Have fun

In India, it is common for older people to urge younger people to study hard, work a lot, be courteous, and whatnot. You know what I am talking about. Let me add one more item to this long list.

Have some fun! Enjoy your life!

You are young. This is the time when it is easier to have some fun in your life.

I know you have to work hard to achieve your aims. And you may be short of time since you probably have other responsibilities. Still, find some time to have fun, specially with friends. The friends you have now will last you your lifetime. At this age, fun is still cheap. One of the FEA students told me that he likes to go with his friends on bicycle day trips to nearby places. Or, you can just play card games together.

But, don’t overdo it. Keep a balance between your responsibilities and fun. This balance will make it easier for you to meet your responsibilities.

Do some learn-fun

What is learn-fun? Is this even a proper word? No, it’s a word that I made up. It means fun that also helps you learn. I am talking here about logical thinking, not learning a subject. Suppose you play chess. Then, it’s fun for you. It also forces you to think logically on your own – which is something many of us miss out in our schooling.

These days, my learn-fun activity is solving Sudoku puzzles. These puzzles do have numbers, but you don’t need any mathematics to solve them. Just logical thinking. They come in different levels of difficulty. I can generally solve puzzles rated as Medium difficulty in 20 minutes. I am able to solve only about 20% of the Hard puzzles I try – but I keep trying. Once, I got the solution to a Hard puzzle after trying to solve it for three days.


A “Hard” Sudoku puzzle

Why do I keep trying to solve puzzles that I find hard to solve? Mainly because it keeps forcing me to think logically. And, of course, when I do crack a Hard puzzle, I feel like I have climbed Mt. Everest!

For learn-fun, use your smartphone

Fortunately, learn-fun is cheap these days if you have a smartphone. There are so many free apps for chess and Sudoku. And there are so many other free logic-based free apps available. You have plenty of free choices.

And, you can go beyond logic to improve your command of English words. In the old days, people, including me, used to do crosswords – just for fun. These days, one of my friends plays the free version of a game called Wordscapes. You have to make words from some 5-10 letters they give you, and the words have to fit into a format.

What type of fun? Which type of learn-fun? That’s up to you.

Work vs. fun or work-fun?

When you work, your employer pays you. They pay because most people don’t like to work, and workers want money if they are going to work. And then they try to have some fun or rest on their days off. It’s work vs. fun.

Long ago, a wise man said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This is work as fun, or work-fun.

Many of us are not so lucky – we have to take the job we get, and not the job we want or love. However, you have many more choices than my generation (people born before 1960) did because India has changed.

So, you should consider choosing a career for yourself that has a good balance between work and fun, and possibly leaning towards work-fun.

This type of career will make you more productive at work. And you will avoid work-related stress, which means you and your family will be happier!

When you look around you, you may see that other people have achieved a lot. And you may think that, compared to them, you are behind. And nothing to be proud of. No, that’s wrong.

Because what you’re comparing against is not correct. To keep it simple, let’s compare you and me. I am your mentor, which means that I have achieved a lot. How did I do it? Did I do it on my own, or did I have much help?

Let’s start with my grandmother (dadi), who lived with us in a joint family. She was born around 1890 in rural Rajasthan. Quite a backward place at that time. But she was literate – at a time when less than 1% of Indian women were literate. So, that put her in the top 1% right away!

My grandmother. 1979. Jaipur.

Then, my mother. She was born around 1920, and was a typical housewife. For example, she used to stitch all the clothes for her children when they were young. Hang on a minute. She was not a typical housewife of those times. She was fluent in English, and could teach some algebra and geometry to her children!

Because my grandmother and mother were accomplished, you can see that I grew with an enormous advantage. Education and learning came naturally, and I became successful in my school, college, and job. But, how much of it due to me? I did work hard, but my success is mainly due to my family background.

Now, let’s look at you. For sure, you didn’t get such a boost from your family background. Your parents have brought you up well. But, it’s not the same. Given their circumstances, they could not give you the boost I got. Yet, you are progressing.

You are standing on your own feet, while, right from birth, I was already high up on a ladder created by my family background.

So, it makes no sense to compare yourself to someone who had this family boost. Instead, ask yourself: Am I making a big effort to get ahead?

I will answer that question for you. Indeed, you are making a big effort. And, you are smart enough to know that a boost will help you. That’s why you have joined FEA.

But, FEA doesn’t give you a boost, like getting an injection. Here, you have to earn your boost by hard work and persistence! FEA + Your Hard Work + Your Persistence. This is a formula for success. Most of this formula is You.  And that’s what you should be proud of!

You will be successful. Sometimes, it comes later in life. I cannot say what form your success will be and when it will come. But, I know that in your old age (yes, you will grow old, trust me), you will see your children even more successful! They will be doing much better than you because you will give them a powerful boost. And, they will be proud of you – even more than I am proud of you.

Let me start with something personal.

My older brother, now more than 70 years old, got an MBA degree, and worked in finance. Nothing to do with engineering. Yet, a few years ago, he won the third prize in an international competition to speed up a new type of printer: 3-D printer (you can read about 3-D printers at this link https://tinyurl.com/yhdbtabz.) And he also makes ‘hanging mobiles’ (see photo) by hand, using aluminium taken from used things that have people have discarded. Never took any classes in this,

But wait. There’s my father-in-law. He grew up without electricity in rural areas for the first 15 years of his life. Can you even imagine it? Growing up without electricity? Now, he is 94 years old. On his laptop, he reads many articles in English, Hindi and Marathi on the internet every day, and forwards some of them to different people. He takes videos with his smartphone when he goes on his walks, and sends them to friends and relatives. All this new technology became available when he was more than 75 years old.

How could my brother and my father-in-law do it? How could they master new technologies in their old age, mostly on their own? The answer is simple – and it applies to you!

When they were young, apart from any subject that they studies, they developed a key skill. That is how to learn something new on their own. In other words, learn to learn!

You are growing up in a fast-changing world. Everything is changing much faster than it used to. Two years ago, most of us had not even heard of Zoom. And, now we are holding FEA classes via Zoom, connecting people in different cities.

When new ideas and technologies emerge, they create new opportunities. You must be ready to take advantage of them. How will you learn them? Take classes when you are 50 years old? No, no. You will have to master them on your own.

You may know someone older than you who has difficulties with new technologies. Will you be like him or her when you are 50 years old, and have to deal with new technologies as they emerge? No, you won’t be. If you follow my suggestion, then you will not struggle like them.

What’s my suggestion? Please learn to learn on your own when you are young. This is my core message to you.

 

How do you learn to learn? By doing it. That’s the best way. Pick a new topic. It could be something practical, such as making something. (I have recently learnt to bake bread at home, without using any machines except an oven.)  Or, it could be something conceptual, such as the different types of folk music in India.

The topic does not matter. What matters is that you learn it on your own, on your own motivation.

What if you don’t do well in what you are trying to learn on your own? Doesn’t matter. The very fact that you are trying on your own is a sign of success. Do it now! And, many years later, you will thank your youthful self for doing it!