Ravi Mohan's Blog
Saturday, August 04, 2007
On Having Friends Who'll Change the World
A few months ago I and a few friends started meeting at the end of every month for an "iteration review" of how much progress we've made (or not) on our "life work" that month. The structured part of the meeting consists of each participant reporting what went right, what went wrong and what was learned during the preceding month and what the plans for the coming month are. Anyone can ask clarifying questions. This is followed by unstructured discussion over dinner (and drinks, for those who indulge in that particular vice). Apart from the obvious benefits of meeting up with friends regularly, the act of vocalizing what was learned has tremendous value. The last meeting was focussed, for instance, on the difficulties of transitioning from the habits instilled from working in India's "Silicon Valley" to those needed for doing world class work, particularly in research/scientific software, the price one needs to pay and the metrics of progress. While that was a fascinating discussion, what struck me then was how lucky I am to know people who are unwilling to accept the status quo and exert themselves to become the best they can be. This extends beyond the attendees of our end of month meetings. I just got back from lunch with another friend I haven't met in a while. I am amazed at how much she has learned in the intervening period and how many different areas of improvement she has targeted for the future. Indian society has the nasty habit of grinding down women who want to excel in any field, but then she has extraordinary potential, so that will be an interesting career to watch. If she ever starts a company, I will be the first to invest in it. On reflection, I realize that I subconsciously rank people by (a) their potential to excel and (b)the ratio of actual achievement to potential achievement. I pay attention proportional to how high I think they score on these parameters and so I end up ignoring people who, in my subjective opinion, have low scores on both parameters. I am not very certain that this is the "right" way to judge people or decide who to befriend (I guess I am an unconscious "elitist") but it results in my knowing people who strive to excel. And given the caliber of some of my friends, I effectively end up knowing people who'll change the world.