Tag: insights

Who are the best teachers?

Best teacher

The internet enables you to learn from anyone, anywhere. You can learn anything you want, even archaic subjects. After learning multiple subjects via the internet, I’ve found that two types of teachers are the most effective; and one type to avoid.

Those who practice their craft and teach it well, like Dr Alan Weiss for consulting, Naval Ravikant for entrepreneurship, and Richard Feynman for physics. They’re skilled communicators who know what to do and what not to do in their fields.

Next are collaborations between practitioners and writers, researchers, or academics. Take Roger Martin and A. G. Lafley, P&G CEO, or Ram Charan and various CEOs. In order to create insight-based body of work, the academic uses deep research methods and interviews to extract the best insights from the practitioners.

But beware of smooth-talking marketers lacking deep knowledge. They churn out fluffy content without personal experience or genuine insight. Don’t fall for their tricks.

Writing is seeking answers

Writing, for me, is a quest for answers.

In the corporate world, I write to share what I know or have decided. This type of writing conveys information and decisions. But outside the corporate sphere, I write to seek answers and use it as part of my learning process. I write to explore different perspectives on concepts I’m learning or pondering, and this approach helps me find answers.

Sometimes I ask my friends for input on what I’m learning. This method, however, can be messy since it requires them to define their thoughts and explain their perspectives-which is time-consuming and friction-filled. Instead, I state my position on a concept and share it, so they can ask questions or poke holes in it.

The responses from my friends typically fall into three categories:

  • identifying flaws or gaps in my thinking,
  • puncturing holes in my argument, or
  • offering alternative perspectives.

Firstly, they might point out flaws or gaps in my thought process. Flaws indicate that I am thinking about a concept incorrectly, while gaps suggest that my understanding is incomplete or missing key points.

Secondly, they could challenge my argument by highlighting its weaknesses and explaining why they believe it’s incorrect. This helps me refine my position and consider new ideas.

Finally, they may offer alternative perspectives that enrich my understanding of the topic at hand. By incorporating their insights into my writing, I continue to learn and grow as a thinker and writer.

Imagine I’m exploring value investment and have developed a framework based on four parameters. By putting my ideas out there, others can chime in and question why I chose those parameters or suggest alternatives. This exchange of ideas brings clarity and deepens my knowledge.

If you’re struggling with a concept, I encourage you to write about it and share your perspective. This way, you invite others to engage in meaningful conversations that can provide the answers you seek. Whether it’s project management, investing, or any other topic, writing opens doors to learning and growth.

Integrating Paranoia and Optimism

In the wise words of Intel founder, Andy Grove, “only the paranoid survive.” Imagine our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, constantly surrounded by risks and dangers. Their paranoia kept them alive. If you’re reading this today, it’s because everyone in your lineage survived, and mostly because they were paranoid.

To be paranoid and survive, you must integrate two opposing ideas.

First, recognize what could kill or destroy you, or drain your energy, talent, or time. If you’re managing a project, think about what might ruin your best-laid plans. But don’t stop there. You also need optimism to counteract that paranoia.

Optimism is what keeps us moving forward instead of giving up in despair. It’s believing that life will turn out well and that we can improve our circumstances.

Roger Martin discusses this concept in his book “Opposable Mind,” explaining the importance of integrating these two opposing ideas.

The ability to face the tension of opposing ideas constructively and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each. – Opposable Mind, Roger Martin

In today’s world, many people lean heavily towards one end of the spectrum: either overly optimistic or pessimistic. But to truly thrive, we must integrate paranoia and optimism. By doing so, we can not only survive but flourish as we face the challenges ahead.

My Learning framework


Learning framework

In the ever-changing world of software, staying updated is crucial. That’s why I’ve embraced a learning framework I call Consume, Produce, and Engage. This approach has served me well over the years.

During the Consume phase, you absorb knowledge from books, workshops, seminars, and courses. However, you only retain about 40 to 50% of what you learn at this stage.

To deepen your understanding, it’s essential to move on to the Produce phase. Here, you create something based on what you’ve learned, such as a note synthesizing new information with prior knowledge, a presentation, or a video. Producing something highlights any gaps in your understanding of the topic.

Next comes the Engage phase. By sharing your work with others, they can offer feedback and reveal different perspectives on the subject matter. Engage with genuine people who can provide valuable insights and help you grasp the topic more holistically.

This cycle of Consume, Produce, and Engage is an ongoing process; as people point out new sources of information, you consume that knowledge and continue producing and engaging. This repetition helps develop a comprehensive understanding of any given topic.

Underlying this cycle is another sub-cycle: It starts with you. What’s your attitude towards learning? Are you curious and open-minded? Or do you think you already know everything or can’t learn anything new? Your mindset plays a significant role in how effectively this learning framework works for you. Embrace curiosity and humility to truly reap the benefits of Consume, Produce, and Engage.

Your environment plays a crucial role too. As the saying goes, walk with the wise and you’ll become wise; walk with those uninterested, and you’ll follow suit. If your surroundings don’t encourage trying new things or embracing failure, then you’re bound by its limitations.

Access to tools matters. Can you afford them? Are they available for you to learn smarter and tap into the world’s knowledge? Tools can spark different thoughts and satisfy your curiosity, creating a cycle that fuels learning.

Take my experience learning coding, for instance. I used this approach for learning new software languages as well as project management. Let’s say I’m learning Deno – I’ll watch a video or read examples, consuming information. Then, I’ll start producing something by working on a sample project or recreating an example. This solidifies what I’ve learned from books, videos, or code samples.

Next, I share my work with the Deno community and ask for feedback. Although not everyone will respond, a few people might offer suggestions for better APIs or algorithms. This sharing process feeds back into my learning cycle.

As a CTO, I believe in learning by doing and coding myself. However, another CTO might focus on helping their team learn instead of continuing to code personally – that’s perfectly valid too. Our paths will differ based on our attitudes and environments, but the key lies in embracing learning as an ongoing journey.

When I need to code, I seek an IDE or surround myself with fellow coders. I immerse myself in that world, ready to learn. Sometimes, I’ll even pay for tools like chatGPT or the Code Whisperer to help me write code.

How do you keep learning? Share your process in the comments.

Learning English, as a non-native speaker

As a 21-year-old fresh out of college, I couldn’t speak English well. Mastering it was crucial to my career. I’ll tell you how I did it.

I started by reading the Bible in Tamil and English. I’d compare each sentence in both languages so I’d get a sense of the words and grammar. In order to learn English, I memorized passages and recited them.

Second, I watched the TV series Friends. People say you’re fluent when you can crack jokes in a language. I learned their phrases and slang and cracked jokes with my colleagues. It helped me improve my English.

But I turned to writing to express myself. I started a blog 15 years ago – not for money or branding, but to learn English. Writing let me play around with sentence structure, metaphors, and more. Editing and re-editing helped me perfect my skills.

At last, I grasped speaking. Forming sentences quickly while speaking is tougher than writing. Pronunciation and delivery are important too. In my room, I practiced repeating phrases from great speakers like Martin Luther King and Billy Graham in front of a mirror.

Even now, my English isn’t perfect, but it works. Every day, I keep improving it to communicate better and follow the four practices I mentioned earlier.

And that’s how I mastered English as a non-native speaker.