When I grow up, I want to make real, my idea.

`Thank you for your response!’

I have quite obsessively checked the dashboard of my blog to spy on how many views I got. 85 on the first day – Wow! That was surely unexpected, but more imminently elevating! Then crash! bam! the next day it fell to 15 and then 4, then 2, and finally I had them ducks making me cry ‘ZERO’ with alarming disdain, self-pity, indifference, and then some renewed resolve. I had a tough time convincing myself that I am no Nicholas Kristof or Jug Suraiya or Chetan Bhagat even (my peeve with his writing I shall reserve for my other whiny blogspace), to be entitled to a dedicated daily following. Correction – Not Yet. Not when some four people demonstrated persistent interest a day ago, and helped me sustain the confidence that this is a model worth building upon.

This week:

Jest aside, I have honestly been thinking of what to write here for the past week amidst the frantic typing of code for my data analysis and cover-letters inviting potential bosses to see how we can together marry numbers and statistics to diseases and drugs. I even thought of something today, but I will save it up for a dry day when I have no other ideas.

So I made a last minute decision (err, not entirely like George Sampson’s turnabout that well, quite changed his life) to write about an issue quite close to my heart. If I had to type the keywords, they would be – schools, India, education, hobby, career, vocation, creativity, business, encourage, counseling. Quite a few there, but I guess they encapsulate quite well what I am about to think aloud in this space.

“Never let schooling get in the way of your education”.

I can quite imagine Mark Twain, in the way I have envisaged him to be, bellowing aloud these famous words that apparently have not quite been traced back to his genius directly. Nevertheless, in my life it has been firmly entrenched only of late, with the entry of an almost-better half, here on referred to as Sheraton.

When one hears this propaganda at the least of once every fortnight, the cochlear nerves are bound to respond and let the brain know that something ought to be done about this. I believe, that the idea had become tangible in conversations with my brother-in-law, then new to the family who pushed me to leave medical school right in the middle of the academic structure and pursue a better aerated, less stifling option. However, going further back into history, I credit the roots of this concept mostly to my sister, R, whose epigraph should really read “Padhke kisne kya paaya?” (literally translated as whoever benefited from schooling).

My blog –  a business that schooling did not prepare me for.

I am here to sell my ideas for free, invite some criticism and failures, build upon my losses and capitalize on my gains, and refurbish my old ideas to more acceptable standards. (In the bargain, I hope to send down some pearls and marvels of wisdom 😉 ) Having said this, when I listen to Cameron Herold, I think, well I am an entrepreneur in a tweaked definition of the word. Writing and trying to make sense of this world is my business here, and that is exactly what I am trying to improve upon. Mark Twain and Cameron Herold together inspire me to write this post today, that I hope would help me fine tune my own ideas about how we see a link between the following keywords: kids, business, career, idea, money, dreams.

Let’s raise our kids to be entrepreneurs”

Cameron Herold, a successful entrepreneur-teacher, talks about raising kids to be an entrepreneur in one of my favourite Ted talks. Every time I see the video, I nearly see my entrepreneur brother-in-law nodding his head in vigorous agreement. Herold was an academic dud. Worse, he ‘suffered’ from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Maybe, he was loitering around the  hyperactive normal end of the continuum, and maybe he was lucky that he got the chance and guidance to help him channel his energy into something more fruitful. But there is no denying, that he learnt outside of school what he could never learn inside it – the art and science of business. His story resonates with that of the typical American kids I read about in encyclopedias – delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, and the like. His father was however more intelligent than the average. He did not just pass rewards as allowances. In fact he made the allowance an incentive for the kids to pick up the threads of entrepreneurship. How these incentives alerted young hyperactive inattentive Cameron’s minds to the nuances of business, negotiation, and innovation is what you will learn when you watch the video. I ask you to really devote sometime to this – the audience needs it more than the talk needs the audience.

I reflect on Herold’s story with awe and then a sense of wistfulness. As a kid, I had inherited quite a decent collection of story books and hordes of Amar Chitra Katha(s) and Tinkle(s) that I loved to share with my friends. In fact, the twist is that I would actually feel upset that my friends did not quite share my interest in the Secret Seven or Thumbelina and here I was wanting to discuss the nuances of the story with them. I devised upon a plan to get them interested. As little girls of the 80s and 90s did, we would also indulge in our fantasies of playing adults. “House House”, anyone? A more mature version of this act was to go out into the world and work. I used this design to weave my plan into it. Feigning boredom with playing doctor (portent!), I decided to play librarian for a change. In this disguise, I lured them into paying me Re 1 for every book they take and an absolute fine of 50 paise if they did not return it within one week. My business ran successfully with no real major glitches until one day I decided I had made enough money to redirect my business into philanthropy.

My altruism turned out to be a big flop. Really a big flop show. The moment I declared all lending to be made free, customers lost interest. I still remember being utterly confused and too proud/scared to tell my parents about what I had done and let it go. School soon caught up with us and the library became a forgotten story. Even today, some of those books have my writing pencilled on their first page – Re 1/-.

My experience is a brilliant story. Brilliant, because kids are way more intelligent than we give them credit for. It took some nerve on my part to devise a ‘business strategy’ and take a calculated risk with an unstable high-risk customer base – my play pals.( This phase kind of paralleled my father’s forays into small time business and I still see myself staring at him talking about it). It also took some guts and a decent insight for their age, for my friends to buy this service. They saw some utility in opening an account with the library, probably a sense of using this chance as a playground to test their sense of financial decisions. What fascinates me is the potential idea that they were not as appreciative of reading books for their sheer pleasure as much as the idea of being involved in adult-like transactions! Well, evidently they really took their play-adult fantasy seriously. We were just six or seven years old. Schooling had just begun. Education apparently had been around for quite sometime. Human trait for sustenance and survival was part of our genetic blueprint.

Kids have ideas that they would love to improve upon.

At a very young age, kids have a fair idea of what they possibly want. Definitely what makes them happy. As a kid, I was too shy to really go out and dance on a stage fearing two left feet. My foray into classical dance (Bharatanatyam) was some sort of a remedy to my issue, but soon lapsed when I decided that the ‘i-don’t-dance-like-the-non-geeks-do’ attitude was cooler. I was supposedly a good expressive dancer, but with my decided opposition to my pursuit, I subconsciously trained my feet to become two left feet. Today, I graciously accept a realization I had as a child; that dance is a form of self-expression. Dancing makes you shed your inhibitions and love yourself for the person you are. I am not a great dancer today, but I am not shy to get on stage and instruct my right foot to behave itself. That the broken left knee has sort of messed up my left foot, is well a different story!

Sometimes I’d like to meet my kiddie self, tell her off and ask her to remember for her future that life is really not about a profession as much as it is about doing what you love to do. Kids really are a miniature adult, and grasp nuances of life sooner than we expect them too. Just today, my brother-in-law was describing to me how the toddler nephew employs his father’s commanding tone to beckon his mom (my sister), and instead uses his older sister’s softer mellower pleasing tone while calling out to his father! My nephew isn’t even as old as 18 months, yet he exemplifies the capacity of the infant human brain to grow at an exponential rate. So our education really begins with our birth and truly has nothing to do with our schooling, it seems.

Why are schools not so intuitively connected to entrepreneurial skills as other conservative academic avenues?

Cameron Herold talks about how he blossomed in his business ventures, going onto teach a course for budding and seasoned entrepreneurs. Yet sardonically, he was allowed to plant his roses only when he was freed from the clutches of school. He left school prematurely and never returned to complete it. On the other hand, his lack of academic prowess never once seemed to tailgate his blaze of success!

Not that I discredit schooling. It is important and helps us build a nature of perseverance, comprehension, and skills to help us in dire situations like examinations! But, I argue that schooling cannot be the determination of our caliber. Yes, I know this is not a new idea, but the fact that it needs repetition is proof that it remains just an idea. What if we introduce the idea of entrepreneurship to children at an early age and emphasize that anything they love doing and want to popularize is really entrepreneurship? How many children would resist the idea of using the arts & crafts class to create something of value? Would children not take up the challenge of writing scripts and producing the act to convey a message as simple as ‘cutting nails’? I am so unimaginative myself, that I can’t think of ideas that young boys and girls would take up; yet, I am willing to wager if the concept of entrepreneurship is conveyed to them in a more creative package than calling it an MBA, someone like my kiddie self would really take up her lending library seriously. Or possibly, a kid learning ballet would go back to school and teach her friends some of what she learnt in exchange for a remixed version of her favorite song!

Human race has only progressed with the free exchange of new ideas. Only the exchange brings in change.

Once again, I admit I am chanting a now popular mantra of change. But I only hope, I am able to impress upon you and convince you that we actually have our solutions in front of us. As the generation in charge, we just need to push the ivy aside to discover the league of commonality that was always there. And have the courage to send our kids down that road.


Wiki-quote has paraphrased it as “Never let schooling interfere with your education”. I somehow find the phrase ‘get in the way’ more romantic and chose poetic license in a land fraught with indecision anyway!

Keep sending your comments.



6 responses to “When I grow up, I want to make real, my idea.

  1. Money has a weird place in the human psyche and that means : traders are among the most “vile” among peoples. Too much of money is bad (as long as it belongs to someone else). Commonly heard in India – “Things are getting so much worse, now that everything is commercialized”. Why is commercialization automatically a bad thing. You see that again when you hear people say – “Nowadays it has become a business”. Why is business a bad thing ? Or even “he is talking like a businessman” !

    Entrepreneur is probably a more acceptable (maybe even classy/fashionable) word to use. ( probably cos its french :p ). I have almost never considered being an entrepreneur but then I reckon it must one of those satisfying jobs – building something new that people are willing to pay you to use/experience must be an amazing thing.


    • Loved the article! I personally thought that I learnt more outside of medical school than I did in medical school. Obviously medical knowledge is huge and I still have books upon books to read and exams upon exams to take. But applying that book knowledge in a practical setting definitely required some extraneous intervention. I learned the application part of it from the people around me. This included victories and defeats. As Sinatra said, ‘I bit off more than I could chew’ more than a few times but these life experiences directed me on how to handle that stuff.

      On another note, I think we’re all entrepreneurs really. Its not just about making money but its about doing something different. Even simple things. It could be how you want your practicing physician’s office designed in the future. Its about how you decorate your apartment differently. But to take it to the next level, where ‘entrepreneur’ represents the business aspect, Cameron Herold made it and he’s giving a speech. How many more people similar to Cameron Herold out there had trouble with their business or entrepreneurship. I’m sure quite a few. Not every basketball player makes it to the NBA and not every singer has a Billboard hit. That’s where schools have to come in and make sure its not just about science and engineering.

      Lastly, between my doctoring, drinking and dining out, I’ve come searching for mirth and I’ve not read a casual book in a while, nor have I heard of Jug Suraiya or Chetan Bhagat. So keep the press rolling!!!

  2. Hi Jack (:D) ,

    I agree that entrepreneurship may not become a successful venture for everyone who accomplishes it. Neither does medical school or accountancy or being a teacher. Yet, for all those kids out there who don’t do well in school and have no interest in continuing academic pursuits, nobody tells them that they can get out and have their own start-up. That the startup could be embroidery or cleaning windows or having an organization that recruits volunteers to plant trees, or getting involved in plays is never told to them in explicitly encouraging words.

    Most kids that do venture out like have at some point in time been termed losers or idiots that can’t study – loudly or muttered under breath. It takes them a while to build their self-image that has been destroyed by myopic visions. My argument is that when kids play, or when teachers talk about careers, they must make it a point to tell their students about setting up their own ventures. Kids must be told that it is OKAY to not get into the science stream and that their lives do NOT end there.

    Lastly, with no reference or offence to you in particular, medical students must be reminded that it is OK to change fields at any time. Life if really not about the hospital and patients and saving lives.

  3. Awesome stuff ma. Really loved the TED talk. It takes a lot of courage to be an entrepreneur. A lot of it has to do with immediate family, society and other external; but primarily it is just within us. One has to take that leap of faith, and it doesn’t come that easy.

    Fantastic post. I am sharing this.

  4. Very nice talk. Well written blog post too.

    Did you notice his father was an entrepreneur, and both his grandfathers? Thinking about it, and with a sample size of more than just the one I refer to, I am beginning to form a theory that occupational traits get passed on from one generation to another. Parents naturally want their children to do well, and they sub-consciously coax them towards the tried & tested, rather than the unknown. An entrepreneur doesn’t see the risk in what he does, he sees the opportunity; if you aren’t one, you see the risk and not the opportunity. & you bring your children up impressing on them your ideas, opinions and way of life.

    My other theory is that if it were all that simple, if everyone could succeed as entrepreneurs, you would naturally have more of them. However, you don’t. This is because imo, and I suppose you could prove this with empirical evidence, having a career as an employee is not as fraught with risks and is more stable. In the long run and all things being equal. It is this theory which makes us treat entrepreneurship the way we do. We teach our children to be doctors and lawyers because we know it probably gives them a better chance at life. I am not saying it guarantees success, but I believe that for every successful entrepreneur, you have far more unsuccessful ones, than you have unsuccessful lawyers for every successful lawyer. & by success I mean just a regular source of income sufficient to sustain you. Something tells me you’ll disagree with this theory.

    All of that said – the central theme of Cameron’s talk was that we should raise kids to be entrepreneurs – and I agree. If someone shows at an early age the flair for entrepreneurship, nurture rather than stifle.

  5. Haha. I disagree not.

    I agree that my argument is kind of invalidated because Cameron comes from a family of traders and yes a familial environment can play an important role in shaping our instincts.

    Yes, I also agree with you when you say “We teach our children to be doctors and lawyers because we know it probably gives them a better chance at life”. I especially find myself nodding with vigour when you state in your next line that these professions do not guarantee success.

    Therein lies the soul of my argument, a tad simplistic.

    There is no reason to believe that financial security and prestige will come as a given with these professions, and stand on unsteady ground with a more adverse risk-benefit ratio for non-academic profession. If there is no data on failed and frustrated doctors or engineers or lawyers – then it is more to do with lack of meticulous data collection.

    If we go by just financial security, I still disagree because doctors go through financial roughage for decades before attaining a reasonable level of income. How is it reasonable to encourage someone to get into this field – the speculation of the lure of luxury? And I find it difficult to tease out the feeling of joy in my definition of success. So, someone who earns well is successful even if they are suffocating in boredom?

    I do not mean to suggest that we totally shun academic professions. But I do believe that it is important to keep children’s minds open to a bigger shelf of ideas. If we continue to believe that there are only certain professions that guarantee financial security, radiologists would have never been the most envied lot among doctors.

    My discomfort with traditional guidance is that not only is it stifling, it does not promote innovation in anyway. Entrepreneurship here is just an example. We do not allow ourselves to become scientists or poets or historians or social workers because they do not give us money. That is not true – they do pay, but do not pay as much as a doctor. The same person will be far happier being a writer than being a doctor, no matter the financial returns – and would have surely been happier being nudged into honing a skill that will sustain rather than honing a skill for sustenance.

    Reading about lives of successful people only leads an underpinning theme – they all repeatedly emphasize the importance of living a happy life and doing what we love most. We think we love our profession, but have we really spared a thought to think of what we might have done given a chance to rewind?

    Finally, I agree that it is a complex layered conundrum that is too dynamic for me to point to a specific line defining why some succeed and some do not.

    It’s just a start. We teach our children what we know best, but it does not necessarily mean that the our knowledge is the best available.

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