Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions

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While we all have gone overboard at the beginning of the year, ever wondered how the Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions would look like? Read on to find more and create a lasting impact!

The turn of the year is a witness to the following three phenomenon:

  • Review of the previous year
  • New Year Greetings
  • New Year Resolutions that either require magic or are bordering on the insane.

So, why not turn things around this year? Can we use the energy and enthusiasm that grips us in the first few days of the year in a better manner? Is it possible to make this sustainable? What are the enabling tools required or in other words, what would be the components of the Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions?

From Months to Weeks

Let us start with the Big Picture first. Human beings are naturally wired to procrastinate. If you do not belong to this category, you can move to the next section, please.

We need to re-set our systems to fight another round of procrastination. This cycle is typically an annual cycle for something like New Year Resolutions. We typically get into the mode of breaking them, latest by the end of the first month. And guess when we refresh the cycle? Of course, at the end of the year.

We can extend this analogy to several other scenarios. One of the things that I started doing a couple of years ago is getting into the discipline of documenting monthly progress on significant milestones, projects or initiatives. And, re-setting goals and objectives each month. This worked out quite well for me and I have been able to learn and execute more, expand my horizons and accomplish what I wanted in a diverse range of fields.

So, at the beginning of 2018, I thought to myself – Can I compress this monthly review cycle to a weekly review cycle and get more things done? Well, the good news is that I managed to keep this discipline of weekly reviews and refreshing the cycle intact right through the year. Your statistical mind might inquire the quantum of impact that this has had on my achievements. It will be difficult to put a number upfront, but first things first. Allow me to share other aspects of my journey during the year with you before we pass the verdict.

Learning re-loaded

The prerequisite for making changes is availability of the requisite knowledge and skills. With the rapidly changing world order, it is critical that one continuously learns and upgrades oneself.

This could be in the form of gaining knowledge or acquiring skills, soft or hard. It could even be learning in the form of getting wiser or simply in trying to become a better version of yourself. Imagine if you were an app – you can think of this as a version upgrade. Do you know how many version upgrades you had during the previous year? How many will you need to achieve your objectives next year? What will be the nature of these upgrades? It could be a bug fix, enhanced or new functionality or simply addressing compatibility issues with the new world order!

Being Autodidactual

I am a very strong believer in the concept of self-directed learning, of being a life-long autodidact. I even coined a related word and bought the corresponding domain, autodidactual a couple of years ago. Of course it helped that I had a couple of middle-schoolers at home. Curiosity whets the appetite for learning, and who better than children with their natural dose of curiosity to egg you on?

My elder one has shown a keen interest in programming and robotics since he was very young and the younger one has been a blogger since she was five years old. Nurturing these skills in the kids also brought out a new side of me. One thing led to another over the years as I learnt the ropes of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing, apart from starting to write on my blogs.

I took further strides in this journey. I had started off with applying AI and Machine Learning techniques to quantitative variables (i.e. numbers) before learning to apply the same to unstructured text. Next, it was the turn of processing images and the real fun was in combining everything that was relevant in the given context, irrespective of the form. I had to learn the ropes from scratch, since I was not a techie. I took several strides to self-sufficiency and created my own modules and picked up the necessary skills to create a basic self-contained application.

So, What’s In It For Me?

The nature of skills that I have picked up this year or over the years does not really matter in this discussion. The underlying principle is what is most important. We may have a target or a goal, whether outlined in the form of a learning objective or not. The key is to deconstruct the goal into parts that can be segregated neatly into skills or knowledge goals. Once you do this, you just need to practice and practice to get better at the individual skills and the end goal will be at your feet.

Elevating the discussion at a higher level, if you have mastered the skill of learning, the world will be at your feet. Just as you need to practice a skill to become a master, you need to keep learning new things in order to become a master at learning to learn! I call it meta-learning or simply, an autodidactual way of life!

Thought Leadership and Knowledge Sharing

So, time for a quick recap. We first looked at how we compressed the recursive plan-do-review loop from a year to a month or even to a week. Then, we looked at learning and enhancing skills and knowledge for effective execution. Finally, it’s time to give back.

I was fortunate enough to have access to multiple knowledge sharing platforms across diverse audiences. In addition, I did make conscious efforts to pen down my experiences and thoughts. The more I engaged with people, especially around application of Artificial Intelligence to Real business problems, the more I felt the need to do so. The more I shared and the more I interacted with people, the more I learnt. It is so important to keep feeding the virtuous cycle of acquiring and disseminating.

From my vantage point, I can clearly see the widespread misinterpretation and mis-implementation of Data Science related tools and techniques. So, while a lot has been done, much more is awaited. You can glide through some of my memories of spreading awareness and sharing experiences from last year. I hope to keep up the momentum on both ends of the cycle. 

Putting it in Context

And now, putting things back in context of the question at hand, i.e. Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions.

The turn of the year always provides an excellent opportunity for introspection, hope and new energy. The opening lines of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” seem to capture the environmental context:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

These lines were penned in the context of the French Revolution. But,  they would have been equally applicable in the context of the Industrial Revolution. And even now, while we are in the midst of the Information or is it the Intelligence Revolution. While, we can let history be the judge, I shall leave you with these parting thoughts.

I hope you will not be foolishly swept by the hype cycle or incredulously ignore the fundamental changes around us. Instead, we can light the lamp of knowledge and avoid another winter of despair.  

Good luck with your own Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions and more importantly for the weeks, months, year and the times ahead.

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