The Medal is For the Moment

With the corona-virus raging in the world, it’s a loss that we are not having Olympics this year. This is one casualty that I have seen not many have missed.

In preparation for this Olympics, early in January, I was reading the book “A shot at history” by Indian Olympics gold winner Abhinav Bindra.

Here’s a passage that struck me when someone asked him about his gold medal..

The medal used to be in my mother’s room. Now it’s in a case with my Olympic bib (No. 1334) and score sheets in a room reserved for my trophies. People ask me if I like to touch the medal now and then. Not really. I went through the pain to get it, I won it, experienced it, felt the journey.

The medal is for the moment, reward for two hours of shooting. But for the athlete it’s not the moment of victory that matters, for it’s taken him more than two hours. It’s taken four years, probably eight, it’s taken 250 international flights, 600 moments of ‘I can’t do this,’ hundreds of technical changes, fifty tastes of defeat, four to five nervous vomits. It’s taken internal struggle, psychology books, patient coaches. It’s a dream taken and dipped into sweat to become reality.

All that is more meaningful to the athlete.

Life is Like a Snowball.

Last sunday was the 90th birthday of Berkshire Hathaway chairman & CEO Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor.

And my twitter feed had this lovely quote from him, couldn’t help but share it here.

Image
credit:Vishal @ safalniveshak.com

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill. ” ― Warren Buffett

Lockdown and Book Reading

One of the biggest casualty of this covid induced lockdown and work from home for me has been the commute to office. I miss it the most.

Never realized how important part this 30-40 mins were before this lockdown. These times acted as circuit breakers and this commute time helped transition from and to work mode.

My commute mostly was occupied with calling parents or listening to audiobooks. So as expected, reading/ listening to books have decreased significantly. From the books I have managed to read, here’s my top 5 books recommendations.

  1. Stoned by Aja Raden
    I was reluctant to pick this book but I was surprised. Such a beautifully written book. With the lens of precious stones this book provides fresh take of human history. And the audiobook version is superb.
  2. The body by Bill Bryson
    Do you think you know your body? Read this interesting book to be surprised.
  3. Range by David Epstein
    Specialization or generalists. That’s the theme of this book. With so many stories and ideas coming out of this book I am definitely going to reread this one.
  4. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
    This is my third reread of this book and I always come out richer in reading this. Highly recommended author.
  5. A shot at history by Abhinav Bindra
    I was biased about Abhinav. He came from a rich family and won a gold medal in Olympics for India. This accomplishment was somehow dull in my mind. But reading this book was a eye opener. Showed me the other side of struggles that a well to do athlete had to face.

Have you read any of this books? Do you have any recommendations? Please suggest.

Software Slaves: How to Keep Kids Busy in Lockdown?

While in the covid induced lockdown in May, someone reminded me that my program written a few years ago was not working for him. I could understand why the person was looking at that code.

Working from home, we were also in the same conditions and having a wordsearch for kids to keep them occupied was a good distractions that every parent wants.

So promptly over the next weekend I fixed the program and added few new capability to it.

You can see the program at this github

Here’s an example word search generated by the program.


 M R U A C M M Y U I C D C U
 Y E D G Y E D C M U S L H G
 Y S M O Q H G A E W A U U G
 R O O A T U G N U C U A W G
 A U Q M G I A I I Q L U A N
 S R O Q N O P S Q U E D H I
 S C W E Q I Y Y C A T I N T
 E E W S N H L G S R A E W S
 C S R U P N U Q D T Y N Q E
 E E Q D R I E W W E H C G R
 N W D O S P S L M R R E O E
 D O N O I T C A E R A H R T
 O G S T W R W H H D W P P N
 Q U E S T I O N N A I R E I


IMAGINE       QUARTER       INTERESTING   WEIRD         REACTION      RESOURCES     PHYSICAL      AUDIENCE      QUESTIONNAIRE NECESSARY     

Added lot of examples from year 3 and year 7 words at this location, that kept my kids occupied, in case you don’t want to run the program.
https://github.com/sukhbinder/wordsearch/tree/master/samples

I am curious to know what other things other parents did to keep their kids busy?

When in Doubt, Subtract

One of the most useful idea from Nassim Nicholas Taleb is

Via Negativa: Removing is superior to Adding

In concrete terms.

– Less can be More

– Don’t add, subtract

– Eliminate the Artificial

– Eliminate the Unnatural

– Eliminate the Unnecessary

When in doubt, SUBTRACT.

This can be appied to everything in life. Do you agree?

Yes or No

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When you are off a project and put into a pool of resources for anyone to pick, every third email is an offer to say yes or no to something. Sometime a new technology, sometimes a new customer or sometime exciting responsibilities.

It’s always is a question of saying yes or no. This situation reminded me of a quote I read from James Clear.

When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.

No is a choice. Yes is a responsibility.

Dole out copious amount of No. Be very careful with Yes.

The choice for me was easy as I have already said yes to something else!

Sir I don’t sell to fish.

I don’t remember where I have read this small anecdote years ago, but got reminded of this last week while interacting with someone.

There was a salesman selling fishing tackle. Looking at the variety of colours, one person asked “oh my god, some are purple, some pink, do the fish really like them?”

He replied. “Sir I don’t know. I don’t sell to fish?”

A good story to remember for everyone, as we all are selling something every time.

Function Vs Form

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Most of last week was spent packing. Moving suitcases around the house, weighing, organizing stuff in them and fiddling with locks.

While fiddling with a forgotten number lock on a suitcase, got reminded of an anecdote I read a while back about suitcases getting the wheels. 

Suitcases with wheels are ubiquitous  now but they were not so common a couple of decades ago.

In ancient Rome, soldiers used leather messenger bags and satchels to carry food while riding across the countryside. At the same time, the Romans had many vehicles with wheels like chariots, carriages, and wagons. And yet, for thousands of years, nobody thought to combine the bag and the wheel. The first rolling suitcase wasn’t invented until 1970 when Bernard Sadow was hauling his heavy luggage through an airport and saw a worker rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid.

There was plenty of innovation going on. Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, leather bags were specialized for particular uses—backpacks for school, rucksacks for hiking, suitcases for travel. Zippers were added to bags in 1938. Nylon backpacks were first sold in 1967.

Despite these improvements, the form of the bag remained largely the same. Entrepreneurs were so locked in on what a suitcase should look like that they didn’t consider what a suitcase was meant to do. Innovators spent all of their time making slight iterations on the same theme.

What looks like innovation is often an iteration of previous forms rather than an improvement of the core function. While everyone else was focused on how to build a better bag (form), Sadow considered how to store and move things more efficiently (function). When optimizing for function instead of form, the addition of wheels became obvious.

via jamesclear.com

What are things around you which are optimised for form and can use optimise on function?

Things That You Didn’t Do

A quote I was thinking for the last week..

Mark Twain, the famous American author, is quoted as saying –

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

A Proper Bhangra Gif

While in lock-down due to COVID-19, our standup meeting morphed into daily cafe with one social things that we did as a team. A few weeks back the theme of the social cafe was music you like.

For this I was going to present my favorite kind of music, which is bhangra style music. For this presentation on my music theme, I needed a good animation of Bhangra. After few google searches, all I got was cartoonist versions of the dance form.

All of them looked childish and cartoonish. I couldn’t find a decent one that was actually depicting the dance form in its true essence, but that search led me to this YouTube video.

I liked the simple background. As I did not have access to a screen capturing software on my work computer, launched python and created this gif using it.

Code and steps I took to convert this you tube video to the gif that I wanted if something for a different post.


So here’s a proper Bhangra Gif, Thanks to the youtube video for all the credits.

Be sure watch the Youtube video that has the music with this dance.

Spiral Approach to Learning

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Being a parent, I am always on the lookout for ideas/ stuff that can help kids learn.

In our house we already have a spaced revision program [written in python] that the kids now enjoy practicing their spellings on. Here’s an video of one such session

Obviously you can’t learn (or teach) everything at once … but you have to start somewhere. This leads to two important questions: (1) where to start, and (2) when to move on to the next topic.

To answer such questions, the only thing that has ever made sense to me is the following:

Spiral approach: Learn a few rough ideas, then spiral back, making connections between the ideas. Then keep spiraling back again and again, gradually adding new ideas, refining the ideas, and making more connections, checking to see in what ways each idea is consistent (or inconsistent!) with the others.

Therefore the answer to question (1) is that the starting-point doesn’t matter very much. After a few trips around the spiral, nobody knows or cares where it started.

Question (2) is super-important, because it will come up again and again, every day for the rest of your life. Each time, the spiral approach provides a partial (but not complete) answer. It says that you do not need to master one topic before moving on to the next. Plan on coming back.

via The Spiral Approach to Thinking and Learning

I agree with this philosophy of learning and do most of my learning this way. What is you take on this?

iPhone and Chewing Gums

I am sure we all have heard the anecdote of the cobras in Delhi. Concerned about the increase in cobra population, British government announced bounty on dead cobra snake. Initially this worked but eventually enterprising people began breeding corbas for the income. Learning about this, the government scrapped the scheme, which lead to the release of many bredded cobras back into the wild.

Unintended consequences and second order effects in action.

We all know how iPhone disrupted Nokia. But there was another unsuspecting candidate — Wrigley’s chewing gum — which became victim of smartphone revolution.

Visit https://buff.ly/2OokOjV to find how chewing gum sales went down because of Iphone.

What are the second order effects of the current situations we are in?

Skin in The Game

If you take a look at my twitter timeline, many of the retweets are from Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

His work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty, and have read his books multiple times. I was tinking of rereading his last book “Skin in the Game”.

The embedded youtube video is his summary of the book for talks at google. Bookmark this and spend and hour to soak some of this ideas,

Few of the important bits from the book.

• For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing. You cannot make profits and transfer the risks to others, as bankers and large corporations do. You cannot get rich without owning your own risk and paying for your own losses. Forcing skin in the game corrects this asymmetry better than thousands of laws and regulations.
• Ethical rules aren’t universal. You’re part of a group larger than you, but it’s still smaller than humanity in general.
• Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
• You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets.
• Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
• True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it.

Have you read this book?

Attend to Your Mistakes

My daughter is an avid book reader now. She reads more books than I do, but most all her books are fiction. She likes them. This year I challenged her to read at least 5 non fiction books of her choice. She has done three so far and I suggested the book The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle next.

While she was starting with it, I wanted to re-read the book. The book is basically collection of short tips from his research for auther’s other similar books on talent. The best thing about this book is you can read this book in a non linear way.

So I started with this chapter. Here’s excerpt that did resonate with me.

Most of us are allergic to mistakes. When we make one, our every instinct urges us to look away, ignore it, and pretend it didn’t happen. This is not good, because as we’ve seen, mistakes are our guideposts for improvement. Brain-scan studies reveal a vital instant, 0.25 seconds after a mistake is made, in which people do one of two things they look hard at the mistake or they ignore it.

People who pay deeper attention to an error learn significantly more than those who ignore it.

Develop the habit of attending to your errors right away. Don’t wince, don’t close your eyes; look straight at them and see what really happened, and ask yourself what you can do next to improve. Take mistakes seriously, but never personally.

Looking forward to what Anmol will like?

No One is Bored When They’re Asleep

Some quotes and sayings collected over the last few months.

Taking responsibility (without authority) and creating a positive cycle of generous action. Leading by example. Finding a small corner where you can make a difference–and then making a difference. – Seth Godin

The same is true with all of the initiatives in our culture. Design, movements and ideas are all trapped, waiting to be opened, and then the rest of us will happily pile on – Seth Godin 

A year from now…  Will today’s emergency even be remembered? Will that thing you’re particularly anxious about have been hardly worth the time you put into it? Better question: What could you do today that would matter a year from now? – Seth Godin

When in doubt, go outside. Especially when it’s inconvenient. – Seth Godin 

Your boat, your compass.  – Seth Godin 

A day trader would never take this bet. But a day trader rarely makes an impact. – Seth Godin

Begin with a simple question: What’s it for? – Seth Godin 

Remarkability lies in the edges. The biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. It doesn’t always matter which edge, more that you’re at (or beyond) the edge. – Seth Godin 

Consider surrounding yourself with totems that invite generous action. They’re souvenirs of your best self.  – Seth Godin

You’re only granted so much energy to expend in a lifetime. You’re almost certainly best off focusing it as intensely as you can on the targets that seem to really move the needle.  – Cal Newport 

Next time, take the lead. Not because you have to, but because you can – Seth Godin 

When we have alternatives, we compromise instead of commit. – Seth Godin 

Find someone who has already optimized for the reality you’re about to enter and learn from them. –Seth Godin 

Bored means that you’re paying attention (no one is bored when they’re asleep.)  -Seth Godin 

After you do the reading, then what are you going to do? Good judgment and a thoughtful point of view are now scarce assets worth seeking out. What have you done with what you’ve learned?  – Seth Godin

Looking back is an essential part of moving forward. – Azure Devops docs

People almost always want a smile, a kind word or a hand up sooner than we think and for longer than we imagine. – Seth Godin 

Your customers don’t care what it took for you to make something. They care about what it does for them. – Seth Godin 

Subtraction the real engine

Have been thinking of these three quotes, over the last few weeks….

Blaise Pascal famously ended a letter with, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Another quote comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

“So knowledge grows by subtraction much more than by addition given that what we know today might turn out to be wrong but what we know to be wrong cannot turn out to be right, at least not easily.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile

What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?

Jeff Bezos once explained why this was critical:

I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” That’s a very interesting question.

I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two.

You can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff I love Amazon, I just wish the prices were a little higher.” Or, “I love Amazon, I just wish you’d deliver a little slower.” Impossible.

So we know the energy we put into these things today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.