Aage ya peeche?

(“Aage ya peeche” in Hindi stands for “Front or back?”)

I was at a Saturday league football (read soccer) game a couple of hours ago. This was only my second game with the team and I was taking corners. I put 3 hopeful corners in but we didn’t have much luck – no goals. The team weren’t really sure where the ball would land and I wasn’t really sure where they’d be standing as well.

As I walked out for the 4th, a teammate screamed – “Rohan. Aage ya peeche?”

“Aage” (front i.e. closer to the goalkeeper) – I screamed back.

Now I knew where to put the ball in. I did. He was there on cue and scored.

Of course, the scoring won’t happen every time but boy, did we help our chances with a simple bit of communication! Seasoned teams know and understand where their teammates put corners in and don’t need this sort of communication. But, for us, it was just perfect. So simple, so obvious, and yet.. it took us a while to do it.

I’ve taken back a big lesson here – communication is the life blood of a team. So, over communicate if you must and ask the simple question. We don’t need “out-of-the-box” thinking or piercing insights to move mountains. Simple questions that move the needle and help us understand each other is what moves mountains in the long run.

My vote for the best social network out there..

What makes a service a social network? My assumptions are –

1. Ability to connect with others
2. Ability to share photos, videos, and life events
3. Ability to communicate in real-time
4. Ability to organize offline events for more connection
5. Ability to funnel content/speak to sub groups of the overall network

While Facebook excels at 1-4 and does an okay job of 5, Facebook became a victim of it’s own success – it became too big. Path bettered the idea with a smaller and more private social network that does some of this well. LinkedIn occupies the niche of a professional social network so we won’t bring it in for the purposes of this discussion.

Over the past year, however, I’ve observed one social network climb to the top within my social group – Whatsapp. What started out as a way to send free text messages between iOS, Android, and BlackBerry platforms is now much much more than that. Whatsapp allows me to connect with folks in my phone book (i.e. my network), share photos, videos, and events in real time, and communicate better than any other. It then takes organizing offline events and sub-group communication to a whole new level.

Most folks in my social group wouldn’t even think twice to create a Whatsapp group to plan for the next weekend. In fact, they probably don’t need to do that because they’ve probably got on going groups for their football, get togethers, friends, and family. It’s a continuous stream of communication.

As far as my social group goes, Whatsapp is the undisputed leader of the social network group. It has it’s work cut out to stay that way but I thought I’d congratulate the team for iterating continuously to bring forth a fantastic and much loved product. Facebook team, I hope you’re watching..

Be average

Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom, says principle #5 of Improv is “Be average.” She says it’s important to be prepared to be average because you might never get around to doing anything if you’re waiting for the day you’ll roll out a perfect performance.

Improv requires you to be prepared to fail simply because we don’t perform our best when we put ourselves under tremendous pressure.

So, if you’re walking into an interview/client meeting/presentation today telling yourself “this is my only shot and better work,” stop. You’re putting the sort of pressure on yourself that will cripple your performance. Calm down. We get many shots at the things we really need and if this doesn’t work, it’ll work out just fine.

Be prepared to be average at first. That’s how we get better. For all his emphasis on perfection, even Steve Jobs oversaw many products at Apple that were, at best, average. That’s just life. We just need to learn to be our best and enjoy the dance.. no matter the result.

All is hardly ever well

Look at all your key fulfilment factors – career, finance, health and fitness, relationships, mental and learning, and life and happiness – and you will find that all is hardly ever well. On average, you will always have 1 that is going bad, one that needs attention and the rest will be relatively smooth sailing.

Life is a careful balancing act and we learn over time that neglecting other factors to get one right is damaging in the long run. So many of us neglect our health and relationships in pursuit of success in our careers and this regularly comes back to haunt us. What’s the point of success if we are diagnosed with high blood pressure in our 30’s or have no one to celebrate our “Employee of the year” award with?

Even if you put in the right amount of effort to tend to each of these, all will hardly ever be well. Life will throw up a challenge to keep us interested. No point getting down. No point being unhappy. No point worrying. And absolutely no point not having fun. The challenges never stop. So, if you find yourself smiling a lot less than someone you know very well or worrying too much to have fun, then it’s worth stopping what you’re doing and taking stock. Everyone around you has similar sorts of challenges.. some just choose to rise above them and make the best of life.

It doesn’t matter what the situation is in your life right now – you have the power to make it better, to smile, to be happy, and to spread your happiness. Equally, you have the power to do the opposite and spread unhappiness. That’s a lot of power. Use it well.

Jiro’s work friends

I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi once again over the past 2 weekends. I think I should make it a point to watch this great movie every couple of months as it brings forth a new insight every time. What stood out to me was the nature of Jiro’s suppliers.

Jiro’s tuna supplier was anti-establishment in that he only bought the best tuna of the lot that came in the morning. No more, no less. It might only mean one fish a day (or sometimes none) but he wouldn’t buy any more and compromise his quality. His eel supplier comes from a family where his grandfather was called “the good of the eel.” His shrimp supplier also bought very few shrimps a day and as he sorted them out in the morning, he made it a point to pick out the ones that were “worthy of Jiro.”

His rice supplier was at a whole new level – he refused to sell his rice to the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo because he believed they wouldn’t know how to cook it. Only Jiro did it well and he might consent to selling to the big hotel chain if Jiro asked him to.

All of them undoubtedly contribute to Jiro’s greatness. It is thus unsurprising that the common theme among all of them is excellence.

We are who we surround ourselves with.

Who cares? It’s such a small decision anyway

“So what if I woke up 5 minutes later today?”
”So what if I told my friends I would be there today and didn’t make it?”
”So what if I told my colleagues I’d show up on time for our breakfast meeting?”

So what? Aren’t these small decisions anyway? When I have to make a promise to Bill Gates or the Pope, I’ll stick to it. Why wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t muck up on a big decision.

We like drawing a line between small and big decisions so we can draw a line between the consequences of choosing the easy way versus the right way. Waking up 5 minutes late may have a knock on effect on everything you do while your friends and colleagues may just lose silently faith in your word.. but we tell ourselves that they don’t matter.

They do. There are 2 truths we must internalize to get this right.

First, there are no small and big decisions. There are just decisions and we always have a choice between what’s right and what’s easy. The right path will require us to plan, prepare, and then adapt while the easy path will be..well..easy.

Second, a day is a collection of many “small” decisions; a week, a month, and a year, are just a collection of days and thus, a life time is just a collection of years (if you are lucky).

That small decision you’re about to make matters a lot more than you’d like to admit. In fact, it’s probably the only thing that does.

Massimo Banzi on Arduino, Open Source, and technology


Arduino and Massimo Banzi are at the forefront of the revolution around customizable open source electronics. EB had a great time interviewing Massimo.

EB: I got introduced to Arduino through a colleague of mine a few months back. I managed to get my hands on the board 3 weeks back and I have been loving it. It was easy for me to start with it even without any knowledge in electronics. The Arduino is an open source project, and after reading a bit about open source hardware, I wanted to talk to the person behind the Arduino. Massimo’s views on open source and programming really resonated with me. I hope you enjoy the interview just like I did.

If you are looking to learn Arduino, visit www.arduino.cc. If you are looking to build some Arduino project together, feel free to reach out to me.


My favorite snippets –

“Everything we touch contains electronics.  Even the food processor you buy at the supermarket contains a piece of electronic that drives it.  We want people to be able to use this complex technology, and we want common people to access this technology, even kids.  If you can use this kind of technology, then you can really re-design the world around you. I think the big idea is to make the technology simple so that more and more people can participate in the creation of today’s world.”

”I also think another big idea behind Arduino is that it’s open source, so the design of the board and the software are all freely available.  Some people who can modify can build up on our work; they can create businesses that feed from Arduino.  I think that’s also important as a way to spread the idea more than just the technology itself.”

“If we lose that open source nature, we become a regular company which loses that spirit of cooperation, freedom, and helping each other – all that we like.”

“Now were having a chat in English, but English is not my first language.  Now I think programming is becoming the language that you need to be part of the 21st century.”

“I travel, I go see different places, I meet people, and during that time I get to hang out with people who use Arduino to do interesting things.”

“It’s important that we teach kids that technology is not only something that you buy,  plug in and play with, but that it’s something that you can build and modify.”

Full interview, as always, on RealLeaders.tv