Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How students excel even after missing the bus in the school

If you have seen the earlier blog, you will discover that first two steps of choosing the bankable ability and making a learning plan are required to excel. But you will find many students miss these steps. So, despite missing them, they still manage to excel in life. How?

I have found five ways that help these students to excel. Basically, they manage to fill the gap of abilities (that was not developed in school life) by using one of the five options. Let us understand these five options these students take:

1. They find a college of graduation that fosters the depth in the logical abilities

If a student has to develop higher depths in his logical ability, the college should provide the right challenges and support. Because, good marks, are not enough to excel. For instance, the universities in western countries provide the right challenges to a student. You will have heard many stories such as Larry Page and Sergie Brown who excelled at Stanford. They found a problem on which they could invest all their time and effort, and sharpen their abilities.

In India such challenging environments in technical arena are provided by IIT's and top engineering colleges. In design it would be provided by the top fashion design insitutes like NIFT or NID. In law, the top law colleges such as in Bangalore provide the toughest challenges. Choosing the colleges is therefore important to excel, because these colleges themselves provide the right fertiliser and ground to excel.

2. They find a group of friends that work together during graduation

In India, however, i have found another equally powerful way that helps students to excel. That route is  'group of friends'. This is a powerful route that even helps scientists to collaborate with each other and excel. There is lot of research on why 'a group of like minded individuals' working together enables each other to excel.

For instance, as we discussed earlier, I found Astha who excelled because she managed to find a group of friends in her college, They worked almost 2-3 hours each day together, challenged each other and needled each other to excel. I advise graduate students to do two things to excel. First is to find such a group of friends who complement each other( complementing members compete less with each other). And two, work on a real-life problem that will help to sharpen abilities. In a college, project activity is an ideal real-life problem for a technical engineer to sharpen his logical ability.

For instance, Abhishek Sen, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, found a real-life  problem of finding an instrument to measure haemoglobin, when he was doing medicine.

3. They find a graduating college ( or town) that develops their complementary abilities

Very few colleges actively develop other complementary abilities. A student is more likely to excel if the student can combine abilities, instead of relying only on one ability. A college, is therefore ideally suitable to help the student to develop complementary abilities such as in music, sports, communication, presentation, or any other field. A college like BITS, Pillani is very helpful in developing such complementary abilites because it offers students different groups to join.

4. They find a graduating college which enables the development of inter-personal abilities

Some colleges enable students to participate in many outdoor activities and group activities and develop their  inter-personal skills that are useful in excelling. As we have seen in the list of 8 abilities, one of the  most important ability that enable a person to develop as an entrepreneur is his interpersonal ability. As inter-personal ability also facilitates growth of intrapersonal ability, development of this ability is critical to excel.

Pradeep Lokhande, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, was an average student  in his logical abilities. What helped him excel in life, is the development of his interpersonal ability during his college days.

5. They have the right push of 'poverty' and pull of their 'ability' to excel

Some students have the appropriate logical ability to develop. Plus due to their average economic background, they have the right incentive to learn in the college. These two elements often combine together for a student to remain focussed in the college and therefore develop the necessary logical abilities to excel. Sunil Khandbahale, one of the excellent performer who was interviewed in Ved program, seems to be a person with this type of background.


In other words, students get a second chance to catch up if they have missed the development of their abilities in the school phase of their life. They can find the right college ( or the right town environment) to develop and fill the skill gaps. As you would appreciate, the real potential lies in using the option 3 and option 4.

In the next blog, we will talk about the the skills required to use the option 1. Even if the college provides the best environmental conditions to fill the skill gaps, the student must be 'skillful' enough to use the environment provided by the college. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

If you wish to excel with average IQ or just above it, you are forced to use these 3 steps

Let us recap some of the constraints that an average student faces in excelling :

1. To excel, a student must choose his ' bankable ability' that he can grow to 500 feet depth

A student of 13 must chose an ability ( be it logical ability of physics, visual ability of drawing, or physical ability of sports) that he can probe to 500 feet depth. It is depth that matters in excelling.

To reach this depth, a student must keep on untangling the threads, find interconnections of different elements, understanding the real-life implications of his understanding. He progresses in discontinuous steps. If he untangles initial threads, it is easier to untangle the next; until he encounters another block. Again he has to untangle. If the student manages to unfold the layers one after another, he is on his path of excelling. In other words, this process of unfolding is not completely in his control. Sometimes he gives up if he fails to negotiate a block. Therefore probing requires time and attention. Because a student has limited time, he cannot grow all his abilities in his limited time (unless he is a genius). He has to trust his intelligence and bank on some ability that he think can grow to a reasonable depth. Let us call this bankable ability. How can the student  choose the 'right' bankable ability amongst his different abilities?

Every student faces this tough dilemma on which ability to bet. Until we use an ability and spend time on it, we do not know what are we good at. But, given our limited time, we cannot explore and engage in all possible abilities.  It is a Catch-22 for every student. Do all students face this tough question of choosing bankable ability? No. Some are lucky.

For instance, if a student has a musical ability ( used by musicians) or kinesthetic ability ( used by sportsman), he is lucky. Because both are senses-based ability, they grow quickly at an early age. Therefore, these students at the age of 11-13 can see their 'developed abilities' in music and sports, and take a conscious decision to chose them easily. If their parents also have similar background in music and sports, it is easy for the student to choose this ability. That is why it is easy for daughters of actors to become actress while sons of sportsman to become sportsman and so on.

For students with cognitive ability like logical ( physics, biology etc) and linguistic ability ( English, French), which grows slower than senses-based abilities, choosing this bankable ability is tougher. However, for students with high IQ like Einstein, because their cognitive ability grows quickly and that too on one dimension, choosing this bankable ability is easier for them as it has grown to a sufficient extent. ( In other words, talented students with abilities on single dimension find it easier to choose their bankable ability !)

However, for majority of the students, with average IQ( and remember that most of the Noble Prize winners are not of high IQ), this is a difficult choice. They are good in many subjects. As their cognitive ability grows slower than senses-based ability, none of their ability has grown enough by the age of 13. They are therefore forced to choose amongst the abilities that have poorly developed to the similar depth!

How can these average IQ students chose their bankable ability and also focus on it for a long enough time? If the student is asked to chose one ability without being told why, he may comply with the instructions for a moment. But no sooner he finds someone else developing another ability, he will waiver. No sooner he will face big roadblocks, he will give up.

In order to help student not just choose his ability, but also remain focused on it for a long enough time, the student must be confident of his choice. To be confident, 1> Student must know why is he choosing a bankable ability. He must understand all his abilities and how much he has developed them. All his doubts should be clarified. 2> He must understand what can he do with his chosen ability in the future, what jobs and industry he may be able to work in the future. 3> He must understand the different possibilities that cognitive performers like him have in combining their abilities, in complementing their ability, and so on. In other words, he must understand the principles of excellence that he can follow while excelling in his chosen ability.

Only when a student seriously engages in this journey of choosing his bankable ability, he can develop the requisite willpower and conviction to consciously stick with the 'bankable ability' over the next 4 years ( till his XIIth class) without getting distracted. For an average IQ student, this dedicated attention and effort is absolutely necessary for him to grow his bankable abilities and excel!

2. To excel, only choosing a bankable ability is not enough. Student must develop a learning plan to guide the growth of his bankable ability over the next 4 years till XIIth. 

As we have seen above, developing an ability ( be it in English, Physics or any other arena) to a reasonable depth not only requires time and attention, but also the right self-made plan to get assistance from around him, because every student will face constraints due to his school as well as location of his residence.

For instance, if  a student has to develop his bankable ability in physics, he must find the right self-made plan of using four different possibilities 1> Using local teachers and experts in physics who can help him negotiate the blocks of learning physics as and when they appear, 2> Identify and join with local friends who also wish to pursue the same growth in physics 3> Use online tools on internet to learn a difficult topic of physics, and 4> Find community of physics friends at a wider global level who can constantly help and challenge him. We have seen already seen how this learning plan should be made in an earlier blog.

As you would observe in many cases, if a student does not have enough local help from his school or city, he has to shift his school. That is why, you will find that many students go to big cities for getting admission into IIT. If  a student has to excel in design, for instance, he has to do the same.

3. To excel, a student should chose appropriate graduation career path to convert his abilities into a skill   

Basically graduation career path is chosen not only to develop the chosen bankable ability to a further depth of 1000 feet and more after XIIth class, but also enable the student to grow other ancillary abilities which can be combined in a skill-package in which the student can excel.

However, career paths today are chosen today only with a limited objective of developing the core cognitive ability, say of engineering, drawing, or medicine. However, when a student ignores his other abilities, he remains ineffective to function in a job despite getting good marks in graduation. Nasscom-mckinsey survey of 2009, for instance, found that only 26% of the engineering graduates in India are employable, while 15% of other graduates are employable.

Chosen career path should also help you develop complementary abilities, let us say in music or nature, if you have them. For instance, if a student is good in music, choosing an engineering college that will offer opportunities to develop the ability of music is important for this student. Please remember that the objective is not to develop 'all round talent' in a student; instead the objective is to help him develop music ability sufficiently, so that he can combine music with his engineering. For instance, Sony offers jobs where  music+engineering skills can be combined very effectively in one job.

Other useful ancillary abilities are intrapersonal and interpersonal abilities, which as we have seen earlier, are crucial abilities for cognitive performers.

And more importantly, one should also chose the career path with wide open eyes. For instance, the student should explore all the optional routes of a career path, so that he is not surprised when he fails to grow his  bankable ability to the desired depth. For instance, most of the IIT students employ the exit route of  MBA when they discover that they cannot grow their engineering ability instead of using the 'combination' path because they are not aware of the other options.


In order to excel in his career, the student at the age of 13 must therefore take at least 3 steps: 
  1. Choose and focus on the bankable abilities for a long enough time to grow them to sufficient depth. 
  2. Find the right Self-made plan of using local and global support, and make a learning plan, to grow 'bankable abilities' to sufficient depth till 12th and 
  3. Choose the most appropriate graduation career path (after knowing all its options) to combine all his abilities into a useful skill 
As you would appreciate, all three steps are necessary for a student, to ensure that the student is ready to excel. Without choosing bankable ability, there is no focus of effort. Without self-made learning plan, bankable ability does not grow to sufficient depth. And without an appropriate graduation career path, bankable ability cannot be converted into a useful skill in which one can excel. 

A high IQ student can afford to spend his time and attention on many abilities, use the available career path options poorly but still manage to find and grow one of his ability in which he could excel. However, when they do not use these 3-steps, they are more likely to waste their high talent. For an average IQ student, however, it is  mandatory to take all the 3-steps, because he will be able to produce results only if he 'focuses his limited energy on few abilities', develops his other complementary abilities simultaneously, and knows how to combine his 'abilities' innovatively.