Monday, October 23, 2017

Talk at Silver Oaks - The Mindset, How to Learn and Get Better

A talk at Silver Oaks on 31 July, 2017. I forgot to complete the post because things got too hectic around that period. Ms. Seetha Murthy who was with me on the TED Talk at VNR VJIET some years ago invited me to speak in their speaker series and I was only too happy to go. I decided to speak about the Mindset - Dr. Carol Dweck's concept which I thought was the corner stone for every kind of a learning and perhaps dwell some on the concept of Secure and Insecure leaders and people and what makes them so.
On the dais
It was a lovely campus. I just about managed to reach there - thanks to some unexpected traffic snarls. A huge hall was filled with about 500 children. The sound system was perfect.  I started off with a small cricketing anecdote - how my friend Venkatapathy Raju and I, both got the same start but how he went ahead to play for India. The difference I said was our Mindset - Fixed and Growth Mindset. That was the beginning of every speaker's nightmare. All the kids shouted that they knew about Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. After a moment of being taken aback - I asked them what they knew about it. They shared some view points. Not all of them were bang on - or coincided with my understanding of the Mindset so I decided to share my thoughts on it.
The disciplined audience
I shared my perspective of a fixed mindset and growth mindset. That a fixed mindset has limiting ideas about intelligence or talent, has this overwhelming desire to prove they are smart, that to them smart means achieving things easily, easily means no effort (effort is not cool), effort means not smart. This would lead to a stagnation of skill and would reflect on the performance, finds it difficult to handle setbacks and subsequently takes lower challenges. The fixed mindset blames other factors and takes no responsibility for the failure, not take feedback, be jealous of other people's success and over a period does not do justice to his potential. The mindset is fixed on trying to prove they are smart.
Another view
That growth or learning mindset is one where the student only wants to learn, that any shortfall in performance can be met through greater effort, wants to compete in greater challenges because they give them a scope to learn more and challenge themselves, sees effort as the key to mastery. Setbacks and dealt with greater effort. Feedback is sought to improve oneself, seeks lessons in others successes. Over a period of time, they tend to achieve their potential. The mindset is focused on learning.
Making a point
The idea that one could say - I don't know - as the first step to learning was discussed. Secure people are secure in their knowledge of what they know and what they do not. They find it easy to say they do not know and do not wish to prove that they know everything. The difference between a secure person and an insecure person is just that - one is ok with the truth and not knowing while the other tries to act like he knows everything even when he does not know. It makes them difficult to handle in teams and as managers or subs because they are constantly insecure.
Meeting the cricket team
Tying in with the idea of the learning mindset I urged the children to be comfortable saying I don't know because it gives them a lot of freedom for the burden of knowing. It opens to door to learning. Even if they know - it is but one perspective - and they can still ask many questions. The route to learning is through questions and not by knowing answers. They should have more questions than answers.
Cricket coaches
There were several questions from the children after the talk. One was interesting - when I explained about strengths and weaknesses and how champions focus 80% on strengths and 20% on weaknesses - one child asked me if she should only focus on one subject and not the weak ones. I told her that we normally do try to score maximum in our strong areas first, secure that space, and then work on doing the best we can in areas that are not so strong. The idea that if we were to throw a ball in a competition - would we use the strong hand or the weak hand was presented. So many more questions but this was a tricky one.
The Vice Principal, Director and others 
I met the cricket team members, the coaching staff, the teachers and then we went to eat some fine breakfast in the canteen where we had a long chat. I promised the cricket team that I would be happy to come by for one of their net sessions and they said they would call me before their inter-school games started. It was a fine initiative and Ido wish schools do this a lot more - children learn so much from different perspectives and should be exposed to it more and more.

Nice Lists - Books for the 10-12 Year Olds

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Anjali - Don't Want to be Less of Me

While discussing Baig sir's coaching and his impressions of her, I told Anjali jokingly that Baig sir had told me that she could be the next Mithali Raj. I guess all women cricketers face that line sometime or the other.
More me!
'I don't want to be the next Mithali Raj,' she said solemnly.
'Ah..,' I said. 'Then?"
'If I become Mithali Raj I will be less of Anjali Paruvu. I would like to be more Anjali Paruvu.'

Now, that's a different way of putting it. More of me - like in potential perhaps. I liked the phrase.  Less of me, more of me. How much of whom am I being? Interesting. 

To more Anjali Paruvu then.

Sunday Column in the Hans - A Medical Nightmare

My column in the Sunday Hans - A Medical Nightmare

Saturday, October 21, 2017

TED Talk - There's More To Life Than Being Happy

Emily Esfahani Smith
More than happiness, seek meaning.
The four pillars of meaning are - A sense of belonging. A sense of purpose. Transcendence (what takes you into the zone). Storytelling - the stories about yourself that you are telling yourself, retell them to bring out the new you, the real you.


Weekend Cricket Lessons - Breakfast with Baig Sir

After a long session with the kids - most of them his coachees for a while now - Baig sir turned his attention to Anjali and pulled her out of the junior kids nets and made her practice some bowling and batting drills. Since he was in a relaxed mood and since we needed a bite ourselves I invited him for breakfast at Chutneys and he came graciously. Despite the longish wait he waited with characteristic patience and good humour, ate his upma carefully and completely and drank his 'light' coffee with great relish. It was a breakfast I really enjoyed.
Intense concentration
'After 40 long years of not taking a day's break from coaching, I went on this four month holiday for the first time,' he told me. 'I wondered how crazy I have been, thinking and getting so involved in the game like a madman. You won't believe it but I used to get up at nights thinking of a particular boy whose technique needed to be worked on. That's how crazy I have been for all these years. And for the first time I took a break and enjoyed life other than cricket.'
Young wards - Anjali, Anuradha (already playing for the state), Kapish (prodigy), Aman, Mayank
'The air in Canada is so fresh,' he said. 'I could breathe in fully and feel the freshness, the health. Ever since I came back I have been unwell, the air is so polluted here.'
Terrific balance - Anuradha executing an on drive
'No coach comes on time for more than 3-4 days these days. I have been coming to the ground before anyone else in all these years. (He beats all of us even now - even today he was there before us - fully clad in whites and a  sweater - handsome and dignified as ever - riding his Kinetic Honda despite his advanced years.)
Doing the throw downs as accurately as he would 35 years ago when I first met him as a schoolboy
'Hyderabad owes it to Ibrahim Khan saab and Bhoopathy saab who were excellent and committed coaches. It was after them that I took up the work. I have coached 35 internationals and 20 Ranji trophy players till today.' (I have personally seen him coach Azhar, Shivlal, Arshad, Venkatapathy Raju Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa...and then there was the Under 19 side under Ravi Shastri that included W.V. Raman, L. Sivaramakrishnan etc of which about 11 played for India).
Consummate ease - where do we find such ease these days
I saw some pictures of him that were taken today. He looked so much at ease in his stance, the classical English stance. The way he held his bat like it belonged there, a part of his body, the ease in the drive - there is no stiffness, no resistance anywhere. It is an education just watching the pictures. And you wonder, why is everybody struggling so much when it looks so simple. But that is what great masters do - make thing s look so simple.

It's been a long, long association with Baig sir, from the time I was a 14 year old boy at All Saints and he was my first coach, till today when I still ask him questions about technique and the game. He is one of those people who needs to be seen to believe they really exist - the passion for the game consumes everything. Once he starts, he forgets food, water and goes on from 6 in the morning to past lunch time without a break. 

Secret Superstar - Movie Review

A seemingly simple story of a young girl who wants to pursue her passion for singing against her father's wishes becomes the setting from which the movie explores so many 'secrets' in Indian society effortlessly. Insia is a talented singer but her father doe snot have too much time for her nor his wife for that matter. Thankfully her mother fully supports her - buying her a guitar and then a laptop which makes the burqa clad singer-schoolgirl a YouTube sensation.

A matter of finding a whacky mentor is easily dealt with and she is pretty much set for a life but her father has other plans. Will the mother and daughter find the strength to hold on to their dreams, their freedom against the tradeoff of financial dependence and social stigma?

Zaira Wasim is superb as the secret superstar. Aamir Khan is fabulous as the full-of-himself-on-the-outside-but-fragile-inside Shakti Kumar. Raj Arun is perfect as the abusive husband-father.

While watching the movie there was this thought in the mind - how will all the families that cope with this feeling cope with this now that its out in the open. But that's the least of our problems isn't it? Like Anjali said- it's not just about the secret superstar, the movie is full of secrets in the family. Entertaining and real, honest and unapologetic, it's movies like this that will work because they tell us our stories as they are and make us a better people for that. Advait Chintan- take a bow!