Exposure – the superpower we seldom talk about, but should

A few days back some of us old mates got back to playing a friendly game of cricket in our small town Srirangam. Given the fabled limitations of playing in family neighbourhoods, we were forced to limit our scoring area to a very narrow portion on the street.

As our misfortune would have it, the portion was offside much to our dismay.

For those who don’t follow cricket, offside is the right hand side to a right hand batsman and widely perceived to be tougher to score than the legside.

You had to be really good at playing ‘inside out’ shots which demands more elegance and panache from the batsmen unlike the legside where you could get away with wild swings to a degree.

Recommended Watch:Kohli vs. ABD: Who plays ‘Inside Out’ shots better?****

Unfortunately, most of us who grew up playing gully cricket had almost exclusively played matches with scoring area being on the legside.

Why?

One: it was easier to score on the leg side.

Two: we got to make up the rules so why not?

Three: I cannot stress this enough, we really wanted to statpad our way to the run scoring charts and ‘runs on the legside’ just seemed like a straightforward option.

Five minutes into our innings the board read:

Sudarshan 0 (2) b. Aravind

Sriram     1 (4) c Anirudh b. Aravind

Gokul 4 (9) b. Balaji

At 5-3 in 2.4 overs, it was my turn to come out to bat.

Salvage something and drag us out of the hole that we found ourselves in.

Krishna 0 (4) b. Ravi

Oh, how I’d have loved to be the protagonist of this story 😹

But it wasn’t meant to be – instead it was a young kid from the neighbourhood who played like he was prime Sourav Ganguly.

Naturally, we were all curious and started probing – turned out the kid grew up in a street where the only place they could score was on the offside and while we all bemoaned at the start on how we were ‘forced’ to play like that, to him it was no different to what he was used to.

What was arduous and uncomfortable for the rest of us was second nature to the kid – simply because he had done it oh so many times. Exposure.

We’ve all met people like this from time to time – whether it is a classmate from junior high who rode the motorbike much before anyone else in the gang, or the friend who could fluently converse in 5 languages because they moved between states all the time thanks to their dad’s job at the army.

Exposure.

A superpower that seldom gets the attention but one that should be carefully honed.

Why?

You never know when it will come handy, especially when building out your career.

Steve Jobs touched upon this very same point albeit under a different definition (Connecting the dots) in his iconic commencement speech at Stanford in 2005:

“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

It was the very same ‘exposure’ to computers as early as 1968 as an 8th grader at a time when most kids hadn’t even seen one up until college that set up Bill Gates to co-found a trillion dollar company.

The best part about right exposure is it gets easier and easier to hone over time – as kids, our exposure is limited to pretty much our parents and relatives’ lens. But as we grow old, there is unencumbered freedom to show up anywhere, consume what we like, and get better at anything we want.

This deliberation and surgical precision to get the right kind of exposure compounds significantly over time.

What worked for me?

As a self-identified, reasonable curious person, flirting with different ideas and pet projects from time to time, I find myself in the crossroads of unfamiliarity more than I’d like – essentially having to start from ground zero every time I take a stab at something new which by design accentuates the importance of having the right kind of exposure at each turn.

“You are the average of the five person you interact with”

An eye-opening statement or a hackneyed adage, depending on who you ask.

In my case, truly internalizing what it meant was transformative to say the least.

This is where I had my fair share of luck in my first boss and mentor – talking to a sagacious individual on a daily basis always kept me ‘ahead of the curve’ in some sense.

Coincidentally, two years later when I had one of my other mentors whom I consider to be my ‘podcast guru’, he’d attribute some of his most important learnings as a by-product of friendships with people significantly older than him.

Find your fantastic five.

Then hold onto them like Rose did with the diamond necklace.

Figuring the best medium of learning

“Half my time goes out in trying to pick out my next read” – Overheard at a cafe

When it comes to learning or just good habits in general, reading books is at the top of the rung and rightly so. Unfortunately, it is also a tough habit to crack especially if you didn’t grow up reading as a kid.

But a truth I recently realized was great lessons come from anywhere.

When I asked Sairam Krishnan, one of the best SaaS marketers in India and a serial reader on what advise he’d give for people struggling to pick up reading as a habit late in life, his reply was simple and profound:

“Learning can come from anywhere.

You don’t have to be snobbish about it having to be through books”.

Twitter avatar for @chrishladChris Hladczuk @chrishlad

So you learn something complex and confusing. The best way to understand is to teach it in simple terms. That’s why Reddit’s ELI5 “Explain it like I’m 5” is gold. Here are some of the best ones🧵

Social Media compartmentalizing

“If you can’t beat them, join them” – Jim Henson

A quote that perfectly captures my feelings toward social media.

Having waged an unsuccessful fight to cut them out, I gave in to their supremacy and instead helped me keep me in loop about topics of interest:

Twitter – Startup lessons, Football

LinkedIn – SaaS Marketing

Instagram – Tamil Memes, Football

After lot of careful tweaking, I can confidently say I’ve befriended the algos to give me just the right exposure on stuff I like. (Algo: That’s what he thinks)

Closing Thoughts

I’ve often found good exposure to be the building block from which great things can be built – after all, it’s impossible to know which part of the lake the tastiest fishes are at, if you didn’t know about the lake in the first place.


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