Category: Blog

  • Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50

    School has taught us to finish every book from the start. Students feel that it’s necessary to read every single word of the material because of its possibility of showing up on a test. However, this is one of the most unhealthy habits associated with reading.

    We need to change our mindset about quitting books. Quitting is usually considered a negative activity but best-selling author and librarian, Nancy Pearl recommends the Rule of 50 for the books you don’t want to finish. She writes:

    If you’re 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up.

    If you’re over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100 – the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit.

    If you’re 100 or over you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers in doing so.

    This surely makes sense because as you get older, you have less and less time to waste on a boring book. If you’re reading a book you don’t find interesting for the sake of finishing it, you might as well drop it and not feel guilty about it.

    Also, since our age is finite, we can only read a limited number of books. Every time you’re reading a book from start to finish, it becomes one of those limited books you read in your lifetime. For every four books you give up on, you find one that you like.

    If you find yourself constantly checking how many pages are left in a book, it’s time to stop reading it and start reading something else. Completing a book isn’t a victory and quitting one definitely doesn’t mean you lack focus. A dull book is blocking behind it a list of books you might end up getting hooked onto.

  • Performance Culture and Learning Culture

    I came across this thought-provoking tweet by Adam Grant today. It’s the clash between Performance and Learning Culture. We hear more and more about the performance culture and are a part of it even though we understand that learning culture is about being true to ourselves.

    In fact, learning is the best way to reach your absolute performance and at the same time feeling like you earned it. This is especially relevant in education.

    The learning goals provide you with genuine enthusiasm and motivation for studying. You focus on in-depth learning rather than superficial goals that aren’t under your control. Individually focusing on the outcome can have detrimental effects on one’s performance.

    One of the ways I find helpful is to immerse yourself in the content and do extra research. Exploring the endless supply of information we have, the internet about something related to a subject you’re studying. Being accountable to yourself making a list of your learning goals might help. Having a desire to acquire knowledge and skills not only makes one self-efficient but also helps to improve interest in the class.

    While goal setting is an excellent way to achieve more, there’s a paradox involving goals and satisfaction. People who set high goals such as getting all A’s or receiving an excellent job offer perform better than the ones who aim for low.

    But people with lower goals are found to be more satisfied. This happens because they achieve what they aimed for. Increasing satisfaction comes from accomplishing anything higher than the goal you set.

    A balance between setting attainable goals while learning regularly for personal satisfaction and in-depth knowledge sounds like the growth mindset to me.

  • The Tongue and Quill

    For decades, “The Tongue and Quill” manual has been used by the U.S. Air Force to improve their written and verbal communication skills. The Air Force communication is required to be exceptionally clear and direct.

    Unclear messages can cause expensive mistakes. Simplification of information and making each word count is vital in the military environment. But this is not limited to the Air Force, most of these techniques are valuable to have in the professional world as well.

    The Tongue and Quill six-step checklist contains the six important steps for effective written communication:

    1 – The First step is to question the need for communication and the receiving audience. Analyzing the purpose of writing helps to eliminate the delivery of information that might not be useful.

    2 – This leads to properly being aware of the information being shared and having sufficient knowledge about it before sharing it.

    3 – This also includes putting the logic to work and adding your thoughts to support the idea.

    4 – Moving on to the structure, a straightforward format should be followed without any self-important words or fashionable phrases.

    5 – The writing must be aimed to inform and not to impress. The language used should be as clear and understandable as possible.

    6 – It is always helpful to take constructive feedback from others and make the necessary improvements.

  • When Taking Advice

    The thing about advice is that it just tries to make you well informed. In the end, you will have to make the decision yourself.

    You don’t get all the details you need, You don’t get it from the people who have the same perspective as you. Advice just tries to hint you towards the right direction. It cannot be used as a strategy.

    People are not as transparent as you might want them to be. Everyone is inclined towards their biases that usually don’t get mentioned. They have their own experiences and struggles that also don’t get discussed.

    It is important to ask for advice only from the right people who are qualified enough to provide you with accurate information.

    Ultimately, it will just make the decision-making process easier. You will have to find the way out yourself.

    Ask yourself if the adviser is a reliable source. It is not rude to refuse advice, it’s responsible. History teachers might not be able to give the best explanation on how to solve a math problem. Your grandparents might not be able to tell you the steps to create your social media account.

  • Describing the block

    I recently came across an interesting piece of writing advice from author and essayist Kiese Laymon. In an interview with Literary Hub, he says, “With my head down, like I’m trying to concuss myself. I try to describe the “block” and once it’s described I decide what I need to go through it. Then you have to turn around and describe the feeling of running through it. We’re writers. We don’t run through anything without describing what we ran through.”

    Not just in writing, this appears to be a great problem-solving skill to have. Describing an issue leads us to properly understanding what the issue is, we discover something new in the process of putting it into words, which finally leads us to find ways to fix the issue.

    This is often in the destination – obstructions form but there several facts associated with both that play an important role in the clear understanding of the problem but go unobserved. As it’s rightly said, “a problem well stated is half solved.”

  • Opinions and Observations

    Opinions come from a very personal point of view, They portray a judgement I have formed about something or someone which may not necessarily be based on facts or knowledge.

    The opinions of two individuals are usually distinguishable. They might be based on assumptions that lead to changes in them over time.

    However, observations are not opinions. They’re based on facts and knowledge about something you have seen, heard or noticed. Even though everyone has the same set of human eyes, different people look in different directions which leads to discrete observations about the same things.

    Observations can be proven true or false while opinions can’t be proven because they’re based on a person’s judgements and sentiments. These may be deceptive but cannot be categorised as false. “This book has 700 pages” is an observation statement and “This book is too lengthy and boring” is a personal opinion.

  • Seeking Sacrifice

    While living in a world of instant gratification and getting things done immediately, seeking sacrifice becomes important. The Society seeks experiences that are meant for instant consumption, related to the current period of time and are subject to urgent action.

    All this comes from a place of greed and even though it is satisfying in that very instant, hard work and sacrifice are more satisfying in a long term. All the gratification gets old and forgotten very quickly.

    As you might have heard about the story of the Monkey Trap – a monkey puts his hand inside a jar of cookies to grab one. He realises that his hand is now stuck. The cookie is too large, the only way to get his hand out would be to leave the cookie in the jar and sacrifice it.

    The monkey doesn’t do this out of greed and instead holds the cookie even more tightly. As a result, the hunters who set up the trap come and catch him. Seeking Sacrifice becomes important to get out of the trap of selfishness and lightning urge, which I’m sure everyone today can relate to.

  • Good Reasoning

    “Sir, you are giving a reason for it; but that will not make it right. You may have a reason why two and two should make five; but they will still make but four.” – Samuel Johnson

    Reliable reasoning is the building blocks of a strong argument. Not all reasons are good and not all of them are true. Good reasoning comes from a place of relevancy and knowledge.

    People who have better-grounded opinions are able to have better discussions because they can well elaborate on it and convince people.

    Good reasoning signifies the cause and purpose in a manner that makes it capable of carrying the “third operation” of our mind. It comes from thinking about “from what cause” and “from what purpose” of the action.

    Another way of bringing the effective reasons out is by framing them using  “because”, “therefore”, “hence” and “since”.

    They usually need to have a premise or a set to start from. And as described by this paper from the University of Southampton, reasoning does not always lead to new attitudes – sometimes it  leads us to reaffirm the existing one or to drop the attitude completely.

  • Completed Proverbs

    “Opportunity knocks once at every man’s door,” but often makes sure the man is out before knocking.

    “It takes two to make a quarrel.” How about husband and wife, who are one?

    “A fool and his money are soon parted,” when the fool has friends.

    “Whatever man has done man can do” better.

    “Look before you leap” out of the frying-pan into the fire.

    “Honesty is exact to a penny,” but not always to larger amounts.

    “The best things are not bought and sold” ; they are stolen and kept.

    “Pity is akin to love,” but kinship does not always signify friendship.

    “The second blow makes the fray,” but not if the first is well placed.

    “There’s many a slip ‘twixt” the cradle and the grave.

    “Everything comes to the man who waits,” except that for which he waits.

    “A fool is never wrong” ; few of us are.

    “No fool like an old fool” in the toils of a woman.

    “He who hesitates” when lying “is lost.”

    “Until a man finds a wife he is only half” ; thereafter he is still less.

    — From “Completed Proverbs” by Lisle de Vaux Matthewman

    What I really liked about this piece of writing from 1904 is how clever and succinct is. The way writers like Matthewman used to play with words and incorporate puns in their writings has changed over time. It was much easier back then, much better too.

    Clare Victor Dwiggins’s illustrations in this book make it even more interesting. Some works like this remain relevant forever.

  • A Good Definition

    Definitions have been around for ages. They are more than words describing words. Proper definitions need to be in a certain way for conveying the essence of a term or concept accurately. The process of creating them requires a lot of planning and consideration.

    A broad definition misses the essential part and a narrow one includes things that aren’t essential. Many definitions end up failing to solve their purpose due to circularity, obscurity and metaphors that unnecessarily complicate them.

    A good definition is broad and narrow at the same time, it conveys what’s essential while being precise and sticking to the objective. It is genuine and doesn’t have any hidden stipulations.

    Good definitions should not contain the word that is being defined itself. And lastly, defining something by stating what it’s “not” is an ineffective way of describing it. Sometimes this is unavoidable but definitions should generally be in a positive sense where they can be.

    For example – Defining a ‘bird’ as “an animal that flies” is fallacious as birds like penguins and ostriches can’t fly. Defining them as “warm-blooded animal” would be too broad considering there other warm-blooded animal species like mammals, reptiles and lizards. And defining them as “feathered egg-laying animal” would be too narrow as there are male birds that get disregarded in this case.

    Here, a good definition will contain all the essential characteristics in a complete, clear and honest manner. Merriam Webster defines ‘bird’ precisely as “Warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings.”

    Good definitions are valuable as  they help us to have better conversations, discussions and arguments. They let us have a common understanding of an issue even if we’re having clashing beliefs. Having proper definitions saves time as the audience gains the understanding of a term or concept in just one sentence that everyone agrees with.