"Learning is the key to individual excellence. All self-made millionaires got there because they were savagely curious, self-educated learners. They invested in themselves. If you want to see an increase in your income, the only way is to increase your knowledge."
"As an organization, even with the best of the recruiters on your side, hiring skilled workers can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult. In contrast, a program of regularly investing in the training of your employees is the most cost-effective way to build talent and leadership in-house, and the rewards that this practice brings are disproportionately high in comparison to the investment."
When I was in class 12 in high-school, I got my first part-time job. It was to teach a 6th standard/grade/class student all his subjects for an hour a day, for six days a week. Sometimes, even seven days a week. This was in 1993 and this job paid me Rs.200 (Indian rupees) every month. It was the hardest money I ever earned. That, and I got another Rs.100 for the month for sweeping and mopping the floor of the local madaar, a place of worship for Moslems, clean.
Even though I was to spend an hour a day only, I remember sitting with this sixth grader for over three hours sometimes in attempts to make sure he learnt what I and his parents, who entrusted the job to me, wanted him to. It was tough.
I hid the fact that I worked after school from my own classmates and schoolmates because I didn't want to let them know I was poor.
When I got into college, I started making more money. I started making Rs.300 a month from a student, for teaching him Accountancy. Then, I got a student who paid me Rs.600 a month, and then another for Rs.700 a month. Within less than a year's time, I was charging by the hour, about Rs.120 for an hour, and I started getting more students to teach because I got a lot of publicity by word-of-mouth. I taught Mathematics, English, Economics, Financial Accountancy, Corporate Laws for money and even started to teach the Vedic hyms with a bit of music at a school for free, as my way of saying thanks to God. In my sophomore year, I was averaging between Rs.8,000 a month and Rs.17,000 a month. In addition to teaching, I took up other gigs as well. I remember standing at the roadside asking people to fill out forms for a Channel V quiz, for which I recieved Rs.600 for a whole month's labor, because the number of forms I got filled was more than the minimum number you were required to get filled, which itself was a huge number. I filled many of those myself in different styles of hand-writing.
While I taught, I also did some book-keeping for small shops during college days. I continued this even when I started to work full-time. And like the earlier years, my other work life remained unknown to my workmates, all of whom thought I was a middle-class chap like any of them. But I was quick to get out of work, and I would come home and get to doing the book-keeping or I'd go straight from work to the tuition centers where I taught or to the homes of my students.
For a few years, as long as I could, I continued living the two lives, doing more than one job at a time.
And I always, always had so very much to study so I could teach. I was ferociously studious. More than that, I was pyshotic about how I used my time. I have remained that way since, with a lapse of about 2 years in the recent, but not very recent, past when I got complacent because I was making an above-average salary.
Since I had so much to prepare and study on the different subjects I was teaching to my students and so little time because I was always on the street and only retired home completely knackered late at night, I would use all the time that I spent on the bus ride or while walking, thinking about the subjects I taught. For example, if I was to teach the topic, say, the calculation of the value of the fixed asset Goodwill in financial accounting, that I wanted to understand better, with no book on me, while I was in the bus traveling to the home of one of my students to teach another subject, say Economics, I would spend my time on the bus thinking about Goodwill. I would think hard about what I knew and had already read a several times over about Goodwill. And I would think about the three methods of calculating it. And I would reason them. Why? I would ask myself. What is it? And I would revise the entire subject on the bus ride intermittently making sure I stayed on budget that day and did not spend any more than the Rs.2 or so that I needed for my bus rides. And upon arrival of the bus at the destination, during the five or ten minute walk to the student's home, I would quickly direct my mind to a last minute revision of the topic I was to teach this particular student, which in the case of our example, is Economics.
When I started studying computer programming, I absolutely loved it. I spent many nights at the computer drome at NIIT, practicing C++ on Unix systems. Night after night, time would just slip away. It wasn't until years later that I owned a computer. Until then, I only dreamt of having a computer at home and talked to my parents and sister about how nice it was at the computer drome. Every time I brought the subject up, my parents and my sister would suggest that we use up our family savings to buy a computer. But I dismissed their pleas with indignant assaults, bringing their minds to bear upon the longer term fruits of parsimony. I even convinced them that I didn't really need one. At the time, I am not even sure if all our savings could have bought one. Until then, when I felt like practicing programming, and C++ was the only language I knew back then, I spent many evenings while traveling, or when I had an idle evening by chance, I spent them writing C++ programs on paper. I would sit outside in a park and imagine programs to make that made use of my learning of the Mercantile Laws and computer programming in C++, and I would write these childish programs on paper. When I spotted a bug, I would strike the hand-written text and over-write it with the correct code. When that got too much for the page, I would scrap the piece of paper and begin all over on a fresh page.
Then, one day, after a few years, my parents and my sister spent our entire savings to gift me an assembled computer that they had bought at a sale. I cried that day.
The long and hard work of those years led me to stumble upon a secret. In fact, I will tell you two secrets, my friend.
One, that it does not matter whether you have books to study or not, or whether you take up a course on a subject or whether you go to a training or a school to get your education, it does not matter. The way you really can learn a subject so good that no one can ever teach you is just by repeatedly thinking about it (or, from Flipkart). When you think, and you think harder, you get all the answers. Strangely, I don't know where you get them from, but they sure come from within you. Because, you see, most of all the knowledge we have came from someone's head. There was no book at the time about that topic before it was known to the world. Someone thought long and hard, and applied common sense, and made observations. These observations attained the sanction and the approval of conventional thinking and thus came to print. That is how, you see, all knowledge emanated -- from thought. And that is a big secret (or, from Flipkart), my friend. If you know what I have just told you, you can turn whatever you touch into gold.
The second secret I want to tell you is that when you write down your thoughts, something magical happens. I always carried a small pocket-sized diary and a pen with me right from the time I started working while I was in high-school. No one taught me to. I just needed to remember all the things that swirled around in my busy head, so I took to it as a means of help. And that, my dear fellow, has changed my life. If you ever choose to attend a training of mine, I will be able to tell you length, the benefits of this small habit. I will draw systematic proof of the benefits of writing things down and their direct corelation with what happens in your life.
I said I was ardently studious. I also grew to become an avid reader. As I got more money, after buying the necessities of life, like food and toothpaste and soap for the family, I started buying books. I would go to the college library and borrow the Economic Times and books on a regular basis. I was well known by the library attendants and a few vigilent professors as the guy who was up to something, the guy who was savagely curious. I would pick up used books from the stalls on the street side and read them. I rarely talked. I spent most of my time reading books or thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it, and about the subjects I was teaching, or about a topic I wanted to understand better. During these times, I would apply inductive reasoning to explain theories to myself, and when I got back home to read about the topic from a more authoritative source such as a book, I would be surprised to learn that the book more often confirmed my reasoning. There were occasions when my theories were less the result of logical reasoning than they were a product of my imagination. Strangely, though, even imagination co-incided with the author's explanation.
The desire for education, betterment, enlightenment and upliftment emanates from the spirit. It is done without the desire for any other reward but that of quenching the thirst of the spirit. It is of the nature of the spirit. Without any rewards in sight, the seeker pursues knowledge like it were the thing keeping him alive. And the rewards are certain. Self-education rewards its seeker both spiritually and materially. My recent readings have confirmed that this quest for improving over oneself is a trait found in all self-made millionaires.
Even all self-made billionaires have a few qualities in common. One of them is, they were all self-educated. An overwhelming majority of them had but little, if at all, any formal education. But without exception, they taught themselves everything they needed to learn to achieve their goals.
American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn sums it up wittingly when he says, "Work hard on your job, and you'll make a living. Work hard on yourself, and you'll make a fortune."
Similarly, an organization that invests in the learning of its people is the one that will find itself swept away by success. A culture where employees are taught about the importance of self-education and are given opportunities to practice it is one that results in a drastically increased bank balance for both, the company and its employees. A program of regularly investing in the training of an organization's employees is the most cost-effective way to build talent and leadership in-house, and the rewards that this practice brings are disproportionately high in comparison to the investment.
Training and promoting within is absolutely essential to creating a successful business enterprise. If you are constantly hiring people from outside for your business, I want to draw your attention to the amount of money you can save by replacing that approach with the one of building leadership inside your organization. I don't care what position you hold in a company, whether you are the CEO or a developer, if you have been involved in recruiting talent for your team, as a leader of your team, you will agree that it is difficult to find skilled people and hire them. No, even with the best recruiters on your side, it is not only difficult, but also very expensive and time-consuming to look for and hire skilled workers. I can think of at least four good reasons that pose themselves as difficulties in hiring great workers.
One, really good people do not tend to stay in the job market for long enough, even in the face of an economic crisis. They quickly find new jobs or put themselves into business as self-employed entrepreneurs before you can say gorgonzola.
Two, there just aren’t too many of the most talented people in any trade in our society. That's the way our societies have always evolved. All of humanity is predominated by mediocrity and since companies have to draw their resources from the society at large, the census in any organization is a typical representation of the census of the society it draws from. They are two different samples of different orders but with the same characteristics. In other words, all companies, with the exception of a few small-sized firms, the likes of which are FogCreek Software, Wintellect, InnerWorkings, iDesign, ThoughtWorks, 37 Signals, etc., the most of the rest are pre-dominated by mediocre people with only a handful of great technicians and leaders scattered hither and thither. And ironically, these leaders remain in harmless obscurity because they are never discovered by the management, unless of course, the management happens to be really clever.
The point I am making is that no sooner than a company elects size, an inevitable eventuality it subscribes itself to is the continuous degradation of quality and a compromise in profitability.
The third reason why hiring the best people remains an arduous task is that the task requires not only a considerable amount of effort on the part of a number of people but also requires specialized skill. It is not so much the process of selection as is the finding of the brightest minds when you are looking for them that poses an obstacle. Consider this. One of the tenets of traditional management is that each function be divided into a separate department, thus forcing the decoupling of or, in management lingo, the specialization of functions with the object of achieving efficiencies arising out of continuity and the division of labor. This decoupling works spectacularly in the manufacturing sector, and even in the marketing of services that require little or no specialized skill. But in an industry where knowledge and specialized skill are the tools of the workforce and ideas their inventory, this distribution presents a serious anomaly. In simpler terms, when you remove the task of finding a programmer by relegating it to a non-programmer just so that the programmer has lesser work to focus on other than writing code, you inadvertently introduce inefficiencies through the creation of disguised unemployment. The non-programmer does not have the specialized knowledge required to identify a good programmer.
A non-programmer, which means, the typical HR person that IT companies recruit, cannot do anything important in identifying good programmers, except for the administrative chores of calling people up, or typing things in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word or sending and reading emails about the things going on related to filling the position up. If it sounds like I am completely undermining the importance of the HR department in recruiting programmers, I am, because that is the truth.
And finally, the fourth reason why hiring the right people is more difficult than you could ever imagine is because, sad as it may be for some job seekers and recruiters, a sizable percentage of the recruitment heads at IT companies, at least in the software companies I have come into contact with in the recent past after having quit my job to go out on my own, accept kickbacks from personnel consultants in return for putting their recommended candidates through the recruitment process. I had only known about this earlier, but now, I have seen it for myself.
In the same vein, letting the non-performers in your organization go is difficult, and especially so for large organizations. The larger an organization gets, the more difficult it is to put in place the practice of identifying and eliminating unskilled workers. This is due to the nature of composition of the organization's workforce. As mentioned above, the larger an organization, the more susceptible it becomes to compromises on the quality of its people. As a result, the percentage of non-skilled to skilled workers in an organization increases with size. If any such measure to eliminate non-skilled workers is to be installed, it is to find implementation through a sizable chunk of the non-skilled workers themselves. And that seems like an unlikely proposition.
These challenges notwithstanding, the only solution to have passionate, skilled workers in your organization is to build them up. Start with whatever you have. We build great workers by enforcing a strict discipline of self-education and training. Consistently and regularly investing in the learning of employees is the most cost-effective method of building talent and leadership within an organization.
I am not going to ignore the real world cynical viewpoint of the present-day management. Admittedly, there is a good deal of common-sense in the pragmatic defenses against this theory. Most managers think that money invested in training is a sunk cost since there are no visible returns, at least none that are immediately attainable and can be measured. And if there ever were anything to gain from the money spent on training, those profits were accruable only to the thankless attendees who would then look for higher paying jobs after having gained the specialized knowledge on the company’s dime.
For this reason, companies are perfectly happy to have training programs conducted internally where one group of people spend their time teaching another group of people, regardless of how effective or not the affair turns out to be, as long as there is no pay out or cash outflow involved. The only cost is a sunk cost – the pro rata opportunity cost of the salaries of the people involved depending on the time they spend in this exercise. So, for all you could care, time spent this way is no worse than what it would cost your company if all of them were playing table tennis during office hours. Both are equally acceptable scenarios with potentially equal costs. And if the training really happened to be good, great! Profit!
But that's the cynic's viewpoint. And we are not one of them. The only argument I can offer against this negative viewpoint is to look at the results of the companies that maintain this view. They aren't going anywhere but spinning in circles. The cynic never sees results.
If you are taking the trouble to read this, and have come this far, I must be right in assuming that you are different. You are an ambitious leader with his mind set on making money for the company you own or work for, and for yourself and others in your team. And thus, you do appreciate that there is a difference between expenditure and investment. Money spent on training and development of yourself and your team is an investment that will pay you back several times over.
And you do not need a whole lot of money to spend in training your employees. If you are a small company that cannot afford hiring a trainer from the outside, you have many other inexpensive alternatives. You do not require money to make an investment in your future. You may invest in the development of your employees by cultivating in them the desire to read books, and to lead by example, to know more and work harder than their subordinates, by conducting group reading sessions, by getting the best books in your field and adding them to your organization’s library collection and setting reading goals within your group.
When your enterprise makes any income, set aside a percentage of that income, say, about 5% of that income and pay it back to the people in your organization by investing in their learning. You may invest this money in your people by having them attend seminars, workshops and training programs not only in the field of their work but also on self-development, individual excellence, leadership, motivation and achievement.
In fact, it is less likely that you can get a whole group of people to read all the books you think are useful. That is why it is better to find a learned, well-read trainer with expertise in the subject, great communication skills and the ability to influence minds. I can assure you that if you take the suggestions offered above to heart and follow them religiously, it will increase your people’s loyalty towards you, strengthen your organization and reward you with results that will simply stagger the imagination.
As an individual, you already realize the benefits that the right type of training which inspires in you the desire for self-education can bring into your life. If you continually promise yourself that you will relentlessly work on the development of yourself, to acquire all the knowledge that you need to perform your job well, and you will surround yourself with good books and keep good company, and attend every training that helps you increase your learning and keeps your motivation alive, you will most assuredly see a drastic increase in the quality of your life and in your income. It is rightly said, “The more you learn, the more you will earn.”
If you are now nodding your head in agreement, you need a guy who is clued up enough to do that very job. To train your people, and I am that guy.
I have great skills in this area. As I mentioned, I have been teaching when I was still in the 12th year of my schooling. From 1993 to 2002, with other part-time jobs and even full-time salaried jobs, I continued teaching. In the past, I have taught Financial Accounting, English, Mathematics, Economics, Corporate Laws, the Vedic hyms and music. In the recent years, I have been teaching programming related topics and leadership and motivation.
Below is given a list of the topics on which I offer training programs. Click on a topic to know the training course description.
Training Programs on Self-Development
- The Science of Goal Achievement
- The Principles of Success
- Getting Things Done: The art of time management
Training Programs on Technical Topics
- An Introduction to Win32 API Programming
- Advanced Win32 API Programming
- The C# Language: version 1 to 4
- The C# Language: verion 4
- The C# Language: verion 3
- The C# Language: verion 2
- Object Oriented Programming in Practice
- Design Patterns In The Real World
- The C Programming Language: An Introduction
- The Principles of Software Architecture
- Programming in Ruby
- Programming in Python
- Visual Basic 6.0
- Learn Visual Basic .NET
- Building Web applications with ASP.NET
- ASP.NET MVC
- Programming with the ADO.NET Entity Framework
- Writing Web services in .NET
- Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
- Windows Forms
- Windows Communication Foundation
- Fun with Regular Expressions
- Unit testing with NUnit
- The .NET SDK and third party tools (FxCop, Reflector, Resharper, etc.)
- Threading in the .NET Framework
- ASP.NET Mobile Controls
- Windows Mobile Development
- Linq to Objects using C#
- Serialization in .NET
- The XML Ecosystem
I keep adding to the list of training programs I offer from time to time. So, please keep checking the brochure or this page to get updates on the new training programs I have added. Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed for this website. Another way you can keep yourself updated of my training programs is to subscribe to my mailing list. When you subscribe to my mailing list, each time I put up a new article on this website about anything, I will send you an email. If there is a new training course I have added, the email you receive will contain information about the new training as well.
If there is a training course that you wish to have conducted for your organization and you do not find it in my training brochure, please get in touch with me and I will be happy to work with you to understand your organization's specific learning needs and tell you whether I can tailor a training course to match your expectations.