30 Jun 2013

The ICC Champions Trophy 2013 Winners

This post is dedicated to my favourite team – the Indian Cricket Team. It’s come late; a week after they’ve won the Champions Trophy 2013. India is now the only team to have won the 20, 50, and 60 Over World Cups and the Champions Trophy. The only team that can match them is West Indies, but them winning the 50 over World Cup in the near future looks farfetched.

This trophy is even sweeter because of the lack of big names. The big 3 (Sachin, Sourav, Dravid), Zaheer, Kumble, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Gambhir... no one was part of the team. Yet it went on not only to win the Champions Trophy, but stay undefeated throughout (7-0). Remember when the Aussies started sliding downhill? When they lost McGrath, Warne, the Waugh brothers, Gilchrist, Hayden, Fleming and others.

Until a few days before the tourney started, the Indian media was busy slamming Dhoni for holding a stake in some firm. Match fixing allegations had surfaced in the IPL, and while everyone sympathized with Dravid, they chastised Dhoni and said his team should be disqualified. We conveniently forgot that he captained our team to the 1st ODI series victory in Australia after almost 2 decades, the T20 World Cup victory, whitewashing the Aussies 4-0 at home (which was the last team that achieved it?), the Asia Cup and many other victories.

India - The ICC Champions Trophy 2013 winners
The Aussie and British media are die-hard supporters of their teams. We, on the other hand, are never satisfied. If India loses, that’s how we always play. If India wins, the match was fixed. Plus the media comes out with stories completely unrelated to cricket bashing its own players. And we lap it up like gluttons. Dhoni’s stake becomes the point of discussion in trains, on lunch tables, Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else. We care more about the IPL than the Indian cricket team. Come on guys... use your brains. Where do your loyalties lie? With your national cricket team (all of whom are Indians) or with your IPL team, ½ the side of which comprises of foreigners?

The media now is glorifying Dhoni. He’s on the front page of most papers. They’re publicizing how he built his biceps on a litre of milk every day. Suddenly Dhoni is God, while he was the Devil some days ago. Convenient? We lapped up their shit a few days ago. We’re lapping up their bullshit even now. Guess who’s the fool here?
We’re euphoric because the Indian team has won the Champions Trophy. But this feeling won’t last long. One mediocre series and we’ll be screaming for heads of our players again. Our memories of their bad performances outlast the good ones.
Dear fans, our team has achieved so much in the last ½ decade. All this while they’re on the road the most. They are humans too. They suffer from fatigue, homesickness; they miss their loved ones, monotony sets in... the list can go on. Please cut them some slack. The next time they have an average series remember all the good they’ve done. And for God’s sake, stop caring about how a cricketer does business. Their personal life is none of our concern. We must care about what they do on the field, and they are doing a fabulous job right now. Jai Hind.

16 Jun 2013

Book Review: The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

Lisa Allen was the scientists’ favourite participant. This 34 year old, until a few years ago, was battling obesity, was a chain smoker, neck deep in debt (agents were chasing her to collect debts over $10,000), couldn’t hold onto to a job for more than 3 months and had been dumped by her husband for a younger woman. The woman who sat in front of the scientists, however, had a toned figure to match any athlete, had been clear of debts for more than a year, had pursued a degree, was a designer at a studio for 39 months now and hadn’t smoked a cigarette in years. All this because she changed just 1 habit – she quit smoking.

This incident, related more elaborately, is partly the introduction of one of the best books I’ve read – The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. This book provides deep insights on how habits are formed in all living beings (even animals), how bad habits can be changed and how merely tweaking single habits led to football teams winning the ultimate prize and organizations turning profitable and efficient. Simple, yet provocative and fascinating!

Charles Duhigg has broken the book down into 3 major sections:
  • How Habits Work
  • What causes them to be formed
  • How we can change them
The book moves at a blistering pace. It’s filled with examples of habit formulation and change amongst people, organizations and even the military. A person who was tormented throughout his life couldn’t keep calm. But he went on to become a manager of 3 stores at Starbucks. An alcoholic (who lost his wife and children because of the habit) went on to launch Alcoholics Anonymous. A football coach turned the worst team in American football history around by changing one habit, and Paul O’Neill, CEO of Alcoa, made his company the most profitable one by tweaking just one habit.
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

Habit is formed in a one loop: Cue -> Action -> Reward. Once we keep performing an action repeatedly, it gets rooted in our basal ganglia – the part of the brain which forms habits. That’s why we can drive without constantly processing information; we brush our teeth while we think of how the day’s going to be and so on. Military personnel keep practising actions to the point of them becoming habits. And the brain is always looking to delegate. Hence, once an action is formed, the basal ganglia take over. Else the brain would shut down with too much of information overload. This also explains why people suffering from amnesia don’t forget how to eat or drive. Jason Bourne was immaculate at what he did despite suffering from memory loss.

There is nothing I don’t like about this book. For people who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and Blink, this book enables a deeper understanding of concepts discussed there. Yes, some examples from those books have been used in this one too.

I could go on and on praising The Power of Habit. I’ve waited 1 ½ years to read this book (it was too expensive for me initially), but the wait was worth it. You must read this book. It will help you understand how your habits are formed; how you can dump bad habits for good ones. It will make you efficient, a better leader and a better human.

image courtesy: Google Images
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