Monday, February 27, 2023

Perils of Outsourcing Academic Research

Image credit: I'm a Lazy Student on Facebook

Screenshot from my Whatsapp Chat

Recently I received a Whatsapp message from a friend of mine, enquiring for a freelancer, who can help a student to write the research synopsis. This message was the trigger for writing this blog, as I hold strong opinionated view,  on such academic learning/practice.

I reached out to a freelance writer in my network who holds a Masters Degree in Psychology (relatable background as the student) to get her perspective. Thanks to this interaction, I was able to assimilate newer perspectives and garner a holistic view. Though I still hold an opinionated view on such learning practice.

Technology (internet, digital, affordable computers) has increased the outreach and access to education, exponentially, ever seen before in the brick and mortar era. The same technology has also ushered opportunities for Freelancers, often referred as Gig workers (Gig economy). 

The critical question in this confluence is: How should one approach education in today's context? 

The emphasis on just earning Certificates and Degrees, is a passe, without any demonstrable skills. 

In today's 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) the new emphasis is on hands-on skills and knowledge which can be put into practice!

In this changed paradigm, if a student's endeavour is just get a certificate, without acquiring skills and knowledge, they will be left holding just a piece of worthless paper in their hands.

Not to discount the fact, that outsourcing the academic assignment is unethical as it amounts to plagiarism.

Well, I don't want to take a morale high ground here and pass my judgement and sermons. I do understand a freelancer is within their rights to look at this, just as a professional task to be executed on payment basis. They are present in the marketplace to offer their knowledge and skills for a service fee. Hence the primary onus to outsource or not to outsource, lies with the students.

A student should ask two questions: 

The practice in which I am indulging, is it Ethical? 
Those who are morally upright, might refrain from outsourcing their academic writing. 

Am I Being Stupid by indulging in this practice? 
Let's assume there are students who give a damn to morality! They should ask this 2nd question, Am I being stupid?
At the face-value, you are is just outsourcing your academic work. However, at a deeper level you are outsourcing your learning opportunity, the rigour of research, opportunity to think critically, opportunity to gain deeper insights and in-depth expertise in your vocation. So in a true sense, the opportunity cost here is - Not To Learn and Grow!
So Am I Being Stupid? 
I am sure, by now almost all students would see the futility of indulging in this outsourcing practice. 

Playing devil's advocate here, a student may say - I don't care of ethics and I don't mind not learning. I am doing outsourcing my academic work, because I need a degree attached to my name. 

To them, I would humbly present my 1st argument. In today's changed context (4IR), the certificate/degree is just a piece of paper, unless one can exhibit skill and knowledge. So to those students, I would say, What's the point in spending your valuable time and money for a course of your disinterest. Your time and money, can be invested in a better avenue, which can make your flourish to your fullest potential.    

Enough of my lecturing and gyaan isn't it! 

So do I have a solution and positive inputs to provide to the students who maybe genuinely struggling to grasp the academic concepts and hence out of desperation are in look out for such freelancers (ghost writers) for their academic projects. These are few of the solutions I can think off:
  1. Time management: Usually a student can get pushed to hire/outsource their work, to meet a pressing timeline (this is a practical challenge especially for part-time students who also have to manage their work along with their studies). My advice would be, devout daily time, even if it's for shorter duration. Time management (daily time commitment, discipline) will go a long way, from preventing a student to get pushed by timeline crunch.
  2. Clarity on the Learning Objectives: Do always have the clarity of 'End in Mind'. Students should remind themselves they have taken the course for Employability (skill and knowledge) and not just to get a paper (certificate).
  3. Utilise Online Learning Resources: YouTube would be a great place to look up for tutorials on writing research proposals, synopsis etc. If one genuinely watches them with desire for learning, students would be able to supplement these learnings along with their existing class notes/lectures etc.
  4. Fun of Peer-learning (Group study): Engage in learning with your peers. Not to forget group study can be a fun way of learning too. 
  5. Find a mentor: You can always find a helpful mentor who is willing to guide you, challenge you to think independently and execute your work being self-reliant under their guidance. 
  6. If you are still unable to make in-roads and need to fall upon a freelancer, I would advice engage with someone who would refrain from ghost writing. Of course they would charge you for their knowledge and skill, but let them charge you for offering you guidance/mentoring and reviewing your drafts, rather than making you dumb by writing your project
With ChatGPT breaking into the scene, it's now so evident that outsourcing academic research/assignments is going into a whole new dimension. So it finally boils down to a matter of choice the student's have to make for themselves. 

Think short-term - indulge in academic outsourcing, enjoy the pleasures of free-time and just get the paper (certificate) in hand but fail to be future ready. 

Think long-term - DIY (Do It Yourself), enjoy the process of learning, gain skills/knowledge and grow into future ready citizen.

Bon Jovi famously sang "It's My Life". 

So who am I as a blogger to advice and pass judgements. "It's Your Life", so make your own choices and live the consequences. 

Signing off from this opinionated blog for now.......

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Phil Stutz's TOOLS for Turning Problems [in]to Possibilities

There is so much of overload of media contents that if one sits down to consume it non-stop 24X7, they might end up spending their entire life, yet not finish watching all of it. Hence the onus is now so much  on the viewer to use their judgement to short-list good content and for spending their time in a worthwhile manner (Infotainment). 

I love to watch movies, series, documentaries and I consciously search for good content from my areas of interest. One such interest area of mine is Mental Health and Wellbeing. 

Image from IMDb

This blog is running notes of STUTZ a documentary film on Netflix, of a candid conversation between leading Psychiatrist-Author Phil Stutz and Hollywood Actor Jonah Hill

The actor benefited by taking therapy sessions from Phil Stutz, that's why he made this film for sharing the therapy (tool) so that many more can benefit by watching it. 

'I am making this movie because I want to give therapy and the tools I've learned in therapy to as many people as possible, through a film.' - Jonah Hill

This documentary is available in Netflix with a running time of just over One and Half Hour. In today's busy life, availability of time has become a scare resource. So many might not be able to take out one and half hour time to watch it. Moreover, one cannot learn by watching this documentary as a passive audience. They have to pause for making notes for effective learning, which will further increase their watch time. 

This is the reason I wrote this blog, so that it can help many who are hard-pressed with time. They can use this blog as a reference note to the documentary and apply Phil Stutz's TOOLs for solving their life's problems and for making their life better.

The blog is written in first person narrative style (Phil Stutz talking directly to the interviewer (Johan Hill) and audience, as he does in the Netflix documentary).

Image from goodreads

What are TOOLs?

Tools is a bridge between between the problem and gaining at least some control over the problem. It has to do with possibility. Possibility means you feel yourself reacting differently. 

The Tool kit comprises of: 

  1. Life Force
  2. String of Pearls
  3. The Shadow
  4. The Snapshot
  5. The Maze
  6. Active Love
  7. Radical Acceptance
  8. The Grateful Flow  
  9. Loss Processing
Tools helps us to fight with Part-X. (Part X is explained below)


To get a direction, purpose and passion in life, one should activate their Life Force.

Level 1 - Your relationship with your body: Do exercise, cultivate good dietary habits and sleep well.

Level 2 - Your relationship with other people: Take self-initiative to reach out to people, develop and maintain relationships.

Level 3 - Your relationship with yourself: Our subconscious is untapped and unknown. Journal writing is a good way to gain insight about your subconscious mind.


Part X is that inner voice of your's which creates fear, resists change, blocks your evolution and blocks your potential

Part X will always be there in every human being. Hence, it's important to be aware that life consists of 3 Aspects of Reality.

3 Aspects of Reality are: Pain, Uncertainty and Constant Work.

Tools helps us to face and overcome these life's realities, make progress, create opportunities and enjoy the process.


Image from

Each pearl in the string represents an action.
This string of pearls, helps you to look at yourself in terms of the actions and habits. 
"I am the person who puts the next pearl on the string."
So it's about getting up in the morning and putting the next pearl in the string.
The key is to take action!


Image from Stutz Netflix

It's the part of yourself that you are still ashamed of and haven't made peace with. Find your shadow, face it, focus on it and work on it.
Image from Stutz Netflix

Talk to your shadow, listen to your shadow. The shadow needs your attention and wants it to be included and embraced (part of your life). 
Life is not about perfection, it's about the process, it's it's about wholeness, it's about being your true-self.

(A.K.A The Realm of Illusion)

Image from Stutz Netflix

The image of perfection in life (perfect snapshot) is an illusion created by Part X.
This still illusory image cripples one's progress and happiness. 
A perfect snapshot is not possible because the 3 realities of life: pain, uncertainty and constant work will always exist. 


Image from Stutz Netflix

The MAZE always involves other people.
The maze keeps you trapped inside it, it takes away your time and energy and stops you from moving forward in life.
It's the product of Part X, because Part X wants fairness. 
You feel you have been mistreated by the other person and the quest for fairness, puts your life on hold.
In reality time is fleeting but you are still in the maze, waiting to move past it, after resolving the issue with the concerned person.


You have to visualise this universe is made up of Love. It's a world that's almost dense with loving energy. Visualise yourself taking all the loving energy and placing it in your heart. Sent out the love you have concentrated in your heart to this other person (whom you have being hating). 

It's not so much about forgiving. It's about making you feel 'Whole'. If you can send love to the person who has hurt you, you can then make anyone part of yourself (wholeness). 

It's about releasing yourself from remaining trapped in the maze and not wasting (your energy and time) hours and weeks in the maze. 

The choice boils down to only two questions: You want to be right? or you want to create something new? 

Life is about moving forward and not being stuck in the maze and wasting the time and energy, because you can't get those hours and week back.


It's training yourself to create a Reflex.
It's trying to find the state of not getting into a lot of negativity and training yourself to say, What am I gonna do about it now?

Every event has something in it that you can learn from. 
You have to squeeze the juice out of the lemon (event), meaning you not only have to have the will-power but the faith too that every event in life has something valuable (value) in it. With this mindset, everything starts becoming meaningful. 

If you can train to create this reflex (mindset) of looking at all events as having value, you will reach the Zone of Tremendous Opportunities.


Illustrations from The Tools by Phil Stutz & Barry Michels

Phil Stutz narrates his first plane journey as a child. It was a gloomy, cloudy day but when the plane reached above the clouds, there was sun and sunshine. This episode in Stutz's life, gave a new paradigm - The Sun is always there, no matter how many many black and dark clouds are over you. We have to find out a way of let the sunshine come through the clouds. 

Part X will resist you, it will tell you shouldn't be grateful, you are a victim, you didn't get enough, why should you be grateful for what you have? (given the dark circumstances of your life). 

The process of creative act of being grateful will change your mood. 
The classic time to use 'The Grateful Flow' is when your thoughts are out of control.

Gratefulness is the state you want to be in as often as you possibly can be in it, because it's the state that breaks through the cloud. Once you are up there, you are in a different world. 


Image from Stutz Netflix

Most people are very bad at coming to terms with loss. They get depressed or bereft when there's a loss. But even before there is a loss, they're just worrying about a loss. 

The goal of Loss Processing, is to get what's called the potency of nonattachment. That means I can pursue something but I'm also willing to lose it. 

Visualization exercise: Pick up something you have got really attached to and fear of losing it. Imagine you are holding to it (branch of a tree), but eventually you let go of it. To your surprise, your fall is gentle and you fall into Sun, your physical body burns up and you become one sunbeam amongst all the other sunbeams. You are radiating a very loving, giving, outflowing sensation in this sun world. In this Sun World, all you can do is Give, You can't grasp and hold on to anything. It's just impossible.  

As human beings it not good to be completely non-attached. The goal here is not complete non-attachment, but moving towards the state of wholeness, where the loss of a material possession or a person, can't take away your wholeness.

Summary: 'No one is absolved from problems of life (not even the people whom you look upto). As humans everyone has to strive, adapt, struggle, go through pain, uncertainty, constant work for moving forward in life'. - Phil Stutz

References: The documentary Stutz on Netflix

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