[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

For the love of learning a new sport

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

If I could, I would have picked up Squash. Emerging from what many would call mid-life crisis – a phase of life when you know you got to be doing something else, but know nothing more about what that else is – I recently picked up a less intense, but equally addictive sport, Tennis.

Who doesn't get inspired by that?

I don’t recall ever seeing a Tennis court growing up in India. Yet, I religiously read The Hindu’s SportStar magazine and go for war with my brother to own the center page blow up of Boris Becker. Over the years, I generally watched all the grand-slam finals – just for the love of Tennis and the kick of its corner to corner, head-turning rallies. Not to mention the compelling changes in the way the game is played these days – thanks to Federer, Nadal and now, Djoikovich.

Last fall, the dormant Becker in me finally decided to show up. At 36, I committed to learning yet another sport. This idea was certainly not new to me. I taught myself to roller-blade when I was 24 and to snowboard when I was 26! But I haven’t played an active, outdoor, athletic sport since high-school where I made a vain attempt to earn a spot in the district field hockey team. So this time I was absolutely ecstatic signing up for beginner lessons at the Warren Racquet Club – I now have one more way to get my receding HDL cholesterol back up! Besides, one of my best friends who has been playing for a few years now kept reminding me that once you start playing Tennis, you won’t give it up for life. I knew exactly what that means now that I meet tennis partners who must be in their 70s and even 80s. Let’s not go into the details of how many of these older buddies kick me around the court.

Over the last few months, this new commitment has taught me the big difference between knowing and doing. I knew the rules of the game, have seen the best shots in slow motion, have mercilessly critiqued the world’s best players for playing up to their potential, have read best of the articles on tennis for over a decade. But…that’s a big fat BUT, I could not hit the ball into the court for many many days.

With help from the left-over athlete in me spurred by a relentless desire to improve, I have upped the game to the point where I not only get the balls into the court, I even pull a few winners occasionally. I have also taken bold step to sign up for the USTA 3.0 Adults League – I am in Business!

I read somewhere that Life is simply a combination of keys and locks. All one must try is to match the right key with the right lock, then, satisfaction and happiness prevails.

You might wonder why I started off with Squash then? I don’t exactly know. Perhaps, it will remain the greatest sport I never played but read everything about since I am just about halfway done with reading how Trinity College’s squash team continues to remain at the top of the college squash circuit [Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear].

Beauty in Zen Philosophy

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

This Zen Buddhist riddle touches the deepest part of my soul so well that I could just meditate on it forever without feeling a bit tired.

Q: How long should you stay at something?
A: However long it takes to get what you came for.
Q: How do you decide what you came for?
A: You don’t, you discover it.
Q: How do you discover it?
A: You notice what isn’t there anymore when you feel like leaving.

You need to be a person of certain nature to have the patience to seriously ponder this riddle. If you do take the time to ruminate on this, you will be rewarded with an illumination that’s priceless. It may even do exactly what riddles and poems are supposed to do: change your outlook on Life.

The reward in this discovery is the next...

There is a sense of spontaneity and now-ness in the first answer. Listen to your soul to know how long you should stay at something. But how did you arrive at this ‘something’ to begin with? Intriguingly enough, the last question answers that. You arrived at this ‘something’ when you felt like leaving the previous ‘something’.

Who said philosophy, that too Zen philosophy, is easy?

We always will have a ‘something’ to stay at. The only conscious or sub-conscious choice we have is to let go of this ‘something’, so we go to the next ‘something’.

Do you realize how the “notice” on the last answer circles back to the “something” in the first question? no? never mind.

What you came to ‘discover’, the reward, in this ‘something’ is really your next ‘something’. Zen is Genius. This is Life. This is exactly who I am.

And, I am not really as nutty as you might have concluded.

Team India is the World Cup Champions!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

It is truly a happiest moment for me as well as all the Indians across the World. May this moment be frozen in time. May the billion hearts forever be as joyous as today.

Dhoni – you are a gem of a Captian and you deserve every bit of it. Sachin – You have it now, the boys did it for you, with you.

Team India brought home the lost legacy and nailed its place as the greatest cricket team in the world! They touched the sky!

The team India that made dreams come true!

Khan way of Transforming Learning

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Listen, you want a glimpse of the future of education? How about Bill Gates vouching for it?

Even If you already know of Khan Academy, still take a few minutes to watch this latest TED Presentation. If you are patient enough, Bill Gates will join Sal Khan on stage around the 18th minute.

I stumbled upon Khan Academy last year, and since that time, he has gone from “somebody” to “the man”. His vision is rather unbelievable – educate the world for free on every topic! His story and rise to limelight is a worth a short film.

This story has been inspiring to me in many fronts. For one, he is making things happen for real. When million others are simply dreaming or talking about just ideas, he is out changing the face of learning, still one day or one video at a time. The realization of his vision in just the last few months is really commendable. They have create an innovative software to facilitate a non-invasive, individualized learning – augmented by the thousands of tutoring videos. Not only that, behind the screen, the software captures tremendous data for the teachers & tutors to evaluate a student’s performance and to have a constructive, thoughtful discussion for further learning and improvement. The best of today’s teachers are manually collating these type of data which takes away the time from focusing on their only goal of positively influencing the development of the students.

When most innovators are behind the startup wagon with a hope of making it big in an IPO, Sal is running this as a non-profit, a social enterprise as I like to think of it. I am certain money is never going to be an issue – even if Gates and Google don’t care for them, scores of philanthropists will line up to write a check for some who is truly impacting the lives of so many people across the world.

Let’s not forget, next to the gift of life, the second best gift to give anyone is education. If he can do that in a simple, easy way that anyone across the globe can use – I salute he is indeed “the man”.

Khan Academy already has a pilot program with Los Altos school district that is showing great promise. Now that he has assembled a fantastic team (I wish I could be part of this team and their mission!!), they are all set to fundamentally transform the way learning will happen in classrooms. No other company, including Microsoft, has been able to introduce this type of transformation. Which is likely why Bill Gates is backing Sal’s vision, besides using it himself to teach math to her daughter.

We need all the other dreamers to take Khan Academy truly global across languages and villages on a mission to educate the masses. Any takers from India?

A road well taken

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

On a bright, humid summer morning, she is walking along a trail deep in the park. Tranquil surroundings, smell of fresh air, and the lullaby of running water from the stream – she felt thankful for everything. A few other morning joggers pass over exchanging courteous nods. From moment to moment, her thoughts wander away into the inglorious past. But she quickly recovers to stay in the moment and relish the liveliness. Yet again, next moment comes, she is lost thinking something about a promising future. Thankfully, her third eye is keeping her in a steady pace through the trail.

Until she runs into a three-way intersection.

Regaining total awareness, she slows down heading towards the groomed island at the center of the intersection. The other two trails leading away from the intersection seem alien. She isn’t quite sure if each will lead to the same kind of experience she has just had in the last 20 minutes. One appears too dark for the morning. The other seem to become narrow within a few yards so she couldn’t make anything out of it.

She takes a moment to turn around and appreciate the trail she came in from.

“May be I should just go back the same way, It sure is worth another trip.”

She is reluctant and quickly gives up that notion. She squeezes her eyes to see as far deep as she can into the trail on the left. It sure feels more inviting. But that’s just a feeling though, they both look more or less the same from where she is. She grinds her teeth for wasting too much time on this trivial thing, but she just can’t make up her mind which one to move on. Yet, she is sure she wants to go the trail as good or better than the one she just came in.

She takes a sip from the bottled water. The digital watch reads 7.44 AM. She wants to be home by 8 AM or at least by 8.15.

She can hear someone breathing hard, rushing to cross over from the trail she came in. A black Labrador swirls around her followed by a tall guy who slows down to look right into her eyes.

“Do you need help?”

“I am all right. I am wondering which way to go”

“Well! Take the one on the right, you will be in good company plus you will love the view of the downtown a mile or so down”

She thanks him as he jogs down the trail to the right. He doesn’t look back and she is still double-minded.

“Do I care for the view?”

Just as she swipes the dripping sweat off her chin, an old couple walk into the intersection from the trail on the left. They look happy, chatty and wanting to talk. She wants to ask their opinion of that trail but decides to just wish them a good morning even as the couple pass staring at her. They fade away into the trail behind her.

“I have always followed my intuition, let’s just move on the trail to the left”

“Wait! Why wouldn’t I enjoy the view of downtown? I haven’t been here before…”

“What the heck am I doing here? This is stupid. What’s the big deal? Just go with whatever!!!”

She begins to walk towards the trail on the left.

“Why should today be any different?”

“You know what? Let it be different. For once, I am going to give a break to my intuition and instead take someone’s advise!”

She turns away heading towards the trail on the right. A few yards down, it becomes narrow, rough, and rather smelly too.

“Is this the company he was talking about?”

She can’t find any signs of other joggers. The morning breeze seem to have vanished and the air feels awfully dry.

“Where did all the chirps and lullabies go?”

Finally, she runs past a mom jogging with twin infants in a stroller. She finds it strange that both the babies are crying louder than all other noise around while mom is busy on the phone. Mom was too busy to bother a smile, so she picks up some pace wanting to get home sooner.

A few minutes later her cell phone vibrates with a text message. She checks the phone slowing down a bit but wobbles and steps on a beer can. The left over beer slurps across her shoes and a bit on her left leg.

“Crap!”, she yells.

She wants to clean it up right away, except all she has is one last sip of water. She wants to get home right now.

“How far is this damn thing going to go? I should have stuck to my intuition!”

A few more minutes of jogging between the trees and unexpectedly, the full morning sun from the east catches her attention. And there it is. Leaning over the edge of the trail, She gets a glimpse of the river and past it, the spectacular downtown. Everything seems refreshing all of a sudden. The skyline is shining like a glorious Kohinoor diamond. The ferries and ships line up the waters as the peak hour traffic is buzzing across the riverside parkway.

“This is gorgeous”, she wishes every morning was as spiritual as this one. She takes the last sip of water, throws the bottle out in the garbage bin and looks up.

Her heart misses a beat. A massive airplane is ferociously descending down into the downtown’s tallest skyscraper.

Try try touch the sky! India

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

This Saturday may be Sachin's most precious day...

Today, India stole from the hands of Pakistan a well-deserved win against a roaring crowd from great country side of Punjab. On a day like this, the people of India love their cricket team to death. (On other occasions of failure, the same players get virtually hunted and verbally beaten, getting psychologically killed!)

Indeed, today was a moment of pride and honor for players and the whole nation. Every single player in the team worked hard for this moment and they won’t go to sleep tonite until they celebrate the heck out of their souls. A world cup Semi Finals is perhaps harder than Finals – more so because it hurts so much to get this far and not make it to Finals. In some sense, the teams fought not to win but for not to lose. You will shed your last pint of blood to escape going through what went on between the ears of Afridi and Aktar in the last few balls of the match.

Reclaim lost legacy and nail it!


In the first innings, the Indian players got burned down by Pak’s impeccable bowling. Yet, the team India rose out of the ashes to stage a spectacular show under the lights.

The Team India rarely gets their act together on a consistent basis. The last two matches will likely go down in history books as great cricket leading up to a world cup finals.

What’s remaining on Saturday is for Team India to show that it can cough up fire out of ash to nail its lost legacy as the world’s best cricket team in the world. Sachin Tendulkar will bet his entire fortune to be frozen in that moment through eternity.

A billion fans will be holding up our torches so the eleven tigers can scale through the darkest, farthest part of the heaven to kill the roaring lions. Go Team India Go! Try try and touch the sky!

Dare to go on a war with your Imagination

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

For anyone who is looking for reasons to write, Poems can be a great inspiration.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was they brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terror clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forest of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

With the sight of a gorgeous tiger in mind’s eye, William Blake derived the inspiration to extract those beautiful words out of his imagination. Here is a good study guide for the Tyger Poem.

Tyger by William Blake

It’s a fantastic poem that reminds me time and time again that writing, in any form, is act of bravery. You wage a war inside your mind against your own imagined inspiration, be it a tiger or a sunset or a baby. When the words finally but slowly draw out and settle down in front of you on the screen, you are winning. You actively engage in the battle for a while until you get a satisfactory feeling that you have rescued your fair share of words out of your imagination.

Then, you engage in a joyous craft of literary peace making. You re-read the whole passage while your inspiration takes a back seat. You clean up words that seem burned-out in the process of extraction and polish sentences that came out awfully raw. You rehash certain ideas lost in collateral damage. At last, you stop. You just birthed with at most care and love a wonderful piece of writing, .

You walk away as a proud creator, knowing all too well that you love to wage this war forever and ever.

For the love of bullet trains and bonsai trees

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Much about the Japan’s earth quake and tsunami is being recorded and seen. Given the proliferation of cameras, this event is perhaps as close to real for rest of the world as can be experienced virtually. The tenacious Japanese will quickly recover or recreate the property damages, but nothing can compensate for the precious lives lost in one of Nature’s worst outrage.

In the middle of all the oohs, aahs and wows, there is also wide recognition of both Japan’s preparedness, as well as it’s disaster relief efforts. Anything man-made is “no more than a dust in the hands of Nature” so we may never perfectly design a building or a city or a relief operation, but the Japanese have absolutely demonstrated what superior engineering, thoughtful planning, religious preparation and most importantly, careful execution, by authorities as well as citizens, can do to minimize loss. We don’t have to make a big deal out of it at the moment, but given the scale of nature’s double whammy we must soon recognize that it is Japan’s design prowess, strict adherence to engineering codes, and earthquake drills that saved more lives than what eventually will have been lost. Obviously, the rest of world got a wake up call and has been keenly watching to learn from every second of Japan’s experience.

Calmness in Chaos

Personally, my siblings and I have long been admirers of Japanese for their culture, work ethic and determination. Growing up in southern India, we lived in a very old house with toilets detached from the house out in the backyard and so we had to walk a bit to answer nature’s calls. No offense, we actually named our toilet as, you might guess, “Japan!”. We used to yell “I am going to Japan!!!” before we ran through the back door. That was a silly-but-serious way for the siblings to keep the fascinating Japan accessible to ourselves.

Call it luck or destiny, my brother-in-law was a scientist in Japan (incidentally researching earthquake resistance of specialized concrete) and so my sister moved to Tsukuba shortly after they got married. Later, my parents too had a chance to visit Japan. All of them have nothing but admiration for this great country, its heritage and its people. No country is without shortcomings but what I heard again and again was Japanese were hallmarks for politeness, discipline, sincerity and mutual respect for fellow humans and nature.

A few days after the earth quake, I stumbled upon a personal blog written by a non-Japanese guy living somewhere in Japan. He had shared his first-hand perspectives of the post-earthquake events having experienced Japan and its culture more closely than average foreigner. Knowing that my family would better relate to this guy’s observations, I shared the article with them and my brother-in-law had this to say in response…

The preparedness of Japanese has always kept me mesmerized. Right from controlling air planes to picking up rags, these people do a perfect job. Guess, God must have put hard disks and artificial intelligence in them rather than neurons and tissues.

The other day i was talking to one of the Indians friends in Tokyo inquiring about their welfare. She told that the Japanese were simply adorable during such an havoc. It seems, they still greeted each other the same way and was ready to help this Indian friend of mine as if it was another normal day.

My dad responded with a beautiful poem written by 12-year old Rohith, who lives next door to my parents in Coimbatore…

Hit by tsunamis and earth quakes
Nuclear meltdowns and flooded lakes
Japan has suffered more than what it takes
To bring the earth down.

This is our little prayer
Its not much but it is larger
Than the ignorant layer
Of people who don’t care

Oh God! please save those people
Survival of the feeblest of the feeble
All the dead , they should be able
To reach heaven without fail.

To restore it to the ultimate peace
From the bullet trains to the bonsai trees
And to bring it all in one piece
You have to help them god, to make it through

I am not at all surprised that there has been no looting or public unrest in Japan. The Japanese hold their culture to highest levels of integrity – more so during times of disasters. I see no point in comparing them with other citizens across the world who looted their own cities amidst natural or man-made disasters. Many countries have similar values but only in Japan every citizen takes their cultural values to their heart and souls.

I join Rohit in wishing the Japanese further strength and resilience to “restore to its ultimate peace, everything from the bullet trains to the bonsai trees”

A fantastic cocktail of capitalism and corruption

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Often I stumble upon on the same day, two different perspectives on the same topic. One of my favorite past time is to pick up random magazines from the library. The lucky winner the other day was The Progressive magazine. Very thought-provoking articles focused on current events in America, and with arguments that normally fly below the mainstream media.

Quite a few articles caught my interest due to the nature of the topics that I haven’t come across lately. An article, “Fighting Fire with Water” by Colman McCarthy, on the idea of pacifism was a great reminder of why the revolts in the middle east are so effective.

Another article by Luis J. Rodríguez, “the Latino vote” cleared up my common misconception of treating the entire Latino population in the US as one entity. On one of the panel discussions that the author was part of, an average American would have classified the panel participants as all “Latinos” but the author highlights that the only thing common amongst them was writing, if that.

But the best one was waiting just for me. The blockbuster article of the February edition was “The Rule of the Rich” by Bill Moyers. Some of you may know him from the PBS show Bill Moyer’s Journal – which I recommend if you are interested in thoughtful talk shows. The article is based on a rather lengthy speech he gave at Boston University in honor of Howard Zinn. Apparently, the Progressive article not available online in its entirety.

The article starts with defining the word Plutocracy (a new word for me and it means “state in which the wealthy class rules”) and goes on to open your eyes on why Richest Americans do not need the rest of America. The point of Moyers’ article is best summarized by this quote, ““There are two things that are important in politics, The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.”. What you will realize, after reading his speech (or the article if you can get hold of the magazine), is how in the name of capitalism, American politics and governance has outright sold itself to the wealthiest in America. Here is a key part of the article to ponder

from 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to everyone but the rich increased from 64 percent to 65 percent. Because the nation’s economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of l0 Americans was growing, too – from $17,719 to $30,941. That’s a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

But then it stopped. Since 1980 the economy has also continued to grow handsomely, but only a fraction at the top have benefitted. The line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans. Average income went from that $30,941 in 1980 to $31,244 in 2008. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years.

Just a couple of days prior to reading this article, I was watching the PBS show, Need to Know and they had a fantastic segment on “Income inequality in America: An illustrated interview”. Try to watch the video on the link but the summary of it is that if this deadly canyon of inequality doesn’t stop, America may split into two parallel worlds.

If the trend that we’ve seen for the past 25 years were to continue over the next 25 years, I can’t imagine what the world would look like. Because suddenly you’ve got two separate education systems, two separate housing places. Two separate levels of experience. So, of course, I do not see how, in a system such as this, somebody that begins at the bottom can end up at the top.

Corporation, Profit, Politics & Corruption?

You know about six years ago I made a big decision to get a MBA from a reputed university. Which I did. But about half way into my short journey on business education, I realized I was losing appetite for corporate America’s lure. The courses I took, and some of the wonderful teachers at NYU made me discover what really clicked for me was the Social Enterprise Sector (Non-profit). I disliked finance, accounting and investment banking. I grew wary of Capitalism. Most students out of a business school get out deeply married to the ideas of Capitalism, I emerged crystal clear of its perils. The stories by Bill Moyers and Eduardo Porter reminded me of the heated discussions we used to have in the classes on corporate ethics, global economy and social entrepreneurship.

The subtle reality is corporate America is becoming monstrously huge and ruthless. The pointless year over year growth syndrome is driving corporations to seek wealth at any cost. Where the costs are too high, Washington devises clever policies to rescue Wall Street.

The agony is America is creating a fantastic cocktail of capitalism and corruption. The rest of the world is boozing the hell out of it.

Benjamin Zander’s art of possibility

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Last week, I was reading a book by Alan Fine, “You already know How to be great” and in it Alan writes about Benjamin Zander‘s method of “Giving an A” to all his music students right at the beginning of the semester in exchange for just one home work: Write a letter that begins with “Dear Mr. Zander, I got my A because…”.

I have not heard of Benjamin Zander before but I was hooked. The clock had just crossed midnight and it was awfully quiet, yet I couldn’t help but try to learn a bit more about him. Soon, I grabbed my headset to watch on my phone his great TED Presentation.

What got me hooked was not so much the idea of “Giving an A” or Mr. Zander’s flamboyant stage presence at TED, but it was the contents of an actual letter from one of his students, a young Korean flutist,…

Dear Mr. Zander, my teacher,

I got an A because I worked hard and thought deeply about myself as a student in your class-and the result was truly magnificent. I have become a whole different person. I used to be negative about nearly everything, before even trying. Now I’m much happier than I used to be. Around one year ago I couldn’t accept my mistakes. I got mad at myself after every mistake I made. But now I actually enjoy my mistakes and I really learned a lot from those mistakes. There is more depth in my playing than there used to be. At first, I only played the notes, but now I’ve discovered something about the real meaning of all those compositions. Now I play with more fantasy. I’ve also discovered my own worth. I’ve discovered that I’m a special person because I saw that I can do anything if I believe in myself. Thank you for your lectures and classes because they made me understand how important I am and the true reason why I make music.

This kid really made it sound too simple but this exercise in imagination is hard. I need to imagine myself in the future, and then look back at my own life and further imagine what I learned, how I changed, what I achieved etc. While I need to do this exercise lot more thoroughly, I am already imagining the moments when I speak at TED.  When that possibility materializes, Benjamin Zander will be my role model!

If everything is invented, why not do it right? Source: royblumenthal

I recently wrote about Running our own race in life. I said, Every life is a story unfolding – a story you create, whether that story is told, written or read by others doesn’t matter. What matters is we live our life the best we can.

What Zander’s suggests is for all of us to open up to imagining the perfect story of our own life. Not just imagine it, but Write it. See it.

Believe in what you imagined, after that, it’s a matter of living the endless possibilities.

In Praise of Atanu Dey – Deeshaa.org

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Who is Atanu Dey? I know nothing about him personally and the little I know of him is what’s on the “About” page of his website – Deeshaa.org. What I do know is his writings. And what I aspire is to think and write like him.

I have feeble memories of when and how I stumbled upon this guy, must be early 2000s when Rajesh Jain was a dotcom heartthrob. But what a find: Atanu Dey is an authentic citizen of the sort that India sorely needs in millions. He is everything I want to be, but am not – at least not entirely yet.

With an education from more than one Ivy League institution, he could have been cruising now in a senior management job in corporate America but instead, he chose to focus his mind share on India’s development. He is most likely a omnivorous reader but more importantly, a free thinker and articulate writer. We may not agree with all his opinions, but he eloquently writes what he wants to say. I know not the hours he toils to compose his blogs, but I know what he ultimately writes are articles that you won’t find in reputed media. The topics, style and the tone makes me wonder they might as well be editorials for the day in mainstream media. That may sound as an exaggeration, so judge for yourself.

Atanu Dey writes on India's development @ Deeshaa.org

His writings are usually commentary on the state of politics, economy and education – primarily focused on India. But what distinguishes the commentary is its offbeat perspective and depth, which is generally lacking in the blogging community. For many bloggers today, being quick and quirky is more important than being deep and authentic. In that sense, Atanu is either naturally gifted to create a perception of depth or, as I believe, plows through background readings before constructing his arguments. To be fair, I should mention he occasionally throws diatribes that endlessly belabor his own notions.

Ultimately, what makes me return to his blog is that he is an ordinary and responsible citizen with no affiliations but lot of insights on current issues. In many cases, he does outline a vision for solutions too. Some day, he will be recognized in a larger stage for his authenticity and boldness, but until then, as Desh Deepak writes, he will be one of jewels in the overcrowded world of “restless, maverick and quirky Indian bloggers”.

No Creativity Crisis in YOU!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

A couple of months ago, Newsweek declared that America is a deep creativity crisis. The hell broke loose. Or may be not. If anything, the article gained more readership than it possibly deserves.

The article points out that creativity is “production of something original and useful”, and I agree with original part but not so much the useful part. I accept the simple definition that creativity is just a unique expression – of oneself or of something – that’s out of ordinary. Useful or not is irrelevant. Every human being is creative in some way or other at one point of time or another, yet, most of the creation is useful only as a gratification for the creator, none beyond. That doesn’t preclude any individual from not being creative. In fact, it is in our inherent nature to be creative. We can creatively argue to death if it’s true or not.

Source:http://www.ad-i.co.uk

The newsweek article highlights an experiment in which children who came up with “more good ideas grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers.”. I hope that’s an incomplete list and dare not call it as a list of what creative people become.

Creativity does not start, and certainly does not end, with art. I also see an unwritten assumption that creatives grow up to be entrepreneurs. Most artists and entrepreneurs are certainly creative, but the world will not be as we have it today, if not for the creativity of average citizen.

Last month, Fast Company’s 2010 list of most creative people in business. I dug deep into it because I see the key word in that article’s title is most and not creative. I wanted to know about and possibly meet every one of the most creatives – because these guys are likely doing what the newsweek article posited – “original and useful” creativity – useful insofar as they make money for their business.

Source: thedesigninspiration.com

To make a list of most creative people in the whole world across all disciplines would be a daunting task and it will invariably be filled with artists and entrepreneurs. You know, let’s leave that job to the magazines and newspapers – that will sure get more readership and provoke debates. For anyone who cares to look closer but a bit deeper, the most originally expressive and inspiring person might be your two year old or your ninety two year old grandma or perhaps, YOU, just the way you are.

Do what you love, express yourself exactly as you feel – in any form, shape, medium or language. Don’t just go with the flow, make your own path, follow your dreams and if required, break all the rules.

Celebrate being yourself.

Nominating Babar Ali for Youth Social Entrepreneurship

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Some of my readers know my interests in Social Enterprises. Ashoka is one of the organizations that inspires me and to my luck, I had one chance to meet with Mr. Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s Founder.

Ashoka is now looking for 10 youngsters from across the world to go on a TED-style stage (TEDx) to talk – and inspire the masses – about how they are changing in the world. The Staples Youth Social Entrepreneurship Competition is open for nominations.

On my part, I had nominated Babar Ali – who BBC called the youngest headmaster in the world. I stubmled upon his story in BBC a while ago and boy, he did touch my heart. When I came across Ashoka’s nomination request for young, inspiring entrepreneurs, Babar Ali immediately came to my mind.

Babar Ali's students Source:BBC

He may not have had a huge impact in Ashoka’s scheme of things, but his heroism and leadership is exactly what Ashoka is looking for. Imagine how many kids and adults across the world he could inspire if he gets 18 minutes on a world stage, in Washington DC, to tell his story about how he runs a evening school for poor children – while going to a government public school himself during the day. He teaches at night what he learns in the day. About 800 kids around his village are now able to learn and get educated, who otherwise stay at home to take care of siblings or or work during the day to feed their family. You can read more about Babar Ali in the detailed BBC report by Damian Grammaticas.

I would super excited if Ashoka picks up him! I have no idea who this boy is but I hope he will be too.