New week, new me

Updated: Dec 30, 2019, 07:58 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Corporate leaders Eika and Siddharth Banerjee offer a new-age playbook to becoming your best self in the new year via a model of hyperlearning to follow through 52 weeks

Lana and Lilly Wachowski's 1999 The Matrix revolutionised science fiction filmmaking. It came to be associated not only with oval sunglasses, a long, black stand-up collar leather trench, and above all, Keanu Reeves. But also a plot that was way ahead of its time.

One of its most important plot points — a cultural meme today — is the one where the protagonist Neo (Reeves) is offered a choice between a red pill and a blue one by rebel leader Morpheus. While the former represents coming face to face with reality and obtaining freedom, the latter implies ignorance. "You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe," Morpheus says. Neo takes the red one. And so do Eika and Siddharth Banerjee, for 52 weeks straight.

Siddharth and Eika Banerjee
Siddharth and Eika Banerjee

Linking both noted corporate leaders — Eika is CEO with a conglomerate while Siddharth has over two decades of international leadership experience at blue-chip companies — to The Matrix might not be an immediate connection. But as detailed in their new title that launched in Mumbai this month, 52 Red Pills (Pan Macmillan India), they have diverse interests. The title, according to them, is "a new-age play book to become healthy, wealthy and wise." And they hold the reader's hand, every step along the way of the new journey.

The city-based couple, both 42, have always been learning partners and got married right after B-school. In December 2017, on a trip to a tiger reserve, they embarked on a challenge to immerse themselves into one new topic — often alien to them and outside their expertise — every week. After making a long list, they drew up a three-step action plan: £ They would speak to and gather insights from experts £Procure and absorb existing literature on a given subject £Debate and discuss these concepts.

Nirali and Kartik Shah of Maati Baani
Nirali and Kartik Shah of Maati Baani

And since time had to be managed better, this activity also entailed making a "sacrifice list", with binge-watching being the trade-off. Thus, this journey of hyperlearning resulted in an extensive range of subjects spanning spirituality and sleep to whiskey and neuroplasticity. They also picked the brain of personalities like Arianna Huffington on good sleep, delved into the brain of polymath and economist Sanjeev Sanyal, and chatted with Nirali and Kartik Shah of folk music group Maati Baani on collaborations as a creativity turbocharger.

"We were doing this only for ourselves. We would put out extracts of our learning on social media and it ended up becoming a community movement by the time we finished in 2018. Publishers reached out in early 2019 and we got to know that our information was worth consolidating into a book," Eika says, speaking of how the title emerged.

Sanjeev Sanyal. Pic/Getty Images
Sanjeev Sanyal. Pic/Getty Images

So, they structured the book, into two sections. One, to answer what they learnt and another one to address the reader: how could they add value to your life and prod you to become a hyperlearner? Each chapter thus has an activity section titled To Think And Do This Week, with questions and blanks to fill regarding the subject under discussion.

Sometimes, the challenges of doing this as a duo meant navigating personal crises, too. "One week Eika's mom was diagnosed with cancer, so to hunt for answers we decided to learn about resilience," Siddharth says, while Eike adds, "It is strange how doing 52 Red Pills sort of became a safe space for us, like meditation."

Arianna Huffington. Pic/Getty Images
Arianna Huffington. Pic/Getty Images

Start your own journey

1 Don't take one year at a time. Take one week at a time. You might start out the year happy, and like all NYE resolutions, your enthusiasm will fade out.

2 The playbook is meant for everyone. That being said, hyperlearning isn't the same for everyone. You might not want to do 52 weeks, but 12. So, chart your own journey but don't have the "topic khatam, learning khatam" attitude.

3 This has been a magical couple project, though you can do the exercise as an individual, couple or family. In our experience, the enthusiasm of people who start out individually tethers out. As a couple project, you can build on each other's thoughts.

4 If you intend on doing this as a couple, identify what each of you brings to the table. For instance, while Eika brought the expertise in ancient wisdom and philosophy, Siddharth brought the discipline of excel sheets and sequencing.

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