WFH Daily #163: Enter the jungle unarmed and with an open heart

September 2, 2020: Tamara Levitt on how to approach a challenging situation; Parents, teachers and exploration of frontier science; Swanand Kelkar on the art of writing; Cutting-edge innovation

Founding Fuel

[Image by skeeze from Pixabay]

Good morning,

Tamara Levitt, author and the voice-over artist who narrates the sessions on meditation app Calm, shares a powerful story in one session about a team of researchers trying to study a group of gorillas in a jungle. 

The research team tried to get close to the gorillas a few times. Before attempting to do that, they would gather supplies and pack their gear, which always included guns for protection, in case of an emergency. The researchers would then set out, in the hope of getting close enough to study the gorillas. But the gorillas pushed them back. 

Until, one day, a lone researcher decided to travel to the camp, without any guns. The gorillas welcomed this unarmed researcher into their home. They allowed him to stay in close proximity while he observed them and they invited him into their larger camp.

Levitt goes on to add a powerful lesson relevant for all of us as we negotiate and engage with others during our day-to-day lives. She says: “Often when we approach a challenging situation where uncertainty is high, we are, so to speak, armed. Without even realising it, our shields are up, our mind is closed and we’re projecting an air of defensiveness, perhaps even hostility. And people can sense our aggressive energy so they respond by putting up their shields and no one breaks through to anyone. 

“But when we approach people from a place of openness, the result is altogether different. If we’re patient, compassionate and understanding, people pick up on those qualities. And they relax and open up. As Matt Valentine said, speak to people with love and compassion, and you have the ability to create change in them. So try to bring this principle to mind when facing a confrontation pitch, debate or dispute. If you notice yourself approaching the situation with tension or hostility, see what difference it makes when you enter the jungle unarmed and with an open heart.”

In this issue

  • Parents, teachers and exploration of frontier science
  • Observation and the art of writing
  • Cutting edge innovation

+ Some important announcements

Have a lovely day!

FF Exclusive | Parents, teachers and exploration of frontier science

In Episode 6 of Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation, a series that explores inter-generational and inter-cultural trends, tech entrepreneur Amrita Chowdhury and her son Shoumik, a student at Yale and researcher in quantum computing, talk about the opportunities around cutting-edge tech, and how to spark and consolidate interest in these areas among the young.

Here’s an extract from the conversation

Amrita: What's critical is that we need more and more resources to attract younger students into the fold of science because there's a certain foundation, an interest that you need at a certain age before you get into that path… The most critical factor in the child's learning outcome is really the quality of teaching and the enthusiasm of the teacher.

Shoumik: Besides teachers, you and dad also played a huge role in getting me interested in science. I would read a lot about stuff and then I would just tell you guys and you were willing to listen and where you could, point me in a direction or told me what to read or just kind of have that discussion. Just be interested in what I was interested in. I think that was very helpful for me.

Amrita: There was no internet when I was growing up, but we had Encyclopedia Britannica. In my house, I had access to many, many books, from my father's medical books to my mom's psychology books to a lot of fiction and nonfiction and everything in between.

What happens with reading is that it's important to learn how to synthesise because information is there but what is important is, how do you synthesise it? How do you interlink ideas? It all comes from reading widely.

Dig Deeper


TAMG Episode 7: This week, on September 5, 2020 we have mom and daughter duo Deepa and Rhea Soman, discussing family business. Deepa is the founder and CEO of Lumiere Business Solutions, a boutique research, consulting and design firm. Two-and-a-half years ago, Rhea joined Lumiere to kick-start a new design practice. If you haven’t registered to watch any of the previous shows, register here:

Chat with Haresh Chawla on #DesiSuperApps

Haresh Chawla will answer readers' questions on a Twitter chat on Wednesday, September 2, from 3 pm to 4 pm. Make sure you tag @foundingf, @hchawlah and use the hashtag #DesiSuperApps with your questions 

ICYMI: Haresh Chawla’s latest piece: The race to build a ‘desi’ Super App

Observation and the art of writing

In Mint, Swanand Kelkar, an investment banker who is on a one-year sabbatical “trying to explore new things and learn new skills” shares his experience with learning to write under the mentorship of Manjula Padmanabhan, an author and illustrator. At the beginning of his sabbatical, he thought, “I can read 30 pages of fiction in an hour with a variability of 10%. I used a similar input-output approach to conclude that I could write 15,000 words in a month.” But that’s not how it all turned out. But, by all indicators, it looks like he is emerging richer from his experience. 

“In one of our sessions, Padmanabhan asked me whether I wanted to be a writer. It sounded like a loaded question and I asked her what she meant. ‘Being a writer,’ she said, ‘is a life-long occupation. You observe all your experiences. Consciously.’ I wasn’t sure I understood. But once I started writing, I realised that I was actually tapping into a reservoir of experiences I didn’t even know I had recorded. They came back as I wrote about characters, places and situations. I don’t know if it will become instinctive but I look forward to experiences now, knowing that even the bad ones could have an upshot; the germ of a story.” 

Dig Deeper

Cutting-edge innovation

(H/T FF reader Karunakar Raykar) 

How are you managing your haircuts these days? Let us know. Head to our Slack channel.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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