Friday, November 15, 2019

Thought for the Day - Start with Loving Yourself

Would a superstar love everyone in the world that he receives so much love from everyone? Most likely not - certainly not in the beginning when he or she is struggling to make it. Maybe later in their lives when they realise that they are being showered with love from all and sundry for just being themselves.

In the beginning, though, (I feel) the difference between them and others is that they love themselves immensely and forget about everything else. And when they do that, they find the space to make themselves better.

Others find it difficult to love themselves. They put up a facade of loving others etc but it's just an escape from the incapability to love yourself. Clearly, we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves.

The starting point then to receive love is to love yourself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

An Interview with a Nonagenarian - Dr. Nalini Nargundkar

Dr. Nalini Nargundkar., my mother-in-law, was born on August 10, 1929. She remembers a time when there was no electricity, running water, gas, no public transport (tonga was an option) etc. I decided to ask her a few questions. She readily and happily obliged.

Q. What are the three most important things in life?
A. Family and friends, and the company you keep. Education. What you do for your livelihood, your aims and achievements

Q. What are your views about money?
A. Everyone requires a minimum amount of money for a comfortable life. I never wanted it so much that it lasts for seven generations etc.

Q. What is success?
A. Success is achieving what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a doctor in a time when there were not many lady doctors and when I did my MBBS I felt I achieved something. It's my biggest achievement.

Q. What do you think are the secrets to success?
A. Have an aim in life. Try hard to achieve it, and execute it successfully. But peacefully and to your heart's content. Mental peace is important.

Q. What are your views about family?
A. Children must be educated and you must bring them up in such a way that they will earn and live their life.

Q. What about relationships?
A. We had a good family. There were 8 siblings, 7 sisters and one brother. My mother used to welcome anybody and everybody so we learned to welcome people to our homes and be warm with them.

Q. What is your advice to those who are feeling low?
A. Don't lose heart. Keep working hard and you'll get it. Have an aim, work hard and you'll achieve it.

Q. Do you think honesty pays? Is there room for ethics these days?
A. There are no shortcuts in life. Honesty is the best policy. For one day you may feel you have cheated but it won't give peace of mind to you.

Q. What about happiness?
A. It is the most important thing. We have to be happy if we have to survive in this world. If you're pessimistic you will end up crying all your life. Decide to be happy and you'll remain happy. Since I survived, I'll make use of my life in whichever way I can.

Q. Your big regrets?
A. My mother committing suicide. We couldn't make her happy. She was very generous, sensitive.

Q. What is the one quality we must all develop?
A. Love and friendship. Understanding each other. You can be friends with people of any age. You can love anybody.

Thanks aunty.

Anjali - A Visit to the Abids Second Hand Book Market

Anjali got a bunch of Archie's comics from the second-hand market and was done. Now she wanted another bunch. We decided to join Vinod, the master of this market last Sunday. There were a bunch of books to give away and we gave them away to Vinod's second-hand book shop owner pal, Tajuddin.

Vinod overseeing the sacred activity!
We quickly got a bunch of comics. And then we browsed some more. She picked up an Agatha Christie and we were off.

We could make this our regular routine.

Anjali - Interview at 11 and a Half

We fell out of the practice of interviewing. When I am in the mood, she is not. But we did manage to do half an interview. Looking back, it was still nice. I think we should continue even if I have to pay her for it.

Me: How's life at 11?
Anjali: Good.

Q. Do you feel any different?
Anjali: No. I mean you feel bigger. Elder. More different. A year older.
In a good way.

Your best experiences since 11?
Anjali: Kind of liked writing exams. All of them. Summer vacation in Pune. Satish mama's trip. He played with me a lot. And he is nice. Mummy's 50th birthday.

What did you like about it?
Anjali: Planning. And getting it all together.

What are the books you read this year? The books you liked?
Anjali: Harry Potter - read them all. Nancy Drew. Started 'Old man and the sea' Started a lot of books, didn't finish.

And movies that you liked?
Anjali: Alladin. Free Solo.

Anything new that you discovered this year?
Anjali: In class 6 friendship was not steady. This year its under control (we did the interview when she was half into 7th). Last year we lashed out at each other. This year we told each other - let's not fight again. I think I learned the importance of sharing how you feel with others.

Any big highlights of the year?
Anjali: Didn't like my birthday. Had more fun with my friends who came for the night out on October 1.

What are the things you learned to do?
Anjali: To be yourself. If you try to be someone else you keep pulling it. Lie. Lie. Lie.
Learned to iron clothes. Cook omelettes. Cook rice.
Importance of routine. I learned not to be lazy about homework. It's helping me - my homework. I'm happy with it.

What are the plans for next year?
Anjali: Don't know. Do what I want to do. Good to do. Make plans on the way.
Maybe I want to go to Bangalore. I want to make a cycling route. Eat healthy, more vegetables. Get more routines - yoga. Meet Pooja. Spend more time with my cousins. Now I fit in, I can talk to them.

Most enjoyable and fun moment?
Anjali: Yesterday all cousins (she, Vajra, Chimu and Shrinjay) were sitting at the table and spoke freely. We haven't done that.
I felt like I fit in. Felt younger earlier. Now I feel like I fit in more.

New music that you liked?
Anjali: Disney music. Kim Possible movies. Psych. Shout by Tears for Fears. It's so funny in the Psych episode.

What about Mom and Dad?
Anjali: They are very patient people. Because I'm very irritating sometimes.
They are kind. Everyone likes them.

Ok, give two pluses and 1 negative about them?
Anjali: Mamma cares about people a lot. Gives space. She knows when I want her to be with me.
The area to improve - Gets upset when I speak up sometimes.

Nanna listens to me, to my complaints. Very kind. Everyone really likes him. He doesn't know that.
Anjali: Area to improve - Not squash me when he hugs me.

What do you think of yourself?
Anjali: I think I am very nice. I haven't thought of that. Not taking things as lightly as before. Small things.
Mom tells me only two times, not 10 times.
Sleeping early, getting up early. Not making excuses anymore. I am more disciplined. I care for people.
On the areas to improve, I want to increase my height.
Last year I was moody. This year less of me, me. Not as much need for attention. Realised a few things like I am not talking etc.


Anjali decided to interview me
A. How do you feel at 52?
Me. I don't feel old. I look at life with wonder. Every day is different. I am going day by day.

A. Top 3 books?
Me. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Measure what matters, How to become a Buddha in 5 weeks.
(I was checking my blog for the books I read this year and she complains -Injustice, he looks at lists!)

A. Best moment this year?
Me. Mamma's birthday. The surprise, the execution, the people, the warmth. Best moment in a long long time.

A. Best moment with me?
Me. Us both going to WOFL to eat waffles and pancakes. Us both experimenting with cooking when Mamma is not there. Or watching movies or shows together.

A. Best moment in 52 years?
Me. When I first saw Anjali!

Monday, November 11, 2019

TED Talk - Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator

Funny and nice.

The monkey keeps you away from work, sheltered by the panic monster. The rational man has no control. But it works when there are deadlines...panic wakes up then and monkey quiets down.
Look at your big deadline - considering you will live till 90. What do you want to achieve?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU

Canteen Fundas - How to Convert Weaknesses into Strengths

How to make your weak points your strengths!

 3 steps of evolution - avoid them, acknowledge them, embrace them

http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/45606879


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Mana Akkineni - Sanjay Kishore

Vasu's mother gave this book to me - a beautiful 335 page coffee table photobiography of Telugu superstar Akkineni Nageswara Rao popularly known as ANR. It's a work of love, with many beautiful pictures, analysis from several angles, all towards conveying the life's work of a great artiste. He mentions that Telugu cinema began in 1931 and ANR began his career in 1941 (as a child artiste) and continued acting almost till the end - his last movie 'Manam' was in 2014, the year when he passed away. He always said that he wanted to die acting! That's what Ikigai is I guess - having a reason to get up every day, do it well, and that gives you happiness and is your profession and pays you and is what the world needs.

Born into a lower-middle-class family in Venkata Raghavapuram in Gudivada district on September 20, 1924, to Akkineni Venkataratnam and Punnamma, ANR was the youngest of nine children, four of whom died in their childhood. His father passed away immediately upon his birth. He was given five acres as his share.

ANR showed his prowess as an actor early in school drams where he played Narada and Chandramati to accolades. His brother Ramabrahmam went out of his way to promote his younger brother and got his enrolled in a drama company called Kuduravalli Drama Company. It is fascinating to see how these drama companies flourished even then. ANR would play the role of 'Tara' a female character so well that many were shocked to know that it was a boy who was playing it. He was always diligent and worked 18 hour days - working at home, with the cattle, fetching water, going to school which was 3 kms away, doing housework, helping his mother and then going for rehearsals till late in the night. The 10000 hour theory will work well here.

Ramabrahmam tried his best to get his brother a break in films and finally got him a role in the movie 'Talli Prema'. Though ANR spent four months in Madras working on the film, his role was finally chopped off and he returned. As fate would have it he was spotted on the Gudivada Railway station with his drama company by a film producer Ghantasala Balamurali and he offered him a lead role in his upcoming film 'Seetarama jananam'. ANR was to play Lord Rama. The film didn't do very well but he got noticed and he was offered films like 'Mayalokam', 'Mugguru Marathilu', 'Ratnamala' and 'Balaraju' all of which did well. Balaraju was a big hit. ANR went on to do several hits in his 75 year long career including Devadasu, Premabhishekam, Gundamma Katha and others. He starred in 255 films in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. He did TV serials, sang songs and turned producer too. He was a shrewd businessman who invested his money well and established flour mills, model farms, grape gardens and most famously the Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad. He started the ANR Foundation, contributed to charitable causes. He also authored five books, mostly autobiographical. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1968, Padma Bhushan in 1988 and Padma Vibhushan in 2011. He was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1991. He was also awarded four doctorates by Andra University, Nagarjuna University, GITAM and Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha.

ANR named all his enterprises after his wife Annapurna to whom he remained eternally grateful. His family continues his legacy. His children include Satyavati, Venkatnarayana, Nagasuseela, Naga Saroja and Nagarjuna. Wonderful coffee table book and a great effort by  Sanjay Kishore.

Anjali - Diwali Mela Stall

Daksha school has a lovely Diwali mela every year and we have all grown to love that experience. Every year the children set up stalls with games and quizzes and all parents and visitors are invited to join the fun. Scary house, puzzles, quizzes, cricket challenge, dance show (this year the second class kids had a fashion show!). There is lots of good food to eat and everyone has a great time. The school normally raises close to a lakh thoruhg this fun mela which is then donated to some good cause.

Anjali had stalls solo and with partners over the years - the most memorable being the used book stall she had a couple of years ago which raised a decent amount of money. This year she came up with an idea to have a guess-the-word-from-the visuals game. She drew two objects which would represent a word and by putting these two words together you have to come up with the original word.

So I was quite surprised to see a big chart full of drawing - a tee junction on one side and a shirt on the other, and such. Some 15 - 20 of them. It must have taken some effort. Of course I was asked to guess and did a fair job and was admonished for not guessing right on some of the others.

Later on she tried it on Shobha and decided that perhaps the visuals should be printed to avoid any confusion in the viewer's mind. And she did that.

But to me, the chart with her original pictures are the real deal. The thought, effort and execution. It's always easy to pick the pictures off the net. It's only by drawing those visuals do you understand the difficulty, think of the visual and its chief characteritstics and get involved in it. I was reading about Hayao Miyazaki, the great animation artist, and how he drew his animation film characters instead of using technology - deep involvement in his work.

I like that.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Beautiful Nature

Anjali and I walk to the park these days at 630 in the morning for a short 20 minute walk, jog. It's the same walk every day. Only today I saw this beautiful sight - of a carpet made of the finest and most fragrant flowers.


They must have been laid out softly through the night. What lovely work!


And the flowers themselves - got a few. Never ceases to amaze me.

Nice Link - Wabi Sabi

Beauty in imperfection!

Happy wabi-sabi!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKmljuTiIBY (Arielle Ford)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPyQ18eQIBE (More Arielle Ford - shorter) 

A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit - Judson Brewer

Nice talk!

Trigger - Behavior - Reward!

To change bad habits - don't force yourself. Just get curious. Get into it.

Talk to the brain that drives behavior.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-moW9jvvMr4&t=3s

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Sunday Cricket Lessons - How the Mind Can be Used

There is much work for the mind in the game of cricket, in any high-performance area, in life itself. Here are a few thoughts mainly oriented to cricketers but surely to other areas too.

The Basic Unit of Mental Work is a Thought
The basic unit for the mind is thought. And the easiest (and hardest) to control. Check where your thoughts are - are they worrying too much about things or are they having an optimistic or creative bent of mind?

Every single negative thought drags you further away from your performance. It does not matter if you've worked hard, but if your mind has negative thoughts, forget it.

Negative thoughts can be about performance, about teammates, about whether you are good enough, about selection, unfairness, injustice etc etc. Just drop them and focus on keeping the first mind on the game.

If you cannot keep it positive, at least keep it neutral. Don't think anything, just stay blank and focus on the next job at the moment.

Create Nice Outcomes with Your Thoughts, Goals
The creative outcomes that you wish to achieve in your mind are what we call goals. Create pictures, videos in your mind of good outcomes, however big. They are thoughts after all, no taxes. Use your time before sleeping to create and live these goals.

Clarity is important, detail is important.

Use every single thought well. It is the seed that will spread all over the mind and shapes how your mind behaves and reacts.

Your mind can control you. But if you can control each thought, you can control the mind. Like they say, what you sow, you reap.

The Mind and Body are Two Different Things
The body and the mind are different. Most of us think of ourselves as one whole entity - mind, body etc - and that they are fully in congruence with one another. But we all also know that sometimes the mind says something and the body does something else. We know they are different.

In a perfect world, the mind and body are fully in sync. In fact, that is what our endeavour is finally I guess - to bring them into sync. But since they are not, let's see how to start the process.

The awareness that they are different is a good start. The next thing to do is that our mind is clear about what it wants the body to execute. This, it must visualise, mentally. The perfect feeling of ball on bat, the perfect drive, the perfect defence, the perfect delivery, the perfect catch. Visualise all this in the mind.

Once we have this visualisation we can turn it over to the body. Tell your body that this is what you wish to achieve. Let your mind give a clear picture of what it wants the body to do for it. When we give a clear direction, its almost as if all the cells in our body work towards making that happen.
On the other hand if we do not give a clear direction, the body acts on its own.

You can give instructions every ball, and on an overall basis. With practice you will find the balance where they act in sync. That to me, is where the zone lies.

There are two minds
As the body and mind are different, there are also two minds inside you. One is the mind that is executing (the good hardworking mind) and another the judgmental mind (the mischievous and bad mind). One wants to help you achieve your potential and the other does everything to stop you from performing well by scaring you, criticizing you. You must help your first mind and shut out the second mind whose unnecessary fears only sow doubt in your mind.

It needs discipline.

The basic philosophy to follow here is this - the mind can only entertain one thought at a time. So its either the bad thought or some other thought. What we realise is that when the bad mind gets into action, we go into a spiral, especially in a tense situation.

We must break this downward spiraling thought. . Many many athletes sing, or hum a tune, or use a word or phrase in the crucial moment so the second mind is distracted from these negative thoughts. Find that trigger and use it to break the chain of thoughts. Some people do something physical like touching something physical - Mohinder Amarnath had a lucky red hand kerchief, Steve Waugh also had it, Srikkanth had a routine of walking round the stumps etc etc. Some touch amulets etc. These routines break the spiral and keep the second mind busy while the first mind goes about executing its job without interference.

In physical space like playing a game of cricket, your muscles have what they call muscle memory. They act and react based on this muscle memory after some level of training. As athletes or cricketers your first mind has trained the muscle memory over years of practice and it knows what to do. Just keep the second mind out of the way with its interfering thoughts by giving it something to do - like counting, singing, breathing, something physical that keeps it busy.
The first mind will do its job beautifully.
Performance - Interference = Potential
(Most of these thoughts are taken from Timothy Galleway's 'Inner Game of Tennis')

Use Visualisation to Improve Performance
Try and visualise the scenario you may face and 'feel' that moment beforehand. Feel the atmosphere, the feel of your hand, the smell, sounds and sights. Do what you have to do with crystal clear clarity. Go through the uncertain part of the game in great detail and address it  -don't leave anything to chance.

When the picture clicks and you feel ready, hold that space. Now you're ready.

As a bowler, it helps to have a clear visualisation of how you see the ball go off your hand, where and how it pitches, how it moves and takes off. Once you visualise clearly, it's as if the mind has given the body a plan and every cell of your body then moves towards making that come true. Without a plan, the body goes all over the place.

It happens with bowling (think up the ball before you deliver), batting (feel in control of yourself, the feel of the bat on the ball), fielding (anticipate moving, catching, fielding and throwing).

Visualisation, like anything, needs practice. Don't be lazy with your thoughts. This could be the most important thing you'd have done. The greatest athletes have all said this - they have visualised every bit of their performance over and over again much before they actually went down to perform. From Sachin Tendulkar to Usain Bolt - they have all done it.

Use your Thoughts to Create the Energy to Influence Things
Our energy operates at a frequency. If we "think" and "feel" that the selectors or coach or captain is biased against us, we are sending out signals that anyone can pick up. These signals are primarily our  energy, which is influenced by our thinking. Such thoughts can only lower our frequency which can be caught by others as 'feelings'. "Somehow I feel his or her attitude is not right" they may say, or they may say "Somehow I feel he or she is not ready yet". These "somehow I feel" statements are coming from the sense they have about you, which is primarily originating from your way of thinking.

Your thoughts become energy and your energy operates at a frequency. It will be picked up by those who are looking for that person with bad attitude, the one who they cannot get a grip on, that someone to drop because they don't understand that person's signals.

So, change your energy by changing your thoughts.

Again, since your thoughts can only hold one thought at a time, substitute your 'low frequency' thoughts with 'higher frequency' thoughts. For example, instead of cribbing about others, be grateful that you are in the team, to the captain, to the coach and the selectors. Consciously keep your mind in good space about them (especially be grateful to those with whom you're having the most problems). Think of 10 good things about them and write them down. If you cannot think of good things about them, at least don't think bad things about them. The signals will go accordingly.

What this does is that it changes your energy and your frequency. You will no longer send a 'man, I am the victim here' vibe. You are sending 'man, I am lucky to be here and am enjoying myself'.

Who will you select of the two?

Change your thoughts and change your energy and you will see a change in the results. If you have a hard luck story, please visit your thoughts and beliefs. And change them right now.

You are the one responsible. Your thoughts are the ones responsible. Change them now.

Change the Mental Story
The stories that you have built in your head get stronger and stronger the more you think and speak about them. Especially the negative stories - about selection, unfairness etc etc. You will do yourself a huge favour by shutting up about them. That is because it will deplete that story of strength and slowly it will die.

Otherwise, your story will come true. And guess who created it. You!

"You are not a failure until you blame" - John Wooden, Legendary UCLA basketball coach

Use your thoughts to achieve outcomes
Many players visualise themselves celebrating a hundred, a five-wicket haul, lifting the cup etc. Hold that visual and let your body intelligence take over. Miracles happen as you send signals all over, to your team, your colleagues and something magical happens.
It begins with one thought.

Good luck. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Anjali - Field Visit to the Art Gallery

Daksha School took the kids out to a field visit - this time to an Art Gallery. On display were artworks by Gurdeep Mandhwa. (Pics courtesy - Daksha School)

Apart from viewing the artworks, the children also got a chance to copy one such using charcoal.
Drawing their favorite work
 Anjali did one of Gandhiji (no surprises!) called Friend Request.
Working on her art

They took a picture of all the drawings together. Pretty picture.

Day well spent. Good work Daksha!

Anjali - Mock United Nations at Daksha

I remember writing some exams in school about the United Nations and getting a certificate. I didn't fare oo well in the test I remember. Then I saw younger children of friends being very excited about attending Mock United Nations. Now they did not just write tests but actually dressed up and represented various countries and conducted the whole thing quite formally. In fact a month or so ago I was invited to Srinidhi International School as the Chief Guest for their MUN. I got to plant a tree which was a first for me.


Back at Daksha Anjali was to represent China in her first MUN and she prepared with all the seriousness she normally brings. Lots of talk about trade, policy, imports and exports and I learned a bit about the US-China trade war. On D Day she dressed up in formal clothes and went off.

She seemed quite pleased with her performance at the MUN. They get a lot of exposure with the mike, at public speaking which we never did in our 40plus strong classes.


Listening seriously to another country. Good show Daksha!

Ikigai - Hector Garcia and Francese Miralles

Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning, our raison d etre. In a wonderful visual by Mark Winn, Ikigai is shown as the point of intersection between what we love doing, what the world needs, what we get paid for and what we are good at. The point of intersection between what we love and what the world needs is our mission, the point where what the world needs and what we get paid for is our vocation, the point where what we get paid for and what we are good at is our profession and what we are good at and what we love is our passion. Ikigai falls in the sweet spot between all these!

When you find your Ikigai you don't retire - because you love life. The authors talk of the 5 Blue Zones - the places on earth where people live the longest - Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda in California, Nicola Peninsula in Costa Rica and Ikaria in Greece. Some basic research tells us that these people follow certain practices - they eat until their stomach is 80% only, live in small connected groups with a strong sense of community, have active minds and youthful bodies, have little or no stress, are constantly moving and get good sleep.

Are you ready to throw yourself into your passion as if it were the most important thing in the world?

After wandering a bit about logotherapy, Morita therapy and flow, the authors come back to talk about the takumis, or traditional craftsmen in Japan. They give examples of Jiro dreams of sushi (a recommended viewing on YouTube), Shakunaga (the porcelain maker from whom Steve Jobs would buy teacups), Miyasaki (the animator who would draw everything by hand). Then there are those who microflow things in mundane tasks like Bill Gates who enjoys washing dishes and the elevator operator in someplace in Tokyo who has an elaborate ritual to her job.

Interviews of the supercentenarians (over 100 years) across the world reveal these answers - eat sparingly, sleep, relax, eat vegetables and fruits, have an optimistic attitude, keep mind and body busy, stay present. The authors mention examples of Christopher Plummer who is active at 87, Carmen Herrera who paints at 100  (sold her first painting at 89) and architect Frank Gehry as those who are actively working.

Then we go to Ogimi, the place in Japan where this community lives. They enjoy the communal life with games, karaoke, daily meetings, singing and dancing. People are happy and treat strangers like old friends, are non-judgmental and always smiling, having a good time. they seem to celebrate each day together.

The first practice seems to be - Don't Worry! They have vegetable gardens which they tend to, say hello to everyone, smile and open their hearts to everyone. One says that if you keep your fingers busy you'll never get old. Another lifts his arms for exercise. Some walk, have routines while others follow rituals. Drinking tea with friends is a big pastime. Smiling, being grateful are all part of their life.

Cultivate Good Habits - Living an unhurried life, eating a wide variety especially vegetables and fruits and fish, and grains are part of their eating habits. They rarely ate sugar and ate less salt. Small portions and lots of green tea. Skip dessert.

For exercise they do moderate exercise and favour with gentler movements as in Radio Tasio, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and Shiastsu . Research shows that within 30 minutes of sitting your metabolism slows down 90% and in 5 minutes of getting up it gets working again. So don't sit for too long and keep moving, one way or another.

After meandering through concepts of resilience, anti-fragility (fall down 7 times, get up 8), Buddhism, Stoicism etc the authors talk of two interesting concepts. One is wabi-sabi, which looks at imperfection as beauty. There is nothing permanent in their philosophy. They celebrate imperfection. Another is Ichi-go Ichi-e which means that this moment exists only now and will never come again.

In the final analysis - the key to a happy and long life is - don't retire, slow down, eat only upto 80% of your stomach capacity, have a lot of good friends, get in shape, connect with nature, walk, live in the moment and follow your ikigai.

Have a happy and long life!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Stories at Work - Indranil Chakraborty

North American Indian proverb - "Tell me a fact and I'll learn, Tell me a truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever." That's what the book starts with. Indranil acknowledges the contribution of Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk of 'Anecdote' an Aussie company engaging in business storytelling. Indranil runs a firm called 'Story Works' that helps organisations work better by using stories to get results.

"Story is a fact, wrap it up in context and deliver it with emotion," he says. To tell stories one needs practice and a bag of stories in stock. So gather stories from your experience, books, others experience and index them for future use. He suggests using apps like Evernote. How many stories do I have? Hmm.

Humans remember stories - they convert raw experience into a story. We know by now that we all have a data brain and a story brain. It is the story brain that makes decisions - so if you can package your data into a nice story and tell it in a way that it fits the audience's context and touches some emotion you're on your way to get the deal. (Abstractions, assertions etc are not story and turn off the story brain - so watch out.) Since people are not rational unlike what they claim to be - and are emotional - paint a picture of an alternate universe and invite them in.

Why stories? Because they 1) help explain critical and complex messages, 2) are credible 3)  induce lean-in behavior, 4) inspire action and 5) spread quickly.

The 5 Elements of Story
- It starts with a time marker or a place marker
- It's about something happening - a sequence of events, names, dialogues. Good stories help you seem great stories help you feel.
- Something unanticipated happens
- Can add a relevance statement if you want - why am I telling this story

Key point - Remember what you do in the situation is what interests people, not the situation itself.

The science of storytelling
- Build rapport
- Explain change
- Trying to change people's
- Sharing best practices, knowledge or success

Types of Stories
Connection Story
Stories from your life that resonate with their own values and beliefs. (To build connection stories think of 5 words that describe your character, values or beliefs. Think of incidents in your life, when you were successful/failure, proud, passionate. Narrate these stories to someone and ask what they understood from it. Tell to 2 more people, to yourself, record and tighten it.)

"You don't sell yourself, you sell them themselves." - my quote!

Influence stories 
Acknowledge the anti-stories - people already have negative stories about what you are trying to change. Acknowledge the anti-story and lower their defences. Then share the story of the opposite point of view, make your case and then make the point.

To make the message stick be aware of 1) abstract language 2) absence of context and 3) the curse of knowledge.

Clarity Stories 
Lay it out in this format
- In the past...
- Then something happened...
- So now...
- In the future...

Success stories
Weave elements of visualisation and emotion to your success stories so it helps them remember. Recast your case studies by incorporating the client, whose problem your product solved, into the heart of the story.

Story listening
This is a huge part of storytelling. To get people to talk about their stories - 1) tell a story 2) ask the right questions 3) use emotion

Using Storytelling to change culture
Seek stories from people concerned about values and how they lived them. To get them to talk, create a warm and friendly atmosphere, (some food). Start your stories with 'I remember...'
To embed values across the organisation
1) collect and select stories
2) broadcast the stories and recognise the heroes (oral storytelling is best)
3) create a sustainable cycle with a diktat form above to share stories on a weekly basis. Look for values lived and where they failed in their values.

All companies benefit from capturing stories.

Change management
Share success stories. Get leaders to share the stories through oral storytelling. Get everyone to share their stories.

3 Worst ways to start a speech 
-don't introduce yourself, don't clear your thought, don't thank
3 Best ways to start a speech
- Start with a fact or a statistic, start with 'Imagine...', tell a story
3 best ways to finish
- Call to action, a rhetorical question, a story

Popular story structure - Freytags' pyramid
- Background information, setting, character
- 1st conflict
- Events that add suspense, tension
- High point of suspense
- Unravel conflict
- Resolution
- Tying up loose ends

To tell stories with data, the data has to be significant and should uncover insights that translate into business results.

The Ethics of Storytelling
- Tell them as you believe they happened
- tell them when you've made up a story
- don't tell others stories as if they are yours
- protect confidentiality
- don't do anything you don't want others to do to you

Build a sustainable storytelling organisation says Indranil, because it can make an organisation vibrant.
  • Use stories to make a business point
  • Go top-down - focus on forming a storytelling habit
  • Create a story sharing process
  • Assign a dedicated resource to run the story process
I enjoyed reading the book. Some real stories that I enjoyed (not the ones where they drop names - these are genuine stories.) It gives some good pointers. I fully agree with capturing stories. Organisations should do that to spread the culture they have lived, to spread success stories. We need storytellers to tell and story listeners to capture the stories. Hmm. Interesting. To try it out.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Sunday Cricket Lessons with Baig sir - Visualise and then the Body Responds

The effect of visualisation
Shreyans and Saiketh were bowling the new ball. I told them not to bowl without a plan - visualise the ball, the entire flight, pitching and then going off the wicket - and then try to execute that delivery. I could see that they both started bowling much better.

Often bowlers bowl without a clear plan in their head. But when they visualise the delivery off their hand and into the pitch and off it before they bowl the ball, they get a better result. I have experienced it and so I shared it with them.

It is almost as if the body tunes into the mind's visual and every cell aligns to make that happen. I guess that's what vision boards and goals do. Align all the cells into that direction.

I mentioned that to Baig sir. 'Sir, when they have a visual in their mind, they are delivering better.'

Pat came the answer - 'Yes, their body responds to that.'

Beautiful.

Using Technology
At the same time I broached the idea of showing the trainees videos of them batting or bowling so they can see their mistakes and correct them. This is a tried and tested method. I explained to him the theory of Timothy Galloway and his approach of coachees coaching themselves by looking in the mirror (especially after they have learned the basics) and Elizabeth Newton's experiment of 'the Curse of Knowledge' - using tappers and listeners. Many times the trainees think they are doing it right - until they see themselves in action. 

He listened intently and told me that we should also use technology.

 How adaptable is that. How student-oriented. Brilliant.

Sunday Cricket Lessons with Baig Sir - They Don't Need to Know Everything

While watching Baig sir in action yesterday I could see how intensely he was putting Kartik through the drills.  I could see a marked improvement in Kartik's bowling. However as always, I noticed Baig sir speaking a minimum and letting Kartik bowl. A few balls, couple of corrections that's all.

It has always been like that with him. He will identify the mistake, pull the lad aside and make them do the drill first, then he corrects them, then he makes them practice with the ball in an empty net before coming back to the nets and bowling or batting. There will be a marked change after that small intervention.

'Why don't you tell them the theory behind it sir?' I asked him.
'They don't need to know everything,' said Baig sir. 'They will get confused. It's better we show them and make them practice experientially. If they come with some doubts after that we can explain.'

A huge difference from junior coaches or inexperienced coaches who say too many things, more to show off their knowledge than to make a positive difference. While at that they mess up the player's mind with too many theories that even they have not practiced.

The best teachers, show and make them experience it on their own. They do not tell.

Canteen Fundas - Focus on Your Strengths

Stillness is the Key - Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday makes a case for stillness. He cites so many lovely stories and makes his point. It's a nice fast read with stories about Churchill, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods etc.

In a nutshell, these are the concepts (and stories) about the Mind, Spirit and the Body

Mind
The domain of the mind (Kennedy's story and how he accessed stillness before he came to a wise decision on the Bay of Pigs incident)
Become present (Marina Abramovic - 79 days of meeting people across the table, YouTube)
Limit your inputs (Napolean would delay all good news and inconsequential stuff, only bad news to be told immediately)
Empty the mind (Baseball player Shawn Green and the zen mantra of Chop wood, carry water, focus on nothing else but the moment, Sadaharu Oh)
Slow down, think deeply - Fred Rogers show, Mr. Roger's Nighbourhood)
Start journaling - Anne Frank
Cultivate silence - (John Cage's 4'33' minutes of uninterrupted silence)
Seek wisdom - (Socratic method of inquiry)
Find confidence, avoid ego - (David and Goliath)
Let go (Awa Kenzo, the archery master, first taught detachment. He said 'what stands in your way is that you have to much wilful will.' Loosen up to get to a place when there is nothing in the way. Draw back the string until it fell from you bow like a ripe fruit) 

Spirit
The domain of the spirit starts with the story of Tiger Woods and how he was troubled spiritually despite the enormous success as a golfer.
Choose virtue
Heal the inner child - (Leonardo da Vinci, being the illegal son, was something he could never get over)
Beware desire - (Kennedy's uncontrollable dalliances, a legacy of his father)
Enough - (Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller's conversation when Heller tells Vonnegut that he had enough. The richest man is the one who is content.)
Bathe in beauty - (Anne Frank who saw beauty outside her window, in the blue sky, nature and the chestnut tree)
Accept a higher power - (AA seeks to surrender, seeks help from a higher source, too much for us to handle by ourselves)
Enter relationships - (the emptiness Johnny Cash faced ina  lonely home and how he went to the airport and wanted a ticket to anywhere but home)
Conquer your anger - (Micheal Jordan's anger ridden speech at the height of his fame, at an award ceremony)
All is one - (Astronaut Edgar Mitchell looked at the earth and realised how we are all one)
What's essential is invisible to the eye he says.

Body
The domain of the body tells us how Winston Churchill wrote 10 million words, 40 books, 500 painted paintings and gave 2300 speeches in a highly productive life. When asked the secret he said it was about conservation of energy.
Say No - (Fabius versus Hannibal when Fabius refused to do anything and let Hannibal tire himself out while he saved his own resources)
Take a walk (best ideas come when walking, Wordsworth thought while walking, memorised and then wrote it down, Kierkegaard walked a lot)
Build a routine - (Fred Rogers, Churchill)
Get rid of your stuff - (Diogenes lived in a barrel)
Seek solitude - (Bill Gates and his Think Week)
Be a human Being (not Doing)
Go to sleep (Zen master Hakuin who slept for weeks on end and then delivered the speech "The Records of Old Sotto", American Apparel owner Don Charney who was sleep-deprived and brought the billion-dollar company down)
Find a hobby - Brtish Prime Minister William Gladstone chopped down trees, Churchill enjoyed laying bricks)
Beware escapism (don't run away from your priorities, novel writer John Fank who was so scared of rejection after one failure, that he whiled his time away reading, golfing and drinking but never wrote)
Act bravely (when the time comes to act, act. Like the French philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle who died in 2017, rushing into water trying to save two boys from drowning)

Thanks Suresh. Nice read. But to me 'Stillness Speaks' by Eckhart Tolle is still the best because it actually induces a stillness in you as you read it. This book tells you.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The 3 Circles

1) First, write down the names of all the people who you think really love you.

2) Then list down all the people who you think care for you - not at love level, but care enough.

3) Then list down all those who perhaps respect you.

It's an interesting exercise. I wonder what it shows about us.

The Stand Up Guys and the Satirists are Showing the Mirror

When the media has largely failed in its duty, it is the satirists and humorists and stand up comedians who are showing the mirror. Be it print media (Krishna Shastri Devulapalli in The Hindu, Appupen of Brainded) or the outrageous videos on YouTube these guys are doing what no other artist is daring to do - say it like it is. After seeing the Raju Hirani and his actor brigade video and reading about the tweets of the sportspeople, these guys deserve a standing applause.

Art if anything else, should be fearless. Today these are the only voices remaining.

Here are some..
Rajeev Nigam
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOkLiW_bXf4&t=30s

Varun Grover
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYWGylpVeVw&list=RD3nhhDwgdeto&index=4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nhhDwgdeto

Kunal Kamra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Su_ydENa2w&list=RDQMn5QkKIS4_Ms&start_radio=1

Abhijit Ganguly
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRHbCYtUWiA&list=RDQMn5QkKIS4_Ms&index=16

Zakir Khan (understandably not the kind of stuff the other guys can do and get away)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIl8vsWrD8o&list=RDQMn5QkKIS4_Ms&index=9

TED Talk - Art Made of Trust, Vulnerability and Connection by Marina Abromovic

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Barefoot Coach - Paddy Upton

Paddy Upton was the mental conditioning coach and strategic leadership coach for the Indian cricket team when the team won the World Cup in 2011 - an interesting job description that caught my eye then. He was with Gary Kirsten who was the Chief Coach of the Indian team. Paddy worked with the Rajasthan Royals after that and one could see that he shared comfort with Rahul Dravid. Paddy has a PhD in Sports Science and is well-read and a seeker constantly pushing his own boundaries.

The Search for Meaning
The book begins where it should begin - when he was part of the South African team as a fitness coach in the Woolmer and Hansie Cronje era. He talks of the addictive life in the limelight but then he chucked it all up one day when he found no meaning there. Paddy is a big one for meaning - which is a wonderful thing. Then he takes off for a four-month trip of Asia, living in the cheapest places and traveling third class. Back in South Africa, a couple of failed businesses, and then a big twist. He worked with Linzi, a young journalist, and the street children in Cape Town for three years to bring the kids off the streets and into the mainstream. He tells a poignant story of how a young man with several dangerous crimes associated with him almost cut him up with a knife when he saw Paddy witnessing him stabbing his girlfriend - but then the boy breaks down and confesses. Paddy says it only happened because his own energy shifted from fear to love for the boy - and that shift transforms the energy between them. Beautiful story. The boy seeks help and meets a therapist and comes out of the situation. To me this was a bigger story than the Indian team winning the World Cup.

Surrender - Give up the need to succeed always
Paddy next talks of surrender, of finding the authentic part of ourselves. He gives the example of Gary Kirsten (when Gary was still a player) in a bad phase in his career and about to give up. That night he surrenders to God and next day plays an innings of a lifetime that prolongs his career by six years. Paddy feels that the search for the authentic Kirsten, the one who let go of the need to succeed, one who worried about failing was what did the trick. Gary was ok with himself as he was, even as a failure and that helped him win. There's a nice line by Paddy - that the person who is in good space is one who can receive praise fully and express gratitude in full proportion. Hmm!

Aims for TEAM India
Kirsten and Paddy head out to Mumbai to coach the Indian cricket team in March 2008 - stint that would end with the World Cup 2011. On the flight they make their aims - 1) Make India the No 1 Test side 2) Win the 2011 World Cup 3) Create a happy team environment and 4) Help players become better players. I think most coaches can take the last two in all teams. They both lacked coaching experience in their respective areas - why then did the Board pick them one wonders. But they are clear that their job is to learn, to practice a servant leadership model where the leader serves, be humble, stand back and focus on empowering and make the athlete accountable. The idea is to collaborate and to be athlete-centered. Fantastic. He quotes Leonard Cohen's song Anthem - Forget your perfect offering/There's a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in. Beautiful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDTph7mer3I (Leonard Cohen - Anthem)

Role modeling behavior, Building trust
The two coaches then figured their way along in a country full of paradoxes, armed with the best of intentions, a learning mindset, lots of preparation and good intent. They shared their ideas, got the team to share their feedback, role-modeled preparation. Slowly things changed as the team trusted them and their intent.

Play to strengths
Paddy talks about how one must play to their strengths. Excessive focus on weaknesses is what holds back the majority of the people. He cites the following formulae

 - Talent+Smart work = Strength
 -  Non-talent +smart work =learned skill

 - Strength+Regular application = Excellence
  - Learned skill+regular application = Good performance.

He talks of the 10000 hours to expertise theory but puts in a caveat - it only works for areas where one had natural-born talent. and has a learning mindset. Playing to strengths engages people 6x times on the job - so clearly fixing weakness is not a good idea to begin with.

India at war
Paddy makes an interesting comparison of the Indian cricket team and India's history at war - and makes the presentation to the team so they understand their history as a nation when it comes to war.  The characteristics deal with - home and away performance (we are lousy at away), attacking first (never did), fight back (good at that), handing back the advantage gained (most commonly done), susceptible to divide and conquer (we are), individualism (yes) and talk vs action (guilty). It's abroad understanding of the way we think but its brilliant because he helps them think and be aware of the history and how they may have to change a few things if they wanted different results. They create an acronym called TEAM India where T stands for Team first, E stands for Excellent entertainers, A stands for Attitude of winners and M stands for Mature individuals. Nice!

Question everything 
The coaches inculcated a culture of questioning everything - why should practice sessions be fixed and be the responsibility of the coaches? The answer - optional practice sessions where players take responsibility for their own time and game and what they want to practice on. The idea is wonderful - if you want the cricketers to be responsible and mature, treat them like they are. The coaches also empowered the players by treating them as experts in their own lines.

Enable the player to figure it out himself
There's a small example of how coaches at one level are best when not giving the ward advice and instead making the ward figure out thins for themselves - something straight out of Gallwey's method of being non-judgmental, focusing on the feelmage, quieting the chatter in Self 1 and trusting Self 2. - Gautam Gambhir is struggling to get his extra cover drive right. Sachin, Gary Kirsten, and Eric Simmons all have their inputs but nothing changes. And then Paddy tells him to figure out what he is doing whenever he is doing it right - and Gautam figures after a while that he had been looking at his shoes twice before hitting the ball and that was what helped him hit it exactly right. It's such an individual thing. Paddy says, as Gallwey does - don't give advise, ask questions, show videos of the player doing his thing - and the player will figure it out himself. Give them the end result and let them figure out their story. Reminds one of Eisenhower's quote - tell them what to do and not how to do it and they will surprise you. Coaches, listen!

Unconventional ideas, being transparent and building ownership
On fitness tests also the coaches had unconventional ideas. They told the players that they needed the players to be uninjured and to deliver their skill in order to be continually selected to play. Simple. Another example of trusting and empowering a senior players was when Rahul Dravid was undergoing a lean patch and no one knows what to do - Gary simply asks Rahul if he felt he was ready. Rahul said he was and will let Gary know if he wasn't and goes ahead and scores a hundred in that game. How many times don't we include the person concerned in the discussion!

Add some strength to the weak links
Another neat tactic used by Gary and Paddy with their team that had a strong batting line up and not so strong bowling was this - they got the bowlers to bat better with some extra batting and coaching. In a time when the average total of batsmen from 8-11 across the world was 43, the Indian team got their average up to 83 and gave themselves more runs to bowl against. Smart!

Values and humility
On values two stories stand out - one of Anil Kumble coming from Mumbai all the way to Chennai to attend a function that he had promised he would - the flight got canceled so he took the flight to Bangalore and drove six hours to be present. Kumble is brilliant at this - I heard other such stories too about him. Another when Ishant Sharma kicks the ball in frustration and Sachin tells him that the ball is what made him what he was and one must respect it. On being humble there's a story of Sachin who said that the most important lesson he learned was when his teammates told him after his early success as a sixteen year old that he could be a better player than them but he was acting as if he was more important than them/ Kept his ego in check after that.

Talk the walk (and then walk the talk)
The Coaches unveiled their World Cup strategy by first talking the walk - every meeting started with - When we play in the World Cup final in Mumbai on...I like the idea of talking the walk.

Focus and Concentration
There is an interesting chapter on focus (past, present and future, broad vs narrow, and internal vs external). Paddy also distinguishes between focus (which is about breadth) and concentration (which is about depth). He gives the WIN formula - what's important now! To focus Sehwag used to sing, Kallis would say "watch the ball" and Gary would say "Trust" as the ball is being delivered so the Self 1 mind is quietened. There is a formula A+B= C (A is your A game, B is all the things that you cannot control and C is Results).

Mental toughness and Gambhir
Paddy says there is no such thing as mental toughness. I guess that's open to debate. I liked the study that said one out of twenty corporate managers in the USA is a psychopath. Paddy I fully agree. Maybe more. Gautam Gambhir was one of the most insecure people he says. Interestingly Paddy worked on getting him to be positive until he realised it will not work. So he told Gambhir to accept his feelings and he was ok with it. That shifted things. Important lesson - accept what you cannot change and it changes. All said and done - to me it was Gambhir and Kohli who shifted the balance in 2011 - Gambhir specially who in my opinion should have hit the winning shot if he did not get carried away.

Dealing with failure
Paddy talks about dealing with failures and asserts that everyone fails. He gives the example of Team Hoyt and says don't give up when you fail. (I feel one should never give up when you are down, always leave when you are on a high. Come back, stay on top and then resign.) If you lose Paddy's mantra was - behave normally, focus on what worked, be responsible, plan to improve, be fully present.

Mike Horn's immense wisdom
Perhaps the most impactful thing about the book was when Mike Horn comes on. He is an explorer and adventurer who swam 7000 kms fo the Amazon, walked to the North Pole in winter, circumnavigated the earth around the equator and climbed four 8000 meter peaks without supplementary oxygen. He has a lovely TED talk which I watched after I read this book.

Horn says that to achieve complex things he kept his life simple. His definition of commitment is that you will only win if your will to win is bigger than your fear of losing. (It makes immense sense when you are between life and death - a situation he must be highly familiar with on a moment to moment basis in his chosen way of living life.) One needs to bring that kind of intensity to the big moment.

You are where you are, he said. because you can deliver, don't doubt yourself. When everything is dark focus on what you can do. He says how he sees the degree of difficulty and then assesses his strengths and tries to improve out his weak areas. In moments of crisis he says its not about doing it 20 times but about doing it the first time.

Horn spoke of his preparation - of how he uses his imagination - photos, videos, feel, sense, temperature, sound, and lives the experience several times before he actually undergoes it. Before being in an unknown situation he says, feel it, sense it, take your best moment with you.

To the Indian team he said - play a bigger role. Play as a team - use the expectations of a billion people for you. He tells that he does not use supplementary oxygen when he climbs 8000 metre mountains because he feels that is cheating the mountain. A classic line - he tells that in a true team the pressure gets offloaded and distributed amongst everyone.

After Horn left the team changed their talk from "playing the final" to "winning the final". Paddy's final speech to the team was short - it's like a Bollywood movie, we know our scripts, go and win it. And they won.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yFOYGCm2Yk&t=1233s (Mike Horn TEDx Pearl River)

Using collective intelligence
Paddy is a big one for using the collective intelligence available. When working with Rajasthan Royals Paddy says he needs no excessive support staff because he would use the collective intelligence of the team and that he does.

Horn again
Mike Horn comes back in the chapter when the South African team is led by him on a few days of mountain climbing and other stuff. Another gem form him - if the dream does not scare you, it's not big enough. Another one - don't be obsessed with the result that it actually works against the desired result. South Africa badly needs to understand that.

The Greatness of the Greats
Paddy ends with a nice note on how Madiba Nelson Mandela almost ruined a precious photo of Paddy and him while signing on it by dropping some ink on it and before he realised it, Madiba wiped away the ink with his sleeve so it does not spoil the photo.

It's a fine book with a lot of fine points. Paddy is a seeker and will always remain one. His coaching career is still midway so perhaps he will write another one much later. 'The Barefoot Coach' is filled with stories and examples, and showcases his attitude, honesty and keenness to share his craft generously. Though I had some problems with the flow (more because I found the content extremely good), I strongly recommend it to all coaches - sports and executive. There is much to learn here. I am also waiting for the next one, ten years later. Thanks Vijay Lokapally for suggesting this book.









Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Nice Talk - The Art of Storytelling

Ameen Haque - Nicely delivered.

1) Use stories to speak to emotions
2) Build common ground ('we' and not 'I')
3) Build contrast - what is and what can be, paint a picture and offer them citizenship to that world

Story is truth well told. Use of metaphor.
When you make presentations don't state the obvious. Remove, don't add.

The 3 parts of a story - a character, conflict and resolution

Frameworks
1) Imagine a world where...(use contrast/metaphor)
2) Failure stories/ success stories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77FUr6ZsWjY

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Faster than Lightning - Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt left a legacy as mind-boggling as his running was - nine Olympic golds in 100 m, 200 m and 4x100m in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro. All of them in his signature style - no close finishes nothing. He'd actually celebrate before the race was over. Ridiculous! I wanted to know how anyone could become so good, so I bought this book.

Bolt's book begins with an accident he had while driving his BMW (rather speedily) sometime after the Beijing Olympics with two young ladies. It was a serious accident and no one died but it was an incident that changed his life for good - he realised he had a mission to fulfill, to take his god-given ability to fulfill potential. I notice that biographers do this - pick one defining incident and then go back to the story.

Bolt's childhood in Jamaica were spent with his parents and two siblings - from his father's earlier relationships - a sister and a brother. Tall for his age, he could never stay quiet and when he ran, he was quick. Bolt loved cricket and was a good fast bowler.

His mother worked hard and so did his father. They taught him values - to respect everyone was one big thing. There's interesting story of how he had to say hello to everyone on the road whether they responded or not - if he did not wish anyone his father would whack him. Another story of how he would eat off the trees when he was hungry - healthy stuff. And another when he was assigned the job of fetching water in buckets because there was no running water at home - Bolt decided to carry two buckets at the same time to reduce the number of trips (forty) and built a lot of strength that way. Else, his father would whack him.

Bolt's early talent shone through as he won athletic events for his school and earned a scholarship to go to William Knibb High School which had a sporting culture. He ran ridiculous timings in 200m and 400m. However Bolt hated the 400 m training - the consecutive reps of 500/600/700 and 700 sit ups to strengthen the core. It was his school coach at William Knibb who told him that he had serious potential if he took athletics seriously.

Sore Loser and the Making of a Dream
One thing that Bolt hated was losing, and he was losing to a boy called Keith Spence. Spence's father pushed him hard to train and to win, training that made Keith strong. Bolt took his training seriously with the single purpose of beating Spence and beat him in their next race. Bolt made one of his famous mantras for himself that day - If I beat anyone in a big meet, they'll never beat me again. His next inspiration to dream big came when he watched a video of Michael Johnson winning gold at Atlanta and Don Quarrie running the 200m in the Olympics. A dream arose - of winning an Olympic gold. While he trained hard Bolt was also tactical. Both he and NJ, his school friend and now his manager, would strategise on how to prepare for each race - he ran smart and was aware. He also was flexible about changing his game.

Fear of Failure
When the World Junior Championship was coming closer Bolt found himself slacking off training. He did not want to compete, did not want to lose. That was when his mother told him to give his best -she'd be proud of him anyway. That assurance took a load off Bolt and he began training seriously, without stress, a 15 year old running the Under 20s. So big was the occasion and so nervous was he that he tried to wear the wrong shoes on the wrong foot. He couldn't even stand he says and was unable to move. But once he got going in the race (he took his time at the start), no one could catch Bolt. He realised how mental strength played a big part in the process and made a mental note that there will never be a negative thought in his mind ever again. Even a distraction for the hundredth of a second could cost him.

The High Performance Centre, Kingston
Bolt's parents hired Mr Peart to teach academics and also manage him at Kingston where Bolt joined the High Performance Centre, an initiative of the IAAF and the JAAA. He was assigned to Coach Coleman there. Bolt was not too pleased with Coach Coleman's tactics which he felt were inflexible. He suffered a lot of pain in his spine and when he brought that to the Coach's notice it was felt that he was slacking off. When the pain continued he consulted a famous German doctor he told him that he had a condition called scoliosis - a condition of the spine - and he could not correct that with physiotherapy. It was bad news. More bad news followed when he came in 4th at Athens and hit a low spot with criticism in the media about his junk food binges and partying.

Change the Coach
Bolt changed coaches and got himself Glen Mills and they hit it off immediately. Mills gave him a three-year plan to prepare for Beijing Olympics. They needed to do a lot of strengthening to overcome the scoliosis issue and strengthen his back and abs. Gym was vital, sit ups, core, stretching. Bolt followed everything his coach said - he fully trusted Mills who was like a father figure to him. Mills shortened his strides while running and improved his performance some.

Though Coach was happy with Bolt showing signs of having the heart of a champ, Bolt, his doubts if he was good enough. He'd come in fourth in the World Championship. When he returned home to Jamaica another significant thing happened - the same crowd that made him a hero booed him. Bolt decided that he would do it first for himself and no one else. He would not think of the public, just do. Coach also asked him to aim for something so he had a goal - Bolt thought he would buy a washing machine for his mother and a good car for himself. He had seen Asafa Powell and his fancy cars.

New Agent
They signed on a  new agent Ricky Simms and Simms told Bolt how his earnings were related to winning big races. Bolt pictured himself with a fancy car, clothes, about what he wanted the most to motivate himself? And then he trained - beyond what the Coach called the "moment of no return "- a point when the body told you to quit - at tipping point. If you stopped then, all the pain and the effort was pointless, and the muscles would not increase their current strength. If you worked through that moment of no return, did a couple more reps, ran through the pain, then you added strength.

When Bolt loses to Tyson Gay, Coach tells him bluntly that it's the result of his slacking off in the gym. Bolt feels he had done enough but the penny drops. He decides that he will not be beaten by Tyson again. He realised that the smallest slacking off showed up on the big stage and he focused seriously on his training.

Let's Try 100m Also
Bolt running the 100  m came as a freak decision. He was only a 200 m runner till then. Coach Mills decided that if Bolt needed to improve the form in 200 m it might help if he ran another race to complement the 200m. This decision was made a year before the Beijing Olympics. Coach decided on the 400 m because it looked like a natural for Bolt who was tall and good over longer distances. The 100 m was too technical where a poor start or a loss in concentration could cost you big time. Someone like Bolt who was 6'5'' was at a disadvantage as he untangled himself off the blocks compared to someone like Tyson who was 5'10'' and was at the ideal height to get off the blocks fast.

Bolt hated the 400m and he asked his Coach for one chance to run the 100 m. If he gets a time of 10.30 secs he should be allowed to compete in 100m. Coach agreed - but put a smart condition - that Bolt break the 200m at 19.86 secs. Bolt promptly broke the 36 year old record held by Don Quarry with a 19.75 sec run. And then he ran the 100m at 10.03 sec!

A New Possibility - 100 m Champ
Bolt trained hard through 2008 - followed everything that the Coach told him without cutting corners. No junk food, no parties, lots of rest. They figured that he had his advantages in 100 m too - he ran the 100m in 41 strides whereas others took 43, 44 and 45 strides. The bad start was offset by the monstrous finish Bolt had.

Bolt's mantra for the 100 m 
Keep body forward, head down, push hard, get tall as I run, head comes up, knees are high and shoulders go down.

In the next race, Jamaican Invitational Bolt ran the 100m in 9.76 secs. No one believed it - especially in the USA. The 21 year old couldn't be bothered less despite one bad timing in the next race and at the New York Grand Prix where he ran against Tyson Gay, he ran 9.72 secs, a new world record. To keep him grounded So focused on his process and such high standards did he set for himself that there were races when Bolt actually let the other guys take it because he felt he had a bad start and didn't deserve to win.

Olympic Golds - Beijing Olympics 2008
After three years of intense training with Coach Mills, Bolt arrived at Beijing for the Olympics. Before he landed, he left a message to himself on his phone - "I will win three gold medals and come home a hero".

Before the 100m final, Coach Mills merely told him 'You're ready', words that gave him great assurance. Bolt told himself not to panic, got off to a bad start as usual, relaxed and then bolted. 10m before the tape he threw up his hands in celebration and pounded his chest with no one else in sight. He won the gold and broke the world record with a timing of 9.69secs to be the fastest man on earth. Someone told him later that he had run the whole race with his laces undone. Bolt remembers that he only experienced joy, a rush, sense of freedom, fun, excitement, intense energy all rolled into one. It was heavenly he said.

Before the 200m final Coach said again 'Don't worry. you're good.' 200m was his race and with 50m to go Bolt was way ahead of the pack. Another new world record wit 19.30 secs. In the 4x100m final, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater and Bolt set a new world record again with 37.40 secs.

No Drugs
Bolt won with no drugs. He says how the officials would follow them everywhere, even into the bathroom and looked at his crotch while he gave them their samples. He talks of how he became a big celebrity after Beijing. When he went back home the Prime Minister was there to receive him. An evening out with Heidi Klum and Sandra Bullock in the USA where nothing "happened" though he wished. In Jamaica he says, they view sex differently and are not too uptight about it.

The Hard Work Starts Here
But Coach was there to push him again - he told him that the hard work starts here. Bolt has to run fast and even faster. No more fooling around. Once he told him to avoid sex, no fast food. Bolt was a superstar now with his personality. Then came that 2008 car crash and Bolt saw his survival as God's message to him. He realised that someone was looking out for him. He appreciated the chances he got and wanted to make the most of out it. He started mentoring and coaching younger kids. More work and more world records - he ran 100m in 9.58 secs and 200 m in 19.19 secs at the World Championships.

Doubt-Ridden and Finding the Authentic Bolt - Relax and Have Fun
In 2010 Bolt wanted to rest but the Coach pushed him. He got back to his partying mode and then lost a race to Yohann Blake.  There were injuries and he started doubting himself. In the World Championships in Korea against a weak field he got disqualified because of a bad start - thanks to stressing himself about it. Before the 200 m he decided - 'To hell with it. I'll have fun. Being relaxed made me a champ. Stop worrying and be yourself.' He won the 200m and the 4x100 m medal with a new world record at 37.04 secs.

London Olympics - 2012
Bolt's belief came from the arena, the buzz of the crowd fed him. Three more golds in London Olympics and he knew he would be a legend. A defining moment that kindled the spark in hiSs preparation fro London was when he was beaten by Yohann Blake in the Olympic trials in Jamaica - Bolt sees Blake silencing the critics with a finger on his lips - something Bolt finds disrespectful. Bolt decided then that he would never let that happen again. In London for the Olympics again against Blake and Justin Gatlin, Asafa and Tyson, Bolt ran home in the 100m final with a 9.63 secs timing  In fact, he slowed down at the end, else he would have done 9.52 or 9.49 even. In the 200m final, he was done with 70 m to go - that's how far ahead he was. Again the 4x100 m he and Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Blake won the gold.

Another 3 Olympic golds and he was officially a legend. The one thing Bolt wanted after the Olympics was baton of the 4x100 m that an official did not want to give him until a voice over the loudspeaker instructed him to give it.

The book ends there with Bolt wondering bout life after running. Cricket, football - he even spoke to some about it, played some cricket in Australia too. Rio Olympics was still 4 years away. Could he? As the story continues Bolt goes to Rio and picks up three more medals after this book had long ended. Truly a legend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuiJHJz4f5Q (watch all his Olympic golds in this video)

The work ethic, the going through the pain barrier, his hating losing to others and how he decided to not let that happen again, the many moments of no return, the sheer joy of running, winning and celebrating, the smartness that accompanied his talent and hard work, the desire to fulfill his potential, the purpose he got after his accident and belief that someone was watching over him, all of those made Bolt the champion he was. It's that heart of a champion, of the one who loves the big stage, the one who comes into his own and loves winning, that makes him different unlike those who train hard but lose their heart on the big stage. For Bolt it was hard work, a point to prove and to run while having fun and being relaxed (he'd joke on the track, even in the race in the way he celebrated!).

The book ticked all the boxes that the book 'Mindset' talks about - a good coach who set high standards and showed process to achieve it, supportive parents who facilitated growth, a demanding work ethic and a learning mindset. I got what I was looking for in the book. Check out his races in all three Olympics and you get a sense of why Bolt was called Lightning.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hyderabad Jersey Tales - Mani


This is a delightful book of short stories and poems written by R. Subramanyam or Mani (his second). Mani is an engineer and mixes the analytical head of one with the romantic heart of an artist. He was born in Nagpur, studied in Hyderabad and Delhi, completed his engineering in Hyderabad and worked for the TATAs in Jamshedpur. He became and entrepreneur and then travelled to Abu Dhabi and Jordan before he settled down in Hyderabad. He shifts between his homes in Hyderabad and New jersey where his son lives and now writes full time. He first book was on his father Shri Ramamoorthy called "It Happened". His wife Valli is a ghazal singer, so art runs in the family. His joy for life comes through in his activities of choice – experimenting in the kitchen, driving or spreading joy around.

The stories are delightful and untarnished by the heaviness of a serious, adult mind. His thoughts are fresh as a child’s and he writes with the gay abandon of someone who is just enjoying the joy of expressing himself and his thoughts. The book had this lovely energy to it, puts the reader in touch with that aspect of herself and leaves one with a smile on her face.

The first story ‘From Fantasy Planet’ is set in New Jersey where the protagonist Bose is on a vacation. On his regular walk one day he chances upon a UFO and ends up having a conversation with aliens. Mani’s engineering mind, his deep love and knowledge of science is fascinating. The story gives one the sense that he is open minded about possibilities beyond what humans know (which is a great thing because most engineers and scientists believe they know all the answers). ‘Half-Knowledge’ is also set with science in its background but this one is in Hyderabad. Young Zee develops a machine that can read human thoughts and he uses his machine to solve a murder and uncover a sinister terror plot. The story of full of twists and turns.

Mani stays away from science in his third story about ‘Himalayananda’ where a ‘Guide’ like character from RK Narayan’s famous book makes an appearance with a benign smile and simplistic answers. Soon he is conferred a godman status. Conmen, businessmen, a beautiful actress and even college kids try to exploit the situation. The irony is not lost – on how we exploit the concept of god and do anything in god’s name. ‘The Card Game’ is a complex story, again veering away from science but staying true to the mystery genre – a dead body, a gang, a foreign couple, a bunch of card players. When the police arrive they find a lot more than they bargained for. ‘The Banjara bungalow’ deals with the Kirchoff’s law ‘when several feeders carry current to a junction, the algebraic sum is zero.’ The insensitivity and ingratitude of people is brought out in a classic tale that's as relevant today as it must have been for a long time – the pitfalls of having an ancestral house in the prime area of the city.

‘The Oldman Case’ is a story based in Hyderabad  – another ancestral property, two brothers who inherit it and how things sour and create problems for them. Again very contemporary! ‘The Unfinished thesis’ bridges the scientific and the spiritual and it appears that they will meet somewhere finally  – a robot is improvised by a young scientist to see the future. How it helps add substance to his sister’s thesis on Karma is an interesting twist. ‘Driver’s Seat’ is again set in New Jersey and a wonderful tale about judgment and what we see may not always meet the eye. It’s got a nice twist with AI making its entry this time.

I read and enjoyed the poems – 'New Jersey', 'God and Alien', 'Adieu, Morning Sleep', 'Friendship', 'How Important are You' and 'The Electric Pole'.

The child-like enthusiasm, the joy of expressing himself in an unrestrained and uninhibited approach gives 'Hyderabad Jersey Tales' a rare freshness. The imagination is fertile and the scientific insights quite fascinating. Mani should write many more stories weaving science and engineering concepts into stories that explain the concepts to both the serious student and the amateur - I felt I understood a couple of concepts better after I read this book. I really think there is a market for that and Mani is uniquely placed with his scientific knowledge, his storytelling ability and his boundless energy. Something like the Feynman series but with fiction. That would be lovely!