Who is in your top 5 list

Before you start reading this post, please get a pen and paper and make a list of everyone who matters to you. This will take a few minutes, but it is important that you do this.

Did you create the list? How many people are in it? Most people come up with a list of ten to twenty people in it. What if you are forced to limit your list to just ten people? Give it a try. Remove some people from your list to bring the count to ten.

Now, take it one step further. Shrink your list to have no more than five people. Here is my top 5 list:






While I do have a lot of close friends and relatives, people who I admire, people who I love to spend time with, when shit hits the fan, my list of 5 are who really matter. This is the group that I will be willing to do absolutely anything for. I can’t imagine living without them.

Today, as the world has been locked-down by a virus, the importance of these five in my life is reminded more than ever before. I constantly think about their safety and well-being. I talk to them every day over video calls.

While these five have always been important to me, over the years, I felt that I have become disconnected and distant from the rest of the world. My childhood friends and college friends had drifted apart as we moved to different cities and countries. Every year made me busier with family and work and I found myself making fewer friends and even fewer deep connections. Despite living in a city of 10 million people, more and more, I felt disconnected. I have heard from several other folks that they feel this way as well. The worst part is that despite feeling this, I have never had a strong urge to do something about it — I have preferred to run after my goals.

As expected, this Coronavirus lock-down is proving to be hard. However, it is making me realize how wrong I have been in thinking that I am disconnected from the rest of the world. This morning, while brushing my teeth, I realized that I have squeezed more paste out of my toothpaste tube than the manufacturers would have ever expected or imagined. I need a new tube.

Online deliveries are not working these days. It is risky to go out. I got reminded of the critical role that the name-less and face-less Big-Basket delivery person plays in my life. I remembered — someone must have worked on making this toothpaste. Someone must have driven the truck that brought it to my town. Someone must have shelved it in a warehouse. This tube must have exchaged a series of hands before the BigBasket guy dropped it at my doorstep.

There is a theory that all humans are connected to each other through six or fewer degrees of separation in social connections. I think, if we look at connections based on mutual dependence, the graph will shrink even more.

Every second of my existence today is made possible due to a large group of people doing what they do. Literally every step that I take is impossible without other humans. The clothes I wear. The breakfast that I make. The plate in which I eat it. The TV that I watch. The internet that I connect to. The laptop that I used to connect.

While we can’t imagine living without our top 5, we literally can’t survive without this larger community whose existence and actions are essential for our survival. This crisis will go away. However, it will be cool if we continue to remember this obvious and yet easily forgotten realization.

Let us be more considerate to our fellow humans. Let’s give a smile the next time we cross a stranger. Let’s ask how the security guard in our building is doing the next time we see him. Let us genuinely thank our doctor at the next visit and not treat them simply as a resource. Let’s do this without expecting reciprocity.

While we are still in the middle of this crisis, let us find a way to donate and contribute as much as we can to help those who are in trouble — by helping them, we will be helping ourselves. In a way, this virus is a reminder of the closely interconnected lives we live. Thus, it is not enough to protect our top 5 during this crisis. Each one of us has to do everything we can to protect every last human on this earth. That is the only way we will protect ourselves and our top 5.




I work @Google leading teams on hard data problems. In personal life, I am an armchair philosopher. This blog shares my thoughts and experiences — Ashish Gupta

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Selfish Altruist

Selfish Altruist

I work @Google leading teams on hard data problems. In personal life, I am an armchair philosopher. This blog shares my thoughts and experiences — Ashish Gupta

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