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Hi. I’m Anil, the person behind Lemon Grad.

I attended Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and Wharton, University of Pennsylvania for my undergrad (Engineering) and grad (MBA) programs, respectively.

As a student, I was a lemon for years, before I turned things around. Over few years, mainly through trial & error, I changed the way I studied and adopted several productivity hacks. The most important thing, though, was change in my mindset which brought me success way beyond my expectation.

However, despite getting those results, I wasn’t always intentional in practicing all the methods that had worked for me because I hadn’t used some of those methods across the board in multiple situations and, moreover, I wasn’t sure if these methods have been validated by experts.

Otherwise, I would’ve had more confidence in them and would’ve been more deliberate and consistent in adopting more and more of them. No wonder, my learning curve was gradual, longer, which I’m still happy about as I was better than many, many others’ who rarely try to shake their methods up.

However, you can shorten this curve by being more deliberate – you’ll get enough validation for most of the methods in this blog.

Trigger for this blog

I had been thinking about sharing my experiences in this regard for a long time, but couldn’t for one or the other reason.

Few weeks back, I read this (paraphrased) on the web:

In early 1980s, Timothy D. Wilson, Professor of Psychology at University of Virginia, worked on a study with first-year college students who were struggling academically. As part of what the students thought was a survey, they were given the information that many college students struggle in the beginning, but gradually improve. They were also shown videos of college juniors and seniors which reinforced this message.

The students got the underlying message: It wasn’t about any lack of ability on their part which was inhibiting their academic performance, but it was more about learning the ropes which takes time and effort. Students who participated in this study improved their grades, and they were less likely to drop out of college. In contrast, grades of the students who were not given this information didn’t show any significant change.

It was a short, unsophisticated 40-minute intervention. No gizmos, no counseling sessions, no remedial tutoring, and no other intervention! And it worked. The students could see that others like them, too, struggled in the past and then did well. As a result, their self-efficacy improved, and they were more willing to persist and work hard.

Similar studies done by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, Social Psychologist at Columbia Business School, have found similar improvement in the academic results of students.

It was a small intervention, wasn’t it? Trivial, in fact.

But it helped several students.

My immediate thought after reading about this study was: “Can I share similar interventions, best practices, and frameworks which can help students in howsoever small way?”

That was the beginning of this blog.

Starting out, I decided not just to share my experiences in this regard, but also collate the best from others and present to the student community.

What this blog will cover?

This blog will focus on why few students excel in school and, thereafter, in college. What are the methods they adopt? What are the things they do differently?

There is no mystery, though. Many think that such students are naturally gifted, have a different grey matter, which makes it futile for others who aren’t up there in terms of talent to even try. That’s one of the biggest myths. I’ve lived that. Scientists and experts have proved it beyond doubt. Yet it exists. And irony is that this very belief – that you can’t compete with the best because you don’t have that natural talent – stops you from making an effort.

In reality, some students succeed more than others because they do small, small things right consistently over a period of time. They adopt good habits. Shun bad. They’re very rarely overnight successes.

This blog will talk about best practices – most of them backed by science & research and experiences of people who’ve benefitted from these methods – that can help shake off the lemon in you. And the earlier you start, the better it is.

The topics covered will be improving performance in tests, productivity hacks, and college admissions… And, the most important, soft factors such as persistence, communication skills, and growth mindset which actually determine your long-term success. However, in reality, most students plough a single furrow – getting good grades and, if ambitious, excelling in few coveted tests/ entrance-exams, which takes them some distance but not too far.

Unfortunately, most students are blissfully unaware of the best practices in academic as well as non-academic pursuits. They continue to work sub-optimally and end up being Lemon Grads.

You need not.

Who should read this blog?

This blog is for students (high school and college) and parents.

More about me

I’ve worked in Civil Services in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India and investment banking with Morgan Stanley in Singapore. Currently, I advise students seeking admission to MBA programs, mainly in North America and Europe.

Outside work, I’m an adventure-travel enthusiast: I’ve traveled on roads-less-traveled (literally), trekked in Himalayas, and camped in dense forests.

My most memorable road trip: Highlights

  • It’s me [Texas]

  • Pima Air & Space museum, Tucson [Arizona]

  • Jerome, the ghost town [Arizona]

  • River Truckee near lake Tahoe [California]

  • Lake Tahoe [California]

  • U.S. Route 50, the loneliest road in America [Nevada]

  • Shoe tree [Nevada]

  • Targhee National Forest [Idaho/ Wyoming]

  • Mount Rushmore [South Dakota]

  • In thin air, near Colorado Springs [Colorado]

  1. We nearly touched three (but for North where snow slowed us down) geographical corners of U.S.

  2. It took 17 days (Mar 03 to Mar 19, 2009) to cover nearly 8,000 miles.

  3. We passed through twenty-one states.

  4. We lost our way for a while after Jerome, a flourishing copper-mining town in Arizona in early twentieth-century but now almost deserted, and found ourselves on a curvy, mountainous, unpaved road for 40+ miles. Every road signpost, without exception, on that stretch bore multiple gunshot marks. Was this representative of wild-wild west I had heard of?

  5. Having crossed Teton Pass, Wyoming, few hours back, we thought it was fine to proceed further from Jackson, as the highest point (Teton Pass at 8,431 feet) on our way was already behind us. (Our GPS didn’t show altitudes, and we relied on the age-old atlas.) Some ninety minutes into the drive (around 10:30 PM) from Jackson, we noticed that the road had been taking an upward trajectory for some time, and soon we hit an extremely rough weather: falling snow splattered by ferocious wind made the ambience white, visibility dead-zero. To cut the long story short, a cop guided us to safety otherwise we would have been stranded there for long time. Through him, we came to know that the place we were stranded at was Dogwotee Pass (9,658 feet) – something we missed on the atlas.

  6. In order to be back to the school (University of Pennsylvania) in time, we drove thirty hours straight (with breaks for meals, fuel etc.), of course taking turns, from Colorado Springs to Philadelphia.

Although there are many more memorable incidents from this trip, I’d stop here to not make it too lengthy. Click here to read four lessons I learnt during this trip.

In contrast, this (Las Vegas -> Hoover dam -> Grand Canyon -> Sedona -> Las Vegas) road trip was shorter (nine days) and less eventful. Nevertheless, it left two important lessons with me.

Killer trek

Among the treks, the most eventful has been Rupin Pass trek. On the first day itself of this 15,250 feet Himalayan trek, we lost our way and, left with no choice, trekked for an unusually long 15 hours (in contrast to 7-8 hours in a normal day), gained nearly 6,500 feet (it’s advised not to gain more than 1,500 feet in a day), covered nearly 25 kilometers on the ground, braved 7 oC below freezing point without sleeping bags, and went without food for thirty-two hours. It was a miracle we survived.

Outside of adventure journeys, I’m fond of wildlife and natural surroundings, and, therefore, you’ll find posts drawing inspiration from wildlife. And even plants!


You may contact me at anil@lemongrad.com