What I have learnt from my brother.

“Which of you is older and which is younger?”

We get asked that ALL THE TIME!

Too end the suspense, for those of you who don’t know.  

I’m the younger one.  

Okay, I’m not.  It’s Ali.  He’s the younger one.  Well only in age.  In several other ways, he’s much older and wiser.  I say that because I’m constantly learning from him and growing.

There’s tonnes that I’ve learnt from him.  Here are the top few skills that I’d like to share.

How to Read:
We all read. But we don’t read the way Ali does.

You see, Ali buys a LOT of books.  We share a Kindle account.  And every other week or so I see a couple of books pop into my Kindle.

For eg, Some of his recent titles are:

How does he consume so much?  He has a secret.  And the secret is this. 

He reads with Purpose.

He buys the book with a clear objective.  There is something that he needs to know that is trapped in this bits and pixels of the ebook.

Something to gain, to learn.  It’s often key to a project that he’s working on.  

When he’s got that, he’s done with the book.  Even if he’s not finished reading everything.  Well, as far as he’s concerned he has finished reading everything.  Everything concerning his purpose.  As a result, he reads more, reads faster, learns a great deal and remembers longer what he reads as well.

I’m different.  I respect the author’s train of thought.  I like to be surprised.  I start a book at the cover and go page by page.  Chapter by chapter.  To jump between the book would be sacrilege!  

Not to Ali.  He’s clear and methodical.  

He’s even written down the steps How he goes about reading a book.  And it works.

Next time you read a book, try the approach that Ali has outlined here.  Broadly his steps are:

  • Get clear on the purpose
  • Get an overview of the material you are about to consume
  • Do a deep dive on what is aligned with your purpose.

Please share with us how you fare.

How to Draw:
The benefits of drawing are immense:

  • Before you can sketch, you need to see well. Hence, Sketching increases your observational skills multifold.
  • To draw something well, you’ve got to know how it works.  Sketching helps you hone your sense of curiosity and begin to learn the world around you deeply and meaningfully.
  • Drawing is so deeply meditative. Feeling stressed and anxious. Spend 15 minutes sketching and drawing what’s around you and feel that tension release in your temples and shoulders.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. You won’t be left searching for words. You’ll be able to You develop an additional skill to describe something to someone
  • Best of all, stuck somewhere where you have to be but don’t want to be (Boring meetings, at an airport, waiting for your flights). Just open the notebook in front of you and doodle away. In fact, just Sketch Note the meeting.

Ali picked up drawing because Leonardo da Vinci drew.  He figured if Leonardo drew he should too.  He started by watching and copying YouTube videos. This was one of the earliest videos he watched to learn to draw. Eventually, he got down to drawing comics and even publishing them!

If you’d like to begin, this is the book that I recommend you start with:

Ali’s a minimalist.  Sure in the material sense, but his minimalism goes beyond that.  He’s a minimalist in everything.  

For eg. I’ve seen Ali refuse a screen guard for his iPad because it would add unrequired weight.

Now what’s truly impressive is that, he brings this minimalism to whatever task or project he takes on in life.  He is constantly asking himself,
”How can I make my Project list shorter?  What should I focus on?”

It’s a Masterful trait.  

Especially today when we’re flooded with a Tsunami of options on how to spend our time.  At any moment you can choose to be entertained, or choose to work, or just be distracted with whatever is in front of you.  So what do you do?

He knows what to do.  He’s focusses on the 20% that would give the 80% return.  

How does he do it.  He just keeps asking himself…

“How can I do less…

“What can I remove from my list..

… yet have the same results?”

It’s simple. Yet immensely difficult.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

Steve Jobs

Ali is a finisher:
Using all the above three skills of Reading, Drawing, Focus, Ali is constantly Creating.  He’s always crafting something.

Either a Sufi Comic or a Blog Post, Youtube Videos or refining his Marketing strategy, campaigns.  For Ali, you’re alive only if you’re creating.

But that’s not all.  The best bit is, Ali is a finisher.  

Do you have stuff that you’ve started but never got round completing?  

I do.  Loads of them. Perhaps Ali does too. 

But he’s a finisher as well.  He sets a deadline and then keeps cracking till it’s done.  Could it be done better?  Sure.  But his philosophy is that an idea executed is better than a thousand ideas on the drawing board.

“Real Artists, ship.”

Steve Jobs

Ps. I’ve learnt Holacracy from Ali too.  But that’s a story for another Blog Post.

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