Startup Journey – Styrofoam or Ceramic Cup ?

Styrofoam or Ceramic Cup.

Continuing on from where I left off last week, I am possibly getting to a clear understanding of the ‘Why’. The ‘Why’ despite all the supplementary reasons was and is based on to run on a little experiment on my own self and find answers to

“Am I worth my salt?

The next question that naturally came to me

Should I jump into it ?

Obviously no.

I consulted my spouse, mother , sister, friends, mentors of many years. The reactions were mixed and the top response was ‘Tread with Caution’. There was also an exasperated ‘If that is what you want to do, go ahead’. However, discussing with all of them , indirectly also made me feel that these are people who will accept me for nothing. Me blessed ?

I did miss that one person, my father, who would have said ,’Go after whatever you want. I am there’. Me Unfortunate ?

One thing I had realized when talking to them, when I reflect now was that I had made up my pig headed mind. Nothing they would have ever said would have made me to go back on my decision. Me Autocrat ?

Well, I did think about my  kids education, they being in their primary education and had a lot of ground to cover. So I decided that I will kind of insulate them from this experiment of mine for three years.  I planned a bit, diverted some savings and gave up complete operational control to my wife.

On a lighter note, if I did not turn up for the next three years, my family would not have missed me.

Once I settled this,  I kind of broke it to my close peers and team who had brought me till here. The reactions were mixed from relief to disbelief and they carried it in their stride pretty well. This rather than anything else was the most toughest part of me as I had always felt that I was the collective sum of all these people who were with me close to more than a decade. I shared many things personal and professional with them and in some strange sense they were more family to me than family.

I had many night outs with them and incidentally my farewell began the same way with a very exciting all nighters’ with people whom I relied upon for decades and continue to rely on.

Next farewell was from my office, who had extremely kind words for me and knowing my penchant for running away to Himalayas, gifted me with an exhaustive camping kit , which will any day help me to move me to the Himalayas and settle there.

My team, yet again, pulled off a surprise on me, giving me the grandest farewell to me and to double it up called my family as well, and showered me with gifts that I cherish. I generally devoid of feelings towards many things material, but the watch they gave me I wear it with pride.

I still do not think I was worthy of that kind of grand farewell and there is no way for me to pay back.

I called up my close friend and told him very proudly about all these different farewells. Like all true friends, he got me to the ground saying ‘Dude. You have been there for twenty one years. They are just making sure that you do not return even by accident!’.

I kind of deviated in the last couple of paragraphs, but however out of context it might sound, I made it to where I could , owing to the people around me and  I wanted to acknowledge that before I continue my journey of personal rant. Anything I do, people first will be my motto.

To reiterate, ‘The Why’ was and is to conduct an experiment  called “Am I worth my salt?”

My Last Working day was 31/07/2015 after 21 years , 1 month , and 4 days navigating through 5 different kind of name, entity and management changes of the organization that I stepped in .

I was made to feel that I possibly earned the ceramic cup!

Today is 31/07/2016.

Where Am I ?

Stay Tuned.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Ignorance – Exposed

ignorance

I do not remember any time when I was a kid, 5th standard and above, I had asked my parents to sit with me for studies. I do not think my schooling had any kind of parent-teacher interactions. There were only two times my parents ever came to school. Once during admission into the school and once during getting transfer certificate out of the school.

The process was really simple. There used to be exams. There used to be report cards. Once the exams were over , there was an objective report card which clearly stated the marks I had got in each subject and the rank I secured in my class. The report cards were to be signed by my father. My father just used to look up at my mother and if she nods, then I get the signature. He just did not bother what I got. The governance model was very clear.  He expected me to do my job and he expected my mother to figure out if I was indeed doing my job. No words were ever spoken. Everything was body language. No lecturing. If my mother yelled at me, he allowed her to yell at me. No cajoling, consoling or motivating me. If I even attempted to raise my voice against my mother, he will gently raise his head , look it to my eyes and give me a cold blooded stare that froze me. The message was very clear. This is not a boundary you will cross , my dear son. Ever.

I do not ever remember them asking me to study. Never, ever.

Whatever I had asked, guides, associated material and if I said I had to go to tuition to just increase my understanding or practice, everything was provided. If I did not understand geometry, I was supposed to figure out , how to fix that and there was no ‘google’.

I was not allowed to know the struggle they had to undergo to facilitate me with everything I asked. I guess I was reasonable in my ask and I cannot ever remember my ask being negated. Never, ever.

As a corollary, I was not allowed to complain to them on the struggle that I had to endure to get the signature in the report cards. I was allowed that struggle. It was deemed necessary. The message was “You, better do your job”.

If I had to study late, a hot drink, whatever was available that month would be kept in a flask and they would go to bed at their appointed time. If I had to wake up early, there would be the same hot drink again in a flask before I woke up. I was given a alarm clock and I had to wake up at the time that I had set for myself. If I had told specifically, please wake me up to them , they will do it, otherwise I had to do that. That behaviour was encouraged only occasionally.

They had their daily routine and it was more a ritual. They had to go to work travelling 40 odd miles using a combination of bus and suburban trains. The bus or train never waits for them and the rituals they had cannot be avoided, to earn their daily bread.

I think was the established parenting model for people who were born between 1970 -1980. I think it worked well, at least for me.

Fast forward , thirty years and I am looking at my own style. I think there is none. I guess we are either being asked to be over indulgent or over indulgent on our own, over enthusiastic, do not want to see our kids to struggle even for a nanosecond and kind of step in too early.

I write this because , whenever my son or daughter asks me to sit with them for their studies, my wife asks to sit with them and help them, I just go bonkers. My first and possibly first line of defense is

“No one sat with me. Why am I being put through this?”. I have cried, struggled and endured my out of this. I start shouting at everyone and get into a monologue about how we were brought up and why you cannot do this, why your school cannot take care of this, why we have to pay for school so much and endure this, what you can do on your own and do not care to stop at all.

I do feel bad after this eruption which are getting more frequent.

I thought I will figure out the truth.

The simple truth is I do not know to solve their academic problems. I cannot get right a 7th standard geometry or a proportion problem the first time around. I cannot do a fifth standard environmental sciences project. It is just not in me.  The excuse is I am out of touch.

I skimmed, scraped through the surface and somehow sailed through.

I do not want my ignorance to be revealed.

When that is exposed, I counter attack with my position and the glory of my past.

Charles Darwin Said, “It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable

I guess I am not adaptable, but on a lighter note, if I have to read geometry again to teach my kids, I might rather chose not to survive!

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

 

dilbert

Scott Adams is well known as the creator of ‘Dilbert’

Does passion causes success or success causes passion ?

Pause a while before you answer ?

If you were like anything like me, you would have possibly answered that passion causes success and this book sets out to state that why that could be a wrong inference.

According to Scott, “Success caused passion more than passion caused success” and he manages to

This book is one of those books I managed to read within couple of days of starting it. Scott’s style is very engaging, self-deprecating and as direct as ‘Dilbert’. It goes out to elucidate that why so many of my assumptions were benignly wrong and he manages to explain why as well with necessary evidences

Case in my point is when someone in my family commented that they liked my writing. I felt great , but just as a test I followed up with the question of ‘What did you like in it’ and kind of quizzed them on the specifics, I did not receive any response.

This kind of illustrates his view stated below

“One of the best ways to detect the x factor is to watch what customers do about your idea or product, not what they say. People tend to say what they think you want to hear or what they think will cause the least pain . What people do is far more honest. For example, with comics, a good test of potential is whether people stick the comic to the refrigerator, tweet it, email it to friends, put it on a blog page, or do anything else active.”

The message that got nailed into me was ‘What customer do about your idea or product’.

Compare these two sentences

“I shall lose 10 kgs weight in 6 months” (goal) or “I shall exercise daily without  fail” (system)

Which of the two you would prefer “goal” or “system” ?

I had preferred the “goal”!

According to Scott,  in life, people having goals are losers and people having systems are winners

Scott talks a lot about the importance of managing personal energy , having flexible schedules, importance of sleep, dealing with failures, why will power is not sustainable and gives a light framework for going ahead with evidence based reasoning rather than pure gut.

Scott has many interesting quips and quotes. The one I liked most was

Always remember that failure is your friend. It is the raw material of success. Invite it in. Learn  from it. And don’t let it leave until you pick its pocket. That’s a system. The End”

 This book helped me to take a re-look at some of my long time assumptions. Hope it does the same for you as well.

 Stay Tuned.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Startup Journey – The Why – Episode 2

why

Continuing on from where I left off last week, it is important to possibly answer the ‘Why’. I am repeating that these are my own feelings shared for God knows what. I  think I might make some sense in the end if you endure through this.

I botched up a sabbatical opportunity during 2013. I had signed up for the ‘Teach for India’ program, got through it, despite they selecting younger lot of people. The great people at my office consented for the sabbatical, but I chickened out at the last minute.

I have been fortunate enough to be with a very good set of people who cheered me despite my many short comings. They consoled my chickening out and set the course for me to move on.

I did continue with my usual energy, but somewhere, something started to linger in my head. It is not the quintessential question of ‘Who am I’ , but ‘What Am I really made of?’ and in a year I had come up with the following list

 

  • My position in the organization, demanded someone who can make radical improvements and not incremental ones. In a way, I realized this before I was made to realize this !
  • My team demanded a new leader who can give them a fresh perspective of technology and life
  • The stalwarts in my team needed a way to see they could grow

 

And above all, I needed to discover the answer to ‘Why did I chicken out’ ?

I consulted my then boss and a good mentor as well , Mao (Manoranjan Mohopatra), and he was kind enough to give me an extremely large window possibly to test the resolve of my decision. On my repeated nudging, he possibly understood that this time around I have passed his test of showing resolve, he set me a date of mid 2015 and granted me a gracious exit, promising all kinds of help in anything I wanted personally and professionally. I do reach out to him occasionally and get the necessary support.

 

John Wooden, the legendary basket ball coach, writes

 

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 So in short, I think the Why is to discover

 

‘What is my own character?’  and to be true to myself, I guess I am on a bouncy wicket.

 

I came across an increasing video forward on whatsapp and enclosing it below.

The video is a nice little talk on ‘Remember, who you are’

 

 

I think I get the Styrofoam part of it now. I did not realize it when I was being given a royal send off and I shall write about that in the next edition.

Enjoy Maadi. (Have Fun)

Zunder

The Different kinds of walkers – A shallow perspective

walking

I have been walking a lot in the last one year. I had a goal of walking 1000KMS in 10 weeks and I managed to reach around 500 KMS in 5 weeks. I have evidence to prove that. I would not have walked that much in the last five years. I suspended the goal after 5 weeks consciously. I will write about my experiments with personal quantified self later.

I have three preferred places of walking . One is the veterinary science campus near my house, next is the JP park and the next one is Sankey tank Malleswaram.

The following observations are from my walks at Sankey Tank, Malleswaram.

 

  • The Focused – These folks know how to carry themselves. They have a pace, rhythm, and a purpose to their walk.
  • The Fitness Freaks – These folks are the pushers. They want to show their muscles who is the boss and they are pretty successful at that.
  • The Familiar – These folks look like people whom you have been associated with in some other way as well. They will give a nice smile and go ahead.
  • The Strugglers – These folks are struggling with their weight and they want to win that battle with their bulging bellies. I can be slotted here.
  • The Baby Joggers – These folks look like they are attempting jogging. I somehow feel a tortoise will beat them. But they have the motions of jogging similar to the prayers in temple some people take up in their quid pro quid for God.
  • The Just Married Romantics – These folks are the enthusiasts. The couple will be together, happy , smiling, joyful and pacing themselves gleefully. Well, it is the honey moon period. Enjoy folks.
  • The Courting Romantics – These folks sit at the benches one hand on the other hand with no exchanges between them. Even after I have completed couple of rounds, I find them in the same posture. All the best , folks. Enjoy your moment. It is going to be interesting ride ahead.
  • The Selfie Obsessed – These folks take around 12 selfies in the 700 metre path and possibly post it to 14 social media outlets before they finish one round and they finish one round only.
  • The Regulars – These folks have formed walking as their Habit. You know the time by their presence. No need to consult your watch.
  • The Dress Connoisseurs – These folks are perfectly dressed for the walk. Their shoe color matches their dress color. The observations are gender neutral. I think they should possibly have a high degree of self esteem.
  • The Devoted – This will be mostly elderly couple. They walk with the ‘MS Subbulakshmi’ Suprabatham or Vishnu Sahasarnamam in loop mode.
  • The Divided – These folks are mostly elderly couples, but kind of asynchronous in their walking. It is the mostly the ladies who lead the pack and the gentlemen unwilling make an attempt to keep pace with them. The gentlemen are clearly in the walk by force, not choice.
  • The Political Analysts – These folks are typically three to four elderly gentlemen, who have an opinion on what every the prime minister, chief ministers , and ministers should be doing.
  • The Information Honchos – These folks analyze all the leading dailies English and Vernacular and dissect every bit of news.
  • The Gang Leaders – These are mostly local bigwigs , who keep a step ahead from their followers and their followers humouring them constantly.
  • The In-Law bashers- These folks depending on the age , exchange their positions , of their in-laws. The mothers’ in law of their daughters’ in law and with due respect vice versa.
  • The ‘New Arrival’ Celebrators – These folks take their kids who have taken their first step in walking and prepare them to be the Roger Bannister’s of the world. Been there, done that. The joys of parenting in the initial years are loaded with fun. The perils of parenting are a distant away still
  • The Yogis – These folks carry their own morning pranayama in the way have been they have been initiated in their respective schools of yoga. Despite the standardization, you realize there is no standardization. Every school is different and everyone’s application of the standard is different.
  • The Right of the path – These folks are the only folks who help me to understand myself better. I have promised myself not to get angry at anything, but these folks test me on that. They walk as a group taking the whole walking space and do not allow you to overtake them on either side, despite repeated instruction on the path way to make ‘way’. I promise to myself do not ‘shout’, do not ‘shout’ and manage to nudge them in an exasperated fashion.

 

I like the diversity. Without them, my walk will be boring.

Stay Tuned.

What kind of walker are you ? I am positive that you might add more to this list.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Grit

grit

Grit by Angela Duckworth

This is what Will smith the famous actor had to say in his interview to the author of this wonderfully researched book on “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth.

“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things. You got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.”

I have been generally fascinated or rather biased towards books that tells me if a particular attribute of the self can be built or cultivated over a period of time.

Author defines Grit as “Perseverance and Passion” for long term goals.

I recently analyzed Serena Williams Grand Slam records. Her age at the first major title was 17 and her age at the 22nd major title, recent Wimbledon was 34. She has equalled Steffi Graf’s record and set to beat her record as well. In whatever way I see this, it is an example of “Applied Grit”.

The book answers the question(s) of

  • ‘Why Grit is important’
  • ‘Can Grit be cultivated’ in normal individuals ?
  • ‘How to Cultivate it’ ?

Srini Rao in his wonderful podcast Unmistakable creative, interviewed his mentor, Greg Hartle and asked him about the kind of key qualities of successful people. Greg responded, he considered talent, intelligence, grit and resilience are what he considers as the key qualities. When Srini asked his trademark question of out of these four what are natural and what could be cultivated, Greg responded that while talent and intelligence are the amongst the in-born qualities and there is certain element of natural difference, the other two qualities of grit and resilience are cultivated.

Personally as a cricket fan I think the comparables are Sachin for the talent and intelligence, not that he lacks in grit and resilience, but take a MS Dhoni, not short on  talent and intelligence, but you can see grit and resilience personified and most in our country keep them at a pedestal and possibly well deserved as well.

Here is a nice quote that I found about being gritty

In other words, gritty people believe, “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.”1

So the natural question that might arise in you is , have I become more gritty ? Well my answer would be is that ‘I am aware of where I am less gritty’ and I always myself as a continuous work in progress.

For the overtly curious you can check your grit score here

Watch her Ted talk on Grit at

Angela Duckworth’s TED talk

Be Gritty. Stay Tuned.

Enjoy Maadi. (Have Fun)

Zunder

1Gritty People

When Breath Becomes Air

tkramesh

A review by T.K.Ramesh

Please raise your hands, if you have cried while watching a movie? How many of you cried while reading a book? I did recently.

“Able was I ere I saw elba” said the great Napolean Bonaparte, and I say

“Stronger was I till I read When Breath Becomes Air”.

I have never been moved so much by a book. This book “When Breath Becomes Air” by Dr. Paul Kalanidhi or should I say Late Dr. Paul Kalanidhi appeals to your noble emotions as a Toastmaster would do in delivering his project 10 “Inspire your audience”.

When I say Late, I am not talking about an aging neurosurgeon, but I am talking about a neurosurgeon, who was just 36 and had so many dreams for his career and his family!

At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanidhi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. An just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed by the question of what, given that organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life”, into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

In Dr. Kalanithi’s vivid writing, the early childhood and adulthood of Dr. Kalanithi unfolds in front of you and transports you to their neighbourhood Kingman, Arizona, which 100 miles from Las Vegas.

The book presents interesting case studies of Dr. Kalanithi during his internship as neurosurgeon and how he coped with the stress and strain of being a doctor whose surgeries were successful, but could not save the patients who were terminally ill due to tumor or cancer.

  • What makes life worth living in the face of death?
  • What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present?
  • How do you deal with your life, when all your plans for a great married life with career and children is suddenly no more in front of you?
  • What does it mean to have a child, nurture a new life as another fades away?

There are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in his profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all.

“I began to realise that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything”. He wrote “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: I can’t go on, I’ll go on”.

“When Breath Becomes Air” is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death, and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

I would recommend this book to any adult audience who is keen to learn about vagaries of life or who is very ambitious and does not know the value of quality time to be spent on himself and with his near and dear.

THANK YOU!

T.K.Ramesh