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What are these dots? How does one CoLLect them?- Part 2

It all started when one of my students popped the question “Sir, have you heard Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford?”. I said yes and also told him that I have seen the video so many times and used it as a case in my MBA classes, that I remember many of the lines as well.  The student continued “he mentions about connecting the dots and I haven’t quite figured that out. I mean, I want to be an entrepreneur. But I don’t know how to connect the dots of my life so that I become one. Where do I start, which dot to chose next…”.

In my earlier post on this topic, I had suggested that instead of focussing on connecting the dots, focus more on collecting them. The question then comes to mind is – what are these dots and how does one start collecting them? The purpose of this article is to address these two questions.

I define a dot as an experience or a feeling which has four critical components. They are Creating, Accomplishment, Learning, and Fun. CALF for short.

There could be more. But I have experienced these four very clearly in my own career. In every dot or experience worth collecting, there has to be at least one of the four. In few cases, more than one and sometimes all four are present and those dots bring more vibrancy to your HD careers. Let me define the CALF components one-by-one.

  1. Creating – The act of creating means to bring something into existence. Dictionary defines it with many more synonyms like generate, produce, design, make, fabricate, fashion, manufacture, build, construct and lastly “do”. I, particularly like the last one – to do something with our own abilities. It is said that when we are in the act of creating something, our bodies, mind and intellect are in perfect harmony. It is also called Flow which was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. You can make anything that interests you….like how Neil Gaimon says “make good art” (the original speech is here), write poetry, build a mobile app, make a contraption from junk, cook a dish, fix the lamps in your house, fashion a dress from your mom’s old saree, grow vegetables in your backyard, make a super cool presentation of your product, design your own business card, create a small business of teaching math to children ….the list is endless.
  2. Accomplishment – I started doing Yoga a few years ago. One day, the instructor announced “today we are going to finish 108 Suryanamaskars with no breaks”. My jaw dropped. I said to myself “I cannot do it. It’s impossible. I could barely touch 20”. By the 36th one, I had given up. I felt miserable. The instructor saw the defeat in my eyes and came up to me. She said “don’t worry…try again tomorrow. Cross 50 first”. The next day, I did 54 and on the fourth day, I finished 108. I had broken a barrier- both physical and psychological. Suddenly, I felt that I could accomplish anything. All my self-doubts vanished and I felt a booster-shot of confidence. Try this for yourself. Pick a milestone and accomplish it. It could be as trivial as “waking 5 minutes earlier than yesterday” or as tough as “completing a full marathon” or “writing 100 words a day” or “giving up one meal a week to someone else”.  Watch a wonderful video on how setting short goals and accomplishing can bring wonders to one’s life.
  3. Learning – Learning is the act of acquiring knowledge and skills. It is the key to progress and the nourishment for the brain. Just like how we feel satisfied after a sumptuous hot meal, similarly, our brains are satisfied when we learn something new. Learning can come from a variety of areas – a college degree or any skill development program, a new job, starting your own venture, reading books, attending trainings, conferences, seminars or any free events in your neighbourhood or cities. There is no age limit for learning. A mutual friend that I know signed up for a full-fledged degree in Ayurvedic medicine at the age of 52. He is touching 60 now and has a good practice. One of my student finished every course on statistics that coursera had to offer. Another friend of mine always chooses a holiday which has an element of learning in it . e.g. he took his entire family to all the famous temples of south India few years ago and learnt about the history, dynasties and cultural heritage of the country. And this year he is planning to get certified in scuba-diving while holidaying in Maldives. Another friend of mine reads at least one book a week. Here is a curation of 14 ways to learn by one of my favourite bloggers Maria Papova. And here are some more random lists with amazing free resources to skill yourself.
  4. Fun – enjoyment, amusement, light-hearted pleasure, moments of joy, entertainment etc. Without fun, there can be no life. This one is the easiest dot to collect. An evening of laughter with your besties, a college reunion, a foodie trip, a jog in the park, playing a game or sport, playing or listening to a musical instrument, dance, theatre, stand-up comedy show, candy-crush, spending time with family or just listening to birds….anything that gives you joy, laughter and happiness. In a ground breaking research done by 2 psychologists in 2010, they shared that fun, joy and happiness is not about buying or accumulating things but is rather about experiencing them.

So how does one start collecting these dots and experiences? One question that I am often asked by those who have busy corporate roles is “where is the time for collecting dots?” One person wrote to me “My hectic day starts at 6. I drop kids to school at 8 am, criss-cross the city and reach office by 9 am, return back by 7pm if lucky, help out with the cooking and spend time with family, then have to attend conference calls with global teams at least twice a week. The best I can do is to read a newspaper and watch news on TV. I take walks on the weekend and that’s about the only fun I have for myself. Where is the time to learn or create or accomplish”.

I think it is a very valid point. We all have very busy lives and it ain’t getting better in the future. There is no miracle Jeeves waiting out there to give you dots on a silver platter. But if you have the desire, attitude and interest, you can collect a lot of dots every day despite your busy schedule. Here are some examples. You can always listen to a short audio book or a podcast of your interest when you are commuting – that is one dot of learning right there you can collect with no extra effort. And here are few more dots of creating, accomplishment and fun you can collect when you are at office. You can create a nice video about your product by using movie maker, record your own voice by audacity and superimpose a Beethovan moonlight sonata or any song available legally and freely on the net. You can make your powerpoint slides more interesting or even learn few tricks from youtube videos on Prezi or Adobe. Not only you will enjoy this experience, you will learn something new and feel good because of accomplishing something. During lunch, you can chose to sit with diverse groups of colleagues who read a lot and engage in a good conversation on a topic of mutual interest. You can watch TED videos at your desk while having a coffee break. Many offices now have games for employees to play – TT, board games, snooker, handball, chess etc. You can find 10 minutes to have a quick game with a colleague. You can choose to avoid the lift and climb stairs every day as a small accomplishment. You can sign up for an evening degree at a college near your office or home, learn a new language, participate professionally in sports through a local team and win a competition, perform and demonstrate your talents at the annual ceremony of your society or company, cook and serve meals to needy on the weekend, meet with your friends once a month…. The opportunities are endless.

The moment you start thinking that these dots are simple experiences with one or more components of CALF, and many of them freely available, all you then need is a bag full of attitude to gather them.

And for those of you who want to become entrepreneurs, here is how you can collect bagfuls of these dots. The advantage you folks have is that you can have any job description as opposed to the folks who work in a corporate role. The best way to learn is to become an apprentice under another experienced entrepreneur. Watch her/him, shadow her/him, bring them their coffee, drive them to their customer meets….just sit there and absorb all the good things about them – like how they sell, how they handle a difficult customer call, how they manage the pressure from VCs, how they deal with failures etc. Today morning, I saw a farewell video of Myntra’s team to their founder CEO Mukesh Bansal. All these people have now collected an amazing dot that comes out in this testimonial – to learn from Mukesh and cherish it forever. Once you are on the journey of building your product, keep working on it – rip it open and put it back together again and again to make it better. Create your collaterals, build your own website, clean your own office, deliver your first order yourself and then spend that money on something that makes you happy. Visualize your accomplishments. Imagine yourself driving down to the customer with his order, picture the customer handing over the cash to you, take a selfie with him, then imagine you dancing like a wild monkey celebrating with your co-founders. Go through this cycle more than once. Even if you fail and are shutting down, remember that this failure is a rich experience you will tell others as a story to learn from. About 10 years ago, one of my fav restaurants in Bangalore had to shut down. I still remember the last tweet from the Chef as he rolled out the last dish from the kitchen “stick a fork in it. It’s done”. I am sure that when he looks back at his life, this episode would have built a stronger foundation for bringing him where he is today. Many entrepreneurs are taught to create business plans, pitch to VCs etc. That is important too. But don’t ignore the experience of entrepreneurship, the freedom to do whatever you want, the joy of creating something new and seeing your venture take shape. The stress and pressures are also an experience. So collect them. Watch a wonderful movie called The Intern where a 70 year old Robert Deniro becomes an intern to a 30 something internet CEO – the stunning Anne Hathaway. I loved the movie for the sheer attitude that Deniro demonstrated. At the age of 70, he wanted to collect dots of creating, accomplishment, learning and fun. And in the end of the movie, both of their careers become richer with this shared experience.

So go on! Take your bags and start collecting your CALF dots. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. You don’t have to update anybody on your progress. The size of the bag and whether it is full or empty is nobody’s god damn business except yours. It’s your bag and your choice. Do it as per your own likings, pace and ambitions. And after a few years, look back and see for yourself how vibrant your pictures have become.

You can read both parts of the article here as well


3 comments on “What are these dots? How does one CoLLect them?- Part 2

  1. girish sharma
    February 23, 2016

    Reading it gives me more of a feeling that you are advocating “materialistic” (zindagi na milige dobara type) joy which in my opinion to some extent can give you the pleasure but with certain limitations and hollowness. Unfortunately when one realizes it, 3/4th of the sand has already fallen to the other side of hour glass. And when he sees it back all his dots are so haywire that it is difficult to trace the path one has traveled in life. The feeling i got was more about “me” and not about “us”.

    • rakeshgodhwani
      March 1, 2016

      Thanks Girish.

    • Anand
      April 14, 2016

      We often think this way and resist saying we have already lost time and starting new/fresh now won’t be of any use. But think how would it feel then another 3/4 of remaining time is lost and then you realize may be, ‘may be’ starting fresh at previous milestone could have helped.

      Probably we are living in time of hopelessness where what matters is in perspective of what other thinks. Social media has made it worser where “probably” everyone is living with false identity. 😀

      Again it is easier said than done.

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