Enthusiasm Behind Perseverance

Mathieu Ricard’s notes on perseverance at meditation encouraged me to write about the examples of people around me transforming enthusiasm into perseverance.

At work, I have a colleague who’s now completed more than 2 decades as a founder, CEO of the same company. I had the good fortune of spending an entire day watching him work. His pitch about his company may have changed over all these years, but when the occasion calls for it – he puts in a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm behind that pitch. I’ll bet that intensity of energy has only grown over the years. I once asked him how he manages to continue to stay interested in what he does? “There’s always something new to pursue” he answered.

At home, my better half balances responsibilities at our home and a full-time job. She’s now completed 8 years as a professional and she has a sense pride in how everything comes together. Cheekily I’m always looking for opportunities to remind her how awesome our home looks now that we’ve finally been able to finish it and about so many other things that would not have been possible without her. Nevertheless, there are times when the balance goes out of whack and it becomes imperative to put out the flames of discouragement.

There are many such examples of perseverance in the people around me that I can uncover. I welcome the enthusiasm that I’ll experience in the night before I’ll go running the next day. Or the energy I’ll feel when someone new joins the team at work.

I eagerly work towards moments when users spontaneously respond to an application that I’ve been working on. Rare and special, these discoveries send a eureka-like electricity through the mind. From the users perspective, this is appropriately labelled the A-ha moment. It’s a well-designed application that’ll deliver this milestone consistently. If a user’s hit that milestone, they’re more likely to come back to use the application, refer it to others and to use the application towards their next moment. So now you know why in consumer software you’re a user!

It’s difficult to see how perseverance pays off in the near term but it’s important and I think just like the A-ha moment it’s also the secret behind every big story. Like financial interest, it does compound and the right efforts do pay off in bigger ways the longer you’ll stay at it. It’s evidence of such experiences that impel me to keep going and to work through the sticky stuff that the longer journeys tend to throw at you. At the end of the day if you can spend a few moments to call up some subtle enthusiasm for the challenges of the next- I believe that’ll hold you in good stead.


A clutch of thoughts with no specific objective

A few thoughts on achievement. It’s a good idea to aspire to achieve.

On achieving whatever it is that you desire, it’s certainly possible to lose connection to the emotional content of your work. For instance, it’s never easy to come in every day with a smile. I’m fortunate to know of a few rare, exceptional people who can do that.

Another visual that comes to mind is the blogger who can see her audience’s claps (and Likes if you must) but knows inside herself that her product is a shadow of her former self. There will always be way more popular blog authors out there, but they all know what I mean when I write that.

What does one do then?

In such times I’d say, dare to dream bigger. To dream new. Dream on. But don’t stop working.


2014 Goes By

A viral cold has brought with it an opportunity to reflect. Going over all the events that dot the past year, I realize how challenging it can be to nurture an idea to fruition. Tangible outcomes, the ones you can feel or touch, those that are real to you and everyone else; they’re hard to create from scratch.

I’ve joined up this year’s Startup Leadership Program from Pune. Although I was greeted with initial questions on “what are *you* doing here?”, as I went through the program it’s helping me open up in many ways. An interesting discovery for me has been to learn that a significant number of startup founders had begun their own spiritual journeys. A friend called that leaning out as “downshifting”.

Through the entire year, I trialed three different ventures. One which I setup at the beginning of this year, another which I joined in Bangalore in June and the final one only recently which stuck and continues to evolve. The experience of teaming up with collaborators to solve a problem energizes me for weeks together, although I don’t explicitly seek it out, the rush is welcome.

An emergent sequence of circumstances brought me back in the saddle of running the community website – punestartups.org for startups based out of Pune. With it came the ability to contrast design habits around products for the desktop and for the mobile-first world. I’m now certain that India is going to be a mobile-only connected audience.

My son’s growing up. He’s interacting and racking up those inches. He isn’t putting on a lot of weight. He enjoys sharing his world with us and vies for our attention, especially on days when my better half and I are working from home. He’s devised infallible ways of interrupting whatever we’re doing. Crawling up to my desk on all fours, he barks a sweet puppy dog bark alerting me to his presence.

Apart from the usual routines I’ve made it a habit to run, build software and meditate whenever I get the chance. I’ve signed out off the many digital social networks and they’ve been replaced by other networks of a different kind.

I’m looking forward to the next year.


Growing Children, Growing Parents

Our 3.5 year old boy attends a local Nursery not far from where I live. We’re fortunate that he’s been able to fit right in and that he looks forward to attending. We think it may have something to do with the attention that he gets there, the experienced teachers, the methodology but we can’t be certain.

Earlier this week the school invited us for an open day to share the kids’ work. Parents were asked not to speak to the teachers about how their kids were doing so, but they cornered the teachers anyway. It was eye-opening to see that almost every parent who was there shared the same question, the same anxieties.

As parents we do our best to grow our little boy. We hope that we’re imparting the right values, opening him up to the right experiences and that our contribution will enable him to grow and take life on on his own terms. On one hand, we know that it’s one life and on the other hand, one can’t take parenting too seriously either.

With that backdrop let’s revisit the question – “How is my child doing?” asked every concerned parent, including ourselves. I believe we were really asking “How are we doing as parents?” To every parent, the teacher is the neutral observer who weighs in on the values every child has picked up at home and displays in the classroom. My little guy is a tad unpredictable – he’s won his teacher over and at home we see a very different person.

His teacher shared a tiny insight into how his mind works. He loves to be approached as an adult would. His wish is that everyone around him respect his wishes and not necessarily adhere to them. Whether that is the key to his behavior or otherwise, I can certainly say that I’ve crossed that lines several times.

I get up in the morning and after getting through a few daily rituals, I wake him up to get ready for school. I then change and wash him. I do this daily. Although in theory, this ought to be pretty simple – there are days when I botch this up thoroughly. An explosion of yelling ensues as he gets upset and my better half has to step in to referee the situation. On good days we get through it in a breeze.

As he grows past the three’s, the most engaging activities for me as a parent are the ones we both can enjoy together. While I can’t ride the junior trampoline at the park with him, I certainly can enjoy trading ideas on what we can build together with his blocks. Recalling our quiet sessions assembling blocks evokes how every child feels, peeling away a sense of play, exploration, sharing and more. They renew my confidence that I can play and work with my child.

For a brief moment Parents be children; Children be parents.


What is Water?

goldfish

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

David Foster Wallace in ‘This is Water

This isn’t the first time the question “What is Water?” is used in a way to point to our beliefs. The central idea is that we all possess beliefs which may or may not be founded in true experience. For individuals, this is the same as living an aquatic life not knowing what water is. We don’t know of the existence of these beliefs. And yet we act on the basis of them. These beliefs are the source of our identity.

What do you do to learn what water is for you?


Confidence in Innocence

The other day, I was sitting on my Dad’s lap on a revolving chair and watching a movie. I leaned back and caused the chair to tilt. We were both in free-fall. Dad instinctively lifted me up in the air. On having completed the fall, he put me down on the ground to his right. For a brief moment I stood there surprised at the sudden turn of events. Realizing I was ok, I turned to Dad and said “I didn’t get hurt as I am Bheem“.

Greatly inspired by “It’s me, Saksham“.


A Hundred and Fifty Years of the Bishop’s Colours

This year it will be nineteen years having left school. In the years gone by I’ve done little to stay in touch with the school. In that time familiar teachers have moved on. Times have changed and old school friends have drifted away to be replaced by new ones.

Earlier this year, Principal Friese invited alumni to a special assembly. Bishop’s was going to turn 150 in 2014! At the assembly he asked for assistance for the upcoming year-long celebrations.  The assembly rekindled a deeper connection and natural curiosity. Had the school ventured to change their teaching methods? Did they still place great emphasis on all-round development? I had no excuse for having stayed away for so long.

At the sesquicentennial committee meeting I was surprised to see alumni from as far back as the 1960’s. Some had children who were studying at Bishop’s, others were simply there to help. I met alumni from the IT committee, Marketing committee, other old boys and teachers. The committee was chaired by the principal and the headmasters of each of the three schools in Pune.

The school appointed historian related her findings. She’d found verifiable documents (maps, plans, communications) that Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington had planned out an offensive against the Maratha’s (Second Anglo-Maratha war 1803 – 1805) from the bungalow that currently serves as the Principal’s residence. She’d also verified that the original underground Peshwa-era water supply pipeline did pass through the school grounds.

A couple of days earlier I’d met with the  historian who interviewed me for interesting anecdotes and to learn how the graduates of the ’94 batch had done in life. As I recollected details of the alumni I was still in touch with, the list consisted of entrepreneurs, industrialists and even a film director (ever watched Karthik Calling Karthik?). Everyone had done well. Recalling school days wasn’t easy emotionally. In my opinion, my teachers at Bishop’s stood out for their commitment to the general welfare of their students. I say that with great care and an educational background spanning two universities across continents and two schools. The old boys themselves are the greatest testimony the school could have.

As I watched the committees share their progress, their spirit was infectious. I headed back and I thought hard. I’d contributed to the history book and I felt I could do more. Although I wouldn’t be an effective contributor at this late stage I could help in other ways. As I reached out to my professional network to other old boys I was amazed by the enthusiasm with which they got back. Would they like to contribute their memories, reach out to other alumni? Yes, of course they would.

Today, Bishop’s has grown from one school campus in Pune, Camp to two new areas – Kalyani Nagar and Undri. However, they’re still constrained in their teaching methods. Having been around for a long time can be both a boon and a curse. Another entrepreneur Phil Libin Founder, CEO at Evernote shared his insight into the same paradox earlier this month – his dream is for his company to endure for a hundred years and to continue to innovate despite it’s age. The hope is that with this renewed connection back to the school and with the help of other parents, we might have a hand at influencing the course the school charts next.

As the celebrations shape up there’s a lot more that could be done. If you’ve attended St. Helena’s or St. Mary’s Pune, do get in touch. Our historian would love to get your views on the Bishopites you knew or met. If you’re an old boy and have photos, anecdotes or anything else you’d like to share – please get in touch as soon as you can. Your material will make it to a coffee table book that will cover the school through the ages. If you intend to travel to attend the celebrations in 2014, follow the school website for event dates and details.