The Quit Sunday Principle

One of the things of being an avid learner is to juggle with a lot of new things to try and test and see if one can override their toolkit with new practices that amplify the old ones. Think about it in our lives, the reason we aren’t able to scale faster is because we stick to tried and tested things even if it works and have a ROI say with timelines of 4 months, 6 months, a year and so on. While I’m not against this at all, as we all would definitely be better off starting off with a blueprint.

In my journey so far from all the mentors, my learning projects and conversations one thing that has emerged as an insight is this:

Mixing up mentors. A better way of putting it is while there are tons of tested methodologies and practices that are out there not all of them will sync with one’s personality and the path they are on. A customized solution is often what works and here is the deal-breaker – The process is a never ending one!

What I have developed as a practice is once a month I use the Quit Sunday Principle – The last Sunday of every month is my introspection day of all the hacks, strategies that I have tried and picked up and check to see if they align perfectly to create a work-life balance and at the same time if they are accelerating me towards my realistic outcomes that I have set for myself. One thing I’d like to highlight is – Although I’m always on the lookout of new services, tech, skills, perspective shifts, paradigm shifts which enable me to optimize myself – It’s more often a recombination of all the skills, strategies that I already have in my skill vault.

Sometimes the strategy is having no-strategy! For all beginners it’s as simple as rolling out of the bed each morning and punching the clock until you feel you have your legs under you for a sprint! 🙂 – The art of the start is in just getting started and not breaking the chain while having a check-in once a month which I call the flash-forward exercise. The first step in getting what you want involves having the courage to get rid of what you don’t want.

The Flash-Forward Exercise:

Imagine you have already achieved your full potential in all respects and are fully self-actualized. How do you describe who you are and your purpose? How is your day like in that scenario?

What ever it is that excites you while you start doing it, having a check-in to flash-forward the future of your path and playing it back a year from now, 6 months from now, 3 months from now and asking yourself if I take this path what is my day like in those times. Is my ambition / purpose having me? Am I still able to discern and make space for myself?

I got inspired to make this principle up from Bruce Lee – Here is that quote!

One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.

Hack Away At The Inessential!

What do you plan on hacking away this Sunday? Let me know.

The Hack of Co-Coaching

 if-youd-listen-id-speak-upSource: Dharma Comics

It sure as hell got me curious to the hilt, when I heard this term from Shiva and Som that there is a person called Kiran who practices something called as co-coaching. The skeptic in me shot up to the surface and spoke, no way this must be just another “jargon” or a fancy name for coaching that he must be throwing around and has built a USP around coaching for himself.

To my dismay when I first experienced this paradigm with Kiran. I found it to be the one of the most liberating experiences in my life. I call it truly the ‘Art’ of having a conscious conversation with another human – soul to soul. No judgments, no one here to take on the role of an adviser. Even the coach and the person being coached disappear into the process and make space for a “togetherness” to emerge. That day, I went into the process with a curiosity to find out what it was and nothing else. Maybe that was what was required in the first place! Soon, there was no Bharath and Kiran there were just two people conversing and the truest wisdom that is omniscient in all of us – emerged and guided the process ahead. It is a process that has 3 stages –

1 – 10 minutes of Questions and Silence mixed together.

2 – 10 minutes of an honest conversation between what emerged in the last 10 minutes.

3 – 10 minutes of a together “wondering” to see if there were any insights that are emerging as a result of the process and also looking at the process itself.

That’s it – as simple as 1, 2, and 3.

It can challenge what most of us have heard or experienced about Coaching. Is it really possible to coach in just 10 minutes? Normally coaches typically take an hour, sometimes many such sessions… So what could possibly happen in a mere 10 minutes? You might ask? – Just as I began an inquiry with myself.

The simple answer is this:

Through the power of Silence and Questions, I found that it is possible to go beyond time! And access a space and a potential which is normally lost to us in the noise of the daily life and mind.

When I brought a bit of Silence into my own daily conversations, the power of listening and questioning born of that, allowed a lot to happen! Often I have been baffled by what becomes possible ever since I started to experience and practice this method. I remember instances of people breaking down out of certain realizations, people suddenly feeling light as if a huge burden was lifted from their shoulders, a transformation in which both the coach and the person being coached experiences a state shift. I suspect what becomes available is the power of being, the invitation of silence. Silence, when used consciously blows the mind away. Maybe, so far in my life I have perceived Silence to be something that I need to use but I guess the deeper insight from my experiences so far has been to let myself be used by it. It has helped me evoke, provoke and above all invoke my essence.

The nature of life is such that often the issue/ challenge that the people come with inevitably mirror something that the coach has either walked through deeply or to a fair degree of depth and is currently grappling with. This makes it very real.

Both come in touch with how time is actually non-linear. We have all seen that often more gets done in an hour than in a whole day, which clearly shows it’s not just about time but the quality of presence we bring to that time.

As my mentor Kiran says:

“It is about discovering and accessing intuition. The resolution can be ‘received’ instead of being ‘thought through’ or analyzed through ‘Problem solving’. Often what results is Problem dissolving’! The process of ‘Creating’ becomes available in which there is no problem. Everything that emerges is honored. “

P.S. This is something anybody can try and be baffled by what they will eventually discover. It can be done anytime, anywhere, anyplace. A very simple no-constraint process. 🙂

The Mentor Hack

mentor

There was a post that I read few months back which went by the title – What got you here won’t get you there” but a MENTOR will. I had just reached Pune after I was desperate to get out of Kolkata not doing great work at work as well, although enjoying the set of mentors that I did pick up during my stint there.

The shift from Bangalore to Kolkata, Career Kraft to IBM, Student to Employee was something I absolutely needed. It helped me weed out my over-confidence and learn a lot about staying on my own, keeping my dream alive and burning in my heart while being constantly second-guessed and also being mocked by superiors at work, friends and worst of all myself. I learnt it the hard way that the worst cynic in the big bad world isn’t out there in the world but he lives between your own two ears. Always feeding you B.S and pulling you down and justifying to take the path of least resistance which I did too for a while.

I had read all these stuff in many books and got inspired to the hilt and that had gotten me high and pumped up for a week or so. Usually after such initial highs, when you get back to your life for me it felt like I was stuck in a barrel filled with crabs. Every other crab was hellbent on pulling me down whenever I tried to take a baby step forward. There was a phase in Kolkata during which I had given up my ambition and was “lost” in the truest sense of the word. I began contemplating a long shitty career being stuck in a cage I had voluntarily invited myself into and what’s more even locking it myself and believing there wasn’t any escape even though I was the key!

Ayan Pal, a mentor of mine in Kolkata with whom I never really spoke much but I have had most of my “Head Fake” learning’s from him. It was from him I learnt about perseverance, through his actions and leadership I learnt to unearth the hunger in me to explore, learn, fail and grow and keep it close to me and turn it into my armor. He had invited me to a Toastmasters conference where Sam Cawthorn and few other motivational speakers were invited for the event and it wasn’t an event I was very keen on attending. I got pulled to it by Jyoti, Ayan and a few others and that conference restored hope in me again.

The fire which was almost waning out was set ablaze again.

Here comes a man, who has so far been through the worst imaginable pain possible inspiring everyone to find their “WHY”. He had lost his leg and arm in a horrendous car accident. He was even declared dead on the spot but he now moves around with robotic aids and sets people on fire with his humor, story and wit. I met him and realized I had both my legs and arms and I was one up than him in the physical sense and it gives me no excuse to victimize myself. That day was the day I last felt sorry for the cards I was dealt in life. From there, I looked deep inside myself, my past and found my passion in my suffering.

Here is a picture where he personally took time to have a 1 on 1 with me and those 10 minutes changed my perspective on ownership.

20121104_155714

That day, I realized the value of having mentors. What got you here won’t get you there, A MENTOR will.

I had taken mentors for granted throughout my life up until then. From then on, even if I had one mentor I told myself I am going to make the most of what I have in me, around me at all times. Nobody can give you the permission to step up other than yourself. You really have just two choices, fear everything and run or face everything and rise.

Hope I got you all motivated up until this. But, later a week after that conference I reached an impasse again. I went into storifying and telling myself. All these bloggers, thought leaders I used to follow came from developed countries. It’s after all so easy for them to throw everything that they have, take the big leap, travel around the world, discover themselves. They have so many travel benefits, no need for even a VISA as they are allowed in most countries (the ones with a US passport). There was no end to this. Then, I read a phrase online that changed my thinking and perception. It was something like shifting your perception to listen to everything for 15 minutes before rejecting something. This changed me, every person I met then onwards – I was completely open to what they said and slowly I started to see a lot of learning’s that I had missed before from other mentors as well. I started writing them all down in my diary and began testing them out one by one only to see them being disproved. I embraced the mad-scientist in me and started applying this mindset to all areas in my life.

Man! I wish I had done this sooner I thought to myself. Later, when I hit Pune after overcoming another crisis I noticed I picked up the habit of noticing patterns in areas I wanted to learn and intuitively felt which mentor would add most value in my life that would only compound over the years and only started approaching them with complete authenticity. As, I was on a tight budget earning only around ~400$ (21,000 Rs) per month, most of which I would invest in traveling meeting mentors, learning online, reading as many books as I can get my hands on.

My goal was simple – make the most of the mentors I had before my next big leap. Slowly, even this process started accelerating, I began better at picking up mentors not just in the city I lived in, even online whom I possibly would never meet but still I could utilize to build fast feedback loops around to learn faster by failing faster. I found a whole new perspective of enabling and accelerating my learnings in some areas that I wanted to learn utilizing the concept of “cross-platform learning”. A word I made up – as I had no extra money to invest in courses and I wasn’t really keen on taking a huge loan on my head and working my ass off the rest of my prime to pay that off. There had to be a way I thought and at first though I was just doing it out of excitement as I never knew what results it would yield as it was an area that isn’t known in India.

Stillsometimes when there are things that excite you, you just need to go ahead and do them and see the ripples they make. It’s these ripples that will contact the other ships (mentors) in the ocean to your boat and maybe some of them will take you under their wing for life. Though this post revolves around mentors here is another nugget of wisdom and a great read that you should definitely get your hands on.

What is adverse often adds a “VERSE” to your life

Sam-Cawthorn-Book-Cover_353-300x0

P.S Here is another kick-ass article from one of my online mentors. You can read it here.This involves a more D-I-Y approach with tips/tricks that you can test out.

Happy Testing! Let me know if you cracked any new insights or if you do happen to pick up a set of mentors through a simple shift in strategy.

Let’s Rethink Learning

Writers BlockI guess I could call myself smart. I can usually get good grades. Sometimes, I worry that I am just a tape recorder…I worry that once I’m out of college  and people don’t keep handing me information with questions in another job, I’ll be lost.  – Person A

The things I’m scared of is, say I got fired, I’ve got nothing, nothing to help me get another job..I’ve got no other skill.  – Person B

These were the exact words of two youngsters among others who answered to my inquiries with them and I wouldn’t like to take the names of these two people: one who is pondering over leaving his current job, and the other who is about to graduate from college which says not only a lot about themselves but also about the sad state of education in India.

There are 2 good reasons for reconfiguring 21st century education: economic and personal. The well-rehearsed economic argument says that knowledge is changing so fast that we cannot give young people what they will need to know, because we do not know what it will be. Instead, we should be helping them develop supple minds, so that they will be able to learn whatever they will need  to. If we can achieve that, we will have a world class workforce comprising people who are innovative and resourceful.

My personal argument converges on the same conclusion. Many young people are floundering in the face of all the complexities and uncertainties of modern life: the relatively successful children of the middle class, like Person B, as much as the more conspicuous, traditional failures of the education system such as Person B. Person A sees himself as ready for a life of tests, but not the tests of life. Person B doesn’t even believe that he has it in him to master a new skill. Now people like Person B are labelled the “losers of the system. These are the people for whom the system isn’t working!

They differ greatly in how ‘literate’ and ‘numerate’, but Person A & B are both, in their different ways different! They think that school hasn’t only failed to give them what they need; it has actually compounded the problem, and they are right again. Many young people live in a Matrix world in which there is often no consensual ‘reality’, no agreement about what to do when they don’t know what to do. Their public culture of ‘cool’ is, in part, a reaction to their sense of inadequacy and a sense of extreme insecurity in the face of real difficulty. Young people want more real-life gumption, initiative, just as their prospective employers and anxious governments do. More fundamental even than the concern with literacy is the need to protect and develop young people’s ‘learn-ability’ (A word that I’m throwing around). That the need is personal and social, even more, than it is economic.

Government reforms have tinkered with existing provisions and structures in dozens of ways: the timetable, the curriculum, the methods of assessment and so on. Such tinkering has been going on for a long time, and it hasn’t addressed the hole in the heart of education which is leading young people to make statements like the ones mentioned above and these are a result of what they are experiencing so keenly. However, recent progress in the human sciences is beginning to fire people’s imagination with new possibilities. Science cannot tell a society what its schools should be aiming to achieve, but it can suggest new avenues of thought. One of these is that its actually possible to help young people become better learners – not just in the sense of getting better degrees, but in real-life terms. One contributory line of thought comes from cognitive science, one from neuroscience, and one from a Russian psychologist Lev Zygotsky. Let me address the first two as the last one has been addressed before here.

P.S. There is another worldview / model that I’ll present in the coming months which is a hush hush secret for now!

In cognitive science, a revolution has taken place in the way we think of ‘intelligence’. For a while, people believed that it was a blob of mental resource that God or your genes gave you when you were born; that it didn’t change much over the course of one’s life; that if followed you around from place to place and didn’t vary with the situation; that it’s main effect was to set a ceiling on what you could achieve; that when you struggled or failed, that was evidence that you had got to the limit of your ‘ability’; and that you could make a reliable measure of the size of someone’s reservoir of intelligence by asking them to solve abstract puzzles under intense pressure. We now know that this model is scientifically vulnerable, factually incorrect, and educationally insidious. It is vulnerable because, you cannot separate ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’  in that way. Its incorrect because intelligence varies enormously across time and place, and IQ bears no relation to being real-life smart.

Its dangerous because it leads people to feel ashamed (rather than challenged) when they find things difficult, and therefore it undermines their ambition and determination. Here is a wonderful online service that I have been following for the last one year and now it’s available for people. They can create their own memory banks online and for free! It’s called Cerego. Check out their awesome learning platform here.

In fact, there is enormous room for everyone to get smarter by developing their ‘learn-ability’. Even if there were some hypothetical limit on my ability, in practice I am nowhere near it. True, I am never going to be as fit and strong as Micheal Phelps, nor as fast and tough as Usain Bolt, but that doesn’t mean that it is therefore a waste of time of me hitting the gym. And when I don’t go, the whole point is to get sweaty and find it ‘hard’. Pushing myself needn’t mean ‘I’m hopelessly unfit – and that’s that: it just shows that I’m in the process of getting fitter.

Lauren Resnick, the doyenne of educational psychologists in the US, now defines intelligence as ‘the sum total of your habits in mind.’ And habits grow, change, and can be broken.”

This work is also showing that growing more intelligent isn’t just a matter of learning a few techniques, or even mastering some new skills like ‘critical thinking’. Its as much to do with attributes, beliefs, emotional tolerances and values. And these change more slowly. You can’t change someone’s interest in learning overnight. But schools and classrooms have systematic, cumulative, influence. For example when teachers change their way of talking with their students about learning, those students’ attitudes change, in turn, within a term (and by the way, their results go up). To get a deeper insight into this, I’d highly recommend Parker Palmer’s book – The Courage To Teach & The Heart of A Teacher.

The second discipline is neuroscience. One has to tread carefully here, for a great deal of B.S is being talked about the implications of brain science for education. It isn’t true that playing your baby Mozart will make him/her smarter, nor that your child’s brain will dry up if your kid isn’t drip-fed water from a fancy bottle, though some people will try to tell you otherwise. What is important is the understanding that the brain is built to distil the world’s hidden regularities into practical expertise, fueled only by interest and attention. It does so continually, without any supervision, either internal or external, and often in the absence of any conscious comprehension of what is going on. Indeed, the effort to seek or maintain conscious comprehension can get in the way of this brilliant ‘natural learning ability’. Something I learnt myself and have seen it in action from another one of my sources. His name is Jinan and he runs a natural learning initiative around India and blogs about it. Check out his radical insights here.

Thinking too much can decrease your intelligence. Being explicit and strategic are not always the smartest ways to learn, and people who become too addicted to conscious clarity undermine their creativity. We are discovering that, during early life, this natural learning ability, placed in an adequate setting, develops itself by discovering and exploiting a range of ‘learning amplifiers’. There are many cells in the human brain – the ‘mirror neurons’ – that automatically get ready to initiate an action that they have just seen someone else do: so many, that it begins to look as if we are hard-wired to pick up the habits of those around us.

As the brain builds up a stock of mental models of different people, so we become able to ‘put ourselves in others shoes’ which is another ability that is activated only after the age of 7, and lets us explore different scenarios. We can sometimes benefit from turning down the ego control, and become quietly receptive to the internal pattern-seeking and metaphor making that is latent in the brain’s modulus operandi, and this intuitive receptivity, if we cultivate it, becomes central to creativity. And, with language, we develop a whole new toolkit of ways of thinking and learning.

Each of these ways of learning –

  • through Experiential Learning
  • through Imitation
  • through Imagination
  • through Intuition
  • through the Intellect

We never grow out of the need for any of them, nor do we ever cease being able to refine and develop their power further.

Yet education has tended to treat intellectual learning as the tops, and to neglect the continuing development of others!! If a teacher never lets her students see her being a learner, but only a ‘know-er’, s/he is depriving them of the vital experience which their brains are built to pickup, and to turn into more effective ways of learning for themselves. Helping young people, become better learners means daring to give up the old-fashioned belief that a teacher’s top professional responsibility is to be omniscient.

There are, in short, many lines of educational exploration that are being opened up by the new learning sciences. Already dozens of practical methods for building young people’s ‘learning power’ have been devised, and ingenious teachers throughout the world are developing more by the day. Some of these are quite unusual or challenging, while others add depth and coherence to more familiar aspects of ‘good teaching’. Many more questions have been raised that we are yet to solve – but that, or course, is the essence of learning.

  1. What kinds of topics are best for developing different kinds of learning muscles?
  2. How are minds stretched differently by hard and soft sciences?
  3. How is resilience, say, different for a 4 and 15 year old?
  4. How widely do people vary as learners, and can we help them import their best learning habits from sports or the dance class into school and the other way round as well?
  5. What ways of organizing schools will be the most successful for both developing learn-ability and mastering important bodies of knowledge at the right age and facilitated by the right person with a correct understanding of the child?

As I say, we do not yet have the answers to all these questions. The realization that learning is learnable, and that learning is a much more complex and variegated process than schooling has traditionally assumed, will underpin innovation and changes in the field of educational research going ahead. Stay tuned to my further posts in the coming months, I’m working on something crazy along with my mentor and friend Glen to address this issue.

P.S. (If it’s knowledge you want, it’s usually easier now to get it from the Internet, anyway.)

The Mask Hack

I got nicknamed “The Mask” while I was in college by a friend of mine as I had the knack of replicating someone’s else’s skills in sports in a short amount of time. I thought the name was “cool” and never realized what I was doing until a year later.

Months later, while researching online about behavior design and various models of motivation. I came across Oyserman’s (2007) Identity based model of motivation. If I have triggered your OCD of needing more information about this, you can check out her site here. What I was doing was building Identity Based habits. Now, the key to building lasting habits is creating a new Identity first. Your current behaviors simply put are a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is – consider a mirror image of the type of person you believe you are either consciously or subconsciously.

MASK

Let’s understand what are Identity Based Habits?

Essentially all of your decisions and thoughts arise out of processes that begin unconsciously. In other words, while it may feel like you consciously decided to have a cup of green tea this morning in reality that decision was made well before you were aware of it by a long chain of neurological and causative factors. This is possible because regions of the brain you were not consciously aware of fired well before they had the ‘conscious decision’ to do what they were going to do.

Alright, if that shook you up, now you might ask –
WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH BUILDING HABITS?

Well what that demonstrates is that whether you like it or not, your decisions and behaviors really are largely if not entirely dictated by factors that exist outside of or independent of your conscious mind. In other words if you’re trying to form a new habit by sheer willpower alone, you’re already setting yourself up in a losing battle – or at least a battle over which you have very little control over the outcome.

Rather than just throw the dice and hope you roll high enough to form the habit (some D&D player somewhere is reading this and nodding), using identity based habits lets you rig the dice in your favor.

An identity based habit is formed by acting like the person you want to be until you actually become them. So, for example, if you’re currently overweight and want to get into the habit of lifting weights three times per week you would begin to think of yourself as ‘a weightlifter’ or maybe ‘an athlete’ – at the very least as ‘a fit person’.

The closest analogy I can give it to you to make sense of this is

.FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

By this analogy, I certainly don’t mean you just keep visualizing that you can do stuff and don’t have a list of action steps :-P. I argue that when behavior is identity infused, engaging in the behavior carries a positive tone to it. To change your behavior you need to start believing new things about yourself. So, for example, if you’re currently overweight and want to get into the habit of lifting weights three times per week you would begin to think of yourself as ‘a weightlifter’ or maybe ‘an athlete’ – at the very least as ‘a fit person’.

Imagine how we typically set goals. We begin by saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get stronger”. If you are lucky to have mentors like I do, they might say, “That’s great, but you should be more specific”.

So, when my trainer asked me, I replied “I want to lose 1 Kilo in the next 2 months”.

Now goals like these are centered around our performance or our appearance. But, these goals aren’t habits. If you are already doing a behavior then these goals can help you drive forward. To start a new behavior, it helps to start with a identity based goal.

THE MASK RECIPE 

  • Decide the type of person you want to be. 
  • Prove it to yourself with small wins.

P.S I cannot emphasize how vital it is to start with incredibly small steps. The goal is not to get results at first, the goal is to become the type of person who can achieve those things. The goal is to get yourself a set of mental frameworks to form a fail proof system around yourself.

Example: Imagine Rocky from the movie series. Now, you don’t need to have an insider who lets you in early every morning to practice your jabs like Stallone did.

My invitation to you is to develop an identity of a fit person who works out consistently, and then move on to performance and appearance later.

“START SMALL AND TRUST THAT THE RESULTS WILL COME AS YOU DEVELOP A NEW IDENTITY”

Want to become a writer?

Identity: Become the type of person who writes 1000 words every day.

Small Win: Write 100 words each day before you go to bed this week.

Want to become a speed reader?

Identity: Become the type of person who uses spreeder everyday.

Small Win: Spreeder should be the first thing you open when you access your computer to practice one paragraph each day this week.

Want to become stronger?

Identity: Become like Rocky (This works for me) who never misses his daily workouts.

Small Win: Do push-ups for 3 days a week alternatively

Want to be a better son/daughter?

Identity: Become the type of person who always stays in touch

Small Win: Call up your mum / dad every Sunday.

Want to learn a new language?

Identity: Become the type of person who uses duolingo everyday

Small Win: Do one lesson each day for a week.

You might notice, for some examples I have used a tech/app that lets you learn skills. This is again a tweak of mine. 😀

In my experience, when you want to become better at something, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results. This is especially true at first.You can even try watching motivational videos like these. You will feel great for a couple of days. Hell! You may even workout intense crazy like a monkey on steroids for a week but you will end up burning out. You can’t rely on being motivated. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving the new identity you have assumed to yourself.

What the mask hack does to you is => rigs the system by changing the environment, background causes and subconscious neurological factors that determine our choices before we are aware of them.

This works because in the end it doesn’t really matter if you believe it, as long as you pretend well enough to do the things the person you want to be would do, then eventually you’ll wake up one morning as that person. Using the above as an example, if you pretend like you’re the person who learns languages easily and do all the things that you imagine that kind of person would do (study up on target languages, read news in those languages, watch movies in those languages, etc.) then eventually you’ll have done so much of that you will actually be the kind of person who does those things – see how that works?

The other good way to ease into it is by using small wins as ways to prove to yourself that you can actually be the person you want to be.

Put simply, you’re making it hard to lose by playing a winnable game.

So whose identities will you absorb into your MASK today? 🙂

Hack on Speed Reading

Today, I just got back after giving a video interview to a friend of mine, Rishi who stays in Mumbai at his place and another friend of mine to whom I told about a speed reading online tool that I use regularly. I was talking about my journey and how I am currently practicing Behavior Design Consulting as a freelance consulting gig. I call it my night job. 🙂

I told him about how I used behavior design, psychology, cross platform learning to learn to speed read, getting fit, forming my own diet plan, accelerated learning etc he asked me a question on speed reading to which I didn’t have the time to explain properly. Well, now I decided to write it as a blog post.

What is Speed Reading?

That might seem obvious – of course speed reading is reading very quickly! But most people don’t know that there’s a simple way to go from being a slow reader to a lightning fast speed-reader: just force yourself to start reading faster.

Fact: You read slower than you actually can

Using behavior design, I managed to amp up my reading speed to 800 wpm. The average human can read comfortably at 125-250 wpm. I am still persisting to push it higher to get to 1200 wpm.

Kind of funny that way we treat learning a new skill isn’t it? First of all, many of us don’t want to learn a new skill at all & when we do we create all these barriers in our head.

Oh! What if it doesn’t work?

What if I look stupid?

I am 22 years old, I should know how to cook (-_-!)  And, yet once we commit to learning a new skill. What do we tend to do?

We tend to read a little bit, learn it on our own, maybe buy a 350 Rs. book and go through it all over by ourselves. I used to be this way too for sometime. I want to share a hack that I started practicing a year ago which maddeningly accelerated the way I learn new skills.

Any new skill that I pick, at first I do the basic research by myself. So, if I have to learn how to speed-read right? I start with a simple “Google Search” to get all the different models that are available out there and see what works best for me. Then, I’d find one expert in the field and ask how he learnt it and what did he use that I can replicate. Remember an expert can be any person whom you know through friends of friends or even through Facebook. People often get confused when we hear the term expert.

Most of my friends I speak too, they often remark: Man! I just don’t know any cool people like the ones that you do.

To this, I often tell them why don’t you just ask the person who is a bit better than you in the skill you wish to learn. Often, what I do is catch hold of the person who is a bit better at the skill I’d like to learn then get to this level and find the next expert who knows a little bit more.

So, when I did the basic research I found a lot of models that I tried then I heard about a tool called spreeder. Check it out. But, before you start using it. Read on ahead.

Speed Reading Let me explain the above diagram with a simple example. When you look at a fish. Unconsciously, what happens is before the image of the fish is formed in the head to recognize it as a fish. Our larynx in the throat processes that sound (FISH) even if you don’t speak it out loud and then the information is transformed into meaning in the brain.

So, lets take this below paragraph.

THE CAT CHASED AFTER THE MOUSE. THEY RAN AROUND TOWN ALL DAY LONG, AND NEVER STOPPED CHASING AFTER ONE ANOTHER.

Now, if you are able to read this whole sentence in a second while forming the mental picture. You are able to read at a speed of 1200 wpm. That means you can finish “The Catcher & The Rye” in 10 minutes. A normal person would be reading the above paragraph and form the image in 9-10 seconds.

By using the spreeder tool above. One can ask what about assimilation? At first, through the use of tool, one must remember that the focus of the task is not to understand what you have stuck in the tool. As you initially see at what pace you are comfortable with then set the speed at a speed that causes a slight strain for you to keep up.

As the brain is challenged to follow the words being flashed on the screen, you slowly begin to gain the ability to assimilate the information as well over time. Try it using my 1 month habit hack.

Once you have got over the step of following the paragraph and also forming the image rather than trying to keep up with the words. In time, you will notice that your reading for pleasure will be much more enjoyable because you are reading at an accelerated rate and as the tool challenges you consistently, you won’t notice any dazing off or slipping off.  😀

If you don’t like to use the spreeder tool. Then pick any paragraph in a book that you are reading or a book that you read already. Preferably which explains something visual and that’s easy to follow. Then while you are reading that paragraph just say to yourself these phrases – A-E-I-O-U or 1-2-3-4 (repeatedly) while reading it. Again, the goal here isn’t to comprehend but to read the words while training yourself to bypass the larynx.

Tips for Offline Speed Reading Practice

  • When reading chunks of words, note that the eye can actually span about four or five words on an average page. However, most readers don’t use their peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line. To overcome this, “soften” your gaze when you read – by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze, you’ll begin to see blocks of words instead of seeing each word as distinct unit. As you get good at this, your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page. When you get close to the end of the line, let your peripheral vision take over to see the last set of words. This way you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.
  • When using your hand or finger to guide your eyes, start slowly, but at a challenging pace. Even if you don’t think you’re keeping up with your hand, keep going for a page or two and then test your comprehension. With practice, you’ll be able to move your hand and read faster that way.
  • The simpler the book/passage/letter is, the quicker it will be to comprehend. Start with simple ones, then move on to harder ones.
  • Take frequent breaks. Your comprehension and focus will be better if you take a five-minute break every hour or half-hour. Taking breaks is also important to keep your eyes healthy and avoid eye strain.
  • You may not want to read some things quickly, even if you can. Fiction for example, is usually relatively easy to read quickly, but you can miss out on a lot of the nuance and beauty of the fiction writer’s craft, even if you understand everything that’s going on in a story. The same is doubly true for poetry. If you’re reading for enjoyment, it may be best to savor the words.
  • An index card, bookmark, or other page-width item might help increase speed more than a finger. By obscuring surrounding text, a card prevents your eyes from wandering.
  • A great trick while using an index card is to put caret symbols (^) every inch along your index card. This helps to read groups of words rather than individual words. As you improve use a new card with the carets further apart so you read more words in each burst.
  • Start by reading a book or article that you have already read. It will be easier to skip words and keep up a smooth flow if you’re familiar with the material.

Let me know how it worked for you or if you used another hack that improved your learning to progress faster. I’m always on the lookout for boosters – the term I came up with for any activity that can further accelerate any skill that I have learnt until now or see how can I combine a new booster with another skill.

Busting My Limiting Beliefs

Busting Beliefs

Bruce Lee and Anime have been two of my favorite pastimes among others ever since I was a kid. There was nothing more that could keep me captivated that watching Bruce Lee kick people’s ass and do that so effortlessly. To this day, I still am practicing micro steps to replicate his famous 2 finger pushup.

So when I was volunteering at Career Kraft, Akshay Cherian the person who ran this NGO along with Selvi brought about the concept of limiting beliefs and how they often are so invisibly deep-rooted in everyone of us that they control most of our choices in our lives. So, let’s dig into understanding what limiting beliefs are:

The beliefs you hold to be true make up the fabric of your experience. The stronger those beliefs, the more they seemunshakeable , and the more you will find evidence to support them. One warning – ( I will be coming up with words that like the one I used above often, they will only get worse :-P).

What I didn’t realize was that the vast majority of my beliefs about the world aren’t really true – “out there.” My Beliefs were formed through repeated thoughts, and the only reason they held any weight was because I had decided or agreed that they are true.

It took more than 6 months to even notice my limiting beliefs and acknowledge them for being present in the deep crevices of my being. Often, people throw quotes like the one I have shown you above which sound so cool to hear but there isn’t a significant pointer or set of action steps that any layman can follow to identify his/her own limiting beliefs.

I have researched and tried so many techniques but the one that works for me best is the following thing. So, a year back another friend of mine Banmeet whom I call the “Laughing Buddha” for his infectious laughter that he seems to possess in his whole being. Just thinking about him now brings a smile to my face. He suggested me the best method I have come across that works for me.

I’ll let you figure it out. The whole underlying principle is this =>

Replace all your should’s & say

IF I REALLY WANTED TO DO “X” ,
I COULD _______ AND SO WHY HAVEN’T I ?

Now let me give you some limiting beliefs that I had

  • 9-5 job is the only way I can earn money.
  • I should get married by the time I am 30.
  • I should have my own car.
  • I should have my own house.
  • Once I’m an adult, life is about responsibilities, not fun.
  • Dreams are not practical
  • Now to pump it up a notch, ask WHY? To all the shoulds you have listed until you can no longer answer the next WHY? I call this the “INFINITE WHY LOOP”

One can thing that helped me was when I considered all my limiting beliefs to be assumptions and began to pick at them one by one by asking the question that I stated in the beginning. I came up with a ton of things but I urge you to try things that really begin to gnaw at your limiting beliefs like how a rat or a squirrel eats its food. Don’t try to come up with something overwhelming that drains you. For me, just acknowledging my limiting beliefs for more than a month even before I began to test its foundation little by little shook them up.

As always, make your action steps to be a series of micro steps that is easy for you to do and I invite you to practice the “DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN” technique that hasn’t failed me since I have started to use it.

I’m not a huge fan of quotes and external motivational triggers though some of them do help in certain cases but in the long run relying on extrinsic motivation is a really bad idea. Think of it like “GAS” for your car. You can only use your car as along as you have access to “GAS”. It’s a much better strategy if you have a balance of both extrinsic & intrinsic motivation and slowly over months of deliberate practice you begin to fuel yourself to get the results you want. Behavior Design will change your life if you stick with it and keep turning the flame on your ass little by little to whatever task you wish to hack down.

P.S. Banmeet calls this “Buns on Fire” technique. Whenever we have our calls we have developed this habit of beginning by bitching about what didn’t work and this goes on for like 5-10 mins and slowly we start setting each other’s buns on fire on things we could have tried and see what’s stopping us from doing that.

If something works for you, I’m eager to know. Do send me a reply.
Even better, take this exercise as a challenge and come up with 3 of your own limiting beliefs.

A Simple Framework To Learning Anything (30 Day Hack)

 sleep-over-it

I have always wondered what happens to our brain while we sleep and is it at all required for us to have a specified amount of time to sleep/day. Turns out sleep is related to making better decisions and also helps us to figure out solutions to challenges that we haven’t figured out during the day.

When I gave it a thought over a night’s sleep often, I too realized while learning about a major skill over a period of time. I have had the habit of breaking it up into micro steps and usually spreading it out into a 1 month routine. At the end of the each week, I’d compare my progress with the takeaway’s I had decided upon at the start of the week for that skill.

Plus I’d follow Jerry “Don’t Break The Chain” system for anything that I’m learning.

This is based upon a motivation technique used by Jerry Seinfeld.

The Short Version:

  1. Pick a goal.
  2. Mark off the days (preferably with a red “X”) on which you work toward that goal.
  3. Use your chain of marked off days as a motivator

The whole idea for me is to continue this chain till I reached every week’s takeaway. Any skill that I want to learn rapidly. I usually list out a 30 day routine with specific micro steps and weekly revisions.

To pump it up a notch also place a practice called “Little Bets”. I usually pick a friend of mine to hold myself accountable every-week and Sunday’s also happen to be those days I treat myself to a drink or a full blown ravishing meal and I leave the cash for it with my friend. Unless, I hit my weekly takeaways for the skill. I don’t get the big win at the end of the week. If I don’t make it, my friend gets to take that Little Bet as his own.

This way I try to find a balance to have a good mix of extrinsic & intrinsic motivation by having weekly Little Bets.

Now since I have laid down the Behavior Design hack of rapid-skill learning. (Note:– This can be applied to any task that you pick) – I guess you could term it as a productivity hack as well. I usually stick to 5-6 hours of sleep everyday.

Not convinced? May be it’s a good idea for you to sleep over it.

 

What are Transferable Skills?

I discovered this as I was wrapped in my own cocoon for the past month after I went over revisiting my strategy for writing and hustling to meet the deadline for a book that I was writing with one of my mentors and now a business partner. I couldn’t resist the urge to come out of my cocoon for a while to blurt about this and go back for some time.

A lot of people ask me what exactly I have been leveraging from cross-platform learning. I simply let them know the very word initially when I heard it from one of my good friends which sparked a thought. It’s simply taking a step back to see in which other area of my life can I use my existing skills.

What are the areas of my life where I can transfer a skill that I’m using in another area. 

It’s amazing that one can ordinarily build on existing skills thru applying them to different areas like using tracking in health to track your routines and rituals, in finance to keep an eagle’s eye on your spendings. Just starting off with such simple activities which most of us don’t do at all. We simply brush it under the carpet not knowing the tremendous pay-off’s this insight can potentially have 6 months down the line. From all I have learnt and researched about Habit making – one thing that’s clear is that beginning with a cue to perform a habit provides a better ROI over the long run versus getting into the strategy of getting the attitude right before doing something.

It amuses me to see people now including a lot of friends professing about how ATTITUDE is everything. There is simply a better way to start anything. Set-up an extrinsic reward, pick the smallest behavior, pace it up with continual behaviors that leads you to a routine. A few months later, you will wake up one day not needing the cue at all to perform that very same HABIT!

How might this be? One can ask –

What happens is our body naturally over time begins to recognize the difference b/w intrinsic rewards and extrinsic rewards. If it’s health for example – you will naturally begin to feel good after exercising for a period of time because your body has learnt the benefit from the neurotransmitters like endorphins which are now produced on a regular basis and distinguish that from the external reward that got you started on the habit towards the outcome which was – BETTER HEALTH!

Here tracking becomes a foundational skill that you could tweak and apply to learning. Say, you are just starting off with learning about auto-responders, lead generations, traffic strategies, for your online business. What if you actually set up different learning visual trackers and distinguish your mentors to learn in each segment whenever you get stuck.

Godsend! Right??

You have a system now which helps you get unstuck and keep moving to the next thing. The same thing is true for skills like

Following Through

Mutual Accountability

I began getting better at automating my finances after learning and spending the time and effort to improve my health. One day I just as I realized Woah! They include skills like –

  • Tracking
  • Setting realistic goals

Both which are very much applicable to finance. Once you make this connection, you can start applying them to tons of other areas. Sometimes I have even applied the same skills to a business challenge where I had to pace myself, work through fatigue etc. One major reason WHY am I telling you all this if you still haven’t figured it out yet is that –

Wake up sleepy head!

YOU ALREADY HAVE SUCH SKILLS!

THE KEY SIMPLY IS TO MAKE THE CONNECTION AND TRANSFER THEM TO THE AREA YOU WANT

Maybe it’s losing 10 kilos.

Maybe it’s starting a business

Maybe it’s giving up your 9-5 lifestyle

All you have to do is a little TWEAK to connect the dots to reap massive benefits over the new few months should you choose to test this strategy out.

The Read Junk Hack

I have been missing out on my blogging behavior a lot lately and though I hate giving excuses but this time around I got so absorbed into writing and finishing a deadline for a book that I’m writing along with one of my mentors who is also a business partner now.

Though I began writing as a mere hobby over the last three years I feel like as If I was born to just read and write and do nothing but that. I guess that’s exaggerating it a bit too far….  In today’s world there are so many opportunities for anybody irrespective of the location they are in to become an entrepreneur at-least an Internet Entrepreneur in their area of interest. Though everyone needs to put down the work and the months and the years to make it happen. We so often swayed by overnight successes and search for these magic bullets and shortcuts. I have been a victim of this same charade day in and day out until finally I saw the futility of what I have been doing….

Think about it every person I speak with tells me two reasons all the time –

  1. I don’t have an idea .
  2. I don’t have the time/money.

Usually these are the top two or three reasons people get stuck going about becoming their own boss. One of the core mistakes that I have made in the beginning times and also I see others doing is they don’t know who they are talking to. This seems so simple but it is a very hard thing to do. I am learning more and more that in any venture 10% of your work is your work and rest invariably falls down to “MARKETING”. Yup that’s right. No matter who you are, even if you have written the next bestseller that will “SWEEP THE WORLD” nothing is going to work for you if you don’t start thinking about who you should talk to and either reach to influencers who will get your work noticed else come up with even a self designed book tour perhaps! In the beginning you need to do a lot of things that you hate. I have often observed even in myself the resistance to taking the time to truly spend time on this.

It’s about time for all the blinded entrepreneurs to see what is really important: making a connection with an audience. The term–not exactly new–that seems to be displacing SEO is OAO, online audience optimization. Now it’s not really about the new Hummingbird algorithm that I’m talking about although you do have to tweak the way you use your Ad-words and tags now. Even this is useless tactic when you start out. You need the next best thing.

One hour a day, read. Read everything in the world except your business. Read junk. Very much junk. Read so that anything that interests you will stick in your memory. Just read, just read, just read… There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use ~ Eugene Shwartz

I’ll take it a step further. Not only do you need to know how they talk, which lets you better guess how they might specifically look for what you offer, but you also need to understand what they find funny. What scares them. What is important to them. How they think. Until you do, they’re only marks and you do nothing more than run calculated cons. After you do understand them, they’re real people and you might find yourself caring a bit about them which is a good thing to cultivate. Empathy drives authenticity and when you incorporate that in your content everything shifts in seconds when it clicks with “YOUR” audience.

Do you care about your family or friends? If so, then there are plenty of times that you’ll do specific things that you know make them happy. Emotion isn’t an abstract concept, but something that drives behavior. Let the same thing happen in your marketing after you start to care about the audience. Inject the emotion of your audience into your content. When you they read your offer or content  – if it makes sense that you understand their pain more than anybody else. Then, price always comes last. They wouldn’t think twice in reaching out to you or signing up to your newsletter or buying your product.

It’s like going into a shop you like where the people recognize you and get your interests and tastes. That’s all you’re trying to do. When the technology, any technology, gets in the way, throw it out and return back to the basics. If you are talking to everybody you are talking to nobody. Strategically talking to your audience is the key.

Hack of Perspective Ignorance

The Hack of Perspective Ignorance.

What I do mean by this is all of us in this information driven age are swamped with information every single day and not many of us have the effective mental frameworks to sift through this information overload.

It leads to two things.

1> We always jump from one shiny idea to another which eventually keeps us glued to square one.
2> Analysis Paralysis – We just can’t seem to discern step 2 all the while pontificating to glory while still being glued to square one.

I watch and read almost everything like a big creep always consuming information but one fine day it just hit me when one of my mentors pointed the obvious to me. You seem to come up with such crazy ideas that are phenomenal yet why don’t you direct your intention and put your collective potential into manifesting just one.

I thought to myself – it’s easier said than done! Right! Then even he acknowledged that it’s one of his struggles as well to keep up with different ideas and stick to just one. I was taken away when he said that to me. Wow! I thought to myself.

I just came up with this term at that moment. Maybe I need to be ignorant of all my potential shiny ideas not that I don’t need them. From then on, I’d just made the habit of making a note of it in my diary and forgetting all about it knowing that my idea vault is always there should I need them at any time.

This allowed me to have perspective ignorance to not get sucked away by one single perspective while still having more perspectives and has been one of my powerful triggers to hustle and get things done while learning new stuff all the time!

 

The Post Is Coming

Life just handed me a shit sandwich these last two weeks, and this week it has been the worse. Though I couldn’t get out the post I had to in the last two days. I thought staying committed to the schedule of my blogging behavior is more important than actually having a post out every week.

Sometimes, it’s just important to stick to the schedule of writing which is more important that consistently delivering great content every week. After, I am still Human and live on Planet Earth!

So here is a post to say that the post is coming next week!