Friday, July 20, 2018

Orientation Lecture at the Department of Dance, SN College, University of Hyderabad

I enjoy orientation lectures because they allow me to put all that I teach in a nutshell and hopefully provide some clarity to the students to better use their time and energy. Thankfully the Department of Dance has also been kind enough to offer me time to speak to the students on the first day of their course for the past two years. Dr. Sivaraju invited me to speak to the 17 first year students of the 2 year Masters of Performing Arts Course along with the senior students.

Goals - Why are you here?
The first part was about goals, aspirations and dreams. If their goals are not clear or big enough, it will compromise their action. So apart from 'doing the course' and 'learning' and 'doing well', we decided to start with a 20-year goal. A big goal and a big timeline that knocks out all excuses. Some specifics were involved as in giving the picture some detail (eg. the best-known expert in dance or a performer of the standing of a well-known performer like Smt. Shobha Naidu etc). The idea of specifics, time frames, role models to help fill in the picture was conveyed. they all were told to write their 20-year goals. Then they could work backward and establish a 10-year goal, a 5-year goal and a 2-year goal. The key to this activity was that our action or preparation gets kickstarted depending on the goal we set ourselves.

What Stops Us From Getting There
Second, we looked at the gap between us and our goals and dreams and what normally blocks us from reaching there. We discussed fears and apprehensions, doubts and misgivings that maybe it may not happen after all the effort we put in.

Two Paths to Handle Doubts and Fears
As always when doubt comes up against our dreams, we choose in favour of one or another. Path 1 is for those who choose doubt over the goal. This is the path of blame and excuse which pretty much ends the story before it starts. Path 2 is to look at the goal, then look at where one stands, look at reality, look at resources in hand and plunge in and work at achieving it. Your resources being time and energy at hand and a dream to achieve.

Everyone Is at the Starting Blocks
Here,  I stopped the story to say that everyone who joined the class is equal as on date. No one is greater or lesser, despite their past accomplishments. What they will do now in these two years and in the coming twenty years will decide what will actually happen.

The Growth or Learning Mindset - The Mindset that Can Change Your Life
Now, since we are up at the starting line, I gave them the tool - the mindset to adopt - to make their dream come true. Quoting from the book 'Mindset' I told them about the Fixed and Growth/Learning Mindsets and how these mindsets can make or break a career. Your success is not limited by your intelligence, talent or luck. In fact, all three grow as we use them more. To illustrate the mindsets and how they can mess with a person of reasonable achievement, I gave them the example of my story. How I did well at first-class cricket, stopped working and hoped things will happen on their own, did not realise that I needed to put in more effort and lost my performance. I slunk into the fixed mindset and did not ask for help nor did I put in effort and slowly faded away.

Fixed Mindset
In the fixed mindset a person desires to look smart, avoids tough challenges, gives up easily, gets defensive when asked about performance, sees effort as fruitless, ignores useful negative advise and feels threatened by others success. This person paints himself into a corner on the simple premise that smart people should not work hard (they should work smart). He does not believe in effort or saying I don't know and can someone help. Many a career has gone down the drain with this mindset including mine.

Growth Mindset
In the growth or learning mindset, the person desires to learn and grow and does not want to prove that he is smart or talented or anything. Consequently, he embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks and does not give up, seeks help to find ways to improve, sees effort as the path to mastery, learns from criticism, finds lessons and inspiration from others success.

Clearly the fixed mindset person, despite maybe better talent at the starting point, will plateau early and achieves less than full potential. The learning mindset person will reach even higher levels of achievement, and as a result as gets close to potential.

How to change from Fixed to Growth Mindset
To change from fixed to growth mindset the keys are 1) ask for help 2) do small things that change things 3) work on beliefs and mindsets 4) get process orientation 5) get over the-world-owes-me and denial syndrome, and I-am-perfect syndrome.

How to become an expert - 10000-hour rule
We briefly looked at the concept of how to become an expert and the 10000-hour rule. The importance of good teachers and mentors, how perfect practice makes perfect, of routines and performance indicators, were discussed.

700 hours at the University
We split up their time at the University into 600 working days and looked at a person who puts in 10 hours a day versus someone who puts in 5 hours a day. The gap between 7000 hours and 3500 hours is just too huge.

We ended on the note of looking fro mentors, seeking advise and help from the available facutty, getting to know the process, fixing routines fro their dance, practice and performances. All of this with an underlying learnng mindset, with loads of energy and enthusiasm and they cannot go wrong.

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