Author: thecoolgeek

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 4 – Overcoming significant hurdles

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 4 – Overcoming significant hurdles

A journey without hurdles is not a journey you should not wish you had. Ekalavya had faced many obstacles during his practice. Most of them involved with fighting himself.

One year back I set a Goal to write a blog every week. The most significant hurdle I faced was my grammar and the number of words in my dictionary. I think I had probably under 500 words when I started. Both of them seemed enormous in my mind. Without wasting time, I started learning grammar. I installed an app and began building my dictionary.

Facing Hurdles is a sign of progress. If you don’t have any, success may be delusional.

Perfecting grammar is a long process. I still wanted to write and not wait till I learned proper grammar. I bought a subscription of Grammarly which is an app which corrects my grammar as I write. Before I purchased the subscription, I ensured I built the habit of writing four days a week. It was sufficient to help me publish one blog every week.

If you look at the first blog, I wrote and compared with it my recent ones. You will observe a stark difference. It is effortless to give up when the work you produce it ugly. All I had to do was to set my habit and then remove my most significant hurdles.

Am I satisfied with my work?

No, not yet!

Have I improved?

I might have improved 1%. I still have a long way to go. Today I am enjoying the process rather than worrying about reaching the end goal.

What hurdles have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 5 – Protect your schedule

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 5 – Protect your schedule

Once you have your sound habits in place, the next step is to protect your schedule. We now know that mastery is all about doing it every day till the rest of your life. Our schedule plays an important role.

Suppose you have four habits in a day and you need to 30 minutes for each activity. It means you have to schedule 2 hours each day outside your day job working hours. Ensuring you get the 2 hours every day would say you have to start early.

Getting up early in the morning was never easy for me unless I have some adventure activities lined up in the morning.

I first started getting up around 8 am. Slowly improved the time to 6 am. Currently, I am now targetting 5.30 am. It was not an easy journey. I used to get up to a task, feel sleepy and fall back to sleep. I have more hours a day. It is easy for me to complete 90% of my activities every day. Of course, I still have to fight the distractions and battle the obligations thrown at me by friends or office colleagues or family. Dealing with family and friends is a different topic altogether.

Getting up early in the morning is an art. You can do it by carefully monitoring your quantity of food during dinner time. Light and less spicy food work well for me. As a person who does not drink coffee to get me activated in the morning, this formula works for me. You have to figure out your formula.

In this process of closely monitoring and protecting my schedule, I found new respect for working women. They have additional responsibilities apart from their regular work. I have seen many ambitious friends in my circle who have managed squeeze in time for their interests. Thier schedule has more activities than we could ever imagine. We can take inspiration them and learn from them on how they handle a packed schedule daily.

If you have not yet built your schedule, I believe you should get started with it immediately.

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 3 – Daily Practice

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 3 – Daily Practice

You already know that daily practice is needed to master any skill. However, to be able to do it you need an environment, and you also you need a time of the day when you can practice. Louise Armstrong rehearsed the trumpet every day since the age of 11 to become a master. Ekalavya was also known to practice daily without fail.

Consider your current age. Now imagine the number of days you need to practice to gain mastery of a skill of your liking.

No matter how busy you are, practice your skill daily till it becomes a habit. Do it for 5 seconds if you have to. I believe that we are a product of our habits. It takes one bad habit to make us think we cannot do something great. It is a misconception. We can. We are often afraid to get rid of that habit.

I was fortunate enough to read the book – Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. It was pivotal for getting me started with a key habit. It helped me further to develop many other good habits.  I decided to start playing keyboard and meditate. I stuck to doing them for 21 days then for months together and now its a part of my life. Just like brushing teeth.

A few good habits changed my perspective. I learned to schedule time from the activities love. Now I write, make Youtube videos daily, play the keyboard, meditate, read and learn every day. I pushed my self to do many things. I could have never imagined doing all of these activities on one day. Apart from the sound daily habits, daily personal journaling was of phenomenal help.

Identify that one habit that you can keep doing for days. Do it every day. You will notice that you are slowly cultivating other habits you wanted to imbibe in yourself. One micro habit will boost your confidence. When in the process, focus on the habit you have to develop rather than the one you need to stop.

Which is that habit you want to cultivate?


My first crush reminded me of what butterflies feel like

My first crush reminded me of what butterflies feel like

I was in a hostel when I first got introduced to the song called “There She Goes.” I had a friend write the lyrics for me in a book so that I could sing aloud whenever I heard the song. Of course, back then English did not come naturally to me. I had to put in some extra effort to learn one song. I did not realise this song was going to become an exclusive song which would reverberate in my head all my life. Even after 15 years, this song remains exclusively for her. Before I go any further, I would like you to hear the song. I am sure you will love it too.

The first time I saw her, I had butterflies in my stomach. I did not know what that meant, but whatever it was, it felt good. I had seen her many times before, but this was the first time I noticed her walking graciously in the amphitheatre. It was probably a Sunday, and she was with her elder sister if I remember correctly. It was a slow revelation to me, I was walking up the amphitheatre, and there she stood laughing with her sister. Out of nowhere, this song popped in my head, and from that moment, it became her song. Whenever she went past time slowed down, and this song played continuously. The memory of my first experience with her was far stronger than my experience of being bullied in the same amphitheatre.

You can see what I am talking about in this video from Tare Zameen Par, except that I was moving up the steps while she stood there laughing. A little later in this video, Ishaan picks my favourite spot for painting. It’s where I used to daydream a lot and spent a lot of time.

Much like my effort to learn English, it was difficult to articulate this experience. I had to see multiple movies before I could describe what I liked about her. It came down to one thing – her laugh was contagious. The moment this dawned on me, I always wished I could be around whenever she laughed.

The more movies I saw with “dating” stuff, I learned to describe her. I felt her laugh was natural and she had the perfect hair to compliment her while she laughed. The hair band she wore sometimes made her even cuter. Her cheeks had no spots as much as I recall, which made her glow whenever she laughed. Whenever I got the chance and remembered a girl like her existed, I went to class early and waited for her to enter, of course by now you might have guessed “There She Goes” was on full volume. But everything changed when a film called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai released during out year-end vacation.

When we returned to school after vacation, I saw many girls with the mushroom haircut Kajol had in the movie. I did not see the film, and I got to know this much later when some of my friends told me how this tomboyish hairstyle became a fad. Secretly, I hoped she hadn’t got this hairdo, but to my horror, she had the haircut too! My heart sank, but not for long. She laughed, and all was ok. I gave it some thought, and it was the first time I learned to appreciate others’ choices. And I felt, perhaps a one-sided messy braid would have complimented her personality better.

Her sister was all prim and proper, but somehow I felt my crush had a beauty which I would like to describe as Messy Beauty. It may sound odd at first instance but it is more a figurative way of calling someone beautiful because they were not too conscious about how they looked. Also, they have a fantastically peculiar personality to follow their passion. I felt she is one such person. She stood out because of this somehow, and I felt this desire was visible and it felt like no matter what happens no one can take that away from her.

Messy Beauty – Someone who is unapologetically true to self and knows what is true freedom.

Having her around just made me happy. I felt dating was such a funny option. I wished I could get to know her better and talk to her. But it never occurred to me that I could also attempt. I was usually shy and lost in my world most of the times. Confidence was low. I could not even think of talking to her. How I wish I could muster a little bit of confidence and know her a little more.

I am glad I got the courage to write this about her and hoping it reaches her with good intentions.

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 2 – Selecting a Learning Path

Modern Ekalavya Learning Technique 2 – Selecting a Learning Path

With an attention span of a fish, we can hastily abandon the course we have selected. It’s not a surprise that just one course would not suffice for learning that skill. We would not require a 4-year bachelor’s degree otherwise.

Many of the MOOC platforms have already started curating individual courses into learning paths. These learning paths help you master the skill in a much more comprehensive manner. I have tried out Lynda’s and Coursera’s learning, and they seem to be good enough to pick any skill. We could even apply those skills immediately after we have completed the learning path. Even Marketing guru in his article talks about the importance of MOOCs not just only for adults but for children too.

Suppose you want to learn Machine Learning. Without a doubt, Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning course is good to start. However, when you register on Coursera, you will notice that it will ask you about your learning goals and suggest you a learning path accordingly. In the learning path I have chosen, there are three courses I need to complete. You can select Python or R Machine Learning paths depending on the skill you want to specialise.

Ekalvya was clear he wanted to become the best archer in the world, and he would not have done it without setting up strict learning path. He stuck to his path no matter what for years together.

In today’s world, the learning paths should not only contain courses with skill you want to learn. You also need to keep yourself updated with where all you can apply this skill you have acquired. For example, if you are want to become a data scientist, you also need to improve your visualisation skills or presentation skills.

Once you have completed a course, you need to apply them. Platforms such as Kaggle or KD nuggets help us with that. May real life problems are put up as competition on these platforms. Also, Kaggle now has Kernels and forking which can help you get started quickly.

What are you waiting for, choose your learning path on Coursera and create your account on Kaggle and start participating?



Should we tolerate the intolerant?

Should we tolerate the intolerant?

Since the beginning of time intolerance has always been not tolerated. In Mahabharata, Pandavas had chosen to war against Kauravas as their behaviour towards Drapaudi was not tolerated. Oath-Bound Bheeshma sat in the court while Kauravas were stripping Draupadi in the court. Just to set the premise, Pandavas lost to Kauravas and had to give away Draupadi to be a dasi to Kauravas. So, they did what they deemed fit with her.

I want to highlight the two sets of people here. One who tolerated the shameful act done by Kauravas. It included Bheeshma, known as the most powerful and respected man at that time. And the other set were those who did not tolerate this act and protected her when she was being stripped.  As per the games honour code, Pandavas could not do anything about it, but Krishna was one such person who saved her during the situation. Here there two sets of people each choosing their side. Either to tolerate or not. If they chose not to, the great battle of Mahabharata would have been avoided. But the fight against intolerance was fought and won by the Pandavas.

After the battle, the ones that tolerated the act were all killed, and the people that chose to sides with these intolerant Kauravas also met their demise. Many among the killed included Pandavas cousins, gurus, friends and other relatives. All of them knew they were on the wrong side and yet they chose to side with Kauravas and fight against their most loved Pandavas.

What should have been the ideal scenario? In the ideal situation, this act should not have been tolerated at all by anyone. A lot of family members life would be saved if only the Kauravas were punished. But a battle has to be fought to punish the offenders and those who chose their side. With this perspective, the intolerant were punished and those who sided with them too.

In another instance much before Mahabharata, Krishna tolerated 100 mistakes of Shihupal which was the son of Krishna’s aunt. But the 101st mistake was not tolerated, and he punished by death immediately. Another perspective where the offender was not tolerated.

Both the stories one thing in common the intolerant were not tolerated even if they were family members. By now it’s already established that it’s easy to tolerate the fanatics acts. Which brings out the following questions:-

  • What level of tolerance should we show to our family members?
  • Should we show our intolerance to a behaviour immediately or provide them with a chance to correct?
  • Who are we to tolerate other people(does not include fanatics) behaviours?
  • Do you know about your behaviour that probably others are tolerating which should not be the case? Or do you think you are always right and all of your “behaviour” have an explanation or have a hidden agenda to fix the other person? Or you may call it an act of self-acclaimed method with an explanation that should be tolerated by the other person?

Perhaps, the line between tolerance and acceptance is so blurred that it’s mostly absent. And it is in its absence, that most often, the justification for everything starts. Tolerance and Acceptance are not of binary values to be a zero or one. It’s not black or white. It’s a combination of both, which heavily depends on the subject. For, after all, the shades of grey only depended on how much black and how much white was in it. For it was never composed of its own.

I appreciate the perspective of Yonatan brings out in his article on Intolerance who in the list of top 50 writers in Politics. But, I would go the quote written by Charles Colson, who President Nixon’s “hatchet man” and has also written many books. After all, tolerance does not mean that we agree or ignore each other’s perspective. It means we make space for them and guide them to improve their perspective.

True tolerance is not a total lack of judgement. It’s knowing what should be tolerated be tolerated, and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn’t.

-Charles Colson

After all, we have the power to make our reasoned choice but be prudent of the dangerous trap of confirmation bias.

If you are interested in reading a perspective on Intolerance, you can read it here.


Modern Ekalavyas Learning Technique 1 – Start with Why

Modern Ekalavyas Learning Technique 1 – Start with Why

Coursera has more than 8 million registrations, edX has more than 3 million, and Udacity recently crossed the 2 million mark. While these numbers seem staggering, the course completion rate tells an entirely different story. Across all MOOC platforms, the course completion rate stands at a measly 7%. Much research has been done to identify the reason for this abysmal completion figure, and methods to control the dropout rate. Some research indicates the lack of motivation or a healthy “why?” being the primary reason for the low completion rates. The lack of negative repercussions of abandoning a course midway also contributes towards the dropout.

Think about college. If you quit college midway, you have to enrol again to finish your course. However, with MOOCs, you do not have any penalties for abandoning a course. Enrolling again is easy, and many courses are not even time bound. Even if these courses are time-bound, they are generally spaced out enough for someone to finish them without experiencing a time constraint.

Companies have tried experimenting with various fee structures, but they do not seem to have any impact on the completion rates. This pattern appears to extend to my professional field too. For example, I interact with many professionals who want to switch to analytics, but the average tenure in the field is small. What could they do better? As in the example above, people need to start with their “why?” – Why do they want to switch to analytics? If a better salary is the sole motivation, they might want to reconsider their decision. Anyone who intends to shift to analytics needs to have a love for playing with data, so he or she can use that data to help solve business problems. Simply taking a course does not transform someone into a good fit for a new domain.

Ekalavya had an unshakeable urge to gain mastery over archery, which is why he did not give up even when Dronacharya rejected him, and instead, found his unique way of training himself. Much like Ekalavya, if we are resolute in our determination to complete a MOOC, we will reap benefits quickly, and who knows, we might even master it without having to lose a thumb!

If you want further motivation on starting with “WHY?”, Simon Sinek’s TED talkperfectly explains it. You can also visit his website for further reading. Also, if you like to read his book, you can purchase “Start with Why” on Amazon.