Sunday, May 14, 2017

CC Project #6 - Vocal Variety - Lessons from Steve Jobs

Call him as charismatic or argumentative …
Call him as a visionary or brutal …
Call him as innovative or idiotic …
No matter what you call him as, you will be right.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

The man that I’m going to talk about is “Steve Jobs”. Steve Jobs once said “People, who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”. He is a perfect example of this quote. You can derive inspiration and messages for a 100 odd World Championship speeches from Steve Job’s life. Today, I’m going to share 2 significant messages that I learned from his life.

Quality is more important than Quantity, one home run is much better than two doubles

Paul Jobs… the man who adopted Steve Jobs was a good and intelligent car mechanic. His profession was to rebuild old cars. During the weekends, Steve helped his dad in doing some household work like laying fence or building cabinets for the home.  His father was a man of perfection. He refused to use poor wood even for the back of cabinets. He would paint even the back of the fence – the same way that he painted the front side of the fence.

Steve Jobs once asked his dad “Dad! Why are you wasting your time in paying attention to what people couldn’t see?”. His dad looked at him, smiled and said “Son… Yes! Others wouldn’t see it, but I know it’s there. For me to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, the design has to be carried all the way through

This philosophy led jobs to manufacture Apple products with the same care, even in the details that would be invisible to the user. For example, Jobs rejected the designs of the original logic boards inside of the Apple II computer … as the ‘lines were not straight enough’.

“Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do”

Jobs loved simplicity in design. He honed this when he became a practitioner of Buddhism. After dropping out of college, he made a long pilgrimage through India seeking enlightenment. This is when he got hooked to the principles of minimalism from Zen Buddhism.

He applied those principles in every product that he designed. For example, when you are combining the functions of a camera, a music player, a GPS, a phone and a browser into a device like iPhone, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex.

But, Steve’s motto was to “Simplify!” He said “No” to pretty much everything …

1. Should it have screws – NO
2. Should it have a stylus – NO
3. Should it have a keyboard – NO
4. Removable batteries – NO
5. Pack them with manuals – A BIG NO

The result is what you see in an iPhone.

How did these lessons impact me?

These two messages are related to each other and they stress the importance of quality and saying NO to things. Until very recently, I used to think of me as the “Master of Time Management”.   I’m sure all of you might’ve heard about the example of putting “BIG stones first into the jar and you’ll always find time for the SMALL stones, later”. My time management principles were based on that. I used to categorize tasks as big or small based on the time it takes me to complete the job… and I sequenced them accordingly. However, the drawback in that approach is… you are trying hard to accommodate ALL stones and ALL tasks.

What if you have twice the amount of stones than what your jar can accommodate? You’ll have to say NO to some stones… actually… to many stones. So, these days, I adopt a different methodology in time management. I pick only the 3 stones that are of importance to me… and just do a perfect job in that. Be it the emails that I read/respond, be it the stake holders that I deal with, or be it the activities that I focus on.  I’ll brutally say NO to many. This method has increased my efficiency and performance. It also helps me to lead a very balanced lift.

Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, there are very few people in this world like Mahatma Gandhi who can say “My life is my message”. And Steve Jobs is one of those very few people. Steve Jobs' life is a tale of highs and lows, successes and failures, friendships and rivalries, love and hatred...It has innumerable messages for us to take away. If you’ve forgot everything that I told you today, just remember only these 2 things:

  1. Quality is more important than Quantity, one home run is much better than two doubles
  2. Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do

I’ve started following them… will you… Toastmasters?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

You call him as charismatic; you call him as argumentative; you call him as a visionary and you call him as brutal. You will be right. When I finished reading the last page of the book "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, I get the feeling of having watched Baahubali 2. Jobs' tale is both instructive and cautionary. It is a tale of highs, lows, surprises, successes, failures, rivalries, emotions, love, hatred... and everything else that you would see in a movie like Baahubali.

Rob Siltanen's quote "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do" won't fit anyone else better than Steve Jobs. Jobs aspired to live at the intersection of humanities and technology, and he just did that throughout his life. He always thought that he is special and he compared himself with the likes of Einstein and Gandhi. I am not sure if he is as good as Gandhi, but he definitely made an impact, as big as what Einstein made with the theory of relativity. Jobs' feeling of getting rejected at an early age... created the feeling to prove. He did prove to the world, that he is different.

Steve Jobs not only built great products, but also built great companies. All of the products that he built followed Leonarda Da Vinci's mantra "Simplicity is the ultimate Sophistication".

Both the book and the man, impacted me ... and made me to think. Here are some highlights from the book:

  1. Unlike other product developers, Jobs did not believe that customers are always right. He felt customers do not know what they want, until you show them. He didn't just motivate his teams to make mere product advances, but whole new devices and services that consumers did not know they needed. 
  2. He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of parts that you couldn't see. During his childhood days, he learned from his dad about the importance of making even the back of the cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. 
  3. He practiced strict vegetarianism (vegan diet) for the major part of his life. 
  4. Apple's marketing philosophy - empathy (intimate connection with the feelings of the customer), focus (eliminate whatever opportunities are unimportant), impute (presenting products in a creative, professional manner)
  5. Jobs ends up to be brutally honest, telling the truths that most of us sugarcoat or suppress. He usually didn't care an iota of what people actually think of him. According to him, people were either enlightened or assholes. Products were either amazing or shit. 
  6. Jobs thought "If you need slides, it shows, you don't know what you are talking about"
  7. Jobs was driven by his perfectionism and gets impatience with those who made compromises in order to get a product on time and on budget. People look at him as someone who has reality distortion, especially when he gets too passionate about a product.  
  8. Lessons Jobs learned from the Buddhism - material possessions often cluttered life rather than enriched it. So, he embraced "minimalism". He reflected that through the things that he accumulated at home and through the things that he wears everyday. He also applies this philosophy in designing / building products.
  9. Jobs wanted to have end to end control over the entire ecosystem, when building products. He believed that for a computer to be truly great, its hardware and software has to be tightly linked. He followed that right from the MAC to the iPhone to the iTunes. He was a believer of creating end to end solutions. 
  10. Jobs thought "You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. Its too easy as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and then attract a few more B players, and soon you'll even have some C players. A players like to work only with A players. Part of my responsibility, is to be a yardstick for quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected"
  11. Jobs is good at focusing on a few things and say no to many things.  He feels that "deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That's true for companies and that's true for products"
  12. The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but also that it knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind. He believed in making hit products and promote them with terrific marketing

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mistakes to avoid in English while forming sentences

I lost the precious opportunity of mastering English in both school and college days. I had to compensate for that during my professional life. Thanks to Toastmasters, I inherited a number of good habits, including the habit of regularly reading good books. I am able to speak without (many!) grammatical errors today because of the habit of reading good books and newspapers.

Even today, I don't understand the dictionary definition of "past participle", "past continuous tense", "adverb" etc., because I haven't studied grammar properly during school days. However, I manage to speak good English. There is a famous quote "Small things make perfection, but perfection isn't a small thing". A few simple grammar corrections to your sentences will make you appear like a good speaker.

1. After "did" there should not be a past tense verb

Wrong usage: Where did he went for lunch?

Right usage: Where did he go for lunch?

2. Use of "Can able to" 

Wrong usage: I can able to complete by Friday

Right usage: "I can complete by Friday" or "I'll be able to complete by Friday"

3. "I and my friend" 

Wrong usage: I and my friend went to a restaurant for dinner on Friday

Right usage: My friend and I went to a restaurant for dinner on Friday

4. Use of "One of my"

Wrong usage: One of my friend work for Cisco Systems

Right usage: One of my friends works for Cisco Systems

5. Use of  "People vs. Peoples" "Children vs. Childrens"

Wrong usage: I met a number of peoples in Coimbatore

Right usage: I met a number of people in Coimbatore

Wrong usage: I enjoy playing with Childrens

Right usage: I enjoy playing with Children

6. Use of "struck" vs. "stuck" 

Wrong usage: I got struck at work

Right usage: I got stuck at work

7. Literal translation of "native language" to English

Wrong usage: You going-ah for the wedding?

Right usage: Are you going to attend the wedding?

8. Use of "simple present" tense

Wrong usage: Anitha work really hard in this project

Right usage: Anitha works really hard in this project

Wrong usage: Anitha and Sam really works hard in this project

Right usage: Anitha and Sam really work hard in this project

Wrong usage: I works really hard in this project

Right usage: I work really hard in this project

If you want to increase your proficiency in sentence formation in English, I would strongly recommend you to read good English novels. Though you may be reading a lot of self-help books or technical books, your English fluency may not improve. Because, they don't teach you how to form sentences like "Hey! Shall we quickly go to cafeteria and grab some lunch?" However, in novels there will be stories; in stories there will be characters and characters speak through dialogues. If you don't know which novel to pick, you can start with Chetan Bhagat's novels. They are simple enough for all of us to read and understand. If you are reading novels with an "intent to learn" as opposed to reading with an "intent to kill time", you'll be able to develop your proficiency in sentence formation.