happiness by building a remarkable life.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So Good They Can't Ignore You
Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

by Cal Newport. Business Plus. Pages 273 Rating: 10/10

I absolutely loved this book. In fact I have been waiting to read this book from the day Cal published about the book in his website. Cal already writes an awesome blog, which totally changed my views on how to make a remarkable life and now he has written this book.

So, lets get started...

This book debunks the myth of passion, as Cal always been doing and now in a better, stronger and ferociously structured manner. Not only that, he has moved to another step and provide the basic guidelines to make the best of anything (??), and build a remarkable life. 

There are four rules that are featured.

Rule1# Don't follow your passion.
Rule2# Be so good they can't ignore you.
Rule3# Turn down a promotion.
Rule4# Think small, act big.

You should better read the synopsis of these rules in Cal's writing. The point I want to mention is the way how he has presented the case. Its scientific, it feels like you are reading a super interesting journal paper (hard to find, I guess). And when you finally finish the book, it feels like Cal has just whispered into your ears, "Here, I rest my case."

He has a complete accessible organized list of references along with a brief summary of how he has applied these rules to his own life and work. 

It is not sexy, neither romantic and not at all charismatic - the way you can make your life remarkable. it is hard, but it is structured, it is doable and not a vague description how you suddenly become a millionaire or something. That is what this book is all about.

It destroys passion, another good thing that will relieve your mind of the useless task of finding your passion. I mean, not long after this, perhaps finding your passion will be another joke. 

Dude, I am screwed up, I don't know what to do, I am not happy.
Follow your passion, pal. (and they both almost fall down with laughter)

A final word of praise to Cal Newport, "You are so good that nobody can ignore you"

You can buy the book here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Now Habit, unschedule and a relief

I got a relief from the constant overwhelming urge that I should work hard all the time, have no fun and this is the way life is going to be. i tend to put off living with the solace that someday I will be happy. I no longer believe that.

I am reading the book "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore, and summarizing that with a snapshot of a page here.

This is taken from the sixth chapter of the book. I am human, and not superman.

Note: Since we should work only for 30 minutes a day, here is link on how to learn faster and better. Trust me, if Cal Newport endorses it, it works.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why it is hard to do deliberate practice ?

After trying my hands on deliberate practice, deliberately for the first time in the context of learning a software I have found out the following things.

1. You should clearly, and I mean crystal, know what you want.
2. You have to take it one inch at a time (I couldn't help stealing the Al Pacino line here.)
3. It must be designed, or better, planned what you are going to do.
4. It is mentally demanding and therefore you should make yourself free from distractions.

It was not that fun, but I learned something anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water, water evreywhere...Not a drop to drink

How to find motivation, and the truth behind it in a world full of bookshelves..full of motivational books and a hoard of motivational speakers.

I used to like motivational books, once upon a time. I bought, downloaded and read a lot of them. I tried to follow them, and tried to find my passion so that I can align my career and studies with my passion, and be happy forever. Also, I wanted to be radical, such as leaving a menial job and then following my passion.

This process has been going on from class 11th, that's from 2004 and eight years has passed. I am not saying those books did not help me, but as a matter of fact most of the things were useless. After browsing hundreds of blogs, websites, videos and e-books... I found out a website called Study Hacks.

It changed my perspective and I really started to connect to it. it introduced to me the concept of deliberate practice, related to the 10000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell.  It takes deliberate practice to achieve a truly wonderful life. 

I started reading books related to this... Talent is Overrated, The Talent code, Drive and Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. I felt like I have finally found the Holy Grail. 

Meanwhile, I am still working on improving my life. I am not yet successful. But, now I know what it takes to build a truly remarkable life and career. Applying these principles to our lives is not easy, and I have not yet learned, let alone mastered, the art of delibearate practice.

Someday I will. Or, let me put a deadline 'coz a goal without a deadline is still a dream. I will master the art of deliberate practice within the next 365 days. 

What I gained, however, is that I came out from the rut of stupid motivational books. I am not reading any motivational books or watching any videos which talks about passion as something you find out one day just out of nowhere. I am buying the theory of creating passion, the craftsman's manifesto and deliberate practice.

Lets put this into action. 365 Days to a better life. In the meantime, you can google "Study Hacks," "deliberate practice," and "Craftsman's Manifesto."

Life is tough, but I know about deliberate practice.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why we will never have immortal songs ?

There are old hindi movie songs that can still blow our mind. Kishore Kumar, Mehmood, Muhammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar have always been everyone's favourite. Some songs have been marked as immortal and rightly so, as they still have the capacity to blow our minds after decades of their release. 

Now, the new genre of songs.. I mean from the 90's are hardly recognized as immortal ones. I don't have enough data nor I am qualified enough to comment on the quality of songs to segregate which ones should be immortal or not.

But I have an observation, or may be a gut feeling to explain this. With the rise of internet and youtube, we can see the songs of contemporary movies along with the video from the time they start advertising. What happens is that all the songs are registered on our minds, not only by its melody and words but also as the picturization of it. It happens to me that when I listen to a song without looking at its video, I discover fragments of lyrics or music that is awesome which I have never cared for when watching it with the video.

A a large and mass effect, this phenomenon results in the fact that the popularization of songs are not limited only to the melody and words but also the picturization. Along with that, we have too many songs and too fast access to almost everything.

Therefore, may be we will never have immortal songs or if it is immortal, nay be it is released before the 90s.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some rules to live by

This post doesn't come with the guarantee that I follow them all. But, if I did it would have been awesome.

I am trying. Well, as my professor Dr. Dibakar Sen says... lets start with that.

1. Triers try, doers do.
2. Wake up early morning and look at the sky.
3. Never, at any point of time, stop your relentless quest to find happiness.
4. If you want to be happy, nobody can stop you.
5. Be oblique, be eccentric, look everything with skepticism. Be creative. (Even look at this post with skepticism).
6. When going gets tough, love can get you going.
7. Never underestimate yourself.
8. Practice deliberately.
9. Have a notebook to write anything interesting you come across.
10. Read books, if you can't, read blogs.
11. Grow interests, work on them, and learn skills relevant to them.
12. Money is no evil, it is the way you use them.
13. Forget the past, don't forget the lesson.

Whoa, it finished with the magic, cult and interesting number 13. Well, read about that. So you are following rule no 10 already if you have clicked in that link.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Car wheel alignment, Eigen value problem and excellence

Today morning I was attending a class on dynamics taught by Prof. Rudra Pratap. He explained today in detail the process of mass balancing using simple linear and angular momentum balance theorem. It was basically a disk rotating on a rod with an angle. Refer to the picture below.

It was an enjoyable class and then, he started writing a symmetric matrix (After attending Prof Jog's class, I like to call it as second order tensor. It feels good.) of the moment of inertia of the . The moment of inertia about the three principal axes are the diagonal terms of the matrix. Obviously, the other terms of the matrix are zero. 

Now, from the result of the mass balance problem, it was deduced that if we keep the plate in certain orientations then there is no requirement of torque at the  support points. Subsequently, the orientations were those of the eigen vectors of the moment of inertia matrix.

So, car or bike wheel alignment is essentially a eigen value problem and subsequently any balancing problem involving two masses placed on a rotating rod.

Now, when we go for aligning car or bike wheels, the mechanic does it. He knows by practice that if the wheels are properly balanced and are aligned the support don't feel any reaction force. Even if he knows how to fix the problem better than you and me, he does not have the insight of the problem like we do.

So, what are we going to do with the insight ?

We deduce a lot from the knowledge. As an engineer, we can look at a similar problem and know the solution using this insight and that is where the difference and significance comes. As I mentioned in a previous post about my own hypocrisy, I don't feel that bad about it now.

Now, why the word "excellence" is there on this post title?

It comes from the fact that creativity has a lot to do with knowing something and associating that knowledge correctly to other problems. And that we can learn from this car wheel alignment problem. This skill of associating knowledge requires practice and thinking from the side of the person having that knowledge. To attain excellence we have to practice associating our knowledge to appropriate problems to find solutions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And I took the less travelled road.

Ultimately, there is death and all roads lead to the same destination. However, there are only two kinds of roads.

First one is kind of a four lane highway. You drive smoothly, enjoy the view and think you are happy. But you are not, because ultimately that road becomes boring, it is the same view over and over again, and the monotony eats us like a bug.

The second one is more or less like a hilly road. There are bumps, and ferocious animals on the way and no street lights sometimes. But also the view, the enjoyable moments of sheer natural beauty and the adrenaline pump of near-escaping some mishap. And perhaps a tribal waving you ta-ta-bye-bye, a hitchhiker's breathtaking story... no food, so you survive on water and suddenly an inn out of nowhere and this and that. You don't even feel you are going somewhere. And without even knowing it you are happy from the core of your heart and that is what matters most.

I am in awe of (read utter jealousy to) people who takes the hilly road. Today he is a family man, and may be 10 days after in the sea, doing a somersault and then teaching some kids how to fly a kite, and then solving problems as a business analyst using one hell of technical jargon or whatever...

You can see them in the streets, in the bus, in the bookstore, and in malls and dusty village roads. They have something in their faces, a brightness that can not be seen by most of us because we are busy doing some s***. But, I sincerely hope, one day I will have enough courage, knowledge and the most importantly a large heart to become happy like them.

Aakax'r fale salu aru kolu - Muk dia ai bixalota'r ata tukura
Ai oximor ata tukura... Aru moiu tumar dore bixal hoi jau

[I looked at the sky and asked - Give me a part of this amazon
A part of this infinity.. And I will grow big and big like you]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Review - Talent is Overrated

by Geoff Colvin, Published by the Penguin Group, 228 pages

Well, it was hard to read this book. It took nearly three days to go through 200 pages, even after I almost skipped a chapter. And rightly so, because the concept on which the book is based is deliberate practice...not just practice. You don't just slog through it, and get to enjoy phenomenal success...

How can truly excellent people, like Stephen Hawkins and Michael Jordan, do what everybody else can't do ? There are only a few people who are truly amazing, excellent and awesome at what they do. All of us, we work hard. We put in long hours in what we do - engineering, teaching, music, sports whatever. Even then, It is a matter of shame if we calculate the total number of hours we have put in the work we do, and the level what we have achieved. Of course, we have explanation for the same - we are not talented, we don't work as hard as them and the most easy explanation - we ain't lucky enough or we are not god gifted.

There are eleven chapters in this book. The author explains the mystery of talent, and why everyone uses it as a convenient excuse to slog through life in the first chapter. Then comes the proof, why talent is overrated. A close examination of the lives of great performers take out the inconvenient truth.. that talent is overrated. May be god-gifted talent for a specific task like music, sports or academics does not exist, but what if general intelligence (smartness ??) or IQ has an effect.

Is that really so ? Well, the answer is NO. And this book explains.... why ?

It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. Its the things we know that just ain't so - Josh Billings

So, what is it ? The author examines all of talent, overall smartness or aptitude as a turning point for truly exceptional performers. But the actual result says something different. These things don't matter at all. With the example of Tiger Woods, and Benjamin Franklin it is obvious that rather than god-gifted talent or smartness, they had something different; or to say properly, they did something different.

Then what is a better idea that can explain this puzzle ? Practice. And its not the practice what we do. Its the practice with deliberate effort. And it takes a long time, as explained in the 10 year rule or 10000 hours rule.

Deliberate practice must accomplish something, its not just practicing in our comfort zone. If it doesn't require any special effort, its not deliberate practice. And then the author explains what is deliberate practice. And how does it work ? Though it may not be a good idea for me to explain it, because I am not Geoff Colvin. The reader needs to read it themselves, and I don't want to take out the element of suspense - the element that makes you a great performer, someone line Tiger Woods or Sachin Tendulkar.

So, how can we apply those abstract principles in our lives; we are all different - as persons, as professionals and as performers.

There are explanations to how we apply those principles to our lives, to to our organizations. And there is another interesting chapter on motivation too... Well, as expected, there are unanswered questions. But, a book is always better if it leaves foods for thought.. and this one does that exactly.

We got to take charge of our life, deliberately.

A poster I made for deliberate practice in http://diy.despair.com/ . The image is taken from the cover of the same book.

The book can be bought here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kill the Television - Am I doing it Right?

Kill the television - I am referring to the single piece of advice that Randy Pausch gave in his time management presentation at the CMU. This is really an advice that sounds important. And really.........

Now, I don't have any weakness about the TV. When I was a small child, we didn't have a TV in our home. My father was probably aware about the problems with the idiot box and he never allowed a TV till I passed out 12th. Now, even if I have a TV at home I don't feel any urge to watch TV.

And I am pretty happy because of that. Particularly, when I went through the presentation of Randy Pausch I thought that I already killed the television. But, actually, I DID NOT.

How ?

Well, I bought a laptop in the starting of the second year of my engineering and also availed a free internet connection from my college. And torrents, megaupload and most importantly the LAN helped me to download a lot o movies, series, videos etc.. and then came the HD prints. So, it was practically impossible to take my eyes of the laptop. Anyway, I also learned many stuff with the laptop right with me all the time. I also found out that we can download a lot of books, most of them are outrageously costly, from the internet for free. But that is not the point.

I started getting kinda addicted to movies and series. Naruto, Big Bang Theory, Prison Break, How I Met your Mother and FRIENDS (read awesome !!) took over my life. In the fifth semester I finished four seasons of How I Met your Mother in the break I got in the mid sem. And now, its Everybody Loves Raymond that is killing my time.

So, in retrospect, I did not kill the television. Just that, it came to my life in another form, the computer.

Think about it. Most of our life has already been taken over by the computer; in the form of internet and videos. And we thought we killed the television.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A book review - Freakonomics

Freakonomics - A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner.

This is not a book about economics, or it may be everything that should be economics. Abstract comparisons between schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers, ku klux klan and real estate agents are made. Parenting advice (not in a proper sense) is analyzed; the drop of criminals and behaviour of drug dealers are investigated with tools and knowledge of economics. These questions are seemingly not at all concerned with economics as we know it and that is what is different about this book.

It seems as if challenging conventional wisdom is all that the authors trying to do. But, there are facts and numbers cited from credible sources and they cannot be ignored as just another "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." The information is unfolded and made simpler for anyone to understand, and there is nothing like statistics at all.

Some of the most basic assumptions of our society are challenged, seemingly unrealistic comparisons are made and hence proved; and it is not at all economics and rightly freak-o-nomics. The authors provide interesting hypotheses in each chapter and they are realized, dissected and proved henceforth. The journey through the book is as interesting as the attention it commands with those witty chapter names such as "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?"

The power of logic and reason, the foundation on which science is built, is used to challenge the conventional wisdom. Economics is always regarded as a science with excellent tools to get answers to everyday questions related to money, and the authors took up the daunting task of extending the logic, the math and the science of economics to search and research the answers to questions which are never asked. Because, the wall of conventional wisdom always stands as a barrier in front of society to even thinking of asking those questions. This may not be economics in the conventional sense at all, but Levitt and Dubner shows the reader the door to an exceptional journey of getting closer to the most primal question in economics - explaining how people get what they want.

Its all about asking the right questions, and also disregarding the conventional wisdom to intrigue ourselves in starting a journey full of undeniable facts, numbers and may be proving something that was completely out of our domain of thinking. Its about peeling out the layer of everyday nuances and going beyond what we see, the hidden side of everything.

May be science was doing it till now, from atoms to quarks and more. But with the same logical and rigorous approach, can we explore the societal phenomena? This book is an answer to this question. It may be a frustrating thing to do, and may be conventional wisdom will turn out to be true. However, chances are that as it can be seen from the book, conventional wisdom is not true most of the time.

All these analyses may look like not important at all. I mean who cares what klu klux klan and real estate agents have in common. But as explained again and again before,this book is a series of exercise in logic and reason. Thinking differently can make all the difference, and this books can give a valuable insight into how to think or how not to.

Its more than interesting, its intriguing and thought provoking.

The book can be bought here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ability, Skills and success

There is a feeling that used to constantly bother me. Its about the acquisition of skills. Most of the times I felt that I did not have the resource or skills required to present my thinking or work in front of a class, teacher or whoever may be.

It was always with me - I don't know programming, so I can't do this. I don't know AutoCAD, so I can't do that.. And I have lost a major share of my time brooding over this weakness. Sometimes I start to learn these kind of skills, and I eventually master them. But still, my purpose of a better presentation did not get fulfilled.

This situation led me to read many blogs, to watch many videos and books. And I seem to have found an answer to this.

There are two things - Resource and Resourcefulness. From the TED talk given by Tony Robbins, I have borrowed this term. In short, it is about the superiority of resourcefulness over having resources. Having resources may not be enough, if you don't use it to maximum level.

So, here is an example.
I have a friend who is very good at modelling with CAD packages and he used to do awesome presentations. All of us, if not all atleast me, used to feel that its because he is so skillful he can make them easily... and we can't only because we don't know it, rather than not having awesome ideas. One semester passes by, we are as good as him in modelling. Still, he is the best in presentations...

Why ???
The answer is simple. I don't give our 100% to the presentations. I have constant regret during the presentations that I could have done better.

What all of this boils down into?

Its resourcefulness, not resources.
Its not the skill, its the ability to give 100%.

And more importantly, the ability to start working when you need to work and stick with it.. is the most important skill we need to acquire. The rest is pretty easy. You start, you do and you finish.

The ability to stay put through these three steps without getting distracted is what we need to master by practice.


About Me

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I am a student [Master of Design - Product Design and Engineering] at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. I completed BTech (Mechanical Engineering) from NIT Silchar. My native place is Sipajhar, a small place with rich cultural heritage, in Assam. I am interested in designing products and systems for a better life. I like to collect quotes, read books,blog and surf net, dance and sing Bihu songs and write poems and articles. I don't like to talk while I am eating. But above all, I want to be happy all the time. Contact me at m2n037[at]gmail[dot]com
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