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28 February 2014

Creating Artificial Intelligence...

I don't know about you. But artificial intelligence freaks me out.

It all started after I watched 'Terminator 1: Rise of the machines'. All those ugly looking machines with AI and potential to commit mass destruction ? Oh my god.

On top of that there is regular news about USA sending drones to kill its enemies?Pilotless aircrafts sowing seeds of destruction?

Oh my god. OH MY GOD....

What if machines can replace man one day? What if the average human mind cannot overcome the intelligence of those machines? It has happened already. The latest Chess playing computer from IBM can think like a person. Every time it loses a match, it remembers the wrong move and commits the right move to the memory so that it doesn't make the same mistake twice. It 'Learns' from its failures.

Day and night I am crammed with the thought of AI and machines that can create havoc. I have to prove that AI cannot think like a man. I need to test it out somewhere.

I live on the fifth floor of our building. There are two lifts in the apartment.You can choos either of them. I wanted to see if I can code a logic into the way I choose a lift. I reasoned that there should be some point in the lift choosing program where a machine cannot replicate my thought processes.

I started my analysis the next day. 

As I got out of my house, one lift was already waiting in my floor. So I got on to it. I wrote the logic for the 'Lift Selection Program' in my note book, 'If a lift is already waiting at your floor, choose that lift'. I can program a machine to follow that logic.

The next day one lift was in 4th Floor and the other lift was in 7th floor. Obviously I choose the one on the 4th floor. Why? Because it was nearer. Logic? 'Calculate the difference between my floor and the current lift floor. Choose the lift where the difference was lower'. 

I did my math. My current floor is 5. One lift is in 4th floor, so 5 minus 4 equals 1. The other lift is in 7th floor, so 5 minus 7 is -2 which is lower than 1, so should I be choosing the lift on the 7th floor.? 

Something was wrong. I changed my logic to 'Calculate the absolute value of the difference between my floor and the current lift floor and choose the lift for which the absolute value is lower'.

Now it made sense. And made me more frantic. I was finding that it is possible for AI to replace human mind. 

Believe me, I tried all the permutations and combinations. I decided that I liked one lift the better. I found that it can be handled in my LSP by adding a priority master. I thought that I should choose the lift which is nearer to my home. Logic? Find the distance from my home to the lift and choose the one that is lesser distance. 

To beat the program, I decided to choose lifts randomly. That became another challenge. I will spent about five minutes, before I choose the lift, trying to decide which lift I was going to open randomly today. The programmer beat me to it. He added the 'Random()' function to the code to handle the random nature of my decision making. 

I like my lift to be empty, unless it has a hot, sexy lady in it (Which is rare in our apartment). Programmer added the 'IF - ELSE' code. 'If Lift.Contain(Hot.Sexy.Lady) then Enter() ELSE ignore()'

By now it was becoming pretty evident that it is very easy to replicate my thought process in the code. One way it was gratifying. It proved that I possessed a logical thinking process. However, the other aspect, that I was not special and that one junior java developer can write a code to replicate my thoughts and decision making process was disconcerting. 

By now my lift selection process was becoming a bit of a burden. Instead of taking the simple step of selecting a lift, I was getting into all sorts of mental contortions to beat the Lift Selection Program. 

It reached a crescendo the other day. I spent a tottured 5 minutes allowing Lifts to come and go while I was devising ways of beating the LSP. At one point I gave up.

'FXXX You, I will take the stairs'

And that my friends, no program can replicate. 

24 February 2014

Three ways to 'Remove Negativity' from your life....

The readers of this blog know that the theme of this blog is about 'Personal Growth as a Journey which we take together'. We experience together, sharing lessons that we learnt on our Journey of Life...

One of the most important aspects in this journey is how do we remove negativity from our lives. We all would be better individuals if we are able to do that. Over the last two days I learnt two ways in which you do that. I learned the third approach when I read the book 'The Pilgrimage' written by Paulo Coelho (POW-loo KWAY-lew).

As per the article Things You Should Change In Your Language To Change Your Life Forever | Life Hacker India, the first step in removing negativity is to speak the correct language. The author exhorts us to observe our language, the tone, tenor, language, key words etc as we speak. That observation and the concomitant awareness will smoothly take us to the next step which is to remove negative statements from your language,

If you are in the habit of starting your sentence with, for example, 'I don't...', you could well flip it over and start taking positive. Instead of saying 'I don't want to be late...', you could say 'I am always on time'.

Another step is never to complete negative statements.  If you observe, we do it all the time. If a negative thought appears in our mind, we try to remove the thought from our mind and replace them with positive thoughts.  Try to make this a habit.

Complaints and justifications add to your negativity. Always try to look positive and never to focus on negative. It is very easy to complain. We are all wired to complain about stuff that we think are wrong. But, try shifting your focus to what is positive. Try to find good in people and situations. That way, your mind will have no space for negativity.

The next article ( Talk to Yourself Using "You" or Your Name for Better Introspection | Life Hacker India)  is on how to motivate yourself when you are prepping for an assignment. Psychologist at Michigan State University find that speaking to you in second person pronouns statements are better at helping motivation. Instead of saying 'I can do that' it is more effective to say 'You can do that' or 'Rahul can do that'.

These findings demo that small shifts in the language you use regularly can significantly change your feelings and emotions and can improve your positivity and hence productivity. 

The next question that you will ask me is this. 'It is all fine not to think of negative thougts when I am emotionally down and depressed. Is there anything that I can do that will transfer me from negative to positive? At least remove negativity?'.

That is a good question. In his book 'The Pilgrimage', author Paolo Coelho, talks about a pilgrimage that he undertook with his mentor, named as Petreus, to a Spanish Pilgrimage town of 'Santiago De Compostala' (This was the place where the horrible train crash occurred, if you remember). In one of the Chapters, his mentor gives him advice on how to remove negativity. 

'The negativity in our minds causes pain. This is an emotional pain and is equally painful but with more emotional damage than the physical pain. Just as you forget a small pain in some part of the body with a more intense pain in some other parts of the body, a process called 'Transference', you can remove the emotional pain by transfering it to physical pain'.

'Every time you feel an emotional pain, you press the soft part between the nail and the skin of your index finger. This will cause a physical pain will lead to transference of your emotional pain to the physical pain. Over a period of time, you will start associating your negative thoughts with physical pain and since phsical pain is uncomfortable, you will stop the factor which caused it, which is the emotional pain caused due to negative thoughts.'

Another way to transfer emotional pain to physical pain is by tying a rubberband to your arm. Everytime you have negative thoughts, pull the band and let go. It  will cause a physical pain in your arm and over the period of time, you will remove the stimulus that caused the physical pain vis. your negative thoughts.

That is it. In summary, these are the three ways you can remove negativity.

1. Always talk positive. At least stop talking negative.
2. Motivate yourself by talking to you in second person or your name.
3. Transfer your emotional pain to physical pain.

Trust that this article had been useful for you. Please comment liberally if you found it suitable and it helped you. After all that is what this blog is all about...

Did this article help you? How do you handle negativity in your life? Have you observed as to what causes negativity in your life?  Do comment. Your responses may be of use to someone...

Check out my article on 'Evernote'. I used it to collate ideas for this blog post. 

Reviewing Evernote: An excellent tool for Bloggers....

As the title of this blog shows, the theme of this blog is 'Personal Growth as a Journey that we take together'. It means that I help you grow by sharing the lessons that I learnt over the course of my life and you also do likewise. 

One of the aspects of personal growth is to improve your productivity as a person in each of the role that each of us play. One role such role is that of a blogger. All of us want to improve our productivity as a blogger. We want to blog better content more frequently. One common problem that we all face is the time gap between when we identify a content and writing a post. Out of the many contents that we identify each day, I am sure, if you are like me, that you will be blogging about may be 20% of them.

The main reason is that our content ideas lie in may places. Some of them lie as bookmarks in the browser of your PC, some lie as photos in your camera, some lie as notes in the memo pad of your mobile phone, some lie in your personal dairy, some simply lie in your brain.

I am sure all of you have felt the need for a single repository of your ideas which you can access over any gadget that you have and that can help you structure your thoughts and ideas and also help you take notes. 

Welcome to Evernote.

You can download it from the above site. There are two versions, one is the free version which comes with a upload capacity of 60 MB data per month which increases to 1GB per month for premium users. You can read the details here 

My Evernote Page

What can you do with Evernote?

1. Notebook: You can create Notebook: Notebook works just like the main folder in your PC. For example, since I blog on ERP and Personal Growth and would like to blog on Investments,  I have created three notebooks one for each topic. I also have another notebook named 'Ideas to explore'. Notebooks help you structure your main content ideas. 

2. Tags: You can create tags and attach the same to your notebook: Tags work like a 'sub folder' (not exactly, since a tag is separate identity from the notebook). Since the main topic of my personal blog are 'Good, Bad, Ugly', Wisdom and Humour, I have created tags for that. For writing this topic, I created another tag named Productivity and another one called 'Blogging' to document ideas to make me a better blogger. Ideally you should have a few tags in your repertoire. Too many tags can lead to clutter of your ideas.

3. Notes: You can create your personal notes and attach the same to your notebook. You can attach a link to a topic on the web that interested you and you can add your notes to that topic. And there you have your blog post !!

4. Photos: You can attach photos and write your thoughts in the note. That is another blog post for you. I am yet to explore.

5. Web clipper: This is the one feature that I have fallen most in love with. In the past, every time I read an article on the web, and if I had some personal thoughts on the contents of that article, there was no way for me to link the Internet article and my ideas together. For example, the other day I read an article on 'ABCD', what ABCD stands for BJP and Congress. I thought of an article of a kid learning ABCD and getting confused. All I could do at that time was to bookmark that page and hope that I will come back to that article sometime when I am free and hope that I somehow remember my ideas and thoughts that I had when I first read that article. Having installed 'Web Clipper'  this has become a breeze. I just attach that article to my Evernote notebook, type in my ideas for me to review, revise and post later. Great !!

6. Scan and attach to your Evernote: Yesterday, while sitting at the hair cutting salon, I read an article on personal health and fitness. Since I had installed Evernote in my mobile phone, scanning that article and attaching it to my Evernote notebook was a breeze. I intend to write a blog post on it sometime soon. 

There are other features that I have not explored. Evernote team keeps sending daily tips on how to use additional features of Evernote. 

Point to remember. If you are trying to install Evernote from Chrome, you may face issues. In case you have problems with download, try IE. It works. 

Also, I think that Web Clipper is different for different browsers. Since I use Chrome frequently, I have installed it on Chrome.

Web Clipper Icon in my Chrome


In case you install Evernote and find that you can't live without it, you know whom to thank. (Hint: Its me. You read it here first.)

Here are some additional links on Evernote. 




I had clipped them to my Evernote Notebook to write this blog post. So you have proof of the pudding (on how to use Evernote to write your blog post) right there !

21 February 2014

20000 visitors to my blog....

Today my blog hit the 20000 visitor mark. It took a long time to get there, considering that I started this blog in 2005.

Others who started blogging at the same time as me have reached a level of prominence in the blogging world. Bloggers like Kavi Arasu, Anuradha Goyal, my classmate Kalyan Karmakar, and others have attained a loyal readership in the blogging world. While blogging has helped some of them make money, it has helped others to find a better and exciting career opportunities. 

(I am not even mentioning bloggers like Amit Verma, Amit Agrawal and others)

I shouldn't be comparing myself with others. Throughout my adult life, I have done stuff later than others. I got my first MBA when I was 31, I got my first job in IT Industry when I was 36 etc. So I won't be surprised if 2014 turns out to be the breakout year for my blog.

When I started blogging, I had no idea of the potential of blogging. I just wanted to try this new stuff called blogging. So I started off with random thoughts. 

Over the years I realized that the blog needed a theme. The blog has evolved into a theme of 'personal development as a journey which we all share'. Hence the name of my blog 'Grow Together...'

Thank you all of you for visiting my blog and sharing your views. Your visits give me the energy to continue. Your comments add value to me and make me a better blogger, hopefully.

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL !!!

20 February 2014

The 'SQ3R' method of Studying....

When I was growing up, I used to take different approaches to studying.

Initially I did 'Rote Learning'. I will cram everything in my head, prepare one or two days before the exam, vomit everything in the answer sheet and come home and forget it for the rest of my life. I soon found that as I got to higher classes, this approach was not feasible. There was far too many stuff to remember and too little time...

Then I read somewhere that you have to use all your senses while studying. So I used to read (seeing) out loud (hearing) and write down everything I read (tactile, a fancy word for 'touch'). I even smelled the pages (Smell) just in case, if you see what I mean.

I did not eat the books, in case you are wondering.

Over a period of time, this also became ineffective. As the volume of stuff that I had to study grew, I found that writing everything is absolutely impractical. But I continued for want of better options.

In between, I read somewhere that 'Singing' your subject is good for retention. So I started that. It was quite an effort to get some of the stuff into music form. I had a tough time composing music to the tough chemical formulae that came my way. I mean, try singing 'Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs or dioxins) are environmental toxins and known mutagens, teratogens and carcinogens.'
I mean....

Somewhere along the way, I came to know of the SQ3R method, the holy grail approach to study process.

There is no other method that can come close to this method. You can use this to study anything. Even when you are reading a novel, you can use this approach (now that is a 'Novel' idea). The beauty of this method is in its simplicity.

The steps in this approach are:
  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recite
  • Review
Step 1: Survey:
Before you jump headlong into reading the book, have a quick survey. Read the table of contents. How has the author structured her ideas? How is she presenting it? Is there an introduction? How do the chapters evolve? Have a clear understanding of the layout of the book before you start reading it.

Step 2: Question:
As you are surveying the outline of the book, write down questions that come to your mind. The trick is to anticipate the questions. For example, as you read the name of a chapter, imagine what it may contain. Write questions based on your assumptions. You might have already read something related. So the natural question is how they (what you already know and what you are about to read) are interrelated. 

Science has again and again shown that what you learn with curiosity tend to stay much more than what you just learn for learning's sake. The purpose of framing questions is to initiate the curiosity native in all of us. 

Step 3: Read
We are not talking here of a casual reading. Be an involved reader. Try to find answers to the questions that you had in Step 2. Take notes. Make cross-references. Link what you read to what you already know (this is learning by application). Most important is to enjoy reading and to enjoy this entire process. Try to identify more questions that you need to find answers to. 

Step 4: Recite
Studies show that anything repeated 10 minutes after you learn stays in long term memory 65% of the time. That is the importance of recitation. Make notes and try to recite the important points that you learned in the chapter. It important to speak out loud. Better still speaking out and at the same time writing it down can do wonders to your retention.

Step 5: Review
There should be three rounds of review at the minimum. One is the end of the day review. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, try to review all that you learned in the day. Try to speak out aloud the key points. In case you miss something, review the notes. Make sure that you do a thorough review of your lessons at the end of the day.

Next is the weekly review. At the end of the week try to review all that you learned in the week. Try to recall it from your memory as much as possible. That way the chances of it staying in your long term memory significantly increase. 

Next level of review is the monthly review. Try to review all that you learned in the last month. 

The purpose of your reviews is to find answers to the questions you had noted down during the 'Question' and 'Read' steps. As you get answers to your questions, your enthusiasm will also skyrocket.

Thats it. The SQ3R approach to studying. 

Note: Please do not forget to review before exam.

Regarding the other points to consider before studying, I couldn't have said it better than Ms.Disha Bathija

What about you? What is the method that you find suitable for you? Which study approach is the best according to you?

19 February 2014

My new Youtube channel

I created a new channel in Youtube. The channel is called 'Grow Together Blog...'.

Here is the url..

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi2W1ZZMo59npVvFEAxk95w

Of course, no videos have been uploaded.

Wait for further announcements here...

18 February 2014

What will you do if your job sucks?.....


Very interesting...

More than the article, the comments are very informative. There are people who just quit the job, to those who stuck it out. There are few who opted for better challenges and there are others who just gave up. Some stayed to learn, some stayed because they did not have options, some stayed so that they can pay the bills...

Interesting.

While reading the article and the associated comments, I was reminded of my first job. I stayed all of 9 years in the job and hated most of it. It was my first job, opportunities were scarce (I was jobless for about a year after graduation before I got this job). I worked for a Steel Plant, I had a lousy work environment, stupid boss, great colleagues, was in a totally unfamiliar place....

But I still stayed on.

There were two reasons why I stayed. One was that there were not many opportunities. The candidates from the place that I worked had a reputation for bad work culture and no one wanted to touch us with a barge pole. Once you get a couple of rejection letters, your interest in sending your CV veins, especially if you were of low self esteem, which I was suffering from. So I stayed on for want of better opportunities.

The second reason that I stayed on was more spiritual. I wanted to prove to myself that I can continue doing stuff that I disliked. It was my first job and I did not want to give up on it. Having stayed for about 5 years, when I wanted to leave, the job market was closed for people like me. So I continued.

But I did not give up. After about 9 years into my work, I did a two year full time MBA, after taking sabbatical from my company. That was the best decision that I took. All my classmates were much younger than me but I put in my best effort at studies and did reasonably well. 

Having done my MBA, it took me another 5 years before things fell in place for me. I got into IT and found that I had a natural flair for providing IT Solutions to Business. I did projects, I did consulting assignments.....

Knowing what I know now, would I have behaved differently?

Of course, I would have. I would have quit the day I first realized that disliked my job. Lack of confidence in myself and my decisions kept me tied to this company for far too many years than I care to remember. I still have nightmares that I am jobless and am going to my erstwhile boss to give me a job and him insulting me...

They say that you have to take decisions with your heart. Those are the decisions that you own and you will make it work. To stay for 11 years (9 years plus 2 years Sabbatical) in a job that I disliked was a decision that I took with my head and to which my heart rebel even today.

What did I lose by staying in a job that I disliked?

I missed a lot of opportunities that came to India in the early 90's. That was the beginning of IT revolution and I was there, bang in the middle of it, and the entire 90s passed me by. I joined IT industry on 1st December 2000 and since then it had been an enjoyable ride. I am sure that if I had quit when I first wanted to, I would probably have struggled a bit, but would have been much better off working in an Industry that fits with my capabilities.

But remember what they say. There is something called destiny and you will get what you have to get only when it is time for you to get it. No point in getting frustrated, but keep trying. 

Above all, if you don't like your job do something about it. Learn something new. Do something different. Write. Learn a new language. Read some wonderful books, watch good movies.

Whatever you do, do not give up on yourself. You are the best there is...

I am curious. What would you have done if you were in my shoes? How you have handled a situation like this. How have you reacted to being in a job that sucked? What action did you take to overcome it? What would be your advice to someone who is in a job that he hates, especially if you know that he / she has some talents that he is probably not aware of or not using?

Your responses could be valuable to the readers of this blog who are in similar predicament...

So do comment on....

What do you blog on?...

As I had repeatedly mentioned in my blog, recently I attended a bloggers conference called 'WIN14' organized by the bloggers group www.blogadda.com

You can check out my posts from WIN14 here and here

One of the questions I was asked repeatedly, by whoever I met, was 'What do you blog on?'

How do I answer that? Should I say 'I don't blog on anything specific' or 'I blog about  whatever comes to my mind'. The latter one is more positive, sure.

As I mentioned in this post and in this post, I started off blogging as what it was originally supposed to be, a Web Log. A dairy of your experiences, thoughts and emotions. I have maintained that approach more or less. Earlier I used to write what came to mind, but of late, I have shifted to writing articles on Personal Growth and Self Development. 

During the sessions, Amagh Desai, a blogger mentioned the need for focus while blogging. 'You can create a brilliant blog on Marketing', he said, 'and spoil it with one post on the 'Foodstuff available in Marriot Courtyard for Win14' thereby driving away your loyal followers'.

So true. 

What it means is that blogging has evolved. It has become a platform for people to demonstrate why they are special. Since you cannot be 'Special' in everything you do, you need to have a focus for your blog. 

This is the simple economic theory of 'Comparative Advantage' put forth by David Ricardo. You may have multiple specialties in you. For example, I am good at ERP, Writing and Investments. But I have decided to focus on ERP (Check out my ERP Blog) and Personal Growth. 

So, For all you who asked me the question, the focus of my blog is 'Personal Growth and Development' and ERP.

17 February 2014

Why do you procrastinate?..

Just landed in Mumbai by Indigo flight. Overheard a fascinating conversation...

This was between two people sitting next to me. There was this guy, sitting next to me, and this lady sitting next to him. Lady was some sort of Psychologist, I think and she was educating this guy about the perils of Procrastination.

This guy was complaining that he is not able to get stuff done and he was prone to procrastination. As per her, Procrastination was bad.

(It was surprising. Today morning I had listened to a program in NGC which said that Procrastination can be good. That is a topic for another post)...

The discussion that I was overhearing set me thinking.

What is procrastination? What is related to?

I can see that most of you are surprised that I am asking this question itself. 'Procrastination is the inability to take timely action', I can hear you saying. But is it?

Is procrastination is the delay in taking action or is it due to your inability for decision making. In other words is Procrastination a 'Decision Making' issue or 'Timely Action' issue?

Let me take it further. In our lives, we all have taken decisions, right? Every one of you have taken decision one time or other. (Not taking a decision is also a decision, remember). If you look back in your life, you will see that whenever you have taken a decision, you have acted on it. In other words, when you are clear of what you want, you take a decision and act on it.

You procrastinate when you are not clear in your mind about your impending decision. You wait for new clues to land so that you can take a better informed decision. You are waiting for new information to process so that you can take a decision.

Once you decide, you act. You don't procrastinate.

As per Vroom's Expectancy Theory of motivation, people's motivation to meet a goal is based on three factors.

One, Valence, it is the attractiveness of the Goal. The Goal should be attractive enough for the people to try to achieve

Two, Instrumentality: Which means that the people should feel that their efforts will be instrumental in their achieving their goal

Three, Expectancy: Not only that the goal is attractive, people should also expect that if they put in the right effort, they can achieve the goal

Let me illustrate this with an example.

Assume that You want to change your job. Valence refers to how strong you want to change your job. That is the first aspect. Unless the goal is strong enough, attractive enough in comparison with the existing situation, you will not even start to put in the effort.

Having decided that the job is attractive enough, now you look for instrumentality. What do you have to do to change your job. One, you have to update your CV, two, you have to circulate the same, three, you have to follow up...

Now you know what you want and how to get there. Now comes the third part, Expectancy: You must feel that if you put in the effort mentioned in the paragraph above, you will be able to achieve your goal. For example, if you are a person with a communication handicap, you many not feel confidence (Low Expectancy) to take those steps. 

The strength of your motivation is a product of the above three parameters measured mathematically.

And if your motivation is high, you will not procrastinate. 

Think of all those times when you did not procrastinate. What was common to all those situations?

Will you still blog even if no one is reading your blog?

Last Sunday, 9th of Feb, I attended a conference of bloggers in Mumbai organized by the bloggers group Blogadda.com.

There were multiple presentations. In one of the presentations, the presenter asked the audience, 'Will you still blog even if no one is reading your blog?'

That set me thinking. 

It was a very incisive question. It touched the root of the issue. What is your objective of blogging? Are you doing it for your self satisfaction? Are you doing it for the creative thrill that is generated when you pen your ideas and publish it in your blog? Are you blogging for 'hits'? Are you blogging for 'Comments'? Are you blogging for Money?  Are you blogging with a clear objective?

Why do you blog? I think that is the root of the question.

For me, the answer is very clear. I blog because I enjoy blogging. I enjoy the construction of ideas in my head and their smooth transition to the blog. I get a creative thrill when I use very good words like 'Behoove', 'Overarching', 'Delectable' etc. I blog so that I can attain that 'high'. 

Over the years since I started blogging, I have written some very good posts and many average posts. I also observe that over the years, the focus of my blog has shifted subtly. My blog started off as 'Random Thoughts' where I was writing what came to mind, then it moved on to Creativity as a theme and the blog name changed to 'Thoughts out of the box' and now it has settled into Personal Growth as a theme and the blog name has changed to 'Grow Together'. This I think is permanent. 

Has blogging helped me? Yes of course it has. It has structured my thoughts. It has simplified the transition from ideas to written word. It has brought me access to many talented bloggers. It has taken me to Blogadda conference.....

Has blogging had a deleterious impact? I think that blogging has a negative aspect in that it makes you a serious writer. You end up focusing on 'What' of writing and not the 'How' of writing. Some of my best writing is when I let myself go. The language is more jovial and my writing is more humorous. But when I am blogging, I tend to write on serious topics. Sometimes I tend to become pompous and think that what I write is the ultimate on this topic and that I am reaching and impacting more people than I really think I do. I tend to write posts like this one when I should also write posts like this and this and this more. All these three posts were strokes of inspiration and I think came out well.

At least writing these posts gave me a lot of elation. It is not that other posts do not give me satisfaction. Every time I hit 'Publish' button, I am very happy. But some posts make you happy while some elate. 

Who knows? May be it is not the blog that is changing me. It is me that is becoming serious and this is reflected in my blog.

(What about you? Will you blog even when you know that no one is reading your blog? Or are you one of those 'Statistics Watching' kinda blogger? Share your views here)

16 February 2014

Grass is greener....

My wife, an anesthesiologist and a 'Boston Legal' fan, was talking to one of her patients, a lawyer.

The lawyer was telling her that she did not like her job.

"Why don't you like your job?" asked my wife, "When I watch Boston Global, I feel that Legal is the most glamorous profession in the world"

"Same is the case with me", replied the Lawyer, "Every time I watch 'Grays Anatomy', I think doctor is the best profession in the world"

Talk about grass being green and all that...

15 February 2014

Meeting Sekhar Kapur at Blogadda...Wow!!!

As I grow older, I realize two things...

1. It is very difficult to find people who are intellectually superior you. As you grow older, you tend to learn more and more and somewhere along, you end up meeting only people you know, thereby limiting ingress of  new ideas in your mind. You have to be lucky if you are in a position to meet up and interact with people who are intellectually superior to you. Most of us are not lucky enough to regularly refresh our intellect by coming to contact with intellectually superior people.

2. Same goes for friends. Over a period of time you tend to limit your friends and that leaves you with no exposure to different ideas and new opportunity for emotional connection.

Both of the above tend to regress you over a period of time.

The worst part about the above is you won't even know what you are missing. It is like something that is happening out there and about which you are not even aware of. So who cares?

Why am I talking about this?

The other day, I was attending a session by Sekhar Kapur, the noted film director, and I was so overawed by his intellect and his elucidation of complex ideas. The occasion was a conference of bloggers in Mumbai organized by the Blogger Group www.blogadda.com. That is when I realized that I am missing that intellectual stimulation that every person needs. I was navigating the Sahara of my life with my minimal ration of Intellectual Nourishment, when somewhere out there a huge supply of Intellectual Stimulation was waiting to be tapped.
Sekhar Kapur

I consider myself to be of above average intellect. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, hold multiple Masters in Business Management and am working as a senior manager in a leading Food Processing Company. So intellect wise, I have it.

It also means that when it comes to impressing me with ideas, the ideas have to be good and they should be presented very logically and in very simple language. Which means that I have not come across many people whom I can consider intellectually superior. 

Intellectually equal? Yes. Superior, No.

(I realize that I am coming across in this post as an arrogant moron. I have a bit of editing to do in this stuff before I publish it, I guess)

To say that Sekhar Kapur impressed me with his intellect is an understatement.

There were a couple of points that Sekhar Kapur mentioned that impressed me. Sekhar Kapur, if you don't know, supports the current transformation that is going on in the country. He is a supporter of Anna Hazare and took part in his agitation. During the QA session, someone asked him his opinion on the chaos that the country is facing nowadays. There was agitation against corruption by Anna Hazare, Delhiites have voted Kejriwal to power, there was mass public upheaval against Delhi gang rape....

Someone asked him if these chaos were good for the country.

Sekhar Kapur took some time to marshal his thoughts.

"Let me put it to you in the language that I know. I am a movie director and in many a movie I have to shoot the waves in motion. As you know, waves reach a top called Crest, and a bottom called Trough. These Crests and Troughs alternate in regular interval which we call frequency.

Suppose I am shooting a wave. By modifying the number of frames that I shoot per second, I can changes the speed of the wave. For example, if I increase the number of frames to 400 per second, the wave will appear to be moving in slow motion. If I increase number of frames to 160000 per second, the wave will be virtually standstill.

On the other hand, if I decrease the number of frames to lets say, 4 frames per second, you will see waves moving very rapidly giving an appearance of chaos.

In either case, did the speed of the wave change? No. Did wave really stop or go fast? No. Then what changed?

What changed is the perception of the movement of the wave in our mind. The perception got altered when we saw that either waves were static, which gave the idea that 'Nothing is Happening' or waves were moving too rapidly, which gave the idea that there was 'Chaos all around'.

In real life, the number of frames per second can be equated to time. The change was always happening, much like waves never stop. However earlier the time frame was much larger, say years and decades, which gave the impression that 'Nothing will happen in India', and now, with the advent of Social Media and modern communication, the time frame has shortened to days and months, much like shooting a wave at four frames per second, and this gives the impression of Chaos all around.

Let me give an example. The people of Egypt tried 30 years to overthrow a dictator and they did not succeed, and in the age of Social Media, what started as a post in Facebook led to his overthrow in just 10 days !.

This means that Social Media has led to what is known as 'Time Compression'. The time it takes for events to happen has shortened and this gives an impression of chaos"

Wow ! what a lucid explanation...

Intellectually superior people are able to give a different perspective to the issue at hand. They are able to ask a different set of questions which will provide much better clearer perspective to the issue at hand. Like Mr.Kapur did above.

There was one more instance when Mr.Kapur came out with a different perspective to the issue at hand.

Before Mr.Kapur's session started, there was another session by Mr.Ravi Subramaniam, (author of the 'Banker' series of books like 'If god were a banker', 'Bankster', 'The Incredible Banker', 'Devil in Pinstripes' etc) and Mrs.Kiran Manral, author of the book 'The Reluctant Detective'. Since the attendees in the session were all bloggers with interest in getting their works published, question was asked if a blogger can aspire to become a published author and what it takes to reach the goal.

The response from both the authors was negative. The recommendation was (and Ravi couched it in Mathematical Terms) was that writing cannot be a full time career option and that at best it can be a part time option. 

The argument went as follows.

A good author sells about 20000 copies of his books in a year. He gets about 7% of the sales as Royalty from his publication. At a cost of about Rs.200 per book, the author can expect to get about 280000 rupees per year from the book. Which is peanuts. 

Suggestion was that if you are passionate about writing, do continue writing. However, do not make it a career option. Do not put all your eggs in one basket.

The audience of wannabe writers were disappointed by this blunt assessment, as you can imagine.

Someone asked the same question to Mr.Kapur. Can a blogger transition to a published author?

Mr.Kapur said that we have to break the question into two parts. One, can you become a published author? and two, can you make money out of writing?. He mentioned that the definition of publishing is to put out your ideas out there for your readers to read and connect emotionally. He pointed out that every time you post a blog post or you post a tweet, you are publishing. So as bloggers, we are already 'Published Writers'.

As you can imagine, this lifted our spirits significantly. We were not just bloggers, we were 'Published Writers'. Wow !!

The second question is how do you make money out of writing. As published writers, it was our job to market our product, get people to try out and come back again and again to our blogs and try to 'Monetize' our blogs.

How to do that was a different question for a different time.

But for now? We were all 'Published Writers'...

Yippee........

14 February 2014

Book Review: Smart Phones Dumb People: Author: Parthajeet Sarma

Caveat: Author is a friend of mine and was my roommate for two years when we were learning Business Management...

It is tough reviewing non-fiction, Ram thought bitterly as he espied the book 'Smart Phones Dumb People' lying on his table. One the one hand, one has to read them, for you cannot do justice to a book review if you did not read the book. On the other (hand, I mean), that was the problem, one has to read them. They, these non-fiction books, can quickly get into you. Ponderous pages filled with onerous information with an author oblivious to the fact that pages can be filled with pictures as well....
The Author

Ram looked at the book innocuously lying there on the table innocence covering the malevolence of its contents, daring him to have a go. Dare to read me? the book seemed to be taunting him, you have put off reading me all these days, but you are going to meet Parths in about two weeks, what are you going to tell him? that you have not read the book that he so sweetly signed for you in your personal copy? 

What are you going to do? What are you going to do? You have to read me now, and write the review as well...

I have a better idea, Ram told the book. Why don't you tell me about yourself? A book reviewing itself, that is a novel idea (pun intended).

The book agreed, sorta....

So here goes...

Parths has spread it really thick here, said the book. I start off with an interesting anecdote where he goes to buy some fries from some place he calls 'Cardiac Arrest Nation'. I don't know why he calls it that since we were in a Burger Joint, but it is not my lot to think about stuff like that. He says, he asked for fries and coffee and the girl out there asked if he wanted fries to go with it.

Amusing start. said the book. I think Jay Leno read it here before he used it in his gigs..

Having got that amusement behind, Parths jumped right in, said the book. 

Once he got going, he laid into it. In about 200 odd pages, he let'em know his views on Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Corruption, with a prologue and and epilogue thrown in for good measure...

That is a lot of Solid Stuff to cover, Ram commented.

True, replied the book, to understand me, you have to understand him. He did his MBA, worked in Corporate World for a few years before becoming and entrepreneur in the area of affordable housing. You know what they say, being in an ethical entrepreneur in Real estate sector in India is an oxymoron. You can either be corrupt or you can be a real estate entrepreneur, you can't be both.

He has a lot of real world experience, which is demonstrated in me, said the book reflectively.

Is there an overarching theme in you? Ram asked, bit proud of having used words like 'overarching themes'. Ram digs 'Overarching Themes'. They embellish the book review. 

Parthajeet (Parths to his friends) strongly feels that even though we are in the modern, 21st century, the problems that we face are of 19th Century. Take for example the fact that many villages still do not have electricity, or the fact that in certain parts of the country we still worship 'Sati Devi' or that millions of Indians still use wide open spaces in the morning to...(book gave a disgusted look ). These are all ancient problems, as is the problem of providing affordable housing. At the other end of the spectrum (you will see many cliches like this in me, said the book, wish he had used less of that in me) you have the modern society, with their smart phones and gadgets and their facebook and twitter accounts..Definitely 21st century...

This is the conundrum that I discuss. Why are we not able to use the technology (Smart Phones) to solve our problems? Are we Dumb People? 

You will find a term called PAT (Process Alteration thru Technology) when you read me. I hold that many of the problems that we face today are related to bad processes and we can use technology to alter the process and resolve many of the issues that we as a country face. 

Wow, Ram was impressed. That is a lot of content, he said appreciatively.

The book gracefully acknowledged his appreciation. Thank you, it said before proceeding. The book was in its elements. 

You will ask me, said the book, to tell you about the best part in me. I think the best part to read in me is when Parths talks about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur. He has a lot of experiences that has culminated in me being written. I cover a lot of personal experiences in that chapter on entrepreneurship. Many a reader has told me that they were able to identify with what Parths is explaining when he is talking about his personal stories.  He should use more personal examples to emphasize his points, the book declared.

In addition, the book continued, he has structured me quite well. Parths is an architect and a management graduate. His left brained need for clarity of thought and structure is well reflected in the book. Like a good architect who designs the building, block by block, Parths has built me up topic by topic.

As an engineer yourself, you have to agree that the entire argument is built very logically, the book said.

Ram agreed that this was true.

Now you are going to tell me some areas of improvement, Ram said. It was his turn to taunt the book.

The book was thoughtful for some time. As if marshaling its thoughts. Ram let it marshal.

I think there are three areas where I feel I am incomplete, said the book. First of all,  the key idea in his book, which is PAT, comes much later in the book. When the reader first reads about PAT, he thinks of it as just another idea thrown in by the author. Only when he continue reading me will the reader realize that PAT the central to this book and is Parth's solution for many of the problems plaguing the country. 

You have to bring out your key idea much earlier in the book, may be in the first sentence itself. Remember 'It was good times, It was bad times' start of 'A Tale of Two Cities'? The first sentence held the core idea. 

Secondly, I contain many a cliche. A cliche in a book gives the impression that the author has not thought through his ideas. Of course that is a problem when you are writing a non-fiction book, you can't avoid that. Where Parths  is writing about his experiences as an entrepreneur there are hardly any cliches. I think (and many reviewers agree) this this is the section of the book that many of them liked. The lesson? in your next book, talk more about you when you discuss your ideas. Do not try to distance yourself from your ideas. 

And third, (here the book was very agitated), use 'while' dammit. Every time he types 'Whil', I am like 'not 'st' again, not 'st' again. Why this passion for 'Whilst'? Where have all the 'While's gone?

Now was the turn of the book to ask me a question. Having read me, will you recommend me?

It was easy. Of course I will. You contain some good ideas which any right thinking Indian will agree with. Also one is inspired with the accomplishments of the author. It is obvious that he passionately believes in his ideas. That make good reading.

Book: Smart Phones Dumb People
Author: Parthajeet Sarma
Published by: Good Times Publishing
Buy it in Flipkart and Amazon

12 February 2014

Ten things you did not know about India's republic day....

I read this on 'Shubh Yatra', the inflight magazine of Air India...

Did you know these about R-Day? I didn't.

Here are 10 things that we all should know about R-Day

1. The constitution of India was handwritten and caligraphed in both English and Hindi - not typeset or printed. The original copies are kept in special helium-filled cases in the Library of the Parliament of India.

2. The documents were signed by 284 members of Constituent Assembly (including 15 Women) on January 24, 1950

3. It was raining outside the Parliament on the day the Constitution was signed and it was considered a good omen by the people who signed it.

4. The Constituent Assembly took two years, 11 months and 17 days to draft the Constitution after the Drafting Committee submitted it to them.

5. Our Constitution is the longest in the world with 44 articles, 12 schedules and 94 amendments.

6. Our Constitution is often called 'a bag of borrowings'. The concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity were taken from France, the five - year plan from the USSR, the directive principles (socio-economic rights) from Ireland and the law on which the Supreme Court functions from Japan

7. Our Constitution has been hailed as one of the best as it has only seen 94 amendments.

8. The national emblem - an adaptation of the 'Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath - was adopted by the government on the 26 January 1950

9. The hymn Abide with Me is played on Republic Day as it was Mahatma Gandhi's favourite song.

10. Republic Day is celebrated for three days ending on January 29

07 February 2014

Lessons from today morning.....

I had a tough day at the office yesterday. 

I goofed up a presentation. The fault was mine. For one, I was not in charge of the meeting. I ceded more space than I should have. Two, I was unprepared on a key point. Three, The area that I had focused got less importance in the meeting than I had wanted.

I got a bashing from my boss.

The meeting ended up on a negative note. It is never good if the meeting ends up negatively. You can have many a difference of opinion during the meeting. However, the meeting should always end up positive. People should leave the room smiling. That is rule number 1 on conducting the meeting. 

That is not what happened. The people left with rancour frustration and irritation.

And I was to blame since it was my meeting. 

Today I woke up depressed. All kind of negative thoughts passed through my mind. The overarching thought was about how I could have saved the day by avoiding only one topic. I felt tired. I did not feel like going to office. I thought of giving up and resigning from the company. 

I have come to realize that whenever I am depressed a bout of cool air and a bit of physical exertion bring back normalcy. So I took my cycle and went to the local market to have a cupo' tea. 

Since I had some time, I started looking around to see what was going on.

What I saw was action all around. Shopkeepers were busy opening the shops, customers were lined up in the shops that had opened, to buy milk and bread and stuff, autorikshawwallas were cleaning their vehicles, Mumbaikars with focus in their eyes going towards their first target, which is the 'Mumbai Local' to reach their final target, their workplace. NMMC 'Pourakarmikas', the Municipal workers sipping tea and warming up to their task of keeping the city clean and neat, the roadside vendors getting ready to con people into purchasing junk.....

Even crows and pegions were flying in, preparing to find food for them and their family...

Every one was preparing for a new day.

Don't these people also have frustrations?, I asked myself. Of course they have. Don't they feel an urge to skip the day and lie on the bed? Absolutely. Don't they have the urge to wallow in their misery and blame everyone and themselves? Sure.

Do they use that as an excuse to be depressed and be ineffective? No.

It is a new day. It is time for action. It is time for energy and enthusiasm.

I felt rejuvenated. I got inspired. I was raring to go to face a new day.

There was another perspective that I had. I am currently playing a new role that I have never played in my life. This is a new for my career and I am lucky to have a great boss who can understand me. However he also has some expectations from me. If I do not live up to his expectations, he has every right to get angry with me. I should not allow myself to be impacted by his outburst. I have to analyze the issue calmly and if I am at a fault, which I was in this case, I should learn and move on. My boss is like my teacher in this case. If he is irritated with me and shows his anger at me, I should accept it with all the humility of a student learning from his teacher.

Looking at the issue in this perspective, I felt better. Much better.

It is surprising what a good night's sleep and a fresh new day can do to you...

Don't they?

04 February 2014

Hilarious News....

Read this news in NDTV yesterday. Couldn't stop laughing....

http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/delhi-couple-strips-in-front-of-rashtrapati-bhavan-478694?pfrom=home-otherstories

Sample this...
"The man took off the dhoti he was made to wear and starting running down Raisina Hill in the buff, with police in hot pursuit."

The man was naked and Police were in 'Hot' pursuit....

Can't get the  image of fine policemen running down the Raisina Hill chasing a naked man.

Little did they know when they signed up for the Police that they will have to endure this also in India...

LOL!!

02 February 2014

Do you suffer from 'Impostor Syndrome'?

According to Wikipedia, 'Imposter Syndrome', also called 'Fraud Syndrome' is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, people with this syndrome are convinced that they do not deserve the success that they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing or as a result of deceiving others into thinking that they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Based on their perception of control over their environment, the people are categorized into two groups. People with 'Internal Locus of Control' (ILC), have the ability to internalize their success and externalize their failures. They have confidence in their competence and they know that if they put in a well directed effort, they will achieve success in the end. The children with internal locus of control will attribute their success to 'Hours of work' that they put in.

Failure, for a person with 'Internal Locus of Control' is to do with the environment. They do not beat themselves over their failures. Since  they know that they can get success by putting in hard work, any failure will be attributed to the fact that 'they did not put in enough hard work'. This means that their perception that 'If I put in effort, I will succeed' is retained intact.

On the other hand, People with 'External Locus of Control' (ELC) will externalize their successes and internalize their failures. Any success, for them, is due to external factors like luck, like weak opposition or lack of competition. On the other hand, they are hard on themselves for their failures. Any failure, for them, is directly due to their incompetence or lack of their ability. They blame themselves for their failures and credit others for their successes. 

In her book, 'Lean In', Sheryl Sandberg proposes that, most often, women suffer from Imposter Syndrome. In a weird way, they blame themselves for their successes. They have internalized the notion that they are not as competent as men. So if they attain success, it must be due to some external factors like luck, destiny etc rather than their hardwork.

Not only women, even men suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I can tell from my example. Throughout my career, I have ran away from taking responsibility fearing that I am not competent. One of the best examples that I can give is when I felt that I was incompetent to take up the role of the Project Manager in ERP Implementation. That was till I worked under an average Project Manager and the customer opined that 'This project would have turned differently if Ramaswamy were the Project Manager'. In my career, I have shied away from being a 'Shift In Charge' because I felt that I could not play the role, I have shied away from being a PM (as discussed above), I have shied away from People Management....

All due to 'Impostor Syndrome'.

How do you overcome this?

One of the suggested approaches is to Write. Writing clarifies your thought process and brings out your contribution out in front. Writing will also demand that you put facts on the paper and not your emotions and your interpretations of the facts. That is very powerful. 

What should you write?

Write your CV. Build a story around your CV. Focus and highlight your achievements, however small they are. Remember, in your perception, they may be small achievements (since you suffer from 'Imposter Syndrome') but for others who are reviewing your CV, they will appear as what they are, important accomplishments.

So go ahead. Start preparing your CV now. Show the world the stuff that you are made of.