Tuesday, November 30, 2021


 At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Julius Yego, a Javelin athlete from Kenya, did something unthinkable- winning a silver medal. Kenya is traditionally known to have produced long distance runners, how did they produce a Javelin champion ? Julius is nick-named as “Mr. YouTube” because he learned how to throw by watching YouTube videos and started with formal coaching quite late in his career.

Aditi Ashok, Indian Woman Golfer got the cricket-crazy country hooked on to Golf at Tokyo Olympics. She was unlucky to have narrowly missed a medal (coming a close 4th). How did she prepare for Tokyo Olympics ? She says- "I take a lot of videos and keep learning about my swing everyday". She has been self-coached since last 4.5 years.

Anna Kiesenhofer (Austrian Cyclist) who stunned the superstar cyclists to win a Gold holds a doctorate in Mathematics. What's more interesting (beyond her educational excellence) was that she went into Olympics self-coached (including her training, nutrition, equipment etc) . I recall she calling herself mastermind of her own performance.

To me, a few thoughts stand out, learning from these athletes:
1. The way we learn is undergoing massive disruption and its been happening for years. Julius was considered as an outlier at last Olympics, having learned his craft from videos but his tribe of self-learners has grown in sports. A trend that mirrors what's happening at work.

2. Learning has been democratized. There is no value in losing time waiting for an ideal course to be created before we start on something new. Be damn good at searching for resources, adapt and take charge of our learning.

3. Like in sports, in knowledge work too, most of the things can't be taught, they have to be learned. Self awareness, combined with ruthless desire to learn is a superpower. The pace of growth mostly depends on how fast you learn what is not taught.

Relevant to this discussion, sharing a replug of my sketchnote based on Jim Kwik's video- How to Learn anything in half the time- https://lnkd.in/fgs8ggM-

1. When you teach someone, you get to learn it twice.
2. Your brain does not learn through consumption, it learns through creation.
3. Forget what you already know about the subject to learn something new.

What are some of the learning strategies that have worked for you ?

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 Garry Kasparov was World Chess Champion for 15 years. He attributed his success to many factors, key of which was his preference for Systems mindset as against Outcome mindset.

How did Systems mindset work ?
e.g. Moving Rook to F6 lost the chess game.

Outcome mindset = "Don't do Rook to F6 again".

Systems mindset = "What was the decision process behind the move ? What was the mental routines that occurred before I made that decision? Don't do them again"
(Adapted from the book: Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries)

This principle applies broadly. Here are 2 examples:
1. Abhinav Bindra (Olympic Gold medalist, 10 m Air Rifle Shooting) came a disappointed 7th in 2004 Athens Olympics. He started to discover the reasons why couldn't win a medal (applying Outcome mindset) and figured out that the lane position he was allotted had a loose tile underfoot, which reverberated every time he shot. In a game of micrometers, this led him to lose accuracy and precision. Taking full ownership (and applying Systems mindset) to prevent this from happening again, Abhinav started what he calls as his quest for adaptability- to try and be perfect on an imperfect day. He started training under deliberately imperfect conditions, even installing a lose tile in his home range and practicing regularly while standing on it. He trained under low lights and bright lights, adjusted bulbs and added peculiar shadows and many such imperfections. He ended up winning Gold in the same event in 2008 Olympics.

2. In Organizations, when a failure happens:
- The weakest teams don't analyze failure at all.
- Teams with an outcome mindset, analyze why a project or strategy failed. e.g. The product did not stand out enough from competitors’ products.
- Teams with systems mindset, probe the decision-making process behind a failure. e.g. How did we arrive at that decision? Did we not have ideal skills ? Do we need more training ?

To summarize:
Outcome mindset prevents you from making that ONE mistake again.
Systems mindset prevents you from using the mental models that caused that mistake and prevents 100s of potential mistakes.

If you enjoyed reading this, you will like some ideas in this thread (https://bit.ly/3lLoniR) that beautifully summarizes some of the mental models used by Tobi Lutke. Check my sketchnote for details.

What are some of the mental models that have helped you in your life's journey ?

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 Dr. Rajdeep Manwani (Rahul Dravid's classmate), narrated this story about the legend in his speech-

 Rahul Dravid never attended classes regularly. One day he came to class from training and started writing notes with his Cricket gloves on. Everyone was laughing, talking, whispering, Rahul continued writing for that full hour.
After the class one of their friends asked, “why were you wearing gloves in the class? Rahul replied, ''The last two Ranji matches I played, I batted with old gloves which were very loose. When the bowler bowled, the ball went past my gloves and gave the impression of a snick. The keeper caught it and appealed. And both times I was declared out, even though I didn't touch the ball. Hence I bought these new gloves and wanted to get accustomed wearing it. I want my hands to sweat into these new gloves. So, for the next 48 hours, I will wear these gloves continuously (even while sleeping) because the next Ranji match — a semifinal — is in two days. I want my hands to sweat in and get adjusted to the gloves."
In the next 2 matches, he scored a century each and was selected to represent India for the tour to England.
In his book '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' Stephen Covey introduces the concept of circles of influence and says that proactive people (like Rahul Dravid in above example) – take more responsibility and focus on what they can do and can influence– and reactive people- shuns responsibility and focus their energy on things beyond their control. Reactive people maintain an attitude of victimisation and blame.

One of the business leaders that I admire, Prakash Iyer when asked what he would suggest for people to play to their full potential, said: PHD, which is:

Passion: which gives us direction
Hunger: momentum
Discipline: shows the way forward
When we tag people as geniuses (like we normally would associate Dravid with), we often forget that the greatest in the world have a set of routines that they practise, that allows them to deliver peak performance. It is those little, simple things done with utmost discipline that one needs to perfect and rigorously keep doing even when nobody's watching.

What are the routines of some of the inspiring people you know ? Please do try and share in comments.

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 Katie Ledecky is widely considered as the greatest female swimmer of all times. To add to her glory, yesterday she became first female swimmer to win 7 Olympic Gold medals in the history.

When Katie started her quest in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, she was expected to win everything she was participating in. These expectations were derailed a bit when Australian teenager Ariarne Titmus shocked Katie in the 400m freestyle event.

How did the Australian teenager motivate herself to beat one of the greatest swimmers of all time?

Ariarne had earlier said- her sole goal in Tokyo Olympics was to beat Katie. She goes on the say-

"Motivating myself for training is always super easy because I always have my goals. I try to keep them in the front of my mind and I try to do a lot of self-talk, and repeat them. I remember the positive things I've done in previous races. I'm motivated by the things I want to achieve in my career. Most people understand that you can't achieve if you don't put the work in." 

The keywords here are having a goal and willingness to put in work to achieve them.

Here's the replug of my learnings on the topic of goal setting from the book "Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?". This book is about an underdog story of Ben Hunt-Davis MBE and his team's journey to Olympic gold in the men’s Rowing Eight at Sydney 2000.

They developed a whole new way of working and began challenging everything they did with the question: “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?” If it did, they would keep doing it, if it didn’t they’d try something different.

By focusing on their performance (rather than results), their results started improving.

The team followed a peculiar goal setting approach known as 'Layered Goals'. The four layers included:

1. the crazy

2. the concrete

3. the control

4. the everyday layer

The crazy layer of your goal is, obviously, the outrageous one, a big bold goal.

The concrete layer provides the foundation. The concrete layer is where the crazy layer becomes specific. So, winning a gold medal results in rowing with certain time.

The control layer is about separating what you can from what you can’t control. e.g. You certainly can’t control the weather but you can control how often you would train. The everyday layer, which included the actions we can do daily.

How do you think the layered goals approach can be used at work ?

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 Many articles that explore the differences between #leadership & #management are written in a way that undermines the importance of managers, while projecting leadership as the superior of the two. There is often more goodness to the role of management than some of these articles seem to capture.

In his book, "How Will You Measure Your Life?", Clayton Christensen introduced an interesting perspective on the profession of #management:

"Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn & grow, take responsibility and contribute to the #success of a team."

But how does one play a role of manager in a way that it brings out the goodness & the nobility aspect of the job ?
Vala Afshar in one of his tweets (http://bit.ly/2SLVSVF) shared some ideas around it that resonated with me. Have represented these ideas via a #sketchnote for easier consumption and retention.

Larry Bossidy, former CEO of AlliedSignal, once said, "At the end of the day, you bet on people, not strategies.”

Management as a profession becomes noble only if managers demonstrate the willingness to take their role a step further by committing to creating memorable experiences for their employees. The most meaningful way to succeed as a manager is to help others succeed.

What else would you add to the below list ?

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 Despite all the odds that were stacked up, the Olympics officially started today (with some events already underway before inauguration). One normally associates sentiments like Grit, Determination, Perseverance when thinking of Olympics so it was quite heartwarming to hear the following story which has humanity and compassion written all over it

In Mar '21 World #1 Croatian rifle shooter Petar Gorsa was tested Covid+ on arrival in India and couldn't patriciate in the event. During this frustrating time,he got care from the National Rifle Association of India NRAI) for his treatment. But what touched him the most was NRAI president Raninder Singh's gesture. Raninder hosted the shooter at his own home in Delhi during his recovery phase.
Fast forward to May, with Covid causing havoc in India, it wasn't possible to host the training camp for the shooters. They were losing precious time 2 months before the Olympics. Petar spoke with NRAI chief and learned about their plans to host training camp in Croatia. From getting the Indians' paperwork done to get permissions from ministries, to booking the hotels and finding India restaurants in Zagreb, Gorsa did that that was needed to ensure that the visitors get the best of everything during their stay in Croatia.

The act of giving that he received while in India changed Petar's perspective about life. He says:
"Once I am done with the sport,I don't want to be remembered for my medals. I want to be remembered as a responsible & honourable man" 
(source: https://bit.ly/3fiY7er).

This story reminded me of learnings from one of my all time favorite books- Adam Grant's Give and Take. Find the book summary in my sketchnote.
Adam wonderfully explains through real life examples that you can be a Giver and a successful person at the same time . He goes on to divide Givers into 2 categories: 1. Selfless Givers and 2. Otherish Givers. The Selfless Giver is the one who's generous in helping people out but his/her personal productivity is affected. On the other hand, Otherish Givers are those people who genuinely help other people but they're also ambitious and make sure that their own personal goals are achieved.

Petar selflessly helped Indians but at the same time worked on his training. He said "There is still time and I can get back to my training.."

Not all of us get a chance to give back as Petar did but nonetheless we can always be forthcoming and create opportunities to pay it forward.
What's your perspective here? 

#givingback #payitforward #giving #replug

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021


 Utkarsh Rai, in his insightful video, https://bit.ly/3wCZbRa takes up this question and lays down a definitive point of view.

He cites- "Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. While it can motivate to perform higher and deliver better, it can cause unnecessary anxiety and time consumption."

When Google launched Gmail, it remained in beta for almost 5 years. At that time, technology companies used to keep products in beta as a transitional phase between “alpha” (when in-house testers or focus groups try out the software) and the official release. As far as I recall, my first experience with Gmail wasn't particularly buggy but it still preferred to keep beta as a label signalling that that they’re still tweaking the e-mail service and adding new features.  Apparently, Google's internal checklist still had stringent requirements that needed to be met before Gmail was fully released. Source: https://bit.ly/3z1CkAn

I find it quite interesting as Google preferred to value perfection before it fully released Gmail and at the same time the users used the product that was 'good enough' (and not necessarily perfect). We see other extreme in the cloud era where anything less than four 9's high availability creates unpleasant headlines.

I find an alternative point of view on this debate in Shreyas Doshi's twitter thread https://bit.ly/31Wr0Xg on LNO Effectiveness Framework for task prioritization. In summary, this framework talks about only a very few of our tasks deserves our inner perfectionist to shine (what he call Leverage tasks) and for other category of tasks- Neutral and Overhead tasks, following a perfectionist mindset will be an overkill and a cause of stress and anxiety.

Borrowing thoughts from Utkarsh Rai's video (watch here https://bit.ly/3wCZbRa) where he articulates the strategies to cut down the obsession with perfectionism and shares the following :
1. Embrace progress in failure 
2. Calibrate your standards
3. Cut down Rumination
4. Value utility of time

Sharing my sketchnote on the quote i loved.

What's your take on this ?


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