When it comes to using a smartphone, I am a vetaran. This is my 9th year with an Android phone. I started from the November of 2010 with a Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.2 Eclair. My latest phone, Honor 7, runs Oreo 8.1. I have seen my usage patterns over nearly a decade and boy, I know what addiction to a smartphone, especially to social media means. The compulsions were many. Photos had to be shared on Instagram instantly. Wherever I was, I felt the urge to check in using Swarm. I repeatedly checked my Facebook timeline for the latest from everyone and I too constantly updated my latest status. WhatsApp was constantly buzzing on my phone. My addiction peaked between 2011 – 2014.
Since then, with the help of several habit-building podcasts and books, I have successfully set up habits to de-addict myself. These habits have been so successful that I don’t touch my phone for three hours after waking up. Nor do I touch my phone between 8:30 am to 5 pm on days when I am busy with my freelance work. Finally, I have a compulsory ‘turn off all electronic screens’ time after 10 pm. My laptop shuts down automatically if I don’t stop working.
None of the methods I suggest is radical. They are simple habits that make it hard for you to get to your social media apps. If you are an addict, then this post will attempt to cure you of social media addiction too. Please let me know if they work for you. Continue reading Escaping the seduction of social media
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
Recently, I read the post Avoiding the GIGO trap, by author and marketing guru Seth Godin. It mentions how several systems punish the user by rejecting inputs not suited for those systems. A seasoned or a highly qualified user usually learns how to use such a system properly through experience or through a high level of aptitude for that system, but the rest of the world continues to struggle to even gain entry. Usually the users come to know about these limitations ONLY after their input is rejected after a lot of hard work or when a sub-standard input causes the system to come crashing down on them.
Seth Godin points out that these systems try to obsess with ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’ principle. He argues that is not a good thing. Examples of such systems include computer programming languages, some top-rated schools in India and Formula race cars. We’ll see why in the sections that follow. Continue reading The myth of Garbage in, Garbage out
India is a country with several thousands of communities based on language, religion and native region. In the modern Indian workplace, it is difficult to tell one community from another. However, pick a few sample individuals and visit their homes. The lifestyle they live at home says a lot about the community they hail from. Given the same level of household income, some communities treat themselves like royalty, while others intentionally deprive themselves, calling it frugality. They only loosen up when guests visit them. Continue reading Be your own guest
Book title: Miracle Morning Author: Hal Elrod Publisher: Self ISBN-10: 0979019710 ISBN-13: 978-0979019715 Buy on:Amazon.in | Amazon.com
In this book, the author Hal Elrod talks about how waking up early in the morning and then following 6 simple practices transformed his life. The author abbreviates the 6 things in his morning routine as SAVERS. In his 1-hour routine, he goes through 6 activities that give him the perspective he needs for the day. Continue reading Book summary: Miracle Morning
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.
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
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:
Landing a Jump
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In today’s world, we have an acronym called TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). The basis for this acronym is that people who put in difficult hours at work during the weekdays do not have to do so during the weekend. Instead they ‘get to do’ something leisurely and things they really love. TGIF suggests that you are slogging through your week and doing what’s not important to you. It says that you have given up control of your life to someone else who isn’t allowing you to do what you please. It says that you are a slave. It says that your life as you want it only happens during the weekends. TGIF is a depressing acronym.
With a career I love and with my each day being an opportunity to learn more and work on things I care about, the concept of TGIF is lost on me. But, I agree with one aspect TGIF suggests. Do something different from your daily routine at least once a week. Here is why. Continue reading Why to break your routine for one day?
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’.
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.
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!