The World Has Never Been So Personal

There is a lot of talk about how the internet and social media have contributed to the loss of things being ‘Personal’. For those of us who have been around long enough, it gives us a nice excuse to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ when we actually wrote letters, and the like.
I disagree. Vehemently.
Let’s consider the following 5 examples –
– A customer today doesn’t look at a ‘corporation’ as a large black-box in a world disconnected from his/her. These corporations have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where his/her opinions will be listened to, and acted upon. Least of all, they would be heard and replied to.
A corporation that doesn’t is in for a lot of bad press.
– When I looked at my inbox today, I saw a flurry of personal emails. Thanks to communication being made so easy and fast, I can share my life with more close friends and family than was ever possible. Moreover, we can share our lives with each other more often than was ever possible, irrespective of distance.
– 2 days ago, I met with a school friend with whom I hadn’t met for around 6 years thanks to Facebook. We caught up over a game of football in a ‘far away land’ – all thanks to a status update I noticed from him that said he was in London.
– People are connected with their movie idols, sports stars over twitter more than ever before
– Skype and video calling has enabled more long distance relationships than ever before
Yes, that doesn’t take away the fact that we all have more friends on Facebook than we can count or that we have random twitter followers who aren’t even interested in what we say.
But, since when have things been perfect?
The world has never been as personal as it is today. Thanks to Email, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and the like, we can stay in closer touch than was ever possible, with more people that was ever imagined.
It’s a choice, of course. You have to choose to take time to write those personal emails, to write those Facebook messages and to stay in touch.
As I write this, I am reminded of the Eckhart Tolle quote..
‘In this world, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much ‘noise”

Things are getting better. Of course, while complaining about how technology has made the world less personal is one choice, leveraging it to build stronger, deeper relationships is the other.
The media wants you to believe the former is true.
I just hope you consciously pick one over the other.

On the Feynman approach

This week’s learning draws inspiration from ‘Surely you’re joking Mr.Feynman’ by Richard.P.Feynman

Richard Feynman had gained quite a reputation as a young Physicist. As a result, Feynman was soon part of many discussions with the top scientific names of the day like Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli and the Danish Physicist Niels Bohr, whose contributions to understanding atomic structure made him legendary.

Right after one such discussion with a group of eminent scientists including Niels Bohr, Bohr called his son (who was also part of the session) aside and said –

‘You know that young guy at the back – Feynman. Let’s have a separate discussion with him before our next session and then share our results with the rest of the group.’

‘Why father?’

‘Well, because, every time I say something, the others just say ‘You must be right, Dr Bohr’. He is the only one who has the courage to tell me I am wrong. ‘

Nobel Laureate Feynman later admitted that, once he got into a discussion on Physics, he completely lost sight of who he was speaking to. All he worried about was whether the Physics was right.

Richard Feynman’s story is a fascinating one. He was an incredibly curious man, an accomplished painter and drummer, while also being proficient in multiple languages. What stood out, however, was his uncomplicated approach to problem solving. A physics problem was, at the end of the day, a physics problem. He didn’t let factors like the person or the environment complicate it. As a result, he would have the same answer to a Niels Bohr as he would to you and me.

In that simplicity lay his greatness.

Here’s to remembering Feynman’s approach when we encounter a tough problem this week!

Checklists as a Sign of Weakness

There are a few things that tend to get me pretty riled up. One of them is the perception of checklists as a sign of weakness, as a sign of an inability to remember things, as a sign of over complication..
And every time I find myself getting riled up, I remind myself of the brilliant quote by surgeon Atul Gawande in his brilliant piece of work ‘The Checklist Manifesto’.
“We don’t like checklists. They can be painstaking. They’re not much fun. But I don’t think the issue here is mere laziness. There’s something deeper, more visceral going on when people walk away not only from saving lives but from making money. It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment, It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us — those we aspire to be — handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating. — Atul Gawande

I’ve been using checklists pretty intensively for many years now and it comes with the package of being a self confessed productivity ‘geek‘. In fact, it has even inspired me to egg a more technically adept friend to spend some time developing a checklist app for the iPhone with me taking the respectable position of cheerleader for the moment. We’re targeting an August 15th release date. Let’s hope that happens!
While it does sound like I am on some weird checklist crusade (with the slogan being ‘checklists are NOT a sign of weakness, but a sign of power!), the simple truth about checklists is that they work. And, more often than not, they help create bandwidth when most required.


There is a certain beauty in the ‘Mother’s’, ‘Father’s’, ‘Friendship’ day’s that get me to pause and reflect. Yes, I don’t think it’s all about the marketing!

Anyway, I was listening to a song from a wonferful Aamir Khan movie (Hindi) called ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and I thought I would dedicate to my mom for everything she has been, is and will be..
This video also gives you the back story. Ishaan, the young dyslexic kid is being left behind at a boarding school (where Aamir Khan, his art teacher, takes him under his wing and changes his life) and this deals with his immediate grief at not having his mother with him..
For all my non Hindi speaking readers, here are the translated lyrics..
I never, do tell you,
But I am frightened by the darkness, mother
Usually I, don’t show it,
But I do care about you, mother
You know it all, isn’t it mother?
You know it all, my mother.
Don’t leave me like this in the crowd
Such that I am not able to come back to the home.
Don’t send me so far
Such that you don’t remember about me at all.
Am I that bad, mother?
That bad… my mother?
Whenever… father…
Quickly… swings me around, mother…
My eyes… seek for you…
I do think … you will come to hold me, mother…
I don’t… tell him this…
But I do… get scared, mother
On the face… I don’t let this come
In my heart… I get frightened, mother
You know it all, isn’t it mother?
You know it all, my mother.
I never, do tell you,
But I am frightened by the darkness, mother
Usually I, don’t show it,
But I do care about you, mother
You know it all, isn’t it mother?
You know it all, my mother.
Thanks mom. You do know it all. :)

Your Keyboard – One ‘Spec’ to rule them all

We all face buying decisions for laptops every few years. Those tend to be pretty important decisions as laptops these days are like our constant companions. So, we better like what we are stuck with.
When we make those decisions, the big questions (aside from deciding wide screen vs square etc) are around the specs. How many GB hard drive? Dual core? Blah blah.
Now, for those of you who use your personal laptops primarily for browsing, email and multimedia (and not for hardcore processor heavy tasks – I think we make a good 50% of the population), I have a tip.
Forget the specs, focus on the keyboard.
Of course, you have the basic decision to make – is it going to be a small portable laptop? or a bigger laptop with big screen, many USB ports etc. Once you are past that, I really hope you do focus on your keyboard because if that ain’t comfortable enough, it won’t matter how good your other specs are. All you’ll be doing is fighting pain in your fingers..
All the best with choosing your laptop!

Small hack when emailing or following up with a large group of people for information

We often have the task of requesting/emailing or following up with a bunch of people for information. Some of us do it to confirm attendees for a meeting, some others do it to collect material for a bit of research etc. And often, tracking responses can be a pain especially since those who don’t have information are unlikely to reply.
The issue we often face is we don’t know if the people who haven’t replied have actually read the email. And this can tend to be a difficult position especially if these are your superiors as constant follow up is not really an option.
In such situations, a simple line like..
‘Those who have read this and have no ….. to add, I would appreciate it if you could just reply with a :). Thank you in advance!’
..tends to works well. And takes off some stress from our system as well! :)