The four pillars of occupations

Hindu religion and several other cultures talk about the concept of trinity. In the trinity principles, three types of activities are spoken about. There is a creator who creates and a destructor who destroys. In the middle sits the concept of security, the one who protects. As with anything in Hinduism, these principles are deified. They are Brahma (creation), Vishnu (protection) and Shiva (destruction). Our occupations today can be classified into these three categories. Along with them, I would also like to add another category to make it a quartet, i.e. maintenance. I call these the four pillars of occupations. Continue reading The four pillars of occupations

The Fairy Tale Nightmare

Fairy Tales of my Childhood

The fairy tales I listened to in my childhood were  like ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Frog Prince’. In all cases the female protagonist was a beautiful young princess and her life mission was to find the man of her dreams. She succeeds in doing so and then they live happily ever after.

I found the stories sweet and adorable as a kid. But as an adult I can look back and see how each of these stories have ridiculously defined my life by one event – finding the (right) guy. I just have to look pretty and be patient to accomplish this life mission.

Snowwhite was in love with 'love' ??!!
Snowwhite was in love with ‘love’ ??!!

Continue reading The Fairy Tale Nightmare

How to remember what you read?

We read that “Great Leaders are Great readers.” So we set up new year resolutions that say “I will read at least 10/20/50 books this year“.  Some of us even get to that number, but often we look back and can’t seem to remember any ideas from a book we really enjoyed reading and thought was great.

Most productivity Guru’s can’t list the ‘seven habits’ from the cult book, ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ although they have read it several times and even train others on them. So how do we ensure that we not just read a book, but actually remember what is in it and make an impact in our life.

What to read?

The discussion here is relevant to non-fiction reading.

(1) Read with Purpose

Do not pick a book, because it has less pages, available in kindle or your library for free or even for the reason it is popular. Read it because you wanted to learn something from the book, that is relevant to you right now or in the immediate future. A book about what makes an ideal CEO is not relevant to you now, when you are a desk clerk. You can read that book when you are vying for that job. A book is a commitment for your time, several hours, make the investment worthwhile.

Read with a Purpose - Read to Learn
Read with a Purpose – Read to Learn

(2) References and Suggestions:

References from books that you have read and liked are great places to find books that you want to read to deepen your understanding on the topic at hand. People in relevant industries can also be a great source for suggestions. Have a list handy, and never run out of books to read.

(3) Read the book reviews/summaries to determine whether the book is relevant to you before buying them. If you haven’t learnt anything in th first 50 pages, discard the book.

What to Avoid:

(1) Information Overload:

If you are looking to start a business say export or media, read a handful of highly recommended books to get a overview of the business and get into action when you think you have a fair idea. You will never be sufficiently prepared and you will make mistakes and learn on the go. But if you try to read every single book in the market on the subject before you take any action, you are probably just using additional information as a crutch to postpone taking real action. Start with what you have and improvise.

(2) Distraction:

Unlike spending time in a chatroom or social media, reading a book requires a fair bit of focus. Allocate a dedicated time of the day, even if it is just 10-20 mins to read without distractions.

(3) Multitasking:

Research says multi-taskers perform worse than drunk people on cognitive tasks. We have all been the kid (at least I have been) who insisted on writing the homework in front of the TV and ultimately finished it under the school desk when teacher comes checking. If you are serious about the topic, avoid multi tasking. Listening to audio books while driving is still okay because of this.

The myth of Multi-tasking
The myth of Multi-tasking

How to Read:

(1) Skim the Book:

To start with, skim the book, look at the index, read the intro, see the info graphics, quotes and get a fair idea of what the book is about.

(2) Question:

Read the Headings, sub-heading and write down the questions that arise in your mind on reading that. For Ex: Rule 1 of Rich Dad, Poor Dad is that “Rich Dad don’t work for Money”. Here the question in my mind is, “So what is it that they work for?” List down your questions from the activity of skimming.

(3) Read to answer the questions you have noted down. Skip topics that you are familiar with already. For eg, case studies, research conclusion, stories that you have already read in greater detail earlier.

(4) Highlight and annotate with symbols ( $ for value, “” for quotable quotes etc) relevant points that you will want to come back for reference.

(5) After finishing every chapter, spend 30 sec to mentally review its contents in your head. You may also write a 2 line summary.

(6) If you are unable to recollect any of the points during review, go back and read the relevant portion only.

(7) Write a short summary at the end of the book after finishing it.

How to Remember:

(1) Use Acronyms:

Dan and Chip Heath are great at using an acronym to put their ideas together. For their book ‘Made to Stick‘, they used the analogy, ‘SUCCESS’, for ‘Decisive’ they used ‘WRAP’. This makes it far easier to recollect the main points in the book.

In the movie, ‘Evan Almighty‘ the director even when all the way to make ‘random act of kindness’ into ‘Act of Random Kindness’ to fit the acronym of ARK. That’s how powerful an acronym is.

(2) Use Analogies:

We have studied the earth to be a sphere/ball, the electrons move around nucleus like planets revolving around sun etc. The analogies help us form a picture of what we don’t know through what we know and can be a great tool of understanding.

(3) Use Feynman technique:

Teach it to a 5 year old.  Remove all jargons and simplify the concept so much that you teach it to a 5 year old or even better babies 🙂

Feynman Technique
Feynman Technique – Teach it to the kids

(4) Think through and discuss:

When I thought of this or any topic to write, I usually find enough ammunition to write from just one article or a video. But when I refer multiple videos or articles  and combine them together into coherent post becomes a bigger task than transcribing one video. But this is the one way through which I am able to contribute to the post as well absorb the maximum about the topic at hand. So think through the topic after collecting various facts, opinions and discuss or write about it to imbibe understanding rather than just parrot what you heard.

(5) Implement:

Nothing makes you remember a topic, as much as when you implement the learning from it at the earliest. Since we have already picked a topic that is most relevant to us, it should not be too difficult. Is it a cook book, go try one recipe, Is it a book on Yoga, schedule your Yoga session, Is it a book on social conversations, ‘Say Hi to the stranger and try out some tips you just learnt.’

Conclusion:

It’s not what you get out of the book, its ultimately what the book gets out of you that matters. So read something that matters, think through it and get the ball rolling.

Inspired by John Spence, Proactive Thinker and Will Shroeder


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How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

We have reviewed atleast three books on Fundamental analysis: One Upon Wall Street – Peter Lynch, Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and How to Avoid Loss and Earn Consistently in Stock Market by Prasanjit Paul . Hence I wanted to give you a neutral perspective and show you the other side of Fundamental Analysis. Continue reading How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

Choices and Impact

Choice: This or That

When I was a child, No one just asked us “Who is your favourite actor?”. They always asked Do you like Rajinikanth or Kamalhassan? Our prime time debates with panels were of topics like: What is good: Nuclear Family or Joint Family? Or Who is the better warrior – Arjuna or Karna? We were expected to pick a stand and argue our best. We spent considerable time arguing over these topics without ever having one person to our side from the other.

In ancient times, the question was like – Who is the more powerful God – Shiva or Vishnu? Today the questions have just been modified and become – Who is a better cricketer – Dhoni or Kohli ? or Who is a bigger star – Sharukh or Salman? Continue reading Choices and Impact

How to Learn just about Anything? – Part II – Acquiring Skills

We have all wanted to learn new skills like painting, singing, playing an instrument as an adult when we do not have the luxury of attending series of classes or the 10,000 hours as claimed by several. It is not so hard and even some life skills like swimming, driving can be learnt in as low as 20 hours. In this post we discuss the method for acquiring a skill at an amateur level at the shortest possible time.

Planning Stage:

Step 1: Define Success

A clearly defined goal is the starting point of the journey. Don’t start with more than one skill or goal.

Eg: 1) To be able to type 60 wpm using a qwerty keyboard with not more than 3 mistakes.
2) To be able to do a portrait sketch in pencil with reasonable semblance.
3) To be able to play ‘chinna chinna asai‘ song in my keyboard with correct tempo and tune.
4) To be able to swim across the 50m pool in freestyle without stopping
5) To be able to park the car in any parking lot properly

Defining Success
Defining Success

You can always build upon your knowledge sequentially, but it is important to do it only one at a time. Once you have reached your goal, you can give yourself a tougher goal in the same skill, or move on to a different one, as you choose.

Let us also address, motivation issues here. Learning a skill is hard, a goal with a purpose often works better than learning for leaning sake. For Eg: I want to learn conversational Gujarati so that I can talk to my fiance’s parents when I meet them in 5 weeks works better than I want to learn Gujarati.

So let your goal be,
“I want to learn ___________ in ___ time, so that I may ________”

Step 2: Deconstruct the Process

You may have noticed swimming, driving classes for absolute beginners are for about 20 hours in general. In 20 hours they are able to take you from someone who has never been inside water to be able to swim reach from one end of the pool to another, or in case driving as someone who has never been on driver seat to be able to handle from the highways to the chaotic Indian roads.

Josh Kauffman in his research as found similarly that learning any skill can be done in 20 hours.

You are by no means going to come out the other side as the next Michael Phelps or Michael Schumacher but would have learnt just enough to survive the roads or the water.

Any skill involves a series of steps. so first we need to deconstruct the steps. For example, the goal of swimming across the pool would involve mastering steps like:

  1.  Hand Movement
  2.  Leg Movement
  3.  Breathe in
  4.  Breathe Out
  5.  Take Off
  6.  Landing
  7.  Turn
  8.  Landing a Jump
  9.  Body Posture
  10.  Float

Step 3: Select: Identify Key Components

Pareto’s rule of 80/20 fits well into this context i.e 80% of your learning is going to come from 20% of your components. The most important components for the considered Goal according to me would be

  1. Floating
  2. Breathing
  3. Hand Movement
  4. Leg Movement

 

Learning to swim

So from about 10 + components we have identified  key components that we will focus on for our 20 hours of learning. For critical skills like swimming, driving etc which can endanger your or other lives when not practiced properly, it is preferable to have a trainer or atleast an experienced person around you while practicing. But for all skills, it is beneficial to have a trainer, who can provide good feedback and prevent you from practicing incorrectly. But professionals can at times impart incorrect/non-beneficial industry practices that does not suit your lifestyle or goal. You may notice that your driving methods resemble a lot to the person you have learnt from. So choose your trainer well.

Step 4: Sequence the Learning

In pencil sketching, the learning would start with choosing the right HB Pencils, holding the pencil,  lines and then shades.

Similarly in swimming, one has to learn to float to be able to get over the fear of drowning, then combine it with learning of hand, leg movements and breathing to be able to swim. Each of this can be identified as a sub skill and learnt and until it is reasonably mastered.

Step 5: Plan for failures

Visualizing that you have failed and to find out reasons for failure is one of the easiest ways to find out where we may fall before we even start. Pre-mortem your result and identify the weak links that may have caused you to fail and account for them in your practice. You may be too lazy to pull the guitar out to practice, put a stand near your favorite chair. Your partner may get too busy to practice salsa, find an alternative.  You’d be too lazy to follow through and finish lessons on your Gujarati, schedule the sessions with your tutor and pay for them ahead of time. You think you might put off learning cooking again – Invite your friends over a home cooked dinner at a scheduled date. Websites like StickK can really help you in sticking to your commitments.

Practice Stage:

This is the most important stage of the learning, where the initial enthusiasm of learning a new skill can quickly get replaced by the frustration of not making a progress fast enough. This is why the purpose of the goal that we mentioned in planning stage is very important. While our tactics will help you get through it in record time, it is still going to be frustrating and will need the purpose powered willpower to drag you through.

Pomodoro Technique

Short spurts of learning (say 20 mins) before and after your bed is the most efficient time for you to learn. While this can be definitely used for learning a musical instrument, language, typing etc it can understandably be difficult to learn swimming or windsurfing if your practice area is not in your vicinity or if the industry only provides standard slots like flight log or scuba. Go for the next best alternative.

Set up low stakes Environment

This might sound contradictory to the high stake target we set for ourselves. But it is not. For practicing set up a low stakes environment where you can fail without hurting yourself much. Start swimming in shallow waters, practice uni – cycling or bare foot running in soft grass, practice the new language with non-critical native speakers, try rope walking at a lower height or trapeze with the nets underneath.

Practice – Repeat – Commit to 20 hours

20 hours is not a lot of time. Most of us might watch more TV than that in a week. But this 20 hours may seem excruciatingly long, while practicing and miserably failing along the way. But do it anyway.

Monitor progress – Get Feedback – Get better

Have sub goals and timeline for the sub-skills that you have to develop and allot a time to integrate them. This will be no different than assembling a car, while each part that goes into making the car is quality checked on production or purchase, assembling it together will also take time and due steps need to be followed.

Keep realistic timelines for your sub- goals and measure your progress against them. Seek feedback and help as required to adjust your process and routine to help you get to the finishing line.

Taking care of Basics

I was tempted to leave this part, but it surprised me how many people mentioned this as one key part of learning that I couldn’t help but putting this in a separate section.

Hydrate Yourself:

Over 70% of the body is comprised of water and water play a huge role in helping to regulate nervous system and brain function. All the learning experts swear by the need to hydrate oneself well while attempting any learning exercise.

Exercise:

Regular exercises benefits your brain as much as it benefits your body. A fit mind in a fit body. So lace up and get going.

Recommended Read:
The First 20 Hours – Josh KauffmanAmazon.in / Amazon.com

The Master Deconstructor Tim Ferris on Accelerated Learning

How to Learn just about Anything? – Part I – Acquiring Knowledge

Schools, the hub of education has taught us what to learn. But has surprisingly never taught us ‘how to learn’. So often kids with different learning requirements are labelled ‘slow’ than find compatible teaching methods. No wonder Einstein, Edison, Graham Bell were all labelled ‘learning challenged’.

Process of Learning - JK Quote
Process of Learning

So how do we go about learning.  I’d like to broadly divide into acquiring knowledge i.e on subjects of chemistry, philosophy, investing etc and acquiring a skill. In Part 1. let us focus on acquiring knowledge. Continue reading How to Learn just about Anything? – Part I – Acquiring Knowledge

How to get Lucky?

Lucky People

We have all known people for whom things always fall into place at the right time and right place. These lucky people meet their future spouses by accident, they get a brilliant business idea from a random conversation, strangers seem to help them everywhere they go and they get introductions and guidance from the most unexpected places and people. We have all heard stories like the FEDEX founder who gambled with the last $5000 in the business and won enough to save the business and thrive. Life is full of fortunate coincidences for these lucky people.

The Everyone Else: Unlucky

They are also the other kind of people for whom bad luck and misfortune follow everywhere. After a long wait and much trying they scheduled an appointment with a big prospect who had to cancel  due to an emergency, the stocks that they invest in fall, the parking fills up just before they come, the traffic lights turn red on seeing them, they loose their valuables routinely, they don’t get the big breaks they think deserve despite their talent and hard work. The many like the talented Vinod Kambli who despite his superior batting talent had a short career unlike his friend who went on to become the little maser.

So does luck exist?

Continue reading How to get Lucky?

What to do when choices overwhelm you… everyday!

You know the feeling when you stand at popular ice-cream outlets such as Gelato, Baskin Robbins or Natural’s. There are more than a hundred choices. If you’ve had a difficult day at work, you are tempted to walk out as your brain feels the fatigue of taking one more decision from a staggering number of choices. “Let’s just go eat the falooda from the road side vendor”, you say as you walk out. What should you do when you are overwhelmed with choices? Continue reading What to do when choices overwhelm you… everyday!

How to change a habit?

Getting Ready for New Year Resolutions?

New year is less than three months away. We will soon be drawing up our list of goals, aspirations, resolutions and hope this year would be different. But like Einstein said,

“Its Insanity to expect a different result when you do the the same thing over and over”

Changing an habit is hard. 21 days of will power is not going to magically get you over the hump. So what will?

good vs bad habits
good vs bad habits

Continue reading How to change a habit?