Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Circular Reference

I am fairly certain that a regular user (or abuser?!) of the ubiquitous spreadsheet software, must have seen the above warning message at least once. The help file further elucidates: “A circular reference can have a significant impact on performance because it can iterate indefinitely.”

Blame it on my lack of excitement all day or call me a profundity junkie, but one late March evening, something struck me. With the dreaded 31st approaching (the absolute worst day in the year for a relationship manager… no wonder it is the mirror image of 13!), and having had all holidays cancelled for the month (haven’t my bosses heard that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…? But then my name is not Jack, though come to think of it – I should maybe consider changing it to that for more often than not, I do get jacked by boss!) after having plugged away at my spreadsheet all day, one wrong move and the software spat out the warning message illustrated above.

It was nearly time for the civilized world to call it a night, and given the spew of long days in the recent past, I got pretty agitated. And then I had an aha moment (pardon the jargon – an unwanted side effect of my MBA education!). Isn’t our lives exactly what the message warns of?
Allow me to elucidate. The basic formula in life is that we make mistakes and look for redemption. And we do this each time we come across a whiff of a new start – make resolutions each time the earth completes its annual revolution around the sun, pray for prosperity and peace every bishu / diwali / nabo barsho / gudi padwa / etc. (based on which part of India you come from), hope to do better at the turn of each financial year (whether you want or not, the targets keep coming!), plan to quit smoking / start gymming each time your birthday comes across… you get the idea.

But, what happens when the day passes and you get a year older and wiser? I am willing to bet my bonus (I must resolve to give up gambling next time Diwali comes along!) , that the answer is: back to status quo and the cycle continues. Thus life’s formula keeps going through a vicious circular reference. And yes, this circular reference does have a significant impact on our performance because it does iterate indefinitely… just like ol’ Bill’s software warns!

Too bad, God did not factor in the warning message in life! We could have at least been able to click OK and then gone back to doing what we do anyway…