This autobiography isn't for fame or fortune (not that I'd object!). It's to help me understand myself. There are lessons here that may help you also. Naturally, this section is a work in progress. For key insights, click here.
Born At An Early Age
I was born in 1961 in the desert in the village of Pilani in the state of Rajasthan in India. This village consisted of 50 families. We had unlimited access to water for 4 rupees per month (not much, even in those days), and use of a jeep. You see, Pilani was the birth place of one the members of the wealthy Birla family. This was their way of getting back. When I was two years old, we move to Edmonton, Alberta. My father was an engineering student who got a job at the University of Alberta. We didn't know about winter, but soon learned.
We arrived in a strange, new country with only $50. To our surprise, the few people we met from India were not supportive. To our surprise, my father's classmates were. They helped us find a place to stay and provided us with furniture and utensils. Once the University started paying my dad, we were OK. I've never forgotten that lesson: you never know who will come to your aid. That made me want to help others in return.
The Province of Opportunity
Edmonton is a rather cold place. Dad asked his classmates if there was a warmer place to settle down. His friend was from Stratford, Ontario. He said go to Ontario, the province of opportunity. So in 1966, we moved to Waterford, a small place near a larger small place called Simcoe. My dad taught at a local school. The next year, we moved to London, Ontario where my father started teaching math and physics at Regina Mundi College, a private, Catholic boy's high school. My family has been in London ever since.
London is located midway between Toronto and Detroit, about two hours from each. It's called The Forest City. It was a great place to grow up.
I have always been competitive in the things that matter to me. My goal was to do well in school because I thought that high grades would lead to a better job. I usually had the highest grades in my class. Until high school. That's when I met students who did better in one subject or another. What then?
We can't all the captains.
We've got to be crew.
There's something for all of us here.
There's big work to do and there's lesser to do.
And the task you must do is the near.
Was I doomed to the factory work? Not quite.
My grades were excellent, rarely below 80% and sometimes above 90%. In the first semester of grade 12, I had the second highest average at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School with 94.0%. My friend Ralph had 94.3%, but with only 3 courses. I took the standard four.
Ralph was exceptional at mathematics and physics. No one could match him. He had two weaknesses, though:
- he wasn't very good at English or French. What's more, he didn't care. I did. I wanted an A+ in every subject, which meant I at least got an A.
- once he solved a problem, he wasn't interested in showing the work that lead to the solutions. Our teachers felt that the steps were more important than the final answer. I didn't mind the extra work, which meant that I could get higher marks than Ralph, even though he had helped me.
What do you want to do with your life?
That's not an easy question. Because of my academic performance, I had many opportunities. The most prestigious professions in my culture were
- doctor … but I don't like disease or blood
- lawyer … but I didn't want to be a prosecutor (for fear of retaliation by the baddos), defender (disgusted by helping the guilty get reduced sentences) or bored (my perception of noncriminal law)
- engineer … but didn't like the details
Find something you like doing. Then find someone who'll pay you for doing it. And you'll have a happy life — Linden Cole, Director of Education, Society of Actuaries
The high school guidance counselors had the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey. They explained that interest (something you like) isn't the same as aptitude (the ability to do it). I took it and found out that my interest was in social work. That didn't sound like me. While I cared about the welfare of others, I didn't see myself as comfortable ''working in the trenches". I also wanted a job that would pay well.
I figured the survey must be wrong. So I took it again a few months later. Same result. Then again the next year. Same result. At least the results were consistent :)
Since I wasn't sure what to do, I decided to go the University of Western Ontario, which had a general first year program. Specialization started in second year.