Saturday, November 18, 2023

KIS - Keep It Simple! SIMPLICITY by Edward De Bono

In his book titled SIMPLICITY, Edward de Bono tells about a probable story: 

Ballpoint pens cannot write upside down for any length of time. Ballpoint pens depend on gravity to feed the ink and writing tip, so ballpoints do not function very well on space missions where there may be no gravity. The task was therefore to design a ballpoint pen that would work well in space. At some cost this pen was designed. It is a brilliant little pen that is now generally for sale, Nitrogen under pressure supplies the ink and gravity is not needed.

It is said that the Russian space programme reached the same point. But instead of setting out to design a gravity-free ballpoint, they used a concept. They said to themselves: 'We want something that writes upside down.' 

So they used a pencil. 

The point Edward de Bono is driving home through his book is: SIMPLICITY is a Value, a Habit and an Attitude of mind as much as it is a process.

His compelling arguments on Why Simplicity? are: 

  1. From complexity come stress, anxiety and frustration. 
  2. Complex old practices are continuing because no one thought of changing them.
  3. A self-organizing information system (routines) simplify life both as regards perception and action.
  4. There is always the 'possibility' of a simpler way.
  5. From a mass of data learn to pick out what really matters. Simplifying judgements and decisions.
  6. Regard simplicity as a value.
  7. Simple procedures save time, money and energy.
  8. There is an aesthetic appeal to simplicity.
  9. Complexity for the sake of complexity has no value whatsoever.
  10. Simplicity is powerful, because simplicity is a unification around a purpose.
The challenges for Simplicity? are:

  1. The first rule of simplicity is that you must want to simplify.
  2. Simplicity is not easy. So commitment is needed.
  3. One becomes too easily satisfied with the existing protocols. So drive to change is needed.
  4. Simplicity should be considered as a value and as a habit.
The Ten Rules of Simplicity are:

  1. Rule 1. You need to put a very high value on simplicity.
  2. Rule 2. You must be determined to seek simplicity.
  3. Rule 3. You need to understand the matter very well.
  4. Rule 4. You need to design alternatives and possibilities.
  5. Rule 5. You need to challenge and discard existing elements.
  6. Rule 6. You need to be prepared to start over again.
  7. Rule 7. You need to use concepts.
  8. Rule 8. You may need to break things down into smaller units.
  9. Rule 9. You need to be prepared to trade off other values for simplicity.
  10. Rule 10. You need to know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed.
He lists out several methods, approaches or techniques for Simplicity:

  1. Historical review (Is this still necessary?)
  2. Shedding, Trimming, Cutting, Slimming etc. (retain only if justified)
  3. Listening (end-user perspective)
  4. Combining (eliminate and combine)
  5. Extracting concepts (why an action is being carried out)
  6. Bulk and Expectations (core and non-core activities)
  7. Restructuring (re-engineering)
  8. Start Afresh (back to basics)
  9. Modules and Smaller Units (work breakdown structure)
  10. Provocative Amputation (lateral thinking)
  11. Wishful Thinking (wish what the process should look like?)
  12. Shift Energies (shift focus from one part to other parts of the system)
  13. The Ladder Approach (work incrementally, step by step)
  14. The Flavour Approach (Design the big picture, and then make it practical and concrete)
SIMPLICITY is a thought provoking book, and it is of high value in today's context of hustle, complexity and dynamic changes. Books like IGIKAI and philosophy of MINIMALISM (Less is More) are increasing gaining popularity and getting into the mainstream thinking and lifestyle.  This book was first published in 1998, so it's quite interesting to see Edward De Bono's his pioneering thinking several decades ago. You can give this book a detailed reading and let's KIS - Keep It Simple!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Growth Mindset

Copyright 2019 by Mari Andrew

Mindset is probably one of the most overused word in Psychology. It's a loaded term, so to understand it let's look at it's definition in APA (American Psychology Association). Mind-set is a state of mind that influences how people think about and then enact their goal-directed activities in ways that may systematically promote or interfere with optimal functioning. 

So for understanding What is Mindset? we have to look at it through the prism of attitude (state of mind) and behaviour (goal-orientation).

Let's dwell into Dr Carol Dweck's research to understand Mindset further. 

"For thirty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. Believing that your qualities are carved in stone - the Fixed Mindset - creates an urgency to prove yourself because you are concerned with how you'll be judged. The other type of people belief that your basic qualities are just the starting point for development - the Growth Mindset - you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others. Therefore growth mindset makes you concerned with improving." - Dr Carol Dweck

For an easy comparison between the Fixed and Growth Mindset, you can read the table below:

This Blog's tagline says, 'Applied Psychology - Wisdom without application is worthless'. It's great to know this research and theory, but what does it mean to us in practical terms? Is it's real-life application? For this, let's explore the relationship between Ability and Accomplishment.

Research across all spheres of life shows Ability (Talent) is over-rated in long-term success. Only talent does not ensure the sustenance of success. For achieving and maintaining success, one has to back this up with hard work and continuous learning. Well doesn't this sound familiar to Growth Mindset? :) 

So for sure, there is a strong incentive for us to develop a growth mindset and shun the fixed mindset.

In this regard, in a Q&A session, Dr Carol Dweck was asked - Can I be half and half? I recognize both mindsets in myself. 

She replied - "All of us have elements of both - we're all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. I'm talking about it as a simple either-or right now for the sake of simplicity. People can also have different mindsets in different areas. I might think that my artistic skills are fixed but that my intelligence can be developed. Or that my personality is fixed, but my creativity can be developed. We've found that whatever mindset people have in a particular area will guide them in that area."

So self-introspect to find out the areas in your life, in which you hold a Fixed Mindset (for example, I am not good in Maths, I can't do programming, etc), embrace and accept it, and embark on the journey of changing your Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset with willpower and self-control.

Wishing you a happy transformation from a fixed to a growth mindset!

Reference: For a detailed reading, I recommend you pick up the book Mindset by Dr Carol S. Dweck, published by Hachette.

Monday, October 30, 2023

How to Think Better? - Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono


Rene Descartes's observation "Cogito, ergo, sum" in Latin which translates into English as "I Think, therefore, I am", is one of the most famous sayings in modern Western philosophy.

The ability to Think is a unique quality of a human being and possibly it makes us humans, distinctively different from other animals.

However, Thinking can be a daunting task especially when we have to make a big decision in life, when we are dealing with a complex problem, or when we are dealing with an unprecedented event or situation in life. Thinking becomes stressful, and confusing because we get overwhelmed by dealing with too many things - emotions, information, logic, self-interest vs collective interests, weight of the consequences (what if?) etc.

Edward de Bono, the famous Psychologist was a strong advocate for teaching How to Think? to children in their school curriculum. He had devised a methodology for improving the quality of thinking. This Thinking Model is known as Six Thinking Hats.

Six Thinking Hats is a simple yet powerful concept. Each hat colour represents a particular dimension of thinking. All one needs to do (individual or group brainstorming) is to imagine putting on the Hat one at a time and focus on a particular aspect of thinking. 

There is no one right sequence to follow. Just that a blue hat should always be used both at the beginning and the end of the thinking session - like two bookends.

The process culminates by putting together this singular aspect of thinking (one thing at a time) just like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, to generate the final, complete picture.

The chart below summarizes the key concepts of 6 Thinking Hats:

As mentioned above the sequence of hats can be any, just that the Blue Hat needs to be used in the beginning and at the end of the Thinking process.

The first blue hat indicates:
Why and what we are thinking, define the problem statement, what we want to achieve (outcomes).

The final blue hat indicates:
What we have achieved (outcomes), final conclusion, solutions and plan of actions. 

Pun intended - with Edward de Bono's 6 Thinking Hats methodology, we can reframe "I think therefore, I am" to I Think Better therefore, I am better". 

Hope you found it useful and you add 6 Thinking Hats in your tool kit and solve your problems more effectively and efficiently.

For a detailed reading, you can pick up the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (Penguin publications).

Saturday, October 28, 2023

SHAOLIN - Insights from the Book by Bernhard Moestl

Image source:

The author Bernhard Moestl is of German origin. Since his childhood days he has been fascinated by Shaolin Kungfu. He traveled to China and stayed at the famed Shaolin Temple (Monastery) in Henan province to learn kung fu from the monks. This temple was made famous by the movie of the same name 'Shaolin Temple' realized in 1982. The Shaolin Temple was established over 1500 years ago by the Indian monk Bodhidharma. During his stay in the Shaolin Temple, he discovered that Shaolin Kungfu was Mental Discipline (Mind) and Physical conditioning (Body). The Shaolin monks have internalized that it is their mind that energizes the body - or weakens it.

In his book Shaolin, he writes about the Shaolin principles and the Shaolin monks' way of thinking, so that one can imbibe these learnings in their lives to achieve peace, clarity, and inner strength.

My blog summarizes the Key Insights from his book, to provide a quick couple of minutes read. (I have given reference to the book for serious readers who would like to take a deep dive into this 300-page book, which is a worthwhile read). 

The 13 Shaolin Principles and the key insights:

1. The Principle of the Present: Shaolin principle urges us to accept the present moment without attributing any judgment value to it. It urges us to live in the moment (here and now), to give it our everything, accept it with gratitude, and let it go (let bygones be bygones...).

2. The Principle of Mindfulness: The Shaolin principle recognizes Attention as a form of Mindfulness. It urges us to be mindful in the rituals of daily life because mindfulness leads to deeper insights and awakening.

3. The Principle of Resoluteness: The Shaolin principle cautions us not to want something without determination because it takes up an enormous amount of energy that you will lack elsewhere. It teaches us to either do things wholeheartedly or not at all.

Few people Act and Many people React. Resoluteness is the first step to acting.

4. The Principle of Detachment: Shaolin's principle cautions us against Greed because it makes us vulnerable and susceptible to coercion. The principle of detachment teaches us to do things because we want to do them, not because we want to gain something in return.

5. The Principle of Calmness: Shaolin's principle says a good fighter has no anger, nor should they. A furious person has power, but they have no control over the situation or the consequences of their actions. People lose their true calm in life, therefore they react without comprehending the full situation. If you are agitated, do and say nothing. Slowly breathe in and breathe out and wait till your spirit is calm and clear once more.

6. The Principle of Slowness: Shaolin's principle asks us to reflect - What have you gained by the increase in speed (fast life)? And what has it cost you? It urges us, not to allow ourselves to be rushed.

It is better to do nothing than to achieve nothing with a lot of effort. - Lao Tzu

7. The Principle of Imitation: "There are three methods by which we may learn Wisdom. First by Reflection, which is the noblest, Second by Imitation, which is the easiest, and Third by Experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius. Shaolin principle gives importance to imitation but also cautions against mindless imitation. It urges us to reflect on what is worth imitating and then to learn easily by imitating.

8. The Principle of Opportunity: The Shaolin principle asks us to define our objective (goal) and not just one way (plan) to achieve it. It states us to have the ability to deviate from the plan when needed and to have patience because patience leads to success.

9. The Principle of Yielding: The Shaolin principle teaches us that the Soft triumphs over the Hard. Stiffness is the companion of death, flexibility is the companion of life. A tree that cannot bend will crack to the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken, the soft and supple will prevail.

10. The Principle of Superiority: The Shaolin principle teaches us to build a reputation so that people fear engaging in a fight with us. Draw the bow, but not to shoot. It is better to be feared than to hit.

11. The Principle of Letting Go: The Shaolin principle teaches us to approach each situation afresh. It urges us to recognize our biases because it clouds our judgments and it urges us to let go of tired and tested methods or preconceived solutions.

12. The Principle of Self-Knowledge: Shaolin principle urges us to learn, that everything you are and will become lies only within you.

"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment" - Lao Tzu.

It also teaches us to free ourselves from praise or criticism from outside. Learning to deal with praise and criticism is an important quality.

13. The Principle of Community: The Shaolin Principle says that leadership does not mean power over others, but the opportunity to achieve a common goal. Leadership means responsibility, leadership means giving recognition and leadership means winning together. It also states that Self-Leadership is crucial, authority depends on inner attitude and good communication is key.

Here is the Book for your reference:

Thursday, October 5, 2023


If you are from India, you will know Bihar Government released the Caste Census Report last Sunday (2nd October). Before I lose my readers who are disinterested in politics, let me quickly tell them this Blog is not a commentary on the census report. Thanks for not scrolling away.

In this report, there was interesting data on ATHEISTS. The census report mentions a very small number of 2,146 atheists in a state of 137 million people.

This drew my attention to Shaheed Bhagat Singh's famous essay WHY I AM AN ATHEIST? which he wrote in a jail in Lahore, during his last days while waiting for the execution of his death sentence. So, I picked up the book from my bookshelf and indulged myself in reading it.

Once again if you are from India, Bhagat Singh needs no introduction. For the wider audience, Bhagat Singh is one of the most adored and loved Indian revolutionary and Freedom Fighter, a Youth Icon (in fact with time, his ideas grow more relevant). He was martyred at the young age of just 23 years but his inspired a whole new generation of freedom fighters and Indian freedom movement against the British Raj.

Coming back to Bhagat Singh's writing WHY I AM AN ATHEIST?

His writing is divided into two parts:

In the first part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons against those who attribute his Atheism to arrogance, pride, and vanity.

In the second part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons Why he became an Atheist.

Part 1:

Bhagat Singh was accused of becoming proud, arrogant, and full of vanity after he was shot to fame in the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases. So he writes, that's not true. He was raised as a believer, offering morning and evening prayers and reciting mantras, by his father who was an Arya Samaji. He practiced Sikhism all through his elementary education and at D.A.V. College in Lahore.

He had started to think deeply about religion, about God during his college days overlapping the Non-Cooperation movement, much before the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases.

Even when he joined the Revolutionary Party, he met a leader comrade Sachindara Nath Sanyal (he later served life imprisonment in connection with the Karachi conspiracy case). He was a Believer and his book Bandi Jivan has chapters in the Glory of God.

The Kakory martyrs Ram Prashad Bismal was an Arya Samaji and Rajan Lahiri recited hymns from Upanishads and Bhagwat Gita.

There was only one person he met in the revolutionary party who was Anti-religious (against organized religion) but did not deny the existence of GOD.

Bhagat Singh concludes by saying his Atheism is not due to arrogance or vanity. This is a development over a while after thinking long and deep on this matter. He grew skeptical by seeing the degraded values of society and eventually, he rejected the belief in the existence of an Omnipresent, all-powerful, all-knowing God.


Bhagat Singh mentions his early days when he joined the Revolutionary Party. He says, during those early days I was just a follower. Our party faced a lot of opposition pressure and we were not growing into a mass movement. These experiences seeded in him, a strong desire to study (read). He had a paradigm shift from Romance of Militancy to Realism in Thinking. He had a growing realization violence produces opposite results in a mass movement and that violence is to be practiced only in extreme situations. So he emerged himself into developing a clear conception and Ideology.

He studied Bakunin's God and State, Nirlamba Swami's Common Sense, and books written by Karl Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. In the year 1926, he publicly declared to be an Atheist (just a small digress, Bhagat Singh's martyrdom day is 23rd March 1931 at the age of 23 years).

He does acknowledge that belief makes it easier to go through hardships. A man finds support, encouragement, and consolation in God.

He mentions being an Atheist is not an easy choice, because If no belief, there is no alternative but to be Self-dependant (self-reliant). He elaborates on his situation, now that his death sentence is confirmed and he is waiting for its execution in jail, he is missing out on finding Solace in God and he has no Hopes to entertain himself of a rebirth into a better life or an afterlife spent in heaven.

Despite this mental agony, he is firm in his conviction and he says, "A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end shall itself be my reward. I sacrificed my life for the cause of Freedom."

He calls himself a Realistic man, who can overpower circumstantial pain with Reason. Merciless criticism and Independent Thinking are the two necessary traits of Revolutionary Thinking. As Mahatma Gandhiji is great, he is above criticism, as he has risen above, all that he says in the field of politics, religion, and Ethics is right. You agree or not, it is binding upon you to take it as truth. This is not constructive thinking. We do not leap forward, we go many steps back.

Bhagat Singh makes a commentary on religion. He says, our human ancestors spent time solving the mysteries of the world, its past, its present, and its future, its whys, and its wherefores, but having been terribly short of direct proofs, every one of them tried to solve the problem in his own way. He mentions this lack of proof and reliance on philosophy makes our religions antagonistic and conflicting with each other. The claim of only one true religion is the root of all evil.

Instead of developing the ideas and experiments of ancient thinkers, we are making ideological weapons for future struggle. We are being lethargic, idle, and fanatical as we cling to orthodox religion and in this way, we are reducing human awakening to a stagnant pool.

He calls for action to every person who stands for Progress to Reason, because reason is the guiding principle of life and blind belief deprives one of understanding. He clarifies he is not advocating countering beliefs with beliefs, but rather challenging the efficacy of old beliefs with sound arguments and upholding the time-tested old beliefs which pass the litmus test of reasoning and build upon them further with new ideas to construct a new philosophy.

He ends his thought-provoking essay with questions for the Theists:

Why an Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient God create a world of woe, grief, and countless miseries and not of peace?

Nero burnt Rome, Genghis Khan killed thousands, and millions of people dying of hunger in slums. Can you say, "All is well in God's Kingdom?" Why so?

Why the Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offense? After all, it's a child's play for God. Why does he have to wait to punish them in their afterlife or next birth and why do the poor and unfortunate have to suffer in their existence today?

Why does God not infuse humanistic sentiments into the minds of the Britishers so that they may willingly leave India? Why he does not fill the hearts of all capitalist classes with altruistic humanism which will free the whole laboring humanity from the shackles of money?

Bhagat Singh concludes by writing, as regards the origin of God, my thought is that man created God in his imagination when he realized his weaknesses, limitations, and shortcomings. In this way he got the courage to face all the trying circumstances and to meet all dangers that might occur in his life and also to restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence.

Being realistic comes at a cost, he has to throw his faith aside and face all adversaries with courage and valour. This is exactly my state of mind. As Bhagat Singh waits for his capital punishment, he writes "I don't think that by strengthening my belief in God and by offering prayers to Him, I can bring improvement in my situation, not can I further deteriorate it."

One of my friends asked me to pray during these last days of my life. I said, "No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray." Readers and friends, is it vanity? If it is, I stand for it.” – Yours, Bhagat Singh

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Excerpts from the Book - My Experiments With Truth - M.K.Gandhi

2nd October Gandhi Jayanthi was an impetus for me to pick up MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH, which had been lying on my bookshelf for months if not for years.

My Experiments with Truth is an autobiographical memorabilia by Gandhiji recounting his days as a student in England (1888 to 1891), as a struggling Barrister in India, and his journey into public life and public affairs in South Africa (1893 onwards).

Sharing with you, a few interesting, insightful readings and fun facts from the book:

Certificate of Vegetarianism: Gandhi had given word to his mother that he would not take up eating meat during his stay in England (a student pursuing to become a Barrister). During the sea voyage, he asked one of his fellow European travelers to give him a certificate (testimony) that he didn't eat meat while onboard. This certificate was a prized possession for him until he found out that there were many Indians with such fake certificates :)

New Experiences and Developing New Habits: In England, Gandhi wanted to grow and develop beyond books by immersing themself in new experiences. So he left his single-room accommodation and moved in as a tenant with an Anglo-Indian family. He also developed new habits such as reading newspapers and books every day. While in South Africa (1885) he found Indians were discriminated against under the Law For Asiatics. Indians had no land ownership, no franchise, a curfew to move around after 9 p.m. and they could not use footpaths for walking. Gandhi wanted to experience What it is to be a Coolie? So he used to deliberately go out after 9 pm and used to walk on footpaths inviting trouble upon himself from the patrolling policemen of European origins. He got in touch with Indians living in Pretoria to interact with them and to study their conditions and hardships. He encouraged the Indians to unite, form an association, and jointly submit complaints to the authorities and gave them advice on how to improve their social, economic, and political conditions. He volunteered to teach English so that small-time Indian businessman could increase their income by catering to more clients.

Wave of Vegetarianism: Even back in those days, there was a wave of vegetarianism movement in England (Europe). Several books and speakers promoting the idea of Vegetarianism urging Europeans to shun meat. Salt's Plea for Vegetarianism, Howard Williams's The Ethics of Diet, and Anna Kingsford's The Perfect Way in Diet were several of the famous books in this category. Gandhi's first experience in organizing and conducting an institution came by running a Vegetarian Club in Bayswater.

Self-improvement: Gandhi from his early days was engaged in changing himself for the better. He was conscious of the hardship his family had to endure for his studies abroad so he actively found ways to cut down his expenses and increase his savings, he adopted a minimalist lifestyle and harmonized his inward and outward life. In his words, he describes, "My life was more truthful now".

Cultural Differences: During those days travelling overseas was a taboo for Indians. People who traveled abroad were outcasted by their society. Gandhi also faced the same obstacles but he defied these warnings from his community and pursued his ambition of studying in England. The concept of child marriage among Indians back then was quite common. This practice was uncommon among the Europeans. The Indian students would hide their marital status and pretend themselves to be bachelors to escape this awkwardness of cultural difference. On a different note, the cost of Drinks being more than the cost of food was an element of surprise for Gandhi.

Self-doubts and Overcoming them: It was interesting for me to find out that one of the tallest future leaders had so many self-doubts during his growing-up years. Gandhi had a fear of public speaking and he had a panic attack in his first case (Mamibai's case of Rs 30) as a barrister, when he had to present in front of the judge. He struggled to establish a successful career as a Barrister at Rajkot, so he moved to Bombay to practice without much success, he eventually returned to Rajkot and continued a self-sustained career as Barrister working for a law firm and taking up cases through referrals. Gandhi felt inadequate to be a successful Barrister and he approached one of his mentors to seek advice. He was told "Your general reading is meagre. You do not know the world. You have not read the history of India. You need to develop the ability to read a man's character from his face." This advice propelled him to immerse himself into wide and deeper reading to engage actively in public affairs and eventually make history.

Reflections of the society of those times: In 1893 in South Africa, Indian immigrants comprised Merchants (Muslim, Hindu, and Parsi) and Labourers which was the largest class (Tamilians, Teleguites, North Indians). The laborers were called Girmitiyas, also commonly referred to as Coolie or Samis. The Merchant class and the Girmitiyas had business relations only and no other social mixing. There was predominate Colour Prejudice and we all know the infamous incidence of Gandhi being thrown out of 1st class compartment by railway police, despite having a legitimate ticket. Those days 1st and 2nd class tickets were not issued to men and women of colour. Even though the macro and general trend of the society were prejudices against men and women of color, he did encounter several British (Mr. Jacobus De Wet, Mr. Coates, etc.) who were respectful and considerate towards Indians and their plight.

Religion and Spirituality: Ironically Gandhi was introduced into reading Bhagawat Gita in England, through Sir Edwin Arnold's English translation of Gita called The Song Celestial. He also read another book called The Light of Asia. His faith in prayers and belief in the Almighty grew stronger by the day through his readings and practice of rituals. In his words, "When every hope is gone, when helpers fail and comfort flee, I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where." During his stay in South Africa, his exposure to Christianity grew and he read the holy books Bible and Koran. Leo Tolystoy's book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, had a big impact on him. He was a practicing, proud Hindu but he stayed away from the belief that any religion for that matter Hindu, Christianity, Islam, and others flawless, supreme, and perfect.

Entry into Public Life: Gandhi's entry into public life was not a pre-planned, strategically thought-through move. The opportunity of working for 1 year at a Law firm in South Africa can as luck by chance. Taking up this opportunity was an economic decision as it would provide him with a steady income as he was struggling to establish his practice in Rajkot. Apart from working for the law firm in South Africa, he used to utilize his free time networking and getting to know the Indians settled in Pretoria. This made him aware of the challenges and injustices they used to face daily. Armed with his legal knowledge, he started to counsel them and guided them in forming an association to make a collective voice in shaping legislatures taking into consideration the interests of Indians.

Ending with a fun fact. Did you know when Eiffel Tower was inaugurated amidst a great exhibition, it drew crowds from worldwide? Gandhi also traveled to see the Eiffel Tower from England. However, during those times, not everyone was in love with Eiffel Tower. There were many critics too. Leo Tolstoy said, "Eiffel Tower was a monument of man's folly, not of his wisdom."

Friday, September 29, 2023

Super Mario Mindset for Lifelong Learning and to Succeed in Life

Lifelong Learning has emerged as one of the most important skills, for 21st century professionals and students. The premium is not on WHAT is the most important skill? We already know this answer. The premium is on HOW to develop Lifelong Learning skills in ourselves and in the people we care for, our family, friends, and work colleagues.

The answer to HOW to develop Lifelong Learning skills and to Succeed in Life? can be found in SUPER MARIO Effect - a basic coding challenge experiment conducted by Mark Rober.

Super Mario

He designed an experiment that has two scenarios of the Coding challenge. In the first scenario, the participants start with 200 points. Each time when they make a coding error they lose 5 points from their reverse. The second scenario, does not have a point system and the participants do not lose points for a coding error.

50,000 people took part in this coding experiment. Data interpretation showed statistical differences in the learning outcomes between the two scenarios.

LHS Scenario-1, RHS Scenario-2

The success rate of participants in the No Penalty scenario (no points reduction) for an error was 68% and the success rate of participants in the Penalty scenario (five points reduction) for an error was 52%.

In the No Penalty scenario, a participant made 12 tries to overcome a failed code. In comparison in the Penalty scenario, a participant made 5 tries on a failed code.

Mark Rober, calls this a data-backed mindset for life gamification as the Super Mario Effect.

Remember the first Super Mario game released by Nintendo in the year 1985? Mario the central character has to pass through levels of challenges in the Mushroom Kingdom. The objective of the game is to progress through levels by defeating enemies, collecting items, and solving puzzles without dying.

In the Super Mario game, the player does not quit the levels of challenges upon facing setbacks. They keep enjoying the game, continue to make multiple attempts, and eventually move up the levels.

The Super Mario Effect (Mindset) is the key to learning, which the experiment's No Penalty Coding scenario shows with empirical evidence. Like the Super Mario game, the participants in the No Penalty scenario were enjoying the process of coding (as a game), because they didn't perceive their failed attempts as failures.

Mark Rober in his Ted Talk, reminds us Real Life is quite like the Super Mario Game (Life Gamification). One's life journey will have its ups and downs, twists and turns, hurdles and levels of challenges. No one's life is a straight path, a walk in the park. There is always a big difference between Plan and Reality in Life.

Ted Talk The Super Mario Effect

The key to Lifelong Learning and to Success in Life is to inculcate the mindset of Super Mario. To keep jumping and failing, learning and jumping again, and overcoming the levels of challenges to progress and live a meaningful life.

Mark Rober Ted Talk: The Super Mario Effect - Tricking Your Brain into Learning More.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Widening Generation Gap and Shrinking Learning Gap

AI generated image

The generation gap, a term coined to describe the cultural, ideological, and technological differences between different age groups, has been a perennial issue throughout human history.

However, in recent times, the generation gap has widened significantly due to the rapid pace of technological advancement, rapid socio-cultural changes, and differences in the educational systems.

The technology divide creates a significant barrier to communication and understanding between the generations.

Cultural norms, values, and societal structures are evolving faster than ever before. These changes are disorienting for older generations, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts with younger generations.

The education system has evolved over time, and how younger generations learn, access information, and interact with knowledge has changed, thus creating a disconnect between generations.

Ironically, in this widening generation gap in my mind, the learning gap between generations is shrinking. 

Let me try to make my case: Our (older) generation to keep up their survival in the existential crisis are engaging in Digital Literacy, learning about Technology, and Upskilling themselves to stay relevant in the Gig economy. The school and college-going younger generation are also learning these topics as part of their formal syllabus.

This thought came to my mind because a few days back I saw my 9th-grader son (Kanishk) preparing for a mid-term exam. The exam subject was Artificial Intelligence & Python Solutions and Employability Skills.

In my mid-40s I am also exploring courses on AI, ML, Data Science, and Employability and career enhancement skills and my teenage son is studying the same topics in his school.

When I was a school-going teenager, I am reasonably sure my father was not learning the same topics that I was at school. And now in just one generation, my son’s school topics and my L&D topics are the same. Quite an interesting time, we are living in.

That’s why I feel, our generation gap is widening while our learning gap is shrinking. What’s your opinion?

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Unlocking Success: The Power of Apprenticeship in a Changing World.

AI generated image

This is my last piece in the series of Blogs on the Leh Ladakh visit. If you haven’t read my previous blogs from Leh Ladakh Travel, you can check them out here:

Our Leh Ladakh trip was special because of the several fantastic people. One of them is my family, my cousin Anindita who planned the entire trip for us. Since she is my sister, I can discount her here (like all siblings do 😊) and I will mention the others in my blog.

If you have been there you would agree with me, that in Ladakh a tourist spends more time in a car or bike than staying in their hotels. We had taken the service of Tashi who owned a Mahindra XUV700 and he drove us all around for the whole week. Tashi was highly professional, well mannered and he provided us very good service. Over time, we got to know each other. He is someone who came up in life the hard way. Didn’t have the privilege of going to school, started working in his late childhood, drove a taxi for tourists, and eventually through years of hard work he now owns his own car, he is self-employed and reasonably doing well for himself. 

With Tashi

Vishal was a local contact referred to us by our cousin. We had been in touch with him from Bangalore and he helped us out with all the pit-stop coordination, travel bookings, etc. We made it a point to meet him before leaving, to convey our thanks to him. During over the coffee conversation, he shared his life’s journey with us. He hails from Nepal. His cousin owned a hotel cum restaurant at Leh, so he came down to work at this hotel in his teenage years. He worked there for several years, learned the art of managing a hotel, and eventually he went out on his own to start his own hotel business with a local partner. He now runs two hotels of his own, during summers he runs a hotel in Leh and during winters he runs a hotel in Goa.

With Vishal

Nubra valley also called Dumra “valley of flowers” is the terrain between Nubra and Shyok rivers. Nishidh runs a camp out there for tourists. Nishidh meets all his guests during their stay and in one such interaction on a chilly morning, he shared his life’s journey with me. He comes from a local village in Nubra and grew up doing odd jobs in the hospitality sector and working in camping, tours, and travels. After working for two decades, his desire for entrepreneurship propelled him to start Paramount Camp, a few years back. He told me, “Sir, if not now then when?” umer like ja raha tha, it was now or never”.    


Nishidh at Paramount Camp

Friends, if you see the common thread between the three of them, it’s careers built through apprenticeship (learning a trade by working under a skilled employer). All of them received any formal education or degree, yet they managed to build successful careers by acquiring skills and knowledge through experiential learning and not through learning theories sitting in a classroom.

This is a food for thought for all of us who are interested in education. By the way, in today’s time of continuous learning, none of us are spared from not being a stakeholder in education. While studying ourselves as students, or while teaching others we should engage in experiential learning, and acquire skills and not just certificates and degrees on a piece of paper. As the world of work is changing (4th Industrial Revolution) the importance of Skills and Hands-on Practical Experience is growing by the day over just bookish knowledge. Tashi, Vishal, and Nishidh are the touch-bearers of this growing trend.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

High School Students - Think Critically about Your Subject Choices

In the Indian education scenario, many students and their parents have to made an important decision on subject combination and stream selection. Sharing two case studies from my mentoring and counselling experience, to emphasis on the importance of decision making while opting in and opting out of subjects during 11th grade.

Generated by AI Sep 23, 2023

Case Study 1: A bright student, had decided in her 10th grade to pursue Psychology and become a Clinical Psychologist. After completing her 10th grade, she joined an international boarding school to pursue her 11th and 12th. She had dropped Physics from her subject combination while retaining Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Psychology etc. During her 11th and 12th her thinking changed and she was now inclined to pursue Medicine (MBBS). But Physics along with Bio and Chem is a mandatory criterion to appear for NEET (Medical entrance) in India. So now the workarounds to reach her goal were: a. Take a gap year after 12th, enrol in NIOS (Open schooling) to complete Physics and take up NEET. or b. Study Medicine overseas where Physics is not a mandatory criterion.

The 1st scenario will call for a lot of determination, hard work, and conviction from the student, and the 2nd scenario will demand considerable funding (budget) for studying overseas.

The point I am trying to make here is, that just the decision to drop one subject has resulted in long-term implications.

Case Study 2: A bright student in her 12th grade, during the process of mentoring and counselling, shortlisted Biomedical Engineering as one of the career options. She had dropped Biology in her 11th. Well in India, Biology is not a mandatory subject for pursuing BioMed Eng so she can prepare for the JEE (entrance exam) and pursue it. However, in my opinion, since it's application to Engineering in Human Biology, the student will benefit from a stronger foundation in Biology, by studying it for two years (11th - 12th). Once again the point I am trying to make here is, to think long-term critically before making your subject choices as the consequences have long-term implications.

In today's changing world which demands breaking the silos by cultivating a multi-disciplinary mindset, it will pay off for the student by building a foundation that is kept broad and not narrowed down too soon in the academic journey. As we see in the case studies above, interests do evolve and change, and discoveries and new possibilities are recognized as the student matures. In such scenarios, if subjects have been dropped which constitutes the mandatory subjects for pursuing a degree, the student will face a roadblock to reach their goals.

A T-shaped learning model is a good way to plan one's academics and career. The horizontal line represents the broad base of subjects during the foundational years and the vertical line represents the specialization (deep dive) on a particular stream during the advanced years of one's academic life.

Leaving this food for thought for students and parents. Think critically before opting out of subjects and taking a deep dive into the shortlisted one's. Young students are still evolving in their interests and orientation, so it may be wiser to keep an elbow room to change plans, just in case.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Faith, Hope and Love


Image credit: Cheerylight Pinterest

Last Saturday morning, Kanishk (my son) and I went to Malleshwaran for work. On the way back home, we were waiting at a traffic signal on Trinity Church M.G. Road in our car. Waiting for the red signal to turn red, our eyes feel on the electronic display board of Trinity Church. Among the many scrolling messages, one of the quotes caught our attention and made an instant connection, probably because of its relevance and powerful message.

Holy Trinity Church image Facebook

"There Are Three Things That Will Endure FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE and THE GREATEST Of These is LOVE". - 1 Corinthians 13:13

It was such a beautiful moment, felt like a God-sent message on a routine of being stranded in city traffic.

When we face adversity in our lives and going gets tough, that's the time we need to keep our FAITH flying high. We should keep complete Trust and Confidence in ourselves, in the process that everything will eventually work out. Faith is what motivates us to move forward even when the odds are against us.

When we face adversity in our lives and going gets tough, that's the time we need to keep our HOPE afloat on the rough seawaters. We should stay Hopeful and Optimistic, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hope keeps us moving forward. Hope propels us to face impossible challenges. Hope encourages us to stay on course of the journey until we reach our destination.

In one's life, LOVE can be a great force multiplier as it propels us to act for the larger good. An act of kindness, compassion, care, and benevolence to make this world a better place is driven by Love. In our everyday lives, we encounter umpteen opportunities to help someone. An act of love for each one of us can make this world a little better for all of us.

Time ticked by and the signal turned green and we merged into the snarling city traffic but with a smile on our lips and with a lofty thought in our minds.

Sometimes positivity and God send messages around us in random, unexpected places, like in our case, in the middle of the city traffic chaos. Best wishes to you for spotting yours in random, unexpected places. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Relationship between Humans and Machines


Oppy (image credit

In today’s age of technology, the relationship between human beings and machines is more intertwined and inseparable than ever. Like every other relationship, the human-machine relationship also evokes many emotions. 

The probability of machines making us redundant and taking over our jobs evokes fear in us. The rapid pace of technological progress intrigues and interests us. Remember how ChatGPT caught everyone’s attention and became a top trending topic. Technologies have also caused many concerns like data privacy, deep fake, and security state which evokes anger, disgust, and sadness in varying degrees.

Is Love and bond also possible between humans and machines?

The movie HER written and directed by Spike Jonze (2013) explores this theme. It tells the story shortly, about a lonely writer who develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

For the sake of argument, this story (movie) is a fiction. So is love between humans and machines possible in real life?

Goodnight Oppy, the documentary film directed by Ryan White (2022) tells a real-life fascinating story of humans and machines. The film follows Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Exploration Rovers (robots) and their creators (NASA scientists and engineers) 15 years of long association and the remarkable bond forged between a robot and their humans millions of miles away.

The NASA scientists interact with Spirit and Oppy (nickname of Opportunity) as if they are real people with their own personalities and feelings. The NASA team had created human-like rituals of playing songs “Walking on Sunshine” and “Here Comes the Sun” to wake up (rebooting, restarting) the robots after their power-down periods. 

Several of the NASA team members involved in this project were in their younger days and over the long period of 15 years they grew through their lives and spent this significant time of their professional life with these robots. They developed a special connection with the robots, like a parent with their child. 

With the robots getting older, the scientists referred to them as aging, a malfunctioning robotic arm was related to arthritis and the falling memory of the robot was relatable to a scientist’s grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s in her old age.

As a viewer, you do feel the joy, the love, the triumph, the anguish of the NASA scientists for their robots Spirit and Oppy over these long years of relationship with them. It’s a unique documentary because of the uniqueness of the topic it explores – Love and Bonding between humans and machines.

In this omnipresent era of technology, the human-machine relationship is the subject of research and exploration. 

This documentary offers us a unique lens to look beyond our commonly experienced emotions towards machines and to wonder if love and bonding are possible between humans and machines? Goodnight Oppy tells a real-life story and shows love and bonding between humans and machines is plausible.

Where to watch? Goodnight Oppy is available on Amazon Prime.

Friday, September 8, 2023

History being Made: PSLV-C57/ADITYA-L1 Mission

This is a first-hand account of my friend Shriram and his children Vedika and Vihaan. They traveled from Bangalore to Sriharikota, to see the launch of Aditya.

Big thanks to Shriram for taking out time to share his unique experience with us, so that we can relieve this rare and historic moment through his storytelling.

September 2nd, 2023, 11.50 AM IST was the moment when PSLV…fired off into the sky carrying Aditya.

I and my kids – Vedika and Vihaan, along with a couple of friends, were witnesses in person to this historical moment. My chest swelled up with pride as the 10,000-plus crowd cheered the space launch by ISRO at Sriharikota. The entire crowd cheered as the spaceship blasted off the Earth into the sky and disappeared within a matter of minutes.

The cheers and claps of the crowd were a celebration of science and India and the achievements of the scientific community of India.

We had obtained an ISRO pass for 6 just a couple of days before 2nd September. On the morning of 2nd September, we reached the launch site by 8:30 AM and had a short walk from the car park to the viewing area. After passing through a couple of routine security checks, we were in the stadium. The viewing area, much to our surprise and disappointment, is a stadium that houses a space museum and an AR/VR center, together called the Space Theme Park. The space museum houses several writeups and scale models of PSLV, GSLV, and satellites (see the photos). The disappointment was largely because inside the stadium, all we could see were a compound wall and trees beyond. There were many food stalls inside the stadium and we quickly bought food and some soft drinks as this was our breakfast.

Soon the crowds started building up with a majority of school kids coming in. There was a dais and a large screen in front of the stadium. On the large screen, one could see the visuals of the spacecraft, and the countdown to launch had already begun. Kids from various schools were invited to the dais to speak. It was good to see that many kids were brave and spoke confidently and knowledgeably on the launch and ISRO. The compere ensured that the crowd was kept entertained and involved. The carnival mood and the Josh of the crowd reached a crescendo as the countdown reached its final minutes. As the crowd roared, PSLV lifted off at 11:50 am and we saw the rocket fly into space with a roar and a blast. The roar of the rocket engines needs to be experienced to understand the power it packs!

It was an awesome couple of minutes after a scorching wait of 4 hours.

Life is lived in Moments, and surely viewing a space launch was one such :)

After 12 noon, the crowd started dispersing taking home memories of viewing history being made.

Technical Aspects (source: ISRO Press Release):

On September 02, 2023, at 11:50 hrs, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C57) successfully launched the Aditya-L 1 spacecraft, from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.

After a flight duration of 63 minutes and 20 seconds, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft was successfully injected into an elliptical orbit of 235x19500 km around the Earth.

Aditya-L-1 is the first Indian space-based observatory to study the Sun from a halo orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrangian point (L-1), which is located roughly 1.5 million km from Earth.

Aditya-L 1 spacecraft will undergo four earth-bound orbital maneuvers before being placed in the transfer orbit towards the Lagrange point L 1. Aditya-L 1 is expected to arrive at the intended orbit at the L 1 point after about 127 days.

Aditya-L-1 carries seven scientific payloads indigenously developed by ISRO and national research laboratories including the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.

These payloads are instrumental in studying the photosphere, chromosphere, and the Sun's outermost layers (the corona), utilizing electromagnetic particle and magnetic field detectors.

Traveling from Bangalore

There are 3 possible routes to go from

1. Drive of 7-8 hours from Bangalore via Tirupati and stay overnight at Srikalahasti or Sullurpet. Both these are small towns and lack quality hotels.

2. Drive of 7-8 hours from Bangalore via Tirupati and Chittoor and stay overnight near Sri City at Tada. There are a few good quality hotels.

3. Go to Chennai by road or train and stay overnight at Chennai 

Things to know

1. Carry an umbrella and/or wear a hat.

2. Carry water bottles and keep yourself hydrated. Water is also supplied inside the stadium in large canisters where you can refill your water bottle.

3. Arrive early to avoid the crowd to get into the stadium.

Gone with the wind, in couple of seconds

Just before entering the stadium

At the stadium, the spaceship is hidden behind the trees

Giant screen displaying the countdown and other parameters

My friend Shriram

Vihaan ready to takeoff 

Vihaan = Buzz Lightyear

Shriram, Vedika and Vihaan

Vihaan ready for launch

Carrying memories of a lifetime

Thank you Shriram for your thoughtful gesture of sharing your experience with all of us. The very thought of hearing the roaring sound of the rocket and seeing it fly into space, gives us goosebumps. It was wonderful to experience these moments through your eyes. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Movie for children: WORLD's BEST - Mathematics, Music (Hip Hop) and Philosophy mashup

Image: IMDb

This weekend browsing through the countless OTT content, me and my son stumbled upon the movie 'World's Best' by serendity. The description appealed to us and why not? not often do we read Mathematics, Hip Hop Music, and Philosophy in a single sentence. 

Generally, the proportion of movies made for children is comparatively less than movies made for adults. That's why when I come across a good children's movie, I try to spread the word around to other parents. 

World's Best is a fun movie, the protagonist a 12-year-old boy is a Maths prodigy, who is being raised by a single mother. He got the gift of Mathematics from his mother. One day at school he is given homework to think and write about a philosophical question - WHO AM I? 

Being a Maths prodigy he tries to answer this question in an equation format but then struggles to put in the variables. He reaches out to his mother for help and he wants to know about his father, who had died due to cancer when he was only 5 years of age. He discovers his father was an Emcee (rapper, in hip-hop music). 

Being intrigued by the world of music which was so different from his world of academics (maths), he goes through the phase of an identity crisis, self-doubt but eventually, he recognizes the rhythm and pattern which is a common thread in every aspect of life, be it Music or be in Mathematics. 

With his increased self-awareness he eventually manages to complete his homework WHO AM I? and he becomes confident at being a Pro in mathematics and a Rapper pursuing hip hop music. 

His mother who was in grief but was pretending to have moved on in life by shutting herself from all the memories of her husband and his music, also makes peace with herself and accepts his son's dual interest in mathematics and music. 

It's a fun movie to watch with kids, with an interesting storyline connecting maths, music, and philosophy and with ample doses of foot-tapping music.

Like all Disney movies, this too offers a positive message for children: 

So Who Am I? - There is no right answer. Listen to the beat in your own head. 

It nudges the audience to jump on the journey of self-discovery and to know, life is not a mathematical equation. It's messy, bumpy, scary and strange but that's what makes it beautiful. Life is like Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop is like life, you can't go half way, you gotta go hard!

Trailer of the movie for your viewing:

It's available on Disney Hotstar.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Book Summary: LEARN, DON'T STUDY by Pramath Raj Sinha


LEARN, DON'T STUDY by Pramath Raj Sinha

This is an insightful book written by Mr. pramath Raj Sinha. He is also known as an institution builder because of his track record of setting up ISB, Ashoka University and currently Harappa Online Learning.

In this book he picks up questions like What it takes to be successful in today's working world (4IR), the possibilities of changing careers multiple times, the gap between academic institutions and the industry and new guides and framework for embarking on professional journey.

To address these broad questions, he shares his life experiences from the world of industry (business) and education. He also shares insights collected from interviewing successful professionals from different walks of life (journalism, education, research, corporate, media, entrepreneurship etc) in the process of writing this book.

USP of this book - all the interviews conducted for this book where with professionals who have a direct connection to India, whether through birth, family, or education. 

“So much of what has been written about career development comes from the West, I wanted to present an approach that was uniquely Indian.” – the author.

I have written this blog it in first person's voice, and taing the exact verbatim (in most places) to retain the narrative style of the book, i.e., the author is speaking directly to his audience (readers).

Chapter 1 - You Can Do Anything

Most of us don’t know and that’s okay

Most of us during our lives transition from adolescence to adulthood are unsure of what we want to do in our life? We might have an inkling about what we like and dislike or about the things we are good at and not so good at, but we lack life experiences to translate these feelings into a clear vocational path.

Often many of us draw conclusion that there must be something wrong within us if we don't know exactly what we want to do with our lives. There is also a sense of fear of being left behind to our peers who seem to have it all figured out.

Sadly this fear psychosis is reinforced by the ecosystem around us parents, educators, peers etc.

Through the interviews the author presents scenarios where there were people who discovered what they want to do at a young age but there were also many who discovered it tinkering along their way and many also ended up pursuing multiple careers in their lifetime.

Don’t be overly concerned with money

The author mentions one of the primary obstacle to building a passion based career is obsessing about how much money you will make. If money is your topmost criterion for determining what you want to do with your life, it can often stand in the way of a deeper, more fulfilling and more successful career.

In India in particular the culturally conditioned fear of lack of adequate income, can lead young people to become overly anxious about their financial stability often at the expense off their long-term happiness.

In the early stages of career, the most important thing is to gain experience to discover one's passion and strength to learn and develop new skill sets and to build a strong foundation for success in the long run. Money should be a symptom of a well-rounded and successful career.

Anything is possible, with a twist

The three core principles:

It's possible to make a career out of doing something you love.

Your passion is usually something you develop.

You can have multiple loves and multiple careers.

These core principles helps you to think about yourself and your career in a more broader dynamic context, liberates you from the fixed mindset and makes you an explorer seeking to discover your passions and aptitudes as you move forward on your life’s journey.

You can do something you love

For many of us who are fortunate enough to get good education, the world is filled with more possibilities than ever before The definition of passion based career has significantly expanded and evolved to include a wide variety of options.

The author points out everyone he interviewed for this book has built at least one Career out of doing something they love. It is truly possible to do what you love if you are committed and dedicated to make it happen.

Your passion is usually something you develop

In a 2018 article for the Psychological Science Journal, authors Paul O’Keefe, Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton suggest that there are two general approaches to building a passion-based career:

Finding your passion, or

Developing your passion

The first approach represents 'fixed mindset' i.e. each one of us have a unique passion that we are meant to represent.

The second approach represents ‘growth mindset’ i.e.  viewing your passion or passions, as something you develop and cultivate.

There research points out the growth mindset approach of developing passion is more rewarding. Reason being, it opens up more possibilities and opportunities in one’s life.

So it is crucial to realize that you may not necessarily be able to know your passion without some experimentation. Passion is something you cultivate overtime.

You can have multiple loves and multiple careers 

The author drawing from his personal experience mentions that none of us are limited to just one passion or one career in our lives. As human beings we are much more complex than we often realize. You can have different passions and build different careers out of them in your lifetime.

Chapter 2 - It All Starts with Self-Discovery

 An ongoing process of self discovery

Self discovery, is a crucial element in building one's career. All the interviewees cited this ability to understand who they were, what they were good at and what they wanted to do with their lives as foundational to their meaningful success.

Self discovery is something you never stop undergoing. It's an ever evolving process.

You Can't force it

Usually Self discovery is an organic process that moves according to its own pace.

The author sites example of the popular Myers Briggs test which is used to generate personalized psychological profile and the list of careers best suited for the individual. He points out several criticisms of such psychometric assessments as they depend heavily on reductionist approach.

Human beings are not so simple or binary. None of us are only defined by one thing. After all we are not robots, our personalities are not scripts or algorithms. hence the process of self-discovery can't be robotic. It requires patience, trial and error most of the times. One has to go through real life experiences, experimentation and internship in various vocations to truly discover themselves. Such organic elaborate process does need time and patience.

Resisting the pressure

The Indian education system which is one of the most competitive in the world puts extreme amount of pressure on the children to make their choice of specialization at an young age and then to stick on that trajectory. Unfortunately, this leads to premature conformity.

One of the compelling reason for the author to write this book is to make young people and their parents understand that it's OK if you don't know what you want to do right up front. He wants to alleviate this pressure from within and outside, so that people can discover their passions and their strengths more organically.

Discovering what you’re good (and not so good) at

All the interviewees in this book mentioned that they needed real world experiences to really test themselves and discover their passions, strength, and weaknesses. Unfortunately, our traditional educational journey are usually focused on grade, marks and ranks.

The key to self-discovery is real world experience. You just can't do it in a vacuum. You must test yourself to discover yourself. You need to get your hands dirty in the real working world to figure out what aspects of who you are might be valuable to the development of your career.

Self-Discovery is a lifelong journey

The author mentions one of his key takeaways from all the interviews was there is no one common path for self-discovery. Self-discovery is unique for each person. For some the clarity of what one wants to do in life emerges at the very early age and for many this becomes a lifelong journey of introspection, trial and error, coupled with perpetual growth. This is the beauty of self-discovery it's a never ending process. You will keep discovering things about yourself as long as you continue to be engaged in the process of inquiry.

Chapter 3 Balancing Breadth and Depth

The author refers to David Epstein 's book Range: Why Generalist Triumph In a Specialized World, has been one of the most thought provoking book he has read in the recent few years.

David Epstein challenges the notion of specializing as early as possible to thrive in one's vocation. He put forth research that that argues the case that those who succeed in the long run are those who developed a wide range of skills and experiences early in their lives which they can apply to the rest of their career.

However, our current education system runs contrary to delaying specialization, hence it becomes a herculean task for students to go in another direction.

The author categorically mentions he nor any the interviewees are against specialization. However, specialization should not come at the expense of learning a broad range of skills. The key is to find that balance of breadth and depth of variety and focus.

Choosing your educational path

The author provides a general guideline and perspectives from his and the interviewees life experiences:

You don't have to know (yet) - If a student is unclear of the choice of subjects, it's okay. They need not stress too much on it.

The institution matters more than your major - If a student is unclear on the branch/major, then it may be a good idea to pick up the school (reputation) over the branch. A reputed school can open many doors in future.

Liberal Arts style education generally serves you best in the long run - Liberal Arts curriculum covers four general sectors: the arts, humanities, social and physical sciences. The objective of liberal arts is to cultivate an ability to think critically across disciplines and to see the interconnects between them.

A study published by Stanford University in collaboration with HSE university Moscow in Nature Human Behavior tracked 30,000 engineering students across India Russia China and USA through their four years of undergraduate degree to monitor the development of their critical thinking skills. The study found that Indian engineering students (along with the Russians and Chinese) significantly lagged their American counterparts when it came to critical thinking.

In an article for the Higher Education Review, Mimi Roy, an associate professor at Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, explains why she believes Indian students are falling behind. “The pedagogy at most techno institutions is not thought provoking and relies mostly on route learning and exam-based lock step methods.”

Diversifying your education and experience

The author mentions attending a liberal arts college isn't the right choice for everyone, nor it is always an option. Some people from an early age are aware of their specialized field of education while others might not be able to afford and liberal arts education as most institutions tend to be more elite. It is possible to gain many of the benefits of a liberal arts education even if you don't attend a liberal arts college. Student can expose themselves by attending diverse classes beyond their core subjects, by actively choosing diverse opportunities on campus which will help them develop new and diverse skill-sets which will help them to build a wider network of peers and mentors. Such wider exposure makes students well-rounded and they set themselves for success in the long run.

Learning how to specialize

One of the interviewee Nikhil mentions, the point is that while you shouldn't be too narrow in your approach, we should also avoid being too broad. We need to strike a balance between the breadth and depth. David Epstein 's book range also articulates this key principle: generalize early but specialize late.

Striking your balance

The author concludes the chapter by stating, give yourself the time and space to experiment, pursue diverse opportunities, pursue different topics and interest. Aim for balance not expedience. Don't be afraid to take a longer and more winding path. It will benefit you in the long run.

Chapter 4 Focusing on the Right Skills

Transferable skills for a non-linear world

Outside of technical skills, the author identifies five general categories of THRIVE SKILLS (Harappa Education):



Critical Thinking

Problem Solving


Technological innovation and automation has put pressure on the workforce to evolve and adapt. Tasks that used to be performed by humans are now being taken over by computers applications and machines. But there is one domain that remains relatively immune to automations rapid advances: Soft skills or Social skills. 

National Bureau of Economic Research shows since 1980s, most of the job growth has been within careers that require extensive social interaction. Jobs that include a high degree of analytical and mathematical processing but relatively low levels of social interaction have declined. Similarly, the higher paying jobs tend to be those that require the most social skills. So, it’s crucial to develop these soft/social skills as we venture forward into the brave new world dominated by technology and machines.

Chapter 5 Picking Up (and connecting) the Dots

The author quotes Steve Jobs famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, “You can't Connect the Dots looking forward you can Only Connect them looking backwards. so, you must trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

The author builds on this further by stating, “If you want to be able to connect the dots in your own life, you have to be willing to pick them up first.” He mentions, the willingness to pick up new experiences was a universal quality among everyone he interviewed in the process of writing this book. None of their career paths were linear, they all galvanized diverse experiences and skills to create their own unique story and career path.

Your life is an experiment

Through interviewee’s Paroma Roy Chowdhury story, the author showcases the importance of willingness to take risks, try new things, to experiment, to follow one’s instincts. Every opportunity is a working hypothesis, which helps to move on to your next hypothesis and continue to learn and grow forever.

Overcoming the fear of failure

Through Uday Shankar's story the author tells us the importance of overcoming your fear of failure which in turn helps to seize opportunities and act. He emphasizes once you have made your decision, you need to do everything in your power not to fail.

So, what’s the best way to overcome fear of failure? Uday’s advice is not to take yourself too seriously.

Another way is to reframe what ‘failure’ means. Failure can be looked as an experiment, there’s no right or wrong results, there’s only more data one can use to create the next experiment. So, failure is not literally a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn, grow and refine.

Finally, the best way to overcome your fear of failure is to actually fail. You will find that you recover from failure faster than you would have expected. You will go on living and growing.

Intelligent failure

Duke university’s Sim Sitkin in his 1996 article Learning through failure: The strategy of small losses for the Journal of Organizational Learning, coined the term intelligent failure. He articulates Don't throw caution to the wind and recklessly attempt to do big things. Rather, take up initiatives and challenges that you have considered and prepared for, but that you understand might not work perfectly.

How to fail intelligently?

Be in an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and failure is accepted.

Challenge yourself by taking on difficult tasks where you will likely experience some degree of failure.

Adjust your mindset to see failure as a natural part of a creative life.

Make sure that you are not trying to fail. Rather you're doing your best to succeed, but ready to learn from any failure that might occur. 

You don't have to feel like an Imposter

In the year 1978, a team of Psychologists Suzanne Imes, Pauline Rose Clance, first identified Imposter Syndrome as a pervasive phenomenon and attributed it primarily to women. In a 2011 article in the Journal of Behavioural Science, 70% of the people surveyed reported to have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. 

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy, one feels they don't belong in this group of high achievers and they attribute their success to luck rather than their hard work and talent.

Since imposter syndrome is subjective distortion of reality, one of the best way to gain objectivity is to talk to someone i.e. approach a friend, colleague or mentor and share what's going on in your mind. Maybe experiencing imposter syndrome from time to time is a natural phenomenon and hence expect it, be ready for them and find a way to overcome it.

Get as much experience as you can

The author emphasizes the importance of experience by stating you can have all the education in the world, but it can't replace the value of real-world experience. Experience helps us in our exploration and self-discovery. So students are encouraged to participate in experiential learning programs, volunteering work, taking up opportunities your school and college such as hosting events etc.

Chapter 6 The Power of Mentorship

The author through his life story and from the life stories of all the interviewees, highlights mentorship as one of the most important ingredients in a successful career. Mentors play an important role, not only in early professional and educational decisions but also in many of the critical junctures of one's professional journey. Mentors help to identify one's trends, refine their passions and push them towards higher degree of excellence.

A trusted voice outside of your family

The author presents Indra Noogi’s story, which highlights how her mentor’s advice (voice) was accepted with trust by her family.

A good mentor’s primary interest is your future and betterment, without having any conflict of interest. Mentor can often be more objective about you than your family can. A mentor looks at you as a possibility i.e. who you will be in the future than who you have been in the past.

Helping You to Find and Connect the Dots

A mentor being an objective observer of our career can help us to see the dots and connect the dots. They play a huge role in our organic process of self-discovery, by helping us discover our strengths and make sense of our experiences and situations. A mentor also holds you to a higher standard, thereby raising your level of thinking and performance. A mentor also helps in modelling new pathways i.e., can open your mind to new opportunities you weren’t aware of or didn’t think possible. Mentors can also be role models and they can be a guide, friend, philosopher who gives you the confidence to make a career move, a career transition and to overcome career challenges.

Chapter 7 Advice for Parents: Tapping into the Secret Sauce

The author highlights the rapid change in our society in just one generation. Parents today are facing a unique generational conundrum, i.e., there is a disconnect between our experience of growing up as a child and that of our children who are growing up now.

Therefore, parents should be cautious not to project their own life experiences onto their children, because what worked for us won't necessarily work for our children.

The room to experiment

The best gift a parent can give to their child is room (time) to experiment. Help your child in cultivating a dynamic growth mindset from a young age, which will be critical to their long-term success.

They are different from you

As digital natives today's children have been shaped by a completely different world than you had. As parents, we need to acknowledge and learn about these differences in order for our guidance to be relevant and effective.

The Deloitte 2021 millennial and Gen Z survey found that among young people in India, personal beliefs (ethics based work) are more influential over the kinds of careers they choose [72% millennials and 66% Gen Z) than the global average break 44% millennials and 49% Gen Z). Mental Health is also an emerging value among younger generation.

Help them figure out what they love

The best role you can play as a parent is to help them discover themselves, gradually and without any pressure to figure it out quickly. Parents should avoid becoming overly concerned with grades. Grades, are important, especially if you want to get into a good school. It's just that you shouldn't think that just getting good grades will ensure you a successful future. Rather, having a well-rounded base of experiences and skills to draw from will serve you better in the long run. Encourage them to take up hobbies, help them to take up internships for gaining real world experience and parents should do their best to learn about how the world is changing.

Prepare them, don't instruct them

Srikanth Shastri, one of the interviewee, calls this approach to parenting as ‘guidance with the light touch’. He believes the best advice focuses on the process of making decisions rather than the decisions themselves. He advocates of teaching young people how to approach the decision in their life that is how to break it down into its component parts, how to weigh the pros and cons, how to think through all the potential outcomes and how to ask all the right questions. In short, teach children how to think, and not what to think.

Ofcourse parenting has to be sometimes heavy-handed and prescriptive but these should be reserved only for instances when the mistakes are of a catastrophic nature.

Building Agility and Resilience

In a rapidly changing world, where change is the only constant, young people need to be made comfortable to embrace this brave new world. Agility and Resilience are two qualities today’s children need to inculcate, to thrive in this new world.

Expose your children to diversity (new skills, new experiences, new environments, new scenarios) so that it develops adaptability and agility in them in due course of time. In-short as parents help to diversify your child's toolkit so that they have many more skills and experiences to draw upon in their future.

As parents, give your child the opportunity to fail, especially early in their lives. As parents we first  need to overcome our own fear of failure. Parents who exhibit this in their own life will be a learning model for their own children (learning by observing/role model). Secondly, encourage your child to take up challenging assignments so that they can taste disappointment that comes with failure and learn why they failed and learn how to bounce back e.g. try learning a musical instrument, try learning a foreign language, apply for a challenging school, take up sports etc.

As parents, we can provide our children a safe space, a safety net, so that they can experiment with their life, learn to fail in a safe environment and eventually build agility and resilience for the long run.

The Secret Sauce

“Parents can instill in their children the values that help them to succeed, but do it in a manner that doesn't project their own worldview, which was shaped in a different era.” – Monica Hariharan

According to Monica, the secret sauce for everyone looking to succeed in today's world is to take all of those deeper values and find new ways to express them.

The author sums it up by stating, this secret sauce is infact the age old ethical template defined by hard work, excellence, rigorous thinking, dependability, resilience and adaptability. The key for parents today is to give their children this template without being too prescriptive in how to apply it.

Conclusion unlocking a Growth Mindset

The author connects Growth Mindset (by Psychology Professor Carol Dweck) with Marc Randolph (co-founder of Netflix) 2022 commencement speech at Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts.

Marc says, “follow your dreams” might be the worst thing to tell young people. He continues, the advice perse is not bad, but no one tells you ‘HOW’.

He advocates that young people should ‘Stop Thinking and Start Doing’. He believes it's more crucial to learn how to execute your goals so that when you do discover your dreams, whatever that may be, you will be in a position to practically make them come true.

The author states instead of telling people to follow your dreams we should say discover your dreams. Which means your dreams are in some fixed entities rather they are dynamic and changing. They are something to be discovered through the process of your own career journey. Discovering your dreams requires experimentation. It requires throwing yourself into new situations and over time, figuring out what you are best at and what gives you the most sense of fulfillment. In other words, it’s about inculcating a growth mindset.

A growth mindset propels us and makes us break away from stagnation of fixed mindset. It makes us a person who is ‘work in progress’, who can learn new skills, gain new knowledge, continue self-discovery, explore new opportunities and continue to pivot through their lifelong journey.

Pramath Raj Sinha (image courtesy - Harappa Education)

The author Pramath Raj Sinha, concludes in his own unique style – “I want to leave you with a nugget of wisdom. As you peer into your career, whether it be from the vantage point of a high school student, a college graduate, or a mid-career professional, it's imperative to do so with patience and curiosity. Don't fall victim to the pressure from your own peers or teachers or family or society to prematurely figure it all out. If you're not certain about what you want to do with your life, that's OK. The world isn't certain. So how could you be? As you take the next step in your career journey, try to see it as a learning opportunity. And one day, you’ll look back, connect the dots of your squiggly career and will be amazed at how much you’ve achieved.” 


I highly recommend checking out the book 'credit' by Pramath Raj Sinha and published by Penguin Publication. This book summary is intended for educational purposes to spread the ideas and knowledge presented in the book. However, I strongly suggest getting an in-depth reading and gaining deeper insights by purchasing the book. It's definitely worth it!