Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.

Rocky Balboa: Yo, don’t I got some rights?
Boxing Commissioner: What rights do you think you’re referring to?
Rocky Balboa: Rights, like in that official piece of paper they wrote down the street there?
Boxing Commissioner: That’s the Bill of Rights.
Rocky Balboa: Yeah, yeah. Bill of Rights. Don’t it say something about going after what makes you happy?
Boxing Commissioner: No, that’s the pursuit of happiness. But what’s your point
Rocky Balboa: My point is I’m pursuing something and nobody looks too happy about it.
Boxing Commissioner: But… we’re just looking out for your interests.
Rocky Balboa: I appreciate that, but maybe you’re looking out for your interests just a little bit more. I mean you shouldn’t be asking people to come down here and pay the freight on something they paid, it still ain’t good enough, I mean you think that’s right? I mean maybe you’re doing your job but why you gotta stop me from doing mine? Cause if you’re willing to go through all the battling you got to go through to get where you want to get, who’s got the right to stop you? I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to someone, something… and you’re told no, even after you paid your dues? Who’s got the right to tell you that, who? Nobody! It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do!… You know, the older I get the more things I gotta leave behind, that’s life. The only thing I’m asking you guys to leave on the table… is what’s right.

Rocky Balboa 6 movie

39 people have asked me “The case for master degrees. Should or Shouldn’t ?” This article is for those 39 people.

Well, the correct answer almost always is “It depends.”

But let me give a few points to think about. Obviously, I’m answering from the perspective of CompSci students. Students of all disciplines can draw analogies to their respective fields.

Question: Do you want to focus on theory or on practice?

If you picked theory, why aren’t you thinking of a PhD? If you picked practice, why aren’t you thinking of the actual practice of coding and joining a job? Remember, Software engineering is not the same as Computer Science!

In other words, what are your reasons for doing a Masters? Be specific and clear. List down the pros and cons of doing an M.S. degree.

For example, here are few arguments for not doing a M.S.:

  • You have been studying for 16 years (10 + 2 + 4) or so. Instead of studying for a further 2 years, why not take a break and work for the same 2 years? You can still do a M.S. after that if you please and you would have earned money to support yourself as well.

  • If you haven’t been able to decide during graduation on what it is that you want to do in life, how are you going to gain this knowledge when you’re in post-graduation? Does giving yourself “2 more years to decide” really work? Even if the answer is yes, at what cost?

  • Maybe the question you should be asking yourself is How to Get a Valuable Education Without Mortgaging Your Life? Josh Kaufman answers it beautifully, but obviously he has a strong opinion on the subject. You should draw your own conclusions.

  • Now that you have read the arguments, against doing an M.S., write down your arguments for doing an M.S.

    Update : Read the excellent comments below on the positive aspects of doing a Masters.

Once you have a pros-and-cons list, it will be far easier to decide what to do. If you are still asking the same question, you might as well ask “Should I learn Java or C++?”

Whether you decide to do a Masters or not, I would recommend keeping two things in mind:

  1. Focus on building up an impressive list of things you’ve done. Follow the Zen Valedictorian Philosophy.

  2. If you already have a few ideas in mind that you want to achieve, then just go ahead and apply The Pyramid Method.

Thinking from a big picture perspective, perhaps The Real Question is: What do you want to do with your life?

If you don’t know the answer, then the answer is:

Fix the lifestyle you want. Then work backwards from there.

Cal Newport

Update: See “The obsession of Indians with the MBA degree”, a similar discussion at StartupDunia.

The Idea

A couple of months ago, I was going through a “productivity drought.” I used to repeatedly bounce between tasks. I couldn’t concentrate enough. Work was suffering.

I thought to myself “Just how bad is the situation? Can I quantify it?” Then I started using a very old and boring concept: the stop watch.

Only that I used an iPhone application called TimeJot which is specifically a time journalling application meant for this purpose.

The idea was pretty simple:

  1. Have 5-7 different categories of projects and actions that I normally engage in. Everything else is not considered productive time.
  2. “Projects and actions” are defined as anything that needs to be done, whether at office or home.
  3. Every time I start on one of these activities, start the timer.
  4. Every time I get distracted or switch to something that is not part of the task at hand, I stop the timer.
  5. The most important thing is to keep the timer sacred. It is okay to be not productive, but it is not okay to lie to yourself. If the timer is on, you are working with full focus on the task at hand. If the timer is off, you’re on a break, do whatever you want.

The Results

I have been following these 4 simple steps and I have learned a lot about myself and it has had a profound effect on my productivity:

  1. Realization of how many context switches I do per day! Because I have to stop the timer every time I get distracted, it became really clear on how many times I started switching browser windows! Now, I have (almost) stopped reading tech news websites during work hours and certainly stopped twittering.
  2. I started analyzing and experimenting on how to increase the number of productive hours. One of the best things that worked for me was the switch off WiFi during the first two hours of work everyday. Once I disconnect myself from the global consciousness, I tend to focus on the task at hand. Once in the flow, it is not easy to lose that focus. So switching on WiFi access (which is of course required for regular work) later is okay.
  3. Now that I had the data, I realized how much I’m glued to the computer. So I started restricting myself on weekends to spend less time in front of the computer and more time doing other activities. This resulted in two things: (1) Spending lesser number of hours at the computer but more focused hours and (2) Finally getting around to the big pile of books that are waiting to be read.
  4. Realizing that I’m not investing time in learning new things at all.
  5. Realizing that I waste too much time pondering and not enough time doing. But again, what is needed is moderation not elimination. It is these ponderings that round up my thinking and learning, after all.
  6. Realizing that I am more productive if I wake up early but I just love being a night-owl. A hard problem to solve.
  7. Learning that I work best when there are big chunks of work as opposed to many small things.
  8. Learning that when I focus, I really really focus. But getting to that point is difficult. An important aspect to know about oneself, because once I started accepting that there is a warmup period of several days before I really become productive with a new task, I was fighting myself a little lesser and going with the flow.
  9. I count exercise time also as productive time, so on the days that I cycle to work, I get a bonus one hour of productivity that day and I feel good! And this has the side-effect of encouraging me to go for running and cycling which has drastically gone down these days.
  10. The data provided a stark picture on how much time I spend on non-important things and I started ruthlessly cutting down on all the distractions. And I could prove to myself that I was successful in this initiative only from the data.

That’s a lot of things that can be learned about yourself with a simple stop watch :-)

It’s Not That Crazy

If you think it is crazy to be doing this, then did you know that Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress does time tracking as well?:

> “One of my favorite programs that we didn’t make is Rescue Time. It runs in the corner of my computer and tracks how much time I spend on different things. I realized that even though I was doing e-mail only a couple of minutes at a time, it was adding up to a couple of hours a day. So I’m trying to reduce that. I have a WordPress plug-in that filters all my messages based on the sender’s e-mail address — so high-priority e-mails go into one folder and the rest go into others. Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4-Hour Work Week, advocates checking e-mail twice a week, but that is too severe for me. Instead, I’m trying to implement Leo Babauta’s approach from The Power of Less. He suggests small steps, like checking e-mail five times a day instead of 10. It’s like dieting: People who binge diet gain it all back. That happens to me with e-mail.”