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Category: motivation

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?

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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.”

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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!

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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.
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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?

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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 😃

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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

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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?
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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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