Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: A Whole New Mind

After a long time, I picked up a book in the genre loosely termed as management / self-help books. My experience with this genre in past has been less than satisfying, mostly. This book, which is pompously titled - A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will rule the future - is also less than a satisfying read. 

The author, Daniel H. Pink, tries to hammer in the fact that jobs moving to Asia, Abundance and Automation have created a scenario in America (or developed countries) where Right Brained jobs will become more lucrative and R - Directed Thinking will become a desired skill. And he reproduces this fact in thousands of ways in his book. If I am that bad a reader, that I need same thing to be repeated for me so many times, I really don't deserve to understand this simple postulation.

After introducing the reasons for Right Brainers ruling the future, the author explains the six senses / tools that are required to develop or nurture R - Directed Thinking. (R - Directed Thinking doesn't mean that left side of the brain is not required. It just means that senses which are dominantly right brained will have to play a larger role) These six senses are - Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. These six senses put together highlight the importance of creativity and innovation as key business differentiators. 

No doubt that the author brings to fore an important change happening as of today, but as an Indian reader, I found the book lacking in several aspects. The book divides the world between developed countries and Asia. So L - Directed thinking jobs moving to Asia (including India), is one of the key reasons, why Americans should incorporate R - Directed thinking in their armor. As a reader, while I can apply the lessons in India specific scenarios as well, the book essentially alienates Asian readers. There is no effort to discuss what these changes mean for Asians. It feels like the issue at hand is not that hot for knowledge workers here in India.

Each chapter on the six senses, is followed by a portfolio of resources, which one can use or visit, to sharpen these senses. This feature is excellent, but I so wished, that the author had kept in mind an Asian context here as well. Indians have a particular way of learning things and sharpening their skills. By focusing on US context here the author misses the fact that some senses / values like Meaning and Empathy are deeply ingrained in our culture. Story-telling is also a key skill which Indian leaders have used since ages. Indian leaders, in my experience, generally have R-directed thinking. I hope in the next edition, author takes this diversity of work cultures and leadership styles into account.

While the set up for the need of R - Directed thinking is done beautifully, I felt there were not enough examples or compelling cases shared in the book, which make it evident how people are really nurturing these senses at their workplaces. May be the book was only meant to scratch the surface so that Pink gets lot of consulting assignments to really reveal the nuts and bolts of the subject at hand.

Out of the six senses, I felt that in the chapters on Meaning and Play, I found things which were great thought starters. These two chapters made this book worthy of an average rating. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Milestones - Post No. 100

Milestones are exciting. And the number 100 is super exciting. This is my hundredth post on this blog and I thought it is a great opportunity to write about milestones in general and this blog in particular. 

When we are watching a cricket match, and the batsman goes from the score of 99 to 100, there is this infectious celebration, that spreads the cheer all around. If we look at this objectively, it is just addition of one run. Just the way the batsman went from 98 to 99 runs, he went from 99 to 100. In the context of the match, most probably the contribution of this additional run is immaterial. But a batsman who mostly gets out in 90s is less celebrated than the one who mostly gets out at 100 or more. Their strike rates, averages, and all other parameters might be exactly the same. But one has scored more centuries than the other. 

Who really decides, what is a milestone? Or is it just a mathematical thing, as one moves from 2 digits to 3 digits? But then in cricket, even 50 is a milestone score.

Let us look at something personal. Marriage anniversaries! I have been married for more than 9 years. In November this year, I will be celebrating my 10th anniversary. 1st, 10th, 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries are considered important milestones in a married couple's life. But then for me, the 9th one was equally a happy moment and so would be the 24th one. In cricket, higher the score, more physically drained you are. So scoring a 100 is a physical achievement as well. But in marriage the more number of years you are married, more comfortable you become with your partner. It is in the initial years, when you discover many new things about each other and you make difficult choices and changes to ensure your marriage works. So shouldn't the first few anniversaries be celebrated more than the later ones?

But then may be milestones are there to remind you that one should not stop putting efforts. 

I believe milestones should be celebrated because of the following reasons:
  • Celebration of a milestone is not about the point you have reached. It is the celebration of the journey to that point, the struggles on the way and the lessons learned. It is the point of celebration as well as reflection.
  • Celebration of a milestone, also is an opportunity to savor the moment and gather your energies to move to the next milestone with even more vigor and enthusiasm.
  • There are certain milestones in life, which help you reach closer to the ultimate goal of your life. Like if you want to retire early in life, then lot of milestones have to be hit faster than usual. So milestones should be celebrated because they take you closer to your life's ultimate goal.
  • Nothing in life is possible without others. As you reach any milestone in life, there are people who have supported you to reach there. Celebration of a milestone is also a moment to thank those who were there with you in the journey.
This 100th post is a personal milestone, but not towards any ultimate goal. I like writing. I am happy that I was able to write these many posts. I had recently written about my reasons for writing and about the title of my blog, Free Spirit. Here are few nuggets of information about my blog. These help me reflect on this milestone better. 
  • My first post on this blog was on April 27, 2005. It was about my travel in Delhi Metro. It took me a little over 13 years to write 100 posts. But that is not the complete story. 
  • I didn't write a single post in years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. I am sure I have many excuses for this. But I feel in these 6 vacant years, I pursued something else which didn't give me as much happiness as writing gives.
  • Out of the 100 posts including this one, I had written only 18 posts till 2015. Even if I exclude the 6 years when I didn't write anything, it is still just 2.2 posts a year on an average. Pathetic number, given the fact that I have so much to say.
  • In 2016, I wrote 15 posts, with each post having 3 short stories. I was part of a group, where one had to write something around the "Word of the Day". I had actually written hundreds of such really short stories in 2016, but published only 45 out of them. But thanks to this group, I started writing again. Also I think I had improved, a little, as a writer.
  • In 2017, I wrote 35 posts, largely due to my participation in A-Z Challenge. I wrote 26 posts in April 2017 and 9 posts in rest of the year. But this challenge has helped me write regularly since then. 
  • In 2018, so far I have written 32 posts (including the one you are reading). I wrote 26 posts in April 2018 as well as part of the A-Z Challenge again. I am sure this is going to be my best year in terms of number of posts. 
So a big thanks to the group (Owlery) I had joined in 2016 and the fellow bloggers, who motivated me to take up the A-Z Challenge. Let us now look at some numbers, which give me insights about my readers over last 13 years.
  • Most of the page views on my blog are from United States, followed by India. That is a surprise. Seemingly, I am writing things about India, which are unique for people in US. 
  • The top 10 countries on my blog as per page views are US, India, Canada, Germany, Russia, Poland, France, UK, Singapore and UAE, in the same order. Australia and South America are big misses. I need to read blogs from those countries and find out why. 
  • 52% of my readers are Windows users, 16 % are iPhone OS users and 14% are Android users. In last 2 years, % of iPhone OS users is going up. Clearly rich people among my readers are going up. 🤣
  • My top 10 posts by readership so far are listed below. 5 are from 2017, 4 from 2018 and 1 is from 2007. As I have written more posts recently, the skew is because of obvious reasons. Also I didn't really use to share my earlier posts with anyone as I felt that I would be judged. Now, I write for pleasure and don't seek anyone's approval. Now I feel confident of sharing, what I write. I thank all my readers for sparing their time and sharing their feedback with me. 
I am sure, with encouragement from you all, I will write the next 100 posts at a better pace.



Monday, April 30, 2018

Z : Zoom in #AtoZchallenge


There was a time, not so long ago, when there were no digital cameras and no mobile phone cameras. For taking still photographs, we used to have that prized Kodak film roll camera. The film roll had a  limited capacity. We could only click 36 photos on one roll. The process of converting them to actual pictures was painful and often disappointing. Painful, because it was a long process and involved a photo studio. Disappointing, because often we would discover that some photos haven't turned out great and there was no way to capture that moment ever again. 

Compare that with today's scenario, when digital / mobile cameras rule the roost. One you don't need a roll, so you can go click-happy and click as many pictures as you want. Second, the output is right there in front of you. So if you are not happy, you can click another picture. Third, as digital / mobile camera also is your storage and retrieval device, there is neither any hassle of storage nor any chance of photos or your negatives getting damaged. You can also now share pictures with the click of a button. 

But there is a down side as well. There are so many pictures now on our phones and we are so busy in creating new ones, that we have lost the sense of wonder associated with browsing through our old albums and photographs. I have always believed that the key purpose of photos is to provide us with the ability to look back. To feel nostalgic about the times gone by. Sadly, that purpose has been muddled in the race to get more likes on Facebook. 

We had gone for a college trip to Goa during my engineering. When I browse through the photo album of one particular day from that trip, there I see a picture where one of my friends is standing besides me on a rock by the sea shore. There are 5 photos with us standing exactly in the same pose at the same place. 4 out 36 photos in that roll were wasted. Because we all were wasted that day. We had been drinking beer for hours. Had it been a mobile camera, we would have deleted those 4 additional pictures and may be that memory as well.

But I am digressing. I am fascinated by one particular feature of digital cameras. Zoom in feature. Once you have clicked a picture on a digital camera, at any later time, you can zoom in and find surprising details which you may not have noticed while clicking the picture. That is not possible with pictures clicked on film roll cameras. You can look as long as you want at the pictures in your photo albums (physical ones), but you won't be able to zoom in. 

I just imagined, what are the kind of things you would discover, if you had the ability to Zoom-in on your older pictures. 

1. Would you find out in your school's group picture whether that girl is smiling at you or not?

2. Would you find out the beer brand you had 15 years ago, because the bottle you had thrown carelessly around is still in the bottom left corner of the picture?

3. Would you find out who really was clapping for you standing by the wings of the stage, when you were receiving the award at your school's annual function?

4. Would you find out who borrowed your favorite Enid Blyton book during the bus ride to Ludhiana, while returning from that school picnic?

5. Would you find out whether your best friend was digging his nose or just scratching it?

6. Would you finally find out who was the one who was wearing spikes while giving you birthday bumps?

7. Would you find out who all had tears in their eyes at the farewell party?

If you had the ability to Zoom-in, you would definitely find things in your old pictures, that would surprise you or may be even shock you. You may find answers to some questions that have always bothered you or you might feel cheated, because you had always thought something transpired otherwise. The possibilities are infinite and tantalizing. But the moot point is if you had this ability would you really Zoom-in or would you just let it be!

You can't go back in the past and change anything. That Enid Blyton book is lost forever. The girl who clapped for you from the wings may have married someone else, completely oblivious to the feelings you had for her then. You have memories - some strong, some faded - of the events in past, the way you thought they happened. What is more precious? To know the details? To know the truth? Or to just keep your memories the way they are? Isn't life less burdened when you don't Zoom in? Sometimes it is not the specifics that matter; what matters is, the larger picture!!!

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future ~ Corrie ten Boom

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My last year's challenge post from letter Z was about linguistic jokes. It was about my mother-in-law pronouncing Zebra as Jebra. That led me to a discovery about Zebra / Jebra. Read it here.

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My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here