The Stonehenge and Arrogance

I was at the Stonehenge the other day with friends on a road trip. We got lucky with the weather and thanks to a close friend being a brilliant photographer, we got some really nice pictures as well.

This second picture was tweaked of course and paints a really ethereal, almost mysterious picture. And that got me thinking..
Here lay a pile of huge stones, deliberately built for some purpose, that have lasted for centuries. Yet, we don’t know what they were put together for. 
We have guesses – thousands of them. But we don’t know. 
And that, for me, is simply magical. 
The biggest issue for our race as we progress is that we are at a danger of loss of fantasy in debate. I remember growing up and having heated debates on topics for hours that were never resolved. These days, such debates end in 5 minutes with a ‘Let’s google it’ line. 
We can find anything we want. Debates are not necessary. Thank You. 
Our race is understandably arrogant. We have made tremendous progress and we are getting closer and closer to truly unraveling how the world works. Science is killing religious myths by establishing hard facts and theories that make intuitive sense. And of course, Google and Wikipedia have answers to everything, all available at a fingertip near you.
And that’s precisely why I love to see our failure to understand the Stonehenge. I revel in it. Failure gives us perspective. Failure triumphs arrogance.
And most importantly, it is this failure that permits us to dream and to not constrain ourselves by the world of logic and hard facts for a little while. Maybe this small dream would give way to bigger dreams. In the age of information overload, the difference maker may just lie in our ability to dream.
The realm of success and achievement aside, quite simply and rather vitally, what would we be without our dreams?

Mom: Interview I – RealAcad Mondays

Starting this week, we have a new feature coming up on this blog – RealAcad Mondays.As many of the regulars in this little community know, I am an active and proud RealAcader and have blogged about it a few times (There’s a video here that may help for those who have no idea what RealAcad is about). And over the past couple of months, we have been considering launching a feature called Learning from the ‘Real’ Leaders – wherein we would interview all those wonderful people who inspire us. And I am pleased to bring this feature to you right here on this blog!

Over the next many weeks, months and years, I hope to continue this feature with an interview every fortnight (or even weekly if we can manage it!) from people who inspire me/other RealAcaders/you (if you are up for it!). I think it would make for a phenomenal learning experience understanding what drives people who inspire us.

To get the ball rolling, I have here an interview with Mrs.Swapna Nair (better known on this blog as ‘Mom’).

An Introduction:

Of all the people who have inspired me in my life, my mom has ‘tenure’ of sorts. Aside from the tiny detail that she’s the first person I ‘met’ on this planet and the other tiny detail that she got me started on my journey here, she has been a source of continuing inspiration.

She has always taken what she has done to a whole new level. As a teacher, she was consistently chosen as among the city’s, the state’s and the nation’s leading teachers giving her opportunities to visit the United States and Singapore on various programs. In fact, it was after her 1st program thanks to which she spent a month in California that she decided that I should study make it a point to study abroad and get exposed. And, thanks to her push, I did.

Aside from being a teaching superstar, she is, in my mind atleast, the true traveler. There may be many who have traveled to many more new lands, but few I know match her curiosity, openness to culture, love of history and love of new cuisine. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from my Mom is her openness. The adage ‘The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one’ is one she epitomizes. Forever open to trying new things and new technology, she is now at home with an Android phone (soon to be converted to iOS :)), an iPad and has her own blog as well. Probably most importantly, she has always been comfortable around people who know more than her because she is the ideal student in many ways – always eager to absorb and forever humble. It’s that quality that makes her the outstanding teacher that she is.

An amazing storyteller, a great poet, a very passionate person with a great sense of humor, she has been adding joy and learning to the lives of her students for 22 years now. And all the while, she has been a fantastic mother who lead our family through some very dark moments and also been an extremely cool Mom and friend to all my close friends as well. Quite a person, quite a story.

I feel it is fitting that we begin this interview with a teacher – for it is a profession that truly deserves the highest respect.

And like everything else, her answers to my 3 questions touched me. Thanks Mom, for..everything.

1. What energizes/inspires you?

Each day as I enter the school I work in, I am energized. The eager faces of my students, the challenges awaiting me boost my energy levels. Each day is different. The experience of teaching the same subject to different groups is amazingly different and varied. The challenge of accepting each child as he or she is adrenaline to me. Each mind is an enigma. Each little heart holds abundant treasure. I feel so magical when I am in their presence.

2. Looking back, what has been the most defining experience in your life?

The most defining moment in my life is definitely the birth of my son. When I held him first a new vein of life surged through me. I was born again, in a new role,. The role of a lifetime, being a mother! Every moment has been a poetic journey so far. The roles have reversed. Today he is my mentor. I am once again in a new role, his disciple.

3. What is your advice to leaders who will be reading this?

My passion is teaching and every waking moment I decide to be the most inspiring teacher. Each day I learn something new. This excites me. I have realized that to ‘learn’ we must be like a sponge ready to absorb. Some may be positive while some maybe negative, nevertheless it is ‘learning’. Learning can come from anybody. It may be from a child, a colleague, the the elevator guy, a vendor….

Somewhere, sometime the learning will come of use.

Leadership is also often about delegation of work. This builds the team. If every leader can nurture and train future leaders, it is the sign of positive leadership.

A doctor cures, an engineer builds, a trainer trains, a teacher teaches while a leader inspires!!!

Looking forward to your thoughts and feedback on the first edition of ‘RealAcad Mondays’ in the comments. I am hopeful these will become 5-10 minute video clips in the future. One step at a time, though. :)

More on RealAcad Mondays

On Muhammad Ali and Sylvester Stallone

This week’s learning draws inspiration from ‘Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield.

On March 24, 1975, underdog Chuck Wepner took on World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali.
The fight was legendary – Wepner lasted 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali almost knocking him out in the process. Eventually, he was knocked out in round 15 with 19 seconds to go.
Over a 1000 miles away, struggling actor Sylvester Stallone was very inspired by Wepner’s effort as an underdog fighter. So, he began writing the script for a story with him as the underdog boxer, Rocky. The rest, as they say, is history.

On hearing this story, I was reminded of a friend who responded to the 2008 oil crisis (when the oil price went down to $40 per gallon) by buying 600,000 gallons of oil (!). While the rest of the world was busy reading newspapers, he saw an opportunity. Two years later, the oil price was back to $120 per gallon. He sold it at 300%.

Millions watched the Ali-Wepner fight on television but one man decided to use it to catapult his struggling acting career to a million dollar one.

The point I am trying to make here is that we have ‘stimulus’ all around us that could inspire us to no end. The big question is if our minds are open to it.

Here’s to seeking inspiration from events around us this week!

A Touch of Geekery: Super-charging Your Outlook with Folder Sort

Thanks to Microsoft Office’s dominance, it is likely that you are using Outlook at work, at school or have even begun using it for your personal email.

As many of you know, I am a big Outlook Fan. I have discussed my love for Outlook before. I think one of my biggest learnings when it comes to Outlook is the difference knowledge of it’s features makes. Using Outlook’s ‘Rules’ alone, you can become a ‘no-spam-ninja’ within a month,  delay sending emails so you avoid  BSAK errors among others.

And then, you can take it to the next level by using Macros. A macro I have blogged about before is the ‘Never forget an attachment again’, a 1 step process that will alert you every time you say ‘attach/attached’ in an email and forget the attachment. (In a hurry, you may still miss this! But well, it helps 80% of the time.. :))

That brings me to the purpose of this post – to present to you – ‘The coolest simple Macro of them all’ – the FolderSort macro.

If you are using Outlook, you probably have folders to transfer emails into after you have read them. And most likely, you are dragging and dropping them into these folders which, over time, is a massive productive drain.

And thanks to this genius macro, I have not had to do any dragging and dropping for over 3 years now. It is a 5 step process and will work well for you. All you have to do is follow the process and you are a comment away if you have any questions of course.

Essentially, it’s 10 minutes of investment now or 100s of minutes of lost time dragging and dropping emails.

Before you begin, here’s what success will look like (screenshot from my own Outlook)
(The second is zoomed in).

(Click to view full size)

Essentially, what we are going to do is make these buttons – 1 for every folder that you have on your Outlook.

Step 1 – Copy the Macro from here and copy the code.  (The significance of the red is mentioned in the steps below)

Sub Newsletters()
On Error Resume Next 
    Dim objFolder As Outlook.MAPIFolder, objInbox As Outlook.MAPIFolder
    Dim objNS As Outlook.NameSpace, objItem As Outlook.MailItem 
    Set objNS = Application.GetNamespace(“MAPI”)
    Set objInbox = objNS.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox)
    Set objFolder = objInbox.Folders(“Newsletters”)
‘Assume this is a mail folder 
    If objFolder Is Nothing Then
        MsgBox “This folder doesn’t exist!”, vbOKOnly + vbExclamation, “INVALID FOLDER”
    End If
    If Application.ActiveExplorer.Selection.Count = 0 Then
        ‘Require that this procedure be called only when a message is selected
        Exit Sub
    End If
    For Each objItem In Application.ActiveExplorer.Selection
        If objFolder.DefaultItemType = olMailItem Then
            If objItem.Class = olMail Then
                objItem.Move objFolder
            End If
        End If
    Set objItem = Nothing
    Set objFolder = Nothing
    Set objInbox = Nothing
    Set objNS = Nothing
End Sub

Step 2 – Go to Tools -> Macro -> Visual Basic Editor

Step 3 – Copy the code into the window (on the left, might have to open up the ‘Project 1…’ till you get to ‘ThisOutlookSession’. the copied code will look like this.

Step 4 – Replace the red folder names with your real folder names
A small note here – please keep your folder name to 1 word to keep the code simple i.e. no ‘Personal Emails’ – just ‘Personal’.

If you would like 5 such buttons, just copy it 5 times and change the folder names accordingly.

Step 5 – You are essentially done. All you need to do is put it up on your Toolbar.
Right click anywhere on your toolbar and click on Customize

Go to Commands and select Macros on the left. You will see all the buttons you created.  

Just drag it onto your toolbar and voila your button is ready! Now you can customize it all you want.. Right clicking it will give you many options. You can change the name, edit the button image (as you can see, I have little colored images on mine)

This is as simple as it looks. As always, your questions are very welcome in the comments.

And of course, if you do decided to give this a shot and get these installed, do share your experience too!

This post is thanks to a certain Donna, from the community at AVC who asked for the Outlook macros. I hope you all find it useful. 

The World From Our Eyes

I noticed this clip on my Facebook feed and thought it had a great lesson.

It brought to mind the story of a father and son watching a parade. The son was perched on his father’s shoulder.
At the end of the parade, the father remarked about the great parade and performances. ‘What performances dad?’ – his little son asked quizzically. ‘I was looking at the cool trucks that were passing by.’
We go through any experiences in company but we often forget that our responses to situations depend greatly on our view of the world. We an choose to by unhappy and cynical or not. We can choose to be ‘judger’, or make the switch to ‘learner.’  
It really is a world full of choices and options. If we don’t see it, it’s time to look beyond the horn that’s blocking our view.. :)