Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Lessons from the Last Lecture

Randy Pausch gave this moving last lecture. It is a must watch.

Some lessons I captured from this lecture:
  • Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted.
  • We cannot change the cards we are dealt with. Just how we play the hand.
  • Have something to bring to the table. That will make you more welcome.
  • You've got to get the fundamentals down. Otherwise, the fancy stuff won't work.
  • When you see yourself doing something badly, and no one is bothering to correct you anymore, that's a very bad place to be. That means, people have given up on you.
  • Brick walls: They are there for a reason. They are not there to keep you out. They are there to see how badly you want something.
  • Wait long enough and people will surprise/impress you. Give people time to show their good side.
  • It is very important to know that you are in a pissing match. And, it is very important to get out of it as soon as possible.
  • Never ever underestimate the importance of having fun.
  • Work and play well with people.
  • If you live your life the right way, your dreams will come true.
  • If you are going to do anything pioneering you will get arrows in the back, and you just have to put up with it.
  • You just have to decide if you are going to be a Tigger or an Eeyore.
  • Loyalty is a two way street.
  • You can't get there alone. People have to help you. I do believe in karma and paybacks. You get people to hepl you by telling the truth.
  • I'll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short term and earnest is long term.
  • Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people.
  • Say you are sorry that you screwed up.
  • Say that it is your fault.
  • Ask how you can correct it.
  • Don’t complain. Just work harder.
  • Be good at something. That makes you valuable.
  • Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.

Monday, November 07, 2011


Here is an interesting HBR blog on managing luck. The premise of this blog entry is that everyone has 'good' as well as 'bad' luck almost equally. But, what sets winners apart from also-rans is the Return on Luck. What you do with an opportunity (good luck) that is presented to you defines how lucky you are.

Morten lays out 4 simple steps to managing luck:
1. View life as a flow of luck events
2. Prepare for bad-luck events
3. Spot good-luck events when they come
4. Execute brilliantly on good-luck events

These steps will allow you to maximize your ROL.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I wanted to share a little bit about a small city I visited this week. It is the city of Rufington in the state of Washington. It is a very small city with only a couple dozen houses laid out in four rows. It sort of reminded me of the town of Hogsmede as portrayed in Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Every house in the city was unique in the way it was built and decorated. Every house also had a shop of some sort selling handmade (mostly) goods. All the merchants had creatively decorated their stores and displayed their wares. The shops were selling anything from stationary to children's toys.

The Mayor of the city greets all visitors to the city, which was kinda cute and welcoming. The city has a City Hall, Post Office, Pharmacy and a Bank among other things. The city was bustling with visitors and all the shops were doing roaring business. Looking at all the activity made me wonder why everyone is saying that we are in a recession!

The most interesting part about this town is that it is completely run by 3rd graders!

This is the classroom mini-city Rufington lovingly named after their class teacher.

My daughter's class is going through this immersive learning experience as part of their 3rd grade curriculum. The students design, build, run and sustain a mini-city within their classroom while learning about economy, local government, social studies, democracy, business and a host of other topics. The students plan the geographical and political structure of the city.

The students go through the process of electing city officials (Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Council). Every student who wants to hold office needs to announce the intent and canvass to persuade fellow students to vote for her. This teaches the students about standing for office, public speaking, elections as well as the duties of a public official.

There are elected and bidded positions. Elected positions are where the class elects a student for a particular position (Bank Manager, Police Chief, etc.) and bidded positions are where the students bid and pay money in order to secure the position (Land Baron, Trash Collector, Pencil Sharpener, etc.). The class goes through a silent auction to assign the bidded positions, teaching the students about auctions, silent auction and evaluating the value of a position or business (for instance, land baron needs to decide on the value of the bid based on the number of houses and their rent/week, the number of weeks the mini-city will be in action and the probability of someone defaulting).

Location of the houses are determined by drawing straws. The rent of the houses vary based on three variables: location, location and location! Just like in a real city. Once a spot is assigned, the kids (with the help of their parents) build a 'house/shop' out of fridge boxes (see pic above) and decorate them to their taste. The students will be 'living' in this box for the duration of the experience. Which kid doesn't want to live in a box? Given a choice, I am sure all the kids in the class would love to work out of their box the whole year.

Once the government is formed, businesses start taking shape. Each student comes up with ideas for a business and pitches it in front of the city council for approval. Once approved, they get a license to start the business and sell their wares. There are specific restrictions (like, no food items) on what can be sold and the city council enforces it rigorously.

Kids also learn about banking, handling money, loans and interest payments. Everybody takes a loan to start the business and they need to repay in the end. The bank issues check books and fake currency for the exercise.

All the students are given market analysis data from previous years on what sells and what doesn't. Based on this market data, the kids determine what to make and sell in their stores. Everyone starts making their goods and stocking them in their stores. This teaches the kids about the effort it takes to create something. They also learn about pricing, marketing, designing Ads and promoting their products. What you think will be a hot product may turn out to be a dud. In fact, this mini-city is a great place to test product ideas that are aimed towards elementary kids. Students also learn about inventory, audits, economy (supply and demand) and product portfolios.

The city also has a newsletter that gets published everyday. Students also get a chance to buy Ad space in the paper. Reporters get the opportunity to learn about reporting, composing articles, design and layout of a one page newsletter, and selling ad space.

When everything is going fine like a well oiled machine comes the 'Fate' card. Every Friday, each resident draws a fate card and it introduces the unexpected. It could either put a positive (winning prize money) or negative (paying hospital charges, fixing flooded house) spin on one's life. This will in turn affect the student's monetary situation. This lesson teaches students to plan for the unexpected (save $75 for the worst fate card). The city Health Officer also sells HMO cards ($10 each) which shield students from health related fate cards. What a wonderful way to learn about insurance!

Overall, this is a wonderful way to teach kids about a variety of topics that are useful in life. This controlled simulation gives the kids an opportunity to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them without paying a penalty. This not only increases their confidence to go out into the real world but also brings out their creativity, all while teaching them valuable lessons.

How I wish we had this when I was in 3rd grade.