Clayton M Christensen’s writing on ‘How will you measure your life?’ made me have a re-look at my priorities. In the year 2010 I had been doing so much that I had never been so busy, stressed and tired ,eventually fell too sick. Yet when I recollect that year, nothing good stands out barring a few high points and most of the time I had spent trying to squeeze in more and more. On the contrary when I identified some core areas to work & concentrate; and try not to pack myself, I see a remarkable improvement in efficiency and my sense of well being.

I inferred Clayton’s writing as below

  • Get the priorities right and use the resources wisely, we have only 12-14 hours in a day. We should learn to amplify the effectiveness in the tasks we will be involved in every day instead of trying to cram in more hours. Keep revisiting the priorities as they change very often and one plan is never good for long
  • Avoid succumbing the temptation of this one time. Some positive habits are hard to catch on and difficult to follow. Have something like a Seinfeld calendar and make sure not to break the chain.
  • Stay away from the power tools both at work and the family. The best way we can win the confidence of others is to create a level playing field and help each other. Collective intelligence is far more superior than the sum of individual intelligence put together, team work will take us to new height even in a learning mode.
  • Every person we meet has something to teach us, right or wrong is always a perception. By being humble we will be approachable and people will readily share experience and knowledge to help us out. Individuals who act overly assertive or arrogant can leave a wrong impression of being successful, we should be careful not to follow them because mostly their arrogant behavior is to mask their shortcomings. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
  • Have simple rules and values by which we would leave our place lot better than what we found.

Clayton M Christensen is a professor at Harvard Business School. His work on which this blog is based on is available at HBR

Like the memo function in programming our brain tends to get conditioned over time to provide immediate output to inputs. A good example is learning to drive. Earlier one is too conscious about the steering, vehicle’s response to throttle and brakes; over time people forget the fact that they are driving and indulge in nice music or a conversation as driving becomes automatic to them without having to think.

Doing the same thing again and again makes the task etched so well into our brain. This is true for any given task whether it is good in nature or bad, the subconscious does not differentiate and it keeps trying to make you efficient. Therefore it is important for us to make sure our exposure from friends. books, tv and workplace is generally positive and our attitude is generally positive.

Over the years I had a chance to work under different kinds of people and subsconsiously they have shaped me to what I am today. I have observed often that the bad habits gets passed from the peers than the good ones as they have an illusion of short term gains. The bad habits gets passed on mostly in the form of gossip and getting the bad views and thoughts over and again is so powerful that it can create illusions that can last a life time as the real data wont be verified.

For example, the resistance to change was so powerful that it took me about 6-7 months for me avoid the words ‘actually’ and ‘basically’ when I talk. After I decided to get rid of them, I kept a conscious watch of when I use those two words. For the first few weeks I used to say those words and kick myself because I keep repeating the mistake. About a month later I was successful in controlling those and forgot tracking that after the first couple of months. After 6 months or so I noticed that I had got rid of it, unlearning was far more tougher and time consuming process than learning.

The difficulty to unlearn is due to the brain’s inclination in making the input/output super responsive that most of them would be cached. The instincts are the ones which mostly controls and the conscience is a mere supervisor. We should make sure to check that we dont form any habit that make us look incompetent and will make us pay a lot to unlearn.

Not only we should avoid negative influence, we should also keep learning and try to increase our skills in depth and breadth, as over the course of time the brain will make the learning process more efficient and we will get better and quicker in picking up new things.

Practice makes a man perfect. Keep learning every day.

I was fond of playing music instruments from my school days and whenever I got a chance, I tried my hands on some hit film songs. For years I was just memorizing the notes of film songs and kept trying on software pianos and small kid’s keyboards. I would say I was at the same scratchy level of playing the instruments even after 10 years of knowing what the notes meant and the physics behind them.I continued to do that in college and even after getting a job until I met two individuals in my new job who could potentially have a career in music.

They saw my enthusiasm and referred me to a professional instructor who in turn made me sign up for grade exams from trinity. I was vary of investing 20,000 rupees in an electronic keyboard and 15,000 more for the school fees as I had doubts whether I could learn anything very new when I am so hard pressed with office work and frequent travel. I anyways signed up for the classes and made a resolution that I will try at least an year.

The first few weeks had been the toughest, I was not able to concentrate on the instructions as I was always preoccupied with something else; but I made it a practise that I will use the keyboard once every day for at least 30 minutes. After the inertia I felt the learnings were progressive and my interest grew stronger to move ahead. I also started reading a lot of theory about music and a semester later my instructor said I was ready for the exam. The exam day was the most interesting, I had been rehearsing both in the mind and the keyboard for good deal of time and when I went into the hall I performed with amazing clarity (I was surprised how smooth that was because I have never played any lesson continuously and flawlessly before). I cleared the exam with a distinction and my instructor allowed me to skip a grade level for the next exam.

What I gained in that one year of learning music

  • If you are interested, then no matter how busy you are; you will find the time to learn.
  • Learning along with friends helps you get off the inertia and keeps you going. It creates a peer pressure when you advertise what you are up to.
  • 30 minutes every day in an activity is far better than 5 hours at a stretch every week, as it provides a continuous feedback on where you are.
  • Competitions, deadlines, goals prepare you to learn a lot better than learning something as a pastime.

What are you waiting for if you are interested in starting something new? Advertise what you want to do and start doing it every day, one fine day you will realize or be surprised how far you have come off from the starting point.

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.