Posted in Life Gyan

The Professor and the Golf Balls

“The most important things in life are not things” – sometimes we get so obsessed with our material possessions that we forget to give importance to the people in our lives. At other times we are busy chasing other shiny objects and completely lose focus of the important things of life. The below story is a simple way to understand this and remember to prioritise the important things in life.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.  The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes’.  The professor then produced two large cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.  The sand is everything else—the small stuff.  ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.  Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’  The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.

Posted in Life Gyan

30 Short but Impactful Habits

1. Write things down – our brains are for having ideas, not holding them.

2. Take a second to pause before you respond. Become less reactive.

3. Read something every day. Even just one page.

4. Write something every day. Even just one paragraph.

5. Automate and batch as much as you can. Our brains have more room to be creative when they’re not constantly making decisions.

6. Get some sun on your skin as early as you can in the day.

7. When your brain hurts. Stop working. Take a quick break to disconnect and recharge.

8. Limit your to-do list to the top 3 most important tasks of the day.

9. Write down anything that resonates with you.

10. Break down goals into the smallest steps possible

11. Value your time above all else.

12. Find hobbies that engage your mind and soul – do them as often as you can.

13. Place your phone outside the room while you’re working.

14. Track everything you do for one day to the minute. Find where the time-sinks are.

15. Stop comparing you behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.

16. Be bored more often. Our minds get the best ideas when they are allowed to wander.

17. Listen more than you speak.

18. Create more than you consume.

19. Compliment more than you complain.

20. Delete apps you don’t use.

21. Donate clothes you don’t wear.

22. Serve others as much as you can. This is a powerful source of happiness

23. Make a habit of reaching out to old friends.

24. Never say “yes” simply because you feel obligated.

25. Take care of your information diet – Junk info hurts our brains like junk food hurts our bodies.

26. Look at your phone less, look at people’s eyes more.

27. Revisit things that have brought you joy in the past. They will probably do it again.

28. Set time limits on tasks. Use “Parkinson’s Law” in your favor.

29. Remember people’s names and use them often.

30. Remember you’re going to die one day.

Posted in Life Gyan

An Alternate Perspective – Part 1

In this post I am going to share a different way of looking at the transition of world power and influence in the World with the passage of time. We all know that –

Goddess Durga is a symbol of Power
Goddess Lakshmi symbolises Wealth
Goddess Saraswati represents Knowledge

If we look back on the last few centuries, you will notice the following –
From approximately 16th Century to some part of the 19th Century the European countries like Britain and France had sent their armies across the length and breadth of the world and had colonized a large number of countries. You can see the spread of the British and French empire from the visual below. These European countries would approach the other countries on the pretext of trade and later overpower them and make the host country their colony. That was the era of power : Durga. Focus was on : Land | Agriculture | Materials

Spread of empire of Britain & France

After the World War 1 and until recently the world witnessed the dominance of USA as country and the influence of its dollar across the globe. Both in the World War 1 and World War 2 the US entered late into the war. Also the US was the main supplier of weapons and other goods to the Allies during both the wars. Most countries paid in gold making the U.S. the owner of the majority of the world’s gold by the end of the war. And depleted reserves of the other countries forced them to abandon the Gold standard for their currencies and instead adopt US Dollar as the new benchmark for regulating their currencies. this was known as The Bretton Woods Agreement. Thus, the U.S dollar was officially crowned as the world’s reserve currency. This was the era of wealth : Lakshmi. Focus was on : Money | Manufacturing | Industrialisation

USA wielded its power across the world on the strength of its currency

After the era of dominance of power and wealth we are now transitioning to the era of the Knowledge Economy. The knowledge economy is based on the four pillars: education, innovation, information and communication technologies. It asserts that sustained investments on these pillars, will lead to sustained economic growth. With intellectual property fuelling the knowledge economy, the Asian countries have made huge strides in pharmaceuticals, health biotech, new materials, telecommunications, information technology, software, medical equipment and avionics. China has been the most prominent of the countries who are trying to capitalize on the knowledge economy in the last three decades and in the recent years India too is making good progress.

Starting from the last few decades, we are witnessing the Global power center shifting to the Asian countries which are high on creativity and innovation. And this is expected to continue for many more decades to come. This is the era of Knowledge : Saraswati. Focus is on : Creativity | Knowledge | Innovation.

The present and future belongs to Asia due to their focus on Knowledge & Innovation
Posted in Life Gyan

Six Ways to Expand Your Horizon

Here are six ways to expand your horizon and to have a broader world view.  Each of the below listed items will help you push the boundaries associated with a different aspect of your life. As a result you will become a more fearless and confident person. Over a period of time, it will enhance your wisdom and give you a broader perspective of the world.

(1) Travel to new places – Travelling is one of the best way to expand your horizons in many aspects simultaneously.  By travelling I mean visiting a new place preferably outside your own state/country – a new region which has different culture, different staple food and different clothing. There is no dearth of options in India as we are known for unity in diversity. You can go to any state and experience the diversity. Once you travel be sure to observe how the people and customs are same or different from your home state. Relish the local food, interact with local people. This will help you get a very different perspective not only of life in general but even of the assumptions and beliefs you have held mentally so far.

(2) Learn a new skill – Learning a new skill like swimming, accounting or coding can be a great experience. It adds a new dimension to your personality. It provides another channel to express your creativity. Learning a new skill will help you come up with new ideas which you were not capable of thinking because you lacked this knowledge. It also opens up new possibilities for you to explore.

(3) Read books – First of all reading itself is a rewarding experience. Even though you may think – who reads books these days and lot of people adopting kindle and other digital means of reading but the data suggests that more books are sold each year. According to the website Books of Brilliance The country that reads the most books is India! They led every country on the map with an average of 10 hours and 42 minutes. That is enough to finish a book and start a new one in the same week! So incase you are not already in to reading, go pick a book if you do not want to be left behind. And if you already love reading try reading books from a different genre that would certainly open your mind to a whole new domain.

(4) Try different cuisines – Don’t be afraid to try a different cuisine once in a while. Next time when planning to go out, choose a cuisine or food item which you have never tried earlier like Sushi or Gelato or anything else that catches your fancy. The idea is to subject your senses to experience something different from what they are used to.

(5) Pick up a new hobby – Trying out a new hobby can be really fun and refreshing at the same time. Pick up something you have never done earlier. There are so many new hobbies that you can explore like starting a Bullet Journal or drawing Zentangles if you are the creative kind. You can try hydroponic farming or Origami. or even blogging. There is no dearth of new and novelty hobbies these days. Also the availability of so much information online and even online/offline classes makes it easy to pick and explore new things.

(6) Live in different geographical region/country – If possible relocate to a different geographical region or country and stay there for at least an year to experience the whole cycle of seasons, customs and festivals of that area. It will change your assumptions and boost your empathy to a different level. It will help you be sensitive to the thoughts and feeling of others especially when you are dealing with a diverse group of people.

This is just the start. You can apply this to any area of your life for example if you usually practice yoga you could try zumba, if you do kick boxing you can try pranayama or meditation. It is all about moving out of your comfort zone and embracing change. Whenever you do any new activity which is outside of the usual or routine, in some way or the other it will expand your current limits.

Be curious. That is the key. Never stop learning. To learn anything new, your cup needs to be half empty. And to be able to learn continuously, you should be able to expand the size of your cup so that there is always space to accommodate more and absorb new knowledge.

Posted in Life Gyan

Don’t Confuse Lifestyle with Life !

I came across this story a few years ago and the lesson has stayed with me over the years. A few days ago something reminded me of this story and I decided to share this with everyone for the sheer simplicity and the powerful message it carries.

A group of alumni, who were very successful in their careers, decided to get together to visit their old university professor. After they all reunited, the conversation of the alumni soon turned into complaints about work, relationships and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all of his old students had a cup of coffee in hand, they sat down together and the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is, of course normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that can also be the source of much of your dissatisfaction, problems and stress.

It’s important to know that the cup itself adds no real quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just chosen because its perceived to be more special or expensive. What all of you really wanted was experience of the coffee, not the cup, but you unconsciously went for the best cups. Some of you tried to get the best cup first or began eyeing each other’s cups to see if yours was nice enough.

Now consider this: Life is a bit like the cup of coffee; the jobs, money possessions and position in society are the cups. They are just tools and structures that contain or hold together the current story of your life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

Here is my advice to you – Savour the coffee, not the cups! What you really want is to be happy. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

Posted in Life Gyan

20 Things People Learn Too Late

1. Don’t tell people more than they need to know, respect your privacy.

2. Every challenge, hard time, and pain you endure will turn into strength, resilience and blessings.

3. Don’t argue with people who want to misunderstand you – Starve them with silence.

4. Life is short, don’t forget to make a life and not just a living.

5. You don’t need to explain yourself or get anyone’s approval to live your life.

6. Keep your standards high and  don’t settle for something because it’s available.

7. Boundaries are your responsibility, you decide what is and what isn’t allowed in your life.

8. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.

9. Never expect to get back what you give or you will always be disappointed.

10. Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from and don’t let someone who has done nothing, tell you how to do anything.

11. If you keep waiting for the “right time” you will keep wasting all of your time.

12. Don’t let people trigger you. Control your reaction and leave them powerless.

13. Stop expecting loyalty from people who can’t give you honesty.

14. Accept people for who they are and not who you want them to be.

15. Life doesn’t always give us the experiences we want, it gives us the experiences we need to learn and grow.

16. The best revenge is no revenge. Improve yourself and forget they exist.

17. The people who belong in your life want to be there, they don’t need to be chased.

18. It takes time to build trust but only seconds to lose.

19. No one is going to come and save you because You are perfectly capable of Saving Yourself.

20. Don’t judge people and their choices when you don’t understand their reasons.

Posted in Life Gyan

Mindful Consumption

While we enjoy the good things in life, we also need to keep in mind that not everyone is equally fortunate and there are lots of people who struggle to make their ends meet. There is still a huge section of population on earth who do not have access to basic facilities like clean drinking water, education, proper health care, electricity etc.

While we do things that are within our power to make things better for these people either directly or by joining hands with some NGO there is one thing that we all can do right away – cultivating an attitude of mindful consumption. Mindful consumption means using the earth’s finite resources in a responsible manner, reduce consumption where possible, eliminate wastage and reduce your carbon footprint.

To make it easy here are a few examples to get you started.

1. Do I really need the water that is being poured in my glass at the restaurant?

Will that water not go down the drain (literally) when I leave my table? Am I being fair to those who are walking miles for drinking water and yet what they get is hardly safe enough to consume?

2. Do I really need to wrap that gift by buying ‘free’ gift wrapping paper?

Because that shiny/ non-biodegradable paper is going to be trashed (literally) once the gift is opened?

3. Do I really need to buy gifts when I am not sure if they will be used and needed by the receiver because I want to look good?

Isn’t it wiser to buy fruits or dry-fruits with the same amount of money and with almost certainty that they will be consumed?

4. What do I do when I am at buffet?

Do I listen to my stomach or do I fill my plate with everything available (either because its free or because I have paid for it all)?

5. What do I do when the guy at Subway (the foodchain) offers me two forks and four tissue papers when I am going to be eating alone?

Do I return one fork and three tissue papers (or all four, if I carry my own hanky) to him or I just walk away from the counter and throw away unused forks and tissue papers?

6. Just because something is ‘bio-degradable’, should I use it?

Can I even avoid a paper bag or a cloth bag because a tree was chopped to make that paper and earth was subjected to atrocities to create the piece of cloth? Can I ‘reduce’ my consumption even before thinking of ‘reuse’ or ‘recycle’?

7. What happens when I go to eat Thaali ?

There are so many things I know I might not eat (for eg katori of Dahi or that mithai) .. Do I return it immediately so that it can be offered to someone else or do I let it sit on my plate and leave it untouched only to be thrown away later?

8. Do I really need that cotton Kurti because it looks cool?

The fashion industry is far more evil than what meets our eye. From what it does to the environment while growing cotton and jute to how it treats humans to how it treats textiles and garment waste is mind-bogglingly dirty.

9. Do I really need that extra pair of shoes because I don’t have ‘that’ particular shade of orange?

Do I take into account that once processed, footwear is almost impossible to degenerate on face of the earth (including leather)?

10. Do I need to cook elaborate meals when guests visit me?

Can I cook just enough so that everybody including myself can have a great time and no food is wasted (or we don’t continue to eat same food for next three days well after it has lost all its nutrients)

11. Do I need to buy things just because they are in sale and they are cheaper?

Do I need to buy them because there is ‘return policy’? I was reading a case study on how big retail conglomerates dump returned goods in the ocean and its unbelievable how our oceans are constantly being subjected to waste created because of our greed.

12. Am I respectful when I am visiting a tourist destination?

Do I take rules such as ‘keep silence’, ‘do not litter’ seriously enough?
Do I allow the place to consume me or my overbearing presence consumes the place?

13. Do I switch off the appliances not in use – extra lights, fans, AC units, hot water geysers etc?

We switch off many appliances using the remote but leave the power switch on for long duration such as TV and AC units. Even in the switched off state they consume miniscule amount of electricity which adds up to a considerable amount in the long run. Let’s be mindful of that and switch it off from the power source.

I urge you to start asking these questions to yourself and educate your family members too. It takes a huge amount of energy and other earth’s resources to prepare the finished goods that we are consuming so mindlessly day-in and day-out.

Each aware person can make a difference ! Spread the awareness !

Posted in Life Gyan

Demystifying “Play to Your Strengths”

When an individual sets a sight on any goal, his thoughts eventually reach a point where the question staring him in the face is “How do I reach there?”.  If the goal is really challenging and ambitious, the person tries to check if there is a roadmap to get there. He may seek advise from his manager(s), mentors or even trainers. In such scenarios it is usually beneficial to carry out a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

SWOT Analysis is a good starting point to understand where you are. It is like a the homing dot on GPS which can indicate your current position on the capability landscape. This you can use to chart a path to achieve your coveted goals. Using both your Goals as destination and SWOT analysts as your starting point, you can figure out the gap between where you are where you want to go. Knowing this gap is the first part to figuring our the roadmap to your goals.

People often underestimate the benefit of the SWOT analysis. Most often people glance at the strengths section, feel good about themselves momentarily and then move on to the other sections. After a quick glance through the Weakness, Opportunities and Threat sections, most often people conclude that the “weakness” section seems to be the only place where you can do something because both Opportunities and Threats are usually external and you may not be able to influence them.

So most people try and device strategies to improve on their  Weakness. Also for a very long time we have been told to focus on improving our weak areas to be successful in life. Often in a corporate setup, when we request for or receive feedback the emphasis is more on the “areas of improvement” rather than what you are good at. However each of the 4 sections of SWOT analysis are important. Sometimes you may need help of a coach or mentor to help you understand how to apply these for your specific situation.

Playing to your Strengths
Especially for the experienced folks, I want to draw your attention to your strengths. While you continue to put effort towards improving on your weak areas, you need to pay a greater attention to the strengths you already possess. By correctly recognizing your strengths and honing them you can improve your chances of success many fold.  That is why you often hear the phrase, “play to your strengths”. However this phrase has become so cliched that no one ever takes time to understand what it really means and why is it so important.

“To play to your strengths” means –
# Identify your top strengths (competencies that you are really good at)
# Find out ways to leverage them for maximum growth
# Also you may be able to uncover ways to use your strengths to over come your weakness

How do you find out what your strengths are ?
Though you may know some of your strengths but a majority of the people only have a vague understanding of their overall strengths. Some people know they are very organized, while others may be good with getting things done. Some ace at relationships and others may be creative or problem solvers. Even though you may know one or two of your strengths you are still missing the 360 degree view of all your strengths, some of which may not be very obvious.

So how do we find out all our strengths?
There are many tools available to help you carry out this evaluation in a more scientific manner such as MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), DiSC, Gallup Strength Assessment etc. I have tried multiple such tests and while all have some merits but in my humble opinion the type of insights provided by Gallup Strength Finder Report are really unique and usable. This is a paid assessment. However it is not very expensive. You can consider this as an investment into you self-improvement journey. On the Gallup Site there are 2 versions –
(1) Top 5 Clifton Strengths and
(2) CliftonStrengths 34.
My recommendation would be to take the CliftonStrengths 34 to get a detailed report of your 34 personality attributes in the order of dominance.

What do we do once we have the identified the strengths?
First, spend some time to read and understand the report.
# Underline the lines which resonate with you.
# Identify habits or traits of your personality which correspond to these strengths.
# Write down the opportunities where you can best utilize your strengths
# Ask yourself – How can I use these strengths to achieve my goals?

With some serious brain storming, you will start getting the answers. And once you know what you are good at, your self confidence will get an immediate boost. And the icing on the cake is that unlike working on your weaknesses you don’t have to go through a painful process of change. Your strengths are already inherent within you. All you need to do is to identify them and start using them consciously. And find ways to leverage them for achieving your goals.

Posted in Fun & Humour

Two Liners & Some Pun…

Brevity is the Soul of Wit. Enjoy these fresh two-liners with some genuine observations –

The difference between in-laws and outlaws?
Outlaws are wanted.

Alcohol is a perfect solvent:
It dissolves marriages, families and careers.

A fine is a tax for doing wrong.
A tax is a fine for doing well.

Someone whose career lies in ruins.

There are two kinds of people who don’t say much:
Those who are quiet and those who talk a lot.

They say that alcohol kills slowly.
So what? Who’s in a hurry?

Alcohol and calculus don’t mix.
Never drink and derive

One nice thing about egotists:
They don’t talk about other people.

And now for some Brilliant Puns…

A man who wants a pretty nurse, must be patient.

A man who leaps off a cliff, jumps to a conclusion.

A man running in front of a car, gets tyred; And a man running behind a car, gets exhausted.

War does not determine who is right. It determines who is left.

A man who drives like hell, is bound to get there.

A lion will not cheat on his wife, but a Tiger wood!

Toilets are a great place to think. No wonder they are called “Sochalayas”..

Posted in Life Gyan

How “ME” Time Can Be A Game Changer?

Our lives have become so hectic and fast-paced that by the time we are done dealing with the routine stuff of life like family, job, kids, daily chores, social commitments it is almost time to hit the bed and we realize that one more day has passed by. The next morning it is the same grind all over again. In all this madness we all need some “ME” time daily. It is the time you spend talking with yourself, sifting thru your thoughts, looking back on the events of the day and planning for the future. 

This is the time where you talk with yourself, debate about issues, fine tune your perception and sometimes make new resolutions. You sift and churn your thoughts and un-clutter your mind in the process. The “ME” time is important because it helps us to recalibrate our focus on the most important things and reconnect with ourselves. It is required to maintain sanity.

Swami Vivekanand once said, ” Talk to yourself once in a day otherwise you may miss meeting an Excellent person in this world.” 

Sometimes people fail to recognize the importance of this time spent with the self. Most of the great stuff, your Eureka moments happen during this time. This is the time when your sub-conscious presents the solutions to the problems it has been working in the background. Your personal growth happens during this time.

Robin Sharma states that “The science behind the rewards of solitude are pretty phenomenal… making time to be alone actually shuts down the part of the brain responsible for self-criticism, firing up the part of your brain that contains your natural state of genius. “

Robin Sharma further states that when you spend time with self – whether it is during your morning walk or in the quite room of your home your brain waves slow down from beta to alpha. When this happens-amid solitude-the part of your brain responsible for self-criticism, mental chatter and constant worry shuts down. With your monkey mind on a little vacation, you enter the Flow State. Elite athletes know this as “the zone” and it’s the place where all great performance begins. It is in this state that you get your best ideas. Your creativity makes explosive gains. You begin to see around corners.

And guess what – this is your natural state that God has given to everyone. Available to you daily.
Most people don’t know they have it. And not many create the conditions to experience it.   

You can…by going to solitude. Consistently.