Cracking the learning code!

Manjunatha Hebbar
4 min readOct 18, 2015

Learning to play an instrument had been my childhood dream. I have tried several and failed in every one of them. Learning a subject is not that hard for me. Not even sports, adventure and business! But somehow, I’m not able to get through these musical instruments. Not anymore!

Somethings come natural to us. That’s where our heart and head synch-up seamlessly, and take us places. A slight skew in the match-up, will make it hard. As the skew gets more, difficulty is that much more! So, doing what comes naturally to us is the best way to enjoy this journey of life. But, it is not that easy as we want some more things to survive, in this journey! That’s when the story of “handwork” starts.

It’s one sunny February morning. I’m in the mood of finishing our new corporate growth plan. Here comes our CMD. “We need to talk. It’s about the international symposium on next generation technology adaptation in the areas of healthcare, education and social well-being. I have accepted the keynote speech invite. Since, you work in Social Enterprises, can you please help me with the story?.” I respond, “Is that the Frankfurt one, in September?.” “Yes.”, comes the reply. I tell him that I’m on the same event and covering the social innovation as a subject of my talk. “Yes. I’m aware. But need your help with my talk”. What followed was an interesting experience of working with him for next 6 months for a 15 minute keynote! In the process, I had given him several notes, case studies, research papers and accompanied him to several primary healthcare centres, educational institutions and women self-help groups. I’m sure, he would have reached out to several others working in this area. We had a weekly synch-up meeting scheduled on Saturday mornings 10:30 am IST, irrespective of where we were! I had not worked on a project of this kind, with this intensity before! At times, I wondered what is this guy up to? Six month’s preparation for a 15 minute talk? I asked him… Why is he so paranoid about this? His reply made me change my perspective about learning things that does not come naturally to me. He said “I’m not as smart or as intelligent as many of you are. I have built this company and reputation in the industry through sheer hardwork. I don’t like to leave things to chance or time, without doing my bit. Especially now that I’m an old man of 70 and respected in the industry, every word I speak should be valuable. I can’t just speak words without feeling them fully at heart and verified by my head. So, I prepare. Relentlessly, prepare to do justice to whatever I accept to do. It’s my way of learning, cultivated through several decades. Works for me.”

I think, it just works for me too! I never felt ashamed later, to sit in a class with toddlers to learn violin. Mess up with beats and rhythm, collect myself up and go for it again… Kept up with a goal to perform in front of my family of musicians in our annual get-together… Well, to my satisfaction!

What he weaved on that cold morning at Frankfurt, in front of several global leaders was magical. I could feel the weight of every word he spoke. Depth of every data he shared and actions he recommended and following through. It just worked very well. As a result, there was this new CMD with a freshly found mission for rest of his life. If, working for that 15 minutes can change him so dramatically and leave the audience inspired to take real action, imagine what it can do for anyone?

That evening, when I sat through the day and reflected on what I know of him, I think I got what made him effective in his craft — learning the tricks of the trade in a hard, but gentle way! The note that day, I wrote to myself as a reminder –

Be patient : Most often we notice progress only by looking back at how we were in the past — may be two/three years ago. Progress comes slowly and steadily. It is a phenomenon.

Be persistent: Don’t ever give up! Don’t get restless and look for a new trick or hack now and then. Learning is a process. Give it its time. Practice continuously, till you are happy with the effort and then do more of it till you get it!

Be humble : The arrogant will find it difficult to learn anything. Acknowledge inadequacies. Face it with courage. Find ways to overcome them than avoid. Good teachers help. Keep looking out for them.

Be inelegant : Give yourself permission to be inept. Ask dumb questions. Don’t fake it. Seek to learn.

Learning is a continuous process. Like breathing, learning is part of our life. But exactly like we do with breathing, we stop conscious learning when we get busy with life. But perfecting the art of learning will be handy, as ever.

be a #dreamerdoer

Originally published at on October 11, 2015.



Manjunatha Hebbar

Exploring the world of StartingUp, ScalingUp and Staying Afloat through strategy, technology and management lenses. Tech and tech for social good!