My 3 Biggest Learnings from RealAcad Stanford I 2011

This post has been coming for a while. Ever since I finished up my camp last week, I have been trying hard to synthesize my top 3 learnings from the week. That’s taken a while though – thanks largely to all the ‘catch up’ that’s been in progress.
I needed some time to sit down, reflect and then have a conversation with a friend (I learn by talking out my thoughts..) and this process took a good part of the week. And finally, thanks to a great 4 hour discussion with a close friend, I feel like I have my top 3.
Firstly, I would like to thank the Super Team.
From Left Bottom: Nash, Baptiste, Ashish, Ankur and Zhixin
From Right Bottom: Cecile, Riccardo, Justin, Eugenia and myself. :)
The camp truly was an unforgettable memory. And here are my top 3 learnings –
1. Who you choose to spend your time with, defines you. I blogged on this topic last week. The following come to mind when I think of the learning –
– Top performers cluster. It is always the case. I’ve seen it happen time and time again that the best always spend time with the best thanks to a relentless focus on pulling each other up.
– Either you are bringing people up or pulling them down. It’s always one or the other.
– It is NEVER fully ‘comfortable’ when you hang out with people you learn from because they are always questioning your beliefs, always pushing your buttons and always ensuring they have your best interests at heart.
It’s not easy to do this. But again, what’s right is almost never easy.
2. The only route to success is by being yourself. This one came from Jack Welch. And what’s amazing about the ‘Be Yourself’ learning is it’s simplicity.
I realized the impact of this one in my own work life. It is common knowledge among colleagues who do know me that I derive a lot of my energy from my little initiatives like this blog among others. And that knowledge and reassurance that they have accepted me as I am plays a big role in my happiness, and thus my commitment to work.
It’s not always easy though because of our strong desire to ‘fit in’ and act unnaturally if necessary to do so. This is a reminder that alarm bells should be ringing if we see that happening.
Again, common knowledge but not common practice.
3. There is no greater form of respect (in my eyes) than for those who ‘do’. I am finding this difficult to express in writing and feel a longer explanation is due.
I am obviously very biased to RealAcad – I have been a proud RealAcader since 2007 and have made ‘giving back’ to RealAcad a part of my life. What I love about RealAcad is that every camp has a ‘life of it’s own’ – it is highly dependent on the people who show up and what they bring to the table. It’s magic lies in the fact that it is incredibly customized – so much that so that every person walks out having learnt something entirely different. My belief is that this magic means you learn what you most need, at that point of time. I’ve been fortunate to attend 8 camps over the past 4 years and every camp has resulted in a completely different set of learnings. Some camps taught me to keep trying, others told me to believe in my dreams, yet some others pushed me to ‘act’ and yet some others reminded me of the bigger picture.
All that said, what makes RealAcad truly magical in my eyes is that it has given me a constant stream of people I respect – people who live by ‘practicing’ what they preach. There is nothing taught at a RealAcad that hasn’t been practiced and therein lies its uniqueness. It is not theory, it is ‘real’.
In my case, it had been a good 18 months since I’d attended my last camp and I must admit that I had a my doubts on the kind of impact it would have on my life. I had changed lots, ‘grown’ a fair bit and had my own set of strong opinions. I was going to be helping lead the camp with friends I hadn’t worked with for a while (working together via Skype is wholly different from being on show for an entire week of course) How would it go? Would I walk out with the usual ’10/10′ at the end of the camp?
And I clearly remember ‘that’ moment on the 5th day (I think). We were amidst an intense discussion and I found myself looking around the table and feeling extremely happy at being amidst a group SO dedicated to learning and growth. It was that warm, fuzzy feeling of being amidst friends who were committing to practicing everything they learnt and in that process, working hard, playing hard and laughing lots.
I did walk away from the camp giving it a ’10/10′ rating. And I can’t remember a week when I have laughed more. Nor can I remember the last time I cried and laughed all at once, while waving goodbye to the team as they drove off leaving me by myself to catch my flight at San Francisco International airport..
It felt strange to be left alone.. after that week.
It was very special.
(And this was the gang that left me at the airport crying.. :))
For those of you who are wondering about RealAcad, I have posts from the past here and here. For the complete list, do just key in RealAcad in the search box on the side. :)

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