Skip to content

Category: motivation

The SHIELD to happiness

Was watching a video by an enthusiastic and energetic 75-years young Alvin Foo. The gentleman was asked how he maintains such good health. And his answer was golden. He said he lives his life by the acronym SHIELD. What is SHIELD?

“S” for Sleep: 7 hours. Prioritize rest, allowing the body and mind renewal for each day’s vigor.

“H” for Handling Stress: such as via meditation to conquer challenges with a calm mind.

“I” for Interaction: Cultivating relationships (friends and family) to uplift and dispel isolation.

“E” for Exercise: Keeping agile and energetic by embracing movement you enjoy.

“L” for Learn: Fueling your mind with new knowledge, keeping curiosity alive.

“D” for Diet: Nourishing your body with vitality-enhancing foods.

Simple and doable!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Real reality

  • The recipe is not the dish.
  • The plan is not the journey.
  • The blueprint is not the building.
  • The script is not the performance.
  • The idea is not the execution.
  • The schedule is not the event.
  • The description is not the experience

What do these mean?

That at some point, no matter all the theory, it is only practice and execution that counts! A good lesson for me.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Wrong-doer

Heard this in a cool TED talk clip. A very strong lesson and takeaway for me.

The speaker had observed children’s habits closely, and shared an anecdote.

In a drawing class, an otherwise uninterested-in-school 6-year-old was keenly drawing something. When the teacher went to the child and asked her what she was drawing, the girl replied, “I’m drawing God”.

To which the teacher said, “But no one knows how God looks like.”

Pat came the reply, “They will, in a minute!”

The takeaway?

Kids don’t care about being wrong. That’s why they learn so much in such a short time, like picking up new languages, without a care in the world of what others think!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

A spider’s tenacity

Stan Lee, the legendary comic creator, once faced skepticism when he pitched an unconventional superhero idea. “I saw a fly on a wall and thought, what if a superhero could stick to walls? And thus Spider-Man was born,” he reminisced.

But challenges awaited. Stan’s vision of a teenage superhero with personal problems was met with stark criticism. “People hate spiders. Teenagers are sidekicks, not protagonists. Superheroes don’t have personal problems,” his publisher retorted.

In a twist of fate, Stan decided to feature Spider-Man in a magazine on the verge of cancellation. The result? Overwhelming success. His publisher, once a critic, now wanted Spider-Man as a series.

Stan’s journey underscores a powerful message. That if we have an idea we genuinely believe in, don’t let naysayers get in the way. In Stan’s words, “Just do your thing. Do it as well as you can. That’s what truly matters.”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The Pratfall Effect

Think perfection is good? Think others will like you if you are perfect?

In Jonah Berger’s insightful book “Magic Words”, he introduces us to a fascinating psychological phenomenon known as the “Pratfall Effect”. This concept revolves around the idea that our minor blunders and mishaps can actually enhance our likability.

Berger illustrates this concept through an intriguing experiment. A group of students were introduced to a trivia contestant (an actor in reality). This contestant was portrayed in two different scenarios – as highly competent, answering most quiz questions correctly, and as less impressive, answering only a few correctly. In both scenarios, the contestant clumsily spilled coffee on his suit.

The results were surprising. The competent contestant, despite his blunder, became more likable. His mistake humanized him, making him more relatable and endearing. This is the essence of the Pratfall Effect. It shows us that our imperfections can be our assets, making us more human and approachable.

So, the next time you stumble or make a mistake, remember the Pratfall Effect. It’s these little imperfections that make us who we are, and often, they make us more likable. So we can embrace our pratfalls oops I mean pitfalls, for they are a part of our unique charm, while always working on our competence of course!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Tabling the conversation

Once upon a time, in the magical world of Pixar, there was a long, skinny table. This table, the silent observer of countless meetings, had a secret power. It shaped the dynamics of the discussions that took place around it.

The folks at Pixar, led by the visionary Ed Catmull, believed in the power of unhindered communication. But they soon realized that their table was playing tricks on them. Those sitting at the ends felt like their voices didn’t matter, while the ones in the middle seats seemed to have an unfair advantage. The table was creating a hierarchy that was contrary to Pixar’s core belief.

Ed decided to challenge the status quo. He replaced the long, skinny table with a more intimate square version, where everyone could interact equally. And just like that, the table lost its secret power, which was a great thing. The conversations became more inclusive, and the ideas flowed freely.

But old habits die hard. The place cards, symbols of the old hierarchy, still adorned the new table. It took the audacious act of Andrew Stanton, one of Pixar’s directors, to finally break this tradition. He shuffled the place cards, declaring, “We don’t need these anymore!” And with that, the last vestiges of the old hierarchy vanished.

This tale from Pixar’s early days is telling of how our environment subtly shapes our interactions. It also teaches us that solving a problem isn’t just about addressing the main issue. It’s about uprooting all the smaller problems that sprout from it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Does experience count?

Yes and no.

Not a good enough answer? I couldn’t agree more!

Someone asked this question on an Adam Grant podcast recently, and I thought the answer was brilliant.

Does experience matter? Of course it does. Someone with a few years of experience in pretty much anything will probably at least be less worse than if they were starting a job completely afresh.

But can this be extrapolated to mean that someone with say 20 years of experience is necessarily better than someone with only 5?

Here’s where the answer was outstanding. And the answer is “no”. How? Because as Adam concluded, it is not about the experience itself that matters, but reflecting on the experience which brings about the transformation. And that is all that counts.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Chill to thrill

Feeling swamped under a pile of tasks? Experiencing stress from information overload? In such times, Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” suggests an inviting solution – let’s disconnect to reconnect. We can step aside, immerse ourselves in gardening, yoga, or cooking.

Such calming pursuits provide a necessary interlude, allowing our minds to recharge and reboot. When we return to the task at hand, it’s not unusual to find fresh perspectives dawning.

Remember Newton’s epiphany under the apple tree? A moment of leisure birthed a profound scientific insight.

Thus, we should not hesitate to step out of our routine grind. By opening ourselves to the unexpected (or even just setting aside time for the mundane walks and baths), we pave the way for creativity to flourish.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The art of praising

Is praise always good? Yes it is, because it is better than criticising someone or complaining about someone.

But is there a good way and a bad way to praise someone? Yes there is apparently.

An example is while praising kids. Singling out one kid and praising that kid alone for a correct answer is a bad way. Why? Because the kid feels rewarded for his knowledge of that one answer. This is good, but no one knows everything. At the same time, the other kids who may not have have known that one answer will feel left out.

A better way of praising is to acknowledge and call out the behaviour and the effort. Such as commending them for participating in the class. Or praising the effort required to read up before the class. By focusing on the behaviours and efforts, the praise is far more sustainable too. Because it reinforces the need to continue such good behaviour, not just in that one person, but in everyone around them. And while one answer everyone may not know, a behaviour everyone can cultivate and effort – everyone can put in!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Dancy dancy

Many toddlers love the idea of dancy dancy. Just dancing or prancing around or bum-shaking to some beats or music as though no one is watching. Ah, the bliss, even just for a watching passerby.

On the flip side, I can’t shake a leg even if held at gunpoint. The ear-limb coordination just does not exist. But my mind in this respect is as though of a different breed. It can dance all day and all night, and sway to pretty much any tune. Gossip somewhere? Okay let’s dance in that direction. Breaking news somewhere else? Okay let’s shimmy toward there now.

Indeed my mind might be the greatest dancer of all, never once sitting still. Which might sound like a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records, but on the path of meditation, it might score the lowest.

What is the solution? I have no idea. But maybe Osho’s thoughts below leave a clue?

Meditation is not anything of the mind, it is something beyond the mind. The first step is to be playful about it. It is a song to be sung, a dance to be danced. Take it as fun and you will be surprised: if you can be playful about meditation, meditation will grow in leaps and bounds... 
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Rejection dejection

All rejections are bad right? Maybe not…

The founders of Google wanted to sell the company for $1 million back in 1999. But they were rejected, and dejected. Today that company is worth some $1.5 trillion!

Netflix was to be sold to Blockbuster at $50m, but was rejected. Today it’s ~$200bn!

7 out of 7 investors rejected investing in Airbnb at an early stage. The company was worth not even a million. Today it’s some $100bn.

If these companies had not received their rejections, what would have happened?

Time to believe that rejections and suffering and pain are good, not bad, maybe even great. Because that is when the real growth happens.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Get down

My Guru narrated an outstanding short story on Guru Purnima.

The head of Gita Press likened our lives and creation to that of a vast ocean on which a boat is floating.

We have each been various species of animals and maybe even plants one birth after another. Some 8 million times, maybe more.

Now we’ve finally got a human birth, and are as if on that boat which has come very close to the shore.

If we don’t get off the boat, we will drown, and possibly go back all the way, one specie to another, one birth after another.

All we need to do is to get off the boat. The land is Vaikuntha. We just need to get off. But are we able to?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

ThreEY

In a recent interview that I was reading, Carmine Di Sibio, the global chairman and CEO of the Big 4 Consulting firm EY, shared three valuable lessons from his own journey that I found quite useful:

1. Embrace Change:
Di Sibio emphasizes the importance of not being afraid to change paths, even if it means deviating from your original plan. Drawing from his personal experience, he reveals that he initially pursued a degree in chemistry with the intention of becoming a doctor. However, through an internship at a hospital, he discovered that medicine wasn’t the right fit for him. This realization led him to change course and embark on a career in business. Di Sibio advises us to remain flexible, acquire new skills, and keep an open mind as the evolving landscape of technology reshapes the future of work.

2. Foster Collaboration:
While competition often takes center stage in the business world, Di Sibio highlights the value of collaboration. He shares his own journey of studying business as a liberal arts graduate and how he learned the most from his classmates. Despite working for competing organizations during the day, they came together in the evening to study and collaborate on projects. Di Sibio believes that successful collaboration enhances one’s ability to handle challenges and seize opportunities. He illustrates this through EY’s collaborations with various organizations, including competitors, to create custom solutions and address pressing societal issues. Embracing collaboration can lead to personal and professional growth.

3. Challenge the Status Quo:
Questioning the status quo is a fundamental aspect of creating a better future, according to Di Sibio, who stresses the importance of asking bold questions throughout one’s career. He encourages graduates to challenge established norms, both within their organizations and in society at large. Di Sibio shared the story of EY’s ambitious initiative, Project Everest, which aimed to redefine the industry by splitting the organization into two separate entities. Although the project was eventually put on hold, valuable insights were gained, and the process sparked innovation and opened new conversations. Di Sibio believes that real change often requires persistence and a willingness to learn from setbacks.

Simple, but great points no?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Outliving

In a super duper book called Outlive by Dr Peter Attia, he explores ways in which we can not just live longer but live longer healthily.

That’s key, isn’t it? Who wants to live to 120 but spend the last 40 years in a hospital?!

Apart from several eye openers for me, one finding in particular I found very interesting. The doc references and reviews all available and ongoing research on supercentenerians, i.e. those living above 100.

His aim? To find a gene or two that is common across all these people which leads to such ultra longevity. The result? There is no such gene. Why? Because the author says nature and evolution simply doesn’t want anyone to live forever, rather just enough to reproduce and pass genes on to the next generation! That’s why after a certain age, hair greys out or falls off, and wrinkles develop and what not. Nature realizes that by that time, finding a mate and procreation has likely already happened and there’s no need for the “parent” to continue.

It’s a sobering but realistic take on anyone who believes they have all the money and power in the world and expect to live forever. Nature has spoken. For the spiritual aspirants, it’s simply the quality of life one has lived and how much they have done for others that matters, nothing else!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Titaning the noose

Some people love to live on the precipice of danger. The thrill of adrenaline. I’ve never understood it.

Why would one stuff oneself into a small tube and go down the depths of the ocean to see a sunken ship? There must be some good reason that my tiny brain is unable to process.

And it’s not like the ride was free. It was a cool quarter of a million dollars per head. Phew! It’s like a 1000x magnified version of paying crazy ticket prices to go see a horror movie – as if the horrors of daily life aren’t enough!

Many people routinely do this – climbing mountain peaks that are overly crowded, or parkour on top of skyscrapers with no safety harnesses, or surf in shark infested waters. Why voluntarily increase the probability of throwing away one’s life?

As our scriptures tell us, this human birth is incredibly rare. Why do we want to throw it away? But as my Guru points out, if we are not on the spiritual path and constantly focused on the Lord, then we are anyway throwing our lives away!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

AAAA

Came across an interesting speech today. The gentleman was speaking about “How to be a good subordinate”.

I said, what?

The whole world is running after how to be a CEO and a leader and a master and a winner. And here this fellow is giving a talk on how to be a good subordinate?

Yep, because he has a good point. As he notes, one cannot attain the corner office at the age of 25 or 30. Good things, like the wisdom of experience, take time.

So how to be a good subordinate? Follow the 4As.

A for Accomplishment, as one needs to deliver. A for Affability, as one needs to be able to get along with one’s boss. A for Advocacy, of ourselves, because we are all salesmen, even if we aren’t in sales. A for Authenticity, because that’s we always need to be.

If I had to add one more A, it would be A for the Almighty, because without Him, nothing is possible!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Inferior knowledge

It’s always good to know more about everything. Being a voracious reader and consumer of information is great. It can certainly help one make a mark in relationships. If the group you’re with is talking about sports or art or literature or finance or movies or science – doesn’t matter – because you’re still going to be able to contribute to the conversation and sound intelligent!

This is fantastic. But what if you don’t read much. Maybe you don’t have the time. Or maybe you aren’t interested, just aren’t able to read a book cover to cover, or watch educational videos much. Or maybe you do some or all of these, but still are blessed with a terrible memory (like yours truly!) that nothing sticks. Does it mean such people will never be able to build relationships?

Not quite. It’s a fallacy to think that the smartest and most talkative guy in the room is the winner. Sure such persons will have the spotlight on them. But more than anything, what people like, is to talk. And if you give them that opportunity, and listen to them really well, you can build far better relationships than you ever would simply by consuming a lot of knowledge.

This is fabulous, because it is easy. Doesn’t require preparation or complexes of inferiority. All it needs is to be aware and present in the moment. And as long as you get the other person speaking, and you are listening, you will be fine.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Imposters

Ever got the feeling that you are just faking it in life? As though most people around us are great, always acing their work, while we are struggling to fill our shoes?

We know that this is the imposter syndrome at play.

Is it normal? Absolutely. There’ll always be some level of self-doubt in us, which leads to this. A few famous personalities, nay Gods or superhumans, themselves had imposter syndrome!

1) Lord Rama when he was enlisted by Rishis Vishwamitra and Vashishta to fight some demons that were troubling them.

2) Lord Hanuman when he was asked to cross the ocean and go to Lanka in search of Sita.

3) Arjuna the greatest warrior of all, when he went to the Kurukshetra battlefield, was terrified of fighting.

4) Post the war, King Yudhishtira, Dharma raja himself went into depression and had to be reminded of his kingly duties!

If these maestros struggled with imposter syndrome, then why should we worry? Of course, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prep well before a test or performance or interview and so on. It might also be okay for us to cultivate comfort in expressing our lack of confidence, which in turn displays true confidence and provides reassurance even in professional settings. This approach can help us stay humble and grounded.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Unconditional

We all know what unconditional love is. Such as the love we have for our parents and spouses and children. There is no condition that is attached. They do not have to do anything for us for our love to exist. This love is not transactional.

Similarly, there is unconditional creation. When creation becomes conditional, we call it “work”, or after a lovely Sunday, we call it “Monday morning blues”.

If we want to make money, that’s good. But our goal of making money is never the end, only a means to an end. Because the money itself is useless. It is a means for us to buy what we want or earn status in society. Thus whatever we create in order to get money becomes conditional. We are creating something to get something else, and hence we can never enjoy the process.

In unconditional creation, we work because we want to. No conditions attached. No T&Cs. Just unconditional chill.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Lights, camera, action

Have you ever been told that your idea is impossible? Remember the Chinese proverb: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” In other words, don’t let the doubters hold you back from taking action.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says (Chapter 2, Verse 47): “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.” So, our focus must be on putting in our best effort without getting hung up on the outcome.

But let’s be real – sometimes, despite our best efforts, things just don’t go as planned. In those moments: Karma Yoga to the rescue! This is the philosophy that teaches us to perform our duties with dedication and detachment, without getting too attached to the outcome.

So, next time someone tells us our idea is impossible, remember the Chinese proverb, channel your inner Karma Yogi, and go for it anyway. And if it doesn’t work out, well… at least we can say we tried!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Success comes from where? – part 2 of 2

Yesterday was one take on success and with a couple of examples. All good.

But my Guru provided the real secret behind success recently in a short note he had penned. Pasted verbatim below:

There is only one thing that will catapult you to the skies, and that is MAKE OTHER PERSON WIN. Not once or twice, but all the time, even in a dream! But this is very difficult - Why?  Because we are immersed in ourselves. NO HABIT of praising others. We want praise only for ourselves. We need to praise others every moment. 

That’s the true secret!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Success comes from where? – part 1 of 2

In his book “Give and Take,” Adam Grant makes a powerful argument for the impact of generosity in achieving success. According to Grant, our success often hinges on our interactions with others, and those who are willing to be generous and giving are more likely to achieve their goals.

One example that Grant provides is the story of David Hornik, a venture capitalist who goes above and beyond to assist entrepreneurs even when there’s no direct financial gain for him. Hornik’s willingness to help others has resulted in a network of successful entrepreneurs who are happy to work with him again in the future.

Another example is the case of Adam Rifkin, a thriving entrepreneur who spends a significant amount of time mentoring and advising others. Rifkin believes that by helping others succeed, he’s also helping himself succeed. His generosity has rewarded him with a strong network and numerous prosperous business ventures.

These examples demonstrate the power of giving and helping others in achieving success. By being generous and offering help without expecting anything in return, we can cultivate meaningful relationships, gain valuable experience, and ultimately accomplish our goals.

The road to success isn’t always linear the way we often expect it to be. Sometimes, the key to attaining our objectives lies in helping others achieve theirs. We could hence strive to be giving and generous in our interactions with others, and see where it takes us.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Failing to succeed

In an NBA post-match press conference recently, star baller Giannis Antetokounmpo was quizzed by a journalist, on failure. The usual, “would you consider this a failure now that you’ve lost this important game?”

The NBA star countered beautifully.

He asks the journalist if he gets promoted every year at work. Of course not!

And so if you do not get promoted at work one year, then are you considered a failure? Is that year considered a failure? Of course not!

It’s just one stepping stone after another on the path to success.

Nay, traversing the path itself is success!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Meditating rats

Which God to pray to? What position to meditate in? What shlokas to chant? How many maalas to recite? What time to pray? How many and which all temples to visit? Should one follow a specific spiritual path or explore multiple paths? Can one be spiritual without a traditional concept of God? What happens to consciousness after physical death? Is it better to focus on personal spiritual growth or on serving others? How can one find meaning and purpose in life? Is there a definitive path to enlightenment? What is the role of faith and doubt in spiritual practice? How can one balance material success with spiritual values? Can one transcend the limitations of the physical body and mind? What is the relationship between individual spirituality and organized religion?”

Phew, so many questions, and so few answers.

No wonder then, that a recent comic was so funny, as it read, “I quit the rat race for spiritual well-being and learnt to be content with material wealth.”

Contentment is key ????

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Punchnama – part 2 of 2

While it’s easy to say we need to relax and breathe when the punches flow fast and thick, is there something we can keep in mind to make the process easier?

Sure.

One, is to practise getting many punches. Keep putting out our best work, and be shameless in seeking feedback, no matter how bad or good.

Two, is to keep moving. Not to evade the punches, but to grow from them. To use the message for improvement, while ignoring the messenger and their mode of delivery.

Three, is to always remember that our work is what we do, and not who we are. If we take things too personally, that’s a setup waiting for disaster. As Keynes said, in the long run, we’re all dead. So no tension!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Punchnama – part 1 of 2

How do we take punches? Not literal ones. Just the ones where we get negative feedback.

Even though we’ve done our very best, there are things outside our control. Our intent might have been perfect, but sometimes stuff does hit the fan.

Can we do anything about it now? If the answer is no, then it might be a good idea to just relax and take a chill pill.

If you are someone who is creative and imaginative, then it’s likely you are going to conjure up some wild images of the worst that could happen.

As they say, fear is just imagination taking a wrong turn.

It’s okay to get bad criticism. Or negative reviews. It’s not the end of the world. The world honestly couldn’t care less. If we didn’t care much either, we’d bounce back in no time.

But is this all there is to it? More tomorrow!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Success is yours!

Success in life is plenty about “who you know”.

Everyone knows this, and most people hence try to keep knocking on as many doors as possible, hoping someone will suddenly notice them and give them a pot of gold.

Nope, not how the real world works, according to a book on success that I had the chance to flip through at a bookstore.

“Who you know” comes from “who you are” and “what you have to offer”.

“Who we are” is a function of our values and ethics.

“What we have to offer” is a function of the work we do.

If we work on these two aspects, then everything else, success included, will follow.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Discplinarian

There are many ways to be disciplined.

You can do things every year. Every minute, every hour. Every week, every month.

But none of these are as good as a single day.

The sun rises and sets with a rhythm. It’s observable, and we humans “get it”.

If success is in our crosshairs, all we need to do, is to keep building our body of work, day after day after day, and before you know it, years will have gone by, with all that work having turned to gold.

But is it easy?

As the comedian Russell Brand says, “One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn’t easy: it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. “

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

To a great degree

There are some people who think that education and degrees are everything.

Education and degrees do matter, but context matters more.

If you are stranded in a desert with no water, or stuck in a hostage situation, or some other life threatening emergency, survival often depends on resourcefulness, not on academic credentials.

A great many people remain depressed because their circumstances did not permit them to study enough. Several others are depressed because they studied a lot, but their day jobs do not allow them their freedom of expression.

For many creative pursuits, for entrepreneurship, for forging solid relationships with others, it is empathy and emotional intelligence that is critical. Formal degrees and education may provide some stepping stones, but beyond that, it is all individual passion and grit.

The best work truly comes when done in service (seva) for the sake of a greater purpose and greater good. Those who do not understand this, will keep looking for degrees and credentials.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Tools for success

When it comes to most people and their work, the thought process is that the more sophisticated their tools, the better they would be able to do their jobs.

It’s probably true to some extent. Like some high tech imaging devices would surely help the medical fraternity and/or the astromoer fraternity and so on.

Tools like our mobile phones with Google-ji in it have replaced many many tasks that we previously had to do manually.

But still, there is beauty in watching someone work their art, especially with limited tools. A world class guitarist can produce mesermizing music from his guitar even if one string is broken, but for a newbie guitar player, even the world’s costliest guitar will be of limited value.

A doctor I went to see recently had the smallest practice room, a stethoscope, a torch, and a magnifying glass – that’s it! But the serpentine queue outside his clinic told me a story no different from the world class guitarist.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Deadly

How many will remember us once we are no more?

Maybe a few close ones, and that too for a very short period of time.

Life soon goes on.

People find ways to cope, and over 99% of the people in your life wouldn’t even think about you anymore.

All the stress and anxiety you put yourself through in order to please these same others…. Poof!

It will help to think of all this the next time we stress about something. Who are we really living for?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Quit or Grit? – part 2 of 2

While we know we should not quit, it is important to identify where all our efforts need to be put in first.

There are many things we chase after – money, status, promotion, bonus, relationships, properties and what not.

We cannot get eveything. But we can perhaps get what we want if we choose wisely and work with full focus.

This choosing, implicitly involves “quitting” some things. Which is great.

But my Guru says that all of these need to be quit. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. All the attachments to the material world need to be quit. It takes an insane amount of grit to do that. More than the grit required to succeed in any material discipline.

So, from a spiritual point of view, it’s really not a question of Grit versus Quit. It’s always Grit and Quit.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Quit or grit? – part 1 of 2

This is the question posed to us in a very interesting book called Quit, by Annie Duke.

We’ve been told since forever, that we just shouldn’t give up. Perseverance is the key to success. Quitting is for losers. If you give up, the world has no place for you. And on and on, there’s so many of these messages and quotes and what not – we’ve all been at the receiving end of many of such.

But Annie is one of the best poker players in the world, and she knows a thing or two about quitting. If you’ve played poker, you know that no matter how much luck you have on your side, you can’t keep winning every single game.

She summarizes beautifully:

Success does not lie in sticking to things. It lies in picking the right thing to stick to and quitting the rest.

But where does spirituality fit in to this? Find out here tomorrow!

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

Don’t wait for…

Was reading an interview by Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft.

The question he was asked was whether early in in his career after joining Microsoft, did he think he would make CEO some day?

Mr Nadella’s answer was awesome, because he said he never even once thought about becoming CEO, as he was focused purely on excelling in his current (at the time) work.

Here’s his killer advice in his own words:

Don't wait for your next job to do your best work. 

We can even remove the words “for your next job” from the above sentence, and it would be great advice for anything and everything we do in life!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

100% successful

Yes, you know who that is? Who’s 100% successful?

Why, it’s you of course!

If you’re reading this, it means that you have succeeded against all odds, all failures, all problems, and have still made it to today.

You are 100% successful at not having been defeated by your worst days.

Isn’t that such an optimistic thought?

What can you not achieve in the future, with such an untouchable inimitable success rate behind you?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Believe the height? Or hype?

What do you think the ideal height of a basketballer should be? What about the height of a pro basketballer? And what of one who plays for the world famous all star Harlem Globetrotters? 7 feet? Or 6 and a half feet? Or at least 6 feet right?

Maybe you’ve never heard of Mani Love then. His height? Wait for it…

4 feet, 5 inches.

Think I’m kidding? Please watch a few YouTube videos of his. Like maybe this one.

It’s insane what he can do. Some of his moves, no 7-footer can ever pull off.

But if we were limited to 4 feet 5, would we have the belief in ourselves to achieve what he has?

What other self-imposed limitations are impeding us today?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Raising the bat

Raising the bat is common in cricket, when the batsman scores a 100 runs. A century.

The batters raise their bats if they score 200 or 300 as well, or even more.

But there was one occasion where a batter raised his bat after scoring just 1 run.

Yes, your read that right, one, not one hundred.

Why?

Because in his prior 6 innings, he had got out for a duck, i.e. a grand score of zero.

It would have been a problem only if this guy didn’t come out to bat the 7th time around. But he did. And he celebrated that 1 run with aplomb!

A great lesson for me in persistence, and in self-deprecating humor. ????

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

pow3r

Was reading an interesting article today. Apparently there are 3 ways in which power can influence us.

  1. “Power within”: refers to a person’s sense of self-worth and self-knowledge, allowing them to recognize their strength and believe they can make a difference.
  2. “Power to”: refers to the productive and generative potential of power, or the new possibilities and actions that can be created, without any relationship of domination.
  3. “Power over”: is built on force, coercion, domination and control, and motivates largely through fear. This type of power is held by individuals and is finite.

There’s actually also a 4th type of power. I didn’t mention it before, because then I’d have to change the title to pow4r 🙂

This 4th power is called “power with”. “Power with”: is shared power that grows out of collaboration and relationships, built on respect, mutual support, solidarity, and influence. This type of power helps build bridges with groups and across differences. It is this 4th power that is truly powerful.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Leadership Secrets – part 3

Collaboration was secret #1 of leadership. What was secret #2? Encouraging risk-taking.

Is risk-taking useful? Yes, massively so. This is precisely where innovation comes from. If we just sit and do the same thing over and over, it will likely not lead to anything new or radical. But risk-taking needs to be calculated, not random, not just for the heck of it.

A super story is that of James Dyson, a born entrepreneur, and also a huge risk taker.

He once created a product called the Ballbarrow, a wheelbarrow with a low center of gravity, like a giant yoga ball in front of a wheelbarrow, making it easier to work in gardens and construction sites. Unfortunately, the product didn’t sell and he was ousted from the company he founded.

However, James’ failed invention led to his greatest success story. While working on the Ballbarrow, he noticed the powerful suction of the turbine fans used to clean up the paint factory and he wondered why home vacuum cleaners couldn’t be that effective. This sparked his curiosity and he set out to create a vacuum cleaner without a bag, which was the root cause of lost suction in traditional vacuums. It took him 7 years and 5000 prototypes, but eventually, he created the game-changing Dyson vacuum cleaner. After launching the product at a mid-size retailer in Britain, it quickly gained popularity through word of mouth.

Today, James Dyson is one of the richest people in Britain and the success of his company is a result of its willingness to take risks and constantly push boundaries. Continued tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Leadership Secrets – part 2

Continuing from yesterday, what does collaboration really mean? Everyone wants everyone else to be collaborative around them, and they certainly feel they each are the pinnacles of collaboration. Is that true though?

Within many firms, it’s all about the money. And there is often only so much of a pot to share, capitalists, as most of us are. Collaborating could mean someone else taking the credit and the pot. But Guy argues that collaboration even in large companies and in cutthroat verticals can have positive effects, i.e. synergies such that the sum is greater than the parts. He gives the example of P&G – the global consumer company. Founded pre-Civil War (1837!), they have 60+ brands of which at least 20 are worth over a billion dollars.

In the 1990s, Crest – P&G’s toothpaste brand – was struggling to compete with Colgate in the toothpaste market. Crest researcher, Paul Sagel, saw an opportunity to create a teeth whitening product that people could use at home. He came up with a solution, but couldn’t figure out how to apply it to teeth. During a lunch with colleague Bob Dirksing, who was working on a plastic product for Procter & Gamble, Bob suggested using plastic wrap. They tested the prototype and took it to the CMO, who greenlit the product. In just 6 months, Crest Whitestrips hit the shelves and made $300 million in revenue in its first year.

Crest Whitestrips is proof that collaboration can bring success. Paul and Bob’s combined expertise created an incredibly successful product, showcasing the value of a collaborative culture in organizations. When collaboration is encouraged, great things happen. Continued tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Leadership Secrets – part 1

Everyone knows leadership is a crucial skill. Probably the most crucial one in a work setting. And everyone wants to be a leader, or at least be seen as one.

But what does it take to be a leader? Are there any identifiable and repeatable traits?

On a very cool new podcast by Harvard Business Review, the featured a guest named Guy Raz. Guy is the host and co-creator of his own podcasts “How I Built This” and “Wisdom from the Top,” where he regularly speaks (700 interviews!) with the who’s who of the business world (aka leaders). Here are the 3 most important things for leadership, in his own words:

"The first is, they all create a culture of collaboration, all of these leaders. Full stop. The second thing they do is they encourage risk-taking, and then the opposite side of that coin, which is the third thing they do, which is they allow for failure."

More insights tomorrow!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Who changed who

When Mahatma Gandhi was young, he used to loiter around with good-for-nothings. His mum didn’t like this one bit, and used to reprimand Gandhi ji. “You will become like them only, and probably soon take to smoking and drinking.”

To which Gandhi ji replied, “Have faith in me ma, I don’t hang around with them so that I can become like them. I’m hoping that they will become like me instead!”

We each in daily life encounter all sorts of people, some negative some positive. While it might be easy to categorize the ones who party and booze and smoke as the “bad” ones, this is barely scratching the surface. Look beneath, even for the “good” ones, you will find so much “bad” lurking there – anger, jealousy, greed, fear – you name it.

How to be “good” then? By being mentally strong, having faith in oneself, and living a dharmic life as guided by our scriptures.

Faith in oneself is key. Just like a bird doesn’t give two hoots about the branch it is sitting on. Because her trust is placed on her own wings.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Fruits of action

We are often told by Lord Krishna in the Gita to give up the “fruits” of our actions. What are these fruits?

We typically tend to associate these fruits with the various results we get. You put in a lot of hardwork, and it resulted in you getting a promotion. And so that becomes your fruit of action.

But is this all there is to it?

The word fruit is emblematic of something far deeper. It indicates the cycle of birth and death, and the incessant repetitive nature of creation and dissolution.

An apple fruit contains within it various seeds, each of which in turn containing the latent potential of not just future trees, but also future apples, future seeds, and future grandchildren-trees!

The fruits of our actions are no different. They contain seeds which propel further action. The promotion of today will lead to a desire for more wealth and promotions for future years, ad infinitum.

These fruits might seems sweet and delicious, but in effect only bind us more and lead to more pain. The only way, as Krishna says, is to renounce the fruits.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Froggy success

Know who Brian Tracy is? I didn’t. Or at least I thought I didn’t. His Wikipedia page says he’s a motivational speaker and author that has written 80 books. 80! Incredible!

And then I saw the title “Eat that Frog”, and then I realized wow I do know about Brian Tracy. He’s the guy that said if there’s something hard or unpleasant (like eating a frog) you need to do today, then do it first up, without postponing it to later in the day. That is good advice, and well known.

Today I came across a short clip of the same Mr. Tracy. He was answering a very important question. “What are the enemies of success?” Here’s his lovely answer:

There are 3 enemies of success:
1. The Comfort Zone – self explanatory
2. Learned Helplessness – where we practice and normalize saying “I can’t do it”
3. Path of Least Resistance – i.e., always looking for an easy way, but nothing worth having ever came easy.

What clarity!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Moon man

Everyone knows about the super-sweeper incident from many decades ago. President JFK went to NASA to inspect a rocket launch. He chanced upon a sweeper. JFK asked the sweeper what he was upto. The sweeper didn’t feel shy or embarrassed to tell only the the most important man he’d meet in his life that he was sweeping the floor. Instead, he told JFK that he was contributing towards putting a man on the moon. What a superb attitude to life!

This is often quoted in relation to Krishna’s teachings in the Gita as well. Our life purpose and work purpose must transcend the mundane. Krishna emphasizes many times that it is not what work we do that matters, but only “how” we do the work.

Folks think that they will be happy at work only when they become the CEO. But the CEO’s role might be the hardest, and definitely the loneliest. The CEO is alone, managing a huge team below him, while also solitarily reporting to a Board above.

As many expert opine nowadays, if we want people to align with us, then we should get them to care. And no one cares about what we do, they only care about why we do it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Mental farmland

Have you ever had that experience, where you think and think and think – searching for an answer – but that answer just stays elusive?

You feel so stupid. The answer seems to be just on the tip of your tongue. And still it evades you.

But then you go for a walk, or a shower, or are sitting aimlessly carelessly somewhere sometime, and boom, the answer hits you. Why is this?

Simon Sinek, the author of bestselling book “Start with Why”, and the host of the awesome podcast “A bit of optimism”, has a scientific answer.

According to him, our minds have access to data at 2 levels. The conscious mind (which we use to quickly look for an answer) has about 2 feet of data access. Think of it like a small local database.

But our subconscious mind? It has access to 11 acres of data! No wonder we remember so much, but the timing is not in our hands.

This is why ‘brainstorming’ is actually about asking the right questions. The right answers will come later, likely in the shower!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

HNY HHP – part 2 of 2

Today we look at Happiness and Health.

  1. Health. Physical and mental. Everyone is facing issues of one type or the other.
    1. Sense control or Dama is key. Right food yes, but not just what goes into the mouth but all other inputs as well for the eyes, ears etc. Moderation is critical. 6.16 6.17 of the Gita has Krishna speaking about moderation in everything. Mind you, He doesn’t talk about giving up everything, but about practising moderation. How can we practise this? Maybe have a “1-day off” ritual every month. On that one day alone, we give up something, like social media or TV or certain foods etc. This will only serve to strengthen our mental, emotional and spiritual muscles.
    2. Positive thinking – for mental health, which is a huge contributor to mental health. How? By cultivating positive noble qualities. These are enlisted in the Gita 16.3, called Daivi sampath, or Divine qualities. Examples are no anger, compassion, altruistic, non-critical, forgiving.
  2. Happiness. Where is it? Not outside, but inside each one of us. Spiritual happiness comes “in spite of” vyakti vastu paristhithi, not “because of”, and that is a key distinction.
    1. One practise point is to try and enjoy all work. How? By converting work to worship, and Krishna explains in Chp 18. Do all work with dhriti and utsaaha, perseverance and excitement.
    2. The ultimate spiritual truth, unlimited Ananda is within us, our own true nature. Sat chit Ananda. Like the UPS, it is an Uninterrupted Power Supply.

2023, nay every year henceforth, if we practise these, will be amazing.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

HNY HHP – part 1 of 2

It’s a little late now to be exchanging new year greetings, but bear with me. We had a super satsang session recently, where the speaker laid out a simple road map that anyone can (and everyone should!) follow.

What do we usually greet with? Happy New Year (HNY), and I wish you a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous (HHP) 2023! So the speaker took each of H, H and P, and gave us a quick but structured road map. We’ll cover P today, and look at the 2 Hs tomorrow.

1. Prosperity. Which is doing well, both materially and spiritually. 2 things to do for this.

One is to have focus (hence goals are important). And make them action oriented rather than linked to end results. Instead of saying my goal is to lose 5 kilos, say that my goal is to eat 1 bowl of cut fruits every day and spend 15 minutes exercising. Spiritual goals would include how much time to devote to spiritual practises, how much to devote in the service of others, and how much to donate to the needy. Being focused, as Krishna says in 2.41 of the Gita, vyayvasaayaatmika buddhi, is critical for achieving one’s goal.

Second is to ensure self-effort, with self-confidence. The famous Uddharetaatamnaatmaanam shloka from chapter 6 verse 5 is on point. Be optimistic, be fearless and ensure to have a spiritual diary / audit process to take stock.

Concluded tomorrow with the 2 Hs!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

FormulaOne FailureNone

Merc-AMG won 8 F1 races in a row. And then they lost.

Toto Wolff, the team Principal at Merc spoke about what it takes to build a “winning culture”.

Paradoxically, the winning culture comes from losing, or rather the learning from the losing.

The statement of his that I liked the most?

The days we lose, are the days our competitors will regret the most. Because those are the days that we learn. 

How will we look at failure the next time we face it?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Happy new who?

An old article by Chinmaya Mission founder Swami Chinmayananda wishing everyone a new year, never gets old (pun intended!).

It’s not just the usual Happy New Year wish that we all practise at the turn of each year. Rather, he turns the question on its head, and asks if really anything is new.

Aren’t we still the same morose, dejected, anxious, desperate, demanding, greedy, selfish (I can add many more such words to describe my own mind!) people that we were just the eve of the new year? What changed then just as the clock struck twelve?

Swami C asks this very question. If one day to the next is exactly the same, then what are we celebrating? The quality of time is not moving or changing. It is us humans who have divided time into minutes and hours and days and years, and we keep track of it, and rejoice as it apparently whizzes past us.

But the true happy new year as Swami C concludes, is only when we change and transform ourselves, and become better, more evolved, spiritual beings. The moment that happens, it is indeed the dawn of a very happy new year!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Two-way street

We always think that focus comes only when we are interested in something.

Like if you love to play video games or watch YouTube videos, then you no doubt have massive focus on these activities. No matter who is calling you or what needs to be done, it’s possible to not hear anything of the outside world.

So if we like something, we will focus automatically.

But is this helpful? Not really, because what if we don’t like something. How can we focus then?

In a book calling Finding Flow by psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, he mentions the following eye-popping sentence:

If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus your attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.

This means that focus-and-interest is not a one-way, but a two-way street!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Golden touch

Enough successful people will tell us that life is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet most people live their lives as a series of successive sprints, often more tired starting the next one, than they were the prior.

Look back at your school days, and you’ll realize that many folks who stood top of their class have not made it as far as their potential would have probably suggested at the time. Why could that be?

Perhaps it’s the case of the “golden touch” as one author put it. If we start out successful, then the potentially misplaced confidence in our own abilities skyrockets. We think that we are solely responsible for our own success, and don’t believe that something like luck aka extraneous factors even exists.

Others are often too scared to even try. As my Guru often notes, success is nothing but repeated failure. However, failure that comes from not even trying is not what he’s talking about here. We (me in particular) need to be bold and venturesome. Not timid and close-minded. Failure of the courageous type is nothing more than a synonym for learning.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Plus minus equal coincidence

Have been reading one interesting book by a Robert Greene called the Laws of Power. In that, he mentions that he trained a young protégé at one point – a Ryan Holiday – to also become an author. All good.

Then in the newspaper today, I saw an op-ed where someone quoted something written by – you guessed it – Ryan Holiday! Nice coincidence.

But that’s not the reason for this post. The newspaper article said Ryan had an interesting learning on “Plus, Minus, Equal”, that a martial arts trainer used.

To become great he says, each fighter needs to have someone better they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal who they challenge themselves against. So a plus, a minus and an equal.

The unsaid conclusion of this amazing philosophy, is that one is constantly learning, as one is always a student. Even the best of Gurus, have their own Gurus. Humility is key.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Output obsessed?

The world today is obsessed with outputs.

External manifestation is what takes the cake. Bulging biceps or hardboard abs? Wow, everyone wants that, but without going to the gym or eating clean.

Want to close a mega sales deal? Everyone does, but not by putting in the 100s of hours and 1000s of cold calls. Folks look for the one-call-wonder.

Young new joiners at companies want to quickly learn all the technical skills and show off their knowledge, and get promoted as quickly as possible. That’s a good thing, except that experience and (lack of) speed brings emotional and mental maturity – something that is woefully ignored.

But equally, the other side can be emphasized. Most employers don’t care about outputs. Only inputs. Number of hours and weekends worked and “facetime” is more important compared to actual work done.

So is the world more output focused? Or more input focused? Purely from a spiritual point of view, does either matter?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Please Seat Down

That oh-so-famous interview question? “Tell me about yourself”

Came across a crisp video about how to answer this well, instead of starting with where one was born and what the temperature was on that fateful day!

It’s called the SEAT principle. The interviewee must make sure to cover:

S for skills one brings to the table

E for experiences or educational qualifications

A for the key achievements so far

T for the type of person you are and what gets you going

Pretty simple stuff, but so well formulated! Even outside of formal interviews, it’s always good to have this framework at the back of our minds. It can be used in pretty much any context where one has to introduce themselves. Who knows, that conversation could end up being the opportunity of a lifetime!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Top Class

Top Class and Top of the Class, are two totally different things. We’ve each seen this. People who are top of the class in school and university, may be successful, but rarely are the truly top class and top-of-the-world successful.

Pete (his co-founder) and I thought of the people we wanted to run these new business areas as "10 out of 10s". We had both been judging talent long enough to know a 10 when we saw one. Eights just do the stuff you tell them. Nines are great at executing and developing good strategies. You can build a winning firm with 9s. But people who are 10s, sense problems, design solutions and take the business in new directions without being told to do so. Tens always make it rain.

Here’s what Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone says in his book:

Notice how he doesn’t even mention the 1s to 7s?

Are you an 8, 9 or 10? ?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Muscular frog

We must have all come across that book with a weird title. “Eat that frog”.

Want to eat a frog? No thank you. But that’s what the book says. There’s always stuff we don’t like to do, like eating frogs, and hence we should do those tasks first. This is more from a work perspective, so that by the time the day is even half done, we feel like we’ve accomplished something.

Of course there are those that love to eat frogs, literally, and so to those I wonder if this title even makes any sense.

But keeping them aside, one slightly dated but interesting example is of the actor Amir Khan in Dangal. He was playing two roles in the same movie, initially as a young muscular fighter, and then eventually a fat old man.

But what was his genius here? That he decided to eat the frog later, and requested his Director to shoot the ‘old man’ scene first, followed by the ‘young man’ scene. He knew that eating and becoming fat was easy, but losing it would be very hard. And if he had no reason to look fit, he would just lapse off. Clearly, eating the frog later is also not that bad, but it must be eaten!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

In a tearing hurry

Steve Schwarzman is Blackstone Group’s Chairman and Co-founder. The company is worth some 100 billion dollars plus.

But he didn’t start out on top. In one of his first jobs, he was asked to take a printout of a presentation that he had made. This was to be used by his boss for an important client pitch.

Enroute to the client’s office, his boss realized that Steve had made a mistake in his calculations, and a big one at that.

To remedy the situation, his boss told him he could still manage the show, if Steve could just tear out all the even pages and leave only the odd ones. Simple enough, and Steve was relieved that he wouldn’t be the cause of a messed up meeting.

Except, that in the tension and anxiety of that moment, Steve tore out all the odd pages instead!

So it’s not all rosy, even for the best, even for those who have scaled Mount Success today. Just need to develop some thick skin, learn from our mistakes, and keep ploughing on.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

El Genioso

Everybody wants to be a genius. But not everyone is. Most aren’t. Wikipedia actually doesn’t even have a proper definition. It says there’s no way to quantify any thresholds on who makes it to genius and who doesn’t. IQ 200, and hence confirmed genius? Nope, no such thing.

In a podcast hosted by author and optimist Simon Sinek, he talks about how the word genius was originally not even a trait. The word came from ancient Rome, where genius was actually a good spirit that every human being was thought to be protected and guided by. So it was never “you are a genius” but that “you have a genius”. Along the way of course all this got corrupted.

Simon also posted this once:

The genius at the top doesn't make the team look good. A good team makes the person at the top look like a genius.

There’s no need to be a genius and lose sleep over it. Instead, it’s more important to be ge-nice, i.e. a nice human being.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Tyson’s fears – part 2 of 2

An afraid Mike Tyson is so uncharacteristic of him, one would think.

Sadhguru breaks this down masterfully.

He says that human beings are uncanny because they don’t need any external stimulus to be afraid, or happy or sad or angry. All of that happens within us. External stimuli might exacerbate certain emotions, but these emotions can very well spring up (and last) on their own.

For instance, we may think of an impending client meeting, and worry about how our performance will be. We may also use a reference of a prior meeting with the client, and add to the worry. But in reality, today where we are, neither the meeting from the past is happening now, nor is the meeting to be held in the future happening now. So we are afraid of something that isn’t even real.

Seemingly simple concept, but applicable to each one, especially if knockout-king Tyson himself has unexplained fears!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Back to back

There are two very critical ‘back’s in life. No its not like there’s a substitute back when one’s got back pain.

These 2 backs are essential for growth and success.

The first back is setback. We often only look for victory everywhere, but setbacks are a part and parcel of life. If there is no setback, we will never have the chance to learn and improve our game.

The second back is comeback. This is how we implement our learnings from the first back, i.e. the setback.

Taken together, setbacks and comebacks are an insanely powerful combination.

No need to fear setbacks because without one, we would never know how to do better. And there is no shame in comebacks, only honor.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Love or enjoy?

Heard this in a talk show recently. The guest was asked about people spending more time in offices and working and it leading to burnout.

He said that it is indeed true.

So what to do?

You need to enjoy your job, not love your job. 

That was his advice. Why enjoy and not love?

Because he said love for one’s job brings attachment. Which then invariably leads to stress, anxiety and disappointment, especially when something doesn’t go as planned, when results are delayed despite efforts, or colleagues do not collaborate and so on.

Hence enjoy, not love!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Is there a question here?

A star investor-cum-poker player once had an 82% probability of winning a hand. She was on the biggest stage of her poker life ever. And the prize money was the most she had ever played for too, and so, no pressure at all!

As luck would have it, she lost. It truly was a bad luck moment. From an 82% probability of winning to actually losing. Probability isn’t certainty, as we all know.

At the same event, she met a celebrity international-level poker player and said to him, “Damn it, that was such terrible luck. How I wish I was given a better hand to start with. I hate it when I encounter bad luck. I’m so unlucky”. To which the man simply replied, “Is there a question here?”

Needless to say, the lady was taken aback. And as she herself recounts later, the celeb-champ was not wrong. That guy was more than ready to discuss poker strategies and in-game tactics till the cows came home, but he was least interested in wasting time talking about things that were outside of his control (like bad luck). Nice lesson for me in my daily life!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Sleep hack

We all surely experience times where sleep doesn’t come that easily.

Or maybe we wake up randomly at 2 am or such, and then keep tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep again.

The first port of call for most? The mobile phone of course. And once that light hits the eye, sleep is only going to get delayed even further (science backs this up!).

But there’s another way.

Know how we usually do not find much time to meditate? Well why not meditate at such times when sleep isn’t coming?

I find this incredibly useful. One only needs to focus on the breath, slowly and calmly. At that time of night, usually all surrounding noises have died down. Peace prevails, and sleep will soon too.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Old is sold

Many people start feeling old the moment they hit 30. Some feel old even before. “Oh no, my twenties are almost over!” they sigh.

Given the stresses and lifestyles of today, it’s not just the twenties that are receding, but hairlines as well. All sorts of garbage are sold in the garb of success.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to see what limits are possible. And this is not about fake limits set up on Instagram, showing extraordinary bodies shot in conditioned light. Nope.

I was reading about Olympic Champion Eliud Kipchoge, who recently broke his own world record running a marathon in just 2 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds. Outstanding feat. But I also liked what the 37 year old had to say about his fitness, both physical and mental.

"My legs and my body still feel young. But most importantly, my mind also feels young."
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

2 types of passion!

Apparently there are two types of passion. Harmonious and Creative. This I came across in a podcast where the guest was none other than famed surgeon and author Atul Gawande. Here’s what he had to say:

"I'm gonna give you another framework that I work with on this. There are cycles of how the work works, and it's understanding those cycles. So surgery is a harmonious passion in a very straightforward way. I can go in to do a two or three-hour operation and I will get something done and I will lose sense of time. And it, I can't tell you what a great experience it is working with a team focused on doing something where everybody is skilled and, and working harmoniously together. But there is nothing creative about it. In fact, you're trying to be anti-creative. You're trying to do things the same way every time. What you accumulate are thousands of people you've taken care of and not necessarily something that builds something larger. Whereas writing or doing certain kinds of research work, that's six months of effort, not always harmonious. Painful. A learning curve every time, but at the end of it, incredibly gratifying. And I found my six month cycle of doing with the creativity added in is my sweet spot."

So interesting isn’t it? That’s probably why it always helps to have at least two or more passions to focus on. One can be our daily office jobs, while the other could be something more creative for the evenings. Worth trying!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Yes before what?

A cool bit of advice I came across.

"If you are below 40 years of age, say Yes to everything. After 40, start saying No."

This is so interesting. Why?

Because most youngsters are still figuring out what they want to do, what they like, what their passions are, what they truly enjoy, where they find “flow” and so on.

The more we say Yes, the more opportunities we may get to experience and explore what we may end up liking.

Not to take this to the extreme of course – that we just keep saying Yes even to stupid things.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Good loses to bad

Good people finish last right? Except in Hollywood at least. There’s no heroes with capes in real life it may well seem.

But here’s one perspective I came across recently that was pivotal.

It’s not just good versus bad, but also active versus passive.

As Krishna always says in the Gita, there is no room for inaction. This is not different from saying there is no room for being passive.

Doesn’t mean that one must always give up common sense and keep on doing something wasteful just in order to be seen as active.

But when good people are passive, little gets achieved. Contrast that with bad people being active. And therefore the importance of good people being active!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Real career advice

Most people are looking for this. And are yet hardly finding anything relevant to them.

And so I chanced upon an article that explained this really well. Here are the main points from there:

  1. Your career is not your life.
  2. Explore, then exploit.
  3. Don’t do the job you want to tell other people you do. Do the job you want to do.
  4. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself about what you value—and how much professional success matters to you.
  5. Flow comes from voluntary, difficult, and worthwhile work.

The full article can be read here at this link. Enjoy!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Follow your passion?

Does this really work? We’ve all heard it a million times. How to be successful? “oh, just follow your passion”

Most of us don’t have the liberty of following our passions. Loan repayments and other financial considerations seem to always get in the way.

What to do then?

No need to fret, because Mark Cuban, the billionaire investor on Shark Tank had a cool thing to say on a recent podcast.

“Don’t follow your passion, instead follow your effort.”

Isn’t that just radical? We all put in great efforts in our own fields of work. We spend hours and hours. Why not make that count, rather than fretting about passions?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Here’s some feedback for you

How many of us like to take feedback? Especially if it’s not good feedback?

We may have spent hours and days and weeks working on something, only for someone else to come and peepee all over it with their comments.

Obviously handling such a situation can be very hard.

But this is where successful basketball and NBA coach has the following to say:

Average Players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.

This is surely applicable off the court as well. Do we want to be left alone? Or be told the truth, so that we have every opportunity available to improve?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

What to renounce? – part 3

So what is sattvika renunciation? That is doing one’s prescribed duty but giving up attachment and fruits.

So I do the work as though my life depended on it, but then do not worry about the results as if I know I’m going to live peacefully anyway.

Can this be confusing? Yes very, and so my Guru has provided various examples in his Amazing Simple Gita in chapter 18 verse 9’s purport:

  1. Manager forgiving the subordinate when the latter is not doing his work is foolishness and has nothing to do with the former’s Sattvik renunciation or prescribed duty
  2. It is foolishness to say it is alright that I did not get my bonus. What you need to do is to ask for and get your due share and then do charity out of it
  3. Doing self improvement workshops for students is the right thing and our prescribed duty
  4. We are duty bound. Duty has bound us, no escape, and so do duty the sattvika way
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Education is what?

Is having a degree the same as education or being educated? I was reading a book by Steve Schwarzman, the CEO, co-founder and Chairman of Blackstone Private Equity, and here’s what he has to say:

I believe that education is a discipline. The object of this discipline is to learn how to think. Once we have mastered this we can use it to learn a vocation, appreciate art, or read a book. Education simply enables us to appreciate the ever-changing drama fashioned of God’s own hand, life itself. Education continues when we leave the classroom. Our associations with friends, our participation in clubs all increase our store of knowledge. In fact, we never stop learning until we die. My fellow ocers and I just hope that you will become aware of the purpose of education and follow its basic tenets, questioning and thinking, for the rest of your life.

The author has a bunch of credentials and degrees under his belt, but so do many others. Not everyone is as successful or has given back as much to society. True progress is perhaps in constantly learning and applying.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Educated guess

When someone says they are educated, what is it that comes to mind?

School, college, university, 12th grade, board exams, coding, chemistry, MBA, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, IIT, IIM, doctor, lawyer, engineer, CAT, UPSC, JEE. These could be a few of the top ones.

All good.

This is indeed what education means today.

What about character building? What about spirituality? Self discipline? Values of love, truthfulness, goodness and nobility?

But is this all?

Today’s education is mostly about living off of others, one-upmanship – always gaining something at someone else’s expense, always wanting more. More and more. The wants never stop.

True education is in our scriptures. They teach us that we should live not for ourselves, but for others.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

CWG part 1

The recently concluded Commonwealth Games saw India put up a good show. I can’t even begin to imagine how much discipline and focus it must need to get to a level where one can win a medal in a competitive sport and that too at an international level.

Years and years of single minded focus on one goal – to be the best at the sport you have chosen.

Quite incredible then, when I found the winning team of a sport I had never heard of before (lawn bowls) was made up of individuals who all began as sports professionals in – wait for it – other sports!

The captain of the team was a kabaddi player. Her teammate was a weightlifter. A third one was a cricketer and the fourth a sprinter.

For one reason or another, they couldn’t push ahead in their original sport-of-choice, but they didn’t let that derail their hopes of a medal. Who cares which sport it comes from? Just like success, who cares which field it comes from?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The guaranteed setup for success

It’s common knowledge to think that success comes from hard work. But does this make sense, is hard work sufficient, and what does hard work even mean really? Is 10 hours of working every day hard work? Or 12? Or 20?

More than hard work, it’s probably important to have a mindset that is hard. There are two separate but simple and related things I came across while reading something today.

One was on problems, and how we all try our best to run away from them. But if we think back to every single problem we each faced in our lives, then we would realize that every iota of growth and success actually came from surmounting these same problems. So does it make sense to run away from problems?

The other was on what’s being taught to kids. Opulence and cornucopia. Kids born even into middle class families today are pampered with every possible luxury, both tangible and intangible. Success comes from the ability to fight despite all odds. But with all odds in their favor since a very early age, how can they be expected to fend for themselves?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The essence of Krishna

Krishna tells us to do and follow a lot of things via the Gita. But here’s how Krishna himself followed these (suggested) rules in such a cool manner:

  1. He is always cheerful. His life has been one chock a block full of problems – demons, enemies, asuras, his own people, his birth itself into a poor family etc. But he is ever smiling, even on the Kurukshetra battlefield!
  2. He has zero expectations. Why did the Pandavas fight the war? To get back their kingdom. Why did the Kauravas fight the war? To retain the kingdom they had usurped. Why did Krishna fight the war? Only for dharma, as he would have got no material possession either by winning or losing the war.
  3. He exemplified non-attachment. He was born in Mathura, raised in Vrindavan, lived later in Dwarka. He never kept cribbing that he misses his home town and that he wants to go back. So many people come and go from his life but he was always unattached.
  4. He personifies love. Never once would he not come to the rescue of his devotees.

Krishna led by example. We must only try to follow whatever little we can.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Is there MORE than one type of wealth?

We’ve all heard of the book Atomic Habits. Brilliant book written by a no doubt brilliant author, James Clear.

Given his surname, you’d expect that he has clarity in life – and boy does he not disappoint.

I’ve always equated wealth with money, and never thought about it much beyond that.

But that’s no fun is it? So Mr. Clear has clarified (what a bad pun I know) that there are 4 types of wealth:

  1. Financial wealth (aka money)
  2. Social wealth (aka status)
  3. Time wealth (aka freedom)
  4. Physical wealth (aka health)

It’s good to run after wealth to an extent. But are we running after all 4? Or just the first one, maybe the second?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

National Sales Stats say THIS!

Came across these insane stats in a book recently. The stats are from the National Sales Executive Association.

  1. 48% of salespeople never follow up with a prospect
  2. 25% of salespeople only make a second contact and then stop
  3. 12% of salespeople make more than three contacts
  4. 89% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

The first 3 stats taken together, and then seen in the light of the 4th one… Wow, quite the mindblower!

What does it mean? That most people never follow up, and even if they do, they simply take ‘no’ for an answer and move on.

But a salesperson has got to be persistent and consistent, and that’s why nearly 90% of sales happen between the 5th and 12th contact. Isn’t this not just remarkable, but also applicable to all of us, no matter whether we’re in sales or not?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Why prepping in advance is key – part 2 of 2

We know already why prepping in advance is key. We covered it yesterday. But here’s a nice example. It’s very similar to piloting a hot air balloon ride.

Really? Yes, even though most of us will rarely get the chance to pilot one, apparently these folks need proper training and a pilot’s license – very cool!

And that’s a good thing, which means all their passengers (about 20 of them in a ride) are all safe and happy.

But the way hot air balloons work, is that you have to adjust the hot air (helium etc) that is blown into the balloon in order for the balloon to either ascend or descend.

But the catch? It doesn’t happen instantaneously, unlike much of the digital world we are used to today. Click a button, and boom all done!

Nope, hot air balloons are analog machines, and so if you see a mountain coming up, you have to manage the air in the balloon well before that mountain comes close if you want to scale the peak safely. Whos doing all this? The pilot of course, thinking 10 steps ahead. That’s the importance of prepping in advance!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Why prepping in advance is key – part 1 of 2

We are often told to read our scriptures, heed the advice of the wise, and attend satsangs regularly. After a while, we come to realize that most of the content is the same – seemingly repetitive and boring.

But you know what? In the repetition is where the magic happens!

Consider the stock markets for example. Everyone knows you need to buy low and sell high. It’s the easiest thing to do, right? Wrong. It’s the hardest thing to do, as any experienced investor will tell you, because when the market falls, your portfolio falls with it, and it paralyses one from taking action, even if that is the best time to buy more! Have a look at this often quoted statement in the market:

During these moments, confidence and clarity evaporates and is replaced by pessimism and doubt.

This exactly summarizes why we need to prepare in advance, read the scriptures in advance, practise in advance, attend satsangs in advance, build our key relationships – you guessed it – in advance. Because mental and physical strength is built during practise, not on the battlefield.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Forrest

There’s an Aamir Khan movie coming up (Aug 2022) which is a remake of the classic Tom Hanks Hollywood movie called Forrest Gump.

That original one is on IMDB’s top 10 movies of all time, having got an incredible score of 8.8 on 10.

While most movies extol heroes with IQs of 150 and bulging biceps, here was one that highlighted a “half-wit”, as the protagonist himself would admit.

There is beauty in simplicity, and probably something we would all love to embrace. Check out this brilliant dialogue from the movie:

Jenny (Forrest’s love interest): Do you ever dream Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?

Forrest: Who I’m gonna be?

Jenny: Yeah.

Forrest: Aren’t I gonna be me?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The art of 3s – part 3 of 3 (duh!)

What are the reasons for Curry’s ridiculous success? He himself highlights two of them.

1. Imagination, and 2. Repetition.

Imagination? What’s that? No different from Creative Visualization that my Guru strongly endorses. Don’t just dream of the future you want, but visualize it, strongly, as if it has already happened. And add smells and taste and flavour to it. It will come true, if you also follow #2, Repetition, which is the same as Practice.

As Curry notes, every dream has to be “built upon the foundation of hard work”. Is he taking it easy, now that he has achieved the pinnacle of success? Quite the opposite – because he says he practices today more than ever before in his life! And it’s those days where he doesn’t feel like going for practice, but still shows up – that make all the difference.

Is it always so good for him? Does every aim-and-shoot always result in a perfect 3 pointer? Far from it. But he focuses on his wins, and looks to better each weak shot, forgetting the associated negative emotion. He calls it “Intentionality of Amnesia” ?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The art of 3s – part 2 of 3 (duh!)

Steph Curry is just 34 years old, but already holds the record for the maximum 3 pointers ever scored (>3000) across all the seasons he has played. He crossed other stalwarts like Reggie Miller and Ray Allen who held these records previously.

The interview I wrote about yesterday? It was conducted by Miller himself – after Curry overtook him!

What does that teach us? That nothing is permanent, and today’s greatness can easily be outdone tomorrow.

Will it be easy? Absolutely not. In fact, for any of today’s greats to best Curry, it is estimated that they would need to score an average of 250 three-pointers – for each of the next 15 seasons! Most of them will neither achieve this average, nor even play that long. Besides, Curry’s own score count is likely to increase further during this period!

So, how does Curry’s basketball magic happen? Super lessons for us (mainly me) in tomorrow’s concluding post!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The art of 3s – part 1 of 3 (duh!)

Three is a very important number in spirituality. Many mantras are chanted in 3s or multiples thereof. Even 108, which comprises 1 mala, is divisible by 3. Then there’s the 3 worlds – bhur, bhuvah, svah. And the 3 gunas – sattva, rajas, tamas, and so on.

But this post is not about the spiritual 3s. Rather this is about – wait for it – basketball!

Scoring a 3-pointer in basketball is not easy. Even if there are no opponents, it is hard enough – having to stand well outside the D, and aim and shoot a ball through a tiny basket (barely bigger than the ball itself) perched 10 feet high.

But there is one man called Stephen Curry who plays in the NBA, who’s made a career out of this. He’s scored 400 3-pointers in a single season – a record that no other professional player has even come close to.

I don’t follow basketball as such, but I recently watched an interview with Steph Curry titled “The Art of 3s”, and came across some brilliant takeaways that can be used in our daily lives. Continued tomorrow!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Please select justification

What’s good and what’s not? Can a bad thing also be a good thing?

My work recently required me to send a bunch of emails. All similar emails, similar content, but with changing only the names, addressing each recipient individually.

These kinds of one-off tasks can get boring and repetitive (because they are!), but sometimes just need to be done.

Each time I would hit the “Send Email” button, a pop-up would show up: “Please select justification for sending this email outside the office domain”, and I’d have to select “Official Purpose” and that would be it. But if I had to do this for each time I had to send those 50-60 emails, it was becoming irritating.

Until, after about the 20th email, in a hurry, I forgot to change the name of the recipient, and hit send. Oops! I realized my mistake in that split second itself, and my heart jumped into my mouth. Luckily, there was a pop-up “Please select justification…”

Phew. Saved by that same pesky pop-up! Again, what’s good and what’s not? Can a bad thing also be a good thing?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Here’s the shortcut

The shortcut is that there is only a longcut.

We all want to evolve spiritually, and evolve fast.

We want to quickly conquer the vices, never get angry, never be greedy or jealous, and never cower in fear.

But there are no quick fixes. Only preparatory fixes. The prep for a war cannot start one day before the war. It’s a continuous process, requiring years and years of prep. Many army / navy / airforce people might prep for decades (and even retire!) without so much as entering a real battlefield. Then why prep? Because that’s the only way to be ready, because we can never predict when the war will begin. Just like in our lives too – we need to be ready in advance. That’s why our scriptures focus so much on satsang and sadhana – so that when a problem strikes, we are ready!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

What matters?

Was reading some investment related material today, but realized quickly that it was excellent life advice as well.

  1. While size matters, what matters more is character. The latter helps create sustainable value.
  2. More than the present size (of the investee company), what matters is what size it will become.
  3. There is no need to worry about mere size. We do not necessarily respect a fat man more than a thin man. Sir Isaac Newton was very much smaller than a hippopotamus, but we do not on that account value him less. (Bertrand Russell)

Some good food for thought, don’t you think?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

How to work?

My Guru repeatedly says that there is no such thing as a perfect type of work.

Even the best of things, done over and over, will only bring boredom and frustration.

Our scriptures also place no emphasis on the actual work we do, but rather only focus on the state of our minds, while we are engaged in that (any) work.

How to work then? My Guru repeats this verse from chapter 18 of the Gita:

mukta-saṅgo ‘nahaṁ-vādī dhṛity-utsāha-samanvitaḥ

It means that one must be free from attachment and ego, and be endowed with dhriti and utsaha, i.e. perseverance and enthusiasm. That is the simple (but not easy) secret sauce to success.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Bhajan shortcut

In chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna appears to offer a shortcut to reach Him.

He says, that no matter the kind of life one has led (including very sinful), if one remembers the Lord at the time of death, then such a person would definitely reach Him.

Seems easy enough! So one clever chap who had never been even remotely pious or religious or spiritual in his entire 90 year life, decided to utilise this shortcut. His plan? To make sure that on his deathbed, his near and dear ones play some Krishna bhajans, so that automatically he keeps thinking of Krishna.

On the last day/time, he is on his deathbed, and a Krishna bhajan is played. And then another. And another. Our man cannot stand it any longer, all these alien songs, having never listened to any bhajans in his life. “What is this stuff? It’s so boring. Stop it! Can’t you people just let me die in peace?”. They did stop the bhajans being played, and he promptly passed away.

The shortcut in chapter 8 is not a shortcut. It just appears so. In order to remember the Lord at the time of death, it is necessary to remember Him at every waking moment!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

How to make the right decision?

You know how we are at a crossroads so many times in our lives? We need to make one decision or another. This job or that. This country or that. This course or that. This institution or that. And so on.

Despite this, we rarely have a clear blueprint of how to go about these decisions. So critical, yet so confusing.

A senior satsangi this past weekend gave a simple yet profound 3-step technique for just this problem:

  1. Pray for the right wisdom.
  2. Ask for guidance from materially successful mentors especially if they are also on the spiritual path, such as a part of the same satsang.
  3. Understand deeply, that the grass is always greener elsewhere. Not that we shouldn’t strive for better – but just that it helps to have realistic expectations.

Decision making conquered!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Titular

CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, Head of Legal, Head of Sales, Executive Director, Managing Director, Senior Vice President, Senior Partner, Senior Principal etc etc.

These are all lovely titles.

Everyone wants them.

But can everyone handle them?

Each of these titles comes with truckloads of stress and deadlines and deliverables and insane client demands.

If we run after the titles alone, we will experience nothing more than stress and anxiety.

However, if we focus on adding value to those around us, neither will we be stressed, nor will we need any titles. Paradoxically, all the titles in the world will come running to us!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

You have been replaced…

…is a fear each of one us have had at some point.

Whether replaced in a pivotal relationship, or replaced in your job, or replaced from a position of authority, everyone likes the status quo. And the inertia of sitting and lazing around is probably the strongest force in the world!

A new and more recent threat of replacement is one of AI – Artifical Intelligence. We already see so much of computational power around us. Many jobs that were once done by people (ATMs in place of bank tellers; Alexa instead of typists; e-booking instead of travel agents) are all done by computers.

How to survive this? What skills are irreplaceable?

Here is the list, according to a study I came across. 1) Empathy, 2) Emotional Intelligence, 3) Creativity and 4) Unstructured Problem Solving (i.e. not solving via code).

That’s the list. And you know the beauty of these? Each one of these can be developed by us, and strengthened. And forget computers replacing us, if we excel at these, even other people cannot replace us. The hard part? None of these are taught anywhere. Except maybe in satsangs and spiritual books.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Ageless

If you are middle aged and have many years of experience, would you work for a teenager? Probably not, right? Huge career risk perhaps, and their lack of experience means you may not learn much. Besides, working for someone that much younger than you could be a bit weird.

That thinking is passé now.

No I’m not saying this frivolously.

I recently discovered that one of the hyperlocal apps that I use is a billion dollar company run by two teenagers!

Of course no one can see the future and how risky it can be. But surely in this day and age, age is no bar. Execution of an idea (perseverance, patience) trumps everything else. Good advice for spirituality as well.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

10,000 by 3

Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour practice rule? You practice anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll become world class (like a concert violinist or pianist or a professional soccer or cricket player).

The breakup was that if you can practice something for 3 hours a day for 10 years, you’ll easily achieve an unparalleled level of expertise.

For many of us, even taking out 1 hour a day to do something we’d loosely classify as a “hobby” would be extremely difficult.

And if we did get the 1 hour out of an already maddening schedule, then it’d just be better to unwind with Netflix or Prime no?

One way I like to look at this, is to put in the 10,000 hours at our work. Our office job. The day job. Whatever it may be. And guess what, we work 9 hours a day anyway. So that’s 3 times more than the 3 hours per day needed for mastery in 10 years. Which means we could be masters at our work if we spend just 3.3 years!

Instead of spending time by the water cooler, gossiping and talking politics and what not, why not just use every single opportunity to learn, spend the 9 hours in the most efficient manner possible, and become the best-of-the-best in your line of work, whatever it might be? ?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Calcoolus

That title is enough to give me goosebumps. Reminders of several nightmares. What a mess those few years at school were. I couldn’t help but wonder why this topic was ever even included.

But in the real world, Calculus is what has made much progress possible. Without going into the examples (and even worse, the equations!), there is apparently little we could have achieved without Integration and Differentiation.

Despite my struggling to solve Calculus in school and college, it’s got amazing lessons for real life problems.

What is differentiation if it’s not about breaking complex problems, repeatedly, into smaller and smaller problems, until the smallest problem is solved. Integration is the reverse. Take those solved small problems, and keep building up from there.

What can we learn from this? That while we look for big solutions to our life problems, it’s the small good habits that really change our life. Fix the small (differentiation), and then aggregate those fixes to the large (integration).

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Emoshunned – part 4 of 4

Why the jealousy versus envy example? Because as humans, we are naturally wired to compare.

Naming the emotion here helps. Because we get to identify the inflection point. If we are envious about something someone else has, we can consciously choose what we want to do with that comparison. As someone nicely summarized – if we compare against others, we become bitter. But if we compare against ourselves, we become better!

Brene dropped this cool line on the podcast – “To compare, is human, but to let go is divine.”

She also talks of the 4 Bs. Biology, Biography, Behaviour and Backstory. These help in further dissecting one’s emotions.

Biology is what we naturally have a tendency for. Biography is how we were raised (in a very strict upbringing versus easy going, or rich versus poor). Behaviour refers to my reactions today – do I just control my anger, or do I turn red and punch a wall, or worse. Backstory – this really helps find an answer, such as if someone tears up, is that anger? Grief? Sadness? Disappointment?

A backstory helps us do better. For instance, if we have an interview lined up, it is but natural to have a few butterflies in the tummy. For some, this can even lead to anxiety. But instead of feeling desperate for the job and just making things worse, it would help to have backstory that emphasizes how it would be such an exciting challenge to speak with 4 interviewers and clinch the job.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Emoshunned – part 3 of 4

We may use disappointed and sad interchangeably. But are they both the same?

Apparently not. If there is a lot of expectation behind the negative emotion, then that would classify as disappointment. We really expected something to do very well, and that not taking place would leave us disappointed, not sad.

Why is this important? Because if you don’t know the illness, how would you know what medicine to take?

If you are sad, then maybe watching a comedy movie might make you feel light again. But if you are disappointed, it might be better to come to terms with our lofty expectations in the first place.

Another simple example is the difference between jealousy and envy. Honestly, I always thought the two were the same!

Apparently envy is wanting what the other person has. Like someone bought a brand new car, and now I envy them. And jealousy? That is when I already have something, but fear losing it to someone else. Like I have a car, but I’m jealous of my neighbour who I believe can easily buy two such cars if he wanted to. This would kill my perceived status in the way I view society.

We are weird, I know, but it is what it is! Closure tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

White hair

Everyone detests white hair right?

It’s the surest sign of aging, and of course no one wants to grow old.

I got my first white hair pretty early on, and it’s not like we have a choice in this anyway.

But there’s youngsters on social media who actually color their hair white. Apparently it is a fad, a new style trend. It’s odd seeing these people, such young faces coupled with old-people hair.

An ex-boss of mine once told me that white hair is a good thing. Why? Because in business settings, the other person tends to take you more seriously. Would you believe a 50 year old CEO or a 20 year old one? No matter what their actual capabilities are, the mind would naturally gravitate towards the one with white hair.

Lastly, whenever my Guru used to have some outstanding insights on anything, and would see the stunned look on my face, he would casually remark, “the hair on my head has turned white for a reason…”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

No pain no…

We all hate pain. Even the thought of having to give some blood makes us squeamish. Needle? No thank you ma’am.

But as doctors will tell you, pain has a very important function.

Consider the real life story of Gabby Gingras. She was unable to feel any pain – because of a rare genetic condition.

She could feel touch, but not pain.

Might seem cool almost? Not in the least.

Think of it this way. You kept your hand over the flame, and the pain makes you take your hand away instinctively.

But Gabby? She would just watch her hand go up in flames, and have no instinct to move her hand away. Imagine how many other issues – biting the tongue, biting the fingers, twisting a body part etc etc. Unimaginable no?

Pain is good. It helps us not just prevent the worst, but also constantly improve. Let’s be thankful for it.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Garden carpet

A lovely little quote I came across today.

"Think like a gardener. Work like a carpenter."

What does this mean?

Everyone wants everything at hyperspeed. We would not mind letters sent by post (snail mail) taking a month to reach us in the 90s, but today we want groceries delivered by an app in under 10 minutes. Bosses want deadlines met well before time, and deliverables are always overdue by default. Venture capitalist sharks fight for throwing the most money at the earliest possible stages, and then force the investee company to grow at backbreaking speed.

But talent and skills? These grow slowly. Does a gardener shout at his cute little sapling because it has not already become an apple tree?

The work needs to be put in however, consistently, daily, with discipline, just like a carpenter. The final product looks amazing, but it is really just patient repetition.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Disruption is a reality – part 2

There is no doubt that disruption is happening faster than we can imagine. I’m here sitting and blogging, but blogs are kind of outdated now no? People have moved to YouTube and TikTok and what else not!

Continuing from yesterday’s post though, here’s some of the meat on how to survive in this crazy disruptive world. These aren’t from me although I agree with them, but more on that at the end.

  1. Be courageous enough to chart your own destiny. Don’t bother about what others are doing or saying.
  2. Before we take point 1 too far, also be open to feedback from your wellwishers. A good balance between points 1 and 2 can work wonders!
  3. Leadership is a choice. Anyone can lead. Thinking big, even at a junior position, can help propel your career. But do it nicely, with the support of your bosses, not going against them to prove a point or to show that you know better.
  4. There is no such thing as work-life balance. There is only work-life choice. Choose well. Some sacrifices may need to be made.

These aren’t my ideas. These were the ideas experienced and expressed by the current MD & CEO of Procter & Gamble Mr. Madhusudhan Gopalan a few years ago in his talk at IIM Bangalore. You should definitely watch this outstanding video here at the link below.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Disruption is a reality – part 1

Everyone is running to learn coding. Or computer engineering. Or STEM. Or some other technical skill.

But what was the norm just 20 years ago, today stands completely disrupted.

What was taught 40 years ago in colleges and universities then? Pretty much useless.

Yes some basics will remain the same. But nobody can even predict where things will go in 5 years, let alone 15.

Everyone is running to learn digital marketing for the major social platforms.

But are we even sure those platforms will be around in 5 years? And 15?

How can we possibly prepare for such a future? What should we study? With change being the only constant, the ability to learn is perhaps more important than what is being learnt.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Basically

Many of us want success and we want it quick. We also want it with smart work and the least effort.

One journalist covering basketball champion Kobe Bryant wanted to catch up with him while practicing.

Kobe asked him to come join him at 4.30. Not in the afternoon, but 4.30 in the morning!

To show discipline, the journalist went to meet Kobe 30 minutes earlier, at 4 am, hoping to score some brownie points.

But even at 4 am, he was amazed to see Kobe already having started his practice about a half hour prior, his jersey fully drenched in sweat.

Kobe was in fact practising repeatedly some very basic drills. To which the journo asked, “You are the best player in the world. Why are you doing such basic drills?”

To which Kobe replied smilingly, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? Because I never get bored with the basics…”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Down and out

Just saw this crazy #tweet.

A guy was working alone on his farm and met with an accident.

It was a horrific one, where both his arms were chopped off.

What did he do? Not just fall down as though the world had collapsed (like many might do when they don’t get enough likes on their latest instagram or facebook photos).

He called the ambulance emergency services number with a pencil that he dialed with his mouth.

How crazy and inspiring is that? Both his arms are reattached surgically now and he is fine.

Good to remember things like this when we are apparently down and out.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The first lady

Nope, this one is not about the President’s wife.

This is about an amazing true story I heard on a podcast recently. The lady in question was the first female employee at Ford Motors many decades ago. And what a crazy journey she had getting there!

This was being recited by the lady’s son. She grew up in a refugee camp on the Indo-Pak border. There was no running water and no electricity. But she did something really amazing. She taught herself how to read. And the first book that she read from cover to cover was the biography of Henry Ford. She started visualizing that she wanted to be an engineer at Ford Motor Co.

This looked unlikely if not impossible, but somehow her parents saved every penny and managed to put her on a boat to America. She ended up getting a scholarship, and graduated as the only female engineer in her class. The next day she was in Detroit to find some way or the other to apply for her dream job. The man she met there said, “Sorry, we don’t have any female engineers. Goodbye.” To which the lady made her case, detailing everything she had gone through to get to this point. The man was moved, and said he would take it up to fight for her. She ended up being the first lady at Ford Motor Co., back in 1967.

What about us, what do we do in the face of adversity?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Innovating

The opening lines of a podcast I was listening to recently were eye opening.

It was all about innovation.

Everyone loves innovation. We want newer gadgets, faster gadgets, cooler gadgets.

And its not just gadgets, but even services. Anything that helps get our work done better and faster.

So what was this podcast saying?

That innovation is all about only one thing.

“Failure”

That one has to fail, if they have to innovate, because it is inherently an iterative process.

But schools and social media and the world in general is all about glorifying the exact opposite of failure. “Success”

How can we hope to succeed, if we don’t know how to fail?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Snoopy

We’ve all got quite accustomed to hearing victory speeches for awards ceremonies like the Oscars.

Celebrities take to the stage, and then thank a long list of people, including their cast members, the director, the stunt team, the writer, the choreographer and so on.

In a similar speech by singer/rapper Snoop Dogg, he had an interesting sentence to add.

“I’d like to thank me.”

And then he gives out a sly grin, and then repeats.

“I’d like to thank me, for believing in me.”

Maybe he was kidding, maybe he wasn’t. But in this age of increased stress, anxiety and inferiority complexes, it is surely a great feeling to back oneself up.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Arrivals

Surely you’ve heard of that neighbor’s son who’s so successful right?

We all live in different apartments, towns, cities, countries and even continents. Yet we all have those “neighbour’s sons / daughters” that we are invariably compared with.

This is not about comparing with others, as much as it is about our own definitions of success. But can we really define our success?

Were we successful when we cleared first grade? Or weren’t we?

How about when we cleared grade 12? How about when we graduated? When we got a job? Or when we got another job, and then another and another? How about when we were promoted to head of a department? Or when we started our own company? Or when we donated a decent sum to the charity of our choice? Or when we were able to use our ‘influence’ to recommend a friend to a good job? Or when we got to the Board of Directors? Or CEO or Chairman of a small company? Of a large company? Of a Fortune 500?

Who decides if we are successful or not? Is it really us? Or is it an arbitrary line in the sand, drawn by someone else, that declares that you have arrived?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Memory power

As a kid, my memorization skills were terrible. We used to have those competitions in school where we’d be blindfolded, taken into a room, showed a number of objects, and then brought back into our classroom to write within two minutes everything that we could remember from that visit.

I would hardly get 7 or 8 right, while kids around me easily did 30 or more.

Even to today, I struggle with names, places, birthdays (shhh, don’t tell my wife!), faces, events and everything else. How I cleared exams, especially engineering, where I didn’t understand so many of the most basic concepts, really befuddles me to this date.

But you know the best part of having a poor memory? It extends to all walks of life. If someone tells me something rude or hurtful, I forget that as well. If someone passed some nasty comment – poof, a few weeks later I often have no recall of the event. It sucks when there are fights, if I need to prove a point, then I can barely connect past events to make my case.

But in the long run, does it really matter? Once the ego clash is taken out of the equation, is there really a winner or loser? There likely isn’t, and which is why to me personally, a bad memory isn’t a problem, it is a divine gift!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Are you a leader? – part 2 of 2

As a leader, what is expected of us? In verse 21 of chapter 3 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says the following.

"Whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it."

This is a very interesting shloka, and it seems like a motivational quote for one’s goal setting, doesn’t it? We should all have great goals, be great leaders, so that people follow in our footsteps. But that’s not all.

Krishna in this verse is also talking about Himself. Is he subjected to the same rules? He says he is! Isn’t He also constantly working to keep the universe running? Brahma creating, Vishnu sustaining, Shiva destroying, in a sense?

My Guru would be another example – an already-realized soul, but why is he working so hard? Why would he need to do aarti thrice a day? Why would he choose to live his life in a rural setting to help educate the poor? Why would he need to wake up at 5 am daily to do yoga? Why does he work 7 days a week 365 days a year?

Because as Krishna says, “whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it.” What are each one of us doing? What are we striving to achieve? It is a question we need to answers for ourselves, and honestly.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Are you a leader? – part 1 of 2

Yes you are. One way or another. How, you ask?

Because you are a son/daughter/mother/father/brother/sister/colleague/friend, and that too a one of a kind.

As a parent, your kids look up to you as their leader.

As the one running the household, your spouse looks up to you.

As the one running the family, your family members look up to you.

As a guide for life, your siblings look up to you.

As a mentor, your employees look up to you.

As a shoulder to rest upon, your friends rely on you.

Aren’t you thus a born leader? Aren’t we all?

Now that we understand this, how should we conduct ourselves? Lord Krishna has a clear directive for each one of us. Coming tomorrow… stay tuned!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Tree wood

Know the saying “Don’t miss the forest for the trees”? You have surely come across it.

Here’s some forest-for-the-trees questions we get regularly in the satsang.

  1. Did Ravana really have 10 heads?
  2. Is there really a heaven and a hell?
  3. Are there really 7 worlds above and below?
  4. Did Krishna really explain the Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield? What were the others doing then?
  5. Did Rama really cross over to Lanka by walking on floating rocks put together by monkeys?
  6. Did Ravana actually fly to India?
  7. Is it possible that the Vishwaroopa darshanam actually happened?
  8. How did Creation happen?

All of these are amazing questions. However, even the most amazing answers to these questions will not help us transform ourselves and progress on the spiritual path.

When the real transformation begins (work selflessly as worship, i.e. karma yoga), the questions will automatically fall away.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Immersive

As adults, we often struggle to learn new things. It could be a new skill – usually learning to draw, learning a new instrument – or wait for it – the most favourite of them all – learning a new language!

We often try for a few hours, maybe a few days even. And then the interest levels start to go down. In languages where you have genders for objects – like a train is feminine or a bat is masculine, for a native English speaker, this can be verbal hell.

They say ‘immersion learning’ is the best form of learning. Want to learn French? Go live in the French countryside for a few months. Nobody will speak to you in English, and if you want to survive, you have no choice but to converse in French.

And then the thought strikes – “Oh how I wish I had learned this as a kid. Look at the kids all around me, they are so quick to grasp everything.” And then we give up.

I was quite surprised therefore to read, that kids are actually not very good at learning. They are certainly not better than adults. And if anything, we should have a huge head start. Then why do we struggle? Because we only read and plan, but rarely take action. But kids? They don’t know to read or plan. They only act. Watch any toddler repeat the same broken words and sentences hundreds of thousands of times, until it becomes perfect. How many times to do we repeat what we are trying to learn?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Superior inferior

In the workplace, a common complaint I’ve heard across industries and sectors is that it appears the seniors / superiors / bosses / managers don’t really do much. They also don’t know much. But by virtue of their legacy, having warmed their chairs for many years, they get to be where they are.

How to tackle this? Here are some ways to look at this:

  1. If we are junior to someone else, we cannot control the other person’s current position or future career trajectory.
  2. We can control what we do with our hours put in at work though.
  3. In many cases, a person’s authority in a particular position comes solely because of the title. If an incompetent person is made head of the team, it is still the head only who can take certain decisions, whether bad or good.
  4. If a superior doesn’t ‘deserve’ a role, s/he may hold the position for a very long time, but the impact they will create will be negligible.
  5. If we get a chance to go into that role in say 3 years or 5 years, what would our impact be then? What would we want it to be?
  6. If the impact has to be much better, then we need to start putting in substantial efforts – from today itself.
  7. We cannot control the outcome of tomorrow, but we can control what we learn today, what skills we develop today and what networks we build today. This is most important. And it has never been easier to learn new things and add to ones repertoire – whether via Udemy, or YouTube or Coursera or any other.

As Swami Vivekananda has said, “We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find that out too.”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Drive thru

A study recently found that the most stressful city in the world for driving is… you guessed it or maybe not… Mumbai!

Given that I’ve been living and driving here for years, I can only agree, somewhat. Only ‘somewhat’, because Mumbai is very stressful to drive in, but all of India can be really stressful to drive in too.

There’s just so many people, everyone as if waiting to just jump in front of your vehicle when you least expect it. There is also massive congestion, unexpected bovinity in the middle of highways, zero wiggle room, no rules, no lane discipline, no lanes, no signals and in general a lot of peril.

However, there are two things in my humble observation that keeps all this driving insanity remarkably orderly.

  1. Go slow (no scope for autobahn here!)
  2. But keep moving.

Going slow means you get to stop when required and not worry about hitting someone who unexpectedly shows up. By keeping on moving, you ensure that you get to where you want, slowly but surely.

In this hyper-fast age of advancement and spectacular wins and stress and everyone rubbing their own successes in everyone else’s faces, following these two maxims for life in general, could be really really rewarding.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Predictive analytics

Put a picture of a snake and mention the words ‘kaala sarpa dosha’, and this is modus operandi 101 for many pseudo astrologers to make a quick buck. Much of this deep rooted fear is unwarranted, as many of the leading vedic astrologers concur that there is nary a reference to this dosha in tradition and ancient texts.

But oh that fear… what to do? What will happen to me? Many of us are living our lives in constant fear of something that may in all probability not even happen.

It is common in India to go to an astrologer and hope to identify how the future would pan out. This makes sense to an extent, if the native is a new born baby. The chart would indeed be highly indicative.

However for someone who is say 40 years old, does the birth chart have significance? Yes it does to some extent, but the birth chart can only predict life based on, you guessed it, the birth!

But since then, 40 years have passed. Prarabhdha karma is as of the birth time, not beyond. So much of free will, in all these 40 years, could potentially have completely transformed the life of the person… of any of us really! But if we choose to remain rooted to what the birth chart indicates, and surrender to our so-called fate and the subsequently induced fear, then how will our true potential come to the fore?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Running for what?

A podcast I was listening to recently had Allyson Felix as the guest of honour. I had not heard of her before, but she came across as a really nice human being. And that is not to say she’s not famous – she’s the most decorated US track athlete in Olympic history, having won 11 medals – breaking Carl Lewis’ record of 10.

What really struck me was how she found her passion. Most Olympians and sportspersons we meet seem to be born into their sport. Of course there will be a few exceptions (like Allyson), but by and large, it would appear like these exceptionally talented people found their calling very early on, like in their early school days.

And this is something many of us struggle with on a daily basis. We see start-up founders make hundreds of millions, while we feel aimless and lost. We see people who’ve found their calling, while all we seem to end up with are calls from spammers. How to find this passion then? Should we give up?

Here’s what Allyson said that I really liked. She said that most of her peers who found their passions early on, became such hardcore specialists (in a specific sport or activity), that by the time they turned 30, they were already burned out. Whereas in her own experience as a 35 year old medallist, she only entered her sport well into college! Till then, she was just enjoying other sports like basketball that she really liked, but was nowhere near good as in running. I think this is a great lesson for me – no need to struggle to find a passion and get burned out or stay dejected. Instead just enjoy the work I am doing, and live in the now, today, forever happy.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Pet chasing

Imagine a dog or a cat or a mouse. Yes like in Tom & Jerry. You are trying your best to catch the animal, but it is just so quick, darting about – here now, next second hopped onto the wall, and the next onto the tree. Phew, all this running around and chasing is really tiring.

Is there a better way? Yes there is.

How about just sitting quietly, with some pet food. Yummy. No need to chase the animal anymore. The animals love pet food, and so will come right to your lap.

The animal here represents nothing but the whole world. We are constantly chasing after it, looking for one elusive success after another.

Through this entire journey, we forget the most important aspect, which is ourselves.

The pet food is our skills, talents and abilities. If we work on constantly improving ourselves, we don’t need to chase anyone for anything, and instead the whole world will come chasing after us.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The happiest animal

In the much acclaimed TV show called Ted Lasso, there’s an amazing scene. Nay there are many many amazing scenes, and dialogues.

In one, a soccer player falls to the ground, is tackled and beaten, and then booed by the rest of the players. Clearly something isn’t right. The player on the ground is dejected. Coach Ted calls him to the side line, and asks him, “Do you know what the happiest animal in the world is?”

“What?!”, exclaims the player in disbelief, little expecting such trivia when there’s so much going on in his head already.

“A goldfish”, comes the answer from coach Ted, “Because it only has a 10 second memory. Be a goldfish.”

Had a bad day today? No problem, be a goldfish.
Had a good day today? Also no problem, be a goldfish.

Only then can we live in the moment.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Dutiful desire

Remember the awesome Conversion Test we discussed here previously?

Got a desire? Is it a good one? The test involves checking if it can be converted into a duty. Binge watching Netflix? Big big big desire. But is it good enough to be converted into a duty? Not unless you work for Netflix, or maybe a competitor and tasked with peer benchmarking!

In any case, doing such tests and banning Netflix/Amazon Prime/others from our lives could border on extreme. We don’t want to become dull and boring now do we? Recognizing that we are human, and need the occasional or even regular ‘fun-time’, here’s a brilliant 3-step checklist one of the satsangis recently dished out:

  1. Apply a filter. Is the action dharmic or adharmic? If adharmic, then eliminate it right away. Watching video-on-demand isn’t adharmic, so we can safely move on to step 2.
  2. Moderation is key. In our example, regular binge watching, is not moderation. Maybe an hour a day, depending on the circumstances, could be permissible.
  3. Balance the scales. Watched Netflix for an hour? Great. Now ensure you spend an hour doing something else that would ‘add value’ to yourself and society. Read scriptures. Further your goals. Exercise. Help someone. Attend satsang. No compromises on the good stuff!
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Improv your life

A friend of mine from college used to be fantastic at improv acting.

How he’d get ideas on the spot, how’d he string his thoughts together, how he’d act on the spot, and yet make it all comedic, I have no clue.

In a recent TV series I was watching, I came across a fundamental principle in improv.

It’s called “Yes, and?”

This is a way of continuing the dialogue. Accepting whatever the other person on stage just said, with a “Yes”, even if it is completely nonsensical.

The “And” after the “Yes” helps with continuing the conversation. Like a nonchalant ‘okay, what next?’

Even outside of improv, this struck me as an amazing way to look at life. We’re each beset by so many unexpected troubles and issues. Instead of getting smacked in the face and falling down, we can stay rooted and ask the question “Yes, and?”, then put on a smile, keep calm, and carry on.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Luck returns – part 2

Now that we know how to define luck, what can we do with it?

Said definition was pivotal in JimC’s research of companies that apparently “got lucky”. Even when we look at the most successful companies today, one might be forgiven if they jumped to such a conclusion. Oh Google? “Damn they got lucky when they started off. Imagine if they had to start today. They were first movers back then, and that makes them super lucky.” Or Microsoft. “They got so lucky to do some amazing deals in their early days, like with IBM – which completely changed their course.”

But is this true? You decide after reading their story. Back in the 1980s, IBM was looking for an Operating System (OS). They approached two companies – Digital Research, and Microsoft. The former already had an OS, the latter didn’t. But the outcome of the meetings? The meeting with DR was apparently handled in such a (bad) way that IBM preferred to work with Microsoft instead. Now what is the role of luck here? Did MS get luckier than DR? Not really. Both companies were presented with the exact same situations, or luck events, and it would appear DR actually had a leg up, given their ready OS. Yet, the outcomes were materially different.

The conclusion is this. And this applies in our personal lives too, once we accept it and open our eyes to it. Luck doesn’t matter. But ‘return on luck’ matters! MS’ return on luck was way more elevated than DR’s. What we do with the luck we get, the opportunities we get, that’s the only thing that matters. And this is true for bad luck and good luck both. In fact, the luck itself is perhaps hard to categorize as either good or bad. What we do with that opportunity, how we use that to our advantage (or not), is what would likely brand it as either good or bad. Interesting isn’t it?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Luck returns

So we’ve been looking at Jim Collins’ work in the past few days. One of the things that struck me as amazing was what he found amazing too. And that is on the role of luck in the life of a corporation. And of course we’ll extrapolate that to how it could fit our own personal experiences as well.

When he started off, he struggled with the concept of luck. Some people say luck is ‘opportunity meets preparation’. But is that really correct? Does it work in the case of bad luck? A close and healthy friend unexpectedly becomes terminally ill. How is that a case of opportunity meeting preparation?

So Jim then proceeded to define luck as an ‘event’ which meets each of the following 3 conditions.

1. It is not caused by you.
2. It has a significant magnitude of impact (so that it can be distinguished from just a normal occurrence).
3. It has an element of surprise

Think of some ‘lucky’ events in your life, either good or bad, and see if these three conditions are met? A great way to break it down isn’t it?

Very interesting conclusions in tomorrow’s post – stay tuned!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

20-mile march

Heard of the 20-mile march?

This is about two teams who were heading to the South Pole. On foot.

One team would march 20 miles every day, no matter the weather.

Snow, hail, rain, sleet, wind, whatever else there is in Antarctica – didn’t matter to them.

20 miles ahead they marched.

The other team?

They’d strategize, and some days cover 50 miles, while on others with bad weather, they’d huddle together and stay put.

The first team won. The second team did not even survive, let alone complete their journey.

Both teams had the same equipment, and the same skillsets.

The learning for me? Consistency rewards like nothing else. No point waiting for the perfect sunny day. Every day is an opportunity. Remember GUDUSUNGU? 🙂

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

5 to 7

If something is really hard to do 5 days a week, then it would obviously be really really hard doing it 7 days a week right?

Maybe not.

For instance, did you know that it’s easier to workout 7 days a week, compared to working out 5 days a week?

No way, that doesn’t even make sense right? Or does it?

Think about it. When we work out 5 days a week only, we spend a considerable amount of time wondering which two days should be no-exercise days. Suddenly laziness creeps in. Or maybe we’d want to keep Sat-Sun as no-workout days? Yes possible, except that dragging ourselves to exercise on Mondays becomes that much harder.

Instead of giving ourselves the illusion of choice, what if we just worked out all 7 days, maybe taking it easy on some while really going the whole hog on others? We do brush our teeth and take bath everyday, so why not exercise?

This is really not just about exercise, but could be relevant for developing any good habit at all. Want to read more? We can read 10 minutes a day – everyday – compared to reading 1 hour, only on weekends. Want to eat cleaner? Eat cleaner (not necessarily 100% clean) every day, rather than struggling a few days, only to give all the gains back on one cheat day/week. What do you think?

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

I wish you bad luck

There are many commencement speeches available on YouTube, often delivered by of some of the greatest politicians, businessmen, sportsmen or actors at the various Ivy Leagues. Of course these tend to be extremely motivational, and the combination of wit and pragmatism can help students (and lurkers like me on YouTube) gain credible insight into the real-world that awaits them.

Most of the speeches repeat positive message: work hard, earn money, be humble, be this, be that, do this, do that and lots of best wishes to you and all that.

But US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts gave an unconventional speech a few years ago. He actually said, “I wish you bad luck.” Surely quite unexpected? Here’s a para I found most interesting, pasted below for your reading delight.

"From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

Achieving excellence

We saw yesterday the outlines of excellence as suggested by author Jim Collins. We also thought about how it would look if applied to ourselves personally. But how do we achieve this beatific end state? We know the outputs, but what should the inputs be? Well, why not take a leaf out of the same author’s books?

Key here is the concept of ‘time tellers’ versus ‘clock builders’. Who is a time teller? In today’s day and age of a million startups, a time teller could be a person with an amazing idea. Just like he can tell the time perfectly, he can call out the most outlandish but supremely successful idea of the time, ahead of anyone else. And the clock builder? I think this one is obvious. Important to think about, a clock once built, needs no time teller.

Jim’s research suggests a negative correlation between starting a company with a great and successful idea, and becoming an enduring, great company. Wow isn’t that amazing? And here’s the follow-up. “It actually turns out that many of the greatest companies started with failures, setbacks, things that were catastrophes early on. And it was the very fact that they had no success at the start that played a big role in them building the muscle strength to say, you can think of it as I’m going to have a successful innovation versus I’m going to build the muscle to innovate, right, which would be more durable.

So it boils down really to stellar execution. Discipline, patience and perseverance. Probably answers that sound boring. But while ‘culture may eat strategy for breakfast’, perhaps consistency can eat talent for lunch!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Measuring excellence

Jim Collins is an author who needs no introduction. In one of his defining studies, he has distilled down the excellence factors for any company, to 3 core elements. These are:

  1. Superior results (the company can be amazing on paper, but it needs to win in the real world)
  2. Distinctive impact (if the company disappeared, would it matter?)
  3. Lasting endurance (not just a one-hit wonder)

While these are amazing insights for companies, I also couldn’t help but realize these are amazing ideals for anyone striving for excellence to try living up to.

  1. Superior results – irrespective of the profession, can our clients feel they always get the best only with us?
  2. Distinctive impact – of course no one is indispensable and all that; but even so, if we disappeared from the earth tomorrow, how many people would miss us? Would we have left behind a legacy? Not for the money we provide others, but the compassion, listening ear, love and warmth?
  3. Lasting endurance – it’s easy to be good to people once or twice, but to do that lifelong? That would be most beneficial, not just to those being helped, but to the doer. A non-stop selfless attitude is no different from the pinnacle of spirituality.
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Paralimping

Of the various disabilities that exist, a physical one is very hard to live with. Not that mental disabilities aren’t hard – they certainly are. But given weaker cognition as it is, it may have a lesser impact on one’s own self worth. But a physical disability coupled with perfect mental machinery? Surmounting those odds requires gargantuan effort. The various incidences of kids poking fun at undeveloped limbs, or the inability to run around like most kids would – not easy. Even those that are physically (fully) well endowed struggle with their self-images and self-worth. How many times have we not wished to be slightly thinner, more muscular, taller, fairer? Even A-list celebrities, yes the same ones whose chiselled bodies adorn cover pages of leading fashion magazines, too succumb to such mental competitiveness.

So awesome it is then, to read the inspiring stories behind various Paralympic athletes from India and other countries who won golds, silvers and bronzes. Here are some outstandingly fine men and women, who were either born with physical disabilities, or picked them up along the way – through some unnerving quirks of fate. But the power of their resolve, hard work and persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable physical loss – teaches lessons to those of us who have everything, yet live in our own made-up worlds of mental distress. Money never enough, job not good enough, things not going according to plan, small molehills repeatedly made out to be mountains, giving up on smiling altogether, taking tensions for the smallest things – and on and on. All this begs the question – who really is the one with the disability?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

In the well

Many conversations today go like this.

“Hey man. All well?”
“Yes, all well. And you, all well?”
“Yes, yes, all well here too.”

Could there be a more banal way to communicate? I’m probably the guilty-est of such conversations. Even just calling these ‘conversations’ itself is doing the word a disservice. 🙂

As anyone who has mastered the art of forging deep connections will tell you, the trick lies entirely in asking the right questions, and then sitting back and listening. That’s what makes an outstanding conversationalist. The ability to ask and listen, and not the ability to speak. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

That is indeed the true power of questions. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Don’t try to be interesting, try to be interested instead.”

Can we perhaps substitute “All well?” with: “How are you?”, “Where are you from?” (nice and open ended!), “What are you working on these days” (everyone is working on something), “What’s changing in your life?”, or “What are you learning these days?”. So many options!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

One at a time

Sometimes there’s just too much to focus on. Like the rabbits that Jack Ma talked about once. He said that if you’ve got a room full of rabbits and you need to catch one, most people start with the rabbit closest to them. If that runs away, then they switch to the next nearest one. Momentarily another rabbit comes into view, and then they run after that one. And then another one. At the end, they are left with no rabbit.

The better way, is to just focus on one rabbit all along.

This can be extended to our daily ‘things to do’ checklist as well. We could focus on one newspaper, one podcast, one TV show, one book, one scripture, one chapter, one YouTube channel etc. Even within these, say one specific online course that we like, the focus can be on doing only the 10 minutes it requires per day. That would make it easy to execute as well as track.

If this is implemented with discipline, it can work wonders in the medium to long term. But if not, then at the end of the month, on one fine weekend, we are suddenly saddled with hours of work to catch up on, which then leads to anxiety and feelings of incompetence. 10 minutes a day. That’s all it takes. It’s a fine line!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

TT extraordinaire

This past weekend, a few of us from the extended family had a quick and wonderful outing. One of the cool things about technology is that it makes it easy to find independent bungalows for rent, which are financially pretty reasonable, because we can apportion the larger cost across more people.

The other advantage of having an independent house? An awesome games room! So we played a lot of table tennis, and of course it was fun blaming the table, the racket, the ball, the net and everything else!

The most important thing for table tennis though, is one’s arms / hands. That’s what we’ve to really be thankful for. No hands, no table tennis, right?

Nope! Meet Ibrahim Ahmadtou, who lost both his arms when he was just 10 years old in a train accident. He didn’t step out of his house for an entire year as he couldn’t bear the ignominy of his disability. But today at the age of 48, he is no less a world champion, representing Egypt in the Paralympics.

How can he play table tennis without hands? He uses his mouth of course! And he tosses the ball up with his feet. Do have a look at some YouTube videos. The technique is simply extraordinary, but what is even more so, is his iron will power.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

What’s up doc

During a recent visit to a hospital, I happened to look at the doctor roster.

Just a quick glance, nothing out of the ordinary here.

Many doctor names, many many more credentials, and then their practice timings.

9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. 9 am to 12.30 pm on Saturdays.

Wow they work Saturdays too. And here I am cribbing about my never ending 5 day week. I need to change my perspective on life, and learn from these literal life-savers and life-givers.

And then a few names below, one doctor had a unique ending time for his practice. It read as follows:

“From 9 am, till the last patient is seen.”

Now isn’t that just an exceptional work ethic?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The secret to success at work

We often struggle with delusions of grandeur. “How will it feel when I become CEO?”, “How will it feel when I buy my own BMW sports coupe?”, “How will it feel when I hit a 100 million in net worth?”, and so on. These aren’t delusions because they will not happen. Rather they are so, simply because they haven’t happened yet.

A very interesting book written by Anshul Chaturvedi called Vivekananda Handbook for Everyday Living is one I just finished reading. And here are 3 very relevant quotes from the great Swami himself. Perfectly applicable to such scenarios, where we are constantly in doubt: ‘what is my duty?’, ‘will I be successful in my current avatar?’, ‘am I good enough?’, or ‘will I ever make it?’. Grandeur … it just always seems out of reach.

  1. By doing well the duty which is nearest to us, the duty which is in our hands now, we make ourselves stronger. We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find it out too.
  2. He who grumbles at the little thing that has fallen to his lot to do, will grumble at everything. Always grumbling, he will lead a miserable life. But that man who does his duty as he goes, putting his shoulder to the wheel, higher and higher duties will fall to his share.
  3. When you are doing any work, do not think of anything beyond. Do it as worship, as the highest worship, and devote your whole life to it for the time being.

Simple, profound, and life changing!

Like it? Please share it!
3 Comments

Jumping high

In the Tokyo Olympics high-jump event, the competition was down to two finalists. Both of them jumped exactly the same height of 2.37 metres. And so it was a tie.

The officials had each of them jump again – three more times in fact. But neither Olympian was able to better the 2.37 number.

In the last and final attempt, one of the two contestants had to withdraw because of a leg injury. The other bloke now had a clear path to gold.

But in what would go down in history books as an outstanding example of parasparam bhavayantah (Gita chapter 3, verse 11, nourish one another), the healthy contestant before his final attempt, first checked if he could … wait for it … share the gold with his opponent!

The officials quickly checked and confirmed that it would be indeed be possible. He decided to forgo his final attempt, and in the video, both players are ecstatically seen hugging each other. How amazing is that? We are brought up with the notion that if we win, someone else needs to lose. But life is not a zero-sum-game. If everyone wins, that is the highest jump of them all.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Ready for battle

Here’s what my Guru says. Imagine you had the world’s best army.

It can achieve anything.

No task is insurmountable for this army.

100 billion in this army. And another 90 trillion. And another 27 trillion.

Yes that’s how awesome this army is. Imagine the scale and the power!

And you really do have this army – it’s no joke.

100 billion brain cells. 90 trillion body cells. 27 trillion hormones. It’s there in each and every one of us.

Are we making the most of it though?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

1 – 2 ka 4

Someone asked the tennis legend Martina Navratilova once how she can continue playing so well at the age of 43. Her reply was precious. She said, “The ball doesn’t know how young or old I am. Besides, for 90% of the match, I do not need to focus.”

This is an amazing response on two counts. One, it is the internal content of the person that really matters. Which is why we see so many billion dollar companies being run by 20- or 30-year olds, and not necessarily by septuagenarians alone. While hierarchy, age and respect are important, when it comes to work and giving one’s best, the opinions of the world around us do not matter much.

Two, in our daily work, it might appear that we are working 12-15 hours a day. But is every minute or every hour really that intense and productive? Likely not. Which is why more and more research and experiments seem to suggest that taking walks and breaks and creative time off is better than just sitting at one’s desk for hours on end.

In certain professions, this is easier. Like for Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps – they need to bring their A-game and focus for the entirety of only 1 or 2 minutes. And that will last them 4 years at the Olympics. No comments on the length of their practise sessions though ?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Equations – part 2

A few more simple equations:

  1. Visualization + execution >>> execution-only > visualization-only
  2. Health + wealth >> Health > wealth
  3. Distraction = destruction
  4. Spirituality = embracing uncertainty
  5. Pain =/= suffering; suffering is only in the mind
  6. Pain + reflection = progress

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Equations

Some simple equations for life:

  1. Faith > Fear —> Success;
  2. Comfort zone = Failure zone;
  3. Success = giving back to society; Money, status etc. == only by-products;
  4. Starting the day well = day well;
  5. Changing yourself = changing world;
  6. Near birth and near death = don’t care about anyone; At all other times = try to impress everyone. Why?
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Replicating success

Here’s an awesome paragraph taken right out of the commentary to the Narada Bhakti Sutra by Sri Sri Ravishankar.

Until that perfection is achieved, even before the result appears, keep on acting. Keep acting but do not worry about the fruit of action.

Don’t be attached to the result of an action. Do not think you are in control of everything. This is the greatest illusion!

You know, success brings more illusion, because when you are successful, you think you achieved it.

But if someone else repeats all that you did, I tell you, they won’t be successful. This has happened. There is no prototype for success in the world; no, what do you call it … ?

Formula. There is no concrete formula for success. I tell you. This could be a formula. One formula for success: there is no formula for success!

Isn’t this great advice? Not just for spiritual success but material too. Don’t stop acting in the world, but do not expect success, and certainly not by copying others.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Cover page

When we discuss Dale Carnegie’s (DC) amazing book How to Win Friends & Influence People in satsang, participants often ask certain types of questions. Maybe we can call these questions as extremities. Here are some examples:

  1. DC says we need to listen to the other person. But what if the other person keeps on talking and I don’t get to talk at all?
  2. DC says think from the other person’s point of view. But what if the other person doesn’t think from mine?
  3. DC says we need to smile as often as possible. But others aren’t smiling.
  4. DC says develop a genuine interest in the other person. But when do I then get to talk about my interests?

These are all valid concerns. However, our objective must be clearly understood. As the title on the book’s cover page states, this book is useful if you want to win the other person over, befriend them and / or influence them.

If this is the clear focus and objective, then we need to think: Does it matter whether I get to talk or not, or that the other person doesn’t smile or not, or that they don’t see the world from my point of view? Ideally, no!

This is DC’s decades and countless experiences’ worth of rare wisdom neatly encapsulated into a 200 page book. The real question we must be asking ourselves is – how better can I apply the learnings of this magical book to my life?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Down to earth

One of the biggest challenges facing humanity today is climate change. We’ve discussed this in previous posts. But suffice it to say that we are taking from mother earth far more than we are giving back.

A famous Hollywood actor named Zac Efron has a TV documentary series called Down to Earth where he travels the world trying to find sustainable solutions for humanity’s problems.

One of the studies being done in Sardinia is interesting. There are a bunch of ‘blue zones’, where the locals all seem to live easily beyond a 100 years.

Zac himself has six-pack abs and admits to eating his bodyweight in protein every single day, and having gone months and even years together without touching carbs at all. And these cute centenarian Sardinian aunties and uncles? They barely have much protein – and certainly no whey powder or creatine powder or other supplements. What they do have though, is a really chilled out, but active lifestyle. Lots of walking and very less of stress.

Zac summarizes by saying thus, “I gotta get out of Hollywood man. That place, with all the stress and tension, it’s just not conducive for living. I just gotta get out.”

But we all want more fame and more money and more status even at the cost of a terrible lifestyle right?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Endgame

We are always looking for the final result. The rank, the medal, the winner, the outcome, the hero triumphing over the villain, the underdog emerging victorious over the incumbent, we ourselves being ‘chosen’ over others and on and on. The endgame is what keeps us going. Or so we think. In this quest for clarity of the future, we often lose sight of the present. Especially when the present is a long journey and the future is just a blip.

Here’s something I experience often. My role at work requires some amount of selling and marketing. Maybe every role in every workplace does nowadays. We can’t be progressing in our careers without constantly selling something or the other – either our ideas, our work, our plans, or at the very least – ourselves.

Whenever I’m required to sell to a client, the majority of the conversation is about talking about our products and how we can help our clients with those. Of course we listen and ask the right questions and so on, but the meeting has been setup so that the client can understand us, so we would certainly need to be speaking and presenting for much of the time. And only right at the end do some of them confess that they are actually not in the market for a solution like this at all!

Sometimes I think, “Hey, couldn’t you just have told this to me at the start?” And then I realize, that if I’d known at the start, then I probably wouldn’t have been as sincere or as convincing with my pitch.

There’s a close parallel in life in general as well. Many times, we do not have all or even some of the answers we seek. But that is actually a very very good thing. Because this is what helps us take life sincerely. Living it by the second, smelling the roses along the way – rather than focusing solely on endgames.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Fear factor

Here’s an awesome quote you may have heard before – “Where fear ends, life begins.” But for the vast majority of people, fear is actually a very good catalyst.

About a century ago, a delicious white fish known as Cod was becoming popular. It was found in the North Atlantic and word quickly spread elsewhere. The challenge was in keeping the cod fish fresh, as it was transported across the country for consumption. Fresh = tasty.

Many solutions were attempted. Freezing the fish and sending by rail was one – but it became mushy and flavourless. Another was converting the train carriage into a large aquarium and sending the cod fish alive. But despite being transported alive, the cod was still mushy and tasteless.

Finally someone analysed that the cod fish’s natural predator was the catfish. They put a few catfish in each tank and shipped cod fish across the country. During the journey the catfish would chase the cod fish. This cod fish tasted absolutely fresh.

Fresh means being uncomfortable and uncertain. This is counter-intuitive, but it is also when the most growth ever happens. In fact Guruji says that living in uncertainty alone is spirituality. Fearfulness perhaps leads to fearlessness.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Far far away

Here’s a real-life tough-as-nails true story. A lady with two young kids desperately needed a job. Her husband is a daily-wage worker – and had been out of work for over a year – thanks to Covid. The family stayed in a remote village in the north-east part of India.

She knew she had to keep the family afloat, and hence offered her services as a full-time nanny. She landed a job, not in the comfort of her own village, but in the southern part of India – many thousand kilometres away. She had never taken a flight before. She had never even left her village before. But when life gives you lemons…

Also, it wasn’t as easy as just getting on a flight from place A to place B. She had to have a Covid-negative report first. The nearest Covid test centre was a four hour ride from her village – one way. Even her trip to the nearest airport was not easy. No luxury of a car to ferry her. She was driven pillion on a scooter, with one suitcase in between her and the driver. The rain gods poured their affection on her and she was totally drenched by the time she got to the airport. With only two dresses to wear for her extended trip away from family, she had no choice but to wear the wet clothes through her cold very first plane journey.

Yet she was (and is) nothing but smiles – no matter that she had to leave her family behind and may not see her own kids for many months together – all the while working to take care of someone else’s baby. Attitude is indeed everything.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

C for critical – part 3

One of the most common questions asked of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People book is on criticism.

If I’m a boss, and my employee does something wrong, then why should I not criticise him/her? If my child son or daughter does something wrong, why should I not criticize / discipline them?

As we saw yesterday, criticism, hate and anger are only emotions, lead to distress, and often have the opposite outcome of what was intended.

So was Dale Carnegie wrong? Not at all.

He never said don’t ‘correct’ someone if you have to. He only said don’t ‘criticize’ someone.

Both words start with ‘c’, but have entirely different implications. If a manager shouts at his/her employee, of course the employee is going to switch-off mentally. However if the manager sits the employee down, tells him/her that they are doing well, but to rise in this organization, they need to ‘correct’ a few things, then this form of feedback is much more palatable!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

C for critical – part 2

No one likes a dictatorial regime – where only one person calls the shots, much to the detriment of everyone else. But we are each dictators in our own rights.

When we receive flak or criticism from anyone, our guard immediately spikes, shoulders tighten, jaws harden, ego fires up, ears shut down, brain freezes – etc etc. exactly like a dictator would quickly shut down his country’s borders to apparently save himself from his enemies.

What do we want in life? Good results? Or good image? Of course both. But these are somewhat contradictory.

We may begin with some good results which then gives us some name and fame. But can we be right all the time? Can we guarantee the best process and results always? Hardly. Even the best workers may fall wayward. If in such times, one does not seek and implement feedback, then their results will suffer. If the results suffer, how can one maintain or even elevate their good image?

While criticism should not be given as Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends & Influence People, we on the receiving end of flak can surely train ourselves to look for the message-minus-emotion. Concluded tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

C for critical

Many years ago, a boss I had, got angry at me. It wasn’t just a passing one, but the type where the other person goes red in the face.

I was new to the team, yet to figure out its workings, and also tired from working literally 24×7.

But it wasn’t enough, and I was reprimanded constantly. Needless to say, I resigned from that job in about 6 months time.

Cut to today, and I don’t remember anything about why exactly I was scolded and picked on so much by that boss.

What were those 2-3 typos in the 100-deck presentation, or the slide sequence that he didn’t like, or the one tab in the excel sheet which was formatted slightly differently from the other 30? I have no recollection whatsoever.

Despite spending 6 months there (i.e. 6 months x 24 x 7), I cannot even remember what projects I worked on during that time – and there were many!

But one thing that keeps coming back? Those scenes of anger and finger-pointing. The humiliation I felt. The incompetence I felt. The inability of the other person to communicate well. It was all devastating.

The emotion remained, but the message disappeared. So is criticism really the answer? Continued tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Obaat

The Gita talks of not focusing on the results, but only our own actions, i.e. that which is in our control.

While watching a recent cricket match, one of the commentators mentioned something very similar. He said that there is one universal rule that applied to all batsmen, no matter how accomplished.

If the batsman is at the crease and facing a delivery, he must do nothing for those few seconds than to focus entirely on playing that ball, i.e. One Ball At A Time, and hence the title of this post. If the batsman is thinking about whether he would score a century (100 runs), or how he got out the previous game, or whether he would be awarded man-of-the-match, or whether his name would feature in the next day’s newspaper, how can he possibly focus on the task at hand, which is to smash the ball over the boundary for a six?

His mantra for success is therefore “one ball at a time”, and it has to be mandatorily practised every single day – no matter whether he is a debutant, or has played the game for 30 years and is a veteran on the cusp of retirement.

Same applies for success in all fields.

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

Up the sleeve

There’s a very fun magic show called Penn & Teller: Fool Us that you can watch on YouTube. Unlike usual magic shows, this one is a talent show, but for magicians!

So magicians from all over the world come and perform in front of two of the greatest magicians in the world (i.e. Penn & Teller), and the duo then try to decipher the trick. If they cannot, then they admit they are fooled, and the magician wins a trophy.

Needless to say, the magic acts are entertaining, mind-blowing and superbly crafted. While the entire audience is having fun, the two judges are doing their very best to tear every single movement, every sleight of hand and every misdirection apart. While everyone else is enjoying the trick, these two are doing their ‘office jobs’ in a way. Somewhat takes the fun away, but despite that, they do get fooled – and boy are those fun to watch!

One magician participant said something very awesome. He said he had practiced the very trick he presented for over ten years. Not just that, but he also videotaped himself performing the same trick, nearly a hundred times, and from a hundred different camera angles. And each time, he would make improvements, sometimes minor, sometimes major, but each one contributed to his final act – which Penn & Taylor commented as “absolutely flawless”. Hard work + technology = Smart work = Success!

Like it? Please share it!
1 Comment

AMP it up

Many of us think that money is a great motivator. It might well be, but when we think of money, we are usually thinking of our monthly salaries and quarterly or yearly bonuses. Maybe a 10% or 20% hike if things go well – somehow beat inflation, and keep the head above water. This should sufficiently keep us engaged and motivated at work shouldn’t it? But, does it? Don’t we all still have Monday morning blues?

In the 1970s, a psychologist ran an experiment requiring students to solve math puzzles. He paid some of them, and didn’t pay the others. Interestingly, he found that those who got paid actually showed lesser interest in solving their puzzles than those who didn’t get paid. Wow – what an unexpected outcome. This work brought to the fore the differences between extrinsic motivation (such as by money) and intrinsic motivation.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive mentions the 3 ingredients to intrinsic motivation:
1. Autonomy – this is what entrepreneurs love – doing what they want, not what someone else tells them to
2. Mastery – Being an expert in the chosen field
3. Purpose – Caring about the outcome means we will spring out of bed even on a Monday morning

Ideally, every workplace or employer should maximize opportunities for their employees’ A, M and P. But we know that rarely happens. Apart from gifting your boss and HR head a copy of this book, what else can we do? We can AMP it up on our own – to the extent possible. For instance, we can volunteer to take up mini-projects on our own, find niches to build skills in, and also attach a larger outcome to our work. Eventually, we may find that some amazing opportunities will find us. But we need to take the first step.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Standing tall

As a boy, one of the important things as you’d grow up to becoming an adult is your height. The magic 6-feet number is an elusive one for many, maybe most. It’s cool to be tall, you can see above most others in the room, and perhaps even be spotted by the ladies, head above the rest and all. But height is not what one has under their control. You can hang from pull-up bars, but there is no guarantee!

Over time, these views change.

You realize that being physically tall is irrelevant – but one is as tall as the problems they have overcome.

One’s actual figure on the weighing scale doesn’t matter much, but one’s influence in life – amongst their colleagues, peers, friends and family is what counts.

The fairness of the skin is not important, but one’s moral code, impartiality and treating everyone around them fairly is what could be a real differentiator in this world.

The strength of the muscles in the body is a good sign of physical health, but far more important perhaps is the strength of the mind – which would help one dominate fear, failure and self-doubt.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Critiques

Author Dale Carnegie of the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People says “Criticize in private, but praise in public.” We saw this nearly a year ago here.

It might seem like obvious advice, but do not be fooled by its simplicity. Just recently, I was part of a call, which had one senior person pulling up several others for something not done by them. The big boss of many of those being picked on was also present on the call.

To be sure, the person pointing the finger was by no means wrong – he had his facts straight – the accused had been tardy, they had not done their work well, they had not informed their superiors about gaps in the information and so on.

But did any of that matter? Not one bit. The call quickly morphed into a verbal brawl, with people supporting themselves, and proving why they were right and then heaping accusations back and forth. Could have just had some nice popcorn on the side and …

But really, it is so hard to put this advice into practise I suppose. It might seem like it takes longer to have 1-on-1 calls with five people rather than just lambaste 5 people on one call. But the negative effects of that one badly organized call can be far worse, as was the case. Preferably, never criticize at all, but if it must be done, then it can be done with empathy, in private, with examples from one’s own life as well, and also leading by example. That would be true leadership.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Quattro-manageria

According to Harvard Business Review, there are 4 types of Managers. These are Teacher, Cheerleader, Always-on and Connector.

Without knowing anything about these except their names, I’d have thought either the cheerleader or the teacher would be the best. Why? Because the cheerleader manager probably cheers you on, encourages you and appreciates your work. Great way to be motivated and move ahead don’t you think? While the teacher manager might be there to teach you whatever you need to know, and help in your learning process.

The definition of an always-on manager is one who available at any time for questions, feedback or even to just listen. But apparently it’s the connector manager who is the best of all the four.

The connector manager helps by making the most of his/her network – whether with another team member, partner, customer, friend etc. in order to expand the spectrum of teachers you have at your disposal. This is because such a manager realizes it’s impossible for one person to know everything.

The outcome? Apparently connector managers build the strongest, most effective teams, tripling the likelihood that direct reports will be high performers and boost employee engagement by 40%. Pretty impressive!

My takeaway is to try and live the life of a connector-manager for the benefit of everyone around me – irrespective of whether I manage a team at work or not. What do you think? How will you implement this? All suggestions welcome.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

To listen or to speak?

Both Dale Carnegie and my Guru cannot overemphasize the importance of listening as a skill. We are all accustomed to talking non-stop especially in social situations. We love to hear the sound of our own voices. And onc they topic shifts to anything even remotely of self-interest, then the words just don’t stop rolling out!

But listening allows us to win over other people, because if everyone likes to talk, then someone must be there to listen? Listening also builds patience, maturity, concentration and empathy over time.

There is one scenario I’ve seen though, where people love to listen and completely shy away from speaking. This is on the stage. Any formal stage, be it big or small – we often hate the spotlight and the associated stage fright aka butterflies.

However, at least from a satsang perspective, there is no better place to speak – no not after the satsang, but as the main speaker! And the reason is very unique here. If we just listen to satsangs, we will get knowledge. But it may not convert to wisdom or action. In order to make that conversion, speaking is a wonderful tool. When we listen to others speak, we may feel like we are understanding concepts. But when we laboriously sit and prepare for a speech, read up copious information to demystify our scriptures, underline the various important points, search for interesting anecdotes and stories, attempt to figure out the ‘real meaning’ and ‘practical meaning’ and ‘deep meaning’, we will encounter on these abstruse topics some epiphanies that will never leave us for life.

Speak we must, at every satsang opportunity. But prepare we must, too, so that our speaking is easy listening for everyone.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Visual creatures

One of my Guru’s most favourite topics is the power of visualization. He loves to help others (young and old) visualize their future dreams and goals. He is of the strongest opinion that it has an undeniable and incredible influence on the final outcome. And through this power of visualization, he has made so many miracles happen – things that otherwise seemed impossible, but happened nonetheless.

This visualization principle is not different from what other sources might teach us. Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret, which became a worldwide phenomenon when it was released, essentially said “The universe will give you whatever you ask it.”

And we know that if we set our minds to something and go after it with single-pointed focus, then rarely can something stop us along the way.

“But how is it possible Guruji, how can we create the future by simply visualizing?” I once naively asked him.

His response was golden. “Deep down, we are all Brahman. All Creation has come from the same Brahman. Why can’t the Brahman inside you create the future that you want then?”

Point taken.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Degree to lead

What is the difference between a leader and a follower? Is it about brilliance, IQ, strength, awards etc.?

A leader has followers while the follower doesn’t! It’s about as simple as that. Leaders are able to demonstrate a vision and inspire his/her followers.

Contrary to popular perception, leaders aren’t born. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, talks of level 5 leaders, and mentions the following characteristics – A level 5 leader:

  1. Is unafraid to acknowledge that s/he doesn’t know the answer/solution.
  2. Is unafraid to display their vulnerabilities
  3. Never says no to any new opportunities
  4. Is always keen on learning
  5. Is always humble
  6. Is always looking out for their followers
  7. Is often quiet, reserved, shy
  8. has their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves

Notice that not even one point is about academics, education or credentials. Isn’t this a great equalizer then?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Possible?

My Guru keeps giving the example of Roger Bannister (RB). In 1954, RB ran one mile in under 4 minutes.

He was the very first person to do so. His doctors had advised him before the run, that he should not go so fast, otherwise his organs would go all over the place, his body cannot take it and that he would die.

Of course, none of the warnings came to pass, and RB did indeed run the mile in under 4 minutes. What an achievement!

But funnily enough, RB was not the last. After his feat, almost every decade thereafter, someone or the other has been besting his record.

The current title is held by a Moroccan, Hicham El Guerrouj, who completed the mile in 3 mins and 43 seconds!

The actual time taken itself doesn’t matter. But it’s amazing how the human psyche works. Until someone else does it, it is considered impossible. But once it has been done, then there’s a line of people who follow it up, and even better it!

My simple learning from this, is that we don’t need to wait for anyone else. As the saying goes, even Impossible says I’m possible. And we’re each uniquely positioned to do things that no one else can (please see Mosaic Man).

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Quick not hasty

Google Pay has a nice ad. It shows people engaged in a variety of transactions, and then using the app to make their payments. The tagline that goes alongside is “Jaldi, lekin jaldbaazi nahin”, which means quick but not hasty. This is an important but often overlooked mode of action.

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine who had come back to his hometown for a break, was telling me that his marriage got fixed. But he had given an ultimatum to his fiancee, that they needed to be married in the following 3 weeks, before he headed back to his place of work. The girl’s side wasn’t so keen on this alacrity. Marriage is one of those things where it is not possible to momentarily reverse one’s decision – it is not a hop-on hop-off bus. While one can understand my friend’s urgency, in the long run, what is a few months here and there?

But we’ve now got used to doing everything at great speed. Instant gratification and all that. And we naturally come to expect this in spiritual progress as well. But as is very nicely described in Tattvabodha, there are four things simultaneously needed for moksha or liberation = a Guru + satsang + scriptures + X. Three of these we can all have. But what is X? It is time. No matter how much of a hurry we may be in, we cannot sidestep the learnings that time and experience unveil to us.

For large important life-changing decisions, quality trumps speed any day, especially if we want to minimize regrets in the future.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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

Like it? Please share it!
2 Comments

Writers talk

Today is post number 365. It’s been a full year since I started daily-blogging here – and how time has flown! My deepest gratitude to each one of you who has been on this journey with me. As mentioned previously as well, while it might seem like I’m writing for others, the biggest learnings / takeaways / beneficiary have all been very selfishly (for) me. Writing this blog has been fun, but also an eye-opener. Here are some of the reasons I’m realizing why writing is a great way to de-stress:

  1. It helps clear the mind, because things previously in the mind are now moved to paper
  2. It takes effort, and that brings satisfaction
  3. However, despite said efforts, it may not attract a large (or even small!) readership, and that keeps the author grounded and humble
  4. Writing requires reading / listening / being open to new ideas, all of which build confidence and bring internal growth
  5. Many amazing thoughts are forgotten if left to the mind. Re-reading old posts can surprise – nay shock – the writer, leaving them wondering if they really wrote it (in a good way!)
  6. Brings phenomenal discipline. Especially if you write every day
  7. If you have to speak sometime somewhere, then the words come out much better if it is written down previously.
  8. Like I’d noted once here before there can scarcely be a better way for introspection
  9. A side benefit of course, is better linguistics + grammar + vocabulary

Anything I missed out? Feel free to comment…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

PR / FAQ

PR / FAQ. It stands for Press Release / Frequently Asked Questions.

Surely we’ve all seen these before. When a new service or product is launched, it comes along with a PR / FAQ. The former announces the launch to some detail, while the latter explains some of the nuances that are not immediately obvious.

What is awesome, is that any new product in Amazon (world’s largest company by market-cap ~US$ 1.6 Trn at the time of this writing) begins with PR/FAQ. Begins, not ends. They call it ‘working backwards’. So this is the first step in the creation process instead of typically being the last! They do this because they begin with customer delight and customer experience as the focus. Writing a PR/FAQ upfront highlights to them everything they want the end product or service to feel like, the features it should have, the final look and feel etc. It also gives them full clarity on what the final product should be – right at the start.

This is completely the opposite of what many people set out to do, and I would be the first on that list. When given a task, I prefer to jump right in and begin ‘working’, than pause to think and reflect. This means I might go into several loops of making mistakes, and wasting much time correcting them – mainly because the roadmap isn’t clear.

Starting with PR/FAQ can be applied in many other ways too. For instance, it can help visualize a goal (whether work-oriented, or otherwise) and prepare one’s schedule or timetable and flesh out the details. It can also help with relationships because it gives clarity upfront, rather than postponing important discussions and conversations. The important thing is to begin with customer delight / partner delight / other-person delight, the rest will follow. I also like that when said quickly, it sounds like ‘perfect’ – i.e. “pr/faq” 🙂

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Super talented

We often think that talent is key. So many amazing talents in American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent and the like. Sure, maybe talent might open a door or two. But at least in the professional world, here’s what I’ve noticed are some “talents” which any one can develop. Also, these are super critical, but also super rare.

  1. Being nice to others
  2. Getting along with people
  3. Intellectual curiosity
  4. Being unaffected by failure
  5. Simplifying the complicated
  6. Patience – with results, with people
  7. Impatience with self-effort
  8. Punctuality
  9. GUDUSUNGU

    These might seem simplistic but they are not easy, and certainly not glamorous. But ask any successful person, and they will tell you these are highly under-rated and way more important than education and degrees and the usual skills we associate with the word ‘talent’. These are not taught in schools or colleges or universities, but the best part is that they can be developed by anyone, for free, at any time, with some mindfulness and self-effort.

So, how talented are you?

Like it? Please share it!
2 Comments

The one formula for success

In his amazing book How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie (DC) shares some amazing lessons on how to … well exactly what the book titles says!

It’s not a very large book, but it is divided into 6 parts, and a total of 37 chapters, each addressing one specific focus area for introspection, improvement and application.

Out of all these, DC himself says in part 4 chapter 8, that if there is only one thing that we take away from the entire book, then it is this one formula. Here is that paragraph reproduced verbatim.

If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing - an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person's point of view, and see things from that person's angle as well as your own - if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the stepping stones of your career.

Just imagine that. We think success is all about us, our hard work and meeting our targets and what not. Sure these are important, but there are millions of people doing all these things already – but they rarely rise to the top. Because they are too often focused only on themselves. DC has the solution. We only need to implement.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Wobegon

Here’s an interesting sentence I came across in a job posting. It said “Please do not apply if you suffer from Lake Wobegon effect.” Of course I had no clue what that was, so I had to google.

Turns out its pretty simple. It refers to the bias that most human beings think they are better than average…at everything. If you are put in a room of people, say your classmates, the chances are that you think you are better than them on average at speaking, leadership, scoring marks, understanding concepts etc. Operating word being “on average”.

Sounds cool, but mathematically, it is not a fallacy. The example here proves this – If four people score 8/10 on a test and one scores 3/10, then the average or mean score in that five-person group is 7/10, and a majority are indeed above average.

From a personal standpoint, it doesn’t matter what one thinks of themselves. But it is possible their self-assessments could be far from the truth. And that’s what we need to guard against, else woe will begin, not be-gone! Best to periodically question ourselves if there’s room for improvement, and to keep working towards that. No need to compare with others, but we can compare with our own past selves and see if we are making progress.

And for anyone who is hiring and reading this, please don’t put such statements in the job postings. Feels so condescending! 🙂

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Lessons from a wildebeest

Human babies are pretty much useless at fending for themselves. They can do nothing more than suckle and cry at a really loud volume.

But wildebeest babies? Man do they have it tough!

A new born wildebeest’s mother – for many hours after the calf is born – doesn’t even let it suckle. The reason? Safety from predators who abound.

The wildebeest calf must first stand up on its own. It’s mother keeps moving further and further away from her calf, forcing the latter to start following her – first by walking, and then by running. Only when the calf is able to run properly after a few hours, does the mother allow her baby to have her first milk.

Three things struck me, as I watched this on a BBC Earth show.

  1. How lucky we are – despite having no ability to run or walk at birth, we are kept safe.
  2. There is no room for crying or cribbing – run, or die.
  3. If we struggle at the start itself, in anything we do in life, this would form the foundation for future success.
Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Becoming Amazonian

Jess Bezos, the world’s richest man, has 4 core strategies that he believes his company Amazon should live by, in order to remain successful.

  1. Obsess over the customer, rather than the competitor
  2. Be eager to invent, which goes hand in hand with failure
  3. Work towards operational excellence, and
  4. Think long-term

I couldn’t help but wonder how awesome these would be when applied to success in our lives too. Why should these only be useful to Amazon, or to any company? Here’s how we can repurpose these for measuring our own success.

  1. If we ourselves are the product, then obsess over the value we deliver to our family, friends, colleagues, employer
  2. Reinvent ourselves for the better, learn more, read more, and pick ourselves up from failure shamelessly
  3. Do all our work – personal or professional – with excellence as the only acceptable standard
  4. Choose long-term sustainable solutions over short-term band-aid fixes

Possible to implement these?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Metabolic reversal

There are only two things we need to do to be happy.

  1. Have a fit body.
  2. Have a fit mind.

Indeed this sounds very simple. It is, but it is not easy to achieve.

A fit body requires being active throughout the day. “Oh how I wish my metabolism would be better!” Contrary to popular perception, we do not move less because of low metabolism. We move less to begin with, and that leads to low metabolism!

A fit mind on the other hand, requires lesser movement and more stability. Meditation, or the ability to focus and concentrate is key. And this comes only with practice.

How contradictory! The body needs movement, while the mind needs stability.

For many of us, given all the developments in technology and instant deliveries, our bodies are mostly resting, while our minds are mostly exercising. Just reversing that, will make our lives infinitely better.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

GUDUSUNGU

Financial market participants often try to define risk. Due to the large sums of money involved, it is extremely important to capture risk accurately – the reason being that one would always know how much they could stand to lose at any point in time. The challenge with assessing risk though, is that it always comes unannounced. If you can define it, comprehend it, and prepare for it, then it probably is not really “risk” in the first place.

It’s not just the financial markets alone where we may have experienced this. On the eve of an important presentation or speech or or exam or deliverable or review, we might conjure up the worst possible outcomes in our minds. No doubt stress, anxiety and tension will follow. But what is interesting is that most of the time such events pass by fairly smoothly, and the “risk” never materializes. As someone said and I’m only paraphrasing, “Risk is what hits you completely out of the blue, at 3 pm on a sleepy afternoon.”

What can we do then in such situations? Instead of worrying about what might happen, once we’ve put in the requisite efforts (i.e. preparing in advance for the presentation, studying well for the exam etc.), we can follow the gudusungu (you could pronounce it as goodoo-sangoo!) principle, i.e. Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up, Never Give Up. Just consistently being there, doing the small things, progressing step by step, always matters much more than a one-shot one-trick pony. Let’s try it out!

PS: ‘Sangu’ in gudusungu is also the name of my awesome elder cousin sister who’s also a doctor and blogger. Makes it easier for us to recall every day!

Like it? Please share it!
6 Comments

Keep company

In Sadhana Panchakam verse 13, Adi Shankara gives the instruction that one must keep the company of knowledgeable people, specifically the Guru. Most people focus on the latter half, i.e. finding the ‘knowledgable One’, i.e. the Guru, and making sure the Guru is the right one for us. Even when we are in dire need of help, materially or spiritually, we only think of estimating / forecasting whether this Guru can really help our cause. Will the Guru make us stop eating the foods we like or watch the TV we crave or visit the pubs we like? If so, then I’d rather change my Guru, because that is infinitely easier than changing my lifestyle.

All the focus though, has to be on the first part of the sentence, i.e. ‘keeping company of’. This looks disarmingly easy, but is extremely difficult. A true Guru might administer some much needed bitter medicine, and in such times, sticking on to the chosen spiritual path might seem not just troublesome, but also unnecessary. While the solution for this problem is introspection, grit and perseverance, the oft-resorted-to measure is Guru-hopping.

From a more materialistic point of view, keeping company with knowledgeable people helps akin to the “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” adage. Hence it is important to choose the people we are around. If we surround ourselves with billionaires, the chances of us thinking lofty, goal-oriented and futuristic increases manifold, as does the chance of success. The question of course is, why would even one billionaire want to spend time with me, let alone five?

‘Billionaire’ is the end goal, as is moksha. It is neither the start, nor the journey. What if we could have lunch with one person smarter than us, every day, or at least twice a week, instead of eating alone, or with the same team members? What if we could cold-write to people for their guidance / mentorship on LinkedIn? What if we could reach out to people seeking to partake in their wisdom? Without doubt the results will come. But taking the first step, and maintaining it (keeping the company going) is in our hands. The rest will follow.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Temple motivation

There’s a temple in South India with a Unique Selling Proposition aka USP.

There are 2 columns / pillars, set very narrowly apart.

It is said, that if you have any desires to be fulfilled, you just need to squeeze through them pillars, and your wish will be taken care of.

Needless to say, there is a long line every day of people of varying sizes trying to squeeze themselves into the said gap. It could be because they need a visa to settle abroad, or to pass with flying colours (or at least in black and white!) in an exam they just gave, or if they want more money or a promotion etc.

If however, the outcome of walking through this pillar gap was to get instant moksha or liberation (literally no effort, just walk through and be free) instead of materialistic pleasures, I can’t help but wonder if anyone would even visit the temple at all.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Overthinking

Overthinking. This is a big problem many of us have. But it is not a disease – only a habit. And one that we can consciously change. A lot of students often wish to know how to tackle this.

Thinking mostly happens when there is an absence of doing. As they say, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.

It would also perhaps help to acknowledge first, that no matter what we do in life, there will always be way too many things outside our control. Right from whether the cleaners come on time, or whether there’ll be a traffic jam on your way to work, or even how your own family members might react to an important development in your life – we just can never be sure of the outcome.

Hence overthinking won’t help, because the additional thinking has limited control on the situations around us.

However, thinking per se, is not bad, and is probably necessary. Planning, strategy, evaluating the options etc. all come from thinking. The challenge is preventing thinking from going overboard. One way to achieve this, is to replace extra thought with action. As Lord Krishna said in the Gita, the panacea for Kali Yuga is Karma Yoga.

Just like we schedule activities for ourselves, it helps to schedule maybe 30 or 45 minutes on a day for thinking / overthinking. During this interval, one can feel free to let their mind run riot.

But outside this time, no overthinking, only doing.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

I think you think I think

When do I think I’m happy? When society has watched me ‘arrive’ in life. When society thinks that I’m successful.

How does society define this success of mine? Once I get a promotion at work, buy a house, have paid off my loans, take a vacation in Hawaii, maybe sell a million dollar start-up to some VC etc.

Jay Shetty in his book Think Like a Monk, drives home a very important point. He quotes a sociologist named Charles Horton Cooley from 1902 thus. “I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” I had to read this a couple of times to let it sink in.

What he’s saying is what we all know. But it’s still so powerful. Society is not defining my success. It is me who is giving society a moving goalpost to evaluate me. Society couldn’t care less if I got one promotion or three. But my folly lies in thinking that society cares.

As my Guru asks often, “Do you even remember what shirt your friend wore a few days ago? What they ate 5 days ago? What they said 15 days ago?” No one remembers anything, except when it is relevant to themselves. No one is thinking about us, let alone about the metrics for our success. Let us live by our own scorecards. This will elevate our happiness and bring down stress and anxiety.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Kaizen

We discussed here before the benefits of doing things small, rather than larger-than-life. Instead of having insane unachievable new year resolutions, just taking it step by step, but being consistent with it, is likely to yield far better results.

There’s a Japanese term called Kaizen, and maybe you’ve come across it before. The term refers to ‘taking small steps for continual improvement’. It is such a revolutionary yet simple idea, because the small steps make it sustainable, and the consistency compounds over time.

As James Clear beautifully puts it in his book Atomic Habits, 1% worse every day over a year, is (0.99)^365 = 0.03, whereas 1% better everyday is (1.01)^365 = 37.78. What a difference consistency makes!

Robert Maurer in The Kaizen Way talks of 6 simple strategies that can bring about big changes in a our lives over time.
1. Asking small questions.
2. Thinking small thoughts.
3. Taking small actions.
4. Solving small problems.
5. Giving small rewards.
6. Recognizing small moments.

Not how the common word is ‘small’. Big changes often only trigger subconscious fears in our brains, and these end up hampering our progress. Instead of asking “How can I be successful in my career?”, we could ask “What can I do today at my work, that is an improvement over yesterday?” Same for relationships. Asked and acted upon consistently, you can see how career-success and relationship-success will come naturally, eventually!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

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.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Too much to read 2

Continuing on from yesterday, there is too much to read, but not enough time, isn’t it?

Yesterday’s takeaway was to focus on finding high-quality sources of information in just two categories:
a) your niche
b) general knowledge about how the world really works”

Point ‘a’ we probably are bombarded with inputs (emails, reports, whitepapers etc.) anyway from work. Even if not, we can look for specific books written on these topics (I like to keep looking at new and upcoming releases on Amazon and add them to my wishlist), or blogs that we can subscribe to.

Point ‘b’ most people probably do not focus on much, and this in my view can help each one of us build a serious edge – especially if it can be combined with ‘a’. How can we do this? One way is to read all your childhood textbooks – from grade 1 to grade 12, and then beyond. The wealth of knowledge in them is just outstanding – although we have mostly forgotten everything.

Point ‘c’, which is not mentioned above, is to actively reject all materials that do not fall under ‘a’ or ‘b’. This is very hard to do, as I’ve seen from personal experience. A link from a friend or family member, on to social media posts can lead us unto a clickthrough journey to nowhere.

Point ‘d’ (loosely subsumed under point ‘b’), is to also include reading one post on spirituality, spending just 30 seconds a day. This blog is one way to do that! 🙂

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Too much to read 1

We all know that reading is a good habit. Most hyper-successful people in fact suggest that they got to where they are only because they read a lot. A few hours a day at least. Warren Buffet for instance reads between 600 and 1000 pages – nope not in a month or a year, but every single day! He dedicates 80% of his day to reading.

Which got me thinking. A lot of us read a lot too – nowhere near Mr. Buffet perhaps, but we do get plenty of links on Whatsapp and LinkedIn and we read the news everyday – and there is just so much of information (mostly nonsense). Does that count as reading? What about fiction novels – does that count as reading? We probably know deep down that reading Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys or Mills & Boon don’t count as very productive reading – at least not in the material world as adults – unless we are budding authors.

So what should we read then? Here’s a nice tweet by Shane Parrish I came across, which addresses this:

"While information continues to compound, our ability to digest it is limited. We need to filter. But how?
Invest an abnormal amount of time finding high-quality sources of information in two categories:
a) your niche
b) general knowledge about how the world really works"

How can we apply this? More tomorrow…

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Gaming rewards

There is a genre of gaming called MMORPG. It stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.

Probably the most famous of them all is World of Warcraft. It basically involves a whole host of players, sometimes thousands of them, all joining from various parts of the world and playing together, or against one another in various groups. Counterstrike is another famous such game that has players teaming up to fight off other teams.

In all such games, the goal is to win, and the reward is for the whole community / group / team.

But life is not like this. Our goal is happiness. A few may win, but most will be quite far off. There are a lot of decoys too, along the path.

But unlike in a game, there is no community or social reward for happiness. It is purely a single player experience.

And an astute one, who realizes this is all just a game, wins without any fixation on the material rewards.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Reply

Is there a way to make someone happy and praise them while also keeping the bar high? Here’s how my Guru did it once.

Many years ago, one of the satsangis went to him for advice. The satsangi was a bit nervous, as he told Guruji that this was his first time speaking in public on the Gita, and that he was a little scared. Guruji asked him which chapter was assigned to him. He said, “Chapter 7, Guruji.”

Guruji replied thus:
1. Wow, chapter 7, such a beautiful chapter, I’m so happy you got it! [infusing happiness]
2. You know what? My first talk too was on chapter 7. It is easy, and I know your capability, you can do it. [genuine praise]
3. I also prepared hard for it – I had read the chapter over 500 times, so that my session is worth my audience’s time. [setting the bar high]

Isn’t this such an inspiring reply, and something for us to learn?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Successfool

Why material success is important
better quality of life
more amount for charity
more time for social work (i.e. your wealth has brought you freedom)
brings temporary happiness
the world wants you, which is important for getting worldly things done

Why material success is not important
fuels the ego
is only a relative measure versus peers
limits learning (we feel we know everything)
only brings temporary happiness
a world that wants you, capsizes you
has no bearing on spiritual growth

What if we could live physically in the world as though successful, but mentally give up all success to the Lord / Guru / Divine? Win-win!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Rich is poor

Know what 80% of the people chose in a research study? See the two options. a) Make US$ 36,000 in a firm where the starting salary was US$ 40,000. or b) Make US$ 34,000 in a firm where the average salary was US$ 30,000. 80% chose the latter. That’s what would make them happy. Can you imagine that? We all want to be happy, but that happiness it seems, is governed not just by our own possessions, but also those of the others around us. i.e. Wealth is relative, not absolute.

I saw that it was the artificial needs of life that made me a slave; the real needs of life were few

William James Dawson

We’ve explored here previously the concept of the hedonic treadmill. We are running on one, where no matter how fast we go, we never seem to reach our destination. And we are often running not even for ourselves, but for others. No wonder then, that happiness is but fleeting.

As Benjamin Franklin wisely observed, “It is the eyes of others and not our own eyes that ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not care for fine clothes or furniture.”

Epicurus said beautifully, “Contented poverty is an honourable estate. Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The two Ps

There are two somewhat interlinked concepts in Hinduism.

One is prarabdha or that portion of our karmic balance that we are to experience in this life. Our birth into a good pious, self-sufficient and contented family is such an example. If we have this, we are lucky. Because many do not have even this.

The other, is purushartha. Which refers to the efforts put in by an individual, to achieve his goals. The goals have been divided into four – dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kaama (love) and moksha (liberation). These are loose translations, but in effect provide goals for us to live by and pursue. The ultimate goal is moksha of course, and achieving it dharmically, while having requisite artha and family life is considered ideal.

The problem arises when people are bestowed with excellent prarabdha, but fritter it away due to lack of or undirected purushartha. Being introduced to a satsang, finding a Guru, or rather a Guru finding you, having the company of noble and wise people, having the luxury of a good primary education etc. are nothing short of great karmic gifts – because we in our current lives hardly did anything to deserve these. And yet, people are unable to make time for an hour of satsang, or a week of seva to the Guru or some other means of giving back.

Everything we got, on a platter as it were, is prarabdha. Because there are so many people out there putting 10x the efforts getting 0.01% of the results you and I get. Prarabdha is gotten already, but purushartha is what we do with it. i.e. Destiny versus free will.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Animal king

We know who the king of the jungle is, right? He’s the strongest, fastest, largest and cleverest animal of them all.

Wait, I thought ‘strongest’ was the elephant. And ‘largest’ animal should be the blue whale? And ‘cleverest’, the fox? The fastest surely is the cheetah. But none of these guys are the kings!

The king is one who may not be the best at everything, but is able to keep it all together, and exude a level of confidence that no other member of the kingdom is able to.

We think lions and tigers have a chilled out life, sitting cushy at the top of the food chain. But no, they struggle too. The males have to constantly guard their territory and females from other usurper males. The females have to constantly look out for the safety of their kids, not just from said usurpers, but also from the father lion who might kill the babies seeing them as a threat to his status. When it comes to food, most hunts end in failure, with mom and babies having to go to bed hungry for days together – and so it is not as easy as it seems.

Nature never has it easy on anyone. That’s the cycle of life. One has to work hard to earn their living, or at least to sustain their lifestyle. This is a universal truth, applicable in past lives, this life, and the next.

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Meditation and thoughts – 2

Continuing on from yesterday, here are some more ideas on meditation that I came across, and which have helped my practice.

By practicing mindfulness, however, one can awaken from the dream of discursive thought and begin to see each arising image, idea, or bit of language vanish without a trace. What remains is consciousness itself, with its attendant sights, sounds, sensations, and thoughts appearing and changing in every moment.
In the beginning of one’s meditation practice, the difference between ordinary experience and what one comes to consider “mindfulness” is not very clear, and it takes some training to distinguish between being lost in thought and seeing thoughts for what they are.
In this sense, learning to meditate is just like acquiring any other skill.
Eventually, it begins to seem as if you are repeatedly awakening from a dream to find yourself safely in bed. No matter how terrible the dream, the relief is instantaneous. And yet it is difficult to stay awake for more than a few seconds at a time.

Conclusion and takeaways tomorrow!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The secret converter

Years ago we…

… had a problem at work, but today that is a laughing matter
… had a major fight with the other kids at school, but today that is a laughing matter
… had a complaint to your parents from the principal, but today that is a laughing matter
… had an altercation with a close friend, but today that is a laughing matter
… had a major argument with the spouse, but today that is a laughing matter
… had a tussle with the landlord, but today that is a laughing matter
… had an issue with your kids’ schooling, but today that is a laughing matter
… had so many worries about the future, but today that is a laughing matter
… had so much stress and tension about…something, don’t even remember, but today that is a laughing matter

Looking back from today, all those anxieties and worries – everything has been forgotten, and got converted into nothing more than a laughing matter – what a miracle, isn’t it?!

Now that we know and understand everything gets converted into a laughing matter in the future, why not laugh today itself?

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Oh stress

Everyone is stressed today. Even toddlers, in the face of gargantuan expectations of success from their parents.

The sheer number of kids competing in junior Olympiads, reality TV shows for best dancer, best singer, best chef and what not. Many more categories have been added by the hour, surely.

If these are done with love, fun and enjoyment, then absolutely no problem. But in reality (pun intended), these are for quick fame, and quicker moolah.

If childhood itself begins with stress, little chance of youth or young adulthood and beyond not going down the same path. If childhood itself begins with fierce competition – and not everyone wins every single time – then what is to say of later life?

As noted previously here, it is important to take life sincerely, but not seriously.

Bertrand Russell had the last say on this, ‘If you’re beginning to think that what you’re doing is very important, you need to take a holiday.’

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Free size

Here’s the thing about self-help and spirituality. One size rarely fits all. The goal is the same – to attain moksha or liberation. But the paths are many. Krishna tells Arjuna about karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga in the Gita. Even within these, the actual methods to be followed could be different. One might see great success following a 15-minute meditation plan a day. Others might struggle despite an hour of chanting.

In Dale Carnegie’s (DC) How to Win Friends and Influence People, there is a superb statement. The secret he says, is to interest people and build in them a genuine want, if you need them to do something for you. He gives a couple of solid examples too – such as how to get an irate tenant to pay his full rent rather than leave midway, and how a poor newspaper owner got a celebrity to write a star column on his paper.

But as he himself says, a common pushback would be, “Hey these examples are fine, but do these principles work for the tough monsters I have to face in my daily life?”

Here is DC’s amazing response. “You may be right. Nothing will work in all cases. And nothing will work with all people. If you are satisfied with the results you are now getting, then why change? If you are not satisfied, then why not experiment?”

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

The baby brain

There is a concept called the ‘beginner brain’. Maybe you’ve heard of it. We could also call it the baby brain. It is a super useful concept, and also very easy to apply.

The idea is this. Why do babies learn so much and why do they enjoy it? Because they have no past reference points, of what is good or bad, and what is successful or not. They hence have zero expectations and are able to joyously accept all their experiences as learnings.

Can we do this in our daily lives? We tend to approach all our situations with the ‘expert brain’. Despite knowing the tendencies of an irate boss, can we still go into the meeting room with no expectations? Despite having a world of desires to fulfil, can we still embark on our day to day projects without worrying about the result? And can we respond calmly during the torrid times in our relationships, because we switch on our baby brains and have no expectations from our partner/spouse? Surely these are difficult, and progress will come over time.

But there are a few things we can start off with, to help the process. For example, without worrying about the meeting with your boss, you could tell yourself that every meeting is a new one, with new possibilities, and be grateful that you have a job in such tough times. Instead of being frustrated by your better-half because he/she doesn’t meet your standards, you could view them in new light, acknowledge that they’re just trying to be happy, that you both share good intentions, and they are struggling just like you are. Over time, this practise helps us be more flexible, open, curious, grateful and present in the moment.

Even before that, want to just test what it feels like to have a baby brain? Try brushing / combing / eating with your non-dominant hand. Have fun!

Like it? Please share it!
Leave a Comment

Fear to become

Have we not feared, every step of our way to today? Those terrible kindergarten days, where we hated being separated from our parents. Moving to a new place, not knowing if we would be accepted in the school there. Joining a sports class, only to be bullied by some of the seniors. Entering the workplace – our very first day at work – the butterflies, the discomfort – is always there. When we are on the cusp of progress, we always have a tendency to look back. Seeing all the obstacles we overcame, we must ideally feel a great deal of strength, knowing that if we go through all this all these years, we can get through anything.

All of this reminds me of Khalil Gibran’s outstanding poem titled Fear. The premise is beautiful. It speaks of a river that has meandered its way through mountains, winding roads, plains, forests, villages and what not. Now the river is in front of the ocean, about to enter it. That’s when it looks back at its journey, and trembles. Seeing such a vast ocean, the river is worried about disappearing into it forever. The rest is too good to paraphrase, so here is the original:

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

I get goose bumps each time I read this.

Like it? Please share it!