NUS: I will remember (XIV) ArtVibe..

It seemed only natural that I’d follow Sparkz with ArtVibe, my other baby during this final year. How ArtVibe happened is something I have a bit of a laugh about. I was 3 days away from catching my flight back home and I had just decided that I’d be spending my last year enjoying life as a student. I was looking for an exciting project or 2 to work on. Sparkz was in the ideation stage and I wasn’t sure if it would go through. Now, ArtVibe was a club I had seen a close friend run for a year and somehow, it hadn’t picked up from an encouraging start. So, I was very eager to do it to both help the club up and also bring this friend back to painting as he’s quite the pro..

I accidentally happened to meet one of the more passionate members and realized that they were unsure of what would happen to the interest group. And I readily jumped in – took her email address and said I’d follow up. I did.. And soon, we were ready to roll..

Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, I can’t paint or sketch or do anything art related for nuts..

1)The beginning: The biggest challenge here is that we had no team. So, there were 3 of us who began working on this slowly. We had a welcome tea before we knew it – we decided we would do little but try and do it well. Despite our lack of funds, we spent on a nice venue (Celadon Room, NUS museum) and we had a decent turn out – some of whom seemed very passionate.

We were all set of our first paint for fun session, which was a LOT of fun! We had a bit of impromptu learning and then a fun activity. Before we knew it, we had two more VERY enthusiastic 1st years join us and soon, we had the beginnings of a team..

We had quite a few activities over the year. For more on what happened, here’ s a link to our blog..

2)The Team: I just realized that I’ve never featured the ArtVibe team on my blog. So, here goes! There’s everyone on the picture that made ArtVibe happen this year..

Top Row:
From Left

CS a.k.a Casiel Tey a.k.a Ching Siong: Our humor guru. An amazing artist, full of laughs, excitement, energy and a joy for laugh. Oh, and also great insight in discussions and blessed with a brilliant sense of humor. CS was one of the big big contributors in the Olympic Art Project

Nadiah: Nadiah was a great addition in our 1st semester. While she wasn’t able to participate due to hectic school schedules (she’s a student of nursing), her passion for art was great to see. She lead some great sessions like Art Appropriation (I still don’t know what that means being the art ‘noob’ that I am..) and a great session on making photo frames with ice cream sticks

Bottom Row:

From Left:

Eli: Amazing artist – lead many sessions and an expert in too many things to mention. Eli was instrumental in bringing the group up to speed in the first semester and was someone we could rely on throughout..

Rohan: :)

Aishwarya: Aish was the other corner stone in helping getting the ball rolling. A very talented sketching person, Aish was the logistics person who made sure all the paint for fun sessions.

Center Row:

The reason I’ve saved these guys for last is because these guys did an amazing amazing job along with CS in making Olympic Art happen. So, now for the row of stars –

From Left:

Madhu: Madhu is the incoming President of ArtVibe for the year 2010-11. Simply an amazing person who landed from exchange just at the right time. Despite tight schedules thanks to an attachment with Accenture, Madhu was always around even during sessions when the team was up late in the night on a weekday.

Dhanya: Dhanya’s been the ArtVibe poster girl for the year. She’s been the one who’s practically been learning the ropes along to take over all the logistics. A very talented artist, great great team mate who has this amazing ability to take herself very very lightly and hence is a joy to be with..

Abishek: Abishek was the other super passionate 1st year who joined ArtVibe. Another very creative person – always brimming with ideas and lots of energy. Also our ArtVibe photographer and blogger. Very skilled at both!

Looking to Abishek, Dhanya and CS (all in their 1st year) to keep the ArtVibe flag flying high in the coming years.. :)

Snigdha: Snigdha is a close friend who came into ArtVibe with a desire to help. It turned out that I was way too tied up with Sparkz to help with the Olympic Art project and Snigdha readily took it up – leading the initiative all the way! It was thanks to her that the event flowed smoothly and successfully. Amazing leader and always always full of positive energy!!

Since there’s been so much talk about Olympic Art, do check out pictures and the post about the event here..

The team has been THE biggest success this year! Every moment spent with them has been memorable..

3)A lesson in delegation: One of the things I have always been eager to learn was delegation. I’d read in multiple books that it’s the natural step to growth. I always agreed but I found it very difficult to let go of anything that had my name on it completely. It’s a matter of empowerment and trust. The Olympic Art came at a time when Sparkz was nearing THAT time when every night was an all nighter and following Sparkz, I needed a bit of a break and needed to piece bits of life like FYP, modules etc together. So, I had no choice but to learn to let go..

It was a great experience just for that. I actually think the whole event went much better without me than it would ever have with me around.. Haha. A great lesson, a superb experience..

Thank you, ArtVibe Team, for making it happen! :)

And for all those interested in checking ArtVibe out, here’s the link to our facebook page!

8 days to go..

Listen to your voices..

Our gut generally gives us a clear and succinct summary of what’s going on..

But we can only hear our gut when everything else is clear – if we are stressed, for example, there’s too much noise crowding out what our gut is saying..

It’s when we listen to our gut that we can truly put our heart into something and do it well..

The big question – are we listening??

NUS: I will remember(XIII) Sparkz..

Moments before the event.. :)

Sparkz seemed like a dream when it was over. All those months of effort had culminated in what was a memorable night. I’m not sure how the 280 odd people who turned up felt about it – I did hear consistently that it was a pretty good show(which was gratifying), but this one, I’d done for myself.. It was very special to have my Mom, Grandparents, mentors and close friends at the event and just watching them enjoy the event felt very gratifying.

And even though the night ended as one with bitter-sweet feelings as a result of an incident that I’ll detail below, I think the time post the event only sweetened the effect.

3 things I will remember about Sparkz –

1)The Team: I was blessed to work with a very very special bunch. I say this time and again and as a teammate pointed out, it almost became a never ending eulogy but the beauty of something that goes well is the feeling of satisfaction that comes after it – makes all effort put in worth it. And boy, did they put in effort..

It began when we just began work on Sparkz. We decided we had to spread the word and get multiple registrations. And our team began working feverishly only for it to be extremely hard to sustain this as exams were coming up in 3 weeks and Sparkz was a new additional block in their schedules. Eventually, a lot of things went wrong – we had 3 teammates drop out. 2 mentioned that they couldn’t imagine this sort of a workload in the coming semester while the other doubted our ability to lead this project. Stress was clearly working its magic.. And we decided to give the entire team a break. And we did..

For 3 months, there was effectively 3 of us working on the project – trying to get the marketing up to speed, the venues arranged. There were moments when I was wondering if we would ever be able to even complete this little dream of ours and things picked up again. And slowly, we had our team members back on board and everything began clicking in place.

At every moment, we had a fully aligned group working towards this little dream. In retrospect, they had every right to question the amount of work we were putting in. After all, what would we achieve at the end of the all this that would be justification for so many hours of time. And it was only then that we realized that we were just doing it for ourselves.. And we were determined to have a fun ride..

I’ve written about each of them here and I can never forget this team. A few of us kept meeting every weekend for a month and have even worked out ways we are going to engage each other for a long time. They are my Sparkz team after all, and I’m very very proud of them..

2)You are closest to success just when you are about to give up: I thought this was the coolest thing I realized when Sparkz was on. We had our own unique set of challenges and in all these times, 2 things worked –

1)Stay CALM. If you are not feeling calm, then feign calm. Pretend like alls ok. As a popular hindi movie put it, your heart tends to get weak so it’s our duty to let it know that ‘all iz well’. And it is true, stay calm..
2)Just do what you can. We just focussed on what could and things always turned just when we had almost given up!

3)The performers, the day and the judge incident: Sparkz was what it was thanks to our performers. I was amazed at the wonderfully sporting nature of all contestants in the auditions. And our 10 finalists fully deserved their place. Even now, I go back down and watch their audition videos and remember how they dazzled us! Their videos are here.

The day came before we knew it. We had many sleepless nights in the week leading up to it. Every one of them was a memory in itself! And on the day, however, came the big big hiccup. We had an incident with one of our main judges. It turned out that she had snapped at my teammate who was in-charge and I decided to help by taking it over. Anyway, she turned out to be pretty disrespectful and disparaging and seemed like she was out to find fault with everything. So, in a call 10 minutes before the event when she refused to cooperate and was out to disrespect me, I felt my self restraint crack and had to thank for trying to make it and that we would have to go on without her. This was followed by a 20 minute conversation thanks to which the show was delayed. I had to do the listening as I felt she deserved the respect if she wanted to vent out her frustration but I was very clear that I didn’t want the show sullied thanks a bad mood or comment..

By the time, it was 710 – this conversation was over and I was shaking! It was too much of a development to take after almost 30 hours of sleeplessness. It was a very tough call to make at that time but it’s one I know I will not regret..

The show began once this was settled and yes, there were a few blips but the quality of the performances was breathtaking. It was a pleasure to listen to/watch our performers. We had a very deserving winner in Richard and even now, when I listen to him on my DVD, it’s hard to see the difference between the original and his rendition of the same song..

When the show ended, the feeling was ironically bitter sweet thanks to the judge incident. But as time passed on, that memory faded away to be replaced by all the good ones..

I was reminded once again that things go wrong when you least expect them to. Some can be averted, some cannot but all you and I can do is make sure we just give it our best shot and move on.

At the end of the day, however, my greatest success was my team. Watching them take up responsibility and become better for it and just the thought of having the core team as friends for a lifetime is what’s made it worth it..

9 days to go..

NUS: I will remember (XII) friends..

I have been fortunate to have a close set of friends a.k.a ‘the gang’ but today’s post is not about them, it’s about a bunch of others.. Today’s post is going to be different. No learnings – just a collection of thoughts.

Why? Because I just had the most amazing 3 hours laughing at myself with a very very special friend and I felt I should write on these moments rather than blog about what I had planned..

1)The intellectual: I love deep long discussions – philosophy, life, human psychology etc.. Just love discussing in depth. I love listening to a completely different point of view. And this is a tribute to a friend – the intellectual..

The biggest hazard of having a conversation with this friend is that we start generally around dinner time (8 or 830) and generally go on till 4AM atleast and has often gone on till 7 or 8AM even. This has included ‘study’ times, lots of exchange of youtube videos, but most of all just discussions – understanding why we believe what we believe in – asking that dreaded ‘why’ question!

Because, often we tend to have a point of view and we don’t know why. It’s when we ask ourselves that why question that we understand where these points of views come from. I have often used these discussions to further deepen my understanding of concepts in many books and then, just laugh – laugh at everything and most of all, myself. Every moment has been a pleasure and we’ve managed to keep this happen despite being in completely different ‘gangs’.. It’s a friendship I treasure and one I will continue to do so for a very long time..

And the few hours spent today was right up there among the all time great. This friend has decided it’s time he found out something ‘weird’ about me and find something that would be unexpected. He’s on a mission – let’s see how it goes..

Just a tribute to an awesome person!

2)Football friend, work friend: There have been two friends who deserve special mentions as well.

My football friend has been a friend who came together thanks to a common interest – Manchester United. We share a common myopic view of the world when it comes to football. In fact, I think it is fair to say we are United fans first, and lovers of watching football second. It’s only a pity we’ve really gotten around to spending time this year but boy, have those times been fun. I enjoy catching games with this friend.. And enjoy the endless chats on how we would do as managers.. Haha

The other friend is a friend I’ve worked with for a long time. Again, someone I’ve seen grow up over the years. We’ve shared a very nice working relationship and even after our paths separated, we found new excuses to work with each other. It’s been a wonderful relationship – one that I will look back on with a lot of joy. It is also because this person was one of my first ‘kids'(this term I shall explain right below) – that may have changed with time but there’ll always be a special place for being the ‘first’ in my heart.. :)

(Typically, they would be in separate paragraphs but I just realized I have another paragraph and I am fixated about 3.. Haha)

3)My kiddos: I was taken in an environment at Nineo where, in our 1st year, we were our mentor’s kids. And we kept becoming so and so’s kids depending on which mentor we were working with. And soon came the time for me to have my own ‘kids’. Now, as this was my first leadership test, it went really bad and I gave my first set a torturous experience. The good news is that they survived and one of them made it through most of the rest of my journey. These opportunities got lesser and lesser as the years passed and things changed at work..

That changed this year though with Sparkz and ArtVibe. All of a sudden, I have a very special bunch of friends to spend time with. Every one of them is a source of SO much joy these days that time spent with them is an absolute pleasure..

These experiences have played a big part in ‘making’ me. If I had to lead people, I realized that I better start practicing what I preached. And if today –

-> My room is kept clean and sanitable
-> I’ve begun laughing at myself
-> I’ve learnt to rush a lot less and be calm a lot more..

I owe it to this special bunch..

I am a people person and generally most of my associations are people related. For example, I would choose between where to go depending on the people and most of my university life has been spent alongside people as well. I’m not much the TV show or movie person (as the intellectual friend above discovered to his dismay) – I’m much happier being around a bunch of friends – learning, playing around, having conversations and doing something fun.. There’ s a whole list of people who’ve given me an immense source of joy and this post is just remembering fun times, unpredictable times that have really defined a big part of my university life..

Here’s to them!

10 days to go..

Changing environment, schedules once a while works well..

I’ve realized that it is nice to switch schedules once a while – i.e. work from morning to night for a week or two and then switch..

For me, morning schedule works for the more discipline oriented tasks i.e. ones that need doing. Night schedule works better for the more creative/ more thinking tasks. So, when I’m in chop chop mode, it’s morning that’s good!

Change, in essence, can be very positive if we take it as such. It gives us a new perspective.. :)

The Big Idea — Fruits & Roots

In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, it’s what’s under the ground that creates what’s above the ground. That’s why placing your attention on the fruits that you have already grown is futile. You cannot change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. You can, however, change tomorrow’s fruits. But to do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots.” ~ T. Harv Eker from Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind

That’s genius.

Remember: you can NOT change the fruits (the current results). But you CAN nurture the roots and, in time, you are bound to successfully produce the types of fruits/results you’re dreaming of.

Thanks Brian Johnson from Philosopher’s Notes

NUS: I will remember(XI) the return to book reading..

Thanks to Mom – I was a voracious reader when I was young. This was because Mom loved reading and the easiest way to shut me up when I was a kid was to thrust a book into my lap. So, I began with books like Robin Hood, Black Beauty when I was a kid and progressed to finish more than 400/500 Enid Blyton books – loved series like the Five find-outers, the famous five and the like. This progressed to novels with an addiction to a not-so-popular author called ‘Colin Forbes’. This was in my 9th standard/grade/Sec 3 and post this, I just stopped!

The only reading came in the form of comics like Tintin, Asterix, Archie’s etc and the trend continued with me being ‘too busy’ to read in university in my 1st year and a half. A lot changed post that though and here’s how..

1)Audio books: My mentor changed everything when he mentioned he shared his audio book hearing experiences. He said he didn’t enjoy reading as much as he did listening and I thought it would be great to give it a try. With a lot of push from him and a gift of a nice collection of audio books, I began hearing my 1st book – The Virtues of War; A novel of Alexander the Great. And boy, was I hooked.. I couldn’t stop requesting for more books and recommendations from him and soon I was hearing these books whenever I found time.

I’ve found that I’m traveling on buses atleast 30 minutes during a normal day here in NUS. All this time is potential reading time and here I was, beginning to use this time. A big learning here is the Peter Drucker insight on Managing Oneself – there are readers and listeners and you can only be of one of them. While some are comfortable reading long emails, others are better with phone calls – it’s the same with books. Some are comfortable reading, others are comfortable listening. I, for example, can never imagine getting through an e-book. A hard cover is just about bearable by now. But, I can coast through an audio.. This was probably among the better insights I had..

Learning: I was most inspired by the line ‘The difference between you now and 10 years from now are the books you read and the people you meet’

2)7 Habits of Highly Effective People: This book has really changed my life. I know there are a lot of people out there against these kind of ‘self help’ books. But, I’ve loved every book I’ve read – often getting so many take-aways that I would never have gotten otherwise. This book touched me.. It was a heavy book to get through – took me 1 month. The only other book that took me so long was ‘A Splendid exchange’ which atleast was a 17 hour audio. This one was much shorter, but extremely deep.

So, what is it about the 7 Habits that is so special? It deals with growth, and how it happens at the most basic level. The first part of the book is just about moving from dependence or the baby stage to independence, the teenage state. The 1st 3 habits are

‘Be Proactive’ : which can be summarized in ‘Make and keep commitments’ . This has been among the most difficult things to do as I was serial breaker of promises. Gradually, I’m getting better at this..

‘Begin with the end in mind’: or Visualize – which has not been too bad.

‘Put first things first’: or work according to priorities which I have always needed LOTS of improvement in. This book called for getting organized and over the past few months, this has begun to happen..

Learning: The 7 Habits book has been a bit of a bible. I can not be done reading it for a very long time. It’s philosophy revolves around the fact that we are always taught to be better personalities i.e. be better presenters, public speakers etc, but long term success can only come if we are strong characters i.e. trustworthy, honest and live life along with the basic principles

3)The journey: There have been so many other books that have captured my imagination. Right up the list is ‘A splendid exchange – a story of how trade changed the world‘ – that made me wish I had learnt history this way. ‘How to win friends and influence people‘ and ‘How to stop worrying and start living‘ by Dale Carnegie were also splendid. So were books like ‘Outliers‘ and ‘The Alchemist‘..

However, the book that next made a huge impact was ‘You don’t have to be born brilliant – how to design a wonderful life’ that is a book written by a leading Australian real estate tycoon who talks about how he designed a great life for himself by being proactive and being EXTREMELY organized. I found his example inspiring..

A lot of things begin to link in gradually. As I’ve accepted the 7 Habits philosophy, I do see the common trends mentioned in multiple books. Suddenly, more of the stuff that I hear around me is beginning to make sense. ‘Think and Grow Rich’ which I’m starting on today is just an extension of the habit of ‘Beginning with the end in mind’, which says – ‘See yourself going rich first, think about and then it will happen’.

Learning: Of all the gifts I have received over the past many years, the gift of audio books is likely to be the most impactful yet..

I met an entrepreneur in January back home who said he and his wife made sure they read 30 minutes a day and saw 1 movie a week. I was very inspired by the example. Since then, I’ve made it a point to read 30 mins a day between Monday – Friday.. And I managed this rather unlikely discipline thanks to a system coming up in the next post – the R15..

11 days to go..