant thought. In most real life social encounters this strategy fails since the number of possibilities is huge and it is almost humanly impossible to think through all these possibilities and come up with a solution. Moreover, the information we have is also most of the times incomplete which makes the real life problem that much harder. To better understand what I mean by this consider the following situation.

You say are a mathematician sitting at a bar. A beautiful girl walks by you and sits a couple of seats away, all by herself. You are attracted to her and want to offer her a drink. As you are about to get up and walk towards her you begin to think. What if she refuses? How can you be sure that she won't reject you? What if she is waiting for somebody? While you are grappling with these perplexing questions she orders a drink herself, drinks it and leaves the bar. The moral of the story being that there was no way for you to figure out without a shadow of doubt the outcome and so trying to think through the possible alternatives was a mere waste of time.

On the other hand if you had just asked her without wasting time thinking, you might have atleast had a chance. In other words, what matters in such social scenarios where you don't know the other person/people (such scenarios are plentiful. For example social gatherings, conferences, parties, public travel, etc.) is confidence. If you have the confidence to take a chance then and only then will you have a chance to succeed. If you are such a person who goes with your gut feeling and acts, then you are most likely one of the more socially successful people.

The above strategy of not thinking much, following your gut and taking a chance can prove to be however highly unsuccessful when it comes to the classroom wherein you have to solve well defined problems. The reason being rather than gut feeling what is necessary is critical thinking considering all the details and cracking down the problem. In this case the details or the possible alternatives are generally much more limited than the real life scenario and very much within our mental capacity. Consequently, social maestros fall short in these settings.

Thus there is what I call a paradigm shift in the strategies needed to be successful in a) exact sciences and b) social life. To be successful in both of these arenas one has to be able to make the switch.