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Category: choice

Single-tasking

Have you ever seen a job description that asks you to work only on a single task? If you have, then please forward it to me so that I can apply 😂.

In this book I’m reading called Beyond the Alphas, the author mentions that the average worker makes between 10,000 and 40,000 decisions – every day!

This is just insane. Apparently we also switch between tasks no less than 300 times a day. For all this talk and requirement for multitasking – is this something that is really even possible? Can I read a book and play a video game, at the very same time? Or can I have a deep conversation with my spouse while also watching TV? That second one I don’t even want to attempt!

Multitasking is only done by computers, that can really run multiple processes in parallel. And when we have computers doing all that work, why should we? Computers don’t get tensed or anxious or stressed, but we certainly do.

That’s why it might be a good idea, to get back to single-tasking, at least on the weekends. To spend 3 hours reading a book, and nothing else. Or an hour of deep conversation, and nothing else. A few hours playing with the kids, and nothing else. Including no phones, tablets or other screens for distraction. Let’s try it out!

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Securing the crown – part 2

We all speak about happiness. Because we all want it. And we’re perennially looking for it – high and low.

And it’s relative too. What does that mean? Queen Elizabeth played by a brilliant Claire Foy in The Crown shares her take on… unhappiness, not happiness.

And what a lovely line it is.

That's the thing about unhappiness. All it takes is for something worse to come along and you realize what you were experiencing was actually happiness after all.

Much like man’s search for heaven up there in the skies. When he dies here on earth and goes up, God asks him, “So, how did you like your stay on heaven?”

We already have everything, if we choose to look within. If we stubbornly look outside only, constantly comparing and recognizing apparent gaps and holes, then we will be left with nothing. Years later, maybe we will realize that that state too was actually happiness – but it may be too late to realize it.

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Angrrr – part 6

Okay okay, last one on anger, I promise! Thought it would be good to round it up with what Thiruvalluvar says about this subject in his Kurals.

A few gems are below:

  1. From anger is born all evil.
  2. Everyone knows that it is bad for oneself to lose temper in dealing with superiors. But where anger is directed against persons in one’s power, it is the worst of all offences.
  3. Where anger may or may not hurt the other party, it simply causes pain to oneself.
  4. Can there be any greater enemy to mankind than anger – which kills laughter and joy (which indeed are the greatest blessings on earth?)

Bonus tips from my Guru on how to overcome anger:
1. Visualize that you are anger-free, say 2 years from now. Keep visualizing and living that image.
2. Pray, for the person you are angry with. Keep their photo on your altar. This is about changing yourself and your emotions and perception, not the other person.

Radical? 🙂

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Angrrr

Here’s a thought on anger management. Many people believe they cannot stop being angry. However, when they scrutinize their own lives, they will realize that in front of their own family at home, they quickly fly off the handle every now and then. However the very same person, in front of his/her boss or an even higher superior – manages to stay calm, gritting and grinding their teeth, often in far worse circumstances than those presented at home.

One argument is that in the workplace, we are paid a salary, and a part of that goes towards handling such bouts of anger. That may be true to some extent. But imagine being put in front of the leader of your district / state / country / someone you respect. Of course you would not lose your temper in front of them – even though there is no payment!

The argument supporting anger-towards-one’s-family goes, “But hey they are my loved ones, and it’s only because I care so much that I get angry with them!” But think about it – if you truly loved them, why would you lose your temper on them? Would we want anyone to lose their temper on us? Also, if a cute little 3 month old baby pees or poops on us, do we lose our temper and beat the child up?

The Gita states definitively that anger comes from unfulfilled desire which in turn springs from attachment. The question is not about whether there is more anger when dealing with loved ones versus less when faced with others. If we can control anger in one case, surely we can control it in the other? The focus of all our scriptures and of spirituality itself, is always us – we ourselves. Of an internal transformation, not by chance, but by deliberate choice.

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Art of Connecting

Just finished reading an interesting book by Susan McGregor called The Lost Art of Connecting. Indeed this is something most people are struggling with today. Not just because we live in a locked-down world, or an online-over-offline world, but also because we’ve become more and more self-obsessed. So much so that we rarely seek the need to go out and connect with people. Even at the dinner table, most family members connect only with their screens.

Susan’s premise is simple, and similar to what my Guru says about where success comes from. “It is the increased ability to deal with people, and studies have shown that 85% of success can be attributed to this ability, with only the balance 15% being technical education.”

The author suggests that every meeting or discussion with the other person, no matter how important to you, must always be approached with one and only one question in mind – “How can I be of help to that person?” Sounds counterintuitive at first. She says that if this question is answered, it will cement the relationship – because now even though you came in to the meeting for your own business requirement, you now leave with a valuable connection – one that transcends something simply transactional and ephemeral.

No doubt, it will take effort to answer this question – we cant just blaze into any meeting and say “Hey CEO, how can I help you” because we may not have much to help them with in the first place. So this will require thought, leaning on other connections, understanding what the other person really needs/wants etc. Listening is unbelievably important of course – and key to figuring out what others want. Good book, and certainly a refreshing way to think about conversations and relationships!

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Always on

Nowadays with work-from-home it feels like work never ends. No matter how early I start, the day always ends late. And no matter how much I try to squeeze in and make my day productive, the speed at which things get added to the to-do list is always greater than the speed at which things get struck off it.

What to do then?

It helps to think of two things.

  1. At the time of World War 2, the British government came up with a motivational poster / slogan which said “Keep Calm and Carry on”. In my day too, all I need to do is reflect on history. So many such days have passed where I thought I either wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that the world would end if I didn’t get my work done on time (because of lack of time ironically!). Neither has happened – to me, or to you.
  2. “Just do it” from Nike. Iconic. We all know it. Here’s what it means – Forget about the result or the assumptions of your boss’ feedback or anything else. Focus on the work alone, and just do it.

That’s it – two points for mental freedom. We just need to keep GUDUSUNGU-ing, and the rest will fall into place. As they say, overnight success comes after years of hard work and practice.

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Don’t take it personally

One of the mental models that helps me a lot is to classify people into one of 3 buckets:

  1. Giver: The selfless one, always giving
  2. Taker: The selfish one, always taking
  3. Matcher: The middle one, bringing giver and taker together

This might seem simplistic. But look around us, and we will find that people invariably fall into one of these 3 types.

The crazy boss who is happy no matter what we do? Working on Friday night isn’t enough, neither is working on Saturday, or even Sunday. And at the end of it all? “So what, this is your job, you’re expected to pull these hours!” That’s a ‘taker’ for you right there! Givers on the other hand, are awesome to work with. They’ve always got your back. And always want to encourage your growth.

This model is not about categorising other people out of spite. Rather, it is to be able to objectively look at the people and situations we find ourselves with. Plainly put, a taker is likely to remain a taker for life. It’s a deeply integrated part of their personality and psyche. Trying to change that, makes no sense. If we are forced to be with such a person, we can mentally reassure ourselves, that this ‘taker’ is not showing some personal hatred against you. Rather, that’s just the kind of person s/he is. On the flip side, we can seek out more givers and matchers than takers – if we have the freedom and flexibility to!

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Visual creatures – part 2

We touched upon the importance of visualization yesterday. Here’s a nice example that I saw on the famous TV series called Shark Tank. This is how Wikipedia describes the show – “Shark Tank is an American business reality television series that premiered on August 9, 2009 on ABC. It shows entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of five investors or “sharks,” who decide whether or not to invest in their companies.”

As you can imagine, this is a make or break moment for most entrepreneurs, given they could rope in a billionaire ‘shark’ to help grow their business by hundreds of millions of dollars. Sometimes even just appearing on the show, without winning a shark’s investment itself can be free marketing. Also obvious, is that the path is not easy. Just getting featured on shark tank, amongst countless thousands of other businesses, is excruciatingly hard, what with a gruelling selection / elimination process.

One lady who was featured in the 12th season was presenting her product. Once she finished her demo, she also played a video clip from 4-5 years ago. This was back when she had just begun her business, and all she had was a few prototypes of her product. Back then itself, she looks into her phone camera, and records herself speaking to the investors, “Sharks – I’m coming to see you on Shark Tank in a few years, and as you can see, these are my prototypes, and I’m coming to you with my finished product in a few years, with an awesome sales track record too!”

What an incredible way to visualize, record it for posterity, and then work one’s backside off until said goal is achieved!

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DIRFTI

A consultant was engaged to help overhaul a company’s business operations. After a detailed study, they shared all their observations in 6 volumes of books. The company replied that this was unacceptable and asked them to condense the material. The consultant came back with 3 books, then 1, then half, then 10 pages, then 1 page, and finally just 1 line. And DIRFTI is what they came up with – which refers to Do It Right the First Time Itself.

This is one of my Guru’s favourite-est principles. Don’t want to be late for work? Make sure you don’t throw the car keys on the sofa corner the previous day when you come home. Want to find an important book? Keep it back on the bookshelf after using it. Want to succeed in an exam? Make sure you study every day like the exam is the very next day. Feeling lazy to do something properly? Want to avoid multiple trips to correct a stupid error? Make sure it’s done right the first time itself!

This is so important to my Guru that he has written this in bold on the very first page of the Amazing Empowerment Workshop book. The principle doesn’t suggest that one should never make mistakes. But rather than looking at the outcome, it focuses on the process, ensuring that everything is done optimally, thereby expecting optimal solutions as a result. Not very different from what Lord Krishna says in verse 2.47 – Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kada Chana, meaning one must only worry about one’s effort, and not on the end result.

DIRFTI is great, but it is even more great, when done while no one is watching. This will time and again avoid future pain, and provide immediate relief and happiness.

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Know-it-alls

We think we know what’s best for us and what’s worst for us.

A few years ago, some colleagues along with a very senior leader moved to another firm. It was the most awesome move. Probably excellent pay hikes. Certainly improved designations and functional titles. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. To say people were jealous, would be an understatement. People were even wondering why the senior leader took only certain people with him, and why other “better” candidates were left behind.

Cut to today, that firm has shut down. The team, completely disbanded. What seemed like awesomeness at the time, in a few years has completely unravelled. Certain practices at the firm were questionable, which might even leave a blot on the resumes of those who worked there.

Seems like the tables have turned, and this could be the end of the world? It depends. Karma is an endless cycle of ups and downs. Today’s slap on the face is tomorrow’s opportunity. There is rarely a greater teacher than failure.

We think we know what’s best and worst for us. But we be would best off just going through the motions, enjoying the time in it. Everything else is just a perspective – and often not even our own.

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A tale of two-is-one – part 2

You have been practising meditation for a very long time. Many years in fact.

A guest in your house, one day sees you meditating. He comes up to you and says your posture is not right. Fold your palms this way, touch your fingers like this, and face this specific direction. How does he know you ask? He read it in a book.

You get irritated. And rightly so. Years of live meditation, versus reading from a book – really? Who does he think he is? You decide to give him a piece of your mind.

But you also think about it a bit more. “What am I doing all this meditating for? To control my mind, and my tongue, isn’t it?”

You mull over the learnings here. “The spiritual aspirant always has to face two sides of the coin. One, as a person making the suggestion, I do not know anything about the spiritual level reached by others. So telling anyone to do anything differently or to change their routine is not my place. And two, as the recipient of unsolicited advice, I can only control my reactions and responses. This way I gain mastery over my mind and tongue, and also ensure I do not hurt the other person.”

We can surely listen to advice, and even test it out, but if it is unsuitable, we can choose to ignore it. Why get angry, and mess up the rest of our day?

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Twit quot 2

Here are some more simple yet profound quotes I came across on Twitter:

The way to forget insults is to not take compliments in the first place.
When in doubt, go for a walk.
Don't worry about being qualified. Everyone is learning as they go.
Reading 1-2 hours a day puts me in the top 0.00001%.
In the short term you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are as good as your consistency.

Link to Twit quot 1

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The right thing

We discussed wax-on wax-off before from the blockbuster 1980s movie The Karate Kid. It was a good lesson on how focusing on a mundane training process would help Daniel LaRusso the protagonist pick up some cool Karate skills and ultimately beat the backside out of his arch nemesis Johnny Lawrence.

But this was in the past. Hollywood would never let a good story get away, would they? They’ve now (last 3-4 years) come up with a TV series Cobra Kai. This has the same Daniel and same Lawrence, only now 40 years later – with each having their own competing karate dojos – and boy does it make for some fun watching!

A very nice scene takes place after one of the kids get beaten up and the sensei wonders what he did wrong. He laments in fact that he taught them everything right, did everything right, no cheap tricks, no cheating even, and despite that they lost.

To which the sensei’s trusted friend replies, “It’s okay buddy, you’re doing great. Just because you did the right thing but didn’t get the result you desired, doesn’t mean you should now start doing wrong things. A good person does the right thing all the time, no matter the outcome!”

What a powerful lesson.

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Foggy

Alan Alda, the American actor and 6-time Emmy and Golden Globe winner once said, “Your assumptions are your windows to the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

This might seem obvious, but its effective implementation is worth its weight in gold.

The real problem is that these windows are not dirtied by others. They are dirtied by we ourselves, after imagining what others are thinking about us.

So much so, that sometimes being blind is better, as shown in the very popular Marvel TV show called Daredevil. The protagonist has superhero abilities, but cannot see. This lack of vision though, gives him much clarity in other walks of life. Contrast that to his best friend and partner – ironically named ‘Foggy’ – who lives by making large (and silly) assumptions and getting himself into trouble.

Scrubbing our windows needs courage and the ability to recognize that we may have been wrong – often publicly. And it’s infinitely better to be wrong and corrected on Step 1 than on Step 100, by which time, it might be too late.

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Mediterranean life

We’ve been watching this show off and on called Mediterranean Life, which airs on Discovery Plus.

It looks amazing. Clear blue waters, lush greenery, lovely beaches and just outstanding locations in general.

The show is somewhat like reality TV, where the cameras follow various couples looking for a new home, either to rent or to buy. Its pretty much an advert for some very beautiful Mediterranean countries. These home-seekers are typically people from around the world who are fatigued by their daily schedules, lack of work life balance, a virtual disconnect from nature and so forth.

Everything looks nice and plush and bright as the cameras beautifully capture scenery, cutlery and upholstery. And the young couples get all excited by how big the houses are and such. Most of them link everything back to their children. “Oh my 6-yo son needs to have his own bedroom, own bathroom, own swimming pool, and a large garden to play in.” or “I want my 3-yo and 5-yo kids to have the best – one room each, a sea view from both, one bathroom each, a separate living area for them on the second floor, a room to play and get creative” and what not.

I wonder if splurging so much on kids really empowers them, or makes them struggle later on as they never needed to work for anything? What is more realistic for the big bad world that we experience?

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5/25

Ace investor Warren Buffet’s personal pilot was Mike Flint. The latter once came to Mr. Buffet for some career prioritization advice.

What did he say? “Write down your top 25 goals. Now circle the top 5, and drop all the others.”

This is super advice, especially for someone like me, because I often have lengthy to-do lists, and keep worrying about not being able to achieve those things. More often than not, the pace of new items coming on to the list is much higher than the pace of things coming off it!

Why does the 25/5 rule help? Because it fairly estimates that each individual has certain limitations. Over the long run, it is difficult to achieve more than 3-5 large goals, and hence what goals 6 to 25 are, are not really goals, but more of distractions.

I try to use this even for day to day living, as it helps with minimalism. It could be for the things I need to get done in the next hour. Or in the next day. Or even while grocery shopping. If there’s a list of 25 items I think I need, do I really need all of them? Or can I make do with lesser, and order the rest in the next round? A good test of self-control.

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No means no

Here are some examples of where/why saying ‘no’ or the equivalent, is difficult yet incredibly important.

  1. To turn down a job offer is never easy. Someone has sought you ought, evaluated you, liked you, and requested you to join them. It might even feel liberating – to get out of your current role, where you’ve been battling bosses and co-workers for years. But good and bad bosses and co-workers will be everywhere. Many offers (opportunities) will come your way, but you cannot tell yes to all of them. No will do, even if the person on the other side is very senior / successful.
  2. Leaving on time, if you have another engagement, but you are the only one in your group. Very hard! To get up and leave in the middle. Or even to request to end a Zoom call at the end of the scheduled 1 hour, even though the person on the other side is very senior. Pro tip? If you can wiggle out well, it will demonstrate to the other person how you value everyone’s time and schedule, even though having such a conversation could be difficult.
  3. Parents nowadays rarely say no to their kids. And kids know how to take advantage. Making a big scene, crying in public/crowded/closed places etc. are easy ways to force the parents to give in. But saying no, is a show of strength, as the kid learns that life does not grant every wish.
  4. Maintaining confidentiality / secrets when required is another thing I’ve seen people struggle with – all the more when the person asking is a good friend or a very senior veteran in the industry or even one of your largest clients. “How could I possibly say no?” In fact, its the other way around. If you don’t say no, the other person can safely conclude that you may be loose-lipped about their confidential information as well.
  5. Saying ‘yes’ to family members sometimes seems like a no-brainer. But relationships are complex, and saying yes can be the equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole.

In all the above examples, the ‘no’, conveyed with sensitivity rather than spite – will make all the difference. Yes is good, but in certain situations, ‘no’ is the right answer.

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Bovinity

Stress, anxiety, frustration, irritation. We all go through it.

The biggest challenge is going through life itself. We seem to barely have enough time for work and sleep. Weekends come and go as if a blur.

All of life for everyone around us seems to be nothing more than a rat race. We are constantly running. Towards what? Nobody seems to know. Will the race end? Seemingly never.

The worst part? Even if we win the rat race, we will remain a rat only. Is that what we want? Scurrying and scampering about mindlessly?

One solution – take part in a cow race instead. What? If you haven’t had the chance, then you must see some cows in India. They will be sitting in the middle of a highway sometimes, smaller roads sometimes – but always unbelievably oblivious to the traffic around them. No matter what happens, they do not let the outside world bother them. And because of their gentle disposition as well as their generous nature (sharing their milk for one and all), they are considered not just bovine, but divine as well. May we begin the transformation from rat to cow!

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Money thoughts

A few things to keep in mind about money/wealth/status, which everyone craves so much:

  1. No one cares about your wealth as much as you do. Others don’t admire your possessions. They only imagine themselves having said possessions.
  2. The more money/wealth/status one displays, the more the envy/jealousy/hatred that is likely to build up against them. Some of the richest people in the world live very frugally.
  3. Money and wealth are good, as long as we control them and not the other way around.
  4. Wealth brings freedom, because it can buy time. One can then choose what to do with their time, rather than live by the rules of someone else. This is an end goal for most, rather than a starting point.
  5. Spirituality helps build wealth, as it emphasizes reducing desires and sense pleasures, which in turn reduce expenses. Savings can then be invested. Wealth is the gap between what you have and what you want or spend.
  6. You can only really afford something, if you can buy 2 or 3 or 4 of the that same thing.
  7. It is important to teach your kids to be self sufficient. Giving them big allowances now will allow you to see them happy today, but they will struggle in the future, unable to understand the value of money, and left without survival skills.
  8. What amount of wealth / money you desire is something only you can decide. Comparisons will only hurt.
  9. The happiness from giving is infinitely more than that from getting.

What are your thoughts on money?

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Left shoe

Years ago, Swedish shoe shops were being looted by a shoe-mafia. This gang would hit the stores in the wee hours of the night. Next morning, the shoe shop owners would find something unique. Only the left-shoe of each pair of shoes would be gone. The right-shoe would still be on display, untouched.

This was a huge mystery. The shoe-mafia went untraced for the longest time.

More importantly, the question on everyone’s minds, was what was the gang doing with only the left shoe? Surely you need the right-shoe as well, to make a pair, so that someone could wear it?

The mystery was solved much much later, when they discovered another shoe-mafia in Denmark. This gang would hit shoe stores of the same type, but steal only the right-shoes of each pair! The two gangs worked together, and that completed the puzzle.

In life too, we are running after many left shoes – money, wealth, status, accolades, cars, yachts, houses etc. These are fine by themselves, but can never be complete without the right shoes – health, diet, exercise, love, spirituality, meditation, family-time etc. The choice is in our hands.

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