Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Look back at 2019

Note 1: This blog is still in progress. Some sections are work-in-progress, to be updated in next few days.

Note: My inspiration behind this blog is Tanmay Vora's blog and David Perell's blog

At the outset, I have to be honest in admitting that I have not been as diligent as I think I should have been in doing an annual review of sorts of my life outside work (primarily interest areas). Like everyone in active jobs, I have done so with regularity on the work-related areas following the mandatory process that exists in the organizations. So my attempt with the annual review has a slightly different focus.
So i will dive right in sharing a few review notes of mine that matter to me.

Forever in Transition:
I know I said that I will focus on non-work related areas but I still thought I should start with mentioning a bit about my work. Why ? Because what I am mentioning here does not find a mention in the formal annual review process document.

I use Evernote for tracking my daily tasks. I have one Evernote 'note' page per month. And I started every month note by the following text:

  • themes for 2019
    • deliberate practice
    • story collection, story telling
    • drawing/sketchnote one in 14 days
    • connecting meaningfully with people
    • OKRs for everything meaningful
    • dwell in possibilities
    • consume less, create more
    • uncomplexify, one thing at a time
    • execute the complex
    • be a giver
    • treat work as a labour of love
At the start of this year, I had outlined these themes. There was no science in selecting these but I just picked-up these themes as these resonated very closely with my value-system. Putting this up in my task-list ensured that I get reminded of these every now and then.

Honestly, I don't have a measure yet on how these helped me or whether I was successful in following these but I do want to call out a couple of distinct experiences.

Late in 2016, I left the predictable career path (I was an Director Engineering at that time) to take the less-chartered path of non-linear career. I prefer to call myself an Intrapreneur (more about this in the summary of my recent talk here). In my journey over last 4 years, I have learned to transition to different functions and areas. As an example, in this phase I took up newer areas such as Technical Operations (Innovation, Tech Learning, Customer Briefing Center, Working with Start-up ecosystem, Engaging with Universities etc.), Product Management. It's just simple to say that I am in a mode of being forever in transition and finding creative ways to deliver value and outcomes.

One area that I accelerated was patenting my ideas. I teamed-up with a talented group and had 11 ideas  that were file as patents in US Patent Office (these are awaiting acceptance, which typically takes 2-3 years). As a part of my broader role in the last few years, I launched enabling processes that helped my organization improve the innovation output significantly but this year  I delved deeply into the innovation process and contributed actively in the patent process., which I am immensely proud of.

Portion of one of the successful patent filing letters I received

My Third Dimension:
I quite like this TED Talk by Vaishali Kasture and find it quite relatable to the way I live life. The talk is aptly titled as "Discovering your 3rd dimension". In summary, Vaishali calls various hobbies and interests as the third dimension as these help positively augment and influence the other two dimensions of life i.e. Work and Personal life.

Interests outside of work have a special place in my life and my engagement with these have certainly helped me shape my personality and become an evolved professional.

Over the years, I picked-up several interests some of which I couldn't pursue longer but at the same time, I could pursue others with passion. Let me introduce a few I did justice to in 2019.

I maintain 2-3 blogs. My oldest blog (this one) is around 12 years old. Though I am not officially trained in writing (which I would love to at some point) but the duration and consistency of my blog makes one thing clear- I love to write.

I would call 2019 as a sort of watershed moment in my blogging career so far. I blogged 130+ times, which is the rate of one blog every 2.6 days. I have never been this prolific in my writing. So what changed this year ?
In my assessment, my reading the book- Stories at Work: Unlock the Secret to Business Storytelling
made a great deal of impact to my writing. I found this book provide a very practical insight into the subject of business storytelling but one thing in this book that stayed with me was the concept of 'Story Banks'. Sharing this reference to explain what Story Banks are:

Indranil Chakraborty advises readers to develop a regular habit of cataloguing stories: identifying key facts in stories encountered, creating tags for the subjects and usage contexts, and storing them as a story bank in applications like Evernote. “It will be nothing short of collecting gold dust,” he jokes. Story banks can be built from one’s own stories, stories heard or elicited from others, and from business books. Recording and repeatedly hearing one’s own stories helps pick up flaws; testing the stories on small groups of listeners, watching their reactions, and asking for feedback also helps (particularly when addressing new cultural groups).

Inspired by this, I committed myself to the mission of collecting stories and ended-up codifying the stories in the form of writing in my blog. Sharing a few of the blogs with 1000+ views (which i think is a decent indicator for a blog that's poorly marketed) [views data collected on 22nd-Dec]

Towards the end of 2019, I started actively sharing on LinkedIn. Some of my posts gathered good engagement and people found value/shared the contents further. [views data collected on 22nd-Dec]

My Self Rating (for Writing): A+

One of the things that's been constant is my journey in the past decade or so is my indulgence in reading. I love to read and it's my favorite getaway from the routine world.

Like writing, 2019 was a turning-point of sorts in my journey as an avid reader. What really changed this year ?
All the while i have been reading, I always felt good with number of books I read in a year. At the height of my reading prowess, I would have read ~75 books in an year.

I was slowly realizing that no. of books read in a year is not a worthy goal to chase. The gradual realization was due to the fact I was experiencing myself that human mind just cannot retain words and concepts beyond a point. While I may meet my 'efficiency' goal of 75 books, but the real goal really is how much of what I read can I retain and apply in the real life. I call this aspect as an 'effectiveness' goal. Clearly, I was experiencing not so good vibes on the goal specific to effectiveness of reading.
Additionally, I have always associated reading with the joy it brings in. As the reading effort grew, I somehow experienced the feeling of joy being somewhat diminishing. I certainly knew that I have to change something with regards to my reading habit.
It was at this juncture that I came across this blog by Tanmay Vora. Reading this helped me diagnose my situation better and helped bring necessary clarity in my mind. What is this blog really about ?
In summary (from the blog):

Consumption is a critical element in one’s ability to create anything. So, consumption, by itself, is not all that bad. The problem of our times is  consumption by default. We first consume and then think if we really needed it. (Our goal should be to) Consume mindfully by having right set of filters that help you decide if something will *really* add value and increase your ability to create. When you consume mindfully, less is actually more. The time saved through mindful consumption is the time spared for engaging in creative pursuits.

So provided me with the necessary perspective to bring in shift in my reading habits and re-energize myself. I would have consumed ~40 books in 2019, some of which i highlighted in my recent tweet below:


My Self Rating (for Reading): B+

If my interest in reading fed consumption side of 'Consume less, Create more' philosophy, then my taking up sketchnoting fed the creation side of this philosophy.

Sketchnoting also helped me partly answer the question i was struggling with- 'how do i retain what i read?'
What is Sketchnoting ? Per wikipedia:
Sketchnoting, also commonly referred to as visual notetaking, is the creative and graphic process through which an individual can record their thoughts with the use of illustrations, symbols, structures, and texts.

Wikipedia definitions aren't always easy to fathom so let me narrate in plain words on how i took-up sketchnoting. My journey as a sketchnoter started sometime in 2018. A couple of reasons drew me towards it. One was an idle observation that the world around us was getting information-heavy and people cared less about simplifying the way we communicate. It became an inherent desire of mine to not contribute to already-existing complexity but try and provide a solution to this situation.
At the same time, twitter helped me connect with a few individuals who were actively sketchnoting and I got glued to the craft. I read a few books on this subject but mostly started studying the anatomy of the sketchnote and tried to learn for each and every sketchnote that came my way.

My early sketchnotes were drawn with pen and paper, which i enjoyed doing but it came with a caveat. My stationary box was getting bigger and almost unmanageable.
I moved to digital sketchnoting first with my Lenovo Yoga laptop with stylus. I enjoyed creating on this device till it got damaged.
Most of my recent work is on the next device i moved to- the iPad pro. As much as I am exploring the new device more, I am enjoying the experience at the same time.

If 2019 was a watershed moment for my habit of writing and reading, I would add sketchnoting to this list as well, especially considering the last 3-4 months of 2019.

In additon to helping embrace brevity in communication, sketchnoting helped me to balance my reading as i try and stay with the ideas I read longer (hence am able to retain longer) while I am drawing. It has added a new dimension to my writing too as everyone loves to catch a quick summary rather than reading hundreds of words.

I would continue to live by 'Consume less, Create more' philosophy and thank Tanmay Vora for introducing me to it.

You can find my sketchnotes here.  (To add: Picture of art showcase with sketchnotes at Citrix)

My Self Rating (for Sketchnoting): A+

Public Speaking:
review coming soon

Supporting Olympic Sports:
review coming soon

Giving Back to Professional Ecosystem:
review coming soon

review coming soon

Handwriting Analysis:
review coming soon

No comments: