There are many bad people and bad situations I come across each day. 

It’s like I am about to get out of home to go to Colombo, to find out two dogs are barking at me at the gate. What are my options ? 

  1. Take cover, ignore the beasts, carry on with my journey
  2. Bark at them, may be bite at them.  (How dare you two !)

Most of the time I take option 1. It’s like 90% of the time. But there are 10% of those dogs who will not let me mind my business and don’t let me avoid them. Those are the battles I pick. 

Yet remember all dog barking seems to be falling to that 10%. It is not. My biggest challenge is to find that 10%. 90% of the time you get people who don’t trust you, belittle you, say and do back biting. I have found the elixir to let go of them 90%. That elixir is asking my self each time a dog barks ” Is this a battle worthy of my time?”

Done. 

I am in the creative process of designing a community project that will help people to identify fake news. For the last 3 weeks, I have plunged in to the vast ocean of social media in Sri Lanka in the light of constitutional crisis, among other things.

What struck me most is, fake people are more easier to identify than fake news. When I digged into the sources of the news, I was able to judge more effectively.

Fake people are the ones who create a persona that is larger than life. They do not live by their broadcasted values. They jump on to any opportunity that come their way. They show that they care through words.

Do you wonder why these fake people are been venerated by masses?

Reason is, these fake people understand what the masses want. They give you something to believe in. They play with the imagination of the masses. The masses fuel that by giving them the attention and their power.

You may think I am talking about the politicians. Not just them. I am talking about fake people everywhere. Fake people in government, private sector, NGO’s,entertainment industry, clergy, academics, media institute owners, sports men and women, and the list is endless. I have encountered fake people in our families.

These fake people create messages that speak to your heart. They steal your emotions. They create a persona that seems invincible. They are actually not.

Ask questions. Test their motives. Throw away blind fandom. Find that fake person behind a fake news. Have a critical thinking mindset.

Cheers.  

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Last week, I did an interactive session on Growth Hacking at a startup workshop. First thing I mentioned was that growth is a relative term. It means different things to different people and organisations.

Massive crowd pullers like Air BnB, facebook and instagram heroic stories are plenty on internet and I hear them thrown around in forums very losely.

Here’s the thing, most of us, will not build an Instagram. What startups need to understand is, ten customers who will pay you is a good start.

I know a company housed in World Trade Centre that has only 4 clients, but their revenue is growing year on year.

I know a sillara kade ( corner grocery shop) which is surviving despite flashy super markets popping up around it. Secret is this grocery shop does not try to be a super market. They know what their customers want and offer that consistently: giving good quality food items at a cheaper price, credit limits to good customers and by keeping the overheads to a minimal. It has survived 15 years doing just that. That shop made sure the owner had money to put food on the table and send his kids to school.

What growth is, depends on your priority. It is NOT just the number of users in your app, not just the number of views of your Instagram video. For me it is the number of customers who are willing to pay you to get the services you offer. You don’t need to go after more and more customers all the time, sometimes you just have to treat the existing customers well. You will know the power of a happy customer, only when you have survived to have few of them. 🙂

My life has changed 180 degrees, when I did the data science coursera course from Johns Hopkins University, . That new learning cannot be undone. My understanding of the new world has changed. I started conversations with few of my colleagues and mentors on how Data Science, Machine Learning and AI can make a real change for a country like Sri Lanka. How can it help the common man, Siripala and Sumanawathi who are left behind. It was a very limited niche conversation for me, until yesterday.

There were 350 people packed in to a hall in Kingsbury: developers, junior and senior Managers, CEOs, academics, and of course a fantastic lineup of speakers from across the world

Although it was a full day event, which most of us find impossible to commit in this age, I was glad to see most of the audience staying until 6 pm. Kudos to Jeevan and SLASSCOM team for making this happen.

I had a lively conversation with Yasantha Rajakarunanayake, who went viral in social media when Jeff Bezos introduced him to the world as the smartest guy at Princeton. Yasantha is back in the Sri Lanka after 30+ years and he’s excited to see the enthusiasm for AI , because he believes customised education is the only way forward for a sustainable world and that is only possible with AI.

It was good to catch up with Chrishantha Fernando, a Sri Lankan working as a Senior Research Scientist at Google Deepmind. Yes, you saw that right. I told him about the new digital aspirations of young people in Sri Lanka and also about the mental blocks that prevent rural Sri Lanka from reaping those opportunities. He listened carefully and said “Keep on doing what you guys are doing, because future waits for no one. It is here to be embraced. Do not be in the sidelines.”

Yep.

 

I did my first talk in Pecha Kucha format at Facebook South Asia safety summit. 

 

I loved it. 

Because I could use only 20 slides of 20 seconds each. Slides need to be mostly of pictures/diagrams and may be few words. Which means I have only 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell my story. I immediately loved this format which induces brevity. I prepared for 4 days. Rehearsing over and over, removing all unnecessary words to get that perfect story. I have never pushed myself to a talk like this. It is hard to find time with all the work circling around. For that I am so thankful for pecha kucha format.

I was so ready. I was excited. Until I went on stage and saw a timer ticking in front of me all the time.

I hated it.

It was not TED type, where they start the timer at 16 minutes. No, this was a 20 seconds timer. Repeating for 20 freaking times. I was ok with slide automatically move on to the next in 20 seconds. But I was not ok to see a constant time bomb reminder.

I felt as if I was playing a T20 cricket match. You may not see much of that tension when you watch me in the video. But you may see couple of instances where I ran out of time in one slide and had to wait awkwardly until the next slide came in. That made me not to have the most important thing for me when I talk. To have eye contact with the audience and adapt with their responses. I feel alive only when I can engage with the audience no matter what the setting is.

See, I love the brevity of 6 minutes 40 seconds. But I am tensed to be timed for 20 seconds for 20 times.

Here’s the format I love, for the sake of clarity. 

I get 6 minutes, 40 seconds. I can choose 20 slides or less. Timer starts at 6 minutes, 40 seconds, just like in TED.

I have the control of the clicker. I have control over the time I spend on each slide. But I will stop at 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

Every single day, every single talk is a learning. The more I tell stories, the more people I connect to.

I am grateful for this challenging opportunity given by Facebook team in India. Thank you !

 

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Dec 6 update: Talk in TEDx is alive. Watch it here. 

I could not attend this year’s TEDx Colombo. I was out of the country. When I asked my wife ‘what was the takeaway of Yudhanjaya’s talk?’, she said ‘He asked us to mingle with people outside our range.’

I smiled because it is absolutely true. It is astoundingly true and simple, that is exactly why we don’t do it.

It is easier and fun to conform to a band of brothers/sisters. There are perks in that.

But when I was 26, I stopped subscribing in to things that society asked me to. Because I did exactly what the society wanted me to. Go to University of Moratuwa. Do CIMA. Get a job. Your life will be taken care of. You will live a happy life.

I was miserable after all those achievements. Why? I questioned.

I started reading. Philosophy, religion, leadership, management, arts, technology, sociology, psychology and anything outside my Engineering circle.

I started watching documentaries on true nature of life.

I started reading biographies.

I started meeting people who are out of my circle. Who are 10 years older than me. At 26, I spent time with people who were 35-40.

Now I am hanging out more with people who are 45-50. Guess my age ?

The reason is I wanted to see what happens to people who took various decisions when they were my age. I ask questions from them and get honest answers most of the time. I pivot decisions based on those observations.

So, what Yudhanjaya said is true. Do it more often.