Tuesday, 6 March 2018

You won't see results everyday but you will definitely see effort.

It is very easy to fall in the trap of getting used to instant results. 'Instant' is something we are sold everyday. Be it instant weight loss, instant hair growth, instant noodles, instant energy. It would seem that waiting is a difficult and almost a stupid thing to do. 

It would not come as a surprise you that the advertisements are lying. We are being tricked into getting used to  a world where everything we want, we get instantly. We don't want to wait for advertisements to end while watching a movie or a show, we don't want to wait for a webpage to load, we don't want to wait too long for our food to arrive, we don't want to wait to make connections with people, we don't want to wait for our cab and we definitely don't want to wait for development in our personal and professional life. 

Unfortunately or fortunately, we have to wait. The wait is what makes it worth it. It will require effort but the result will be that much more rewarding. 

Don't fall into the trap of just appreciating results. Appreciate effort. You won't get or see results everyday. You will definitely see effort. It will eventually lead to results. If you wait till you see results, maybe it will be too late. When a student in your class is coming for extra classes for over a month and his/her academic levels have not gone up, appreciate their effort. If you don't, they will lose motivation and then they will definitely not get the result. Growth mindset is a beautiful thing. Practice it for yourself and for others. 

If sustained effort over a long period of time doesn't get you desired results, don't be disheartened. You may have to go back and re-look your strategy but that one thing you can be sure about is that one time you will get it right and then you won't have to worry about the effort that it will need.

Put in effort. Appreciate effort. Adapt when necessary. Results will follow.  

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Is it remarkable?

I saw this TED Talk by Seth Godin called 'How to get your ideas to spread'. It is 19 minutes long but it is truly one of the best TED Talks I have seen. It is remarkable because of how well I could connect everything I do to this talk. 

Watch it before you read further. 

Influence is a very big word. In our world, being an influential person is a big advantage. It amplifies your impact. It helps you spread your ideas. It helps you do things that not everyone can do.

In the development sector, influence becomes even more important because having good ideas is not enough. We need to sell our idea and others need to buy it. Be it a change in mindset or action that we are working towards, we are always selling an idea. 

"The things that's going to decide - what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built is: "Is it remarkable?" "

Is the work that you do remarkable? Is the way you work remarkable? Are your ideas remarkable? Are your outcomes remarkable? Is your project remarkable? Is the way you tell your story remarkable? 

Are you wondering why does someone like you need to be remarkable?

Well, because you have the right kind of ideas. You are working on making a difference in the world. Now, it requires more than just positive intent and hard work. You need to spread your idea. You need your friends to tell their friends about the work you do. You need your friends to believe in the things you do. That's how a movement is built. That's what leaders do. They increase the sphere of influence of the ideas that they think can change the world.

Every single day you are selling your ideas and yourself even if you don't realize it.

The question is, are you and/or your ideas remarkable


Consumption vs Contribution

"So what's in it for me?"
"So how will I benefit from it?"
"What will I get to learn?"
"How will I develop?"

How many times have you heard someone say this when you tell them about doing something? How many times have you thought this when someone tells you about doing something? 

It is our default response to any new opportunity we see or hear about. Human beings are inherently selfish. It is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, we also are not naturally inclined to think about the long term. We focus on the short term.  

If everyone just consumes and does not contribute, there will come a time when there is nothing left to consume. 

How many times have you been flustered when someone asks you, "So what value are you going to add to this?" 

I believe that's the most fundamental question I would ask someone if I am allowing someone to join a group. If you are not going to contribute anything and are just going to consume, why should the group have you? 

On a much larger scale, the world needs more contributors rather than just passive consumers. You want the world to be nice to you? Go be nice to some people. You want to learn something new? Go teach someone something you already know. 

It is the change in mindset which would make a huge difference. Imagine going to an LC thinking "Today I am going to share my ideas openly." or "I know this topic really well, I am going to make sure that everyone in the group gets it." 

Now imagine everyone in the LC thinking this way. What would that change? How would the conversation look different? What would be the culture of the LC? How would you feel during and at the end of the LC? What would happen to the efficiency and effectiveness of the LC?

We are all interdependent whether we like it or not. Wouldn't you want to make sure you get the best out of every meeting, LC, session, and day?

The only thing you have to do is have an answer for,"How am I going to contribute today?"

Be Obsessed!

That's the difference between people who think and people achieve.

People who are obsessed about something mostly end up doing incredible things. People join them because they feel a sense of awe. There is a certain amount of magnetism about their working style. It attracts success and hardworking people. 

The first thing to do is find something you want to obsess about. It is not a high stakes decision. You don't have to make it your life's purpose. It can be for a specific period of time. It can be till certain goals are achieved. 

I am a huge fan of Elon Musk only because of how incredibly obsessed he is about the work he does. I think he is the epitome of 'whatever it takes'. He has what people in management circle's call 'Drive'. It is an amazing thing to have.

Think about that one person whose name comes to mind when you hear the words "She/He is so driven". Now think about their actions towards the things they are driven about. How different are they from that of an 'average' person? How much more is this person able to accomplish than an 'average' person?  How much more likely are you to work with this person than you are with any other 'average' person? 

Wouldn't you want to be this driven person?

Find your obsession and chase it like your life depended on it. 

You are not a candle. You don't have to burn yourself to light up a dark space.

A lot of times we take it upon ourselves to save the world. There is a scientific term for it. Its called the 'Savior complex' or 'Messiah complex'. I like to call it 'Main bhi Superman complex'. 

This is especially true for a lot of people who work in the development sector. It gets reinforced when all our friends and family keep telling us how 'we are changing the lives of people'. 

Unfortunately this complex backfires on most of us. We tend to start believing that we are here to save everyone from their miseries. It gets to our head so bad that sometimes we assume miseries that people have and try to save them from those even when the person in question is perfectly happy with their situation. We have the urge to 'save' even when there is nothing or no one to save. 

Savior complex, in the long run, does more harm to the stakeholder than good. Solutions of today become problems of tomorrow because the solutions that you had thought of were to surface level problems or to imaginary/assumed problems. 

On a personal level also, savior complex is pretty damaging. It makes you wallow in self pity in case you are not able to 'save' someone from their problem. You tend to feel like all problems that people have are your problems and it is your responsibility to 'save' them from these problems. You feel guilty if you refuse to save them or do nothing. 

It also feeds of our basic need of feeling needed. It feels pretty good to be needed, doesn't it? Well, its not always a good thing. It breeds over dependency without you realizing it. 

Always remember, you only have to solve your own problems. Other people's problems are not automatically your problems irrespective of what relationship you share with them. Don't solve problems for them. Teach them how to solve their problems themselves. You are under no obligation to solve their problems.

The main person you have to take care of is you! 

Why do other people's problems seem easier to solve?

The Reductive Seduction of Other People's Problems

Read the above linked article. Read it once. Share it with everyone you know. It is one article that everyone should read. Especially everyone who wants to work or is working in the development sector.

You cannot solve problems without understanding them

It is very important to internalize this. Easy solutions are great. They are easy to understand. Easy to explain. Easy to implement. The only problem is, most of our big problems are complex and cannot be solved using easy solutions. 

You may have heard your friends/family talk about the education crisis in the country. They usually combine the 'Everything is wrong' sentiment with a very easy solution like 'All schools should be government' 'Education should be free' 'Force all government school teachers to send their children to government schools'. It makes for a great conversation at a party but now with your two month or one year two month experience in the sector, you know that its a stupid solution. It is stupid not because its wrong. Its stupid because its so on the surface that it will do nothing to solve the root problems. 

I am not saying everyone needs to go indepth of everything they talk about. I am saying that people who are working in that sector should dive to that depth. It is not a 'good to have'. It is our responsibility. Our duty. 

I would like to close by quoting the end of the article

"Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on. Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that “other people” become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to “save.”"

Wolf Pack!

I have always had a fascination towards wolves and that's why I connect so much to this quote. It also has amazing connections to real life irrespective of what you do in life. I can also connect it to the book called 'Sapiens' that I am reading right now. 

I think the fellowship and all its challenges are snow fall and the white wind. Each fellow is a wolf and each LC is kind of like a pack. 

If a fellow tries to take on all the challenges on his/her own, the chances of surviving or succeeding are minuscule but if the pack sticks together and works together, the pack survives and even thrives.

The fellowship is difficult and the challenge of ed inequity is huge. If we stick together, we will be able to do so much more.

If you are wondering, "Oh but how much change can a small pack of wolves do?"

Well, watch this video and be amazed! 

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

The Ladder of Inference


Apoorv is a fellow in public private partnership school. Apoorv's HM, Sulekha Madam, calls him to her office and gives him some 'super urgent' administrative work. Apoorv remembers that about a week ago he had given Sulekha Madam the exact same data that she was asking for right now. He thinks that Sulekha Madam is doing this just to irritate him. He assumes that Sulekha Madam knew they had to submit the same data twice and still did not tell him about it because she doesn't like him. He concludes that she is jealous of him because he is a far better teacher and more knowledgeable as well. He starts to believe that all school HMs are incompetent and are there only because they couldn't get any other job or are relatives of the trustee. He decides to henceforth not share his ideas about school improvement with Sulekha Madam.

Sounds familiar?

Watch this video to see what is Ladder of Inference and how did Apoorv climbed it.

This is probably one of my most favorite topics. I use it everyday in my life to reflect on how I am thinking and it affects my actions. It has helped me improve on my inter personal relations and also made me slightly more empathetic. It taught me how and what to clarify if I sense someone climbing the ladder.

I sometimes use this to point out cognitive mistakes my parents and making. They are likely to throw me out of the house soon. 

Irrespective of that, this is a fantastic tool. Check out this link for more details on the Ladder of Inference. The website is also a great place to learn about other things. Do check it out. 

The importance of saying no!

Don't you love people who always agree with you? Who do everything you ask them to do? Who never say no? 
We feel like they are our fans. We would be nice to them in the short run because we like how they back us up in every single thing. 

Unfortunately, saying yes all the time leads to only bad things in the long run. Saying no is as important. I am not advocating rebellion for the sake. I don't want people to be rebels without a cause. I am advocating a good balance. We all have our limitations, be it time, skills or even interest. We sometimes ignore them and say 'yes' to new work, random commitments and sometimes even favors that we know we will have a tough time meeting. 

Saying no is difficult and requires a lot of emotional courage. It is not something that will make you popular in the short term but in the long run, it will make your practices more sustainable. 

Do it. Say no. 

Say no when you know that you are too stretched. Say no when you don't feel like it. Say no when you know that you won't be able to pull it off.

Be reasonable. 

Aspiration vs Capability

This is something that I have discussed with so many people who are looking to hire people especially young people. 

Social media and general exposure to the different parts of the world and the possibilities in those parts has led to huge increase in the ambition or aspirations of the youth. Our sense of possibility is pushed because we see so many people who are our age or around it doing so many things. They might be earning more money, working on big projects or travelling to exotic locations. It has led to all of us, on an average, become more materialistic. 

I personally don't think there is anything wrong in being materialistic. For me, it represents ambition and aspiration. The problem arises when ambition becomes unrealistic. How do you know what is unrealistic and what is not? Well, if your current capability to achieve the dream is extremely low, it makes the ambition unrealistic. 

I cannot aim to work for Elon Musk right now or earn one crore a month as salary because my current capability is not even close to deserving that kind of reward. Now if I still aim for all that with my current capability, it is not ambition but a pipe dream. 

Increase in aspiration should always be followed by increase in capability otherwise it will only lead to dissatisfaction. Increase in capability without an increase in aspiration will lead to you not achieving your full potential. 

Having said all of this, don't stop dreaming! 

Support Challenge Matrix

[Wrote this for teachers.]

I have always been a big fan of this. I love matrix in general but this one is my current favorite. I learnt about it during a session by Mike Johnston (of Truth and Hope) fame. He talked about how we expect such great things from our students but don't give them that level of support. It leads to them failing sometimes. 

The above image is pretty self explanatory. A lot of you have really high expectations of your students i.e. your challenge to them. The support they get is sometimes not enough. Support is a tricky thing. It needs to be there in the right amount and it needs to be the right kind of support.

We all have kids who are really well taken care of by their parents. They parents provide them everything but the expectations from them are low or non-existent. It leads to a culture of entitlement. 

We also have kids whose parents have really high expectations from them but the support they provide is either inadequate or misaligned. These are kids who live in fear. 

We also have kids whose parents send them to school just because its something kids are supposed to do. They have no expectation from the kids and there is almost no support from the parents. It breeds apathy. 

The high performing kids are the ones who are both challenged by their parents and their teachers and also get the right kind of support from them. 

All the above four situations are true for adults as well. Think about it when you are deciding expectations/challenges and support for people you work with everyday. 

Remember that the situation to be in is 'High Challenge and High Support'. Make sure you do that for your kids. 

What you do everyday is what you will be tomorrow

I am a big fan of habits. I love noticing habits, cultivating habits and even help in setting up habits. I think it is beautiful. The pattern. The consistency of doing things the same way. I know that some people might think it is boring to do the same thing everything. I believe that habits help you be more creative. Habits can bread efficiency be it in getting work done or being creative. 

Habits decide what you will become in the future. Good habits make you a better version of yourself in a systematic manner and bad habits destroy you just as systematically. 

All of us have personal and professional aspirations. They require change from our current method of living or working. My bet is that habits are the most effective way of reaching those aspirations. They are swift, clean and difficult to unlearn. 

All the fantastic people of the world have habits which are equally fantastic. Actually, it is not the habit which is fantastic, it is the ability to make it a habit that makes these people exceptional. 

What habits are you going to practice? 

How to build empathy

I was talking to a friend a few days ago and it suddenly hit me that the little bit of empathy that I have been able to develop over the course of my life has been because of my parents. More specifically, by the small things that they taught me to do. 

I used to live alone at home and during summer breaks, couriers or posts would get delivered in the afternoon. I was taught to always offer water to the person delivering the post/courier. I was made aware of the fact that in Ahmedabad's blistering heat, these people work outside so offering water was the least we could do. 

Arjun bhai is the name of the person who washes the dishes at my home. I eat lunch at 11:30 or 12:00 and he comes to wash the dishes at 3:00pm. There were once a few days when he took a leave and I was helping my mother with the plates in the evening. Now the plates had dried up because they had been lying in the sink for a while now. My mother used it as a teaching moment and taught me how before you put your plate in the sink, always wash it with water so that it becomes easier for the person who is going to clean them properly later on. I know it might not seem like a big thing but I think you only realize the difference when you are washing the plates that were put in the sink a few hours ago and were not washed. Similar story for picking up your plate after you have finished eating. 

When I started driving a two wheeler, I was my parent's official Uber moto. I used to take them wherever they wanted to go. I liked to drive and they wanted to coach me on being a better driver. One thing that they would always focus on was how and where I parked my vehicle. I was taught how a vehicle on a side stand takes up a lot more space than a vehicle on a double stand. I was taught how you should always be aware of where you are parking the vehicle least it becomes a problem for someone else. 

The point of these three instances (and many more) was that they were little things. All it required was for someone to make you aware of something. The change it brought was immense. It was a lens shift for me right from my childhood. I was always pushed to think from the other person's perspective. I was pushed to care about other people and shown why I should do it. 

My parents, knowingly or unknowingly, were building empathy. I don't think I am the most empathetic person in the world, far from it. I believe that I am slightly more empathetic because of these small actions that my parents took. 

What are such small things you can do for the students in your class? What can you do to build empathy in yourself? 

Building empathy is not a goal. Its a journey. Start today.

Open Mind

"If you are open minded, you have to be open minded enough to understand that not everyone is as open minded as you." 

I heard this line during my first ever training. You can replace 'Open minded' with any of its synonyms and it will still make sense. I will let you all interpret it in whichever way you want. My only suggestion is to keep this in mind the next time you are trying to understand someone or are working with someone whose beliefs are different from yours. :)

The beauty of learning facts feat Sherlock Holmes

I watched five seasons of this show called 'Elementary'. It is about Sherlock Holmes but set in 21st century New York. The show is only slightly above average but this is not a review. In the show, in typical Sherlock fashion, he solves cases using deduction. He calls it the science of deduction. Normal people can call it Critical Thinking. It is about finding patterns and finding clues in these patterns sometimes. 

Sherlock is a master at deduction. How does he do it? What enables such a higher level of deduction? Can my deduction technique also become above average? Those are questions that kept me busy while watching the show. In the show, he even trains one person to become an above average detective. 

One day, it hit me. Sherlock can deduce so much so quickly because he knows a lot of facts about a lot of things. His secret weapon is his ability to memorize facts and then applying those facts to real life problems. 

It might seem like a small thing. After all, it is just remembering facts. But the breadth and the depth of Sherlock's knowledge is mind blowing. It is the base on which his entire work is based. You can have the ability to find patterns and trends and anomalies in them but that won't help a lot when you don't know what you are looking for. 

Usually when you talk to someone who works in the education field or has an opinion about the education field, you will usually hear a generic, "I don't want children to memorize facts. I want them to learn real life application."  Well, I agree that memorizing facts should not be the be all and end all of learning but lets not ostracize it. Learning facts is as important as learning application. This is especially true for subjects like Math, EVS and Social Sciences. 

Any profession that you want to master will require you to remember facts or processes. Your memory will be as important as your analytical ability. Are you building both in students when you teach them? Are you focusing on both when you learn something new? 

On Death

My grandfather passed away on 5th January 2018. He celebrated his 85th birthday on 23rd November He was probably one of the most amazing people I knew. :) 

There are a lot of reasons why he was amazing. He loved his wife. They died within 30 hours of each other time wise but 13 years apart. They were inseparable. They would take care of each other. They would protect each other if someone else was scolding them. They would calm each other down. They would explore new restaurants together up until the ripe age of 70!! They would fulfill all social obligations.

My grandfather was not a rich man in monetary terms. He invested in people and got amazing returns. His four kids took care of him over the past three decades. He had a band of friends who used to hang out together every single evening and share stories and wisdom. He was adored by all his grandchildren and he adored them back! 

My grandfather taught me dignity of labor and respect for every single person irrespective of their socio-economic status. He did this not by telling me but by showcasing it every single day. He had a very clear idea about what he wanted to do in life. He prided himself of his knowledge of how the world works. He taught me it was okay to be proud of something that you do well. He taught me that not everyone can do everything well but everyone can do something well. 

My favorite story of my grandfather is how he almost raised his maid's daughter by helping the child with homework and giving the maid extra money during the start of an academic year just so that she did not have to borrow from someone else. The daughter grew up and got married last year. Before they fixed the marriage, the maid got the daughter and her future son-in-law to my grandfather for an 'interview'. They said yes to the boy only after my grandfather had approved of the boy. 

I met the maid during his funeral and she shared so many stories of times when my grandfather had helped her and a lot of other people in both monetary and non-monetary ways. I felt incredibly proud at that time. I remember thinking "Wow. This is the kind of life, I want to live." 

The reason I am writing this now is because I have been thinking about death and wondering how do people remember the people who die? What do they remember you for? What do they say after you die? Is there anything like honoring someone's memory? If you know your end is near, how would you change the way you lived? Why can't you live like that everyday? 

My grandfather taught me a million things when he was alive. I now know that he will continue to teach me things till the time that I am alive. :) 

Children are fantastic imitators, give them some amazing to imitate.

I have been thinking about this line from the time Ayesha brought it up in one of our Program Meetings. It is so simple yet so profound. A lot of times, we want our students to behave in a certain way and we sometimes struggle to make them behave in that way. 

Sometimes we want them to ask critical questions, we want them to take notes, we want them to listen to different people when they talk even when they don't agree, we want them to collaborate, we want them to forgive and move on, we want them to remain focused, we want them to take care of personal hygiene, we want them to work with the people around them to solve problems, we want them to be empathetic, we want them to fall in love with a particular subject, we want them to be on time, and a million other things. 

It might come as a surprise to you that children, just like adults, don't just do something because you tell them to do it. 

They are motivated by different incentives and are affected by different situations and actions on a conscious or sub-conscious level. We see our students turning into mini versions of us. Sometimes it is a good thing and sometimes it is not. 

One thing that they do is that they imitate. They do this really well. This is clearly visible in the kind of words they use or the kind of way they behave. They are, for better or for worse, just like you!

The questions that I would like you think about are:
"What do I do that I would want my children to imitate? How do I make my action explicit? Are they learning something from me that they should not? How and when it is happening? How do I stop it?"