There is a grace in accepting also

wise-and-otherwise-by-sudha-murtyTL;DR — Give when you take, do not take without giving.

Currently I am reading the book Wise and Otherwise: A Salute to Life by Sudha Murty. This book is full of stories based on author’s personal experience, and there is something to learn from every chapter.

One of my favorite story from this book is when she went to visit a school in the densely forested area of Karnataka India. It was a primary school, built by tribals themselves, with one room, two chairs and a blackboard with a pot of water besides it. The school has two teachers and fifty students. While visiting the school, she decided to bring some clothes and umbrellas for the children of the school.

“Please accept these things which I brought for the children here.”, she said while meeting the head master.

The headmaster hesitated, she thought he was embarrassed so she told him, “You have not asked for any gifts from me. I brought this myself. It will help children during the rain. Please get the clothes stitched according to their size.”

The headmaster walked into his hut without saying any word, meanwhile she started interacting with students. Asking them about what do they want to learn. With hesitation, some of the students told they have heard about computers, but they have seen it only on television. They said they wanted to to learn about computers and asked if she had any book which can teach them about computers.

She promised to bring books during her next visit. By that time the headmaster had returned from his hut carrying a bottle of red liquid in his hand.

He offered the bottle to her saying, “Amma, we do not know what you like or drink at home, but this is a special drink we prepare with the extract of red forest fruit. It is good for health. Add some of this juice to a cup of water and stir it before drinking.”

She was embarrassed, how can she accept gift from them, they looked poor and did not seem to have enough to eat or drink. Thus she politely declined the gift.

The headmaster said gravely, “Amma, then we can not accept your gift either. Our ancestors have lived in this forest for generations and they have taught us their ways. When you want to give us something, we accept; but only when we can give something to you too. Unless you take our gifts, we can not take things you have brought for us.”

She was shocked, embarrassed and humbled, nothing in her life experience has prepared her for this. Here an old tribal man, with no schooling, is following a highly principled philosophy of life – give when you take, do not take without giving. This was a culture at it’s best, she smiles and gracefully accepted the gift.

She closed the chapter with the concluding comment from headmaster that, “there is a grace in accepting also.”

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Protagoras’s Paradox

One of the oldest logical paradoxes stems from a controversial figure in Greek history. Like most controversial figures, he was involved in a few lawsuits, and one in particular became known as The Paradox of the Court or Protagoras’s Paradox.

Many years ago, a Law teacher came across a student who was willing to learn but was unable to pay the fees. The student struck a deal saying, “I will pay your fee the day I win my first case in the court”.

Teacher agreed and proceeded with the law course. When the course was finished and teacher started pestering the student to pay up the fee, the student reminded him of the deal and pushed days.

Fed up with this, the teacher decided to sue the student in the court of law and both of them decided to argue for themselves.

The teacher put forward his argument saying: “If I win this case, as per the court of law, the student has to pay me as the case is about his non-payment of dues. And if I lose the case, the student will still pay me because he would have won his first case. So either way I will get the money”.

Equally brilliant, the student argued back saying: “If I win the case, as per the court of law, I don’t have to pay anything to the teacher as the case is about my non-payment of dues.
And if I lose the case, I don’t have to pay him because I haven’t won my first case yet. So either way, I am not going to pay the teacher anything”.

This is one of the greatest paradoxes ever recorded.

This is part of ancient Greek history. The lawyer teacher was Protagoras (c.485-415 BCE) and the student was Euthalos. This case was not solved. The most interesting part – this is still debated (even today) in law schools as a logic problem.

You can read the summary of Paradox of the Court by Joshua J. Mark on the Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Best way to learn something

If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? — Rumi

Töpferei, Sanskriti

I found the story below being shared on a couple of websites. It applies to not only to blogging – but to everything else in life.

In his book Art & Fear, David Bayles describes a simple experiment by a ceramics teacher:

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

All the students learned an invaluable lesson that day. If you want to be skilled at something, practice it effortlessly.

When it comes to software, the same rule applies. If you aren’t building, you aren’t learning. Rather than agonizing over whether you’re building the right thing, just build it. And if that one doesn’t work, keep building until you get one that does. The crucial lesson here is to test, experiment, push the boundaries and most importantly, learn from mistakes.

The people who tried more did better, even though they failed more too. Of course you shouldn’t try to fail, but you shouldn’t let the fear of it stop you from trying.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that quantity always trumps quality, but where the cost of failure is low lots of failures that you pay attention to is a pretty good way of learning. Learning how to do things requires doing them, over and over again, making some ugly pots along the way. Through trial and error, and repetitions, you will eventually figure out. It just takes persistence, a real desire to learn, and a willingness to be wrong sometimes.

Work hard on developing the skill – Deliberate Practice

“Deliberate Practice does not involve a mere execution or repetition of already attained skills, but repeated attempts to reach beyond one’s current level which is associated with frequent failures.’ K. Anders Ericsson

In a few words, deliberate practice is what leads you to continual improvement.

Is there something in your life that you’re trying to perfect? Have you tried a quantity approach instead? (Just make sure to learn from your mistakes.)