The spark that runs lives

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012. Teaming up with IndiBlogger this is a multi-in-one entry for The Idea Caravan focusing on the several issues which each speaker spoke about respectively all with the basic backing power of today’s technology – The spark that runs today’s lives. (spark comes from electricity, though I didn’t have to explain that, did I?)

The beginning is in closing the gaps

“We didn’t knew what it was for, or why we want this but we knew it was definitely interesting.” – Matt Johnson

After seeing this talk, just one word reaction – WOW! This is called hitting several birds issues with one shot. Right from a child to an artist, engineer, educator or anyone else, anyone can be an innovator! The possibilities of having people of several expertise coming together and creating wonders is infinite. This is nothing short of magic, literally d rawing stuff our of paper and making it spring out alive!

Not only you are creating many wonderful products, but creating a platform for many to come up with innovation multiplying the end result. Everyone has an artist and an engineer in themselves, of varying proportions. But now both of them can come together with their best strengths and compliment each other.

Bringing out the innovator and entrepreneur in one which is wonderful (and required) right from an early age is what we need. How wonderful will the world be when we can have posters of our favourite artists which can actually sing for us and children & disabled drawing things which come out alive? To start something with the future unknown, just as everyone begins their lives, to endless possibilities?

We need such a world, people ready to dare beyond the horizon. And it all begins with simple steps. As promptly said “To discover the purpose of things is the work of history.”

Challenging and overcoming the failing system

“I truly love circumventing limitations.” – Angad Nadkarni

Hacking as well described by the speaker, is just about 3 things.

  • Cutting through the noise
  • Identifying the patterns
  • Questioning these patterns

Being a computer enthusiast myself, what I would like to add no this is hacking isn’t about getting just into computers and systems, but rather extended to everything in and around our lives. There many who indulge in it without even realizing it themselves. And there are those whom we call ‘life hackers’. The above 3 simple principles can be applied in any other scenario in life (and bonus, you don’t need to write thousands of lines of code too!)

In this context, when growing up, the next phase of a person’s life – Education, which can last a lifetime, is sadly growing to be a joke here. That too a bad one. Students are burdened with too much than required (torture will be a mild word here)

Children are taught what to think instead of how to think. They grow on to become mechanical beings following orders than becoming innovators.

The speaker devised an app called examify, based on few simple principles, figuring out what is needed among the demo-graph, devising something simple and effective and eliminating what is unnecessary, precisely what the aforementioned 3 points are. Not only you are doing a service, but also exercising entrepreneurship lessons and overcoming a failing system, here being the current education system.

People are afraid to get out of their comfort zone, stand up and challenge and establish order. You will be criticized, and given crap, but that’s what the world does, drag you down (that is debatable but generally speaking) one has to stand up for themselves and bring about to change. This problem extends from an personal/individual right to the national and as a human level, but time and again in history it’s all about stepping up in the game.
And, from the talk, you also learn how to make a cool exit. 😀

Self-learn and Experiment

“I had no choice but the Internet itself to be my teacher.”

– Usman Riaz

We are a generation, especially those were born in the ’80s and ’90s are fortunate to witness the rise of technology and the Internet revolution, just like those back in history witnessed the Renaissance and Industrial revolution. We live in a strange time where we have no appropriate means of learning due to many flaws and reasons, and yet, thanks to improving technology and the Internet we have information and resources at our finger tips. The above talk is a classic example of this.

The speaker not only learned to play the guitar, but also other instruments (YAY YouTube! and Google), became a TED fellow and performed with his own inspiration! That is the power of today’s tools at our disposal, we only need to be willing and brave enough to use them. What is also very much needed is access to Internet (good connections moreover, we are a laughing stock at one of the worst speeds in the world) to be made available to everyone at affordable rates so that all can make use of it, from farmers to students to industrialists.

The Power of Human Connection

“I knew I had to do something about it.”

– Karthik Naralasetty

In the past 5 years, the rise of social media was tremendous and continues to be so. For many that is a big part of the Internet, if not the Internet itself! And they are factually not wrong either, just look at the numbers. Staying in touch with people from your day to day colleagues to people you have not met in years and miles or even countries across the world apart. As much as we keep hearing about all the negativism among all the bad happenings, because only the complainers and cribbers are more vocal. The very reason why we have ‘complaint centers’ nicely dubbed as ‘customer care’ while for ‘appreciation and feedback’ there is only a box compared to whole venues of the former…

Today, than just few years ago, thanks to social media we get almost everything on a daily basis, ranging from news, entertainment, networking and much more, all structured around staying connected. Trailers, campaign movements, events, you name it. When used right, this is one of the most powerful mediums of expression and sharing we have. That’s how this speaker created another product but very important and helpful, a facebook hack as you might put it, called Socialblood which he shares and talks about in his story. This is just one of many brilliant innovative ideas sprung out of two things – creativity and a thinking of helping others.

Here he rightfully points out, we have a global compassion crisis. As much as we like to think how good we are, actually many are more apathetic than they know. We live in a time where pizza gets delivered quicker than an ambulance. But now, thanks to the tools we have, it just needs a common will of working for the greater good.

Giving Back

“I have a great debt to the planet.” – João Lammoglia

If I were to summarize this talk, the speaker already did it, winning the room:

“The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force.” – Darth Vader

These words from one of the most iconic figures in pop culture is very much in resonance with our reality. Here, the metaphor to the force is the human energy. The human spirit. Mankind together as one. If you have seen the The Matrix (or simply paid attention in science class when you were) then you might know how much energy our human body itself is capable of generating. So much that in the movie the AI beings didn’t even bother about the sun anymore and held humans captive for energy and mass breed them.

Although we aren’t in such a terrible state (yet?), after learning from since kid to growing up, how much we can progress ourselves thanks to technological advancement, helping not only ourselves but each other, it’s naturally a two way street – we owe it to nature, or as geeks fondly know it as ‘the force’. Plus it’s for our own good as well. We can charge our various gadgets we depend on so much today and get exercise, which many of us evidently need.

As he pointed out, what’s more important than the product itself, is the concept, the idea – that we can be the part of the solution when many of the problems are the direct result of our advancement. We have been learning about boring environmental lessons since we were kids in school but the fact remains as citizens it’s our responsibility to be aware and make others aware as  well, and help get the governments and other bodies to implement non-renewable sources of energy to work to an everyday practical extent.

Summing it up:

So these were 5 videos which spoke to me a lot when I saw each speaker sharing their tales and their work. As you might have read by now, a very common theme ran among all of them, and quite ironically, they seem to be a step-by-step guide (as I listed and posted) since when you are kid to growing up and rather than a linear line, it forms a cycle as on needs to be tackled

  • Venture beyond the comfort zone. As Steve Job once said (back in ’94) “Get up, make a phone call. Get out of your comfort zone. Ask for help. I haven’t met anyone who genuinely didn’t want to help me when I asked for it.” The world has lot of opportunities to be faced.
  • Stand up and stand out. Dare to challenge the established order. Another of my inspirations, Bruce Lee said, “Use no way as a way, have no limitation as a limitation.”
  • Identify what is needed and what isn’t. Work towards them. Question things. Rinse and Repeat.
  • Think out of the box. Go the other way.
  • There is more good to things than it seems, since this voice isn’t loud as the other.
  • Self-learn. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something new and what you want. There is more tools at our disposal than ever. Just need to make the right use of them
  • Also, help those who are not fortunate.
  • Give back. Ideas and kindness only grow.

If you are reading this, than congrats! You’re already capable of doing everything mentioned above. So just go for it! The spark does run lives. Both figuratively and literally. I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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All The Pieces Matter

That was my first (and only) thought when I first read about this line – All That Matters. This line is comes from the first season of The Wire. The show is regarded by critics and fans as one of the best TV dramas ever made, and is recognized for its realistic portrayal of urban life, its literary ambitions, and its uncommonly deep exploration of sociopolitical themes. I’ll be using two scenes both from the early first season itself in putting forth my views.

See this short clip:

In this scene, Freamon and Pryzbylewski are among the two detectives of a special division of the Baltimore city police known as Major Crimes who are trying to take down a major drug empire. Here they are having a discussion while monitoring the wire they have on the pay-phone. Pryzbylewski tries to log a monitored conversation as “not pertinent” to their investigation because there was no talk of drugs. Freamon explains to him why, when you are trying to piece together elements of a criminal conspiracy in which codes are used, almost any conversation between the key players should be considered pertinent.

In Lester’s own words: “We’re building something here, detective, and we’re building it from scratch… and all the pieces matter.”

The most obvious metaphor to draw on in this case is that of a jigsaw puzzle. To get the total picture, you need all the pieces, even the ones that don’t seem to have anything interesting on them. And is there any bigger puzzle than life itself?

These pieces ultimately lead to the goal of anyone in his/her life which is happiness as they say, whether it’s subconsciously hidden or actually realized. Happiness is mostly associated, if not limited to success, but the existence of happiness itself is meaningless if there isn’t the polar opposite, the feeling of sadness or the most uninteresting neutral feeling of boredom in the picture.

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Mind you, like any other being I too do not want any boredom or mediocrity, let alone sadness or failures. But then, they do come with this package of life and are inevitable, they cannot be evaded. This subsequently leads on to the thought of whether happiness is really an entity that matters. But not always we are free to go about as we like, are we?

Although we like to think of ourselves as free (or at least those who can read this anyways) but what we call freedom actually operates according to the rules of structured interaction. Even those who live outside of the law — as do the drug dealers in The Wire — are still restrained by their own unwritten laws, rituals and taboos.

Here in this scene D’Angelo Barksdale explains it succinctly:

Before we even get into the specifics of D’Angelo’s speech, it is worth noting the deep significance of the fact that Wallace and Bodie, two youth in the gang are playing checkers with chess pieces. While it might seem like nothing more than an amusing way to introduce D’Angelo’s lesson, it is, in fact, a statement on their obvious status as pawns in the drug game.

As drug dealers, they are already deeply engaged in The Game. Whether they know it or not, they are on that chess board, their lives being played out according to fairly specific strategies and rules. As faceless, disposable soldiers, however, they don’t even know the fundamental rules of the game in which they are embedded.

We think of the king and queen (and even the knights, bishops and rooks to varying degrees) as fairly autonomous operators, the very definition of the word “pawn” carries the implication that someone else is entirely in control of their actions. Whereas pawns, often used as bait or as stationary deterrents, are valuable primarily for their simplicity and abundance (disposability), not their ability to understand what else is going on on the board.

To put it a different way, it is not simply that they are playing checkers because they don’t understand chess. They are playing chess. They just think they’re playing checkers. Their simplistic understanding is both a hindrance to their own development and the reason they are effective pawns. This same inability of understanding is what that hinders many of us.

We become pawns in our own game, someday a queen, not the king.

We all are pawns in a constantly changing game. We are knights and kings in people’s life and pawns in others. But little it’s realized that the disposable pawn is as important as the game changer. Primarily our needs comprising of happiness, freedom, people in our lives, the fact we need to have an understanding of the working of things without having to choose one over the other is what matters. Even as a fact over the spiritual sense of having importance of materialistic things as much as people and aforementioned entities of importance which exist, they matter too, even the small function they play which can seem large.


I want everything.

So as a person in the game of life, going ahead, All The Pieces Matter.