An important lesson I’ve learned is that reading a book only makes sense if you can put the learnings into action.
Earlier I would focus on finishing a book. (which I admit is a task in itself). Once I finish a book, a sense of relief comes over. I take a few days break before I start reading another book. What use is the book if you don’t become better than when you started it.
I’ve started to do the following activities that has made my book reading endeavor a lot more useful and worthwhile.
1) I do a lot of research before I chose a book to read. The subject must catch my interest and it should be related to a larger goal am working towards to. For example, right now, am very interested in improving my productivity. A key part is to learn to focus and that’s why I found the book, ‘Deep Work’ very apt.
2) Before reading the book, I watch a few YouTube videos of the book and interviews with the author.
3) I listen to podcast interviews with the author. Watching the YouTube videos and listening to the podcasts gives me an excellent overview of the book.
4) Next, I read the condensed version of the book on Blinkist. I have subscribed to the Pro version and this lets me read and listen to the synopsis of the book.
5) Then I download the audio book on Audible (again, subscribed to the annual package). Audio books have been a game changer for me. I have an impressive completion rate of all the studio books. I still suck at reading physical books and have almost completely stopped buying them. I now swear by Audio Books.
6) I listen to audio books during two occasions. a) During my early morning walks. I walk for an hour and listen to audio books. 2) While traveling in my car or in a cab. Also during flights. I have started the habit of taking notes as I listen to the audio books. I carry a small notebook where I scribble down important points.
7) Once back home from my walk , I expand on those important points and publish the key learnings on my blog. This has helped me revive my long dormant blog.
8) I’m also conducting a workshop on the subject of the book. For example, this Saturday, October 15th, am conducting a 3 hour intensive, interactive workshop on the subject of ‘Deep Work’ and how to use focused concentration to improve productivity. I’m a firm believer that teaching is the best form of learning. 14 years of being a professor has ingrained this view in me deeply.
9) Because I need to conduct a workshop, this gives me the impetus to thoroughly prepare. This motivates me to listen to the audio book for the second time, take notes, create a presentation etc. This helps me to internalize the learnings.
10) Finally, I’ve begun to slowly but surely put the learnings into practice in my daily life. For example, I’ve allocated undisturbed time to blog about the points I’ve learned from the podcast. This very blog post you are reading now is testimony to it. If I can keep up at it daily for a month, it will become a regular habit and I don’t have to put any conscious effort.
Continuous improvement is something I’ve begun to enjoy. This is a work in progress and I’ll continue to share the best practices and important tips which I hope you find it useful too. Have a great, productive day!
Currently am listening to Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. This is part of my effort to practise concentration in my work and to get lots done.
Some of the important points that I learned today are the following.
1) Deliberate Practice Theory: We now know that repeated practice makes us good at what we do. But equally important is the quality of training in addition to the quantity of training. Practising with full concentration helps one master their art or craft quicker.
2) The Zeigarnik Effect: The good news is that our brain is wired to finish the tasks that we intend to complete. Large tasks will ofcourse take multiple days or weeks to finish. Subconsciously, our brain will remember these incomplete tasks that will motivate us to inch towards the finish line. This is the Zeigarnik Effect.
3) The Theodore Roosevelt Paradox: The American President, when he was a youngster, was known to have multiple interests. He would pursue his various passions, particularly ornithology (study of birds). All this meant that he was only able to spend a quarter of his time for studies. Yet, he performed very well in studies. This shows that having a deep interest in one subject has a positive rub off in other areas and that deep concentration will help you accomplish the task at a much lesser time.
4) Productive Meditation: Walking is considered a good form of productive Meditation. It helps you focus on areas that you want to. I can vouch for this. I now listen to audio books and podcasts while I walk and I find it an efficient way of “reading”. I get some of my best ideas while walking, maybe only next to while I’m showering!
So, here is the summary of the lessons I learned during today’s walk and listening to the book, ‘Deep Work’. I’ll continue to add in more lessons I found useful in tomorrow’s blog post as I continue listening to the audio book.
I’ve started to listen to audio books and podcasts during my daily walks. This has been a fantastic decision. Not only am I catching up on my “reading”, I’m actually walking more.
I’ll have to admit that reading physical books was not working for me. I have NOT finished 95℅ of the physical books I’ve bought. On the contrary, I’ve finished every audio book that I’ve bought.
Since I enjoy listening to books, I’ve consequently started to walk longer. I now average more than 5kms a day. My investment in Mi Fitness Band has been totally worth it.
Here’s to more listening, learning and walking.
Every morning, as I take my pet dog for a walk around my neighborhood, I notice a special person. A lady with a puny figure in a saree that looks like she had hastily wrapped around. The white walking stick in her hand expels any doubt that she is completely blind. Most of her front teeth were missing which makes her look like she is in her mid sixties even though she is only 47 years young.
What really caught my attention was that I find her confidently walking in the neighborhood, taking the correct turns and even stopping at the right plant to smell the flowers. One day, the curiosity got the better of me and I approached her to ask who she was. And her story of resilience absolutely blew me away!
Her name is Yasodha and she had been blind ever since she was 3 years old. Having born in a very poor family, she and her sisters made ends meet by delivering milk to homes in the mornings. Slowly, she started to work as a domestic help in a few households and continues to do so for over 25 years.
Both her husband and she would travel everyday from their home in Bharaniputhur, on the outskirts of Chennai to Virugambakkam , their place of work. This 13 kilometer journey requires them to travel through a share-auto, a bus and then by foot.
Five years ago, on a fateful day in December of 2009, a Water Lorry hit her husband and her as they were crossing the road. While both of them were seriously hurt, her husband did not survive the accident. Yasodha, made a slow painful recovery. “It was in the accident that I lost all my front teeth”, she hastily adds. All these years, it was her husband who was her escort wherever they travelled. They never had any kids and now with losing her husband, she really had no one to assist her.
It took Yasodha 8 months to overcome the sorrow of her husband’s loss. Her relatives too deserted her and she decided to take things up on her own. She rejoined work and now she undertakes the 13 kilometer journey completely on her own. She wakes up at the crack of dawn, tends to the chickens she raises , finishes her chores at home and is ready to leave for work. She walks from her home to the bus-stand and boards the bus to Virugambakkam. She takes assistance from her co-passengers to let her know when the right bus-stop comes for her to get down and for crossing busy roads. She says that people’s generosity is amazing.
I spoke with the couple in whose house Yadoda works as a domestic help. Both Mr.Ravishankar and Hemalatha are retired officials. Yasoda has been working at their house for 25 years now. They said that she knows their house better than even they do. Her attention to detail and her cleanliness is amazing. Her honesty is unquestionable and not even 10 paise has gone missing. Both Mrs &Mr.Ravishankar deserve credit for standing by Yasodha at time of her darkest grief. I was privy to a beautiful human relationship.
On the other hand, its sad to see that she is being denied the monetary compensation for her husband’s death. She is supposed to get Rs.6 lakhs from the Government but a combination of red tapism and corruption is seeing her run from pillar to post with no sign of her getting the money. Sad to see people take advantage of her disability and innocence. Here’s hoping she gets her due.
This story of Yasodha will be part of a book I’m putting together titled ‘UnKick the Bucket‘. Its a compilation of people who have had near-death experiences and have made the most of their second chance to live.
That awesome feeling when the first page of a new book talks about the college you studied in! Subroto Bagchi’s The Elephant Catchers talks in-dept about Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, Karnataka of which my college is part of. It talks about the 106 year old Sree Sree Sivakumara Swamiji who educates 8500 students for free to this day.