A reminder a day

Knowing what I know now about the process of learning, I’ve come to realize that a more apt name for this blog is “a reminder a day.”

As “To learn and not to do is not to learn,” it is impossible to improve how I operate every day. Instead, what I do here is attempt to take small steps toward larger commitments – one reminder at a time.

While some easy lessons were learned after a few reminders, the hard ones took hundreds of them, and the hardest ones are still being worked on.

It takes time to learn lessons that make us happier and better. And, few things matter more in that process than persistent reminders.


We read about the “Seek” by iNaturalist app a few weeks ago and have been using it a bunch of late. If you’ve ever wondered about the names of the plants/trees/insects around you, this app is awesome.

Here’s how it works –

1. Open up the app and point the camera at any plant (for example)

2. Using image recognition, it’ll give you the name of the species with a confidence score.

3. If you’re unable to get it on first try, you just have to try a few different angles. For example, a closer view of the the leaves of a plant may help it identify it easier.

It is a wonderful application of image recognition. And, we’ve been using it to identify plants and trees all around us.

I also love that it is called “Seek.” In the world we live in, knowledge and wisdom are never more than a few taps away.

All we need to do is seek.

Pain without memories

One of the most fascinating things about kids is that they manage to experience pain without burdening themselves with the memory of it.

They may be crying one moment and then laughing the next. No big deal.

Most adults, instead, tend to go through difficult experiences and accumulate baggage. And, with that baggage, we lose the emotional flexibility that enables us to recover quickly from setbacks.

Much to learn, we have.

How well did those meetings go

A question for how well those meetings we scheduled went this week: In what percentage of those meetings did the group leave with more clarity on the topic at hand than when we started?

Whenever that percentage dips below 80%, it is a sign that the next steps are cutting the number of meetings scheduled to spend more time preparing for the ones we do keep.

Working backward from instincts

I took two quick decisions recently based on my instincts. They had differing levels of riskĀ  and made me reflect on the process. Three things I took away.

First, I found myself thinking about the insight I’d shared from Rory Sutherland’s book about how we evolved to have a rational brain because rationality gave us the ability to explain our instinctual/emotional reactions. In this case, I was going through the exercise of trying to explain my decisions to myself (and a friend who I was in conversation with). It was fascinating to observe myself trying to back out the implicit reasoning.

Second, embedded in these instinctual actions was some interesting subconscious reasoning. If I had attempted to do all of this consciously, there is no way I’d have taken these decisions in time. So, it was fascinating to realize just how much our instincts process.

Third, it remains to be seen if my instincts were right. Time will tell how these work out. Regardless, there was a lot to learn from the process. For instance, there were a couple of things I’d like to tweak about how I acted on these instincts. So, even if that ends up causing one of them to backfire, I am at least glad I followed these instincts as I’ve regretted not following them a lot more than when I have actually followed them.

Learning is guaranteed either way.

Uphill and downhill

Living through the day-to-day is a lot like running through uneven terrain.

On some days, we find ourselves running downhill with the wind behind our backs.

On some others, we find ourselves on a flat stretch – our speed is what we make of it.

And, on the remaining, we experience the challenges of running uphill – perhaps even with the wind against us.

In the long run, however, these difficulties in terrain even themselves out.

Our progress, then, is just dependent on whether we chose to show up every day, regardless of the terrain, and run.

Talent is distributed, privilege is not

Researchers Bell, Chetty, Jaravel, Petkova, and Van Reenen studied data from the lives of 1.2 million inventors/patent holders in America in an attempt to understand the impact of nature and nurture. The found that –

1. A child’s chances of becoming an inventor vary sharply with characteristics at birth – such as their race, gender, and parent’s socioeconomic class.

2. Children from high-income (top 1%) families are 10 times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. These gaps persist even with similar math test scores in early stages (highly predictive of innovation rates)

3. Children whose families move to a high-innovation area when they are young are more likely to become inventors.

4. Girls are more likely to invent in a particular class if they grow up in an area with more women (but not men) who invent in that class.

This study is a landmark study in its ability to explain the real drivers of of success. Talent and mindset play far less important roles than the stories we’re told would have us believe. Below is my hypothesis on how it actually works. (Based on the data from this study, it may well move from completely unscientific to being backed by some science. :))

Talent, it turns out, is well distributed, privilege is not.