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 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

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.

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

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

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 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.

Posted in Life Gyan

The 99 Club

Once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was not happy at all. One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked. This fascinated the King; Why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy?

The King asked the servant, ‘Why are you so happy?’
The man replied, ‘Your Majesty, I am nothing but a servant. My family and I don’t need too much – just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies and your blessings.’

The king sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the story, the advisor said, ‘Your Majesty, the servant has not yet joined “The 99 Club”.’
‘The 99 Club? And what is that?’ the King inquired.
The advisor replied, ‘To truly know what The 99 Club is, just place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant’s doorstep.’

When the servant saw the bag, he let out a great shout of joy…so many gold coins. He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were only 99 coins. He wondered, ‘What could’ve happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins!’

He looked everywhere, but that final coin was elusive. Finally he decided that he was going to work harder than ever to earn that 100th gold coin.
From that day, the servant was a changed man. He was overworked, grumpy, and blamed his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. And he had stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. The advisor said, ‘Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club.’
He continued, ‘The 99 Club is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never content, because they’re always wanting that extra 1, saying to themselves: “Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life.”

We can be happy with very little in our lives, but the minute we’re given something bigger and better, we want more…and even more! We lose our sleep, our happiness, as the price for our growing needs and desires.
That’s “The 99 Club“…Zero Membership fee to enter, but you pay for it with your entire life !!!

Posted in Leadership

If . . .

“If—” is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written in 1895. He wrote a number of children stories. The all time favourite “Jungle Book” was also written by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you      
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,    
But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,    
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,    
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster    
And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken    
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,    
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings    
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings    
And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew    
To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you    
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,      
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,    
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute    
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,      
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!