Insights from a Yoghurt Nazi

Prolog

As Microsoft quickly found out to its chagrin, associating with Seinfeld in this day and age, may not be that fashionable. But hey, i am no Microsoft and I love Seinfeld. The inspiration for the post’s title comes from a super Seinfeld episode called the Soup Nazi.  In an earlier post, we covered how to build passion.  While passion goes a long way, we need some mechanism to build expertise in a certain area.

 

The Yoghurt Nazi

As I thought about this, I was struck by Priya Raju’s deeply formed opinion about Yoghurt (Curd). She looks at the texture, color, the level of sourness etc and only if it met her standards, she would consume it. I jocularly refer to her as the Yoghurt Nazi after the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld who has a zillion rules.  As for me, i have no taste in Yoghurt and would be okay with anything as long as it is yoghurt. However, i am very opinionated about which vegetable should be added to what kind of dish. I am the Food Nazi. My grandfather was a gourmet and i would like to think i have inherited some of his genes. Whereas Priya Raju didn’t have such opinions about food except that it taste good. Interestingly, she would try a lot of different cuisines effortlessly and spot trends, i found myself, slightly more reluctant to try newer cuisines.

Sound of Music

Then i started to look at tastes in music and i found another interesting thing. While i had a strong opinion about what is good music, i generally tended to experiment and discover newer genres of music, I found Priya Raju had a greater ability to say which is great music and she didn’t experiment as much as I do with music.  I also observed similar patterns in taste for movies.

The Taste Spectrum

Then I had several discussions with Priya Raju and we realized that to have a good taste in something you need to have a certain degree of expertise and a certain degree of enthusiasm for it.  We then proceeded to categorize people and plotted the diagram above that i call the Taste Spectrum.  On the X axis expertise going from -5 to +5 and Y axis is enthusiasm going from -5 to +5.

  1. Nazis – these are people who have high expertise and slightly less enthusiasm than the trendspotters (see below). Expert critics, connoisseurs, gourmets would belong here.
  2. Trendspotters – these have slightly less expertise compared to Nazis but have a higher degree of enthusiasm compared to them so they try more new stuff and may be the first ones to spot new trends.
  3. Normal – these have medium level of expertise and medium level of enthusiasm.  If you take music as an example, many people would be in this category – everyone likes music for the most part.
  4. Indifferent – these have zero expertise and zero enthusiasm. They simply don’t care about the stuff.
  5. Rigid – these have some medium level of expertise but their enthusiasm is medium negative.  They will hold onto what they have tried and liked and won’t try new things that easily.
  6. Bad Taste – these have a great level of enthusiasm but medium negative expertise. They may enthusiastically choose the wrong things.
  7. Finicky – these have both medium negative expertise and medium negative enthusiasm. They don’t have expertise to discern and won’t try new things as well.
  8. Haters – they have poor expertise and poor enthusiasm. they simply hate the stuff.

The Taste Zones

Once we plotted the spectrum, we could see 3 broad zones emerging

  1. the love zone – Normal, Trendspotters and Nazi. They really like the stuff and this group as a collective has the greatest level of enthusiasm and expertise – these are the talented boys/gals.
  2. the hate zone – finicky, haters. They have crossed over to the other side. the talent-free club.
  3. The middle zone – indifferent, rigid, bad taste. They have potential to move to either side depending on how they develop their open-mindedness or their abilities.

Taste Translates

Overall, what we find is that, if we can develop our taste in one area, we can quite easily translate that into areas where our professional success may depend upon.  All of us belong in the love zone in atleast one thing – music, movies, yoghurt , food, travel. If we can develop that area and become a Nazi in that, we can then transfer that ability to other areas that matter in our professional lives.

Epilog

What do you all think? What are you a Nazi in?


Comments

  1. Quote

    Sukumar – Very interesting categorization. I think I am rigid with respect to food and (like to think) a Trendspotter with respect to books. Not a Nazi in any field 🙂

    PS: Very happy to be the first to comment on your post after a long gap 😉

  2. Quote

    Sukumar – Good post.

    I think that being a Nazi is generally off-putting to others. Nazis are perfectionists & can be demanding. Only trend-spotters (& other Nazis) can measure up to the expectations of a Nazi. Normal people who aspire to be trend-spotters can also co-exist with a Nazi. Many people (especially in India) find this difficult to handle & they resent it. But, I guess that’s the price of being an expert.

  3. Quote

    Thanks Archana. Since this blog has many contributors now, i am writing a post after what is a long time of 4 weeks 🙂 Since you read so many books i am sure you can spot trends quite easily. Nazi in nothing? Hmmm. Let us see how many Nazis emerge?

  4. Quote

    Thanks Priya. Yeah, i guess that is the price of being an expert.

  5. Quote
    pk.karthik said September 20, 2008, 4:06 pm:

    Very Interesting Sukumar..Are we seeing a Malcom Gladwell in making..If i have to rate myself I can cll myself a medium or normal is most of the stuff…I am not Nazi about anything..

    I think u may have covered it…but i would like to add one more too categories….

    Jackass:who haev zero knowledge but tend to oppose anything for the heck of it

  6. Quote

    I am a nazi when it comes to biryanis i guess. Its kinda ironice considering that I being a brahmin am not supposed to touch non-veg. But here I am searching for the best biryani where ever I go!

  7. Quote
    Subba Muthurangan said September 20, 2008, 7:37 pm:

    Sukumar

    Excellent one, especially the graph, a picture is worth of 1000 words.

    I think enthusiasm is quantitative and expertise is infinitive. We can’t say we are expertise on something so we are always trend-spotters of many things. Enthusiasm is something makes all the difference and an enthusiast person can leverage expertise on anything. A less enthusiast persons are bored one, he or she never going to be expertise on anything or they even try to get to know somethings, in other words going to circle same small round.

    But we need Nazis to accomplish a critical task. Today I saw a discovery program about China’s 3 gorges dam, it was amazing. This kind of high complex massive projects required lot of Nazi humans. Here is one important thing we have to remember, that a trend-spotters can become Nazi if we provide enough opportunities. You placed correct on high enthusiasm but less expertise for trend-spotters, i can take that as even though someone is high enthusiast, he or she can’t become Nazi because of less opportunities.

    A Nazi (in this context only) is not a bad one, a nazi can accomplish and over perform than others, but the point is a nazi has to play well within limits, i mean not to become arrogant. A nazi can well adjust with Normal, trendspotters and indifferent zone people, but not with haters. My point is everybody hates haters so it is not only with Nazis.

    As per my personal experience, I’m Nazi of problem solving(range from real time life issues to work, code, projects etc), investment, sports(earlier cricket now football), parenting (this is new now i can say i’m nazi on this), and eating( i want to go to normal zone for this ). I have many normal to trend-spotter zone things like blogging,fishing,reading, music, travel, debating,movie and driving.

    -Subba

  8. Quote

    Very interesting post and categories.

    I think am normal with respect to reading, music, drawing, writing.

    I have a bad taste in shopping for anything. I just don’t know what is good, if the price I am paying for an item is reasonable etc.

    I am indifferent with respect to sports news/anything related to sports

    I had a question though, does being rigid in some field mean the expertise in that field is always stagnant (I feel expertise is gained through trying/experimenting)?

  9. Quote

    Karthik,
    Thanks. I am flattered. As for a new category called Jackass, i see what you mean, but we are not trying to classify people generally but specifically to a topic. For instance, in the spectrum Haters can simply hate yoghurt for instance for whatever reason, but may not be a jackass. Maybe i am not understanding your point?

  10. Quote

    Thanks Anand. I lover Biryanis too, but the veggie kind. I heard that there is a exclusive Biryani-only restaurant in Bangalore that serves 40 kinds of Biryani. Maybe you want to head down there, if you haven’t tried it? It is called Biryani Merchant.

  11. Quote

    Thanks Subba. Interesting to know that you have so many Nazi level interests. You are right experiences/opportunities matter. But we think that there is some innate ability in people which is subsumed in the expertise axis. For instance, i think you have to have sensitive taste/smell to become a Yoghurt Nazi. What do you think about innate abilities?

  12. Quote

    Thanks Saraswathi. Nice to know about your interests. If you look at where we plotted Rigid, they are in the negative enthusiasm half but positive expertise half. Since they are not open-minded (that is less enthusiastic) to try new things, yes, i think expertise may not grow.

  13. Quote

    Innate abilities are there for some extend. I would say innate abilities are abstract. Practice, opportunities, focus, determination are the key for concrete implementations. A person by birth is not a yoghurt nazi, but he/she has all innate ability to become so, it all depends on how he/she is practicing, focusing, and most importantly opportunities are matters. With the same or little more practice, focus, determination a person who doesn’t has innate ability can become yoghurt nazi, given enough opportunities.

    Just my 2 paisas…

    Here is a good article about innate ability…
    http://www.research.utoronto.ca/expert_opionions/olympics-expert-bruce-kidd-on-how-important-is-innate-ability-in-athletic-success/

    – Subba

  14. Quote

    Subba – You make a good point. But, I don’t think I agree with you completely. This is the nature VS nurture debate, where I think there’s a tendency these days to downplay nature. Nurture is very important. One can learn a lot of stuff & scale new heights with it. But, there are some outliers in ability that nurture can’t reach. That’s what I think.

    There is a strong probability that the highest end “Nazis” in a field will be geniuses in it. They will for the most part, find a way to express their abilities. Genius is a drive. It will express itself. (Sigh…And I’m a Nazi in Yoguhurt. Of all the useless things in the world!)

    A genius level ability is extremely hard to simulate simply thru learning. Thru hardwork, someone may become very capable, knowledgeable, gain high levels of skill & attain commercial success in that field. Nurture is very important. But, you can’t create an Einstein out of a lay person.

    Trend-spotters are highly intelligent people, need opportunities to realize their innate skills. Nazis, when given more opportunities, will reach even greater heights.

    Consider my yoghurt habit. Most South Indians are lactose intolerant. I’m a South Indian Brahmin, so thanks to my R1A genes, I’m lactose tolerant. Ergo, I consume plenty of dairy products. Naturally, I’m pretty good in figuring out if the milk, butter & yoghurt are any good. I admit its a sad area to have expertise in, though 😐

  15. Quote

    Very interesting post Sukumar.
    Being anti anti semitic (:P), i wouldnt like to call myself a Nazi in anything. 😉
    Even I have very very strong opinions about food in general and “thayir” in particular. Neither too bland, not too sour. Not too liquid, not very solid. Shouldn’t smell very milky nor should it smell sour. It has to be just right. 🙂
    And for music like u say I don’t care as long as its music. Not very finicky about music as long as its not noise and does not gimme a headache!!
    And about the taste spectrum, I have amazing levels of enthusiasm and will try anything new just for the experience but expertise wise I am zero, so I don’t know if I can fit into trend spotters!! I will buy all kinds of books ranging from tintin comics to othan pamuk not because that is my “area of expertise” but just because I like to read new stuff and discover what I like!!

    Nice post!! 🙂

    P.S: Priya with reference to ur reply to Subba, knowing abt the nuances of thayir is NOT a sad area of expertise. It is the mainstay for the existence of south indian brahmins. imagine what the world would be without thayir sadam/ properly made thayir. Maybe you ought to start a yoghurt tasting company (and errr gimme a job as a chief taster or something!! :P) where the only thing people do is taste yoghurt and only the best yoghurt hits the market!! 😉

  16. Quote

    Revs – Good idea 🙂 I stun people by telling them – “your milk is on the verge of getting ruined”. They think I’m mad, but I’m just very good in tasting dairy products.

    I don’t like ice-creams for e.g., becoz most people ruin it. Most people. Its either too sweet or too thick or not flavorful. The best ice-cream I’ve had in my life was in the Parsi dairy in Mumbai. And kulfi sold in a push-cart in Triplicane (Chennai) when I was a kid.

    I can’t stand homogenized milk that you get in India these days. You can’t get cream out of it. I like fresh cow’s milk for coffee & only buffalo milk should be used for yoghurt. I can write a book on dairy products. Perhaps you can help me.

  17. Quote
    pk.karthik said September 22, 2008, 2:42 am:

    @ Sukumar,

    I think you have covered it in your hater catgory.

    I feel that just like an ass which kicks anything without knowing….a Jack ass person may oppose anything for sheer joy of opposing(He may or may not be an expert)

  18. Quote

    Interesting discussion Priya and Subba. I am talking mainly about professional success here, which i don’t believe requires genius level or close-to-genius level abilities. [Of course, if someone did possess that level of abilities, they may reach greater levels of success]. In that perspective, i think nurture – which also includes the opportunities one gets exposed are critically important. Also, i think some level of natural ability is also intended in the above model. For instance, if one doesn’t have good set of taste buds, becoming a Nazi in Wines is next to impossible.

  19. Quote

    Revs,
    Thanks. I am anti-anti-semitic as well. I chose the term Nazi to give some comic relief to a serious topic inspired by Seinfeld.

    Looks like you could be a Yoghurt Nazi as well.

    Interesting point on high enthusiasm. I had a classmate in college whom we nicknamed OE – over enthusiasm because he will hyperventilate with enthusiasm for anything we threw at him. Looks like you could be his friend.

    I wouldn’t know where to plot you on the taste spectrum? More importantly, how to categorize?

  20. Quote

    Karthik,
    After looking at Revathi’s comment, i understand what you are saying. It is the exact opposite of what Revs is describing – with high negative enthusiasm but zero expertise. Maybe you and her could discuss and come out with a new category and we can add that in to the chart.

  21. Quote

    Priya

    I agree with you. No one can make Einstein out of a lay person. Genius is something unique with innovative thoughts, which are innate abilities and flown thru genes.

    Subba

  22. Quote

    @priya
    sure thing. :). you can write the book, sukumar has very kindly agreed to publish it and i will read it!! 🙂
    homogenized milk is the pits. so is skimmed milk. youghurt made out of skimmed milk tastes horrible.
    and in Jamnagar (where i live) we get camel’s milk. It tastes Blechhhh!! its supposed to be a delicacy. so if u r visiting those parts do taste it and let me know what u think about it. (and do dedicate the chapter on camel’s milk in ur book to me!!! :P:P)

    @sukumar
    Hmmm
    i think i would plot myself high ON the positive Y axis (with a 0 on expertise) and call myself an enthusiast (or an OE ;)) willing/open to becoming an expert!! 🙂

    Karthik’s category on the other hand would be diametrically opposite i think, i.e, very low on the negative Y, 0 on expertise (not a hater) totally unwilling to change and opposing those willing to change (likes of me!! :))

  23. Quote

    Thanks Revs. I agree with you. All i am wondering is what to call the 2 categories you and Karthik has arrived at? Yes, both seem to be antipodes.

  24. Quote

    A very interesting post Sukumar. Nazi is a very creative coning of name for experts with low tolernace. Thanks for creating an opportunity for some good introspection. When it comes to eating food, I do not think I am a nazi, i am more a trendspotter. However, when it comes to cooking, I guess I am a nazi. Sanjay feels he is a fresh food Nazi. Anything that goes into fridge except yogurt (for a day) is old and no good food.I feel I am a Nazi when it comes to punctuality and keeping up time.

    I am a tendspotter when it comes to books, music, cloths and add ons.

    I feel I am normal when it comes to choosing a vacation spot.

    In general I am a very enthusiastic person, so I am not sure if I can fit myself into other categories.

    A question though, could Nazi also become counter productive when it comes to team work as, this group cannot accept anything but the best. Agreed, a positive attitude could make a difference, however what would be the error tolerance level of this group. Peronally I get annoyed when my family or coworkers just do not keep up with time. Sometimes this attitude of mine is a hinderance.

  25. Quote

    Shoba – I think the error tolerance level of this group would be considerably lower than normal. There’s no room for errors when you seek perfection. New ideas are evaluated with enthusiasm – so that must make team-work a bit easier. Though Nazis are not as gung-ho as the trend-setters.

  26. Quote

    Thanks Shoba. I used the term Nazi only for humorous effect. As Priya points out Nazis will strive for perfection which is a useful thing in a team environment. Finicky or Rigid people on the contrary may affect the teamwork. Perhaps you are assigning the attributes of Finicky, Rigid people to Nazis?

  27. Quote

    Priya and Sukumar, thanks for the insight. Now, ‘Nazi’ has become a common useage at home. We keep telling ‘Hae I think I am this Nazi or that Nazi. Guess, we are soon going to have a new meaning in dictionary for Nazi.

  28. Quote

    Thanks Shoba.

  29. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said October 5, 2008, 2:54 am:

    Sukumar, very interesting post and classification. On the yoghurt bit, maybe Priya and yourself have already tried the mishti-doi (I hope that I got the name right) 🙂 that’s available in Kolkata/Bengal that I like very much.

  30. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said October 5, 2008, 5:56 am:

    Thanks Abdul. I love mishti dhoi. In Chennai, if you want to have it, try Durga Sweets in Anna Nagar. Priya being a Yoghurt Gourmet doesn’t like Mishti Dhoi.

  31. Quote
    Nimmy (subscribed) said October 10, 2008, 12:07 am:

    Lovely post….and lovely post-post conversations! 😛 Thoroughly enjoyed it. Do keep them such posts coming! 🙂

    PS: I can’t but wonder about the relevance of individual tastes in this context. Does a gourmet’s verdict necessarily have an impact on an individual’s taste? Or does a gourmet simply have a logical advantage because he/she is supposed to have tried everything and is therefore in a position to pass a relative judgment? 🙂

  32. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said October 10, 2008, 7:07 am:

    Thanks Nirmala. If you look at the diagram above, you will notice that Gourmet (Nazi) have a lot of expertise which is a combination of natural flair and experience. This is why we rely upon a Gourmet’s opinion/taste.

  33. Quote

    Man, this was such an entertaining & enlightening post 🙂 Loved it totally!

  34. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 16, 2009, 7:30 pm:

    Thanks for your kind words Aswin.

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