Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu

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Facing your worst fear

One of the biggest fear of any human being is failure. Failure is tied around one’s neck like an albatross. People have fallen into the dangerous state of trying only those activities that they are good at and are certain to win at. For the fear of being branded a failure, many people stick to proven ways, instead of experimenting and innovating. Another culprit holding off people from trying is the fixed mindset. As opposed to the growth mindset where effort is acknowledged, fixed mindset dictates that a person is limited by their talent. In the recent times, Michael Jordan has been an inspiration for many other super stars. He demystified his success and chalked it to his failure. This revelation empowers all at any level of performance or achievement to forge ahead with persistence.

Michael Jordan – A Champion of Failure

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” said Michael Jordan.

This famous quote shows that you must play many games to win many games. It also shows Jordan’s authenticity. According to Warren Bennis, ‘the dean of leadership gurus’, leaders are not born – they are made. By sharing the not naturally talented side of his, Jordan has not only shared his vulnerability which forms bonds of trust easily but also has made an authentic leader of himself.

Jordan played his games intensely and went beyond people’s expectations each time. He disliked losing in a game. He had the competitive spirit as well as the belief in his athletic skills. He loved winning and had the belief that the victory is certain with practice. Jordan performed excellently as an individual player. In later years, under Phil Jackson’s coaching, Jordan was able ‘to surrender the me for the we’ and became a good team player (Stallard 2015).

Leaders win by using their strength and superiority of skill. Henry V addressing on St Crispin’s day of the honor in fighting the battle of AginCourt. “But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.” (Shakespeare, 1623). Leaders have a sense of pride about their involvement. There is also an overriding sense of victory at the outset itself.

There is a sort of prescience that the better state is possible. A Leader’s confidence and optimism energize the crew. During the battle of Ivry, Henry IV addressed his troops: “My friends, yonder is the enemy, here is your king; and God is on our side. If you lose your standards, rally round my white plume; you will always find it in the path of honor and victory.” (Clare, Modern History). In this battle, Duke of Mayenne had double the troops of Henry IV. Henry V defeated the French troops, even though they were outnumbered by 5:1. Even in bad shape, Henry was certain that he would win and that men would show off their battle wounds every St Crispin day.

Leaders are successful in rallying the support for their cause. When the cause is just and they believe that they have divine support too, then people know that they are going to succeed. With so much certainty of success, against all odds, hardly there is a thought of fear. The people only think about how to give a better fight. Bates says, “But I do not desire he should answer for me; and yet I determine to fight lustily for him.” (Shakespeare, 1623)

With the leader’s support, the followers move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. a concept introduced by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. Dweck has suggested that is the belief in talent and fixed mindset that gave the world Enron (Dweck 2006).

Regarding the effect on the mind of exclusive devotion to gymnastic, Socrates said that it produces a temper of hardness and ferocity (Plato). Adeimantus too concedes that a mere athlete becomes a savage. Jordan knew how to fashion himself a leader through his athleticism instead of being limited by it.

Another example. Jesse Owens was considered the greatest athlete in the world. Jesse said that he always loved running because it was something ’you could do all by yourself, all under your own power’. Jesses’s inspiration was Booker T Washington. He even wished to become a bit like the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

“In America, anyone can become somebody. Does that sound corny in this day and age? Well, it happened to me, and I believe it can happen to anybody in one way or another” said Jesse owens.

Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan’s are examples to try, try and try until you succeed just like King Bruce.

Unlike the optimistic leaders, Richard II lost his hope before the throne. He had shirked his duties of taking care of England and lost himself in warring with the Irish at the expense of just behavior. Richard II was a victim of his times, where a ‘successful leader’ in Elizabethan terms cannot afford to get too ‘hung up on moral principles’ (Forker, 2001). Henry IV too became a victim of it as he was too guilty towards the end.

Conclusion

Michael Jordan with his insistence on hardwork and continuous improvement is a great inspiration for a person in any field. Jordan’s lessons and success foster a growth mindset where the outcomes depend on effort and not just inherent talent. Like Henry V and Michael Jordan, when one takes pride in their mission and continues to fight, that increases their chance of success.

References

Shakespeare Williams, 1623, Henry V

Plato, Reoublic Book IV

Forker Charles, 2001 Richard II: Shakespeare: The Critical tradition, Volume 9

Clare Israel Smith, Modern History

Mcclean Bethany, 2015 https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/12/martin-shkreli-pharmaceuticals-ceo-interview

Dweck Carol, 2006 https://mindsetonline.com/howmindsetaffects/businessleadership/index.html

Stallard, Michael Lee, 2015

http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2015/05/13/michael-jordans-transformation-contributed-to-his-success.html

Learning is Fun

In high school, we had a lesson by name ‘The Fun they Had’ written by Isaac Asimov in 1951. Two kids Margie and Tommy, are surprised to know that centuries ago, the teachers were humans. Their mechanical teacher appears on a computer and teaches them fractions.
In 2007, while working as an engineer, I took an online class. It was English literature and Creative Writing classes. In place of workshop in the class, which is a common form of critiquing your classmate’s work and offering them feedback for work, Microsoft word was used. Word was convenient in commenting on the essays as part of the coursework in providing feedback. In online courses, responding to your classmate’s discussion is a common requirement of engagement with other students work, to make up for the lack of face to face interaction.
At that time, I didn’t realize that one of the benefits was commute time saved. In 2014, I volunteered for Foodbank of Santa Barba County. I had just read a book on Salesforce. As a campaign management volunteer online, using what I had just learned, I could make impact sooner than I could, driving to the Phoenix Zoo, where I volunteered too. That is when I realized the overhead of commute that could be done away with online engagements.
Maggie wonders “And all the kids learned the same thing?”
Few years ago, due to my interest in creative writing, I saw a parallel in content marketing. I took some digital marketing course on Lynda.com. Over the holidays, I accomplished a Content Marketing certificate on Linkedin. The interesting thing, I didn’t have to go research what courses would be needed for a Content Marketer. It was motivating to see this researched goal of well-planned courses designed to learn a career path requirement. Linkedin calls these “learning paths”, a set of courses to equip the learners with skills needed for a specific role like digital marketer, small business owner, project manager etc. Irrespective of your background, you can explore new areas and acquire skills, if you happen to like what you are learning and become an expert at that.
I now have a certificate on Linkedin that shows this accomplishment. Being able to share this on social media is like having a graduation party, where you let others know how you are constantly improving your skills. With the network effect, there might be some employer or recruiter interested in filling a job that requires those very latest skills. You have now taken the oats straight to the horses’ mouth. Even if you are not currently looking for a job, this continuous learning speaks to your curiosity which is needed for any job in the current dynamic market and industry conditions. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a NYTimes interview that people who don’t spend five to 10 hours a week learning online “will obsolete themselves with technology.”
“mother said little girls learned better if they learned at regular hours.”
Lynda.com acquired by Linkedin urges you to learn a new skill online, on your time. The courses are taught by industry experts. It is true to the limitless learning, limitless possibilities it touts. It shows you how “Learning can happen anywhere with our apps on your computer, mobile device, and TV, featuring enhanced navigation and faster streaming for anytime learning”. It is this flexibility and catered to your schedule learning that speaks to people with a busy schedule. Life happens while learning. You don’t have to put it on hold.
Around the same time, I took a Poetry class on Coursera. Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”). Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course from University of Pennsylvania English professor Al Filreis is a MOOC – “massive open online course”. A MOOC is a virtual, free class available to Internet users around the world. What I liked best about the class is the small group discussing the poetry online. After so many classes, I feel like I know them from their impromptu discussions. If such an attachment can be made through the online classes, then we know its not the doom of a ‘mechanical teacher’ but a vibrant community that interacts through the online forums. Students appreciate the different perspectives that come with diversity of people from different backgrounds and nations.
Recently few months ago, I took Economics 101 course from Stanford University. It was free and online. Learning from John B Taylor himself was great. He has a great passion for Economics. His hope of passing on that enthusiasm, keeps you motivated to finish the course. I realized that economics is fun, and I never had a class on it in my undergrad. You can always add a new skill to make a full-fledged arsenal through online learning. “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” ~Eartha Kitt.
With our current changing world, there are always new technologies to learn. You must be a continuous learner. According to Lynda.com, Educational technology too has evolved to help teachers and students leverage new technologies and the latest instructional techniques to increase engagement, be more productive in the classroom and maximize the potential to learn remotely.
When Maggie’s mom says, “a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind of each boy and girl it teaches and that each kid has to be taught differently”
The online material lends itself to reuse. You can go back to them for refreshing your memory, whenever you need to use the concepts. It also removes the limitation of instructor writing on the blackboard speed and demands on the voice to reach an audience. A class could be distracting for some learners. With online learning, if a student thinks, they have not grasped the concept the
first time, they can rewind and listen to the lecture again, essentially making their own customized teacher.
During a Global Case competition, I was amazed to see students use slack to collaborate with each other, who were in different parts of the country. The team also used google Docs, so that each member could update the report, and everyone could stay up to date on the latest status, without any rework. Now social media like Facebook groups for class, blogging for student’s homework assignments, twitter for fun, Instagram for annotating notes are being used by students for effective learning. Most course material is available in digital format. You don’t spend as much time in taking notes. Time is better used in learning the concepts, rather than rushing to take notes while the professor is teaching in the class. You can count on online learning for reliable delivery and expedited learning.
Wharton professors have done a study on binge reading on Coursera. They found that there are two kinds of binging. Temporal binging where you take module after module at a stretch. Content binging where you finish all modules of a course on one subject and move on to another. The research found that the bingers did better on tests. Since the online platforms release the course at once, instead of traditional episodic format, a student who is curious and wishes to learn more at once, can pursue the learning at their own pace, fast or slow, to suit their learning style.
Pat Wadors, senior vice president of global talent organization at Linkedin wrote an article in Harvard business Review titled, ‘To stay relevant, Your Company and Employees must keep learning.’ Online learning is effective in workplaces not only when mandatory trainings are to be done but when new technologies must be taught to employees in waves as they occur. It is a logistics problem to hold employees captive in a room when the business is live. With the flexibility offered by online classes, now they can not only learn all the required things as a supervisor for workplace safety but also the complexities of benefits and technical knowledge at their own pace. Pat Wadors has also written that, “AT&T has launched a program that combines online and classroom-based course work in subjects like digital networking and data science, and looks at old skills that can be transferred to new careers.” Many companies now use hybrid format, where employees learn some modules online and then discuss them with each other through a web conferencing, to maintain the community interface of learning and amplify the collective intelligence.
Online learning has changed knowledge management. With many online group collaboration tools like Google Docs, Skype and others, learning and working with others remotely is no longer a barrier to a team’s or organization’s loftier goals of being agile to changes in the marketplace. Learning has now been democratized with MOOCs. The best universities too have
realized this and made some of their courses available to students worldwide. In this age, everyone is a learner, novice or an expert.
With all the above reasons in mind, I am doing an executive MBA online. My kindergarten child still has a non-mechanical teacher. Even though the mechanical teacher has some time to reach each and every class, I am sure when that happens, that the teacher will be as much fun as Blippi, a creative entrepreneur with a background in brand development, digital content creation, and online marketing whose goal is to bring positive emotions and memories to the act of learning.