Faking Equanimity

Feigning indifference is not the same as equanimity, and isn't an optimal approach.

It’s fine if it works, it’s fine if it doesn’t.

Ho gaya toh theek hai, nahi hua phir bhi theek hai.

This sounds like a very healthy attitude.

Not to let yourself be attached to the outcome, to be OK either way, whether you succeed or fail.

I’ve come across similar sentiments quite a few times now in different contexts.

And every time, I’ve always felt something off and annoying about it, though I couldn’t exactly say why.

It’s hard to write precisely about it because this is very close to a healthy approach to things, and yet somewhere it’s also harmful.

It’s harder to see why if you think of it from a first-person point of view, where you’re the one who believes this.

It seems like equanimity, acceptance of any outcome.

Try looking at it from a second-person point of view, where you’re hearing it from someone.

If it’s really such a healthy approach, it should still be good, regardless of whether it’s you or someone else who believes in it.

If you were investing your money in a company, and the founder tells you that ‘it’s fine if it works, it’s fine if it doesn’t’ – it probably shouldn’t thrill you to hear that.

Consider a coach training an athlete who has the same mindset towards his game, or a tutor teaching someone with this attitude.

Why would they bother wasting their time and effort, when the person they’re trying to help doesn’t care much about it? At the very least, they’d probably have the same half-hearted attitude toward their job.

I think this is what you tell yourself when – firstly, you’re not really trying very hard, and secondly, when you want to preserve your image in front of others.

Not Trying

When you don’t try hard, this might help you feel better about not putting in more effort.

It’s very easy to believe this too.

‘It’s OK if you don’t make it.’

‘Since it’s OK if you don’t make it, it’s also OK if you don’t try hard either’

These statements don’t follow each other at all. Making peace with an outcome doesn’t imply not doing your best to avoid it.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to convince yourself they go together.

So it’s a short and easy step from telling yourself that since it’s OK if you don’t make it, it’s also OK if you don’t try very hard.

Not trying hard makes it more likely you won’t make it, but since failing is OK, anything that leads to that outcome would also seem to be OK.

It’s poor reasoning, but more than good enough to convince someone if they’re eager to believe.

There’s also a more useful purpose for this attitude – it’s a good face-saving tactic.

It preserves your image both in front of yourself, and in front of others.

Saving Face

You ‘pre-empt’ failure.

More than just consider the possibility of failure, you expect it from yourself and you try to ensure that others expect it from you as well.

Perhaps it hurts less that way if you actually do fail, because you remind yourself that you considered it acceptable and also expected.

Acceptable meaning it’s OK, and expected meaning it was the most likely scenario.

You expected something, and that thing was acceptable to you, and then it actually happened – so why should it hurt?

This saves face in front of others because you can always try to diminish the magnitude of your failure, and pretend you don’t care, since after all, you said it’s OK if you fail.

Making it sound like you’re indifferent to what you’re working towards is a good face-saving tactic, like a player who says he wasn’t trying very hard after he loses.

It also saves your self-image, your opinion of yourself, because again, you can always make the excuse that you didn’t try very hard, and tell yourself that if you’d really wanted to, you’d have done it.

In a way, you try to remove your skin from the game – if you succeed, you’ll take the benefits, if you fail, it’s still OK.

Like tossing a coin and trying to win no matter what the outcome.

Failure Aversion

Probably the worst way to approach anything is with resignation.

Where you don’t even put any effort and give up before trying because you already believe you can’t succeed.

This ‘if it works, that’s fine, if it doesn’t, that’s also fine’ attitude is much better than resignation, but it’s still not a great approach.

You can’t get something without having some skin in the game.

You can’t hedge every bet, you can’t rig it so you win whatever the toss of the coin.

I think the value of knowing this is that if you go in with such an approach you do yourself an injustice and you severely diminish your chances.

You do yourself an injustice because you say that it’s OK if it happens and it’s OK if it doesn’t.

If someone really believed that, then ask the question – why bother at all?

After all your effort, if you succeed, you’ll still just be OK.

Which you already are, according to your own standards, so what are you working towards?

Running in a full circle to come back to the same point.

In essence, wasting your time.

The very fact that you’re working to achieve something indicates it has some value for you, otherwise you’d just put up your feet and sit at home.

So why pretend it isn’t very important to you?

One reason might be that, for all the talk of lionizing failure, no one likes to fail.

And if you let people know that you’re invested in something, that you’re committing yourself to working on something, and especially that it matters to you – you open yourself up to potential ridicule if you fail.

Thus this hypocrisy of doing something, yet pretending to be in it half-heartedly, so that it’s easy to dissociate from the outcome in case of failure yet revel in success if it comes about.

Failure itself perhaps isn’t as bad as what you might think it says about you.

It’s when you make the failure permanent, pervasive and personal that issues arise.

Permanent – that it’s a stain which can’t be washed away. You lose a match, and tell yourself it’s not that you lost that day, but that you always lose.

Pervasive – it affects everything about you, not just this specific thing. It’s the belief that failure says something about you as a person – so a person who loses a tennis tournament is a loser, not simply at tennis, but a loser as a person. It’s not one, but two wrong leaps – losing a match to defining yourself a loser as a tennis player to defining yourself a loser as a human.

Personal – that it reflects on you, it implies you’re not good enough. Not that you had an off day, or your opponent was better, but that you’re a bad tennis player.

None of these are true.

Avoiding Excuses

There’s no disputing the fact that it’s OK if things don’t work out.

The point is not that this is a wrong belief.

It’s that this is not the first thing you’d want to be on your mind when you think of anything you’re working towards.

If the first thing that comes to your mind is an excuse, that it’s OK if it doesn’t work out, then what expectations are you going in with?

All you do is increase the odds that you will fail because you use the idea that failure is OK as a crutch, constantly relying on it to support yourself.

This clearly doesn’t mean that you should consider it the end of the world if things don’t pan out according to plan.

It’s obvious to anyone that if you don’t land a job or don’t clear a test or you face a rejection, the universe won’t implode, the planets won’t collapse, and you won’t be swallowed up by the earth.

It’s a misconception to play up failure to make it seem like the end of the world.

But it’s also not a great idea to normalize failure to the extent it’s the first thing you think about, so you’re thoughts aren’t on what you’re doing but on how you’ll cover up if you fail.

Perhaps it helps to think of it differently.

It’s OK if things don’t work out‘ – this is not a crutch you use for support all the time, but an emergency kit that you recall when something goes wrong.

If you start believing that it’s all the same whether you fail or succeed not only do you reduce effort and increase the likelihood of failure, you also don’t learn when you fail.

What’s there to learn from a situation that you consider OK and one that you even anticipated?

Differentiating Equanimity

The idea behind ‘It’s fine if it works, it’s fine if it doesn’t‘ sounds like equanimity, or Nishkama Yoga, of not having attachment to the fruits of action.

But this is not the same, for two reasons.

Equanimity is about making peace with the outcome after giving your best. It’s not about feigning indifference to what you’re doing and using that as an excuse to not try.

And equanimity is not something you do to put on a show for others so you can save face in front of them.

It’s simply about deciding what matters to you and doing what you can about that, and not worrying about what’s not in your hands. It isn’t a performance done to make an impression on anyone.

Finding an Optimum

At one extreme you have the idea that failure is the end of the world and everything depends on success.

At the other you have something of a failure fetish, that failure is great and wonderful.

That both extremes aren’t reliable is to be expected.

But simply taking the midpoint isn’t necessarily optimal – just like minimizing errors works not by taking midpoints but using least squares.

Similarly, making out success and failure both to be the same, both to be OK comes with pitfalls too.

The optimal solution lies away from the midpoint, rather than at the midpoint.

Which is to be expected, because you choose to work towards something if you think it has some value for you – so it’s pointless to pretend like failing to achieve it and achieving it are equal.

If they were equal, you’d never bother, because you could fail without any effort – there has to be some additional value to justify the effort.

So failing isn’t the end of the world, but making it out to be expected and perfectly normal is wrong too – it’s not tranquility, but cowardice and hypocrisy.



Such an important article! We all resort to this ‘face saving’ attitude, often unknowingly. Thanks a lot for putting all of this into words. This article provides us with a great insight into where we are going wrong fundamentally!

Praveen SS

This is the same query that has been going in my mind for many days.Glad that you have articulated well in your words.


Starting out the day with it, thank you Pratyush

Ankit Kumar

Can’t explain how much relatable it is. Thanks for writing this article.


Pratyush,u were lucky to have all the guidance and maturity to never have failed in life.U are right to say that we fail because we do not put in our 100%.But sometimes,failure happens not because we didn’t work hard but because God had to teach us some lessons.Something good is hidden in failures which is beyond the understanding of humans.Surrendering to the will of God after having tried our best,is perfectly normal and that’s what spirituality teaches us.It’s called acceptance,not cowardice.One should try to not fail in achieving the higher purpose of human life.Rest other failures and successes are just secondary and too insignificant to affect our way of life.


1. Nowhere have I said failure has nothing to teach. What you’re saying about trying your best is actually what this essay is about. I don’t think you should ever use a ‘the’ before ‘higher purpose of life’ btw – at best ‘a’ or ‘any’.
2. If you think anyone, least of all me, has never failed you should think again.


Isn’t trying your “best” a subjective and relative term altogether.
At max, I can visualise it as making the most efficient use of your time keeping in mind the bigger picture.
Most of the times, we are not able to estimate ourselves.. Was it our best?
Assess on what , based on feelings?
Or raw data (time invested, score) etc.


I agree with all your points dear.I am sure you will figure out “the” in due course of time(only if you are receptive).Good blog though,keep writing!


We all know how successful you are,one day we would love to listen about your failures 🙂

Sweta Tripathi

I think the problem lies when we start creating images in our head … which stops us from moving forward with our best step, because the doubts , comparison , fears all together jumps in and to stop this we say “its ok” to cease its conjecture for a while but the permanent solution for this is “practice” practice of not paying attention to low things its this only what makes a difference it could take a time but soon it will become a permanent system of our brain ….

“Nishkama Karma” is also something which develops through consistent reminder not just by reading one cld achieve this as since childhood we have been exposed to the end result only that is success so its natural to drift there but those who learnt this art are the actual successful person…as said in Bhagvat Gita by Lord Krishna …

“Abhyas is the key ” When you do more your brain gets less time to turn the pages of doubts..fears..status …etc.


Thanks for this great info …lately was caught up in this cycle ….thanks for the clarity you have put up


the essay is very good and practical but in my opinion, could be explained in lesser words. efficiency is decreasing with your blogs.


Fair point and something I think about while writing them.
But I consciously choose to follow through with paths not directly connected to the topic or go into possible counter arguments and try to deal with them.
It helps me clarify my thinking about the issue and it’s done for those who’ll think about it themselves. They’ll probably have the same questions and then ask me to answer them – more efficient for me to pre-empt that (if the question didn’t strike them on their own, then they now get to think about it).

Anyways, please accept my apology for stealing a precious additional couple of minutes of your life – I can only imagine what you could have achieved with that were it not for my verbosity!


“They’ll probably have the same questions and then ask me to answer them – more efficient for me to pre-empt that (if the question didn’t strike them on their own, then they now get to think about it)” — this is patronizing and infantilizing the readers. I mean if someone is reading your blogs and kind of gets the basic ideas that you, some of the books in your reading list, and paul graham’s essays propagate, this is kind of a basic bitch topic to even have a discussion on. In my opinion, always being ahead of the readers’ thought process and evolving faster than them would be kind of cool.

P.S – I admire your writings and have learned a lot from them. take it easy buddy.


Both your points are great and well taken, I’ve actually thought about them before. I’ll lay out the thought process below.

1 – Pre-empting questions
a. Rather than infantilizing and patronizing readers, this is the highest form of respect I can give them.
b. When an author writes on a topic, he’s been with that idea for hours; the reader will only engage with it for a few minutes. If the writer is any good, he should be ahead of the reader given this huge lead. He’ll have thought of aspects a reader might not reach yet.
c. If you really believe or own any idea, you should be its strongest critic. You should have examined it, thought of objections to it, and then, since you still retain the idea, probably come up with counter-arguments to these objections.
d. My target audience, ‘whom I write for’ is simply anyone capable of thinking for themselves.
e. Therefore, this audience wouldn’t accept anything on blind faith. They would presumably come up with objections or want to understand why anything I’ve written makes sense.
f. Some of these I can anticipate, and therefore I do so. This helps me own an idea better too.
g. Anticipating these makes the post longer. It means a section of people who simply want to be told what to do will find it too tedious to go through the chain of reasoning that leads there. But since that’s not the target audience, I’m happy to make the tradeoff.

2 – Basic topics
a. Actually, I think every single topic I’ve written about is basic.
b. In my defence, I don’t have the expertise in any field to write about non-basic topics.
c. In some ways, this could be a good thing if you can write about an old, basic topic everyone knows and yet show something new, howsoever small. Because it’s harder to come up with something new when the topic is so basic and common.
d. Ofc, you can’t always pull it off, and I know that many of my writings don’t succeed, perhaps this is one of them. Although it depends too on the reader – something basic for one might be new for another.


Hi Pratyush,I will never agree with what said above by a random reader. I hope it doesn’t make you to change how you write. A good writer is one who takes care of his/her own thought process as well of the audience. Brevity in writing doesn’t always mean better. Brevity is good if it is self explanatory. Forceful removal of words from what you write. & pretend to be a smart, intelligent person is hypocrisy at its best. And that to tell someone, to do it in a particular way can crown it


What you write will be best for many & will be good or better for few. I am not writing a random response, as I tried to make above essay short. Even if 20 % of words removed from above essay, it doesn’t makes sense as it would in original form. People can have there opinion. But if something is not practiced before forming an opinion, not done on personal level, it will undone the merit behind that something.

The way you write has many merits as well as meaning for many of us, few will be exceptions as there always be. It has sense of style, sense of purpose. It has sensitivity not only towards words but also towards readers. Many times thinking is out of the box hence needs well arguments to support it, and it will increase the length. Your writing is highly creative when it comes to bringing something old to a new form. Keep doing in a way you like, change only if it adds some value.


Yes, agree with you. This is a first time I am seeing him reply to a question which doesn’t deserve that much merit. (Don’t be confused- as something directed towards person, it is about question involving fault finding). Pratyush usually reply to well thought out & related questions. We all can make mistakes & all can ask most silliest questions. But by subsequently commenting to demean someone as being wrong is a hypocrisy for me. Couldn’t agree more with you, as this site is for people who want to learn.


For some reason that response has been interpreted as a ‘rebuttal’ to an ‘attack’. Why would I bother churning out such a lengthy comment to defend myself from someone I don’t know?
That comment was simply an observation about two things, both of which are true and also rather obvious, things I’ve noticed long before – one that some essays are pretty long, and second that topics are basic (not a derogatory term, I use it to mean anyone can write about these ideas, you don’t need any special qualifications).
My comment wasn’t a rebuttal, it was just a chance for me to put down a chain of reasoning so far only nebulous and in my mind, and thus clarify it for myself (hence the bullet point structure). And by putting it out if there are any weak links someone might point it out – and perhaps make me a better writer. That’s all.


No, not at all. It will be last thing to come in mind to interpret your writing/comment as a rebuttal to an attack. I thought my presence is needed (pun intended). Neither against the observation by a reader. But subsequent observations were not apt & directed against the writer. Especially, some random observations saying, this is all basic and common.

“Our future depends upon it and our present is going to be vastly better when we get back to the basics.” – Joan Blades

This quote summarises the importance of following basics.


let’s be honest. Most people here have a sense of quiet desperation and are just screaming in the void hoping that someone would scream back. Including myself.

If you truly are doing what you want or even close to doing it – you do not even care about these valuable insights. You should outgrow a writer who claims anyone can write about these things. I think by this logic he even wants you to outgrow him.

If you are on this blog for more than a year or so, you should be in a mental facility.

The writer is also screaming in the void but he doesn’t care if someone replies or not. He even likes it. That’s what I respect about him. And for the rest of us – we are just desperate.


Hey dear, I had a free time today that’s why I replied. It was all about protecting the value I get from the blog. By the way, I practice Stoicism in my real life. Read the end for that response.

Now what you said –
1. Most people are desparate – how can I be desperate. Meaning of desperate is in extreme need of something. How can someone judge me or anyone else life here, based on few random comments.
2. How do you know – if someone is doing what he wants to do in life and will not care about valuable insights. This is fake generalisation based on personal opinion. People who want to learn, will learn from everything.
3. Being on a blog for certain period and being in mental facility ? Meaning of Mental facility is being in an institutional for mentally ill or when someone’s left temporal lobe is damaged. Be wise in use of words.
4. I will decide whether I want to outgrow author or not.
5.What is meaning of killing in life ? Using words or some mental images from random youtube video or else and describing it as life – does it make sense. I will not allow my life to be in that killing zone.

Dear, stop generalising things based solely on your perception. These comments are not about you, these are about what you say.

At last – what you do, will Pratyush change his writing style or whether your argument will stop – I simply can’t control any of them. AND what you say, I don’t even care because I can’t control any external which is beyond me.What I simply can do is, to influence an external. It is by putting letters in a sentence. Whether it make sense to you or not is not upto me. I only can control what is upto me. That is to write few lines, if it helps someone – its all fine. If it doesn’t I move. I can control my response. Make an argument based on what is logical, rational. Look for different sides etc. Be cool,calm in head. Thats it.

And what you will write next – whether you curse me or judge me or anything – how much I care about that? Its similar care I had for a storm brewing on mars and may spread over entire mars planet.


are you a Chinese bot coz no real person talks like this.


I am using the words quite loosely and sarcastically. I think that’s obvious from the tone. It’s fun using generalisations to get the point forward.

For example if I say most people on the blog have a submissive fetish, it does not mean that they have it. It means they like putting people on pedestals, and it’s true generally barring few exceptions.


there is a desperation in everybody (incl. the writer) on some level and in some aspects. obviously, your and my definitions of it vary. it is actually a liberating and optimistic thought if you think that everybody is desperate on some level (isn’t that what Kafkaesque means). it normalizes (not the only thing that does so) bureaucrats, politicians, celebrities, and other sociopaths (and I don’t mean they all are sociopaths).

on the point of outgrowing, we don’t watch zee cinema and star gold anymore. we don’t even like sports, breaking bad, Friends, Joe Rogan experience, etc. now. it’s like yeah, we get it, tell me something that is in line with reality and I can’t figure it out myself.

ideally, we should aim that the writer becomes zee cinema for us in a few years (1 if you are crazy enough). if the writer is good enough – he will not let that happen (but I am starting to doubt that).


Hey, relax.


it’s safe to assume nobody here is “killing it” In life.


most of your writings are on point and have a coherent line of thinking and I really like it. But,

“Nevertheless, it’s easy to convince yourself they go together.
So it’s a short and easy step from telling yourself that since it’s OK if you don’t make it, it’s also OK if you don’t try very hard”.

This really put me off. I don’t think this is a short and easy step. when people really internalize that it will be okay if they fail, even slightly above average people start expressing themselves more, and trying hard becomes easier and free-flowing.


this is a different point altogether.


You should read that again then. I was pointing out how this is an easy to make mistake, a way to rationalize and justify one’s lack of effort.


That is what I was saying in another comment (I know I went on a different tangent in this one)

Here it is:
I don’t think this is an easy to make mistake. if you are smart enough to figure out (truly internalize) that it will be ok if you fail (most people cannot even get to this step), then most probably you will not fall into this easily avoidable trap. The mental capacity required to internalize 1 is way more than the mental capacity required to avoid the trap.

Nikita Bhandari

Sir, though I cannot distinguish between basic and not-basic but one thing I know for sure is just by laying down your thoughts in a comprehensive manner, you are helping many young people like me to organise our thoughts and channelize them in a right direction.. Unless your ambition is to receive something like “The Baillie Gifford Prize”, I hope u’ll carry on with your good work putting less emphasis on something/someone’s comment which might not add enough value to your life as a whole.

Also, yesterday I finished reading your book “Beyond Human”. I used to be a very optimistic person (someone like u mentioned in pg 76 last para of your book), but the graph of my optimism showed a downward trend in past 6 yrs. I graduated with a B.Tech in Civil Engineering in June, 2020. Since then I am at home in Assam messed up with my own situations, becoming a person which I am not and don’t want to be.
Then I started reading some self help books and one fine day happen to find your blog, read all your articles, and finally order your book “Beyond Human”… I won’t explain it here in which ways it helped me. But I must say this that your book acted like a mirror and helped me to reflect upon myself. It showed me a broader picture of the ocean I was into.. I finally, after a long time, brought myself back to my “default setting” (something that you mentioned in page 76 last para of your book). And it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of works of people like you sir. And I am sure there are many more like me at far off places whom you are helping without even realising it.
You are already doing a great job sir and if u consider this as your benchmark, then all your next readings will only be higher than this.
So, I hope nothing hinders your motivation in keeping up with your good work..


most of your writings are on point and have a coherent line of thinking and I like it. But,

“Nevertheless, it’s easy to convince yourself they go together.
So it’s a short and easy step from telling yourself that since it’s OK if you don’t make it, it’s also OK if you don’t try very hard”.

This put me off. I don’t think this is a short and easy step. if you are smart enough to figure out (truly internalize) that it will be ok if you fail (most people cannot even get to this step), then most probably you will not fall into this easily avoidable trap. The mental capacity required to internalize 1 is way more than the mental capacity required to avoid the trap.


Mostly in agreement but would like to slightly diverge.

I think it is still better if people come up with these questions themselves. Its more respectful to enable the readers to think and not spoon feed most of the questions.

Most people will not take it as something they are being told to do (your target audience). I think there are mostly CSE folks here and we all have a healthy level of cynicism when someone tells something.


it is all true and practical but is also basic and predictable.


I just had a failed attempt at building a relationship, that I constantly approached with the “It’s okay if I fail” attitude that you mentioned here. I feel like I didn’t react appropriately when I should have because I was too focused on covering up the effects of my failure. Thank you so much Pratyush, this article was wonderful. I hope I think through my motivations better next time.


Can you provide some kind of search function in your blog [search by keyword]?


Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll look into it, hopefully sometime soon.


Have you ever considered creating a podcast?
Maybe audio only, monthly or even quarterly.


This sounds cool we can visualizes what would say


I was going through some of his old writings on “medium”.It has this inbuilt “read out” feature.Though in computerized voice, it’s actually good.
Not exactly podcast, but a good audio book indeed.
Wish it was here too.


Thank you!


are Hemant Bhai ye Patel hall ki photo hai kya background me?


Azad, tum bhi kgp se?


haan buddy, patel se. kon sa batch?


13-18 dual degree, yours?