Below are some articles written by Palani Murugappan.....
You see but don't observe...
How do you relate to the above? We come across and perform daily routines thinking we know what the final outcome would be, or is it? Imagine you are totally lost in the jungle; your smart phones are not so smart now, and you have to totally remember the path you had treaded on. Did you notice the signage on the trees, the huge rocks you had stepped over, and the fallen branches you had trampled on to move forward?
Having huge amounts of data is similar to hiking in the jungle. If you are a keen outdoor enthusiast, you are able to pace yourself based on distance, elevation and difficulty level. For a beginner, it is a lot more challenging. It is the same with raw data. An enthusiast is able to see patterns and trends emerging from it to make quick decisions by analyzing it, whereas the beginners see raw data as jumbled up alphanumeric characters.
Here comes your next level of challenge. The enthusiast now tries to perform a comparison of past results with current results, only to realize that the outcome is not what they expect. This is akin to having gone in a circle within the jungle and unable to get out. What went wrong? You had missed an important turn and this has caused the loop back to point of origin. With data, this was recorded incorrectly, or the format of data is incorrect. Thus, the important element of source data was not captured in your analysis and wrong decisions are made. That is the danger of uncleaned raw data!
An avid hiker, author of 51 books, and a passionate data analysis and analytics trainer for more than two decades, Palani relates various aspects of analyzing raw data using tools such as Microsoft Excel in a highly hands on and practical manner to show participants how they can move forward with organization’s raw data, right from cleaning it up, creating databases, analyzing, and finally presenting it using advanced charts and infographics. Do email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quick presentation on how data can work in your favor!
I watched our 7-year old looking at our wall clock trying to tell the time. I put myself in her shoes. It is indeed a skill to be able to tell the time precisely at a single glance. My wife spent about 30 minutes explaining to her earlier on how time is read. And to our surprise, she caught on fast. Was it the child’s natural intelligence, or the ability to impart knowledge in a way that is clearly understood by the child? A bit of both, I reckon.
The ability to comprehend something new is a lot more achievable if the subject is made more interesting in terms of clarity, benefit, and simply passion to learn. This is how I judged our daughter. The night before, I asked her if she was taught to read the time in school. Her answer was she could read the digital numbers, but not the Roman numerals nor Arabic numbers. Would she like to wear a nice pink analogue watch? The answer was obvious. Without her realising, I had prepped her mind on the importance of time and how it can benefit her in terms of organising her daily activities, before she dozed off.
Picking up a new skill is not difficult. A 7-year old has proven with the carrot being dangled, it can be achieved. As a trainer in areas of data management for the last 20 years, one of my challenges was how to effectively impart the knowledge to the participants with high retention rate. Show me, rather than tell me, worked well. But, as the entry level knowledge became higher, other means were required. I then switched to data story telling.
Sharing an experience always hits the target, and I do this with my hiking ventures (and some misfortunes!). Participants today want to “feel” your own experiences and relate to it. Thus, the art of story-telling is born! Telling a story that is mesmerising touches the core of a being. Story-telling increases the attention span as their imagination runs. Creativity is increased and focus is boosted. It is a unique way of getting attention and improves listening skills of participants without them realising. However, you still need to link your story to your main topic. At this stage, the auditory learners are so glued to your voice, the emotional connection increases their retention rate. You’ve got them now! So, recall your experiences and bring it alive!
Trainer in areas of Data Management, Analytics, Analysis & Visualisation
In my more than 20 years of hiking and trekking, going through the various steep trails, encountering wild animals, being bitten by spiders, sucked by leeches, stung by bees, and of course, meeting other fellow hikers and trekkers, some of the more memorable memories are what I went through after a fall during the off-trail periods. Memories linger on and serves as a reminder, be it good or bad, that we carry on with the path we choose indefinitely.
As a regular weekend hiker at Bukit Gasing, I have always shared my experiences with my training participants and encouraged them to join me. A few have, and are now good friends. I see discipline, consistency, and persistency in these few trying to conquer some of the summits I take them through. Quite a few too in our hiking group are off medication, and a smaller group who are now on lower dosage of medication after being regular hikers. These are some of the benefits.
In early part of 2019, our hiking group had made plans to conquer Mount Fuji on Merdeka Day. That would definitely be something to remember in one’s lifetime. Plans were made, regular weekend climbing with the group was organized, and for the new hikers, we educated them on what to carry while attempting high altitude mountains.
Come early August, being in the best of one’s fitness level, came that call while hiking. I had taken a small group of hikers into Bukit Gasing. About 150 meters in, the phone rang. I usually don’t answer calls while hiking. Most times the phone is left at home. But that day, for some reason, I decided to take the call. The call was made by someone from another smaller group of new hikers, who were late and not sure of the trails, and were waiting at the entrance. I turned 1800 and moved forward fast, not wanting to keep both groups waiting. Little did I realize that by doing so, my right shoelace was tangled to the root of a nearby tree. As I lunged forward, I fell hard, somehow still holding on to my phone on my right. Being the tower that I was, and to break my fall, I used my left arm to prevent direct contact with the pinkish brown earth. I heard a pop sound coming from my upper left arm. I was blank for a few moments. My initial reaction was my shoulder blade was dislocated. As I got up, I felt a sharp pain as I swung my left arm. It was a little better as I moved along. I wiped off the red liquid flowing from my left elbow and headed to the entrance. Brought the 2 groups together and carried on with the regular trails, never once focusing on the pain that appeared only when I swung my arms fast.
Pain is never felt immediately, unless you know the extent of damage it has done. Psychological, I believe. At home, I washed off the heart shaped tear on my left elbow and treated the wound. As the days passed by, I realised the wound was not healing well. My wife contacted another fellow hiker who is a doctor. She surely sorted me out well! Her healing touch did a great job with the wound.
What did I just go through? In management, you can relate this to disaster recovery. In training, I would relate this to the questions raised by my participants and you just do not have an answer for it. What do you do then? As a trainer in data management, there were times I found myself unable to give the right answer. Does that put me in a bad situation? Not quite. Stay calm, think out aloud and over, and perhaps share the question with the rest of the audience. As a subject matter expert, you should be able to get the answer. Get the brain tickled to move it and the answer is there.
While trekking in the jungle, there were many times I had faced a split of trails and needed to make a quick decision as to which route to take. I have always followed by gut instinct and it has proven correct most times. Losing yourself to mother nature is better than losing yourself in it. One of the safer options that I have done when I was lost is to backtrack and see if you can find your way out again. Look for a well laid out clearing and it usually will take you back to civilization.
In disaster recovery, there are four phases to it.
-Mitigation – Taking right steps to prevent emergencies from happening
-Preparedness – Take action ahead of time and be ready for an emergency
-Response – The immediate aftermath of the emergency
-Recovery – Rebuilding oneself after the emergency
As you come to a deadlock of trail, which direction do you follow? Mental preparation is crucial. It is natural for the brain to trigger you are in panic mode. Responding to this situation is your survival now. Think back and recall what you had passed through – the types, height, width, size of trees and rocks, streams or rivers passed, bridges, etc. Your recovery here is based on your ability of responding to your past surroundings. Your survival mode instinct will be working overtime now. And before you know it, you are back on track again.
Imagine being lost in the jungle, how would you react in this situation?
Penned by Palani Murugappan
Knowing your resistance category
Two years ago, my hiking group had made plans to climb up Mount Kinabalu with many first-time climbers. It was my fourth climb. We trained hard with the group and ensured they had not just the physical strength, but also mental endurance. Our older son who was 15 then, had expressed interest in climbing with us. Besides the local weekend training, we also organized climbs to other mountains within the Peninsular to ensure we could do it before our major climb. Gunung Ledang was in the pipeline and quite a few climbed up the KFC (Killer for Climbers or Killing Fitness Centre) trail. It was a non-stop steep climb with plenty of ladders just before the summit towards the last leg. The teenage boys including our son were amongst the first to hit the peak. My confidence in him grew.
Then came Mount Kinabalu. This was a different challenge altogether. Many will say this being a “tourist mountain”, with the trails well laid out, one should be able to do it. Being a typical teenager, the son refused to climb with the father and decided to climb with some of the other teenage kids. Fine! I can accept it. But as we climbed further, I could see the thin air was slowly affecting him. Yet, he decided to walk with his friends. I knew he was in safe hands and allowed it. Eventually, he was nowhere in sight. A good 30 minutes was the wait time for him at Laban Rata (3270 meters), where we spent the night.
Come midnight, we had to get ready for the ascend where the gates are usually opened around 2 am, if the weather is good. It was all clear that wee hour of the morning. We started our ascend. Again, he decided to climb with his friends. We proceeded together, but in the crowd and darkness, I lost sight of him. Many times, I turned back to see if he was within proximity but it was difficult to tell. At Sayat Sayat checkpoint (approx. 3700 meters), it was one of the longest wait. I was so eager to carry on towards the peak but resisted. Just about most in our group kept passing through except him. My heart pounded faster and I was beginning to shiver, not because of the cold, but the obvious reason. Sharp 5 am, the checkpoint is closed and those who did not make it by this time will be asked to turn back once the sun rises. I asked every guide who came up on his situation. The first two said he was climbing slowly. The third made me jump! He said our son was throwing up and could not proceed as the altitude hit him badly. I was ready to rush down to see if he was okay but was not allowed to go down on my own, not until the sun rises. Much later, I caught up and found him sleeping on his bunk bed.
Allow me relate my experiences at the checkpoint. I met four different personalities. The first was self-centered. Their focus was only to summit at any cost. It was hi-bye as our faces locked. Next, came the role-models, many who showed concern. I could clearly see the leadership and confidence traits in them. One was willing to wait with me to ensure that all three summited together. I loved this guy! Then, came the reserved ones. No expression was shown though they appeared emotionally stable at that altitude. They just went on with their jobs. Most were guides. The last was the average personality. I happened to fall under this category. At that height, I was neurotic, anxious, and feelings of guilt crept all over me. Many said what they had to, including asking me to carry on; just wait a little while longer; he will be fine; and so on. But not a single soul asked me to go look for him. I guess they knew the trails were safe and the guide was with him. My aim was only to summit with him, not without him.
So, when should you quit? Here’s some pointers on this:
-Knowing your resistance level (the Why) - Why is it there?
-The voice of your resistance (the What) - What is causing it?
-Changing the pattern of your resistance (the Would)
-Would it create an overall impact?
Testing your resistance differently (the Whether) - Trying to decide whether this works or not; whether you should proceed or not.
At the checkpoint, I went through all the W’s. The most difficult was the Would. My family back home was waiting to hear both summitted together. The disappointment was obviously there. But then again, there will always be another time. Altitude sickness can hit anyone at any time. It has nothing to do with your fitness level. The body takes time to acclimatize - something that cannot be rushed for many. The Would in me was overcome when I found the answer for What.
The above is a classic situation many go through in their lives without questioning the W’s. The power of consistency and desire to succeed takes over many situations, but there may be compromises. Think about this. In your process of decision making, did you go through any of the 4 W’s above?
Penned by Palani Murugappan