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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why are you unable to use the New Law of Achievement

Every student, to whom i talk, wishes to achieve in his study and life. But then, why don't they follow the the right principles of achievement. More often than not, they miss the bus because of the following three difficulties:

1.  Most of the students mistakenly believe that Work-achievement can be pursued by using the first law of Achievement (like the first law of motion!)

According to the first law of Achievement, advocated by all the self-help gurus and authors, if you have to achievement, you have to follow the ten rules of success such as Work hard, Set a goal, Prioritise properly, Use interdependence of people, Be creative and others.

This first law of Achievement is old and worked in past. These rules of success can be applied in your lives at a superficial level. For instance, if you have failed in a subject because you had not prepared well, the rule of work hard is easily applicable to you. But if you have scored 60% marks, and want to score 85% the rule of work hard is not useful. Now you have to become specific in your actions: you have to identify the difficult chapters that you ignore, you have to study the concepts that you have not understood. Further, if you have to increase your marks from 85% to 95%, the rules further change. Now you have to understand your 'style of making mistakes' in an exam, how you take stress and so on.

In other word, the first law of Achievement is useful in a very generic way, where cause>effect is clearly understood and easy to figure out. In other cases, the first law of Achievement is not only useless to provide you any guideline, but it creates a different side-effect. For instance, when you find that these basic rules of success - work hard, be creative, set a goal, use imagination, set priorities - do not work for you, you either conclude that something is wrong with these rules, or they are useless. You stop listening to any advice !

2. New law of Achievement is invisible like law of gravity. You require to wear glasses to use it. 

Until Newton found the theory of gravity, by seeing the falling apple, everyone sensed 'gravity', but no one could 'see' it. Once Newton gave us the 'glasses' to 'see' gravity in every moving and stationary object, we could use it for anything. We could even use it to understand the attraction of two planets.

Until now the New law of Achievement was invisible like theory of gravity. Now, as it has become visible through this research, we can use it. If you learn to wear this lens, you will then be able to use even the old rules of Achievement at their 'appropriate' situations and use them smartly instead of dumping them.

3. As the New law of Achievement is highly contextual ( situation-dependent), you have to apply the rules consciously and deliberately after understanding your situation. 

It is apparent to everyone that the rules of first law of Achievement are so universal that they are not useful. What is the first principle of New law of Achievement?

The first principle is : Without the 'context', do not use any  rules. It is like health framework. You are aware of the rules of keeping your weight low, but you still cannot keep your weight low, because you cannot apply those rules in your daily routine of eating, exercising and resting. To apply the general rule of weight control , you have to first understand your situational context. Only then you can apply the generic rules of weight control to yourself. Before applying any rules, you must consciously think of the conditions where the rule can be applied. For instance,
  • The rule of 'Work hard'  or 'Persevere hard' is useful only when one has found the direction in life. For instance, when you are clear that of doing commerce course and the reasons for doing it. you can then apply the rule of 'work hard' easily. Until then, this rule will not produce any better results.  
  • Or the rule of 'Set the goal' is useful only for single-dimensional children who excel in senses-based fields like sports and music. For other children, who excel in cognitive field, this rule is useless
  • Or to excel in a corporate life, perception management is crucial because specialised experts in corporate force us to deal with each other on the basis of 'perceptions' and not 'facts' 
  • Or to succeed as an entrepreneur, understanding the business model is the first step. The trait of risk-taking is not important to succeed. 
  • Or the rules of achievement applicable in corporate life ( such as understand the metasystems etc) are different than the rules of excelling in student life. 
Conclusion

Applying the New Law of Achievement is not as straightforward as applying the first law of Achievement. It forces you to think. Like we discussed in the earlier blog, even to benefit from the successes of other achievers, you have to think like a detective. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Results are not in our control despite our best efforts


"We are Formula 1 championship runners-up and not everybody can say that. And when you fight with all your heart and all your strength for so many months, without making a single mistake, neither the team or me, we have to be very proud."

This is what Alonso said when he lost the 2012 year-end title by three points at the end of last week's Brazilian's Grand Prix race.

Results, like winning the year end title, depend on many events. It is a result of numerous factors, some of them not in Alonso's hand. For instance, when Sebastian Vettel ( who was the final winner) only got reprimanded for his mistake in Japan, everyone was surprised. Because, if Sebestain Vettel was penalised with points at Japan race instead, Alonso would have won the year end title. Please remember that Alonso lost the title with 3 points. ( 278 versus 281)

Sometimes the factors are more specific, but still outside your control. For instance, Alonso's car was not the fastest car, and this was known to all. But despite the known hurdle, Alonso's team could not overcome that hurdle despite having the money and expertise. Alonsa, on the other hand, said 

Alonso said the Brazilian race was a good example of what his season has been like, with him charging through the field to finish on the podium despite his car having not been as strong as its rivals' in qualifying.

Please remember there are 20 races in a year which decides the championship title. 

On the other hand, Alonso managed to put forth his best despite all the difficulties. For instance, in the Brazilian's race, despite starting from the seventh position in the qualifying race, he still finished second.(Seventh places fetches 2 points while second position fetches 8 points)

Sustaining achievement is all about doing your best all the time, and hope the desired result will be favorable to you. But like in life, the results are dependent on too many external factors and therefore cannot be controlled. What can be controlled is one's effort and the desire to be better than yesterday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Self-driven Learning enables students to fully compensate for insufficient reputation of Tier 3 MBA institute

Because of the proliferation of MBA institutes in the country, it has now become more and more difficult to get jobs. There are Tier 1 institutes which consist of IIMs, IBS and others where one gets job quite easily. In Tier 2 institutes like Symbiosis, PUMBA, JDBIMS and others, getting a job may be easy, although getting a desired job takes some focussed effort and planning. In Tier 3 institutes, even getting a job is difficult. Many students are not placed at these institutes. Students in Tier 2 and Tier 3 institutes therefore have to take extra effort to achieve their goal.

Getting desired job for students of Tier 2 MBA institutes and below

In Tier 2 MBA institutes, if a student has to find a desired job, he/she has to do some serious plannng and engaged in disciplined effort. If you have seen the figure in the earlier blog, you will undersand that this is the step 2 problem. The MBA student has to understand one's strengths, match with one's desire, and then determine the domain ( such as FMCG, Software or telecom) and function ( sales, marketing or servicing) in which one should pursue a job. Only after this thinking has been done, a MBA student should make a list of 'probable employers'. Because of the rigor of thinking that has been done in step 2, the student will be able to match the right employer ( which is step 4) and therefore be able to increase his chances of getting the 'desired job'.

Getting a job for students of Tier 3 institutes and below 

Students in Tier 3 institutes have a more difficult challenge if they have to get a good job after finishing MBA. I have also met some students from these institutes who not only manage to get a job, but even succeed in finding a job of their choice. What do they do differently?

Firstly, these successful students of Tier 3 MBA institutes are self-motivated and self-driven. They know why they are doing MBA and consciously know the risk they are taking which getting admitted in Tier 3 insitutes. So even if they have decided to get admitted in Tier 3 MBA institute due to monetary or other reasons, they are aware of the downsides and do not delude themselves in believing that 'jobs will come to them'.

Secondly, they therefore work out a plan that will help them compensate for their poor reputation of institute.  To make this plan. they take help of a mentor who is working in industry, or take help of a professor who is well aware of the challenges, or a senior student who has been successful in the industry. I have also coached many students in my coaching practice. They will make a Learning plan.

In the learning plan, they list down subjects they will learn till Stage 2( Please see this blog to understand three different stages of learning.).They will also list down subjects, such as Financial Management or Statistics, where they plan to deepen their level of understanding till stage 3. By understanding their own strengths, they will also clearly describe the reasons for learning a subject till the deeper stage 3.

In MBA, because the subjects are connected with the working in a company or organisation, it is easy to deepen the learning till stage 2/3 because you can see the actual functioning of these concepts in a company. For instance, if you are learning budgeting, you can actually go to a company and see how they 'budget' and if the 'academic principles of budgeting' are being followed or not? And if they are not followed, what are the practical reasons of not following it? Be it performance appraisal system in HR, or Branding in Marketing, or three stage calling of Sales, every course in MBA can be learned at a deeper level by seeing how it happens in a working company. This is one big advantage of doing MBA.

These successful MBA students use different tricks to facilitate this learning. As time is limited, they chose the subjects that they must learn in depth. These students also do projects in groups of 3-5 students so that limited time can be productively used for learning. They make full use of visiting faculty (who is working in a company) to increase the depth of their learning. They take help of their parents and friends of their parents to approach companies where they can do live summer projects, instead of doing projects done by last year students. They extensively use Harvard case studies ( available on net in free) to enhance their learning.

Because these students in Tier 3 MBA institutes are driving their own learning, they also look more confident and assured. In short, they not only compensate the disadvantages of Tier 3 institute, but also use it to learn a non-cognitive trait which is rare: confidence and grit. In short, they convert crisis into opportunity. Which company will not like to recruit these kind of students?

If you want to follow the practice of these successful MBA students in Tier 3 institute, find a mentor, senior, professor or a coach who can guide your learning.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You are rarely rejected in interview due to inadequate English communication

Last week, I went to a MBA college for conducting a seminar on how to 'deliver an impactful interview'. These kind of  seminars are quite popular in MBA colleges. Mock interviews are planned in these seminars to help students get a sense of a live interview. Here is a case of a girl, that was interviewed, called Priyanka.

Priyanka had an excellent resume. She was a confident Arts student who had passed with distinction. Had participated in different kinds of activities like dramatics, elocution, debate and others. Had done a certificate course in German. It was a dream resume for a recruiter. 

However, when a question was asked 'Why have you done MBA?'.  She was unable to weave her background and present a 'convincing case' of what made her leave Arts and do MBA? Why did she take up MBA finance? She gave reasons that 'forced' us to ask more questions. With more and more questions, her lack of reflective thinking got exposed. Instead of emerging as a person with a strong profile, she emerged as a confused person with no sense of direction. Despite strong credentials, anyone would have rejected her in an interview. 

Then we interviewed another person, Sadanand. 

Sadanand had a working experience of 2 years in manufacturing companies of repute. He chose to do MBA in production. In the mock interview, he could not demonstrate that he is strong in concepts of Production, because he was unable to speak coherently about his 2 months summer project he did in a manufacturing company. Neither could he explain his 2 years of experience of production and the difference that MBA has made in his thinking. Surprisingly, he spoke about his experience in details which made us realise that his experience was good. But he was unable to explain how it increased his capabilities. Despite his excellent background experience, anyone would have rejected him in the interview. 

What went wrong in the interviews of Priyanka and Sadanand?

On the surface both examples look similar. Both seem to be having 'communication problem' of English. But, if you dig deeper, you will realise that ' inability to communicate' is just a symptom. Root cause lies elsewhere. To help you understand the root cause of the problem, please see the diagram below and pause for a while. You will realise that 'interview' is the last step in the process of getting a job.

If you have seen the above diagram, you will realise that Priyanka's rejection resulted because of the step 1, not because of lack of English communication. Because she did not understand her 'arts strengths' or the principles of 'excellence' to utilise arts in management, she never made a PLAN for herself. And because she never made a plan, she did not do consciously use the opportunities in MBA to channelise her arts background. Because she had not explained to herself why she was doing MBA in Finance, despite being good in Arts, how could she explain it in interview? Her problem of communication occurred because she had not thought about her strengths and constraints and made her 'Excellence Plan' consciously. Here problem of communication in the interview was just a symptom. Her root cause of Interview rejection was her inability to think through her strengths and excellence principles and make a plan that will help her strengths productively. In the interview, this lack of thinking only became visible. 

Sadanand's lack of communication, on the other hand, resulted due to step 3. He did not draft his resume properly. For instance, his resume explained his summer MBA project in 2 lines and his two years of production experience in 6 lines. Because he could not 're-articulate' his production experience and summer project, his mind could not 'connect' them together. And because his mind did not connect the two, he was not ready to weave together a coherent 'narrative' ( a consistent story) that will display his strengths in production. In other words, his problem of communication stemmed from his inability to integrate and connect his 'experience of 2 years' and his 'MBA project' with his MBA degree, not because of his lack of communication. I even requested Sadanand to explain his strength in his native language, Marathi. He could not still communicate this integration. Root cause of Sadanand's interview rejection was not communication, but his inability to integrate his experience with MBA. Because he had not 'connected' his production experience and summer project, he could not draft his experience in the resume properly. He merely drafted them in few lines. Many MBAs make this mistake. Unable to understand how resume can be utilised to 'lead' the interviewer to ask the 'desirable questions', they miss the opportunity and curse themselves later.

Sometimes, the root cause of the problem is in step 2. Unaware of one's strengths, one chooses wrong employers, or wrong jobs, and hope that one can get selected by chance. Sometimes the root cause may also lie in Step 4, but not in communication. For instance, even if you learn to present your credentials in the interview in an impactful manner, you may still not get selected because your 'skill sets did not match with what the employers required'. MBA's miss this 'matching step' because they are not aware of the skill market and therefore do not think in advance about the skill mismatch. They go unprepared for the interviews and get rejected because they are not prepared to answer the questions on 'mismatch of skill sets'.

Conclusion

As you will observe from the above diagram, the cause of 'Interview rejection' is rarely 'English communication'. The 'lack of english communication' is merely a symptom that is visible in the interview. The root cause of interview rejection lies in the earlier steps, either step 1,2 or 3. In my experience of coaching students of last 5 years, i have not observed a single student where the root cause of 'interview rejection' was due to difficulty in 'English communication'. 

In short, the problem symptom of getting a desired job in MBA may become visible in the interview, but its root cause lies in the earlier steps. If you plan to maximise your investment of time and efforts in MBA, you must think through right from step 1. That will help you gain maximum advantage of your opportunity of doing MBA. Step 1 of drafting an excellence plan is perhaps the most important step. I have observed some students fare excellent in an interview, despite their poor English communication, simply because they have undergone the Step 1 diligently. 

If you think for a while, the same principles of four steps are also applicable if you are doing engineering, commerce or any other graduation. 

Students fare poorly in the interview not because they cannot communicate, but because they have not made any plan that integrates their experience and skills. They just meander around in doing MBA (or their graduation) and waste multiple opportunities of excelling, thus robbing them of the self-respect. It kills their curiosity. It makes them sit as ducks waiting to be fed. It forces them to accept the 'instructions' of their teachers meekly without questioning their purpose; it makes them copy patch-up solutions for problems for which they must have dug deeply.   And then, is it surprising to find, that when they finish MBA( or graduation), they lack any confidence to take charge of their lives ( leave alone interview)? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do not pursue single skill in today's economy

In the blog on skill combinations, i had written that in aesthetic fields, indepth skills in one field - be it playing guitar, singing, drawing -  are more useful than combining two skills, say of music and drawing. When i heard the concert of Salil Kulkarni and Sandeep Khare last Sunday at Kalidas Natyagruh, i realised that i was mistaken.

Here are two diverse personalities who have created something unique by combining two different skills: Music and Poetry. Salil Kulkarni has been a musician. He learnt music at a very young age. He has composed music for many albums. On the other hand, Sandeep Khare has been a poet. His interest in music comes from his parental background in music. He calls himself a poet who can sing.These two met each other after hearing about others work, found a common 'passion' in presenting poetry with music, and started this concert where poems are recited and sung.

No one could have imagined the success of this concert. It was 880th show when i heard it last week. But after hearing the concert now, one can easily guess the reasons of success. In my view, the concert is successful because it fuses thought and emotion. When we hear poetry alone, we use intellect to understand the brilliant expression of a beautiful and sometimes complex thought in very few words. When we hear music alone, we have to use our senses, the sense of hearing. We would not go to poetry concert until we are a poetry lover, and we would not go to music concert until we are a music lover. But because of this combination of poetry and music in one concert, many of us like to go to this concert because we can hear our own thoughts presented in a nice way. The experience of concert is more 'complete' and  'fulfilling', because we are fusing our body ( senses) and mind ( intellect) together in one whole.

In today's world, you will observe an array of interesting jobs where skill combinations are more important than deep skill in one area. In some jobs, the skill combination is done by one person, while in some jobs the skill combination has to be done by two different persons, because the specialities are too deep to be learnt by one person.

Skill combinations in one person

Here is a sample list of skill combinations that an individual can combine in his work:
  • Sports Combinations - Sports coach is a combination of enough knowledge of game, say football, and how the skill of game grows in a player. Jose Mourinho is an example of a football player who became coach. If you see back end jobs in sports - like sports commentators, sport umpires, sport administrators, sport event managers - you will see that the sports field  requires people many people who have combination skills, than one dimensional skill like football
  • Music engineer: In this combination, the skill of music can be combined with the skill of engineering. Please check out this link and you will be surprised to observe the numerous ways in which music can be combined with other skills. Another example of music combination is film direction. Many directors like Raj Kapoor and Subhash Ghai have succeeded because they could combine 'music' in their film very seamlessly with their 'film story'. Music field requires many professionals with skill combinations, than just a single skill of music alone.  
  • Manager - is a combination of one focused skill such as engineering Plus enough 'Mind growth' (mental growth that we discussed in an earlier blog ) that is required. That is why all doers cannot become managers. That is why all players cannot become good captains. One such example is Sachin Tendulkar. Skill combination of manager or supervisor is in high demand all the time. 
  • Software combinations - Practically everything in software, the fastest growing sector in any economy, requires combination of two skills. For example, ERP analyst in SAP requires understanding the underlying business process ( of sales or production) along with the 'software' skill.
If you observe the increasing specialities in today's economy, it is obvious that the growing areas of excellence in today's economy are not the areas of excellence in one speciality, but those areas that require combination of two specialities. For instance, it is not surprising to observe that fastest growth in the last two decades has been in the field of MBA, the field that requires a combination of skills, not just sales alone, or production alone, or finance alone. 

Skill combinations done by two people

Growing specialisation in today's economy also makes it imperative that, to produce something unique, one should collaborate with someone else to combine the two skills. Salil Kulkarni's collaboration with Sandeep Khare is one such example. In other words, the skill of collaboration is not just a nice-to-have skill, but it is highly useful skill that can make a huge difference in one's career. However, in our academic education, where individual performance is encouraged, this skill of collaborating with others is not learnt unconsciously by graduates. Graduates have to learn this skill consciously and deliberately.

Another skill of great premium today therefore is a great combination skill called entrepreneurial skill. An entrepreneur, to be successful, has to be a master in combining two or more skills. After understanding the market  and discovering an unsolved problem, he must possess the skill of bringing diverse skills together to 'solve' the given problem. He must have the vision of solving the bigger issue and be able to 'sell' the vision  to others to bring them together on a common platform.

In short, it is far more prudent to pursue skill-combinations in a career, either alone or with some other person, because that is far more profitable and useful in today's economy.

How are you getting prepared to survive and flourish in today's specialised economy? Is it by developing one skill? Combining two skills within yourself? Or combining two skills of two different people? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taming the beast of Emotion is the first step towards mental growth

Mind adopts various practices to function effectively, but while doing so, it also creates a beast that tries to takeover every situation. It therefore has to be tamed. Because, as we have discussed earlier, without mental growth, even intellectual growth stops. And without taming emotions, we cannot grow mentally. Let us understand why emotion beast has to be tamed and how.

Minds need the power of Emotions

To take quick unconscious actions or decisions, mind uses emotions. When we, for instance, wear a black pant instead of grey, we are using our 'emotion'. Or when we decide that we are not going to ask for help from a friend, because he is condescending, we are using emotions to take a decision. When we are backing our friend in the fight with another person, we are using emotions to help us take the action. When we are using our friends to clarify doubts about the subject, our emotions are helping our learning. When we are studying late night for an exam, emotions are propping us to study even when we feel sleepy.

Emotions also misguide us

Many times emotions help us take the right decisions. However, they also misguide us. When we have to ask help from a condescending professor ( not a friend), our first emotional reaction is to ignore the professor. We have to avoid the emotional cue to seek help. When we are agreeing with the friend blindly to grease hands of a traffic police, ignoring our strong beliefs of right versus wrong, we are doing damage to our belief system.

In other words, sometimes you have to heed the emotion and flow with its direction, such as when we are using it to study at night even while feeling sleepy. But sometimes, like in case of asking help from a nasty professor, we have to avoid to flow with the emotional cue and manage to find a way to ask for help from the nasty professor. If we do not tame the beast of emotion, we take wrong actions.

Taming the beast therefore is important

Without taming the beast of emotion, we either flow with the emotion at wrong times ( such as when we are mad at anyone who has brushed our motorcycle in the traffic) or refuse to go against the flow even when it is right for us ( such as when we have to ask questions to a nasty professor despite the fear of embarrassment).

Without taming the beast of emotion, we continue to take make wrong choices, ignore important information, and simply create difficulties for ourselves. Without taming the beast of emotion, we react like Pratham who left  a good job because he flowed  with his emotional cue. Without taming the beast of emotions, we justify emotions to take wrong decisions. By taming emotions, we use the emotions as inputs to take right decisions.

Steps in taming the beast of emotion

Taming emotions means taking four steps to dissolve or resolve the emotion. Each step is critical. One cannot avoid a step and jump to the next.

Step 1 is to accept the emotion as-is. We often intellectualise emotions, assuming that we should not 'feel' an emotion. For instance, when we dislike the professor for forcing us to stand in the class for not answering a question, we must feel the 'down' emotion fully and completely without any ifs and buts. Or when we feel 'down' when our parents praise our brother, we should accept the emotion first. We should not rush to explain the kind of emotion we are feeling or why we are feeling. Neither we should intellectualise it by saying that the 'teacher was 'wrong' or my parents were 'right' in praising brother for the right incident.

Most of the emotions 'dissolve' when we feel them fully. For instance, if we are stressed because of the oncoming exam, we can dissolve the stress if we sit calmly and feel the emotion of stress fully. Or when we are anxious about the friend not calling on mobile, we can dissolve anxiety if we accept the feeling of anxiety fully. Sometimes, accepting emotions fully dissolves the emotion. No more processing is needed. On the contrary, if we damn the emotion inside and do not express it, it remains inside and expresses itself without any warning. If you are angry at your mother's constant 'reminders', and cannot express it, your anger will get provoked on a completely different incident with your mother.

Step 2: Only after the emotion is accepted as-is, we should try to name the emotion in order to resolve it.

For instance, can the emotion of being 'down' ( in the above case) named as the emotion of 'hurt' or 'frustration' or 'anger'? Are we angry because our professor insulted us infront of the class friends, or are we hurt because he exposed our ignorance?Or are we frustrated with ourselves that we could not answer the question despite knowing the answer? If you have learnt to accept your emotions uncritically (which is step 1) without any defense, you will know which of the three emotion is strong?

This stage is equally critical. Being able to name the emotion helps the resolution of emotion. In odd situations, you may experience a mix of two emotions that you cannot segregate easily. 

Step 3 is unravel the underling belief of emotion by peeling layers beneath the emotion. As we said, sometimes, this step of resolution may not be necessary if the emotion dissolves.

Continuing the above case further, if you conclude that you are feeling the emotion of 'hurt' when professor asked you the question, you must examine the underlying belief that is generating the emotion of 'hurt'. Do you believe that 'being seen as ignorant is a sign of incompetency' or 'not knowing something is a sign of stupidity' ? Your belief is generating the emotion. These beliefs act like unconscious thumb rules that generate the emotion. Some of these unconcious thumb rules ( or beliefs) have long term significance. For instance when you do not want to chose 'drawing as career', because your belief is that "drawing is just a hobby', then you need to dig deeper to find if your belief is standing on the legs of 'facts' or on the legs of 'assumptions or conclusions'.

Mind uses beliefs to help it take quick decisions. Mind keeps unproven and untested facts as assumptions or conclusions in the bucket to make this quick decisions. Daniel Kahneman calls this type 1 mind. We cannot hope to re-evaluate our every belief practically. But some beliefs need to be re-evaluated if we have to keep our winning habit intact. Especially the beliefs about creating outcomes, wealth , social structures, governance and career-success have to be re-checked early in life. Rechecking, and correcting the belief is a laborious process and becomes difficult to correct it later. That is why it is important to adopt the right 'winning' beliefs at an early age. How does one verify if the belief is right? Right beliefs are the beliefs that are closer to 'as-is reality'.

Step 4: is to verify the 'fact index' of belief. If the belief is based not on 'fact' ( as determined by scientist and researchers), we have to let go that belief, even if we strongly believe in that belief.

For instance, does small class-size benefit child education or not? Surprisingly, researchers have not been able to find strong correlation between class size and child education. So, even if we like to believe that small class size facilitates child education, it is not yet true. In social arena, we hold many such beliefs, despite their lack of evidence. Unlike physical sciences, social sciences are prone to many verification errors that slowly come to light. Our mind needs to remember this if it has to preserve its capacity to process rationally. If we forget this, mind mixes facts and assumptions together. Slowly and surely, it hampers intellectual growth, because instead of seeing as-is reality, we start seeing the reality through our biased eyes !

Summary

On the one hand, emotions affect our choices, decisions and conclusions instantaneously. They help us live our life on 'auto-pilot' and leave our conscious mind ( what Daniel Kahneman calls type 2 mind) to grapple with intellectual issues. On the other hand, wrong reliance on emotions have to be guarded because they prevent our mental growth ( which in turn impacts our intellectual growth sooner or later). Emotions affect our mental growth in two ways. One, because they color our feelings ( as good or bad), our type 1 mind cannot process an event accurately. And two, by influencing our beliefs, they unknowingly impact many decisions and choices taken by type 1.

Incorrect processing of emotions are the biggest source of blunders in a student's life. Even if you can take help on the third and fourth step from a mentor or coach ( like your parents), first two steps of resolving an emotion have to be learnt and practiced by you. Otherwise, like Pratham , you will be blind to your own actions ! Instead of using coach to understand yourself better, you start using mentor or coach to justify your actions or to control the damage that is resulting from the actions.

Source: Nathaniel Branden: Disowning Self and Daniel Kahneman: Thinking slow and fast

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Winning lessons from Andy Murray's triumph


Andy Murray won the first Grand Slam title after losing four Grand Slam finals. Like he said in his interview " I knew it would happen. But i was wondering when?". 

Murray's US open final match against Djokovic is a classic example of how achieving desired results is more of a battle against oneself than a battle against a competitor. In 2010, Murray cried when he lost the Australian Open final to Federer and he sobbed again when he lost the Wimbledon final to Federer in July 2012. But if you have seen his US open match on Monday night 1.30 am IST, you will understand the three principles of achievement that were described earlier.


1. Achieving desired results is about making multiple choices to develop your strength 


Andy Murray is a defensive player, but Ivan Lendl, who became his coach 7 months back focused on developing his forehand aggressively. Boris Becker credited this aggressive forehand as a significant factor in the win( Please refer to his TImes of India article ). It is important to focus efforts on one/two areas because one cannot dissipate energy in too may directions. 


Developing one strength takes lot of time,practice and lot of micro decisions over a long period of time. Observe what Ivan Lendl, his coach, said about his practice over a period of 7 months. As Ivan lendl, his coach said, "Both Andy and I were saying, 'Give us six to nine months'," the 52 year-old said. "Do the maths. You can help somebody, clearly, in a very short period of time. "However, it takes longer than that to help more, for the progress to set in. You cannot do that in one week, you cannot do it in one month."


Lessons for graduate students: What strength areas have you focused during your graduation? Out of the various subjects, which subjects have you focused on? If you are graduating as IT Engineer, are you focusing on Systems design or C language development? Or requirement analysis? or Security aspects? Given the extensive syllabus, one cannot give equal time to all the subjects. In order to reach 1000 feet depth in a subject, it is necessary to chose certain subjects to focus. What have you focused on? And more importantly, you have to make many micro decisions to remain focused on your strength.


2. Achieving desired result is about using the forced situations ( good or bad)differently 


The second aspect of achievement is about utilising different events that one does not choose, but one is forced into. 
Observe how Ivan Lendl helped Murray used the loss of Australian open 2012 to Djokovic. "To me, one of the most important matches of Andy's year was his loss to Novak in the Australian Open semi-final, because that was a war just like this one. It gave him the belief that he could hang in with these guys.  It showed him what it took to win." 

"Ever since he partnered with Ivan Lendl, Murray has been a better player, most importantly with his attitude and his approach in difficult situations", said Boris Becker


Lessons for graduate students: How are you using the forced situations in your life to grow ? As we have seen,  mental growth is more important. For instance, if your lecturer of C Programming likes to discourage students, how are you using this forced situation? Are you for instance using the discouragement to prove his worth? Or are you using free online websites to learn C programming?


How are you reacting to forced situations to enhance your learning? More than your ability to weather tough situations,this ability to use force situations will help you develop a 'i-can' mindset instead of 'i-am-a-victim' mindset. This winning attitude will go a long way in helping you win in your life.


3. Achieving results is about winning the battle with your mind's demons 



"In the past, we all accused him of losing big matches because of his state of mind, not necessarily because of his tennis". Boris Becker said in his above interview about Murray. In Murray's case, therefore it was clear that he was fighting a big battle with his mind's demons. 

Because of losing four Grand Slam finals, he had to keep away the 'self doubt' and somehow find a way to believe that he can still win the Grand Slam. Murray did not assume that this demon will somehow be reigned;  but like a winner he took one concrete step in reigning this demon. He hired Lendl (who had not coached before) as a coach ? By hiring Lendl as his coach, who also had lost four Grand Slam Finals before winning his first Grand Slam final, Murray took a big step in controlling this demon. 

 From the US open final match statistics, one can safely infer that Murray managed to reign his mind's demons.His 9 breaks of serve and 56 unforced errors clearly showed that the match was not played to his best ability. Despite this, Murray managed to keep his composure. Despite losing two set lead, he managed to check his demons in time and still manage to produce 'just good enough' performance in the fifth test and win. 

Lessons for graduate students: What are you doing to conquer your mind's demons? Are you getting stressed that you will not get a job after graduation, or are you using that stress to study the job industry in advance and get your desired job? Are you getting overwhelmed by the college studies, are you still managing to put your best in studying those subjects? Have you allowed your difficult teachers to raise your self-doubt, or are you still nurturing your 'can-do' mindset and finding someone else to teach you?

Summary

Most importantly, achieving results is not about winning a match, even it is a Grand slam final.  As Andy Murray nicely said in his interview "I am happy to be a part of this era in tennis. I always said that maybe if i played in another era maybe i would have won more, but wouldn't have been as good a tennis player'. That is a prayer of a top class Achiever. Winning is not the end, it is just a means to an end. 
It is about stretching oneself to one's fullest potential. It is about rewriting the meaning of achievement. It is about finding God on this earth. 

Are you nurturing the three practices of Achievement consistently?  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

To sustain achievement, mind training is more important

Mind training versus intellectual training

When we go through life, we have to train ourselves. We train in two ways: intellectually and mentally. Intellectual training is learning new concepts ( such as marketing strategy, Java or Cancer treatment) and applying them in real  world. Mind training is about learning to see the as-is situation/event ( reality) without getting biased by one's feeling or interpretation. 

Although both are different, they are also related. Mind training definitely stops intellectual learning. For instance, after attending a period, of say maths or chemistry, when we accept that we cannot understand the chapter, we can do something to correct our situation. But if we distort the reality and refuse to accept that we have not understood the chapter of maths, we are stuck up. When we can see as-is reality without distortion, we can respond to the situation with far more options. Without mind training intellectual learning gets hampered sooner or later.

What is mind training?

In real life reality is not as one-dimensional like 'not understanding a chapter in mathematics'. When we are interacting with a friend, for instance, situation ( or reality) has multiple perspectives or views. For instance, in an argument with our friend, multiple perspectives exist of the same reality. Did the friend insult me because i hurt my friend first? Or did he insult me because he misunderstood me? In such a situation, seeing multiple perspectives of the same reality from different angles is critical, because seeing only one partial perspective of a situation will drastically reduce our options. In multi-dimensional reality, trained Mind is important to increase our options.  

Training Mind is difficult, because it is very easy to see only one perspective (view) and stick to it. We avoid seeing different perspectives of same reality due to our biases. Such as Likability bias. For instance, if we do not like our friend, we avoid to see his view of reality. Or the confirmation bias. If we have already concluded that we are right, we will refuse to see any other view of reality. Or availability bias. We will search only for that information which is available to us, refusing to consider any other information. Or recency bias. We will use only recent information that will confirm our view, instead of using distant information of past ( like what happened a week before with our friend).

Because of the way we grow, we inherit many biases from our cultural, social, religious beliefs which make it more difficult to see multiple perspectives of a situation.Because of the above difficulties, training our Mind is not as straightforward and assured as intellectual training. It can slip any time. It takes conscious and deliberate effort from our side to train our Mind. Unlike Intellectual training, training our mind is a solitary activity and involves understanding how our emotions, stress, beliefs and willpower interact together and with the environment outside to create its own dynamic.

On the other hand, intellectual learning also helps trained mind, when it reduces our beliefs ( biases). For instance, by intellectually understanding that efforts can produce only outputs ( and not outcomes), we can avoid to hold a belief that ' Results depend on God'. Avoiding these kind of beliefs increases our options of finding ways to 'influence' results, if not control them.

Conclusion

More importantly, we must understand that both growths - intellectual and mind - are different. It is necessary to understand the principles of mind growth and consciously practice them. If we practice them consciously, our mind gets trained. If we do not practice it deliberately and consciously, we may not 'read the situation' irrespective of the experience and age. And please remember that if our mind growth stops, it also stops intellectual growth sooner or later.

In other words, we do not have any choice. If we have to grow intellectually, we have to grow mentally. Training Mind is not a choice, it is a necessity for all of us, because it helps us achieve our monetary and career goals far more easily and gracefully. It helps us make a better society to live in. And above all, it helps us find satisfaction in our today's life.

Are you training your mind consciously in your life? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Inadequate preparation during graduation leads to bigger difficulties in unfolding one's potential

See the case of Puneet:

Puneet passed out as a E&TC Engineer in first class from a town in Maharashtra in 2012. He wants to remain in his core field of Electronics. His interest in core electronics is so strong, that he refused to apply for software jobs. He made few attempts to get a job in Electronics field but , as he says, they wanted 'experience'. When he was offered job in 'Sales domain' in Electronics company, he refused, because he considers it as 'waste of time'. His statement was 'After having studied 4 years in Electronics, what is the point in working in Sales?' Instead he preferred to work part time in some core area of Electronics and prepare for a post graduation next year. 

Have you met graduates like Puneet? I feel very moved and concerned when i meet such students like Puneet. On the one hand, they show extraordinary resolve and courage to avoid the herd of 'software jobs' and stick to their core interest. They have very high confidence in their intellectual abilities and are willing to stick to their path even when the world is going the other way. ( Like Puneet, all the engineers who want to work in their core field, be it Mechanical, Civil or Electrical, will face the same challenge.)  

On the other hand, they are naive and ignorant about some critical areas that impact their unfolding of potential. Because of their inadequate preparedness, they unwittingly create difficulties in unfolding their potential. They make three 'silly-looking' mistakes and create bigger problems in their lives:

1. They misunderstand Data> knowledge conversion: We generate knowledge when we use our learnt information to achieve some end. Until one uses the technical data to solve real-life problems, one cannot develop any useful knowledge. It is therefore important to work in technical field and solve 'real technical problems' to apply what one has learnt in graduation. Without this real-life engagement, one is not sure of what 'potential' one has in any field. Even in Electronics, one has to find the sub-fields which one should start exploring: Embedded electronics, VLSI, Mechatronics or even areas like PLC. Without experience, they find it difficult to choose the sub-field where they should unfold their potential. They falter in the first step of CTS cycle. 

Instead of choosing the potential from available options, they choose the first option that seems right to them: Do a Post graduation in technology. On the other hand, if they prepare well and understand the industry requirements, approach the right companies, prepare a right resume, gear up to give a powerful interview, they are more than likely to get a job they desire.

2. They misunderstand the domain of sales and avoid it to unfold their potential: Like Puneet, many technically intelligent students avoid sales because they do not understand the use of sales domain and how it helps in potential unfolding. Please go to this hyperlink to understand more about sales function.

For instance, Sales domains in a sales electronics firm helps one to understand the interconnections of different sub-fields in electronics, know the companies working in these fields and therefore connects them to engineers working in these sub fields, and determine the scope of these sub-fields. More importantly, because an electronic firm typically sells its products to another company ( who is the customer), one has to learn the technologies of the customer and understand how 'the supplier's technology' fits with the 'customer's technology'. This knowledge of interconnection of technologies broadens the narrow perspective of an engineer and changes the options of an Engineer like Puneet to a more realistic basis. 

And like we saw in the case of Angad, working in sales would have offered Puneet a marketable skill that is very useful in unfolding the next potential. One need not stick to sales domain beyond a point. One can always leave the 'sales domain' path and rejoin another potential-unfolding path later. But creating a solid foundation of one marketable skill increases the freedom and offers better options in the future. 

3. They refuse to seek and take help from others: Paradoxically, the confidence they derive from their intellectual capacity also stops them from seeking the help from around their world. They become too independent. Asking help from others is a sign of 'weakness' for them. Instead of understanding the benefits of interdependence, they withdraw in their own shell and refuse to 'listen to the views of others'. Their own strength ( in understanding technical domain) becomes the source of this weakness !

I have seen many technically brilliant individuals like Puneet, who live in their own world, and refuse to use the interconnections of the world around themselves. They get trapped in their own view of 'what is right for them' and refuse to see any other contrary view. They suffer and go through pain, but they steadfastly refuse to see any other point of view. Because of their intellectual brilliance, accepting other's views is a sign of 'weakness' for them. Inability to use the rich interconnections of life becomes a bigger bottleneck in identifying and tapping their potential.

We have seen three consequences of missing the first stage of development, this is perhaps the fourth consequence. We could call it creation of Over Independent and Naive intelligent student

Conclusion

As we have seen above, it is important for Puneet to prepare adequately for unfolding his potential and not take decisions out of ignorance. If he prepares in advance, he can even get a good job in his chosen core field after graduation. He can spot and grab opportunities that come his way. And if he develops the three skills in time, he can learn to use his confidence, not in refusing to listen others, but by seeking help from others.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Impact of missing the first stage growth of 15


If a higher secondary student fails to grow during his first stage of development on all the three axis, he moves to the graduation stage and faces several difficulties and challenges. But, at least,he has second chance to correct the growth if he knows early enough.


In his pre-final or final year of graduation, he will display one or more of the traits of these three type of students : either he becomes an Academically Intelligent student, Smart Outgoing student, or Bored Confused student.

Here is a brief description of each type and what they can do to 'restart' the process of their growth.

Academically Intelligent student ( 50-60%) - over-development on the axis of IQ Management

These students grow only on one axis of IQ management, because they believe that academic education is the most important facet of career development. Either their IQ is on the higher side, or they are blessed with the right teachers and guidance. They enjoy the learning and pride themselves in their knowledge.

However, their growth is one dimensional. As these students do not learn to 'Regulate Self', they always seem unsure of themselves. They talk the least in a group of strangers. Their body language displays lack of confidence. They dither and vacillate over every decision. They get distracted easily by what others say and think. Because they understand little about their mind, they are confused about what to do next and typically follow their friends.

Because they do not understand 'interdependence' and its use in their life, they withdraw in their shell. They become part of one group and stick to it. If this group is stable and helpful to each other, they are at least lucky to have developed a skill of working together. 

For these students, the first challenge is to learn the interdependence of skill markets so that they can get the desired job and get the playground to practice their skills. If they do not learn the interdependence of markets and domains, they will constantly struggle to find their playground. They must also learn to Understand Self, to decide what to do next and not get sucked up in following others. More importantly, if they do not learn to see the invisible path of unfolding of their potential, they will never get what their higher marks and intelligence promised them.

Smart Outgoing student ( 10-20%) - Over-development on the axis of Understand and Exploit Interdependence 

Students who grow on this axis are the one's who at least understand the interdependence of people ( if not markets and domains) and become the extrovert types. They understand the benefit of interacting with different students and learn to present themselves in the best light. They take active part in cultural and other events of college. They become action-oriented. In the process of interacting with students, they learn one important skill : the skill of relating with people. This helps them considerably in the next phase of working career.

If they are smart, they learn to score good marks without studying in depth. Such students win the awards of best student of the year. However, if they do not get high marks, they may lack the assurance, but carry themselves well due to their outgoing nature. Because of their ability to present themselves, they generally get their Practice ground( the job )they want.

For this student, the first challenge is to utilise his 'confidence' to develop in-depth knowledge of a specific subject or a specific area. This focus is necessary for him to guide his IQ in the development of in-depth knowledge. He also must learn to curb his instinct of action (Regulate his Self ) so that he can perform meaningful work. If he does not regulate his Self, he constantly feels dissatisfied with his job.  

Bored and confused student ( 30-40%)- Underdevelopment on all three axis 

This student does not grow enough on either of three axis: neither on intelligence, interdependence, or his self.  Because he is unable to use his intelligence, he is bored and demotivated. Because the student is unable to make sense of the interdependent environment around him, he is confused.  And because he is unable to regulate his Self, he looks like a person waiting to be rescued. 

This student feels like a fish out of water and blames everything and everyone. He is already looking for other options of post graduation. For instance, you will find many IIT Engineers in third year already planning to do MBAs. I know of a CA student who left his CA work to go in Film making. If this student can afford, he exits from his chosen education path immediately after graduation. In his situation, this is a better alternative!


Professors and teachers blame these students because they seem to lack any initiative. They are also blamed for not finishing anything that is given to them.  These students often blame wrong choice of their career path for their current state. They lack any anchor, and seem to be killing time. Because of lack of good teachers and the ever increasing complexity of interconnected systems, this category of students are increasing day by day. 

Their biggest challenge to restart their growth cycle is to find some 'area or work' ( a practice ground) where they can find their feet, gain back their confidence, and find a new target. They need lot of hand-holding initially to navigate and learn something. Without this help, their career growth stalls. As these students may have got good marks in the 10th and 12th class, they blame their luck for having missed the boat of career growth!


In which category do you fall? And what are you doing about it? 

Friday, June 8, 2012

To grow, skill- combinations are more important than single skills

In Aesthetic and Sports fields, deep skills in one field - guitar, singing, writing, cricket or hockey - are more important than the combination of skills to grow. In this field, one has to mix one's skills with one's mind set (temperament) and personality preferences to find the right 'zone' for expressing oneself.

In contrast, in knowledge work, the combination of skills is more important for growth. For instance, if one is good in sales, one has to combine it with other field - say marketing, delivery, or even strategy - if one has to grow further. This is not just for vertical growth ( growing in vertical hierarchy), but also horizontal growth (growing across functions and domains). Horizontal growth is more important for doers than for managers.

For example, let us see this field of Data Analytics, which we talked in earlier blog.

According to Mckinsey, in US alone requires about 4.90 Lakh data scientist by 2018 with a probable deficit of about 1.90 Lakh. In India alone, it is estimated that there will be a deficit of about 1 lakh data scientists in the next couple of years.

Why is the deficit to be estimated so high? Because Data analytics requires a combination of skills - statisticians, behavioural psychologists, business analysts and technologists - which are difficult to find. How does this process work?

Statisticians are required to make sense of the huge data in the databases. They will use their knowledge of statistics to find  strange correlations between two seemingly unrelated sets of data. For instance, the risk profile of a single adult is higher than rhe risk profile of married adult, for say giving , automobile loans or housing loans. This can be discovered from the available data in banks by statisticians. However behavioural psychologist is required to confirm that this data is not mere correlated data. It has got underlying causes to justify this. So he needs to find the causative factors and confirm the hypothesis that 'risk profile of single adult is infact higher due to xyz factors'.

Once this is established, business analysts converts this 'information' into useful 'knowledge' by finding business figures: single adult customers, married customers, returns from both customers, the growth of these customer population in last three years and so on. He makes a business case and converts this 'knowledge of single adult behaviour' into 'business strategy'. Technologists then comes into the picture to ensure that 'all the different applications' which are sitting in different technologies ( ERP, BI and front end softwares) are integrated to produce the desired result.

Of course, this process does not happen in the above sequence only. The process can be initiated by anyone, while others have to pick up from that place. The dependency between the four skills is however very very high.And that is what makes it difficult for companies to find 'good data scientist'.

So who are data scientists? Are they statisticians, psychologists, business analysts or technologist? Because the dependency between these four skills is very high, if you start as a business analysts, you have to learn a lot about 'statistics' to converse intelligently with 'statisticians'; a lot about 'technologies' to understand the limitations and benefits of different technologies and a bit about behaviour psychology (something one reads now in the books of Friedman) to understand what 'needs' to be understood. In other words, a business analysts must have 'sufficient' depth in the other three areas to become a data scientists (to make the process between the four skills seamless and transperant). If you are a technologist, you must acquire sufficient depth in the other three areas, and so on.

So technically speaking, each of these skilled professionals can potentially become a data scientist. But more than often, professionals do not approach their career with any 'plan'. They happen to become data scientists, because they 'fall' in the 'right place' at 'right time'. Do you want to shape your career or do you want to let the career happen to you? The choice is yours.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Best and worst jobs of 2012

A website ranked 200 odd jobs based on physical demands, work environment, stress, income and future outlook.

Can you guess which job emerged in the best job list? You guessed it right. It is software engineer. Other jobs in the decreasing ranking are Actuary, HR Manager, Dental Hygienist, Financial planner. Mathematician is the 10th in the rank.

In the ten worst jobs, most of the jobs are physical-oriented jobs like waiter and dishwasher. Surprising inclusion in the list is the job of reporter and soldier.

The website also displays a list of highly stressful jobs, which is a more relevant list for us. Airline Pilot, a highly paid job, is also a third most stressful job. That Police officer is the most stressful job is not at all surprising.  Event Coordinator is perhaps the stressful job, because there are too many 'dependencies' in the job. Job of PR Executive, which is supposed to be a glamorous job in India, is stressful because it is a job which keeps the incumbent in constant 'glare'. A small mistake gets 'highlighted' in a big way!

Did you notice one very interesting feature in the list of stressful jobs? There is no physical-oriented menial job in this list. Are you surprised? On the one hand, Menial jobs are low paid because supply is more than demand. On the other hand, they are also of low stress because one can do one's part without worrying about the dependencies. And because of the 'physical nature', one can go home and sleep without any 'worry'.

This also explains why Senior corporate executive is the 8th most stressful job in the list. Senior corporate executive, which is generally high paid, is one job where accountability is high without the requisite authority. In Senior corporate executive jobs, resources are not in one's 'control', they are only under one's influence. People who have not worked in companies, or who have not worked as senior executives, often find this very surprising.

Psychologist call his hot-cold empathy gap. It is the inability, during the cool rational peaceful moment to appreciate how one will behave ( or experience) during the heat of moment. When we are driving in a car, for instance, we cannot appreciate how we will behave as a pedestrian who crossed our car in a hurry and almost collided with our car!

Similarly, when we see the job of senior executive, we only see the perks and frills of the job such as big office, big power, large car, secretary to work, flying in airplanes, attending meetings and conferences, giving orders. We do not see the anxiety of not meeting the target because one of the subordinates was sick during the final week. We do not see the stress of 'daily choices' that an executive has to exercise in the course of job. We do not experience the helplessness of not being able to fire someone because that person compromised the function in order to fulfill the more important duties given by other boss. We cannot experience the executive's loss of face of losing an order which was guaranteed to come ! We cannot be in the shoes of the senior corporate executive and imagine the 'stress' that he or she goes through every day. Not for nothing, incumbents of these jobs are the ones who suffer most from all the chronic ailments: high blood pressure, cardiac trouble, diabetes, back pain, insomnia, and others.

I know graduates strive for senior executives job, not knowing what they are getting into. So when they get 'what they want', they are shocked. Very few are equipped with the right tool kit to deal with this stress! They are simply caught in the winch. Neither they can give up the job, nor can they deal with the situation! Do you want to be one of them?  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Use programs like Google internship to develop your knowledge

Read this news in TOI of 25 April 2012

Seventeen students have been selected by Google for the internship with its program called ' Google summer of code ( GSoC). GSoC program was initiated in 2005 to offer post secondary students beyond 18 years to write software code for various open software projects. Selected participants are paired with mentors for a project. The idea is to give students exposure to real world software development scenarios. 

These kind of live projects, with real problems, are very useful in applying the learned concepts in real world. This is what converts information into knowledge. If you have read the process of converting data to information to knowledge you will understand the impact of such live projects. This is what Howard Garnder calls 'Understanding something'. 

Look at what students in the above program are doing.  Smit Patel, a student for 3rd year BTech who has got selected in GSoC program, plans to integrate a 'bibliography engine' to the software which is missing until now in an open source software suite called Callligra Suite ( which is similar to licensed Microsoft office). This internship is for 3 months, typically starting from May and ending in July. More importantly, in GSoC, the student can talk with a expert mentor to ask any questions and clarify doubts. 

Out of the 17 students who have been admitted in Google internship program, one is from first-year , 4 are from second year, 9 from third year and 3 from the final year of B Tech ICT program. In other words, a student can join this Google internship program at any stage of his education. One need not be a master or an expert in something. One can use these live projects to apply the concepts into a real world scenario and deepen one's understanding at any stage of the education. 

These kind of live projects help a student in understanding all the various concepts in a subject, connect them together to solve a problem, and therefore build it into a 'knowledge' that can be re-utilised later. The student is forced to move from 'rote' learning to 'real' learning. A live project like this also enables the student to 'gain' the confidence in accomplishing some useful output. And more importantly, he also gets a straight entry in corporate world if he does the project well. Success or failure of project is not important; it is the student's ability to handle the real-world constraints that are tested in such a project.

There is an additional bonus in doing such a live project. A student's future education path is automatically selected after a project work. If he likes the work after GSoC, such as software, he continues on the same path. Even if he does not like the work, he knows what he does not want to do in the future. As we have seen in this blog, shifting from software work-path to domain work-path is difficult. So if you come to know that you do not like software, you prevent lot of future misery.  Therefore in both the cases, it is helpful.

Google internship program is just one example of doing a live project in software area. But every engineer, chartered accountant and other graduate student gets a chance to do a live project scenario in the final year; which imparts the same benefits: development of knowledge and the accompanying gaining of confidence. If you are working in a town like Pune or Nashik, you can even find a company who is willing to do a project for its own use and pay for it. For example, GSoC pays US $ 5000 to work on a 3-month project ! Be it in software, electronics, civil, hotel management, journalism or any other area, student must find a live project scenario to work on. There is no better way to develop knowledge. This is also the benefit of interdependency, which we discussed in the blog.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Do not glamorise passion in your life


I read an article on Sunday TOI about how it is important to live life by Passion. Example of Sachin Tendulkar has been quoted profusely to show how his passion of cricket has helped him break records in cricket. However, in my short career of coaching of about 5-6 years, I have met many individuals like Manik who could not generate 'passion'.

Manik has been acting since she was 12. She won several Gold medals in Acting at State Level drama competitions. She joined commercial drama Group in Mumbai at the age of 26, very competent in her acting abilities and mature in her outlook. In three years, she left drama, after working with several theater groups, because she could not 'adjust' with the unprofessional practices of commercial drama. She cited many instances such as drinking habits of main actors even before the act, disliked the way supporting cast was treated 'inhumanly', cringed at the abuse that was thrown at women actresses. Her engagement with the real word life of drama showed her that her 'principles of living life' were flouted in the drama world. She tried to adjust with the real-world of drama valiantly, but eventually left the field in which she had invested more than 18 years of her life.

When I met Manik 6 years back, I presumed that it was Manik's fault that she could not 'adjust' with the principles of Drama world. But as I met others during my last few years of coaching, I realised that Manik is not an exception. In Po Bronson's book, where he interviewed unusual people and wrote stories of about 50 individuals, I read a case of a gynaceological doctor** who left medicine after spending 30 years of her life getting through a toughest course.

Mary ( a fictional name) always wanted to do medicine because her father was a doctor. But no sooner did she start working as a doctor, she understood that she had a flaw she could not rectify. She lacked an 'Off button', as she says. She carried her patient's pain and concerns to her home. She was unable to separate her professional work from her personal life. She could not live her life, so to say. As she told Po Bronson, the journalist, she was forced to leave Medical profession.

Do you think Mary and Manik lack something which Sachin has? 

As you would have guessed, they did nothing wrong. Only after engaging with the work in the real-world of their work, did they find that 'passion' could not be generated because of some incompatibility. Manik's incompatability was due to her 'principles', while Mary's incompatability was due to her 'off switch'. No one could have predicted that this would happen. Sachin was simply lucky to have found his passion in the activity he engaged, playing cricket. While, Manik and Mary, despite investing huge effort in gaining the necessary skills, could not find their passion when they engaged in the real work of drama and medicine respectively!

Many writers of self-help books wrongly presume that 'passion can be discovered' just by introspecting. Vinita Nangia in the TOI blog, for instance, suggests that if you ask yourself what you are happy doing, you will find it. Infact many self-help books claim that successful people chose their careers through 'passion'. But this is like putting 'cart before horse'. Unless one engages with the real work, one cannot find one's passion. So how can one select one's career through passion? This suggestion of selecting career through passion, though wonderful, is impractical. Please read this blog on how passion develops.

Many authors claim that unless you work with passion, you will not truly discover yourself. This is true, but it is also a statement that is guaranteed to induce guilt in everyone. Since  there is no method to find a work that will generate passion before-hand, one can simply listen to this statement and feel 'awful'about oneself. 

Another homily is 'Unless you work with passion, you will generate mediocre work.'. This is not fully true. Passion does generate excellent work, but not always. For instance, Sachin's cricket passion has enabled him to break records at personal level, but it did not help him to 'lead' Indian team successfully, because captaining a team requires a different skill. Even his passion of cricket was not enough to help him learn the skill of 'captaining'. 

So let us not 'glamorise' passion. For us, who make our careers instead of writing how careers should be made, let us understand passion with all its limitations. When it happens to us, let us exploit the benefit. But when it does not happen to us, do not blame Luck and try to find passion desperately.