Friday, May 24, 2013

Is striving to be a winner worth it?

While travelling to Kasara to meet my lovely wife and strike up a deal to co-author a couple of books on Yoga, I was listening to a podcast from Freakonomics Co-author Steve Dubner on a very interesting topic.

Before I get into the topic, I want to tell you how interested I was in it; interested enough to re-focus my tired mind which was sleep deprived, and was dreading the two hour long, supposedly pleasant journey.

Most Podcasts/Audiobooks are informative, funny or knowledgeable. The Freakonomics team is renowned for researching absolutely delightful topics over which a layman’s knowhow is at best obscure.

They've changed my misplaced perception of a Researcher being someone who comes up with something un-interestingly new to someone who gathers obvious and large amounts of data, filters it into meaning and presents it with a goal in mind; something common folk eschew.

Take this for a bite:

In this particular podcast, Team F (Freakonomics is way too long!) found out a remarkable difference in the afterlife of baseball hall of fame nominees and hall of fame winners. This stood true for Nobel prize nominees and winners, as with Academy Award nominees and winners too.
Baseball winners grinning like Cheshire cats!

The difference?

The winners tend to outlive the nominees! Important factors like money were taken into consideration, and no, it wasn’t as important as recognition when it came to those people. I mean, most of these people are financially successful in their own right, some selling energy drinks, to finding God Particles to making us cry and go gaga. But the nominees, tended to die younger. Interesting.

Come to think of it, any pseudo-intellectual worth their salt would contend that yes, this is old wine in a new bottle (Ah, Wine!). Everyone knows that being successful, being a winner tends to boost your morale, and this positive reinforcement helps in the longevity. However, when you have facts and figures to prove it all, it puts things into a completely tangible and different perspective, don’t it?!

Is winning that important to us? Let’s face it, some people, take me for instance, resign to the fact that there are certain things I may never be able to achieve; beating Kobe Bryant in one on one basketball for instance. But most successful athletes, scientists and actors are dreamers, and they dream big.

 Their ambitions leads to the desire of acclaim and recognition, and when they don’t win one, well, they lose a few years. The winners may win it one year, but may lose again, thus getting them back to square one. How does one then go about life? Does one not be ambitious? Industrious? Does one not aim for success? 

Yep, he's lost all right..

Here’s my take:

There is an old saying in Hindu scriptures which I am roughly translating (or hoping to!) in English. We’ve always been told to work, do our duty and strive to fulfill our destiny without hankering for the pleasures, fame and recognition that success brings with it as they will follow suit.

Baseballers striving to be better, scientists working harder to rid earth of Cancer and actors learning to Emote better (or emote at all, in some cases) without worrying about the consequences of their enterprise are bound to live longer, with less ‘baggage’ as we call it. They should honestly BE honoured to be nominated, and acknowledge that only a handful of people do get nominated, and that’s something else!

 There are many situations and conditions beyond your control when it comes to recognition from awards. Some are rigged, some nonsensical, and some depend on plain, dumb luck. I’d like to worry about things in my control and leave the rest for the universe to work it’s mystery on.

Or, I’d join Indian cinema. In lieu of their affection with the actors, and with the concern of their longevity in mind, our people have come up with multiple award shows which honour and reward all of them. Each year.
Mr. Khan getting ANOTHER award. 

For the rest of us, I’d suggest focusing on excellence and improvement, and leaving it at that! That's what ought to make striving to be a winner worth it. What say?

Friday, March 1, 2013

What I learnt at paintball

I’ve recently completed an eventful and interesting year of holy matrimony with a certain Mrs. Himani Baid Dwivedi on the 26th of February.

Please leave your best wishes in the comments section.


Entitled to my opinion alert!

Many people asked what our plans were for the “special day”. I cringe when people say that. What’s so special about a tiresome-physical and financial- day where we wasted shit loads of money to feed and entertain a horde of 500 people, 90 % of whom I’ve never met after? We’d committed our lives and had promised to assist each other grow, and all it required was a much quicker, much cheaper, pinky swear. The whole shebang was for the family, not us.
The great thing about soul mates is that they think alike; and both of us didn’t want the day, or actually the weekend to be about us. The nature lover in her and the adventure junkie in me decided on a trip to lonavala. Well, it was my surprise to her actually, and I suck at surprises with my impatient mind and all. After warning all my friends of keeping this under wraps, I prematurely told her about my plan for the weekend. It involved a trip with all my besties and their wives, one big, beautiful family.
She was happy, and while she would’ve enjoyed my sole company, I decided to invite my best mates, knowing full well they needed a break from their wanton, mundane lives.
Some people celebrate their first marriage anniversaries with a candle lit dinner; some take a cruise to an exotic island to relax. Himani on the other hand, knowing my need for thrill, decided to head to an Adventure Park; her surprise to me!

Lonavala and Della!

The Della Adventure Park is a sprawling place owned by a certain Jimmy Mistry, and you’ve got to hand it to this guy. The humongous 32 acres of property boasts of 86 activities, right from Dirt biking ( 60 BHP!), All Terrain Vehicle ( 700 CC!), flying fox, Zorbing, Archery, Net Cricket, Paintballing, etc. I’ve listed only a few of the ones we enjoyed, and I’d highly recommend flying fox to everyone! Gliding on a wire rope at about 75 feet in the air is awesome!

Coming to my point!

However, the main focus of this article is on the game of paintball. I’ve attended and chaffed at HR initiatives for team building via such team sports, and I admit my approach to look at it was wrong. The game of paintball with my friends showed me and them in true light, as I believe warfare brings out the real you.
It made me observe a facet of my personality which only high pressure situations could bring out. I learnt a lot about myself and my friends after that game, and here, I share my observations.

How the teams matched

·        Our team had two girls and three boys. We had a disadvantage of one extra girl in the opposite team, but I looked at it as an advantage! Being a pushy boy, I had one more soft-girl target!
·        My brother and I-opposing team captains- decided not to wear protective clothing, call it male ego, or the desire to seek more excitement and risk.
·        My wife was obviously in the opposite team. I said obviously as my brother and she probably get along more than we do!
·        The opposite team had the more athletic, more experienced, and more nimble players, and that’s plain true.

Let the games begin!

I’ll point out my observations of the behaviors and personalities of people in the melee without naming them as I love my solid bones a lot, thank you. Heck, I won’t even name teams.

Random Guy no.1- Showed a defensive mindset, but someone who likes to make own rules. An out of the box thinker who analyses the territory and competition, finds the safest place in the park and settled down there.
Random Guy no.2- Was mostly confused, and had given up before the game started. He was perplexed to decide on trying to win or trying to enjoy the game. Getting frustrated easily, he even hit the referee with a paint shot, not to forget his team mate when he felt he couldn’t salvage a losing cause.
Random Guy No. 3- The most athletic, he was all adrenalin. His desire to win made him forget that it’s a team game, and he would often jump to retrieve the flag without shouting for any cover fire. He wanted to do it all by himself; retrieve the flag, shoot everyone, cover everyone. He ended up with not being able to gain a point for his team, and was among the first whose paint pellets got over, thus ending his game.
Random guy no. 4- The only one with experience on his side, he enjoyed talking trash and indulging in gamesmanship prior to the game. He was, by far, the most balanced individual who wanted to win, but also remember to have fun along with it.  Knowing this person, it was delightful to see him maintain composure during pressure times.
Random girl No. 1- The trash talker amongst women, she was fiercely competitive, and was reasonably receptive to strategy, up till it had her in a role she was excited doing. Just the kind of person you’d need to helm a challenging, exciting new project. Quick to adapt, and not one to give an inch, she too could switch off and on by putting on her game face/fun face with ease. Having a mind of her own, she was the last woman standing and that is testament to her survival skills. Her calculative nature was clear for everyone to see with her being the only person in our team left with pellets, and a lot of them. She was picking and choosing her hits, and hit where they counted.
Random girl No. 2- Quite clearly the least combative, she was clearly out there to have fun. Whilst every individual wants to win, for her, it was not as important as having fun. Having been hit twice on the face mask with pellets, she had no qualms in running off to change her gear in the midst of a tussle-leaving her team one player short. While some may call it being selfish, knowing her, I knew it was because she wanted to have fun, make most of the moment and give her best to the team.
Random Girl No.3- The sprightliest of the women, she was agile enough to duck and dodge two headshots. Such reflexes need clarity of mind, something to look out for in people.
Random Girl No- 3. She was not meant to stand in the line of fire, and she displayed it amply by not moving from her spot lest a pellet would hit her! She’d do best in ancillary or supportive roles, and that’s no shame, we need doctors in the army too, right?
Random Girl no.4- The perfect team mate, she’d follow the instructions and the strategy to a T! Whatever was expected of her, she would dig deep and deliver without leaving any chance of complaints.

What I learned about myself- The good

Above all my observations, understanding my own personality was truly enlightening. The good and the not so good are my opinions, and are open to debate in the thread.
I am fiercely competitive, and don't like losing. I am what some people may term a natural leader, and people do look to me for centralized leadership.
 I am also good at strategizing, encouraging, motivating, making each member see their importance, identify each person's core competencies and get the team to gel together.
Surprisingly, before this incident, I had my doubts if I could put my team before myself, and be a good man manager. Thankfully, these aspersions were laid to rest, and in such a fun manner!

That I learnt about myself- The not so good

I don’t mind gloating about being the winner after the game is over either.
I don’t give or expect mercy while in the game. Not much at least.
Winning is more important to me than enjoying; ergo, I enjoy winning more than participating.
I don’t mind bending the rules to win a game. I asked a team mate to finish off her pellets so that we’d end up in the winning side even when we had a 4-0 cushion. It was this girl’s childlike enthusiasm and drive to establish herself and over-perform that made me see my folly. Sometimes, you just need to have fun.

We won! And here’s why

Both the teams were new, and both strategized. I can bet that both strategies weren’t dissimilar. We won because we encouraged each other, and we implemented the strategy well. A winning strategy may not be the best one, but eventually, the implementation matters, right?

They lost! And here’s why

They had the better players. But they were too self-focused to be able to perform as a team. Their strategy implementation was nowhere to be seen, laying them bare for easy pickings.

What I’ve learnt

Situational leadership is important.
Every team member is important. To get the best out of everyone, show them how important their job is, and they will over-deliver.
At all costs, remember to have fun. (Not applicable for real war!)
Understand your goal, and support any positive development towards it unflinchingly.
Support your team mates, and help them in excelling in their core competencies. Some are quick, help them in being quicker. The slower ones will pick up things the quicker one couldn’t see.
Every individual is gifted with their unique talents; to recognize them and leverage them is the mark of a true leader.
To be a leader, you have to be humble, and selfless. You must be ready to take the extra hits, and the flak.
Sometimes, bending the rules ain’t that bad. As said in the Bhagawad Geeta, do all you can to ensure you’re fulfilling your duty, and if it’s your duty to slay your relatives, so be it. ( Don’t take this literally and actually kill your in-laws. I’m won’t be responsible for that! Also, this is a loose translation of what the Geeta says, and what my puny mind understand, so..)
Bouquets and brickbats will be highly appreciated! Please comment below.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My first exposure to innovation- Bicycle Knife sharpeners

Back in my childhood, when the world was full of exciting possibilities, and there were wondrous sights everywhere, I remember my first tryst with Innovation.

My mum was really high on knives; we had many of them for slicing, dicing, chopping and the like. With her serving us delicacies with every meal, the knifes had a busy time. But like everything else around my mum, even the knives were nurtured and loved, receiving their timely 'Spa' treatment.

The 'Spa' was in the form of the bell toting, knife sharpening bicycle guys who used to provide the doorstep service of sharpening your knives for you.

Innovation at it's best!
I remember accompanying mum to the knife sharpener who had set his temporary base downstairs. He was swarmed by the women of our locality, and like most vendors/businessmen who could keep their composure and acumen even when surrounded by a dozen haggling ( at the same time, mind you) women, he answered all of them patiently, diligently while going about his business of giving new meaning to the blunt lives of our knives.

While this in itself was a remarkable multi tasking feat, I was enthralled with how a simple transportation device had been converted into a service provider  and a means of livelihood for an indigenous, hard-working man.

Attached to the driver wheel was a conveyor which transmitted the circular motion to a grinding wheel; something I would later on study/use/fool around with while using a portable surface grinder. The man pedalled at different speeds to generate the desired motion on the grinding wheel, something I imagine would be a tough and highly labour intensive thing to do for the whole day.

In the end of his mammoth effort which at times lasted an hour or so, he would request for a tall glass of water, and cycle away to his next destination.

He made no appointments, didn't carry a laptop or a smartphone, but his mind knew which area he had been to when, and when his services would be required periodically. His publicity was also not through social media campaigns, or TV ads, it was good ol' word to mouth.

I would credit the Knife Sharpening Cycle guy to open my mind to the wonderful world of machines and innovation.

What forms of innovation have you seen?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Of Haircuts and the like.

I’m a man. Yes, I am. If you ignore my effeminate features and take my word for it, that is. Apart from being the stupider of the two (should I say three to be politically correct? Okay, 4, the 4th gender is for politicians- they’re neither of the three, but a cross between pond scum and cigarette ash) genders, I am also a non- metro sexual male. I’d like to be one, yes. But I've never enjoyed facials, massages- unless it was.. let’s not go there, shopping, or haircuts.

Hair Saloons have never been the place I spend a lot of time in. My Barber- a friend since childhood- is quick at his job and while we might talk about everything under God’s umbrella while he goes snippety snip, other than that, we don’t communicate a lot.

I've also never thought of spending more than 50 INR on hair trimming, and that’s the cost of getting a haircut NOW. So when my wife suggested I visit a hair stylist whose branded shops have sprung up faster than my hair grows, I was aghast! My sis in law was vociferously nodding in agreement. The only thought that was going through my head was; how could I spend about 2000 on getting my hair cut?!
One of my 'killer' haircuts.

Since childhood, I reckon I must have had about 300 odd haircuts with an average price of say, 20 bucks. That’s 6000. Was I going to spend a 1/3rd of my lifetime hair cutting expense in one seating?! Why?!

The Haircut that got me my soulmate

Why, I asked her. She said that they would style my hair in a manner which’d be the embodiment of successful, stylish and sexy, the three ‘S’s’. They’d style it, condition it, gel it. They’d take a photo of my mug and show me different styles which would suit my face. No, the cost didn’t cover plastic surgery, so I knew the attempt to doll me up would be futile.

The haircut that got me the job.

Also, in my defense, I do have a decent job, had about 10 women who swooned over me- no, not at the same time- and I got married to my soul mate, right? I did all of that without a swanky haircut, thank you. I hadn’t folded under the pressure during my marriage, and I wasn’t going to do so now.

I didn’t. I gifted my women a few gift vouchers of one of those swanky, financial black holes called Spas, and told them that one should do what one enjoys. If they liked a bit of pampering, that was extremely cool, I didn’t. And they got it.

I’m back to my old Barber, but I do get a facial every quarter now. Kind of an agreement with the women. I have promised her that I will visit them swanky saloons sometime soon, when I have the heart for it.

Does any non- metro sexual male out there have a story to tell?