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.