Posted in All, Entertainment

No solution under the shadow of the gun

The special representative to initiate dialogue in Kashmir on what led to unrest in the Valley and the way forward

On October 23, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma as a special representative to “initiate” and “carry forward a dialogue” with elected representatives and various individuals in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Sharma is a 1979 Indian Police Service officer of the Kerala cadre. He served as Director of the IB from 2014 to 2016. After his retirement, the Centre was keen to give him an extension but he turned down the offer. He was later appointed as an interlocutor for talks with Assam-based insurgent groups and heads a committee to restructure the Home Ministry. Excerpts from an interview in Delhi:

What is the Centre’s intention behind the talks? The government would have informed you about your mandate.

The government didn’t tell me about its intentions. It is obvious that the government and everyone else wants peace in Kashmir. It (peace) should be durable. It cannot prevail for a few months and be disrupted by violence three years later. The focus is on bringing permanent peace in the Kashmir Valley.

What about ongoing security operations? As many as 248 operations by security forces have been conducted this year, which is the highest in the past seven years. It was said that this would also contribute to peace.

Whether it’s a Naxal-affected area or the insurgency-hit Northeast, we have seen that the action of security forces has limitations. They are there to counter the actions of terrorists or armed groups. Permanent solution and peace can only be brought about by dialogue.

Do you think people in Jammu and Kashmir will be confident enough to speak to you when security forces are training guns at people in Kashmir on the one hand and there is an announcement of a dialogue on the other?

Bullets are fired at specific people. They are for terrorists, not for the common people. Their (people’s) problems will have to be addressed. My job is to deliver and I will see to it that I rise to the expectations.

There have been such initiatives earlier too, but they did not lead to any conclusion.

I am hopeful that this time we will find a solution. We are groomed for addressing problems and not for writing lengthy reports.

During your tenure as IB chief, was Kashmir the biggest internal security challenge?

When I became the IB chief in December 2014, Kashmir was not the problem. Naxal attacks and insurgency in the Northeast were the major security challenges. And to some extent, threats from Islamic State-inspired groups. Kashmir became a problem during the latter part of my tenure. Though there were problems initially, we did not expect the kind of unrest that happened in 2016.

What escalated the unrest?

Radicalisation played a major role, though its impact was felt in other parts of the country as well, as several men were arrested for being inspired by the Islamic State. Brainwashing via the Internet played a key role. It was a concerted effort by some to radicalise the youth to spread violence. We were watching it closely and took several steps to ensure that the youth don’t fall for such propaganda.

Wasn’t the gunning down of Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani and two others by security forces in July 8, 2016 the reason behind the unrest?

Radicalisation was already at its peak and an icon like Burhan Wani was created by vested interests. The youth fell for it and came out on the streets.

Was Burhan Wani an icon?

He was projected as an icon. He was a terrorist. He gave interviews that he wanted to establish a Caliphate in Kashmir. It indicated the line of thought and ideology he followed. In some of the videos available on social media, he was advocating for a Caliphate. He had links to Hafiz Saeed (Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief) and other terrorist organisations. But the fear of guns has to go. There can be no solution under the shadow of the gun.

Does this mean that security forces should also reduce the number of operations?

First, the guns of terrorists should fall silent. Security forces should not harass ordinary Kashmiris. They should not be targeting innocent people. They should have the confidence of the people living in the State.

Will you talk to the members of the Hurriyat Conference?

It will not be possible for me to answer this at the moment. I will go to Kashmir first and then decide.

But what will be the road map? You cannot land one day in Kashmir and expect people to come and speak to you. Will you invite them?

The media is there for advertising my visit. We will finalise the modalities soon. It will not be proper to discuss the details. I will go as early as possible. No date has been finalised yet. If there is a need, we will advertise in newspapers.

Have you read the reports of previous interlocutors — of former Union Minister K.C. Pant who was appointed in 2002, the report by N.N. Vohra, and the three-member committee appointed in 2010?

I am going through them in detail. I’ve read them in bits and pieces before.

Do you plan to improvise on them?

It has to be seen.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the special representative would emphasise on addressing the aspirations of the youth. Have you identified such groups?

Youth doesn’t mean any particular group. I don’t want to give any definition of the youth. College students, those who have recently graduated… Unemployment is a major problem and we will need the help of the government in addressing this. I cannot do this alone; I am not an employment-generating agency.

The Centre announced a ₹80,000 crore financial package for Jammu and Kashmir a couple of years ago. Do you think such promises will help you in connecting with the masses in the Valley?

The announcement of a development package is not only for Kashmir; it has been done for other States also. It naturally addresses the sentiments of the people that the Centre is serious about their development, employment opportunities, and growth.

What kind of jobs does the Centre intend to offer?

Let’s see the scope… how far the State government can address this issue.

You met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Can you share details of the meeting?

It was a courtesy call. I will also meet leaders of the Opposition. They were not in Delhi, so when I go there I will meet them.

Will you factor in Pakistan in your dialogue?

Pakistan does not feature in the present scheme of things. It’s only the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We have to talk to them first.

Why is the government referring to you as a special representative and not as an interlocutor? What is the difference between the two?

I don’t think there is any difference. These are trivial issues.

The government hasn’t defined the terms of reference yet?

The Home Minister has already announced that I will talk to everyone. I think those are the terms of reference. I have been given a free hand to speak to anyone I want.

As soon as the announcement was made, two divergent statements were issued. One was by Army chief Bipin Rawat who said operations won’t stop and the other was by Union Minister Jitendra Singh.

We will see. The people of Jammu and Ladakh will also be included in the dialogue process. The problem is more in the Valley though.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had suggested a four-point formula to solve the Kashmir issue. It included demilitarisation or phased withdrawal of troops. Are you considering these options?

These issues are not in my charter. Whether security forces should be withdrawn from Siachen or not, I will not be delving into such issues. These are security-related matters. I will only speak to the people of Kashmir.

You met Prime Minister Narendra Modi shortly before your name was announced. Did he assign anything specific? Was the appointment his initiative?

He wants peace (in Kashmir) fast. There should be no more delay. Yes, it was the Prime Minister’s initiative to appoint a special representative.

The Hurriyat has not shown much interest. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency are being conducted in parallel. Will it affect your job?

Investigation is a different issue; I have a different job to do. I cannot interfere in the work of any investigating agency.

How will you handle the anger of the Kashmiris?

They are like our family members. We will try to calm them down by talking to them. Even within a family, there are some members who speak in different tunes. It is our job to convince them.

Is there a time limit for you to complete the dialogue process? When were you approached by the Centre?

I was approached two days before the formal announcement was made on October 23. It is a huge responsibility. I will see whether I can rise to their expectations. There is no time limit. There cannot be any deadline for such dialogues. I will carry forward the dialogue gradually.

Dineshwar sharma

Posted in All, Entertainment

Reliance Jio Phone explodes while charging? Company says case of intentional damage

A Reliance Jio Phone has reportedly exploded in Kashmir. This is the first time such a report has come in, ever since Reliance had launched the 4G feature phone in India. According to a report in PhoneRadar, a Jio Phone had exploded in Kashmir. An image was shared on Twitter which showed that the rear panel of the device had melted but there was no apparent damage to the battery. Meanwhile, in a statement to FE Online, a company spokesperson claimed that in the initial investigation it was found that the issue is a case of “intentional sabotage”. The account which shared the picture of the device has now deleted the post. Jio has been carrying out the first stage of delivering the pre-ordered device, and the next round is expected to roll out soon.

The report in Phone Radar says that they have access to an image of the Jio Phone charger whose wire has also apparently melted. The report cites a Lyf distributor who checked the Jio Phone and said that the battery is still operational. Meanwhile, the company, in a statement said, “JioPhones are designed and manufactured with global standards, and each phone goes through stringent quality control process. The said incident has been reported to us. Our initial investigation suggests that this is a case of intentional sabotage.” It added: “The damage to the device seems to have been intentionally caused. The incident, as well as its timing, has been designed by vested interests to malign the brand. We will take appropriate action based on further investigations.”

Meanwhile, Reliance Jio had temporarily stopped the bookings of the Jio mobile and said the pre-bookings would restart after Diwali. It has promised that 6 million JioPhone units would be delivered by Diwali. In order to book the Jio Phone, a user needs to pay Rs 1,500 as a security deposit. An amount of Rs 500 is required to be paid at the time of booking and the rest can be paid after the delivery is done.

The Reliance Jio Phone is a feature phone which has 4G VoLTE capability. It is a first of its kind device in India and is expected to disrupt the segment in India. As a result, Airtel has also decided to launch its own cheap 4G smartphone in the country. Even BSNL has partnered with Micromax to launch Bharat-1, another 4G VoLTE feature phone.

Posted in All, Entertainment

Write in spoken language

Something comes over most people when they start writing. They write in a different language than they’d use if they were talking to a friend. The sentence structure and even the words are different. No one uses “pen” as a verb in spoken English. You’d feel like an idiot using “pen” instead of “write” in a conversation with a friend.

The last straw for me was a sentence I read a couple days ago:

The mercurial Spaniard himself declared: “After Altamira, all is decadence.”

It’s from Neil Oliver’s A History of Ancient Britain. I feel bad making an example of this book, because it’s no worse than lots of others. But just imagine calling Picasso “the mercurial Spaniard” when talking to a friend. Even one sentence of this would raise eyebrows in conversation. And yet people write whole books of it.

Ok, so written and spoken language are different. Does that make written language worse?

If you want people to read and understand what you write, yes. Written language is more complex, which makes it more work to read. It’s also more formal and distant, which gives the reader’s attention permission to drift. But perhaps worst of all, the complex sentences and fancy words give you, the writer, the false impression that you’re saying more than you actually are.

You don’t need complex sentences to express complex ideas. When specialists in some abstruse topic talk to one another about ideas in their field, they don’t use sentences any more complex than they do when talking about what to have for lunch. They use different words, certainly. But even those they use no more than necessary. And in my experience, the harder the subject, the more informally experts speak. Partly, I think, because they have less to prove, and partly because the harder the ideas you’re talking about, the less you can afford to let language get in the way.

Informal language is the athletic clothing of ideas.

I’m not saying spoken language always works best. Poetry is as much music as text, so you can say things you wouldn’t say in conversation. And there are a handful of writers who can get away with using fancy language in prose. And then of course there are cases where writers don’t want to make it easy to understand what they’re saying—in corporate announcements of bad news, for example, or at the more bogus end of the humanities. But for nearly everyone else, spoken language is better.

It seems to be hard for most people to write in spoken language. So perhaps the best solution is to write your first draft the way you usually would, then afterward look at each sentence and ask “Is this the way I’d say this if I were talking to a friend?” If it isn’t, imagine what you would say, and use that instead. After a while this filter will start to operate as you write. When you write something you wouldn’t say, you’ll hear the clank as it hits the page.

Before I publish a new essay, I read it out loud and fix everything that doesn’t sound like conversation. I even fix bits that are phonetically awkward; I don’t know if that’s necessary, but it doesn’t cost much.

This trick may not always be enough. I’ve seen writing so far removed from spoken language that it couldn’t be fixed sentence by sentence. For cases like that there’s a more drastic solution. After writing the first draft, try explaining to a friend what you just wrote. Then replace the draft with what you said to your friend.

People often tell me how much my essays sound like me talking. The fact that this seems worthy of comment shows how rarely people manage to write in spoken language. Otherwise everyone’s writing would sound like them talking.

If you simply manage to write in spoken language, you’ll be ahead of 95% of writers. And it’s so easy to do: just don’t let a sentence through unless it’s the way you’d say it to a friend.

Posted in All, Entertainment

Young children are working more, but they are learning less

Step into an American preschool classroom today and you are likely to be bombarded with what we educators call a print-rich environment, every surface festooned with alphabet charts, bar graphs, word walls, instructional posters, classroom rules, calendars, schedules, and motivational platitudes—few of which a 4-year-old can “decode,” the contemporary word for what used to be known as reading.

Because so few adults can remember the pertinent details of their own preschool or kindergarten years, it can be hard to appreciate just how much the early-education landscape has been transformed over the past two decades. The changes are not restricted to the confusing pastiche on classroom walls. Pedagogy and curricula have changed too, most recently in response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s kindergarten guidelines. Much greater portions of the day are now spent on what’s called “seat work” (a term that probably doesn’t need any exposition) and a form of tightly scripted teaching known as direct instruction, formerly used mainly in the older grades, in which a teacher carefully controls the content and pacing of what a child is supposed to learn.

One study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art. Kindergarten is indeed the new first grade, the authors concluded glumly. In turn, children who would once have used the kindergarten year as a gentle transition into school are in some cases being held back before they’ve had a chance to start. A study out of Mississippi found that in some counties, more than 10 percent of kindergartners weren’t allowed to advance to first grade.Until recently, school-readiness skills weren’t high on anyone’s agenda, nor was the idea that the youngest learners might be disqualified from moving on to a subsequent stage. But now that kindergarten serves as a gatekeeper, not a welcome mat, to elementary school, concerns about school preparedness kick in earlier and earlier. A child who’s supposed to read by the end of kindergarten had better be getting ready in preschool. As a result, expectations that may arguably have been reasonable for 5- and 6-year-olds, such as being able to sit at a desk and complete a task using pencil and paper, are now directed at even younger children, who lack the motor skills and attention span to be successful.
New research sounds a particularly disquieting note. A major evaluation of Tennessee’s publicly funded preschool system, published in September, found that although children who had attended preschool initially exhibited more “school readiness” skills when they entered kindergarten than did their non-preschool-attending peers, by the time they were in first grade their attitudes toward school were deteriorating. And by second grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills. The researchers told New Yorkmagazine that overreliance on direct instruction and repetitive, poorly structured pedagogy were likely culprits; children who’d been subjected to the same insipid tasks year after year after year were understandably losing their enthusiasm for learning.That’s right. The same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more.

Pendulum shifts in education are as old as our republic. Steven Mintz, a historian who has written about the evolution of American childhood, describes an oscillation in the national zeitgeist between the notion of a “protected” childhood and that of a “prepared” one. Starting in the early 2000s, though, a confluence of forces began pushing preferences ever further in the direction of preparation: the increasing numbers of dual-career families scrambling to arrange child care; a new scientific focus on the cognitive potential of the early years; and concerns about growing ability gaps between well-off and disadvantaged children, which in turn fueled the trend of standards-based testing in public schools.

Preschool is a relatively recent addition to the American educational system. With a few notable exceptions, the government had a limited role in early education until the 1960s, when the federal Head Start program was founded. Before mothers entered the full-time workforce in large numbers, private preschools were likewise uncommon, and mainly served as a safe social space for children to learn to get along with others.

 

Posted in Entertainment

Someone’s feeling about love

Sometimes people walk away from love because it is so beautiful that it terrifies them. Sometimes they leave because the connection shines a bright light on their dark places and they are not ready to work them through. Sometimes they run away because they are not developmentally prepared to merge with another- they have more individuation work to do first. Sometimes they take off because love is not a priority in their lives- they have another path and purpose to walk first. Sometimes they end it because they prefer a relationship that is more practical than conscious, one that does not threaten the ways that they organize reality. Because so many of us carry shame, we have a tendency to personalize love’s leavings, triggered by the rejection and feelings of abandonment. But this is not always true. Sometimes it has nothing to do with us. Sometimes the one who leaves is just not ready to hold it safe. Sometimes they know something we don’t – they know their limits at that moment in time. Real love is no easy path – readiness is everything. May we grieve loss without personalizing it. May we learn to love ourselves in the absence of the lover.

Posted in All, Entertainment

A former Googler who is now CEO of her own startup asks every employee to cold email their idol – here’s why

Liz Wessel’s story

Liz Wessel says she’s always been the type of person who has no shame in reaching out to someone, whether or not she knows them.

Wessel is the CEO and cofounder of WayUp , a site used by hundreds of thousands of college students tofind jobs at places like Microsoft, Uber, The New York Times, Disney, and Google – where Wessel previously worked.

Part of the reason she started WayUp with cofounder JJ Fliegelman was to combat nepotism, she explains, “so it should make sense that I don’t really care about whether I have connections to a person.”

“In college, my best cold email was to Roelof Botha, one of the top venture capitalists in the world,” she recalls. “He was a role model of mine, and I emailed him asking what he thought that I should do after I graduate in order to best position myself to one day start my own company: take a job offer at Google, or take a job offer at a venture capital fund. He told me the former, and the rest was history,” she explains.”It’s because of that first cold email that I have since always encouraged friends and colleagues to cold email people.”

Wessel says she and Fliegelman started their company when they were just 24 and 25 years old. “We had a combined four years of full-time work experience, so there were often times that employees would ask us questions that we couldn’t answer, or would ask us for advice that we didn’t want to get wrong,” she says. “So, we started encouraging the team to cold email people who would better know the answer. One of our company values is ‘Be a master at your craft, but know you’re not the master.’ So, I always encourage my team to cold email the actual ‘ masters’ in their respective fields.”

During a trip to California in early 2015, Wessel says she challenged her entire team to take advantage of the fact that they were surrounded by some of the greatest minds in tech. “I told everyone to cold email one expert in Silicon Valley who they normally wouldn’t have the guts to email, and who they wouldn’t be able to meet in New York City, where we’re based.”

Wessel led by example. She emailed her biggest role model with a very personalized message, asking for 15 minutes of her time. “The email was sent at 2 a.m. on a Monday , and at 8 a.m. I got a response: She invited me to come to dinner at her house the next night,” says Wessel. “This is a woman who probably gets more cold emails than 99% of the executives in the world, yet here she was, responding to me.”

The rest of the team followed suit. And it worked.

Nikki Schlecker, the leader of WayUp’s Brand team, for example, cold emailed Guy Kawasaki. The famous marketing exec, who was one of Apple’s early employees, not only agreed to grab coffee with Schlecker , but also live streamed the entire meeting.

I ‘dare’ my employees to do this because, in the past year and a half, I have learned more than I ever thought possible, and I want to make sure my employees are learning just as much,” explains Wessel. “As corny as it may sound, if you’re not learning, you’re not growing.”

Another reason she does this: She strongly believes everyone should have at least one mentor – and cold emailing someone you admire is a great way to develop that type of relationship with them.

“Having a good mentor can keep you humble and motivated,” she says. “Furthermore, it will help you learn more than reading a textbook or watching a how-to video. Nothing matters more to me than learning from great people, and when you’re having a conversation with someone whose opinion you trust and value, and whose work you admire, it can help outline what success means to you, and the goals that you are working towards.”

Wondering how to go about cold emailing your idol? Wessel shared a few tips:

  • Make the message personal. Do you have anything in common? Say what it is.
  • Keep the email short and sweet. If the person is busy, they won’t want to (or have time to) read an essay.
  • Say what you want to get out of the meeting, and let it be something small. “I’d like to pick your brain,” or “I’d love to get your advice on something” are appropriate asks. Never, ever ask for a job in this first email!
  • Have an eye-catching subject line.
  • Make yourself sound interesting enough so that the person wants to meet with you.
  • Thank them for their time and consideration.

“If you have someone in your field who inspires you to learn and understand how they got to where they are today, it helps you create that mountain top of your own,” Wessel concludes.

Posted in All, Entertainment

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

We all have things that we want to achieve in our lives — getting into the better shape, building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, writing a best-selling book, winning a championship, and so on.

And for most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. At least, this is how I approached my life until recently. I would set goals for classes I took, for weights that I wanted to lift in the gym, and for clients I wanted in my business.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

Let me explain.

 

The Difference Between Goals and Systems

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

  • If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
  • If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
  • If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?

I think you would.

As an example, I just added up the total word count for the articles I’ve written this year. In the last 12 months, I’ve written over 115,000 words. The typical book is about 50,000 to 60,000 words, so I have written enough to fill two books this year.

All of this is such a surprise because I never set a goal for my writing. I didn’t measure my progress in relation to some benchmark. I never set a word count goal for any particular article. I never said, “I want to write two books this year.”

What I did focus on was writing one article every Monday and Wednesday. And after sticking to that schedule for 11 months, the result was 115,000 words. I focused on my system and the process of doing the work. In the end, I enjoyed the same (or perhaps better) results.

Before we talk about how to get started, I wanted to let you know I researched and compiled science-backed ways to stick to good habits and stop procrastinating. Want to check out my insights? Download my free PDF guide “Transform Your Habits” here.

Let’s talk about three more reasons why you should focus on systems instead of goals.

1. Goals reduce your current happiness.

When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.

Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.

But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.

You might think your goal will keep you motivated over the long-term, but that’s not always true.

Consider someone training for a half-marathon. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training. Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?

This can create a type of “yo-yo effect” where people go back and forth from working on a goal to not working on one. This type of cycle makes it difficult to build upon your progress for the long-term.

 

3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.

You can’t predict the future. (I know, shocking.)

But every time we set a goal, we try to do it. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.

 

Fall In Love With Systems

None of this is to say that goals are useless. However, I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually makingprogress.

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

Posted in All, Entertainment

How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym

When I first started training for marathons a little over ten years ago, my coach told me something I’ve never forgotten: that I would need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but that skill, cultivated through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as it would on it.

It’s not just me, and it’s not just running. Ask anyone whose day regularly includes a hard bike ride, sprints in the pool, a complex problem on the climbing wall, or a progressive powerlifting circuit, and they’ll likely tell you the same: A difficult conversation just doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. A tight deadline not so intimidating. Relationship problems not so problematic.

Maybe it’s that if you’re regularly working out, you’re simply too tired to care. But that’s probably not the case. Research shows that, if anything, physical activity boosts short-term brain function and heightens awareness. And even on days they don’t train — which rules out fatigue as a factor — those who habitually push their bodies tend to confront daily stressors with a stoic demeanor. While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.

Few hone this skill better than professional endurance and adventure athletes, who make a living withstanding conditions others cannot. For my column with Outside MagazineI’ve had the privilege of interviewing the world’s top endurance and adventure athletes on the practices underlying their success. Regardless of sport, the most resounding theme, by far, is that they’ve all learned how to embrace uncomfortable situations:

• Olympic marathoner Des Linden told me that at mile 20 of 26.2, when the inevitable suffering kicks in, through years of practice she’s learned to stay relaxed and in the moment. She repeats the mantra: “calm, calm, calm; relax, relax, relax.”

• World-champion big-wave surfer Nic Lamb says being uncomfortable, and even afraid, is a prerequisite to riding four-story waves. But he also knows it’s “the path to personal development.” He’s learned that while you can pull back, you can almost always push through. “Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret,” he says.

• Free-soloist Alex Honnold explains that, “The only way to deal with [pain] is practice. [I] get used to it during training so that when it happens on big climbs, it feels normal.”

• Evelyn Stevens, the women’s record holder for most miles cycled in an hour (29.81 – yes, that’s nuts), says that during her hardest training intervals, “instead of thinking I want these to be over, I try to feel and sit with the pain. Heck, I even try to embrace it.”

• Big-mountain climber Jimmy Chin, the first American to climb up — and then ski down — Mt. Everest’s South Pillar Route, told me an element of fear is there in everything he does, but he’s learned how to manage it: “It’s about sorting out perceived risk from real risk, and then being as rational as possible with what’s left.”

But you don’t need to scale massive vertical pitches or run five-minute miles to reap the benefits. Simply training for your first half marathon or CrossFit competition can also yield huge dividends that carry over into other areas of life. In the words of Kelly Starrett, one of the founding fathers of the CrossFit movement, “Anyone can benefit from cultivating a physical practice.” Science backs him up.

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who went from not exercising at all to even a modest program (just two to three gym visits per week) reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, an increase in healthy eating and maintenance of household chores, and better spending and study habits. In addition to these real-life improvements, after two months of regular exercise, the students also performed better on laboratory tests of self-control. This led the researchers to speculate that exercise had a powerful impact on the students’ “capacity for self-regulation.” In laypeople’s terms, pushing through the discomfort associated with exercise — saying “yes” when their bodies and minds were telling them to say “no” — taught the students to stay cool, calm, and collected in the face of difficulty, whether that meant better managing stress, drinking less, or studying more.

For this reason, the author Charles Duhigg, in his 2012 bestseller The Power of Habit, calls exercise a “keystone habit,” or a change in one area life that brings about positive effects in other areas. Duhigg says keystone habits are powerful because “they change our sense of self and our sense of what is possible.” This explains why the charity Back on My Feet uses running to help individuals who are experiencing homelessness improve their situations. Since launching in 2009, Back on My Feet has had over 5,500 runners, 40 percent of whom have gained employment after starting to run with the group and 25 percent of whom have found permanent housing. This is also likely why it’s so common to hear about people who started training for a marathon to help them get over a divorce or even the death of a loved one.

Another study, this one published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, evaluated how exercise changes our physiological response to stress. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, divided students into two groups at the beginning of the semester and instructed half to run twice a week for 20 weeks. At the end of the 20 weeks, which coincided with a particularly stressful time for the students — exams — the researchers had the students wear heart-rate monitors to measure their heart-rate variability, which is a common indicator of physiological stress (the more variability, the less stress). As you might guess by now, the students who were enrolled in the running program showed significantly greater heart-rate variability. Their bodies literally were not as stressed during exams: They were more comfortable during a generally uncomfortable time.

What’s remarkable and encouraging about these studies is that the subjects weren’t exercising at heroic intensities or volumes. They were simply doing something that was physically challenging for them – going from no exercise to some exercise; one need not be an elite athlete or fitness nerd to reap the bulletproofing benefits of exercise.

Why does any of this matter? For one, articles that claim prioritizing big fitness goals is a waste of time (exhibit A: “Don’t Run a Marathon”are downright wrong. But far more important than internet banter, perhaps a broader reframing of exercise is in order. Exercise isn’t just about helping out your health down the road, and it’s certainly not just about vanity. What you do in the gym (or on the roads, in the ocean, etc.) makes you a better, higher-performing person outside of it. The truth, cliché as it may sound, is this: When you develop physical fitness, you’re developing life fitness, too.

Posted in All, Entertainment

Parents Shouldn’t Spy on Their Kids

Mandie Snyder’s story

For the past two years, Mandie Snyder, an accountant near Spokane, Washington, has been “monitoring” her daughter. With a handy tech tool known as mSpy, Snyder is able to review her 13-year-old’s text messages, photos, videos, app downloads, and browser history.

She makes no apologies for it. Last summer, she says, she was able to intervene when she discovered her daughter was texting her boyfriend to plan a sexual rendezvous. “I know my daughter isn’t as naïve as I was at her age, with the plethora of ways to socially interact in today’s world,” Snyder says. “As a parent of a teen, this age of technology scares me. But while technology might present terrifying new ways for kids to get into trouble, it also provides new ways for parents to watch their every move.

MOM AND DAD ARE WATCHING: Some child psychologists say that eavesdropping on kids’ social-media sites with apps like mSpy

 

With tracking technologies such as mSpy, Teen Safe, Family Tracker, and others, parents can monitor calls, texts, chats, and social media posts. They can view maps of every location a child (and his phone) has traveled. An app called Mama Bear even sends parents speeding alerts if their kid is traveling too fast in a car. But there’s a fine line between protection and obsession. The new digital spy tools present parents with a quandary. Adolescence is a critical time in kids’ lives, when they need privacy and a sense of individual space to develop their own identities. It can be almost unbearable for parents to watch their children pull away. But as tempting as it may be for parents to infiltrate the dark corners of their children’s personal lives, there’s good evidence that snooping does more harm than good. Taking the long view, the goal of parenting is to create a healthy, self-sufficient adult. The process of developing healthy autonomy starts as soon as kids can crawl away from you, says Nancy Darling, a developmental psychologist at Oberlin College. “What’s hard about parenting is balancing the kid’s desire for autonomy with safety concerns,” she says. Privacy is a key piece of developing that self-sufficiency. “The ability to experience privacy is probably a basic human need that transcends culture,” says Skyler Hawk, a social psychologist who studies adolescent development at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. During adolescence, kids’ brains, bodies, and social lives are changing rapidly. As they experiment with their identities and self-expression, they need space to figure it all out, Hawk says.

Privacy isn’t just important for adolescents, says Sandra Petronio, a professor of communication studies and director of the Communication Privacy Management Center at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. It’s their duty. “An adolescent’s main job is to individuate, to move away from being controlled by the parent. One very clear way they do that is in their demand for private space,” she says.

There’s considerable evidence that intruding on kids’ privacy damages the parent-child relationship, says Petronio. “When parents snoop, they show mistrust,” she says. “That overarching need for control really damages the relationship.”

And covert spying, Hawk adds, isn’t likely to stay covert for long. Most kids are more tech savvy than their parents. Odds are good they’ll discover those tracking apps and figure out how to hack the system—leaving their location-tracking phone in their locker when they ditch class, or setting up a second (secret) Instagram account.

Unsurprisingly, when kids don’t feel they can trust their parents, they become even more secretive. Hawk saw this effect in a sample of junior-high students in the Netherlands, where feelings about individualism and autonomy are similar to those in the United States. The researchers asked the kids about whether their parents respected their privacy. A year later, the children of snoops reported more secretive behaviors, and their parents reported knowing less about the child’s activities, friends, and whereabouts, compared to other parents.

“We can trace a path over time from feelings of privacy invasion to higher levels of secrecy to parents’ reduced perceptions of knowledge about their children,” Hawk says. “If parents are engaging in highly intrusive behaviors, it is ultimately going to backfire on them.”

The parent-child relationship isn’t the only thing that suffers when a child doesn’t have enough personal space. When kids feel their privacy has been invaded, it can lead to the types of mental health problems that experts call “internalizing” behaviors—things like anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. “There’s a lot of research indicating that kids who grow up with overly intrusive parents are more susceptible to those mental health problems, partly because they undermine the child’s confidence in their abilities to function independently,” says Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University and author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence.

When parents don’t give children privacy to make their own decisions, kids don’t have a chance to learn from those decisions. While parents have an obligation to guide their children and protect them from harm, adolescence is still a time for testing limits, says Judith Smetana, a professor of psychology who studies adolescent-parent relationships at the University of Rochester.

Take alcohol use. Kids who experiment with drinking in adolescence but don’t become heavy drinkers tend to be psychologically healthier than those who never experiment, Smetana says. “I don’t want to condone kids getting into drinking, but we know this is a time of experimentation,” she says. “It’s the nature of adolescence.”

But even when parents know the importance of privacy, it can be hard to figure out where to draw the line. That boundary will look different for every family, even within a single socioeconomic strata or a single neighborhood, says Dalton Conley, a sociologist at Princeton University and author of the 2014 book, Parentology. Conley says he was shocked when he learned a professional colleague spied on her teens with a nanny cam while she was away at a conference. At the same time, he has no qualms checking his own kids’ debit card statements to find out where they’ve been and what they’ve been purchasing. “The technology of parental monitoring has evolved so rapidly, there aren’t clear norms of what’s acceptable,” he says.

Darling, too, has been tempted to dip a toe over the line between independence and privacy. As much as she advocates for giving kids space to develop healthy autonomy, she’s also a parent who worries. She asked her younger son to turn on his Find My iPhone feature so she can track him down if she’s unable to reach him. And when her older son, home from college, didn’t come home one night, “I nosed into his cell phone records so I could call his girlfriend,” she admits. “He was pissed about it, but it was 3 a.m. and I was worried.”

According to Darling, kids are more likely to feel their privacy has been invaded when parents intrude on personal issues, like eavesdropping on a conversation or secretly reading their texts. But most kids realize that parents have legitimate authority over safety issues, such as making rules about drug use and knowing where kids are going after school. “Parents are supposed to know where their children are,” she says.

Yet even safety issues aren’t clear-cut. In most communities, it’s a safe time to be a kid. According to FBI figures, the violent crime rate dropped 48 percent between 1993 and 2011. Child mortality rates are down. Reports of missing children are at record lows.

Nevertheless, some experts say the cultural pressures to keep close tabs on children has never been greater—evidenced by the now-frequent accounts of parents being arrested for letting their children walk alone to school or play unsupervised at the park.

Many experts attribute this shift to the modern media, which regularly delivers terrifying click-bait headlines of abduction and danger. “The media has increased the fear and that fear has turned into restrictions on children, teens, and even young adults,” says Petronio. “It has the potential to undermine the development of the array of skills [young people] need to become independent adults.”

Certainly, some kids live in dangerous neighborhoods. And those kids seem to do better with stricter parental monitoring. A study by researchers at the University of Virginia, for instance, found that for kids in middle-class neighborhoods classified as “low risk,” those whose mothers undermined their autonomy had worse parental relationships and worse social functioning with their peers. But kids in lower-income, higher-risk families reported better relationships with their moms, and exhibited less problem behavior, when their mothers were more authoritarian.

But in many communities, a parent’s desire to spy might have less to do with keeping kids safe, and more to do with a burning desire to lower his or her own anxiety. “The bottom line is that if you’re trying to satisfy your need to know, because you have a low tolerance for ambiguity, you don’t give your child a place to learn how to make better decisions,” Petronio says.

Hawk’s research shows that parents who snoop tend to have less confidence in their parenting abilities, more anxiety about their relationship with their child, and more worries—often unfounded—about their child’s behavior. “Based on my research, I think snooping might say as much about the parent’s adjustment as it does about the child’s—maybe even more so,” he says.

When it comes to establishing healthy boundaries, psychologists say, good communication trumps snooping, and kids who choose to share more with their parents tend to be better adjusted. “Ultimately, the best way to know what is going on with your child is for them to tell you what is going on,” Hawk says.

Some parents say monitoring improves communication with their kids. Snyder says using a tracking app on her daughter’s phone has acted as a launch pad to discuss issues like sex, drugs, suicide, and friends. “Because I read the conversations she has with friends, we can have impromptu conversations about what’s going on in her life,” Snyder says. “I don’t believe we would have such an open and respectful relationship without mSpy’s assistance.”

Still, it’s probably safe to say that most parents who download spy apps aren’t doing it to have quality conversations with their kids. Clearly, privacy and personal space are important for helping kids become healthy adults. Now that it’s easier than ever to invade that privacy, parents have some hard questions to ask themselves each time they’re tempted to cross that line.

Posted in Entertainment

Boy Found With Throat Slit In School Toilet In Gurgaon

GURGAON: A Class 2 student was found murdered in the toilet of the Ryan International School in Gurgaon this morning, shortly after his father dropped him off. Seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur’s throat was slit and a knife was found next to his body. As news of the unspeakable tragedy spread, hundreds of anxious parents who had come to pick up their children barged into the school building, flung furniture around, broke windows and shattered glass award cases. They chanted slogans were finally cleared out the building by policemen.

A school official found the body when he visited the toilet around 8.45 am. The child had been dropped off not long before by his father Varun Thakur, a quality manager with a private company.

“I dropped him today at around 7:55 a.m. He was happy,” Mr Thakur told reporters. He received the phone call around 9 am.

He accused the school of negligence. “They told me he is bleeding, they are rushing to the hospital, asked me to come too. They did not take care of my son. He could have been saved if he had been taken to hospital in time,” he said. A large number of police officers have questioned the staff, teachers and Pradyuman’s classmates. They are hoping for some clue from a CCTV in the corridor outside the toilet. We are investigating the case from all angles – homicide, enmity and others. The police team is examining the CCTV footage from over 30 cameras installed on the school premises,” said Ravinder Kumar, Gurgaon Police spokesperson. Last year, a branch of the same school in Vasant Kunj was accused of criminal negligence after a six-year-old student of Class 1 was found dead in a water tank. The investigation is still on.

This is the worst thing to happen to anybody…There is a lot of anxiety among us after this incident,” said Ameeta Wattal, principal of Springdales School.