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Category: motivation

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Always on

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

What to do then?

It helps to think of two things.

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

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

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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.

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Visual creatures – part 2

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

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

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

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

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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.

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DIRFTI

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

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

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

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

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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?

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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).

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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.

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Twit quot 2

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

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

Link to Twit quot 1

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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…

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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” 🙂

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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?

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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.
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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?

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