Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Despite several complaints from the folks at home, I can't stop tuning into all the worthwhile music shows and competitions on TV, during the weekend. I could perhaps spend my whole life listening to budding musicians and singers. I might not even know if the world was coming to an end! Anyways, in one such music competition, one of the judges (a new music director who has composed some extremely popular songs) advised some participants to "Attack!". Another judge (a playback singer with a voice that can scale the highest of pitches), meanwhile, sent a very different message to the participants. He suggested that the participants need not 'attack' and that things will naturally come to them if they just went about their life in a focused and passionate manner. There was no real argument between the two judges (on the show)...but both the judges repeated and emphasised their messages without challenging each other. It was a 'silent debate'...! And, well, it occurred to me that I could label the second approach as "Attract!"
So, do you think this is debate material? Are these really opposite/contradictory approaches - Attack vs Attract - to achieving something in life? Or are they quite similar underneath the deceiving covers? I am intrigued enough to want to dig deeper and see if this is just a game of meaningless semantics (hey, that sounds like an oxymoron!) or something more important. Let's explore this a bit. Shall we?
Attack, to me, indicates speed, a "go for it" attitude, aggression, and an impatient (?) "will not wait for things to fall in place" attitude. It probably involves an explicit show of one's approach and no tolerance for delay or failure. It perhaps involves putting the burden of achieving something or winning on oneself and not expecting any kind deed/favour to be returned unless we scream out loud for it?! Attack, to me, has a slight flavour of pessimism in the world's ways. It sounds like a recommendation to go get things from wherever they are and not believe in Karma (reaping the fruits of our action as a natural consequence). It reminds me of words like Go Getter, Forceful, Unforgiving and Dynamic. An attacker will want to go find the target and escort it to his place by hook or, sometimes, crook? And, arguably, Attack sounds like a short-term approach. Interestingly enough, the judge who recommended the participants to 'attack' stood up and pumped his fist in the air when he said so. That's complimentary body language for you!
Now, let's look at 'Attract'. Attract, to me, sounds like extreme faith in oneself, more specifically in one's innate qualities and everything complimentary to it. It sounds like faith in the concept of reciprocation, Karma and everything good. It smacks of a confidence akin to the knowledge that a piece of iron is bound to attract the magnet lying around in its circle of 'influence'. It maybe an intense approach but yet reflects patience rather than impatience. It could be labeled as an inward focused approach whose natural pace the achiever is comfortable with. But this approach may perhaps be misunderstood to be manipulation (rarely?) or indifference (more often?). It reminds me of words like Charismatic, Charming, Accommodating and Inner Power. An attractor will want to use her charm and inner power to get the world's positive forces to work for her, locate the target and get it to submit itself to her willingly! And, arguably, Attract sounds like a long-term approach.
Coming back to the people that triggered me into this thought-process, the judge who said things would come on their own, unlike the other, was seated when he said it and looked away when the other judge stood up and reemphasized that one needs to 'Attack'. :-) Body language aligned with the philosophy again.
So, of the two, which one do you like? Or does it....famously.... 'depend'? Maybe one needs to 'Attack' only when, for example, one has a formidable enemy who is out to spoil things and has to be necessarily stopped by force but work on the inner glow to 'Attract' life at most other times? Would I incur your wrath by suggesting that we should perhaps settle for an easy, obvious and non-controversial approach - get the best of both worlds and make it a combination of the two - Attack and Attract = Attrack?! ;-)
Whew. Er. I don't know, really. I am, admittedly, having second thoughts on whether this is genuine enough to merit a debate or if this is a not-so-critical story of whether the zebra is a white one with black stripes or a black one with white stripes (Courtesy: Madagascar). In one of Calvin's conversations with his dad, the latter confuses him completely and Calvin, as usual, goes to Hobbes and tells him that the world is a complex place....and is difficult to understand. Hobbes, who is half asleep, nonchalantly tells Calvin that he " takes a nap and waits for dinner" whenever the world seems so. :-D Brilliant and tempting, I must say! So, here goes. I am borrowing Hobbes's idea of what one should do when things seem complex and adding my own bit to it as well :P - I am going to check out today's music show, wait for dinner and then snooze off. Good night! :-) Hee hee
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Difference between Managers and Leaders...
Monday, July 21, 2008
Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.
Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.
I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark? (Nimmy's comment: I actually cried when I thought of how Kareena or rather the character she played in the movie had got transformed from someone so alive and intense to someone so pale and drained!)
Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.
To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.
Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement.
But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday?
They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.
Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.
I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.
There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.
You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school. Where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. (Emphasis by me) Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.
One last thing about nurturing the spark - don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.
I’ve told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.
Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you.
But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.
Disappointment’s cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release.
Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts , having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.
Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you.
In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty darn lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.
Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.
There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.
I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, you eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.
Been listening to this song during the weekend and feel like I could go on listening to it forever.....awesome music, lyrics and voices. There's nothing like music. Nothing!
PS: What an amazing first line....! (Title of this post...)
Friday, July 18, 2008
I am looking for books/articles/sources of information that narrate real and genuine stories of large companies that manage to be agile, efficient and effective. I am aware of "Who says Elephants can't dance?"...but are there any other worthwhile books to be read? And, btw, is "Who says Elephants......" a good book in this context? Thanks in advance for sharing your views. I am keen to learn how large organizations manage to grow and decentralize their operations and yet manage to retain a single inspiring vision, a wonderful connectedness, overall efficiency (cutting across processes and departments), and knowledge - undiluted and reliable - that flows through every node in the organization.
It's another thing that I've always believed that an organization that is high and genuine on vision and not a run-of-the-mill, crude profit-making machine should actually try and retain an optimal size rather than focus on growing to an enormous size and satisfying the stock market's whims and fancies. On a related note, I'd, for example, partially expressed my thoughts on MindTree's business strategy many years ago.
There's another very relevant and current example that I need to mention in this context. Though I've been a bit slow in terms of catching up with the latest business stories, a friend recently brought up the topic of Starbucks' current plight in one of our conversations. The very next day, I also, coincidentally, bumped into an article in HBR on Starbucks. The article opines that Starbucks' problems started when they went public and subsequently diluted their brand while trying to expand in conventional ways. Sad, eh?
PS: Kung Fu Panda is likely to shake his cute head in disagreement if he reads this post...."There is no such thing as the curse of growth!" he might say.... ;-)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Hallelujah!! The quote flows through me like a flash, from head to toe. I want to pursue such a vision....! When on earth do I start? When on earth do I realize my true potential? When?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I can't tolerate manipulation. I can't tolerate manipulative people. Even if it is for a good cause that the manipulation is being resorted to. Something tells me it will simply not work in the long run...in fact, it is bound to backfire. It cuts off human bonds. I like straightforward inspiration and openness. I like honesty. I like people who speak their heart even if it is a frightful thing to do for them. The only exceptions being situations wherein you don't want to unnecessarily hurt someone who doesn't deserve to be. But most people today seem to think that being ruthlessly honest and straightforward is a drawback - in the corporate world, if not in one's personal life. People seem to tend to think it is a disability that the world will take undue advantage of.
Both fiction and world history give us stories of heroes who were manipulatively clever with their enemies and of heroes who were honest, upright, simple and straight. The honest hero can sleep peacefully and does not have to worry about getting entangled in the threads of manipulation that are likely to form a web of distrust, confusion and falsehood. We have enough and more confusion in the world already! Why not make things easy and simple for ourselves? If the cause that we are fighting for is genuine and really worth it, being honest ought to yield positive results...tomorrow, if not today. Being honest will result in people trusting you throughout. Being manipulative will sow seeds of doubt in the minds of people you deal with (sooner or later) and make them suspect every move of yours. They begin to look for hidden agendas, blind spots and sudden curves. They become over-cautious thus spoiling the overall experience for everyone involved. Such situations do not bring forth genuine enthusiasm, trust and passion. Nothing great is ever achieved without an environment that makes everyone feel excited, enthusiastic, positive, trusting and passionate.
Say 'No' to manipulation. Go for honesty, transparency and simplicity. Please don't take the honest folks for granted. Instead, respect them for it. The world will be a simpler and happier place to live in! :-) Over and out.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"Knowledge Management will not solve the problem of world hunger!"....like some folks fed up of being chased by overenthusiastic KMers, might say. ;-) But you know what? I would like to dare to suggest that KM may not definitely solve the problem of world hunger....but it may very well have been the very lack of KM mechanisms and environment that lead to world hunger! Doing something does not make the world more exciting than it is....but not doing it can leave the world a more difficult place than it would otherwise be. Makes sense or what? No? Let me tell you a story that made me think on these lines....
A few days ago, I was a passive participant in a group conversation that covered a plethora of topics which were not of great interest to me. Suddenly, a scientist (who was naturally inclined towards research) in the group mentioned something that caught my attention. He said he had spent a lot of time digging into the concept of horoscopes and had come to the conclusion that the (Indian) practice of seeking an alignment in the horoscopes of potential grooms and brides was dicey and unreliable. He went on to explain that the concept of horoscopes per se was convincing and he was quite inclined to believe that the relative movement of planets as well as the positions of planets at the time at which a person was born (Indian style of drawing a person's horoscope) seemed to have a mysterious say in the human's personality and destiny. So, where did he have a problem? He then said he explored the method/approach of comparing two horoscopes to find out whether there was an alignment or not and that was when he discovered that there were three key methods. Now, that's not what is meant to open your eyes. It may be obvious to you. What he said after that is what you might find thought-provoking. He said the results obtained on using the three methods are never the same. He said the outcome of following these approaches turned out to be different...and sometimes the opposite of each other! So, how do you know which one to believe? How do you know which one is 'right'? He went on for a while and strongly recommended listeners to take his finding into consideration and not believe the practice blindly because you simply don't know what's the right method. Sensible, I thought. Unless, as a layman, you somehow have the unbiased wherewithal to dig really hard and acquire the knowledge to find out what's the 'right' method...the so-called truth.
The conversation ended there, but it had me thinking for a while. Why was there more than one version of the "truth"? Why was there so much confusion? What is 'true' knowledge and how do you recognize it? Which of these three approaches would one decide on using and how? What was the origin/cause for such a situation?
I did not get all the answers but some of the things that occurred to me was that....
a) There was perhaps no centralized ownership, body, system, and mechanism to harness and manage this knowledge and that must have chiefly led to the existence of multiple and opposite approaches...causing the confusion that exists today. Knowledge creation? Yes. Management? No.
b) There was perhaps not enough and effective collective thinking and collaboration on merging the latter approaches and findings with the first-constructed method (Of course, let's not forget that ego and politics play a major role in such things. Sometimes it is really about lack of unbiased leadership and lack of a desire to get to the truth and be honest and sincere to one's profession. It is about safeguarding one's place under the sun. Thus, admittedly, the current situation may not quite be because of lack of collective thinking processes and mechanisms but because of the lack of an appropriate culture)
Anyway, I found myself gravitating towards the belief that the confusion today ought to be partly because of lack of KM practices! :-) And I then extended the same thought process into areas like religion. I found myself thinking about why there are so many religions even though most religions advocate the same noble things. Why is there no knowledge management and collective thinking when it comes to religions? Realistically speaking, is it possible at all to merge everything into one entity? But of course, the idea is not about avoiding variety and opposition but allowing it to emerge and then merge. It's like letting all the variety live together....letting all the rivers flow into one ocean. Speaking of which, I believe there has been an attempt to unify all religions into one...eh? I think I read about it somewhere....don't seem to be able to recall now...
And, hey, if you're reading this, thanks for letting me ramble.....yet again! :P
Monday, July 14, 2008
Anonymous - "A magician pulls rabbits out of hats. An experimental psychologist pulls habits out of rats."
Hahahaahaa!! What an astonishing discovery! Must have been a serendipitous one that probably started off with some spoonerism. Tickles me. And, hey, did you notice that biting off a bit of the habit leaves us with the hat (and the rat in case it was the rat that did the biting)?
I know....you might now want to join the gang of 'pullers' and want to pull my life out of me. Relax. Pip-pip till the next post...! ;-)
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Agree. Makes complete sense - and actually inspires me - when it comes to most of the routine and mundane things....as in regular day-to-day life. But I believe there are times when it is a brilliant idea to refuse to acknowledge reality and do one's own 'unbalanced' thing or even the opposite of what is considered sensible. To put it bluntly, at times, it is an awesome idea to not be balanced, understanding and accommodating in one's thinking! Thinking positively, in a skewed way, about something that is generally considered impossible today can make it a reality tomorrow depending on how strongly skewed our thinking is ;-) (Think of airplanes). Only if the thinker passionately believes in it (despite all previous evidence and logical thinking pointing the other way) and cares two hoots for 'reality' do such miracles happen in life. The magic of life manifests itself only when we get a bit 'crazy' and forget 'reality' and how society would expect us to react to it.
Of course, such thinking may not always result in miracles and magic, but we at least have the extreme satisfaction of knowing we had a dream and gave it our all. And we are going to be happier we listened to our crazy little inner voice rather than settle for the boring and ordinary and then wonder till the very end if we could have probably pulled off something visionary or radically different.
Monday, July 07, 2008
This may be a nasty and disgusting thing for people who don't know India or, in other words, for people who are not used to such things. It is a common sight, here, to see men attend to nature's call in public (disgusting...even if it happens to be an isolated corner or away from the pavements and traffic). Sick. Unpardonable and gross. Shoot them down is my unilateral suggestion. (My temper is rising. Need to come back to the paradox thing lest I forget what I am writing this post for). There have been many attempts to build public rest rooms to prevent such a criminal treatment of the environment and not to forget the embarrassment to the other people on the road. But most of these places charge a small sum of money for usage, especially in bus stands, parks, tourist spots etc. (Of course, in some places, there is no charge.) So, where is the paradox now? Would you have thought of this? I recently came across an article which says, in TN, there apparently is a place where they have decided to pay money (the same small amount) to the people who use the rest room rather than dirty public places!!! I think the guys who thought of this idea need to be garlanded and celebrated for life. Brilliant. You want the environment to be clean and healthy, then don't ask them to pay in order to keep it that way.....instead, you pay them for listening to you! :-)
Friday, July 04, 2008
Got this from a friend. Awesome. Love it. Adore it. :)
Challenges are like trees seen through a running train. As you approach them they grow bigger, once you pass them they become smaller! So never be afraid of them.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
It pains me to see children who behave like (most) adults, that is, minus the innocence, naivety, silliness, mirth, playfulness, curiosity, courage, blind confidence, lack of botheration about what others will say or think etc. And, ironically, it also pains me to see adults who have forgotten how to 'be' or don't believe in 'being' a child..... :-(
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Studying how we respond when we are subjected to adversity can surely be a shocking or blissful (or perhaps even boring) revelation of our true selves and how we have 'brought ourselves up'! :) I guess how we respond during our growing years depends on how much we learn to and draw upon our native wisdom and inspiration and how much we are influenced by our family, friends and advisers. How we respond to adversity as we grow much older depends on how much we have learned from our previous approaches and experiences and, further on, how much time we spend thinking about what's the 'right' and 'happy' way to face adversity....
I guess the response to adversity can be categorized or generalized even while considering that the context keeps changing....we have the shameful "i want to run away" escapism, the cool "don't worry, be happy" attitude, the brave "i shall not let this get to me" way, the casual "this is life...it had to happen" style, the methodical "i'll analyse this thing and crack it even if it takes time" approach, the controlling "what the hell is happening here" style, the creative "i'll handle this my style" stuff, the wise "ok. it's over. nothing. learn. move on. dont let it happen again" method, the humble "i need some help" resignation, the challenging "hah. you're nothing. give me more" attitude, the intrigued "why did this have to happen?" attitude, the confused "eh? oops? what?' incompetence, the blank and ignorant "really? i did not know" character, the admirable "laugh. see the humor in it. it's not so serious actually" style.....whew!! OK. I am tired of generalising. Hey, actually, that's another style of facing adversities....the weak "I am tired. No more." attitude.... ;-)
I guess there are many more generalisations that one could list down. But each of us is probably habituated to and known for one or two dominant styles (that may be difficult to shake off!). What's your style?
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
I revisited some of my old posts...with the intention of taking a quiet walk down memory lane, finding something amusing or inspiring and generally exploring my past introspections....
Out of the dozen odd posts I had the time to revisit, there was this old post written three years ago that brought some light into my eyes and made me wish I'd be inspired to the same extent once again (but I don't remember the context in which I wrote the post...must have probably read something inspiring or may have been fortunate enough to experience a sudden burst of energy and wisdom on that day)
Mark Twain - "The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them."
Not the first time I have quoted the one and only Mark Twain.......This statement of his is, I believe, the bare truth! Wondering if this thought of his was considered radical at that time? ;-) Now you know why some geniuses who weren't understood by society were stated to be 'ahead' of their times... :-)