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25 December: We had to end the year with a road trip to… somewhere. The very thought of spending the last 10 days of the year at home was unbearable. on Christmas morning, we woke up at 4 am with the first goal- to get into the car in 2 hours and head out. We were on our way by 7am. When we reached the GT Karnal road by-pass, it was foggy and we decided to stop for breakfast at Amrit Sukhdev. After another 100 km at the McD’s in Khanna, we booked our hotel at Amritsar. We reached Ramada Amritsar by 6pm and walked down to Golden temple. It was cold and late so the crowd wasn’t too bad. Since we had the place to ourselves, we spent a good hour at the three levels of Golden temple. I bought a red turban from a shop outside for Rs 400. It was available for hire for Rs200. At the hotel, we booked our hotels at Dalhousie. All hotels were totally booked at Dalhousie for new year’s celebrations, so we were losing hope when we heard of one cancellation. We jumped on it and managed to book it by paying online.
26 December: The next day we logged out of our hotel and paid a visit to the Partition museum just next to our hotel, adjoining the Golden temple. We went next to Jalianwala Bagh. After a quick walk around, we headed out to the hills for Pathankot. Dalhousie was another 70km from here with a long and winding route on the hills. We reached hotel snow valley where we spent the night. All hotels and a heater pillar – a 4 foot tall thin rod heater. We parked on the slope outside the hotel which made us very nervous!
27 December: we logged out of here and headed out 7 km further up to Aamod resort. This area had snow on the roads and is much colder than town. This is a lovely eco-friendly resort. The place is much quieter than Dalhousie town. We stayed here for two nights.
28 December: The road was glazed with frozen mud so our car kept slipping on the road. Since we wanted to go to Khajjiar, we decided to hire a taxi – a Maruti Alto for Rs 1900. Our man took us to Khajjiar lake – also called mini Switerzerland. Though this place is beautiful my main thought was it needed lesser humans around. There should be a people filter to beautiful places like this. We got bored quickly of this place and drove up to Daikund. This place is also am army radar area. There was a separate route through the snowed out forest for tourists. Rubber shoes were on hire for Rs 100. We walked up to the temple -a 3 km trek. This was a much better experience since there were not many takers for treks like this. We walked back and headed back to Aamod resort. C;ick here for Google 360 photos:
29 December: we checked out after a filling breakfast and headed for Jalandhar where we have family. Here’s the route we took that covered 1300 km-
… to create the most useless project ever. I should be drawing everyday. Anything. Since the #DrawDinovember challenge floated this challenge to artists on instagram, I figured this could make me do something never attempted before. Drew one dinosaur for every day of the month through November and December. By the time it was over, there was this collection of 30 drawings. So here’s an infographic on 30 dinosaurs in chronological order- all hand-drawn.
Here I am trying to write
something nice, satisfying, fulfilling
But the mind draws a blank
The masters advise- Write now! There is no particular time
No stars will align, nor an auspicious moment
No bells will ring
So I scribble and tap hard
The words align and I struggle for inspiration
Do those last confounding words have to rhyme? Irrelevant.
The mind and heart must work
with memory and imagination
cook, spin, concoct, stir
churn rubbish, gold, slur, gems
hustle till in arrives, shines, glows, rises.
Staring at books I couldn’t read
A desperate resolve to learn spikes
Looking for words that work
Some work. Some resist.
Work the words
Wondering now if I can write. Try.
A distraction pings
A task at hand
Like a baby’s grip
says ‘Write now’
But I am not trained to.
My profession is the graphic kind
But if a larger thought has to… become,
Then it must be shared with others
To collaborate with
So it can see the light and might
Nothing stays. All thoughts are butterflies
Flitting from shoulder to eyebrow
of all thinkers.
So write now
else its all a daze
And we are just dreamers who take instructions…
From those who write now.
Though published first in 1985 for print and TV content, this book has relevant gems that work for social media; and as long as you are communicating with a human on the other side, the basics of copywriting don’t change and can still be referred to from this bible. Some all-time great takeaways:
Your copy must: get attention, communicate, persuade.
Photography and copy must work together.
Internet has not changed human nature.
Consumers today more skeptical and better educated, have shorter attention span.
Receive more communication than ever.
Any visual has only 5 seconds to grab attention.
1st impression means success or failure.
Headline is most important, appeals to people’s self interest.
Answer the Q: whats in it for me?
Select the audience, generate reaction, avoid negatives, use brand name.
Make a list of words that relate to the product.
Keep it simple and straightforward.
Make a complete statement with the headline.
Use more facts. Communicate with people, not try to impress them.
Avoid vague copy.
Write in a friendly, conversational tone.
Empathise with the customer.
BFD formula: Beliefs – what does your audience believe? Feelings – How do they feel? Desire – what do they want?
Positioning: compliment features and benefits.
People like looking at pictures of people.
Make the brochure worth keeping.
Write snappy headlines, provocative questions, add a strong benefit, header should sell itself, go beyond obvious facts.
AIDA formula: ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION
Headline should tell the story.
Excessive verbiage is a put-off.
Every speech should have . clear minded purpose.
Do not bore the audience.
First 4 seconds are like headlines.
Use supers. Think about your customer.
Repeat the product name twice. Avoid stagnant shots.
Relate your content to current or relevant news.
Readers love what they can use right away.
Give actionables: like useful ‘how to’ tips.
Are people having fun working?
Advertising is a serius business.
Your ideas should sell and market the firm’s product.
Be sharp. Be on time. Look professional. Bring work samples. Listen. Let the interviewer do the talking. Be aggressive. Dont be sorry.
Simple layouts are the best.
My copy has all the best takeaways on postits. This piece is a treasure for life.
‘Culture has Strategy for breakfast.’
This well said quote is best enforced with great examples in this book. Cultures of winning teams in companies observed over atleast a decade prove that a great internal culture can make for a great place to work where constant communication and collaboration shows results. Constant communication with team members beats highly qualified folks working in silos. The book is very inspiring and learnings can be put to use immediately if you are leading a team or just working with a team where many skills come together.
You don’t have to be individually excellent, just collaborate with more instances of interaction which is more important for improving a product and reducing errors. Examples are from basketball teams, the army, movie companies and startups.
You also don’t have to be a maverick – an ever misunderstood catalyst. Just be the guy who connects talent together which makes great things happen. Also, an office or any workplace can be designed for better interaction, eye contact and communication between team members. The more the random connections, the higher the chance of generating ideas. Though tech – chat and email can aid communication, not everything can be typed.
Another important takeaway for the leader is to make himself vulnerable to the team. No matter how much a leader knows, its advisable for one to ask others for ideas and expose his own weakness. The point is to create a ‘safe’ zone for other team members to be able to come out and contribute.
I managed to get my hands on this book in a few months after it was published. The review suggests that it be read immediately. True. My copy has notes and postit notes where ever there is an insight. I also hold less higher the idea of the ‘A’ team where only a group of highly placed qualified individuals can achieve greatness. The ‘B’ team has all the potential to do bigger things by simply staying better connected.
More takeaways – Embrace fun, highlight positive behaviour, overdo the ThankYou’s. High candor feedback, uncomfortable truth telling and face to face interactions are a must. Its about collective
Just finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This is probably the most important book in recent times. Though published in 2014, anyone from any field or background will find this book relevant from an existentialist point of view at any point in time.
Yuval questions the very point of human existence and why we are doing what we do. The first part of the book charts the history of mankind and all the development yet in agriculture, perception of money, credit finance and how Europeans influenced the world (important) or science.
Biology enables, culture forbids: you may have all the capability bestowed upon you to create and achieve but the prevailing culture you are in may not allow it. Networking and social skills give humans the edge over others and not brute strength.
The last few chapters dwell into the whole point of what we are doing today. Is happiness the purpose of all innovation and development? Is it money or conquest? What makes us happy apart from just secretion of serotonin in our brain? Is the human race improving or worsening? What is the point of advanced intelligence and cutting edge scientific capability? What do we really want? A person who does not crave does not suffer. People who are genetically disposed to happiness will be happy anyway, with what the already have instead of craving for new things.
Some important takeaways for me: Nationalism is fast losing ground. Soon it will not matter which country you hail from but what you can bring to the table for larger communities, how you can improve the current state of things. Your social skills and ability to collaborate and take things to the next level will matter more than your background. Two main examples are India and America. Both countries have been built by immigrants and conquerors who have left behind legacies which make both countries proud of what they have today. Indians love drinking tea, have a huge cricket fan following (both Brit behaviours), are the largest English-literate population and protect British buildings as heritage sites. Taj Mahal was created by Mughals with material from all over the world. Punjabi food is heavily influenced by Persian and Mughal inputs. ‘American culture’ -be it architecture, music or technology is made from inputs by Europeans, Africans and recently- by Chinese and Indians. So what is the fuss about ‘outsiders’?
All big scientific experiments and projects were given funding because the folks who agreed to fund them saw a larger political, social, economic or religious goal. So think bigger; infact things colossal at a much larger level before you propose your project plan to your boss. The goal must be sustainable with a much larger impact.
No concept, idea or theory is beyond challenge. As long as we accept that ‘we do not know’, there is always the path for more knowledge and debunking whatever hindered our ability to go beyond and achieve more. The status quo can always be changed. There is nothing natural about our current situation and that is evident from history.
This book is already influencing my work and my perception of the world- more so after our US trip. Incidentally I read this book half-way while we were touring in Greyhound buses across the states so it was a surreal experience anyway. I feel that’s why its important to read while travelling. One tends to soak in much more in changing environments and the words get hard-baked into the cells somewhere :).
- San Francisco ( < Istanbul < New Delhi)
- Yosemite National Park, 269 km by bus
- Los Angeles (bus) 616 km
- San Diego (bus) 807 km
- Las Vegas (bus) 435 km
- Grand Canyon West rim (bus) 200 km
- Dallas (flight)
- Houston (connecting bus)
- Lake Charles (bus), 505 km, Baton Rouge (connecting bus) 204 km
- New Orleans (bus) 130 km
- Memphis (bus) 635 km
- Washington (flight)
- New York (bus) 360 km
Click to view a snapshot gallery from the DLSR-
we headed for LA via MegaBus. Our original plan was to do West to East coast of US by road. At LA, we were picked up by our French driver Philip who migrated from Paris in 1970 and felt very strongly about how much LA has changed since then. After checking into the Best Western plus Sunset Blvd. walked down Hollywood Boulevard down the walk of fame. Glanced around at souvenir shops. Marijuana is legal in the US so we could smell weed all over the streets. There were also large signs of free HIV checks at one pharmacy. We also spotted a Ferrari painted in weed graphics claiming to be the fastest marijuana delivery service. Did the Hollywood celebrity homes tour. Saw the homes of Silvester Stallone, Paris Hilton, Borat. Later we walked from our hotel to Hollywood Boulevard. Found a freestyle artist at the footlocker crossing. Damn he was good. Check him out-
- Visit to 6th floor museum– from where JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald,
- Perot Science museum,
- Kennedy Memorial
- World aquarium,
- Klyde Warren park,
Dallas apparently has the least corporate tax so this is home and headquarters to many corporations. This place felt a bit like Gurgaon – a lot of glass buildings and eat-outs and food courts on the ground floor. A lot of old traditional heritage buildings still look good around Elm street where our hotel is. We stopped on the way to Houston.
Our trip through the US changed something in our heads; too much of fresh air maybe. But we saw the country differently – for better reasons. We understood people better (and partial reasons for why Trump won). But more importantly we also saw India better. There are good and bad things about every place. Thats what travel does I guess. About Greyhound buses – when we returned we Googled Greyhound buses and found that it was not rated highly and most people mentioned loss of luggage. Others we spoke with had a few things to say about the people on board. Our experience was different all the way. We interacted with so many people at the stations and got back with all our 6 bags we travelled with. Its upto you and how you see things so have a great time on your visit to to the US- by far the greatest country on the planet right now.
I carried my DSLR throughout the trip – a Canon 6D Mark 2. Though it is heavy, it did two things – I got high quality photographs and it opened up conversations with total strangers in shops and buses. One also tends to look more carefully and compose a picture while looking into a DSLR.
Our trip was organized by Dewberry Holidays LLP, Mumbai. A great team stayed online with us throughout the trip. Our friends wanted to know what difference really does an organizer bring to the trip. Well, somewhere you need the experience of others to optimize your trip. The organizer will at the most suggest the most popular, relevant, best or historic things to see. Its upto you if you want to go there or not. Either this or you do your own research and travel.