Category Archives: Self Examination (!)

We are still Closet Socialists

I often find that I sell myself short. When it comes to doing client work – I’d undercharge, or I’d make the matter of money very trivial – as if it was the last thing on my mind, and be extra eager to please – ‘Haanji, yeh bho ho jayega ji’. Of course I’d realise later what I had signed up for – and have begun to learn the hard way that it is definitely the wrong way to go!

What’s interesting is when I recently worked with a freelance Illustrator for some design work, he seemed to be echoing the same feelings. This was a young guy, fresh out of college with maybe a few months work experience. The work that we were doing increased a bit – but he did not ask me to re-evaluate the quote and I assumed that it was okay with him. Later when it came to the final payment and I asked him why he did not talk about this earlier, he said ‘Mujhe paise ki baat karna achcha naheen lagta’.

And I realised that a lot of us perhaps still attach a certain amount of guilt to the pursuit of money – we guys are still closet socialists. Note that it is not that we think that money is wrong – it’s just that we are reluctant to ask for it. I’m not sure if this was the right phrase to describe this mentality, but here’s what Pavan K Verma in his book Being Indian writes on the chapter on Wealth:

The year 1991 removed the stigma associated with the pursuit of wealth. It buried the need for hypocrisy for the aspiration to be rich … People could now do openly – and with greater effectiveness – what they had tried to do surreptitiously under Nehruvian socialism:find ways to make money for themselves.

Perhaps we (I?) still need to pull myself out of this mentality.

A related post on my design blog: Dihari baandhna mat bhoolo

I love Synchronicity

Synchoronicity is the “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events”.

In my understanding (admittedly I am using the definition loosely): Something happens. Then something else happens which reminds you of that earlier occurence either in context or in content, but the two seem completely unrelated.

The most uncanny occurence of synchronicity which I have experienced lately is when I was reading the Satanic Verses, while Bluffmaster was playing on TV in the background. The scene came, where Abhishek Bachchan learns that he is going to die, and Boman Irani is trying to tell him that he should live his life to the fullest in the short time he has. He tells him about him being a kid – learning to ride a bicycle – his dad holding the bike coz the kid’s scared that he might fall – but then the father suddenly lets go of the bike without the kid realising and voila! he has learned how to ride a bike. Exactly five minutes later I read this in the Satanic verses (one of the two main characters Saladin Chamcha is reflecting on the suffering that has been caused to him by the things he loved the most. One of them – the dream of a child he never had):

“..In the sylvan secrecy, Saladin saw himself, accompanied by a small boy of about five, whom he was teaching how to ride a bicycle. The boy, wobbling alarmingly at first, made heroic efforts to gain and maintain his balance, with the ferocity of one who wished his father to be proud of him. The dream-Chamcha ran along behind the imagined son, holding the bike upright by gripping the parcelrack over the rear wheel. Then he released it and the boy (not knowing himself to be unsupported) kept going: balance came like a gift of flight, and the two of them were gliding down the avenue, Chamcha running, the boy pedalling harder and harder. ‘You did it!’ Saladin rejoiced, and the equally elated child shouted back: ‘Look at me! See how quickly I learned! Aren’t you pleased with me? Aren’t you pleased?’ It was a dream to weep at; for when he awoke there was no bicycle and no child.”

The thing about synchronicity is that a) It’s thrilling – the fact that something like it happened is mysterious and exciting b) It often makes you think about things a little more deeply – often shedding new light on what you knew or believed.

A couple of days back I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about what leads to success. His point was that talent is inherent – It is genetic and thus you can never really compete with a person in areas where he or she is born talented. Also, he said a lot of people end up picking the wrong domain and thus end up as failures.

The next day this nugget came in through my RSS feeds. Guy Kawasaki redirects us to this piece, which everyone must read. Guy sums it up as:

The article postulates that people have two kinds of mindsets: growth or fixed. People with the growth mindset view life as a series of challenges and opportunities for improving. People with a fixed mindset believe that they are “set” as either good or bad. The issue is that the good ones believe they don’t have to work hard, and the bad ones believe that working hard won’t change anything.

Dr. Dweck calls the fixed mindset the performance mindset – where someone who has to be “officially good” at something – often plays safe – as he can’t  be seen as bad, and also fails to work on complex things where some initial hard work is needed (as he is already supposed to be good at it).

So at the end of the day it is not so much about why inherently talented people succeed, but about why some talented people DON’T succeed – and that is where the balance of power is shifted. Thus the argument I would give back to my friend is that a growth mindset person can often overcome a talented but fixed mindset person.

Unfortunately – I think I belong to the latter. I am too embarrassed to be seen as “bad” at something – which has resulted in me not doing so many things – one of my biggest regrets is Sports. Another recent example is Salsa. I joined Salsa classes more than an year back but I still suck at it. Part of which can be attributed to the fact that I have been called a good dancer so many times now that it has now become an inherent belief. (Sumedha Garg where are you? I need you to talk me down a bit). Perhaps all along when I have been learning Salsa – I have basically believed that I am inherently good and all other are largely suckers.

Damn! I need a growth mindset. Pronto. And I have a lot of work to do to get there.

Dissection

IIT Delhi has (finally) started an Entrepreneurship Development Cell. They are planning to do some interesting stuff and have had two talk sessions till date. The first was an inaugural session with Alok Mittal. The second session was today, and is of particular significance to me, because I was one of the speakers (!).

As if that wasn’t a big enough responsibility, I was sharing the stage with Deep Kalra, the founder of Makemytrip, and an amazing speaker. (On and by the way, I have heard Deep before at a TiE session, when I thought he was good, but after today I have to say he is fantastic).

Anyway, so a dissection of how it went for me, so that I can do this stuff better in the future.

1. I forgot! I had some very specific thoughts in mind but drew a blank even after practicing earlier during the day. So practice more, and practice a day in advance. Anyway I will try to write down/record what I wanted to say, what questions the audience asked and add a link here. By the way, I recommended the audience to read this and this.

2. Try and keep a set of slides. What it allows you to do, is a) have memory triggers for yourself and anchor points for the audience to keep your talk on track. b) The audience has a takeaway at the end of the session. One possible reason why I did not because I read this only a couple of days back (one should always get a counterpoint). (Also, it seems a little inappropriate that Deep had a set of slides to use and I didn’t)

3. Don’t rush through the talk, dwell upon your key points so that audience does not take away a different picture than you wanted to portray – especially with your examples, give them time to sink in (and definitely have slides for these).

4. Don’t rely on the compere’s introduction of your company – no one listens to him. Give one yourself.

Also, found out Ok Tata Bye Bye is a Makemytrip initiative. Impressive.