Friday, May 13, 2011

My 'Yellow Brick Road'

Few thoughts that trigged in me while reading Dr. Myra White's book 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road' - A Harvard Psychologist's Guide to Becoming a Superstar:


I was part of a Non-Profit (around 6 ½ years) in the last decade. We ran a 90 day program in classroom, starting with 'Life Skills' module and then domain skills (Arithmetic, Basics of Computer, Retail, BPO, Automobile etc.). The 'Life Skills' program (first 10 days) is worth mentioning as it followed the same pattern as Dr. White has outlined in her book.


The Program is designed to answer the four key questions,

1.       Who am I?

2.       Where do I come from?

3.       What are my goals? (We believed in multiple goals)

4.       How do I achieve them?


At the end of 10 days, these youth were very clear about their 'Purpose' in life and reportedly felt 'in control'. This was also a testimony of our 'facilitation skills' as we had a challenge of 'Drop outs' in the program. This was a 'Free' course and we were not sure if they would come back again the next day for the classes. Yes, we did not charge any money from these beneficiaries, we found corporate or govt. sponsors for the program, later moved to 'Pay-it-Forward' model. The graduates of the program started to pay for the subsequent batches from their salaries. A commitment to help their fellow youngsters! We were surprised at the evolution of this program. We did not design this to be this way! Neither we forced them into such a model.

These four questions, held the key for success of the participants of this program. Those who kept their 'journals' handy and made copious notes (some students even preserved these notes & exercises that we gave in class - well after 3 or 4 years of their graduation!). We had designed games, activities to help them realize the importance of these four questions. As these were young adults (some of them primarily dropped out of school education system because they were 'Told to do' certain things and they never understood 'why' they were supposed to). We did not want to 'Tell them' what they should 'do'. However, they 'understood' the message.


In these 'First 10 days', around 70% of the students turn around and 'focus' on what they should be doing with their lives. The rest, feel the momentum and join them well before the end of the program. We always enjoyed around 90% employment rate and we followed them for many years after they graduated to ensure that this is 'Sustainable' change.


Taking sessions for these young adults and training facilitators to 'make this happen' were the beautiful moments in my life!

That was my 'Yellow brick road' and I can say proudly that in this process, I could help many walk the same!



Bhaskar Natarajan, ACC

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thirteen Virtues - Benjamin Franklin

Thirteen Virtues
Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of 13 virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life.
His autobiography lists his 13 virtues as:

 1. "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
 2. "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."
 3. "Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."
 4. "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."
 5. "Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."
 6. "Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."
 7. "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
 8. "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
 9. "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."
 10. "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."
 11. "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."
 12. "Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."
 13. "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one and only one each week "leaving all others to their ordinary chance". While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and by his own admission, he fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote, "I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit."

Bhaskar Natarajan, ACC