Sunday Dec 20, 2009

The Energy Bus

Posted at my blog - http://www.techmanageronline.com/2009/12/energy-bus.html

Saturday Jan 17, 2009

Emotional Intelligence (EI / EQ)


“Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships," says Daniel Goleman in his book "Working with Emotional Intelligence" (1999). It describes abilities distinct from, but complementary to, academic intelligence - the purely cognitive capacities measured by IQ.

Emotional intelligence, or EI is the ability to understand your own emotions and those of people around you. The concept of emotional intelligence means you have a self-awareness that enables you to recognise feelings and helps you manage your emotions. On a personal level, it involves motivation and being able to focus on a goal rather than demanding instant gratification. A person with a high emotional intelligence is also capable of understanding the feelings of others. Culturally, they are better at handling relationships of every kind.

Just because someone is deemed 'intellectually' intelligent, it does not necessarily follow they are emotionally intelligent. Having a good memory, or good problem solving abilities, does not mean the person is dealing with emotions or motivating themselves.

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

In the recent years, the emergence of the emotional intelligence (EI) phenomenon has jolted traditional views of what it takes to be an effective leader. Several authors have written books describing what it is and how it can impact organizational effectiveness and its relevance to leadership development. Daniel Goleman, co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, has authored and co-authored Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, and Primal Leadership. The empirical data, actual case studies, and relevant examples cited make a strong case for the critical importance and potential for nurturing the emotional competencies we all possess.

Some of the components of emotional intelligence include, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Self management. Remaining calm under stress or during a crisis is an obvious aspect of self management. Losing control during the tough times is at best confusing to employees and, at worst, can make them fearful and anxious. There are several less obvious aspects of self management, however. Good self-managers recognize that everyone makes mistakes and admit their own errors in judgment or deed. They’re also resilient and adaptable — key characteristics in today’s volatile business climate, where change and ambiguity are often the norm.
Social awareness. EI competency requires an awareness of the needs of others and an understanding of the politics and the “unwritten rules” within the organization. The ability to listen to employees and the courage and ability to manage conflict are also critical components of social awareness. Studies indicate that conflict management is one of the most challenging areas for business leaders.
Relationship management. This is not about the mere ability to get along with people. Relationship management draws together all the aspects of emotional intelligence and harnesses those capabilities to motivate and empower the organization. It’s about creating a team that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Managers with good EI competency understand that everything they say and do affects their employees. They value the different perspectives their employees bring to each situation. They manage conflict constructively so that employees can reach consensus and move forward. Managers with good EI competency inspire employees to pull together and function as a team.

Emotions, like germs, are easily transmissible. The trick is passing and receiving the right ones.”
—Stacey Coino

Emotions and moods impact our thinking and even the decisions we make and ultimately generate an attitude that we display through behavior and habits. Because emotions and moods are so contagious, the prevailing attitude of an organization is usually a reflection of its leadership.

Warren Bennis found that emotional intelligence was more important for success than any other asset, including intelligence (IQ) or technical expertise. Daniel Goleman and Cary Cherness suggested that as much as 90 percent of a leader’s success is due to emotional intelligence, and they believed that the higher the position, the more important emotional intelligence becomes. Research shows that emotional intelligence may actually be significantly more important than cognitive ability and technical expertise combined. In fact, some studies indicate that EQ is more than twice as important as standard IQ abilities. Further, evidence increasingly shows that the higher one goes in an organization, the more important EQ can be. For those in leadership positions, emotional intelligence skills account for close to 90 percent of what distinguishes outstanding leaders from those judged as average. Many experts have come to believe that emotional intelligence (EI) is the most accurate predictor of individual success. The higher an individual climbs on the corporate ladder, the more emotionally intelligent he becomes. In fact, some studies report an 85-percent correlation between EI competency and success.

In Working with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman reveals the skills that distinguish star performers in every field, from entry-level jobs to top executive positions. He shows that the single most important factor is not IQ, advanced degrees, or technical expertise, but the quality Goleman calls emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-control; commitment and integrity; the ability to communicate and influence, to initiate and accept change – these competencies are at a premium in today's job market. The higher up the leadership ladder you go, the more vital these skills become, often influencing who is hired or fired, passed over or promoted. As Goleman shows, we all possess the potential to improve our emotional intelligence at any stage in our career. As individuals' accountabilities become more complex, and leaner budgets demand more output from less people, interdependency and teamwork are critical requirements for organizational effectiveness. Key contributors not only possess information and ideas, but more importantly, they have the ability to effectively utilize social networks within the organization. People want to discuss, learn, and collaborate with them because of their ability to build bonds, develop others, self-manage, listen, share information, and understand.

Whether one is formally assigned a leadership role, or surfaces as a leader in a given situation requiring leadership, key contributors are intuitive about the needs of others, recognize the nuances of a situation, and seamlessly respond to create positive outcomes. These are the differentiating factors, the emotional intelligence smarts, that change the landscape of our thinking about developing leaders. Goleman in his book, shares an analogy of the emotionally intelligent leader as the golf pro who assesses a shot, considers the implications and options, looks in his/her bag of many clubs, selects, and elegantly executes. As one plays more, tries out different strategies, becomes more confident and comfortable, the shots are more automatic and more consistently hit the target. In the same fashion, effective leaders are those who develop a range of El competencies, can assess situations intuitively, make sound choices about what is most needed by individuals and the group in a multitude of situations, and then deliver.

Job competency skills may be broadly categorized in two – one refers to the base set of skill sets required to get the job done and the second set of skills are the competencies that differentiate the star performers from the average performers.  For example, employees in the IT industry generally need a high level of technical expertise to do the job and can be counted as a base skill set. The differentiating skill sets include attributes such as taking initiative, continuous self-improvement, team working skills which are all emotional competencies. To put it another way, if you're a scientist, you probably needed an IQ of 120 or so simply to get a doctorate and a job. But then it is more important to be able to persist in the face of difficulty and to get along well with colleagues and subordinates than it is to have an extra 10 or 15 points of IQ. The same is true in many other occupations.

EI is the ability to sense and leverage the power of human emotions. It’s a portfolio of skills, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. People with high EI competency understand themselves — their values, how they make decisions, and what motivates them. They know how to keep their emotions in check and remain calm and clear-headed when working with others. They have a tremendous capacity to understand and appreciate other perspectives, as well as the skills to build relationships. They understand how they affect others and can use that influence positively. And unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is something that can be developed through focused coaching. Even the best managers and leaders have areas of weakness, or at least non-strengths, that with careful attention and feedback can get better.


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Friday Aug 15, 2008

India celebrates Independence Day

India celebrates its Independence Day, today. Sixty one years ago, on this day, the first Prime Minister of Independent India said, "At the stroke of the mid-night hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance..... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."


India is 61 years young. Today's India is resilient, vibrant and is a nation of over a billion dreams and aspirations, raring to go. The genie of aspirations and unbridled enthusiasm has been set free from the bounds of the bottle to which it was confined.

Keith Bellows, the Editor-in-chief, National Geographic Society had this to say, "There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."

India is the 7th largest country in the world in terms of area and the 2nd largest in terms of population. To put that in perspective, India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains approximately 17 per cent of the world population. With over a billion citizens, India is the World's largest Democracy. India is also a free-market democracy with a legal system that, though tends to be slow, is easy for Westerners to understand and works.

Sixty one years of freedom has not meant that life's a bed of roses for its citizens. I came across this interesting observation, which said that living in India was like running an obstacle race. Every day, one is overcoming obstacles all the time, over-crowded cities, corrupt officials, unhelpful yet functional governance, infrastructure short-comings and many such elements that litter the path to progress. It is an ode to the never-say-die spirit, the can-do attitude and resilience of its people that despite all the hurdles thrown its way, has managed to overcome and how. Many of the major global organizations today have CEOs, presidents & leaders who are of Indian origin. In the recent Forbes Billionaires List, four of the top ten richest Billionaires in the world are Indians, a feat unthinkable a little while ago, but today a fact that stands testimony to a growing breed of entrepreneurs breaking free of the shackles of the past and setting their sights higher & wider.

For years, government controls and restrictions, the infamous "license Raj", shielded Indian businesses from foreign competition, isolating them and stifling innovation. But in the early 1990s, the government began to slowly open up the economy. Anticipating an eventual onslaught from outsiders, the country's more far-sighted industrialists decided to modernize their operations. Indian companies flush with cash from a booming domestic economy are on the look out for overseas acquisitions. The number of acquisitions by Indian companies and those with founders of Indian origin have grown by leaps and bounds. Some of the more recent acquisitions that hit the news include - Mittal Steel, the world's largest steel maker and Indian owned, acquiring Arcelor, Europe's top steel producer; Indian Tata Tea (which owns the Tetley Tea brand) acquiring Energy Brands (U.S., maker of Glaceau bottled water and vitamin drinks); India's Tata Steel's $8.1 billion bid for Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturer Corus; Tata Motors of India, buying the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford for $2.3 billion; Indian Dr. Reddy's acquiring German rival Betapharm and many more hundreds of such acquisitions across different verticals and segments each year.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new beginning, here's saluting this incredible nation - a nation that speaks over 22 official different languages and several hundreds of different dialects, apart from English which is needless to say the language that connects India to the world; a nation that is an amalgamation of over 28 states; a nation where people follow different religions and where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and others co-exist in harmony; a nation that is the symbol of tolerance and peace; a nation on the move.

Listen to the Indian National Anthem
Listen to the Indian National Song

Monday Apr 07, 2008

Decision making !

While recently reading up an interview with executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, i was attracted to these words which on the face of it was pretty obvious all along ... "Every decision is made by the person who has the power to make it. Not the smartest person, not the prettiest or the best, but the one who has the power."

It does'nt take long to realize the truth in the above statement. Ultimately the one making the final decision is the one with the power to make it. Is there anything at all that you can do to have an outcome that satisfies you; are you totally powerless; frankly, you are not entirely powerless even when you do not have the power to make decisions. You can do one significant thing and that is - Influence.

How do you influence ? Well, how does anyone influence you ... think of advertisements and marketing pitches exhorting you to try and buy a range of products and services ... which brings us to a fact that all of us need to realize and accept viz. we are all sales persons.


Each and everyone of us, wherever we are and whoever we are, is a sales person, period. Accept it or not, you and I are sales persons. If you are an employee at an organization, your time is one of your wares ... think about it.

Getting back to the subject of influencing the decision maker, a way to influence is to sell your ideas. Whilst this may sound simplistic, there are variables that need to be borne in mind while trying to sell viz. appropriateness, big picture, time, etc. Its also obvious that not all your sales pitches would translate into outcomes desired by you. Its very likely that your pitches may be met with some sort of objection(s).


Another obvious fact is, you may not necessarily be the only one trying to sell and influence. What if decisions do not go your way ? Accept that not all sales calls translate to actual sales. You could at times have the door slammed on your face or a competitor could clinch the sale. Analyze, learn from your experience and move ahead. Once a decision is made, accept it and do whatever it takes to make it work. Experience is a great teacher and over time your ability to sell should improve.  

Signing off this post with a quote by Cherie Carter-Scott ...
"Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible."

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

Unwind

I recently chanced upon a piece of writing that had tips to Un-wind and De-stress. Would we have need to think of ways to un-wind if we did not get ourselves all wound up in the first place or have the regular need to de-stress, if we did not get so stressed out ? Generally, we do not require much external assistance and are very capable of getting wound up or stressed out, all by ourselves.

Its probably in the nature of our existence, the paths we traverse, the choices we make (or not make) ... is there a way out ? Are we destined to play the role of the proverbial mice that follow the pied piper marching to his tune at his pace, along with the mechanical multitude or do we set our own pace and trace our own paths, based on our realization of our ability to choose ?

I'm sure we all agree that for the most part, our lives are anything but Simple.

Most of us lead, complicated lives. We even tend to subscribe to the view that we are complex beings, with complex thought processes, designed to solve complex problems employing complicated methods; we tend to remain in the relentless pursuit of "more", seeking more of the good, the bad and the ugly. Gimme more, seems to be the common refrain. Have we paused to consider that there could be other options. More need not always be better; Less could be more and at times, better. Any resemblance to an oxymoron here, is intended. Savor this thought in the inner recesses of your mind and allow it to linger around those vast spaces ...


Whilst on the subject of simplicity, here are some thoughts from the world around, which could be useful.




  • Recognize that the primary purpose of work is not money. Its about finding meaning, enabling you to learn, contribute, grow and your well-being.

  • Celebrate the ordinary. You will have many more occasions to rejoice.

  • Be fully present in every situation and give your all to any & every thing you choose to do. Resist the urge to mimic the computer a.k.a. the tendency to use your perceived ability to effectively multi-task by way of trying to do many things all at the same time and not being really focussed on any thing.

  • Develop the habit of patience. Some times it does take a while. Instant gratification is not always possible, feasible nor a good option to hanker after.

  • Know thyself, your limits, what you can & cannot do well. Knowledge can be liberating.

  • While there's a time to work and a time to play, it's not always the case that these two need to be distinct entities. Explore ways to merge both; make work fun, engaging and something to look forward to.

  • Do not take yourself too seriously.

  • Realize that some bit of solitude is actually nourishing. Get alone and by yourself. Savor your own company, you might even get to love knowing and being with your self.

  • Whoever said, Silence is golden, is ... right. The power of silence to enrich your life, needs experiencing. Get away from the noises around you and get in touch with yourself.

  • Take time to be like a child. Indulge, let go & stop worrying about what others will think. Life will seem a lot better, simpler and nicer through the eyes of a child.

  • Do manual work. Use your hands more often to do physical activity. You are never too big to do the seemingly little things.

  • Value non-material possessions too. They are usually cheaper and last way longer than most material possessions.

  • Live a purposeful life. Meaningless existence & mind-numbing activity tend to sap our life forces and energies leaving us in a constant state of boredom and tiredness with little or no incentive to do anything creative or useful.

  • Doing nothing, at times, is a valuable thing. Give yourself little slots of time to do nothing.

  • Avoid pretending to be something you are not. It takes away a lot of burden off your shoulders. Accept your shortcomings and work on improving. A related quote on this would be ... "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

  • And do ask if you really need more ?



Sunday Nov 25, 2007

When split-second responses and quick reflexes are bad

A lot has been written about on this topic and i'm trying to hopefully pique your interest just enough for you to pause and consider this if you have not given it much thought lately !

We all have a lot of choice and its just that we either are not aware of the choice we have or we don't choose to exercise the choice we have, which in itself represents a choice - the choice to not choose, oftentimes made at an unconscious level. As Deepak Chopra says, "You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices."

To clarify the subject of this post - its about highlighting the "choice" each of us has in each of life's circumstances; the fundamental fact remains that - between stimulus and response, there's a gap. How big is the gap ? This would depend on your levels of awareness and consciousness. You can actually change the size of the gap, not in terms of units of time we know of but in a non-linear way we can enhance our abilities to recognize our choices and make the most apt response to any given stimulus. Why is this gap important ? The gap between stimulus and response provides us an opportunity to choose how we react to stimulus rather than merely go with the default behavioral response which in hindsight generally tends to not be the most appropriate choice.

An example might illustrate this better. Lets assume you are driving in rush-hour traffic and someone on the road does something that has the potential to provoke your anger. This is the stimulus. Your natural response could probably include giving him a piece of your mind garnished with some choice unprintable vocabulary or any of the other equally "effective" outlets to let the steam out. And all of this could happen extremely quick. Reaction times could probably be in the fractions of a second. Talk of quick reflexes and you see it in action in such situations ! Is there a gap here ? Yes, there's a gap in every situation. The first step is to be aware that the gap exists. Realizing that stimulus and response are not a continuous progression and there in fact exists a break between the two, in itself is a great beginning. Next, choose to pause for a moment to examine your choices in responses to the stimulus. Rather than quickly brand the cause of the stimulus as an evolutionary mistake, what if you stop to consider if this stimulus is really important enough to expend your "valuable" time and energy to; does it warrant your attention and mind space (yes, it can occupy a lot of your mental band width ... only if you let it) ? what if you tried to examine if the stimulus was indeed a response to some-other situation which you were not immediately aware of ... say a medical emergency that required a little flexing of road rules ?

Such stimuli abound in various situations where without realization of the existence of a gap, our responses tend to usually be the naturally triggered and often-times "involuntary" types which as stated earlier may not be the best. So, is it really an easy task to be aware of the gap and "choose" a response to the variety of stimuli that we each encounter every day ? Frankly, No. While its easier said than done, whats important is that this is a "skill" that can be developed, over time with a good amount of regular practice. Being aware of the existence of a gap and your reactions is a good step to take.

While on the subject of choices, here's a good Innerspace quote "If your days seem filled with unwanted negative feelings, there is only one cure. When they come, choose them. Dont ask why, dont wonder how, dont fight them and never put yourself down for having them. But most of all never blame someone else for how you feel. If you do, it means you are still fast asleep and your choice is to be a victim. When the feelings come, even big disturbing emotional feelings say, "I choose this feeling" and know it comes because of something you have thought or done in the past, perhaps a certain belief that you have learned or an attachment that is threatened. Choice does not mean you want the feelings, but it does mean you are taking responsibility for them. And that is the beginning of self mastery. It is the first step to the healing and resolving of your emotions. But only the first step. Try this today and then ask yourself what the next step might be. If you are really interested to know, you will come to know!"

For more in-depth reading on the topic of the gap between stimulus and response, i'd suggest Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and specifically, the "Be Proactive" habit. Signing off this post with a quote by Mike Dooley, "Life's not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it's about doing, being and becoming. It's about the choices you've just made, and the ones you're about to make, it's about the things you choose to say - today. It's about what you're gonna do after you finish reading this."


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Friday Nov 09, 2007

Live with the end in mind

The thought of literally keeping  the end in mind while living, and how this regular reminder of the end enables living life to the fullest is the gist of this post. We generally tend to live as though our days were endless, or even if we do have a faint realization that someday our lives must end, it tends to seem to be sometime in the distant future. This thinking holds the potential for us to not value and fully appreciate the importance of each day, of our lives.


Of course, there are days that are memorable and days when we really feel alive. But, how many days of your life would match this description ? Would you be able to say that a large number, if not all of the days of your life that you presently live, are days you treasure, cherish and value ?


I'm reminded of an interesting observation that i came across sometime ago on this subject. Its about a method to remind you to live with the end in mind. It involves a little math ! Answer this question - how much longer do you expect to live ? I mean, how many more years do you think you might live ? Humor me and make a guesstimate. So, what do you expect ? Twenty five years ? Thirty years ? Forty ?


When you are done estimating, translate those years into days. Here's an example just to illustrate what has been talked about thus far - If you expect to live another twenty five years, that would translate into 9125 days more i.e. 25 x 365 days. Take a few moments to reflect on this number. This is your estimate of how many more days you have at your disposal.


Now all that is left is to be regularly reminded of this finite number of days we have left. Again, the observation continues with a fairly simplistic yet effective way to do this ... place as many marbles as the number of days you have estimated in a transparent jar at a place where you get to see them each day. So, in the previous example, we would need to place 9125 marbles in a jar. Now, each day morning pick up a marble from the jar and throw it away. This exercise is aimed at driving home reality & regularly reminding you about the limited number of days at your disposal. Think about it ... what benefits would you derive if you were regularly reminded of the finite-ness of your existence, especially at the start of each day; how would you approach each brand new day especially when you know that there's only so many more days left ? 


In the light of this knowledge, would you still prefer to squander away the days that you have or would you rather choose to live each "remaining" day to the fullest. 


If you're thinking about the scenario where you outlive your estimate and what do you do if and when you ran out of marbles to throw away ... when you realize that you are still alive ! and there's no more marbles left in the jar(s) to throw away, not to worry - that brings us to the final part of the story - by now you would have learnt to treasure each day while counting-down and having reached your estimate, you now begin to treasure each additional day with the grateful thought that every new day is a bonus, a present to be treasured even greatly, a gift thats more than what you expected to receive.


Signing off this post with a thought that you might have heard before, yet seems apt to mention now - Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. What we have is the gift of today ... its called the present. Treasure each moment, every day.


And if you think that your day today is simply gonna be another normal day and isn't special, then this closing quote by Mary Jean, is for you ...


"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return"


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Saturday Nov 03, 2007

Birds, Bird-brains and worms ...

"The early bird catches the worm" - so they say ... and what have we here - many gullible denizens of our planet, falling hook, line and sinker for it and taking it literally.


No, i'm not against punctual behavior. I have the highest regard for the folks who tend to be punctual and value both their and others' time.


I'm for editing the above saying and adding in an extra word to clarify as "The early bird catches the early worm". Now we can see that the early bird has caught the "early worm".


Being early had different outcomes for the bird and the worm. No doubt the early bird might have rejoiced, but am not sure the early worm liked the result of its early foray. In life, it helps to take a moment to analyze your circumstances and think if at a given point of time, you are the bird or the worm ... while generally its great to be in the limelight and the center of attention, there are occasions when a little obscurity would help.


Reminds me of the fairly well known story about the mighty oak and the reeds ... for those who aren't in the know, here's a quick summary ... its a tale of a mighty oak tree that was proud of its ability to stand tall and strong against the winds that blew at it and the humble reeds that bent with the wind. A particularly strong gale brought the oak to its knees ... literally. The mighty oak had to give in. All its strength could not help withstand the mighty forces of nature, whereas the reeds suffered little or no damage. At this juncture the fallen oak asks the reeds how a humble and weak plant like the reed could survive the strongest of gales and live to see another day while the mighty oak was humbled ... the key lies in the behaviors exhibited by the reeds and the oak ... the oak resisted when resistance was not the brightest thing to be doing whereas the reeds were flexible, they bent and went with the flow .... what i'm driving at is this - sometimes its good to go with the flow, sometimes its good to stand out. There's a time to resist, a time to bend ... no one action or behavior suits all circumstances.


The ability to be flexible, the ability to discern and act appropriately as the situation demands, is key to being counted amongst the fittest who survive and possibly thrive.


I'll sign-off this post with an interesting innerspace quote ... "It's good to have an opinion isn't it? If you don't have an opinion about important issues you are seen as weak - right? This is how people justify holding an opinion about anything and everything. But wait a second - in the moment of expressing your opinion, if it is the defence of a position, or it's designed to be against another opinion, it is nothing more than an attachment. And this means fear is present. It means insecurity. This may explain why those who have the same opinions form pressure groups and factions, and why there is usually a great deal of emotion and conflict present. It may explain why there is much wailing and weeping, loud words and the crossing of swords whenever, opposing opinions meet. Much better to have a point of view, and to be extremely interested in others points of view. This says, "I am flexible", it says, "I have the humility to learn", and it says, "I seek to meet you on the ground we share, as opposed to fight you from a proclaimed territory." 



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Sunday Oct 28, 2007

an "Idle" mind is ... sometimes, a good thing


The oft repeated cliché says that an idle mind is the devil's workshop and to avoid this most folks tend to engage themselves in the business of busy-ness a.k.a. being busy or engaged in a myriad pursuits that consume all or most of the time at their disposal. We live in times that tend to look up to folks that appear the most busy and have hectic schedules and calendars choc-a-block with appointments while frowning upon those who seem to lead ... relatively quieter lives.

Why would an entire ... or at-least a major part of our societies today, be engaged in the pursuit of busyness ? Could it be - the fear of obsolescence what with the constant changes everywhere, the need to keep-in-step with the times, "avoidance syndrome" (the inability to face or confront ... personal problems, fears / inadequacies ...), the need to constantly prove oneself / one's value, keeping up with the Joneses (this could be when almost everyone else at your level has a tightly packed schedule and is running around seemingly busy and you have relatively fewer appointments and a less stressed lifestyle ... you tend to give into popular thinking that there's probably something wrong with you or “am i missing something” by not being as busy as everyone else ?!) ... there could be various such and other reasons ... of course, not everyone's busy due to these reasons, there are folks who surely are busy due to circumstances not fully in their control ! But for the vast majority that's running around ... it probably might make sense to .. at times ...give in to having an “idle” mind every once in a while ... I would call it - a mind that's uncluttered, relaxed and in touch with your inner voice ... a mind that takes time to step off the fast-paced (rat) race-track to value moments of quiet solitude, a mind that spends time in some almost forgotten pursuits of reflection, meditation and quiet introspection. If for nothing else, an “idle” mind can help refocus, gain more clarity, rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit whilst touching base with that small still voice within which is oftentimes ignored and not heard amidst the louder noises on the race track ... the deeper voice within yourself also termed the inner voice ... the experience of trying to see who you are, what your goals are, what you want out of life ... the meanings you seek ... rather than merely resonating with the vibrations of busyness for the sake of not being idle ... whence you end up leading a life that's not lived on purpose but more akin to a log of wood adrift on the currents of the ocean knowing not which direction the winds and currents will connive to lead it ...

Continuing from an earlier post about the importance of passion, a mind that engages in silent contemplation and meaningful introspection finds itself tuned-in to its own inner purpose and finds a deeper understanding of the meaning of one's life and passion – just the right bunch of ingredients for a more fulfilling, meaning-filled and purposeful living ...

Signing off this post with an Innerspace quote ... “Only when we find the quietness in our own minds can we begin to hear our inner teacher, so that we may receive some in-tuition. Only when we are ready to recognise and value the wisdom that we carry at the core of our being will we turn our attention inwards and 'listen in'. But it's been a long time since we truly listened, so a little practice and patience will be needed. Sit down, be quiet and listen in at some point today and you might be surprised at what you hear. Then do it again tomorrow. All you need to do is remember that you are the listener and not the noise.”


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Saturday Oct 20, 2007

Potential is useless

at-least thats a view I tend to subscribe to ! Ok, i need to add a little bit more to that statement, Potential is useless ... if its not harnessed and remains hidden. Not convinced ? Take a look at a large piece of rock which is trampled upon by countless feet ... would the same people mindlessly trample upon a piece of exquisite sculpture or art ? If no, then why is the rock being trampled upon ? Does'nt the rock have the potential to be that piece of art ? What use is this potential if its not harnessed and is hidden ? Look at the folks around you (lets keep it simple and look at the workplace!) and see how many folks have potential ... i'd say everyone has potential ... the potential to make a difference, to be the best they can and are meant to be, but is everyone fully engaged in bringing out their hidden potential ... do some folks seem alive and working with purpose whereas some others seem to be there to “make a living” and are merely engaged in the motions – simply doing what is assigned and waiting on someone to assign something ... this brings us to an important attribute which is aptly stated in this quote ... “Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark” ... the possibilities are endless but until you draw out the possibilities they remain useless, period.

Passion at work makes you come alive. You discover a greater sense of fulfilment and contribution when you are passionate about what you are doing.

While its easy to say that we need to be more passionate about what we do ... how easy is it to put into practice ? Do we really chose what we want to do based on our realizations of our passion and potential or do we chose career paths based on attributes such as the perceived perks, monetary rewards, etc. which may or not be aligned with what we may truly be passionate about. Without passion, its hard to get into a state of flow that translates into levels of productivity that leave no room for fatigue or boredom even when working long hours .... its easy to feel tired and pressured when the passion's low. When you are working with passion, irrespective of how long and hard you work, the drive to work is coming from within and not due to the pressures from outside. External pressures may be present, yet none of it tends to wear you down or cause fatigue.

I'll sign off this short post with a quote by Howard Thurman - “Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

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Saturday Oct 06, 2007

Do re-invent the wheel ... when appropriate !

The oft repeated cliche exhorts us to not re-invent the wheel. While there exist valid reasons to not re-invent the wheel, there are situations when it might be a good idea to do just the opposite. If everyone literally abided by the diktat to not re-invent the wheel, would we today have the myriad types of wheels we encounter and use in our everyday lives ... think of how the wheels we know of today have evolved, aided by scores of re-inventions of the wheel so to speak; from stone, wood, iron, steel to John Dunlop's pneumatic tyre and further enhanced versions such as radials, tubeless, etc. 


Re-inventions can also be helpful in aiding learners to better learn their subjects in-depth, especially when there is the time & inclination to do their own explorations. Of course, as is evident ... no rule is an exception to the rule which states that There's an Exception to every Rule. 


There's little thats truly sacrosanct and unchangeable or would not benefit from a touch of re-invention. In most circumstances, a process of continuous improvement like Kaizen & a relentless pursuit of perfection, could be more beneficial than acceptance of the status-quo. At this juncture, i am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, this one by Jack Kerouac ... 


"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. "


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Sunday Sep 30, 2007

To change things ...

... change the way you look at them.



"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."


Sometimes, "paradigm shifts" in the way we think and approach things, circumstances and people, is the need of the hour especially when we desperately seek after change. Oftentimes, we labor hard and long trying to change the outside world & other people, trying to get "them" to conform to our views and ways. In many instances the results of our endeavors are not spectacular either. What else do we need to do to get the "other party" to change ... why does it seem so hard to "change others" ? How about trying to change someone over whom we just might have some extra bit of control ?

"If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth", said Anthony De Mello whose words seem apt in this context. Albert Einstein brings more clarity by saying, "The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." Rightly so, each of us perceives and sees the world through our own lens and filters mapped to our "model" of the world we've created and refine as a product of our life experiences and information acquired over a lifetime.

Re-affirming the need for personal change, Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world". It is sometimes more effective to "Lead by example" ... and a point that is worth remembering - Your life is the canvas you have at your disposal.


Are you creating your own masterpiece or are you busy trying to change another's picture ? At the end of the day, how many of us can echo the words of Suzuki who said, "I am an artist at living — my work of art is my life".


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Tuesday Sep 25, 2007

The Hare and the Tortoise ... a fable

Here's a version of the popular story of the Hare and the Tortoise! , which i wish to share here. This "expanded version" of the fable has some interesting lessons ...


Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster .


They decided to settle the argument with a race. They agreed on a route and started off the race. The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then seeing that he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he'd sit under a tree for some time and relax before continuing the race. He sat under the tree and soon fell asleep. The tortoise plodding on overtook him and soon finished the race, emerging as the undisputed champ. The hare woke up and realized that he'd lost the race.


The moral - "Slow and steady wins the race. This is the version of the story that we've all grown up with."


THE STORY DOESN'T END HERE


there are few more interesting things.....it continues as follows......


The hare was disappointed at losing the race and he did some soul-searching. He realized that he'd lost the race only because he had been overconfident, careless and lax. If he had not taken things for granted, there's no way the tortoise could have beaten him. So he challenged the tortoise to another race. The tortoise agreed. This time, the hare went all out and ran without stopping from start to finish. He won by several miles.


The moral - "Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. It's good to be slow and steady; but it's better to be fast and reliable."


THE STORY DOESN'T END HERE


The tortoise did some thinking this time, and realized that there's no way it can beat the hare in a race the way it was currently formatted. It thought for a while, and then challenged the hare to another race, but on a slightly different route. The hare agreed. They started off. In keeping with his self-made commitment to be consistently fast, the hare took off and ran at top speed until he came to a broad river. The finishing line was a couple of kilometres on the other side of the river. The hare sat there wondering what to do. In the meantime the tortoise trundled along, got into the river, swam to the opposite bank, continued walking and finished the race.


The moral - "First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency."


THE STORY STILL HASN'T ENDED


The hare and the tortoise, by this time, had become pretty good friends and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last race could have been run much better So they decided to do the last race again, but to run as a team this time. They started off, and this time the hare carried the tortoise till the riverbank. There, the tortoise took over and swam across with the hare on his back. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they reached the finishing line together. They both felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they'd felt earlier.


The moral - “It's good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you're able to work in a team and harness each other's core competencies, you'll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you'll do poorly and someone else does well.


Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership.


Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could."


In life, when faced with failure, sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort. Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different. And sometimes it is appropriate to do both. The hare and the tortoise also learnt another vital lesson. When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better.


To sum up, the story of the hare and tortoise has much to say: Chief among them are that fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady; work to your competencies; pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers; never give up when faced with failure; & finally, compete against the situation - not against a rival.


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