Learning How To Learn : Course Experience

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.

What is learning? Well basically, forming and consolidation neural patterns.

Recently I took the course “Learning How to Learn” on Coursera. I really wanted to figure out the best way to enhance my learning. And this course has been really helpful. It provides you with the right tools and tips to construct your own learning schedule. Methods shown in the course are scientifically proven and helps you understand your brain better.

Here is a quick summary of what I learned in the course :

WEEK 1 :

There are two modes of thinking :

  1. Focused Mode
  2. Diffused Mode

Focused Mode is where our mind is concentrating on following neural patterns that it is already familiar with and Diffused Mode where our mind is sort of relaxed and is ready to find new neural patterns.

Why we procrastinate?

Studies have shown that we procrastinate because when we are about to start a task that we are uncomfortable with our brain activates the parts that correspond to pain and thus wants to stay away with it.

Solution? Well, just get started. With practice this feeling will go away.

Don’t think too much and just “eat that frog”.

WEEK 2 :

Chunking : A chunk is a small interconnectable piece of information that you can learn at a time.

Basic idea behind chunking is to get a bigger idea of the topic that you are going to study and divide it into meaningful chunk. These chunks then get interconnected to to help brain learn effectively.

Mastery is just the art of increasing the number of chunks that you can interconnect.

Personally, I feel chunking is a great way to tackle procrastination too.

Illusion of competence :

When you are done with learning a topic. Force yourself to recall it.

What motivates you? Having a feeling of motivation and excitement towards learning helps the brain learn more effectively as feeling motivated releases dopamine which causes happiness.

Overlearning and Einstellung :

One should be beware of overlearning i.e repeating several times topics you already know. This causes the brain to go into Einstellung, which means that brain refuses to explore new neural patterns and becomes rigid to ones we already know very well.

Week 3 :

Habits are energy saver mode of our brains. When a habit has been formed our brain doesn’t overload itself with information and zombie mode kicks in.

Habit can be described with following parts :

  1. The Cue : Triggers that launches the zombie mode.
  2. The Routine : Habitual response in reaction to the cue.
  3. The Reward : Habits exist because we get reward.
  4. The Belief : To change habits we need to believe that we can change them.

Understanding how habits are formed and work can help us develop new good habits and get rid of the bad ones. 10 years from now everyone is going to know about your bad habits, your success is going to represent you. Now is the time to get rid of them.

Avoid Procrastination? Focus on process not the product.

Also, make your to-do list for the next day the night before. This will allow your diffuse mode to work on it while you will be sleeping.

WEEK 4 :

There is a difference in smartness of people. Smartness equals having a larger working memory.

But people with smaller working memory are scientifically proven to be more creative.

Deliberate Practice, practicing hard stuff again and again, can lift the normal brain to the realm of naturally gifted. Practicing certain neural patterns deepens the mind.

How to become a better learner?

Exercise : Exercising created new neurons in brain.

Life experiences : Gaining varying life experiences also enhances the brain.

Analogies and Metaphors : Can be used to learn and memorize effectively.

And finally ,

Virtue of less brilliant is perseverance and grit.

This course has been great for understanding how our brain works in nutshell. At least know you know how it works, you can make it work for you.

I am trying to become good at things that are way complex than what I have worked on till now. This was the reason why I took the course.

My takeaways were to practice, persevere and have patience.

I have started next course “Introduction to Algorithms by MIT”. This is a course that I always wanted to finish completely. Hopefully this time I can do that.

See you next time!

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : Reading Experience

The Japanese motorcycle maintenance guide says “ Assembly of Japanese bicycle requires great piece of mind”. There is a thing about everything you build, including bikes. If you build it with non-serene mind, then you build your problems into it.

The book takes you on a cross country bike journey that will teach you mind opening lessons that leave lasting impressions on your mind. Your mind will simple refuse to contract itself to older stage.

One of the most important lesson that book teaches you is to enjoy the common little things that life has for you. There is as much Buddha in cogs of bike, as there is at the top of the mountain.

Towards the beginning of the book the author says, “If you want to set out for the most amazing bike journey, you have learn the art of motorcycle maintenance.” The quote has so many meanings at different levels that your mind can explore the words in infinite ways.

As the bike journey progresses, author makes the point that the key to be doing great work is to be completely involved in it. Not like mechanics who listen music while working on the bike with no intention to make it great, the noise of the tools should be music.

How we see the world affects how we think about it. There are two ways to see the world, the classical way where everything is logical and the other is the romantic way.

Classical way of thinking runs the knife on views, something is cut. And when the logic in the logic is found, the beauty of the unknown is lost.

Romantic way of thinking is all about enjoying the continuum of things.

Quality is the thing that author says that you know what it is, but still you can not define it. Like you know what makes a tomato soup good, but yet you can not define what makes up its quality, both materialistic and spiritual.

World consists of three things : Mind, Matter and Quality.

The author was a student of University of California at one point, before his nervous breakdown. Studying there he made some amazing point on the thinking of Plato and Aristotle. How dialectic way of thinking is different from rhetoric way of thinking, but at the same time one doesn’t proves the other wrong.

My two the favorite quotes from the book are :

  1. “The only zen you’ll find at the top of the mountain, is the zen you take with you”.
  2. “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquillity it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

This is the best book that I have ever read. No matter what you are doing in your life and how old are you, this books touches your mind at levels so deep that you didn’t even think it was possible. But you’ll have to keep the beginner’s mind to learn.

As the author states, “sometimes it is better to travel than to arrive”. I was carried away with the philosophical ideas presented in the book and the serenity that the country side description provides.

Knowing that Chris, the son of the author, with whom he set out for this bike journey is dead was a little sad. But again in snap that increases the importance of all the lesson and the author was expounding throughout the book about life and zen.

A recommended read for everyone.

The next book that I have picked is “The Blue Ocean Strategy”.

5 notes on MVP architecture pattern for Android

                                                           Image credits Macoscope

MVP (Model View and Presenter) is an architectural pattern inspired by the popular MVC pattern.

MVP addresses two main points :

  1. Make views as dumb as possible. The dumber the better.
  2. Make each layer loosely coupled and easily testable in isolation.

I am using MVP in one of my production project and have used in some dem0 apps. Here are my 5 notes on using MVP for android.

  1. Package Structure :

Android project contains lots of code and files even for application of medium complexity. Even when not following MVP I have found that arranging the project files in such a way that files that are accessed together are put in same package is more efficient and intuitive than any other approach.

What I prefer doing is create separate package for separate verticals of the app and put all related files like activities, fragments, views, presenters, adapters etc in that package.

ex. packages like add task, view task, list task for a To-Do app.

2. Libraries that are useful for MVP :

In MVP you want your model and presenter to be independent of the life cycle of view. For this, you can use dependency injector library like Dagger2.

Other than that, using RxJava and reactive programming principles for creating presenter is also becoming increasingly popular.

Libraries you can use for this purpose are : RxAndroid and EventBus.

3. Managing Remote and local data sources in the Model :

Android apps have to fetch data from the server. At the same time fetched data must be cached to make the app usable offline and increase the speed.

What I prefer doing is to create three model classes :

1. Remote Data Source

2. Local Data Source

3. Data Repository

All presenters talk to Data Repository class. Data repository model contains references to Local and Remote data repository and calls data from either according to situation.

As the name suggests Local Data Source deals with cached data and disk storage whereas Remote Data Source deals with API calls and responses.

4. User Experience is the top priority :

One thing that we all have to keep in mind that the real test of application is, if it is able to provide user a nice experience.

At the end of the day, user only notices the user experience of the application and not the architecture used. So if you have to make some design sacrifices to make the UX better, do it.

The real test of the machine is the satisfaction it provides to the mind. There is no other bigger test.

5. Testing Advantages :

Main motive behind MVP pattern was to make the testing of layers easy.

Basic idea is to keep the presenter and model android free, so that they can be tested without Android instrumentation by the JVM itself.

Views can then be tested by Android Instrumentation tests.

Mockito and Espresso can come handy for testing purposes.

Conclusion :

MVP, in my opinion is so far the best way to architect your android application project. It simplifies many issues like testing and making views lighter. Combine it it RxJava and dependency injection and you’ve got a nice recipe for android projects.

I am learning more about RxJava and testing frameworks will share my views on that soon.

Thanks.

Rise and Shine : How joining the 5 AM club affected my life

Being an early riser isn’t about trumpeting how hard you work. It’s about doing everything within your power to help your business achieve success; and if that means you have to get up at an hour not known to most, then you might as well enjoy the sunrise.

It is no secret that many high achievers have been advocating about the importance of waking up early in the morning. I have been following Robin Sharma for quite some time now and he proposes something called as the “5 AM club”. He refers it is as the elite club of people who wake up at 5 AM, each day and try to get the most out of the day.

I took the challenge for myself to wake up at 5 AM every day without fail for the entire month of November as a habit building process. I believe that against all the odds if you can sustain the habit for 1 month, you can stick with it for a longer time. That is the power of habit.

Becoming an early riser

It was obviously not easy to become an early riser. I had a typical teenager schedule prior to this. Stay up late till 2 AM and then sleep till 10 AM.

The first step I took was to decrease the waking up time gradually. Reducing it by 1 hour every 3 days.

I needed some additional help anyways. I asked one of my friends to wake up at 5 AM (Saumya this is you :P). If someone is holding you accountable for something, there is always a push to do it.

How waking up at 5 AM affected my mind and life?

  1. It allows me to enter the flow state : You get up early in the morning, no one is up. Enough time to do self-introspection and follow the morning rituals to get in the mood to conquer the world.
  2. Intrinsic motivation : When you get stuff done in the morning itself. It acts as an intrinsic motivation to keep going. You are optimistic and energetic for the entire day.
  3. Self-discipline : I started this challenge at the worst time. Cold November mornings. It took me a lot of mental strength to get out of warm bed to cold weather. But in the end, it was all worth it.

My new “Early Birdie” morning rituals

I wake up at 5 AM nowadays, and seldom fail at that.

5:30 to 7:30 is the time set apart for personal improvement. No email, no internship work, no college studies. Working on skills that you want to see yourself doing better with.

7:30 to 8:30 I exercise. Again the importance of exercising can not be emphasized more to become a high achiever. It gives more energy that is always helpful.

Then around 9 I start working and go forward with the day.

11 PM is the time to call the day and prepare for tomorrow. No mobile phone to bed and doze off at 11:30.

Do we all have to wake up at 5?

Yes and no. Though I certainly recommend it to try being the member of the 5 AM club at least once. Experience the hours of the day that are not known to most. Feel the sunrise and early morning serenity. It is a different kind of experience, a zen on its own.

How to detect emails, phone numbers, web URLs, hashtags in Android TextView? : SmartTextView library

Smart Text View

Star On GitHub Follow On GitHub

Many applications in android use TextView that detects and highlight various string patterns like emails, phone numbers, web URLs and even hashtags.

This functionality is very common and and is used extensively and frequently in many app. Thus to ease the process of adding this functionality I have authored an Android library SmartTextView.

Find and Star it on GitHubhttps://github.com/priyankvex/SmartTextView

smart_text_view_small

Features

  • Detect emails, mobile numbers, URLs
  • Detect #hash_tags and @mentions
  • Use default intents or set custom callbacks.
  • Set different colors for each pattern.

 

Usage

compile 'com.priyankvex:smarttextview:1.0.1'

In layout xml file

  <com.wordpress.priyankvex.smarttextview.SmartTextView
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:textSize="9pt"
        android:id="@+id/textView"
        />

In java Activity or Fragment

mSmartTextView = (SmartTextView) findViewById(R.id.textView);
        mSmartTextView.setEmailColorCode("#3cb371");
        mSmartTextView.setPhoneNumberColorCode("#ff33aa");
        mSmartTextView.setHashTagColorCode("#f37735");
        mSmartTextView.setUrlColorCode("#ffc425");
        mSmartTextView.setMentionColorCode("#57b884");
        mSmartTextView.setDetectMentions(true);
        mSmartTextView.setDetectHashTags(true);
        mSmartTextView.setText(sampleText);
        mSmartTextView.setSmartTextCallback(this);

To use custom callbacks

implements SmartTextCallback

IIMBx: EP101x DO Your Venture : Course Experience on edX

The best way to win is to show grit and bid on your strengths and intuitions. I have been trying to start my own company now for quite a some time. This course came into my mail box by edX, title looked captivating and thus I decided to take it.

It was a light course. Not much effort needed other that just watching the videos and doing some assignments.

The course was focused on making people get off with their venture from the idea phase to execution phase.

Throughout the course I was evaluating  my ideas and operations using the learnings given by the course and it has been of some help at least.

The course was divided into 5 weeks :

Week 1 : The “Do” Philosophy 

DO philosophy is based on “do or do not. There is no try”. There is a gap between intent and action and thus best bid is to don’t wait for halcyons days and just DO IT.

It proposed a term equifinality which means that every entrepreneur and his path is different and there are many ways to entrepreneurship.

It then provided interviews with various startups like Bums On Saddle, Hobby in a Box etc founders sharing their journey so far.

Week 2 : Opportunities, Idea Creation & Generation!

This week was focused on how entrepreneurs come up with ideas. Few of them are  :

  • Hobby driven ideas
  • Painstorming
  • Change in some rules and regulations

Each of these points can provide you with a nice venture idea. I already had my idea prior to the course and thus just thought about it again from these view points.

Week 3 : Idea validation and Evaluation

After the idea has been selected. We have got to validate and evaluate it.

Some if the methods for this are :

  • Personal feasibility
  • Market feasibility
  • Customer feedback

Best way to validate idea is to talk to customers. Real unknown customers. Not just people in your acquaintance. We here at Rainbow Shelf went out to talk to retail shop owners (around 10) and tried to explain them the idea. Response was not very encouraging but it was an experience that helped us.

Week 4 : Lean Canvas

This week was all about the lean methodology used in startups. I have read the book The Lean Startup  and thus this all made sense to me.

The 5 principles of lean startup are :

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is management
  3. Entrepreneurship is validated learning
  4. Build, Measure, Learn
  5. Innovation Accounting

The course also provided a lean canvas that should be used by startup to assess their idea.

Week 5 : Effectuation

Effectuation, which is defined as a “logic of thinking, discovered through scientific research, used by expert entrepreneurs to build successful ventures“.

This week was about measuring the uncertainty in the entrepreneurship.

Effectuation has these 4 principles :

Bird in Hand Principle – Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: who you are, what you know, and who you know.

Affordable Loss Principle – Set affordable loss. Evaluate opportunities based on whether the downside is acceptable, rather than on the attractiveness of the predicted upside.

Lemonade Principle – Leverage contingencies. Embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals.

Crazy-Quilt Principle – Form partnerships. Form partnerships with people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future–product, firm, market–with you. Don’t worry so much about competitive analyses and strategic planning.

 

Overall. I wasn’t expecting very complex and hard material in the course just normal guidelines stuff and this was exactly what the course provided. This course was offered by IIMB. And showed many startups that are incubated there are NSRCEL.

As of now I have taken many scattered courses on entrepreneurship from University of Maryland to MIT to IIMB. Now i have decided to just take the specialization offered by Coursera  and that should be enough for time being until my company scales.

I have now shifted my focus to learn more core technical and domain knowledge that will be required to build remarkable company that can stand out that bring value to its customers.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People : Reading Experience and Summary

How to win friends and influence people is an all time classic book. I got to know about this book from the Goodreads recommendations and instantly decided to read this one. It starts stating that leadership is 15% technical skills and 85% skill to manage human relations. This sentence alone suffices the need of this book.

What you can get out of the book?

  • Gives you new ways to carry on meaningful conversations.
  • Make lasting connections with people by influencing them.
  • Win new clients, customers and team members.
  • Increase your confidence while approaching people.
  • Make you a better salesman, entrepreneur and leader.

This book is filled with historical examples that the author uses that just exemplifies the principles stated in the book. This is not a light read and taking notes is necessary to get the most out of this book.

Here is the summary  :

PART 1 : Fundamental techniques in handling people

Chapter 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don’t  criticize people or blame them for anything. It makes them go defensive.
  • Criticism hurts their pride and sense of importance.
  • “I’ll speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know” – Benjamin Franklin
  • Even Abraham Lincoln made it a point not to criticise anyone not even his commander who made a big blunder during war.
  • Principle 1 : Don’t criticize, complain or condemn. 

Chapter 2 :  The big secret of dealing with people

  • “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want”
  • Biggest craving in humans is to be appreciated, to be complemented.
  • Fill people with encouragement and give them an incentive to work.
  • Sincere appreciation is one of the secrets of success of handling men.
  • Know the difference between flattery and sincere appreciation.
  • Flattery is selfish and counterfeit. Appreciation is from the heart.
  • Principle 2 : Give honest and sincere appreciation

Chapter 3: He who can do this holds the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way

  • Only way to influence people is to talk about what they want.
  • Try to see things from other person’s point of view.
  • Convince person how something that you want them to o can benefit them.
  • Arouse in other person an eager want.
  • Self expression is dominant necessity in human nature.
  • Always let the other person think that it is their idea.
  • Principle 3  : Arouse in other person an eager want

Part 2  : Ways To Make People Like You

Chapter 1 : Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere

  • Try to be interested in people, not to make them interested in you.
  • Always be grateful and interested in customers in business.
  • Principle 1 : Become genuinely interested in other people.

Chapter 2 : A simple way to make a good impression

  • Show people by expression that you are happy to meet them.
  • Preserve the attitude of courage, frankness and good cheer.
  • Principle 2  : Smile

Chapter 3 : If you don’t do this, you are headed for trouble

  • People are more interested in their names than all the names put together.
  • Always make effort to call people by their name.
  • If you are executive then you have remember name.
  • Even Charles Schwab said that he tried to call his employees by their names.
  • Principle 3  : Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Chapter 4 : An easy way to become good conversationalist

  • Be a good listener and encourage people to talk
  • Stop everything and listen whole heatedly to people
  • Listening gives people a feeling of importance
  • Principle 4 : Be  a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. 

Chapter 5  : How to interest people

  • Talk about thing they treasure the most
  • Author gives as example how appreciating a clients office got him the deal.
  • Principle 5  : Talk in terms of other people’s interests. 

Chapter 6  : How to make people like you instantly

  • Talk to people about themselves.
  • Talk about things they admire the most. This will make them feel important.
  • Principle 6 : Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Part 3  : How to win people to your way of thinking

Chapter 1 : You can’t win an argument

  • Avoid arguments like you avoid rattlesnakes.
  • Arguments are futile to change someone’s mind.
  • To avoid arguments : welcome disagreement, distrust first instinct to go defensive, control your temper, listen first, look for areas of agreement,  apologize for your mistakes, promise to think over your point, thank opponent for their interest, postpone action to think.
  • Principle 1 : Only way to get most of an argument is to avoid it.

Chapter 2  : A sure way of making enemies and how to avoid it

  • If you are going to prove anything, don’t let the other person know it.
  • “Be wiser that the other people if you can, but don’t let them know it”
  • Never tell a person straight away that they are wrong.
  • Principle 2  : Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You are wrong”

Chapter 3  : If you are wrong, admit it.

  • Criticize yourself before some else does that.
  • This will make temper of the other person cool down
  • Principle 3 : If you are wrong admit if quickly and emphatically 

Chapter 4 : A drop of honey

  • “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall”
  • Always begin in friendly way and appreciate the other person.
  • A renter wanted his rent reduced so he first praised the apartment in which he was living.
  • Principle 4  : Begin in a friendly way.

Chapter 5 :  Secret of Socrates

  • In talking to people don’t begin by discussing things that you differ on.
  • Ask questions that makes your opponent say yes yes!
  • Principle 5  : Get the other person saying yes yes immediately.

Chapter 6 : The safety valve in handling complaints

  • Let the other people talk themselves out.
  • Even if you disagree don’t interrupt.
  • Principle 6 : Let the other person do a great deal of talking

Chapter 7 : How to get cooperation

  • People want to be consulted about their wants.
  • People want to buy/accept something on their own accord, not to be sold.
  • Make people believe that the idea is theirs.
  • Principle 7 : Let the other person feel that the idea is his/hers.

Chapter 8 : A formula that will work wonders for you

  • Always try to understand why a person would say something like this.
  • Try to think with the person’s point of view.
  • Principle 8 : Try honestly to see things from other person’s point of view.

Chapter 9 : What everybody wants

  • People are thirsting for sympathy – give it to them.
  • When a person is debating with you remember to react differently than the others.
  • Principle 9 : Be sympathetic with other person’s ideas and desires.

Chapter 10 : An appeal that everyone likes

  • Show the person the motives that sound good.
  • Principle 10 : Appeal to the nobler motives.

Chapter 11 : The Movies Do it. TV Does it. Why Don’t You Do it?

  • Stating truth is not enough. You have to dramatize them.
  • Make it vivid, impressive and interesting.
  • Principle 11 : Dramatize your ideas.

Chapter 12 :  When nothing else works try this

  • Make the work exciting and challenging.
  • Schwab invoked a challenge among morning and night shift workers to increase the efficiency of the factory.
  • Principle 12 : Throw down a challenge.

Part 4 : Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Chapter 1 : If you must find fault this is the way to begin

  • Say something pleasant before criticizing.
  • A barber always lathers a man before he shaves him.
  • Principle 1 : Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

Chapter 2  : How to criticize and not to be hated for it

  • Never use the word “but” after appreciation. It makes appreciation looks fake.
  • Use other words like “and”.
  • Principle 2 : Call attention to people’s mistake indirectly

Chapter 3 : Talk about your own mistakes first

  • Admit and talk about your own mistakes first before criticizing the other person.
  • Principle 3 : Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

Chapter 4 : No one likes to take orders

  • Give suggestions instead if orders and you’ll hit the person’s pride less.
  • Involve people in the decision making by asking them questions.
  • Principle 4 : Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

Chapter 5 : Let the other person save face

  • “I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. “
  • Don’t belittle a person.
  • Principle 5 : Let the other person save face.

Chapter 6 : How to spur people to success

  • Praise every little improvement in the person.
  • Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.
  • Charles Dickens was once praised by a editor when he was poor little boy and it changed his life.
  • Principle 6  :  Praise the slightest improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.

Chapter 7 : Give a dog a good name

  • To change the person’s behavior give him a good reputation to live up to.
  • Example : “You are one if the best worker. Lately you’ve been slow. We know there is a reason. Let’s discuss it”
  • Principle  7 : Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

Chapter 8 : Make the fault seem easy to correct

  • Praise the person’s good point and make them feel that their faults are very minor.
  • Other wise you’ll destroy their will to improve.
  • Principle 8 : Use encouragement. Make fault  seem easy.

Chapter 9 : Making people glad to do what you want

  • Make people happy and excited about their job.
  • Show the person the benefits of the job.
  • Ask yourself what the other person really wants.
  • Principle 9 : Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.