Posted in Life Gyan

How to Overcome Grief…

No human in this world is untouched by grief or disappointment. Both grief and disappointment can be the source of a huge emotional turbulence. And surprisingly when people are dealing with change either at the personal level or at the work place they may also feel similar emotional turbulence.

There may be many instances of grief throughout our life – a wife may grieve the death of her husband, a teenager may grieve the ending of a relationship, or one may grieve the loss of a pet.  Similarly one can feel a deep sense of disappointment when their trust is shattered. Even significant events in personal life or at workplace may have a similar impact when people are unable to cope up with the change. For example a mother who is unable to accept the departure of her child when he or she leaves home for the first time for higher studies or employees unable to handle role change due to organisational restructuring or merger/acquisition.

In 1969, a Swiss psychiatrist, Kübler-Ross first introduced her five stage grief model in her book On Death and Dying. These five stages are –

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Kubler-Ross wrote that these are normal reactions all people have to tragic news. In fact she called them defense mechanisms or coping mechanisms. And this is exactly what they are when we apply the model to coping with change.

Also she said that we don’t move through these five stages one at a time, in a neat, linear, step by step manner. That would be far too easy! What happens is that we occupy different stages at different times and can even move back to stages we have been in before. Kubler-Ross said the stages can last for different periods of time and will replace each other or exist at times side by side.

Learning about these five stages can help us understand our own emotions and help us in coping with them in a better manner. It would be ideal, if we can reach the “acceptance” stage. However it is possible that some people get stuck in other stages and find it difficult to move on.

The Five Stages of Grief

Denial : When you first hear about the tragic news, denial or shock is usually the initial reaction.
“I can’t believe it”, “This can’t be happening”, “Tell me this is not true”
This is also a defence mechanism that gives us time to absorb the news before moving on to the other stages. It is the initial stage of numbness and shock. It is like the pigeon closing its eyes when it sees the cat. That way, It assumes that since the pigeon can’t see the cat, the cat does not exist.

Anger : When the initial shock fades away and we realize that it is real then the denial usually changes to anger. We look to blame others, God or even the government for making it happen to you. You find it incomprehensible how something like this could happen to you.
“Why me? ” Life’s not fair!”
Mental health professionals believe that anger is a necessary stage of grief – it is part of the healing process. It’s important to truly feel the anger. The more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate, and the more quickly you will heal. It is not healthy to suppress your feelings of anger.

Bargaining : It is an attempt to postpone the inevitable. Usually, you try to strike a deal with God. You might falsely make yourself believe that you can avoid the grief through this type of negotiation. If you change this, I’ll change that. In this stage people also experience guilt and go into an endless series of “what ifs”: What if I had left the house 5 minutes sooner? The accident would have never happened. What if I encouraged him to go to the doctor six months ago like I first thought? The cancer could have been found sooner “

Depression : When we realize that Bargaining is not going to work then the true impact of the change, the loss hits us. It can lead people to a sad state, feeling low energy, worthless and feeling depressed. Some people may even experience suicidal thoughts. the state of depression can be noticeable in the body language of the person, drooping shoulders, withdrawn from the team – thinking “What is the point of all this?

People dealing with change at work may feel demotivated and uncertain about their future. They may feel why they need to give their best when they see that the Organization is not committed towards them. During this time there may be increase in sick leaves or absentism from work.

Acceptance : In this stage people start coming back to grip with reality. They realize that denying or fighting the change is not going to make the change go away. It is not a happy place but they finally accept that the world has changed and they need to move on too. People realize that thier partner may not return but life must go on. They realize that things are not going to be same at the workplace, It’s not a “good” thing, but it’s something you can move forward from. For the first time people might start considering their options. This can be a creative space as it forces people to explore and look for new possibilities.

In this stage, you may start making new friends or setting new goals. You know that the change is here to stay but you move, grow, and evolve into your new reality.

Posted in Life Gyan


Take a look at the picture above. Doesn’t it look a bit strange? What do you see? A fox is trying to catch a prey however in doing do it does not realize that it has leapt off a cliff.

What is the correlation of this picture with our own lives? Do we take such irrational steps in our life too when we are obsessed with something. In the madness of pursuing the obsession, sometimes we may commit fatal mistakes.

There are three key lessons to be learned from the picture above. And once you have read the lessons below this picture will get imprinted in your memory forever and remind you of these lessons so that you can avoid making such fatal mistakes.

Lesson 1 : Sometimes the best response to provocation is not to fight at all.

Lesson 2 : Not all opportunities are to be taken, some are traps

Lesson 3 : A person can become so determined to destroy another person that they become blind to thier own actions and consequences and end up destroying themselves

Have you come across any such examples in your own life or those around you?

Posted in Life Gyan

Dreams & Wishful Thinking

Remember the time when you had a number of dreams? Every other day you would come up with a new idea which according to you would change the world. While some people call it “flight of fantasy” or “day dreaming” but for you, probably that was one of the most beautiful part of growing up. It may be not an exaggeration, if I said that these thoughts gave us “wings” and took us on the “flight of imagination”. And even today, when nostalgia knocks softly, you open the door to those memories. The twinkle in your eyes and the smile on your face whisper, “Ah! Those were the days!”

Similar to the growing up years, later too in life, every once in a while a new desire pops up in your creative mind. For a few moments this new idea serves an escape from the mundane, the daily grind. However, almost immediately we tell ourselves, we are now “grown-up” and “mature” and need to be “practical”  – the flight gets stalled just as it is about to take off. You know that with your current constraints, you cannot chase this any further. The idea disappears in a jiffy.

There are a very few who are able to pursue their passion and bring their dreams to reality. Their stories become beacons, illuminating the path for others.

In solitude and quiet moments, most people see flashes of their dream life, but by then they have lost the courage to even acknowledge them as possible. Also after battling the myriad battles of life, most people have lost their capacity to take risk. Instead they prefer the comfort of the mundane. They laugh at their own dreams and call them wishful thinking.

Then as their own kids grow up their unfulfilled dreams get rekindled. They see a ray of hope. They unknowingly start considering their kids as the vehicle thru which they can achieve their own unfulfilled dreams. However it is better to return to sanity before it is too late. One must not impose their own dreams on the kids. It is better to allow the kids to explore their own interest and only ask clarifying questions to help them choose the right path for themselves.

So, did I pursue my dreams? Perhaps not all of them. But I’ve learned that dreams aren’t lost completely — they evolve. They weave themselves into the fabric of our lives, coloring our choices, our passions, and in someway creating our legacy. And sometimes, when the wind is just right, I catch a glimpse of those paper airplanes, soaring still, leaving trails of possibility in their wake.

Did you?

Posted in Life Gyan

Put the Extra in the Ordinary

This is an excerpt from  “Living with a Purpose: The Importance of ‘Real Intent.”, Randall L. RiddThis story teaches us about the power of real intent – the real desire to do a job well.

There was a young man who had ambitions to work for a company because it paid very well and was very prestigious. He prepared his résumé and had several interviews. Eventually, he was given an entry-level position. Then he turned his ambition to his next goal—a supervisor position that would afford him even greater prestige and more pay. So he completed the tasks he was given. He came in early some mornings and stayed late so the boss would see him putting in long hours.

After five years a supervisor position became available. But, to the young man’s great dismay, another employee, who had only worked for the company for six months, was given the promotion. The young man was very angry, and he went to his boss and demanded an explanation.

The wise boss said, “Before I answer your questions, would you do a favor for me?”

“Yes, sure,” said the employee.

“Would you go to the store and buy some oranges? My wife needs them.”

The young man agreed and went to the store. When he returned, the boss asked, “What kind of oranges did you buy?”

“I don’t know,” the young man answered. “You just said to buy oranges, and these are oranges. Here they are.”

“How much did they cost?” the boss asked.

“Well, I’m not sure,” was the reply. “You gave me $30. Here is your receipt, and here is your change.”

“Thank you,” said the boss. “Now, please have a seat and pay careful attention.”

Then the boss called in the employee who had received the promotion and asked him to do the same job. He readily agreed and went to the store.

When he returned, the boss asked, “What kind of oranges did you buy?”

“Well,” he replied, “the store had many varieties—there were navel oranges, Valencia oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, and many others, and I didn’t know which kind to buy. But I remembered you said your wife needed the oranges, so I called her. She said she was having a party and that she was going to make orange juice. So I asked the grocer which of all these oranges would make the best orange juice. He said the Valencia orange was full of very sweet juice, so that’s what I bought. I dropped them by your home on my way back to the office. Your wife was very pleased.”

“How much did they cost?” the boss asked.

“Well, that was another problem. I didn’t know how many to buy, so I once again called your wife and asked her how many guests she was expecting. She said 20. I asked the grocer how many oranges would be needed to make juice for 20 people, and it was a lot. So, I asked the grocer if he could give me a quantity discount, and he did! These oranges normally cost 75 cents each, but I paid only 50 cents. Here is your change and the receipt.”

The boss smiled and said, “Thank you; you may go.”

He looked over at the young man who had been watching. The young man stood up, slumped his shoulders and said, “I see what you mean,” as he walked out of the office.

What was the difference between these two young men? They were both asked to buy oranges, and they did. You might say that one went the extra mile, or one was more efficient, or one paid more attention to detail. But the most important difference had to do with real intent rather than just going through the motions.

If you have the right intent and do your job with passion it surely will take you places. That is why it is often said that a work of quality is not produced by accident. There is a lot of effort behind it and above all there is an intent for excellence.

Posted in Books

Are You Really Reading More?

The number of books sold in 2023 surpassed that of 2022. And similar numbers were reported for 2022, where more books were sold compared to 2021. These numbers point that an increasing number of people are being drawn to reading books every year despite the other digital distractions and an ever busier life.

However, not all books sold are read. Unfortunately, this statistic is not widely reported. In a survey conducted by Gallup they found that the average number of books read is going down every year. People buy a lot of books but most people are unable to read them for a plethora of reasons. I’m sure all of us have a bunch of unread books at home which we bought with great hope but unable to find time to turn those pages.

If you are also sailing in the same boat and miss reading books, here is a simple workaround you can try till you get the control back on your reading time. I have been using this for the last couple of years and have found this to be an effective alternative. Yes ! I am asking you to switch to audiobooks. These are great alternatives to physical books or Kindle if you are unable to find time to read.

There are various great apps available for both IOS & Android. Also an increasing amount of books are now available in audiobooks format. I primarily use Audible. I use my commute time to listen to audiobooks and have managed to finish 6 audiobooks in 2023. In comparison i could only finish 2 short books in the physical book format. It goes without saying that switching to audiobooks has reduced the amount of music I listen to by almost 80% but as it is said life is all about the choices you make.

Sharing my book recommendations from the books I have read in 2023 – please do share your book recommendations.

Posted in Leadership

Building a Learning Organization

How to create a learning organization?
This probably is the question on the minds of many leaders and founders who are immensely passionate about building great teams and building great organisations.

Peter Senge, provides a model to solving this problem in his widely read book The Fifth Discipline. He  describes a concept called “Systems Thinking“.  According to Senge, systems thinking is very important in creating a learning organization however as the title of his book goes – it is the fifth discipline not the first. The first four disciplines are (1) personal mastery, (2) building shared vision, (3) mental models, and (4) team learning. The 5th discipline is very important as it fuses the other four together to foster a culture of learning and co-operation.

People frequently ask if systems thinking is same as strategic thinking. Systems thinking and strategic thinking are somewhat similar concepts however they are applied in different situations. Both involve looking at the big picture and taking a long term view

Systems thinking 

  • Focus: Looks at the system as a whole, including interactions and relationships
  • Goal: Considers if the system can work differently
  • Use: Can be used in design thinking to understand the user

Strategic thinking 

  • Focus: Makes decisions to achieve specific outcomes
  • Goal: Identifies the gap between where you are and where you want to be
  • Use: Can be used to explore the context of long-range goals

Learning organisations may encounter various challenges or obstacles which Senge refers to as learning “disabilities”. He goes on to describe what these disabilities are and how companies can rid of the learning “disabilities” aka detrimental habits or mindsets, that threaten their productivity and success. He also elaborates on how organisations can grow by modelling the strategies of learning organizations – ones in which new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective aspiration is set free, and people are continually learning how to create the results they truly desire.

Senge states that “At its core, learning organizations build great teams – the trust, the relationships, the acceptance, the synergy, and the results that they achieve.” You can look around for yourself and see that unless there is trust within the teams, there can be no synergy and team members will not sacrifice personal goals to work towards a common goal – the success of the organization.

The startups that thrive today can vouch that their teams have “a strong ability to learn, adjust and change in response to new realities.” that is the only way to thrive and grow as per Dr. Senge in the fast changing complex world that we live in.

The distinguishing characteristics of a learning organization include a learning culture, a spirit of flexibility and experimentation, people orientation, continuous system-level learning, knowledge generation and sharing, and critical, systemic thinking.

 It is worthwhile to read more about Senge’s 11 laws of Systems Thinking. These will help you to understand business systems and to identify behaviors for addressing complex business problems.
In brief the 11 Laws are –

  1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back
  3. Behaviour grows better before it grows worse
  4. The easy way out usually leads back in
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease
  6. Faster is slower.
  7. Cause & effect are not closely related in time & space.
  8. Small changes can produce big results, but areas of the highest leverage are often least obvious.
  9. You can have your cake & eat it too but not all at once. Not either/or. allow time for solutions to work.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not product two small elephants
  11. There is no blame
Posted in Life Gyan

Three Beautiful Stories

Storytelling is the most powerful way
to put ideas into the world.

– Robert McKee

From time immemorial stories have always fascinated mankind. And story-tellers have used various means to convey their message viz. narration, theatre, cinema or by writing. Some people tell stories to entertain and make you laugh. Some to impart life lessons. Yet others use this as a medium to touch upon difficult topics of social importance. And some tell stories to hide the truth.

No matter what the medium is, or what the end goal is, the job is said to be well done if you are able to convey your ideas in the most impactful manner to your audience.

Now there are few other type of stories. Those that leave you with a question to ponder or provide you some food for thought. They make you revisit the assumptions that you had always believed in your life. They do not just fade away after you have turned the page – they stay in your psyche for a long time. Some can even alter the way you perceive and live life. Today I am going to share three such stories with you which did just that for me.

The stories are itself simple but the life lessons they hold are really valuable. I urge you to go through each story one by one and reflect on the lesson rather than rushing through this post. Once you have gone thru them, pause and reflect. And if possible do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

So which story did you find the most impactful? Please do let me know in the comments section below.

Posted in Life Gyan

Communication Before Internet

I remember very vividly the day when I first surfed the net. It was the last quarter of 1998, I was in Kolkata, West Bengal. A few cyber cafes had mushroomed in few neighbourhoods. Getting a first hand experience of the internet, to understand what was “surfing the internet” was on my bucket list for sometime. However, there was no pressing need to really “surf” the net. Also the budget was tight – i was fresh out of college and did not have any source of income yet . Also internet access was pretty expensive and almost prohibitive at Rs. 2 per minute, that is a whopping Rs. 120 per hour. Rs. 120 was a big amount back then and people without any income were not expected to squander it away just like that for “experience”.

Today internet is ubiquitous and inevitable. It is nearly impossible to imagine life without internet access . However, about 25 years ago, internet access was still in the nascent stages in India. People were still trying to grapple with the idea of internet and the possibilities it offered.

I smile when I remember those days – there were so many myths and stories about internet at that time. People were in awe of what could be done with the help of internet. Sending emails from one end of the world to another, almost instantaneously was considered pure magic. Everyone talked of Hotmail and Sabeer Bhatia.

Politicians, leaders, media and tech evangelists were unequivocal in narrating bold visions of 21st Century and what it had in store for the masses. Everyone talked about the 21st century as the Holy Grail. The mobile and the internet services were launched in 1995 in India. However, both mobile and access to the internet remained out of reach for majority of people in India for a good decade after their initial launch mainly on account of two reasons (a) infrastructure (b) costs outweighed the benefits.

In those days, sending letters by mail  (now referred to as snail mail) was the preferred and most affordable mode of communication. Business establishment would often send business communication via couriers (these were faster than snail mail but still took a few days to deliver) and for urgent matters there were overnight couriers to select cities. 

There was another form of communication which was fast but you could only send a short message (like a tweet) – it was the Telegram. A telegram could only be sent from one post office to another. It was transmitted by the use of morse code. It was expensive and was supposed to be used only in case of emergencies. More often than not the arrival of Telegram to anyone’s home would be assumed to be containing some bad news about family members from other cities.

Back then, mobile phones had not yet arrived on the scene and not all had access to a land line phone. Also most telephone exchanges used to be manual with operators connecting the phone line on request in real time. For those who had a landline, or had access to one in the neighbourhood could place or receive long distance calls called Trunk Calls. These calls would be of fixed duration (3 minutes to be precise) and had to be pre-booked with a telephone operator at the exchange. And the funny part was that the operator would be listening to your entire conversation all throughout the call and would alert you when few seconds were left for the call duration to be over.

Between the landline and the mobile, Pager was another popular device. However, it was short lived once the text messages were made affordable/free on mobile phones. The pager was a small match box sized device which people clipped on to their belt. It used to beep when a new message arrived. In my case, my pager was linked to critical client systems in production. A beep on the pager meant trouble. I had to login immediately to check system health no matter what time of the day or night it was.

As the communication revolution continued, PCOs became very very popular. Anyone who could not or did not want to own a landline, could go to a PCO to make phone calls. Though the PCOs were common sight , the call rates were still very high and you would be billed by the second. In those days if we were staying in a different city we would call our parents only once in a week. In those days hardly anything was “instant” and there was no pressure to share minute by minute updates of one’s life with others.

Coming back to my story of my first “encounter” with internet. Let me tell you that this was the pre-dot com bubble and pre-Y2K fever days. Cyber cafes were slowly getting popular. And they started a variety of paid services. Here is a glimpse of the services they offered –

  • Email ID creation – Rs. 300 (in reality creating a Hotmail ID was free but since common people did not know, these shop keepers would make most of the opportunity)
  • If you did not know how to access email or did not want to create a mail ID – you could receive email on the cafe’s email address. If you enrolled for this service, the cafe owner would call you on your landline to inform you if any email was received in your name.
  • If you wanted they would print the email and delivery it to you at your doorstep for a fee.
  • They would help you send an email to anyone – again for a fee.
  • And if you knew how to use a computer and navigate the internet, you could pay Rs. 2 per minute and surf the internet yourself.

Anyways, one fine day I made up my mind and went to a nearby cyber café. Asked him if he could show me what actually “net surfing” was. I told him to sit at the keyboard while I would sit right beside him and watch. He showed me some of the popular sites like Yahoo (the world had not heard about Google yet) Then the cyber cafe guy gave me a demo on sending and receiving emails. I might have spent hardly about 10-15 mins in the cyber cafe before I ran out of options of what to do next. So i concluded my session early, paid the Cyber cafe guy and walked back to my room thinking about the new questions that had now started popping up in my head.

Surprisingly these memories are still crisp in my head. And when i look back I am amazed to see how the world has changed over these years. For those who are born in the 21st century, it might be difficult to imagine how life was without 24×7 internet access or how people would meet at busy public places without having mobile phones or how people would wait days and weeks to receive the reply of their letter.

I am sure you might also have memories and experiences to share from that era. Please do share in the comments below.

Posted in Life Gyan

Three Enemies of Success

I am a huge fan of Brian Tracy’s work on how to prepare yourself to be successful in life. He offers a lot of thought provoking questions and concepts which when applied for onself will surely result in transformation. I wanted to share some insights from what I have learned from Brian.

He talks about the 3 destructive traits that he calls “enemies of success“. By being aware of them we can avoid these traps in our own lives and can move faster towards our goals in life.

The first and the foremost is the Comfort Zone. It is like a slow poison. You become comfortable doing with what you are doing. You don’t realise that you are doing anything wrong but slowly you start slipping into the comfort zone. The daily routine is comforting. You know the drill like the back of your hand. You are able to navigate thru the daily hurdles with skill and you consider yourself successful. And all this while without realizing that you are getting deeper and deeper into the comfort zone. When you think about it you know that change is good and beneficial however you feel it is too much effort to move.

The next enemy is Learned Helplessness – where people think “i can’t do it”.  This is the next stage of Comfort Zone. As you set your sight on new goals and decide to move in that direction, the inertia pulls you back giving you various reasons why you should not pursue the goal or why it can’t be done. To navigate the way out of comfort zone, you must break the inertia and move forward.

Now you come across the third and final enemy – Path of Least Resistance. So you have decided to move out of the comfort zone and you have also handled the inital resistance from your mind. Now you have started taking the steps towards your goal. Soon you realise that it is a long journey and requires a lot of hard work. When the first fatigue sets in, the goal starts to look distant and again your mind tries to look for short cuts. You may even think of changing your goal to something much more smaller and within easy reach. Bur remember nothing worthwhile can be achieved without hard work. Anything worthwhile requires a long period of hard work with many failures on the way. There is no shortcut for sustainable success.

So beware of these mental traps and do not lower your goal – instead increase your effort.