I’m a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Shuei and Sueo: Medals of Friendship

(Courtesy: Getty Images) 

The scene is set at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. At the Pole vault event, five participants qualified for the finals. Earle Meadows jumped a record-breaking 4.35 meters which none of the other competitors could match. He went on to claim gold. Of the remaining four, only two competitors managed to clear 4.25. They were fellow compatriots from Japan, Shuei Nishida and Sueo Oe. Both were students at Japanese universities and good friends.

Out of respect for each other, they did not want to compete against each other and requested if their medals could be shared. The Olympic officials refused citing rules that only one person can win silver and the other had to take bronze. The officials called the Japanese delegation and told them to make a decision as to who would win which medal. The delegation brainstormed and came up with the decision that Shuei Nishida would take the silver medal as he took fewer attempts to cross 4.25 meters. Both the participants were dissatisfied but unwillingly accepted the decision.

Upon returning to Japan, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Both took their respective silver and bronze medals to a blacksmith with an unusual request. They asked him to cut the two medals in half and fuse them together. This way, each medal had half silver and half bronze. They were famously termed the ‘Medals of Friendship’. This was an amazing display of respect for each other.

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Shawn Crawford: Epitome of Sportsmanship

How important is an Olympic medal to athletes? That’s like asking how important life to you is. It means the World to them. That’s why this story of an athlete giving away his Olympic medal to his competitor is fantastic. It’s a story that truly reflects the Olympic spirit of sportsmanship.

Let’s rewind back to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. It’s the 200 meters finals. Usain Bolt is the toast of the Games. The World expects another world record from him after he shattered the 100 meters record. Almost on cue, Usain Bolt sets another world record in 200 meters.

When everyone’s eyes were on Usain Bolt, what the World nearly missed was the drama with second and third place winners. Wallace Spearman, who came in third, was midway through celebrating his bronze medal when an official told him he was disqualified.

After a couple of hours after the race (and the medal ceremony) was finished, another shocker followed. Churandy Martina from Netherlands Antilles was disqualified for stepping on the lane line and was stripped off his silver medal.

What this meant was Shawn Crawford, who came in fourth in the race, became the silver medallist. Shawn was shocked but delighted. Who wouldn’t want an Olympic medal? He had been dreaming of this his whole life.

After his unexpected win, many TV stations got Shown on their show. They would request him to bring his silver medal along with him for it makes for good visuals. However, he felt uncomfortable showing it. He felt deep in his heart he did not deserve it.

Shawn did something extraordinary. Something that you never expect an athlete to do. Here is that unique story.

Shawn never felt right about his medal. He didn’t earn the medal. He only won it because the other two competitors were disqualified. But more important than that, he thought about the agony that Churandy must have gone through. That silver medal is only the second Olympic medal ever for the small country of Netherlands Antilles. (Two years later, the country would get split into separate countries). You can imagine how important this medal must have been for Churandy and his countrymen.

Shawn spoke about the pain and humiliation that Churandy must have gone through. After winning the race, Churandy took a lap of honour. He got up on the podium. He etched his name in the record books. He made all the TV headlines. He was celebrated as a hero in his country. Two hours later, all that came crashing down. Shawn felt really bad for Churandy. He cannot take credit at the expense of someone else’s pain.

A week later, both Shawn and Churandy participated in another athletics event in Switzerland. He took the box with the Olympic silver medal and approached the hotel reception where Churandy was staying. He wrote a note and kept it in the box. It read, “Churandy, I know this can’t replace the moment, but I want you to have this because I believe its rightfully yours.” He requested them to deliver this to the room where Churandy was staying.

Shawn said he feels this is the right decision. He feels lighter without the burden of carrying a medal he does not deserve. Churandy had beaten him fair and square. He was 0.14 seconds faster than him, a big margin by Olympic standards. Churandy may have broken the Olympic rules by stepping on the line, but he did not impede other athletes’ runs. It’s a harsh punishment. While he may not be able to make the Olympic committee change the decision, he did what was well within his powers. He handed over the silver medal to the deserving person.

This was an amazing show of sportsmanship. Shawn won even though he lost. A lesson on compassion and respect that we all need to learn from Shawn’s selfless act.

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Bhawna Jat: Fighting Poverty and Misogyny to Win

Note: Bhawna’s story is part of my upcoming book, ‘Rings to Cubicles‘ which covers inspiring stories of Olympians for their grit, determination and sportsmanship.

Imagine shaving off 8 minutes from your personal best timing in a sport? That’s the feat Bhawna did to qualify for 20 km racewalking at Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Bhawna not only qualified for the Olympics with a stunning 1:29:54 ( the qualifying cut off was 1:31:00), she also set a new national record. Two years back, at the National Championship, she was slower by over 23 minutes. Now to be India’s best racewalker is some solid improvement.

Bhawna was born on 3 January 1996 as the youngest of three children to a family of farmers in a remote village of Kabra, Rajsamand district in Rajasthan, India. Her dad is a farmer. For much of her younger days, she had to support her family by grazing cattle.

Her selection of racewalking as a sport was purely due to a lack of choices. When she was 13, her physical education teacher took her along with many other students to participate in the district-level athletics competition. Much to her dismay, she found that most of the popular race categories were already filled up. The only slot available was at the 3000 meters race walk. You must understand that racewalking is a ridiculed sport in rural India. The unnatural walking motion with the swaying hips is often made fun of. Yet, with no other option left, she was forced to pick this. With zero preparation and walking barefoot, she surprised herself and her coach by coming in second. That’s how she became a racewalker.

With this newfound confidence, she started to focus on this sport and began to excel. She would wake up at 3 am to practice. This is mainly to avoid unwanted attention and misogyny from the villagers who didn’t appreciate a young girl training in shorts.

When you begin to win district level and state-level races, it helps get a government job. In 2016, she got a job with Indian Railways. She joined as a ticket collector in Howrah, West Bengal.

This job was a lifesaver for her and her family. She became the family’s sole breadwinner. In a non-glamorous sport such as race walking, it isn’t easy to get any sponsors for an individual sportsperson. She had to go through lots of financial difficulties.

Only athletes who have won at the national level and participated in international competitions can take leave from work to practice. Since she hadn’t participated in international competitions yet, she had to take leave at a loss of pay to practice. To make matters worse, she suffered from typhoid in 2017.

On top of this, her elder brother was going through an illness, and she had to borrow Rs.7 lakhs to pay for the treatment. She now had to pay Rs.16,000 per month as interest alone, and this was weighing down on her.

With no financial support, she had to spend money on her nutrition and sports gear. To participate in any competition, she had to pay from her pocket for travel and stay.

It was only in 2018 that she managed to win bronze in a competition, and that gave her the freedom to train full-time while she continued to get her salary from her job at railways. She went on to win the national championship and surprised everyone with her Olympics berth winning timing.

For a girl who was grazing cattle to become a national record holder and proudly representing India in the Olympics is a fantastic story of grit and determination.

You can read more chapters from the book, ‘Rings to Cubicles’ here.











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Greg Louganis : Get Back on the Same Springboard that Hurt You

Note: This story is part of the new upcoming book, ‘Rings to Cubicles‘ which covers inspiring Olympians.

Greg is a renowned Olympic athlete, and many consider him the best diver in the sport’s history. The sportsman inspired many people with a history full of resilience and numerous achievements. He won five Olympic medals, thirteen world championships, forty-seven national competitions in the United States and became a sporting icon.

Despite his acknowledged success, many don’t know what he went through in his life. His life has been full of twists and difficulties since childhood. Greg had a complicated relationship with his father, often manifested in an oppressive and abusive manner. He also suffered for being different from other boys his age due to his dyslexia. Fortunately, he found a way to focus all that energy he kept inside. At nine, he discovered diving. Just two years later, he did his first of many impressive performances, fascinated the judges with a perfect ten at the Junior Olympics.

Louganis continued his impressive rise to stardom. When he was only sixteen years old, the athlete went to his first Olympic Games in 1976 in Montreal, Canada. There, he gained his first Olympic medal, a silver. Later at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA, Greg convincingly won two gold medals, one in the 10-meter platform and the other in the 3-meter springboard. Everything was proceeding ideally in Greg’s life. All was on track.

Four years after this Olympics, Greg found out he would have to fight another battle in his life. Only six months before the Seoul Olympics, in 1988, he was diagnosed HIV positive. For a moment, he saw everything he fought for crumble to pieces. He wanted to leave everything, abandon the ship, go home and wait for his death. He decided to report to his trainer, whom he considered as a second father. He said he just found out about his AIDS and was considering returning home, but the coach encouraged him to move on, saying he would not give up on Greg. Many times in our lives, we encounter this experience when we end up unable to continue. In these dark hours, it is good to have the support of people who root for your success. This was a key role that Greg’s mentor played.

Although the severe depression affected Greg, the sport was the only thing that made him get out of bed and go for his practice.  In September of 1988, he was present at the start of the Olympic Games in Seoul.

Over the course of this Olympics, Greg went through another challenge. He experienced one of the most surprising and dramatic situations in the Olympics’ history. During one of his dives, as he turned in the air, he hit his head on the platform, falling awkwardly into the water. Everyone at the arena gasped. After getting out of the water a little dizzy, he noticed blood oozing out of his head. He suffered a deep gash.  Nobody knew what would happen. The organization informed Greg’s crew that he had only twelve minutes to perform another dive and get the score needed to continue in the competition.

Ron O’Brien, the coach, said: “You have already conquered many titles. You are well established in the sport and a legend for all. Everybody will understand if you cannot get back on the platform”.  Despite this, Greg decided to try one more time. He told his coach, “I’m not giving up without fighting. We have been through a lot to be here.”

Then, Greg received medical attention. Five stitches on the head without anaesthesia. He returned to compete.  When he went back to the same springboard that hurt him, he performed a new dive, but this time, it was perfect. That dive earned him the gold medal. And what a sweet victory that was. Greg followed this fantastic performance with a gold medal win at the 10-meter platform.

To achieve at this top-level, athletes like Greg go through many difficult times in their careers. There is no right or wrong moment for problems to happen. They just happen, and you have to deal with it. Keeping your mind calm and confident is not an easy task. A ton of emotions emerges in those moments, messing up your thoughts as if your head is inside a blender.

There will come a time when all of this will pass, but sometimes you have to be very fast in making quick decisions. Even when your first desire is to pack your things and leave without talking or looking at anyone. For sure, this occurred to Louganis. But Greg carried on, and that made all the difference.

Those impressions that once bothered and suffocated him, leaving him lost, not knowing where to go, were transformed to catalyze his energy and aim for the results. That is when he came back stronger because he understood he was not alone on the platform. He carried with him all the support and the heart of people beside him, and that gave him the strength to concentrate and perform another dive.

In our lives, we have to deal with some unexpected situations. To reduce or mitigate them, we must plan and train ourselves well, but still, we can not prevent all events. The frustration is inevitable. Later, fear comes into play, the fear of trying it again, fall again and experience all of that reaction again. Greg felt all of this. He trained a lot to avoid unplanned mistakes, like a minor misstep, that became a giant rock in his journey. Years of effort and preparation were put in doubt by a fraction of miscalculated second. The shame and fear were present, for sure. But particularly in these times of uncertainty that exceptional humans come to light and take power from where we thought there wasn’t any.

Being afraid is nothing more than the dismay that something bad will happen. It paralyzes and leaves you stuck, without walking forward, not wanting to risk yourself. We are driven by these sentiments, the reaction that blocks us from taking a step further, and this turns into a vicious cycle. You give up, then you become disappointed, and that concern puts you down. Without the will to change, then you don’t change, and so on, until the rest of your life becomes a failure. Unless you take the courage to try it again, just like Louganis did. This vicious cycle will only end if you persevere and throw yourself into your dream. This is the true meaning of life. We only keep walking and evolving if we continue to struggle for what we believe.

Get back on the springboard of your life, the same one that hurt you. This is the main message that Greg Louganis has for us.

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Caterine Ibarguen: There is No Straight Path to Success. 

Note: This story is part of the new upcoming book, Rings to Cubicles. You can read the rest of the stories of inspiring Olympians here.

This story of Caterine Ibarguen, a Colombian athlete, has an important life lesson for us. In our quest to succeed in life, there could be different paths, and the trick is to choose the one that gives us the greatest chance to succeed. 

Catherine was a high jump athlete who had earned a name for herself in Colombian sport. She holds the Colombian record for the highest jump, which is good even to date. She went on to win many regional and national championships. 

She reached this level despite a challenging childhood. Her parents got separated due to armed conflict in her town. Her father moved to Venezuela, and her mother moved to Turbo, a coastal town in Colombia. She was raised by her grandmother, who struggled to make ends meet. It is these struggles that made Caterine determined to succeed in sports. 

Having been the top high jumper in Colombia, it was no surprise that she qualified for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. It’s a huge high for any athlete to represent her country at the Olympics, the pinnacle of sporting events. However, for Caterine, that high was short-lived. The competition was intense, and much to her disappointment, she could only manage 1.85m and was placed a disappointing 30th in the competition. It’s a far cry from her personal best of 1.93m. 

In the very same game, Yelena Slesarenko went on to create an Olympic Record by jumping 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in). That difference is stark. 

After the disappointment of the 2004 Olympics, Caterine continued to win medals at various South American championships. But disaster struck four years later. Shockingly, she failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. For a national record holder to not represent your country is very odd. It was a major blow to her confidence that plunged her into depression. 

This personal disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise, albeit a harrowing one. 

Caterine knew that if one day she wanted to win Gold in Olympics, then she must switch to another sport where she stands a realistic chance of winning it. 

Under a new coach, she changed her sport to Triple Jump, a less glamorous sport than high jump but one with a greater chance to succeed. Making this switch is not an easy one. It means letting go of a sport she had mastered all her adult life and picking a brand new one, and starting from scratch. This daring move turned out to be in her favour. She qualified to represent her country in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, a dream that once again came true eight years after her first Olympics. She did very well in the competition, and this time she went past the qualifying rounds and into the finals. The competition was intense and with her last big run, she jumped 14.80m which won her the silver medal. 

Now that she tasted blood, she wanted to press on for greatness with her eyes set firmly on gold. This is what she said in an interview after the games. 
This silver medal is for all Colombia. I am extremely happy about this achievement. It is the reward for many years of sacrifice, leaving Apartadó, moving to Medellín and then Puerto Rico. But I honestly believe I could have jumped farther”. She trained very hard and went on to sweep many medals in multiple championships. She claimed a triple jump gold in Argentina at the South American Championships in 2011. In 2013 Ibargüen made Colombian history by winning gold at the World Championships in Moscow, a feat she then repeated in China at the 2015 Championships.

With Caterine on a roll, she was the hot favourite to win gold at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. The disappointment of 2008 was still fresh in her mind, and she was thirsting for redemption. She gave it her all and jumped a whopping 15.17m in her final jump that was over 20 cms greater than the next competitor. With that monster jump, she went straight into history books by winning the first-ever Olympic gold in athletics in the entire history of Colombian sports.

Caterine’s story has a strong significance in every professional’s life. In one’s quest for greatness, the trick lies in picking up an area of expertise that has a stronger chance to succeed. 

Had Catherine stuck with the high jump, her shot at success could have been a lot tougher. She had a major gap to fill. She realized this shortcoming and made the switch. 

This is something for us to introspect as well. What is the glory that we are vying for? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it happiness? No matter what it is, is there a field where you could have a greater chance of successfully achieving that?

Had Catherine qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, things could have been totally different. She could have continued to stick with the high jump making marginal improvements. But she needed a major setback (not qualifying for the 2008 Olympics) to totally reset her life and start afresh with another sport. 

Many times, a major setback in our life is a clarion call for us to make a big change. Catherine’s story is an inspirational one for us to not only learn from but also consciously put into practice.  

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Billy Mills: Turning a Push into a Path for Victory

Billy Mills

Note: This is a story from the upcoming book, ‘Rings to Cubicles‘ that features inspiring Olympians and their amazing feats of courage.

The year was 1964. Heavy rainfall has soaked the tracks of the Tokyo Olympic Games. All eyes were on Ron Clarke, the crowd and media favourite to win the 10,000 meters race. All around the world, people expected the fight to be fought closely between Clarke and Tunisian Mohammad Gammoudi.

Native American Billy Mills, on the other hand, went largely unnoticed pre-game. This was expected for no American has ever won the Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters race. He was nothing but an underdog, for all the world cared. But in that final fighting moment in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, there was Mills — head to head with world-class elite runners Clarke and Gammoudi.

As if all that wasn’t surprising and exciting enough for spectators around the globe, something remarkable happened — something so iconic that it would eventually make for a story passed through generations. On to the final laps, it still wasn’t clear to whom the race would belong. Until Mohammad Gammoudi took matters into his own hands (instead of his feet). He put each of his hands on Clarke and Mills’ shoulders and shoved them aside to create space for him to steam ahead and gain a substantial lead.

Bearing down on the finish in the Olympic 10,000-meter race, the medal winners fight for running space in Tokyo, Oct. 14, 1964. They had to shift lanes to detour stragglers a lap or more behind. Here Mohammed Gamoudi of Tunisia pushes his way between Billy Mills of the U.S., left, and Ron Clarke of Australia. Mills won in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. Clarke, former champion, was third with Gamoudi second. (AP Photo)

Clarke budged momentarily but regained momentum almost instantly. Mills, on the other hand, fell slightly behind that everybody thought he was out of the race for sure. Like a scene straight out of an inspirational film, Mills shot forward, seeming more determined than ever, to overtake Clarke and Mohammad in a manner that made everyone’s jaws drop.

There was the man, in all his glory, winning the race against every odd in the book, surely making a lot of people lose good money for betting on the favourites. Not only did Mills become the first-ever American to break the tape on the 10K Olympic run, he actually broke the world record. He clocked in a finish time of 28:24:4, almost a full minute faster than his best run before the race.

Truly, the come-from-behind win was a stunner to the spectators, but those who have known Mills for the longest time couldn’t have been so surprised that he had that much fight and heart in him. After all, Gammoudi pushing him aside wasn’t the first setback he had gone through in life. See, the struggle is all he had known:

Mills, whose original Lakota Sioux name is Makata Taka (which translates to love your country), was born in 1938 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The environment he grew up in wasn’t very pretty: poverty, crime, alcoholism, and depression were some of the things Mills was exposed to at such a young age. Furthermore, he was only nine years old when his mother died. It was too much for the young boy’s heart to take in, so his father took him aside and told him how he would someday transform his broken wings to become “wings of an eagle.”

Four years later, his father died, too.

But his lessons never left the young boy, crestfallen and alone as he was. In interviews, Mills would always say that he only fully understood what his dad’s words meant when he recognized his athletic talent as a teenager.

“The Olympics would be the day I fly with the wings of an eagle,” he would remember thinking.

As a young boy, Mills saw the Olympics as nothing more than a way to be with his parents again. This thinking was embedded in his very psyche after he read a passage about the Games: “Olympians are chosen by the Gods.”

Mills was fighting for something he truly cared for that rainy day in 1964: he thought that if he became an Olympian, then he would be able to see his mother again.

Aside from having to deal with tragic losses very early in life, Mills had to go through the culture of racism as a teen when it was much, much worse than it is right now. The civil rights movement was just beginning to gain traction in America then, so the society wasn’t very kind to Native Americans like Mills, even though he had won many awards and recognitions for his athletic talent at the University of Kansas. One time, a photographer even asked him to “step out of the All-American photo.”

Despite all these, Mills continued to shine. At the University of Kansas, he earned the NCAA All-American three-peat, as well as a consistent place finisher at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships three times. Not to mention he also claimed the Big-8 Cross-Country title twice.

He fought and fought hard to achieve his goals. Things got so bad for him that he once contemplated ending his life, but was able to decide against it. He fought it with the same determination (and probably the saving grace of his father and guardian). He was even drafted as a Marine for a few years after that. But eventually, he found his best reason to live on, inspired and fueled by his biggest goal as written multiple times in his personal journal:

“Gold medal, 10,000- meter run.”

So it might’ve come as quite a shock to the rest of the world when Mills won and broke records in that fateful Olympic race of 1964, but for Billy Mills the underdog from South Dakota, everything just went according to plan.

You see, if you have decided to put your mind to something and you work hard to make this dream become reality, then there is no doubt – you will succeed! Remember how Mills set his mind on that Gold medal? How he showed everyone that he could do it even if no one believed in him at first.

I’ll let you in on a secret, okay? If you do not believe in yourself, amidst doubts and judgments, who else will?

And you know, it does not only apply to sports. It applies to almost every aspect of your life: relationships, finances, success, you name it. Never lose faith, in yourself and your dreams.

No matter how hard the universe hits you, just keep standing up – stronger, bolder, better. Just like how a shove in the shoulder did not faze Mills at all. Instead, it made him want to do more; it made him want to struggle more to achieve his goal. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Experiencing obstacles in life is essential for us to move forward – to develop for the betterment of our self. The way we look at these obstacles is the make or break split second that will decide the course of achieving your goals. See the difference, when you look at obstacles like it is made to pin you down versus like it is made to push you to your limits – to the fullest of your potentials. Do not let yourself get disheartened by hardships and difficulties, learning about Billy Mills life before he won that gold medal, you will realize that these hardships and difficulties will lead you to be able to know yourself better, to be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Mills did not stop when he became the first American to break the tape at the Olympics; he strived to do more and stayed grounded despite the praises and compliments he’s been receiving since. He did not keep to himself; instead, he shared them with people in need. He ran a charity and started doing talks with the youth – sharing the gems of knowledge he picked up throughout his meaningful life. He knew the secret – a selfish man will never succeed. He encouraged others to achieve their dreams too, even if it will mean that he will be surpassed himself.

Mills didn’t care much about competing with other athletes; maybe this is also the reason why he does not get fazed by opponents that easily. Who then, does he consider as his greatest enemy? Well, you will be surprised to know that he considers himself to be his greatest enemy because he believes that only then will you find your true self, your true dream. This is the message he wants young athletes to keep in mind, for them to bring out the hidden potentials and talents within themselves.

Finally, Mills wants you to know that it is not the destination that is important; but it is the journey to how you will reach your destination.

Do not just think about your dreams; Billy-ve it!

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Eric Moussambani: Came Last in the Race but Beat his Personal Best

Note: This story is part of the book, ‘Rings to Olympics‘ which celebrates Olympic champions for their grit.

Eric Moussambani became famous throughout the World for creating a world record….for being the slowest swimmer in the history of the Olympic games. Yet, he is heralded as the living symbol of the Olympic spirit. Here is his story.

Eric Moussamban was born on May 31, 1978, in Malabo, the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, a small country in central Africa. As a young boy, he loved sports and dabbled in football, basketball and volleyball. During a game of basketball, he broke his hand. Shy from that painful experience, he decided to avoid any contact sport and focus on individual games that are safe. Swimming fit that bill. However, he was not good at it and took the help of a local fisherman to accompany him lest he drowned. He never had any big plans for the sport and just enjoyed the activity. However, things were about to change rapidly for him.

On a summer afternoon in April 2000, by then an Engineering student, Eric was casually listening to the radio when he heard a call for interested persons to come for sports trials. This call was to select athletes to be part of the national swimming team representing the country in the Sydney Olympics in Australia. He decided to give it a shot and went to Hotel Ureca, the venue for the trials, on May 6, 2000. To his surprise, there were only two participants who turned up: he and another girl. The selectors asked him to get in the pool and swim. It was a small pool, about 12 meters in length. He barely did a few strokes in the pool when they stopped him. They saw enough and told him that he was selected for the Olympics. Until that time, Eric had not even heard of the Olympic games. He had not stepped outside his country even once. Now, he is selected to represent his country in the World’s greatest sporting spectacle.

His luck is mainly thanks to a program by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). They designed a program to encourage sports in developing countries. The Olympic governing body issued several wild-card invitations to the games. They get selected even if they don’t meet the qualifying standards.

Here is an essential lesson for all of us. Giving a shot, immaterial of our chances of success, is important. Had Eric not taken action after listening to the radio, he would have missed the opportunity of his lifetime. We need to back ourselves to take those chances the way Eric did.

Now, back to the story.

Eric had to go to the national library to learn more about the Olympics. He started to train in the only swimming pool in Malabo, where the trials were held. However, the only time available was between 5 to 6 AM when he could train. The other hours were reserved for the hotel guests. He would head to the local river for more practice. He didn’t have a coach. He asked a man who knew how to swim to help him teach proper swimming techniques.

Fast forward three months, and Eric was on his way to Australia, his very first overseas trip in his life. After landing at the Olympic village, he went to check the swimming pool and was shocked to see its size. An Olympic sized swimming pool is 50 meters long, far bigger and intimidating than the 12-meter pool he trained in.

He noticed swimmers from other countries training hard. He began observing their techniques. He reached out to a few swimmers for tips. Some ignored him, and some helped him out.

The D-Day finally arrived. It was time for the heats to select the swimmers who would qualify for the finals. A coach from South Africa saw Eric in Bermuda shorts that he had bought from a second-hand shop. The coach pointed out that this is not the proper attire and he would get disqualified. The coach then gave him a Speedo and a pair of goggles.

At the qualification heats, he was pitted against two other swimmers from Niger and Tajikistan. However, both of them jumped the gun, which means instant disqualification. Eric stood there confused not knowing what to do. He was told that he would have to swim alone in the heats. Just prior to the race, Eric was under the impression that he was participating in the 50 meters race when he was told that it was a 100 meters race. He had never swum competitively that long. Nervously, he began the race on his own. After a confident dive, he did well in the first 50 meters. However, things started to go south quickly. Tiredness began to show. His lack of technique meant that he was exerting too much effort for little movement. He was visibly struggling.

The fact that he was the only swimmer in the pool meant that he had the full attention of the 17,000 spectators and all the TV cameras. Seeing that he was struggling, the crowd started to root for him with loud cheers. This boosted his spirit, and he barely managed to reach the end line without drowning. He clocked in 1:52, which is the slowest time ever recorded in the history of Olympics. On the same day, Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband set a world record of 47.84 sec in the semi-final. He would eventually go on to win gold.

Even though Eric technically won his heats, he was disqualified because of the time. He was more relieved than disappointed. Dead tired from his swimming ordeal, he went to his room and slept 7 hours straight. He woke up in the evening to realise that he had become a media sensation. He may have lost the race, but he made a splash. He became the darling of the media. They hailed him for the Olympic spirit of not giving up and giving one’s best. After all, he beat his own personal best. He earned the moniker, ‘Eric the Eel’. Countless interviews followed. The World loves underdogs who don’t give up. He even got a two-year endorsement from Speedo, whose brand of trunks he had worn for his Olympics swimming ordeal. He toured the World, giving speeches.

He became an icon in his country. Thanks to him, there are now two Olympic sized swimming pools in Equatorial Guinea. He laid the foundation for the future athletes of his country. He was appointed head coach of the national swimming team. He got a job as an IT Engineer working for an oil company. Even though he never participated in another Olympic game, he went on to become a better swimmer. He shaved off nearly a minute from his inglorious Olympic timing and clocked in his personal best of 56.9 seconds.

That painful solo crawl in the swimming pool by Eric embodied the Olympic spirit of putting in the best effort and surpassing one’s limit.

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Announcing the Launch of ’60 Seconds?’, a Micro-Video Platform.

60 Seconds Logo

I’m happy to publicly announce the launch of my newest venture, ’60 Seconds?’ App, a short-video platform in partnership with the awesome folks at Code For India. After working hard behind the scene for the past 3 months, it feels good to finally remove the wrap and reveal the product.  Please check it out at

This venture is close to my heart. To understand why, you need to read this interesting backstory.

At the beginning of 2020, I wrote down my discomfort list. These are things that are uncomfortable but are important. So, I started the Discomfort Project, an initiative to take this head-on and push myself outside of my comfort zone.

Among the list were two items.

1) Build a Product: I’ve always been in the services businesses all my life. Do a service. Earn money. Simple and straightforward. But not scalable. All companies that have had massive growth are product companies. But they are difficult to do, takes massive investment and a high percentage of failure. That’s what kept me away. That’s also exactly why I have huge respect for product entrepreneurs. This year, I was determined to give it my best shot. Read more about this product challenge.

2) Focus on Videos: These are absolutely the future of content. With 5G on its way and better smartphones, video will be the most preferred content consumption medium. All this while I neglected this medium and this year, I was determined to focus on it. Read more about this video challenge.

With ’60 Seconds?’ App, I’m combining both my goals and hitting two mangoes with one stone. I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of creation and the journey is the reward. And it gives me inner satisfaction of stepping out of my comfort zone.

In the first couple of days of launch, the app has taken solid baby steps. It received 150 plus 5-star ratings on the Android Playstore and Apple iOS app store. It garnered up decent press coverage from India Today, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Outlook, Business Today, and many more. The app has some creative, talented video producers, and interesting videos. To check them out, please download the app.


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My Family and I Got the Corona Virus. And Here is Our Story.

Today marks the 20th day since I got infected with the Corona Virus. My wife and my two daughters got affected as well. The good news is that all four of us have fully recovered from the virus and are back in good health. Here is our story

But first, a disclaimer: Every thing I say in this post is my personal experience and opinion. Please do not take this as medical advice.

The four of us are lucky because we got the mild version of the Corona Virus. Over 85% of people get a mild infection, 10% get a moderate infection, and 5% get a severe infection. Almost all the people who die from the virus fall under this 5% who have existing health ailments.

The contagious period where a Covid-19 positive patient is capable of transmitting the virus is between 8 to 10 days. We played it safe by quarantining ourselves within our home for twice that long.

Ever since the lockdown began from March 25th, we have remained at home and rarely travelled. The last time I filled up fuel in our car and bike was 102 days ago. And there is still enough fuel left. This should give you an indication of how little we have used our vehicles.

Among the four of us, it was mostly me who would step out of the home for my daily walk. I never stop anywhere, nor do I speak with anyone during these walks.

In the initial days of the lockdown, Covid19 was just news I read online. Initially, it was in other countries in China, Italy and the US. Then it came to India in trickles. Then, I heard of a few cases in Chennai. After that, I started hearing about a few instances in my locality and finally in our street. It was at this time I knew that getting Corona Virus was not a question of if but when. I was mentally prepared for it.

The first news of a person I personally knew who got infected was a friend I played badminton with for two years. We had not played badminton together ever since the lockdown started. Then, one day, he shared the news on our Whatsapp group that he got infected and that he had fully recovered.

I reached out to him and had a long conversation. He explained the symptoms and the process of recovery. He mentioned how he got fleeced by the hospitals and why it is not necessary to get hospitalized for mild symptoms. Proper care at home is sufficient. I started to research more on this, and many doctors advised the same as well. It was at this time that I felt confident about taking on the virus if it ever came.

And that day finally did come. As is my usual practice, I went for my 5 km walk. That particular evening, I did a power walk where I picked up my pace. When I came home that night, I felt unusually tired. I figured it could be because I pushed my body too much. It could also be because of my diet. Over the last month, I was following a calorie deficient diet and had successfully lost 6 Kgs. The next day, I was feeling quite sluggish and tired. Even at this time, I suspected nothing.

The next day, I had a mild temperature, and my body began to ache. I was perenially tired, and the only thing I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. It was at this time, I had a mild suspicion and decided to google for symptoms of Corona Virus.

Fever – Check
Body Ache – Check
Tiredness – Check
Dry Cough – Check

The last symptom mentioned was a loss of smell.

I went and grabbed my perfume and sprayed on the back of my palm. And smelled it. NOTHING. Not even a whiff of the smell. – Check

That was when I was 100% convinced that I had the virus.

Immediately, I quarantined myself in the second bedroom at my home. I called my wife and kids and told them the news. Understandably, they were worried. But did not panic.

Over the next ten days, I did not step out of the bedroom. I literally mean it. My entire world was this small room. I had separate plates. I washed them after use. I washed my clothes. I swept my bedroom. My family were barred from entering the room. Most conversations were over the phone.

My wife was rock-solid in her support. I ended my diet and started eating well. She cooked healthy food, and I had multiple small meals in a day. I tasted nothing and smelled nothing. Everything was bland. I lost my appetite. The only thing I could sense was the heat, and I preferred eating warm food which made it palatable.

The next seven days were crucial. One of the symptoms of severe complication of Corona Virus is shortness of breath. I was keeping a close watch on my breathing. Thankfully my breathing was OK throughout. The mild fever continued to be persistent, as was the body aches. After seven days, the fever subsided. The body aches reduced. From the 10th day onwards, I was back to normal health.

Within a few days of me falling ill, both my wife and the kids got the symptoms. All three of them lost their sense of taste and smell. They experienced fever, body ache and mild shortness of breath. Nevertheless, they continued with their daily routine. A few days later, they started to feel better.

Now that the danger and fear of our individual lives were no longer there, we were conscious about the elders in our apartment building. We did not want to transmit the virus, which is less forgiving of older people. My wife’s Mom stayed in the apartment right below ours. We banned our kids from meeting her for her own health sake. We never told her about us having the Corona Virus lest she freaks out and starts to worry. We never revealed this news to my parents, who are at our farm. We finally broke the news to them today, much to their relief.

In all these 20 days, I never missed a single day’s work. I had my laptop and a fast WiFi, and that’s all I needed to work. The team review meetings happened without missing a beat. The client meetings happened like clockwork. In fact, some of my most productive work happened during this time. We were able to win some big clients during this time. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise.

I did not tell my staff nor the clients of my infection. I knew it wasn’t serious, and I would eventually recover. As long as work happened correctly and on time, I felt there was no need to voice it out.

Now, after 20 days, everyone is back to regular life. We are hale and healthy. Today is my younger daughter Kalpitha’s birthday, and we had a small celebration at home. It was also a celebration of our success over Covid-19.

The reason why I decided to voice out our experience is to pay it forward the way my friend did to me. Be proactively cautious and follow the best practices to avoid the virus. Practice social distancing. Always wear a mask when you step out. Wash your hands regularly with soap.

But in case you ever get it, there is no need to panic. Quarantine yourself and eat healthily. While most will recover in a couple of weeks, we owe it to our elders by not spreading it further.
Stay safe, everyone.

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Keynote at Social Media for Social Good Summit in Nigeria

I should have been in Abuja, Nigeria today. This would have meant that I would be in Nigeria for the 3rd time in 3 years. I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Social Media for Social Good Summit 2020 but because of Covid-19, this session of mine took place over Instagram Live.

For me, one of the charms of professional speaking is travel, experiencing new cultures, tasting new cuisines and making new friends. I truly miss that part. Nevertheless, it was a good experience experiencing the virtual hospitality of my Nigerian friends and it was a good session.

The topic I chose for my keynote was, ‘Never Waste a Crisis: Leverage Digital to Make a Positive Difference During the Pandemic’. I took 5 real-life examples to illustrate the 5 ways of how we can make the most of doing good using digital and social media.

  1. Turn a loss into an online crowdsourced community: I spoke about how Jaspreet Bindra turned the unfortunate incident of his pet passing away into a crowdsourced initiative to raise funds to feed abandoned dogs in animal shelters.
  2. Leverage the power of short-form videos to communicate your good deeds or highlight others’. I highlighted how Amar Ramesh and his team at StudioA, creative photography and video firm created Big Short Films to shoot documentaries of people who do amazing good deeds for others.
  3. The Reverse Brain drain: Why Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise of realizing that we can work from anywhere and an office is an option. This helps certain people in the technology domain to move back to their villages and towns and continue to work using digital.
  4. Save Jobs by Embracing Digital: I took the example of Prakash Silks, a prominent showroom in Kanchipuram who used Whatsapp Selling to continue to sell their silk sarees through Whatsapp Selling thus helping to pay salaries for its employees.
  5. Invest in Learning: If there is one thing that we have gained from the lockdown, it is time. Put it to good use by upskilling our knowledge. No matter which domain or specialization one is doing, learning digital strategies will help them in their career.

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