Friday, September 26, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
A few days back, I was reflecting on Mumbai spirit, how they celebrate life even in the midst of all odds and as I have already shared… to my understanding, the key to the magic is that great surge of positive feelings inside, which we ordinarily refer to as enthusiasm – that infatiguable will to do and explore and enjoy ….. that moving spirit behind everything great and simple !!
That just reminds me of something said by one of the greatest achievers of this world, Henry Ford.
“You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. It is the yeast that makes your hope rise to the sky. It is the sparkle in your eye, the wing in your gait, the grip in your hand, the irresistible surge of your will, and the energy to execute ideas .
Enthusiasm is the bottom of all progress. With it, there is accomplishment; without it, there are only alibis.”
Each of his inventions were preceded by numerous failed attempts by him to create/invent what he wished to invent. Perfectly natural ! Someone sarcastically observed, “Mr Edison, you have failed 99 times to succeed once”. Thomas Edison responded, “Yes, I have first learnt 99 ways in which it does not work to find out the way it works .”
[ Sorry, I have put the above words within quote-unquote just to write in 1st person in a conversational mode for the humour and sarcasm in it. I don’t know the original dialogues. I had read about this somewhere and this has got hammered into my mind and heart as the essence of a winning attitude - with it, you learn from failures and keep trying with added wisdom and enthusiasm till you succeed.]
Personally, these have been a source of great inspiration for me. If ever, by any chance, I start getting upset about something that’s not working my way, I simply remind myself about what these two great souls had said. Believe me … it works – I spring back within no time. ( In fact, it has to work .. ‘cause, any thought that goes deep inside your subconscious is sure to get manifested some way or other. After all, it’s all in the mind !)
And Enthusiasm is contagious !! If you exude enthusiasm, not only you yourself get propelled, others around you also start catching that ( or should I say, get inspired ). In fact, when you are enthusiastic about something, you feel a drive from inside, a passion to get going, to try harder, to explore the unknown – that one P ( passion or enthusiasm) opens up the pathways to all P’s that we want in ourselves and in this world : Pleasure, Proficiency, Productivity, Performance, Profitability, Perseverance, Perspective, Philosophy, Philanthropy, Profundity, Planning, ….. Parivartan…… Perfection …. Providence ….!!
If you are an enthusiastic, a passionate person, then you will put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. And this is sure to rub off on the people around you, who will work their heart and soul for you, not out of fear or compulsion, but out of love and admiration. This is especially true of the professional world ( as there is always a pressure to achieve goals through team playing), where success through positional authority is more a myth than reality. I have experienced that so many times in my professional life!
When you have enthusiasm, you will radiate happiness, joy every moment. I am sure you will agree with me that, of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. Ever looked into the sparkling eyes of an enthusiast ?
– a child who is just dismantling something to create something different out of the same toy parts
- a banker (of manual days) who just got an idea in flash about where to locate that one paisa difference in his cash book which has been bothering him for last two days
- a businessman who just found a new market for selling his products or just a new idea to acquire new customers
- a social activist who just found a new source to tap to make people’s lives better
- an artist getting ready to perform
- a painter who just made a stroke of a shade on his canvass exactly as he had painted in his mind’s eye
- a child who has just discovered a sprout in the seed planted by him
- when you water your own plants
- when you start on your LFC tour
- when you have just got a promotion and taken up a new assignment in your elevated capacity
- when you cross the first milestone in a project implementation, that somebody else had said was not possible
- when you see a beautiful wild flower on the roadside while travelling and your heart says “Wow”
Well, if you have ever looked them in their eyes, you will understand what I am referring to, when I say enthusiasm. That never-drying fountain of energy, that vitality, that simple but strong zest for life, that ever-readiness to make things happen !! We may call the same feeling as joy, happiness – because, enthusiasm, passion, joy, excitement, happiness – all these are facets of the same coin and go hand in hand.
The secret is, when you are enthusiastic or passionate about something, basically you have a unshaken faith that whatever you are trying to do will click, if not this way, then that way; if not that way, then some other way – but click it must. So, you are constantly looking forward to some kind of a joy of finding, and that feeling itself makes you happy and joyous. So when you are enthusiastic, you feel happy; and when you are happy, you feel joyous and enthusiastic !!
I fully agree with him out of my own experience. I am intrinsically an enthusiastic person and laugh enough. On laughing enough, there could be those who would say, one who laughs enough is not necessarily a happy person – that is their paradigm they see through. There are also those, who have a different paradigm that says “ You do not smile only when you are happy, but invariably you feel happy when you smile .” I belong to the 2nd category. And it works naturally for me.
If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.
“ Express enthusiasm freely and upon all occasions, and your life will strongly tend to become joyful and enthusiastic.”
- Norman Vincent Peale
I recall an anecdote being shared by a guest speaker with the participants of one HR programme in one of the renowned management institutes, that I attended a few years back.
Two HR professionals, strangers till then, were sitting side by side in one seminar. One of them, Mr X, just started a friendly conversation by introducing himself, as he was eager to meet people, talk to them. By the by, Mr X asked the other person, say Mr Y, “How about your family ? ”
Mr Y : “ Oh, my wife is a lecturer in a college …,
Mr X : “ Oh, Wow !”
Mr Y continued : “I have two daughters – they are in school ….”
Mr X : “ Wow, Great, a proud father of two lovely daughters ! And dear, I must say, hats off to your wife. She is managing both a career and a home so well !”
Mr Y was actually getting surprised at this person’s lavish compliments, because to him, it is a very common situation to have a wife, to have children, a married women having a career ….. so many others do it … so many others have it… what’s so great about this to be praised this way ? Of course, he could not say that openly. Just out of courtesy, he also asked Mr X about his wife and family .
Mr X : “ Oh, my wife is raising our family. ” [ Mr Y almost jumped off his seat – raising our family ? Means a mere housewife !]
Mr X continues “ … we have one 3 year old son. Sandra, my wife, is expecting our second edition, ha, ha !! I am really feeling bad that I had to come here now leaving her at this time … but she insisted , as this was something I was looking forward to since quite sometime … ”
Do I really need to analyse and interpret in detail to clarify what I am trying to explain through this anecdote ?? Is it not an easy guess, who is likely to be more successful at human relations and most likely, in profession too ?
When you are enthusiastic, you also tend to find out n number of small small things about others as well as your own self to appreciate.
And being appreciative is another strong attribute of mind which reinforces and liberates all things positive.
[ Try this small trick on housewives – call them homemakers, and see the difference .. sorry , that was in lighter vein. But yes, if you really mean that, I can swear, that will re-define your relationship with your wife in a whole new way.]
The enthusiastic persons somhow get an enormous thrill out of the most ordinary events in life ( remember my Mumbaikars ?). For them, this world itself, the creation of God, is a pure wonder with all its beauty, excitement and thrill. One who thinks this way deep inside will automatically love everything about this world and its people and will be blessed with abundance of love and enthusiasm to live a life of bliss.
Enthusiasm is also the greatest business asset. With a fat paycheque, you can buy an employee’s time, her physical presence or at the most some minimal intellectual output. But you can not buy her enthusiasm, her initiative, her loyalty or her mind and soul. You have to earn these things !! And for that, you as the employer-leader have to first bristle with enthusiasm as a person.
Let me share
Let me sharethree great thoughts on enthusiasm that I truly treasure :
“ The secret of the genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which, of course, means never to lose your enthusisam.”
- Thomas Huxley
– Bruce Barton
And the key to remaining enthusiastic about whatever you do ??
Well, the tried and trusted key has two sides :
- Always keep the child in you alive !
- And always have trust in His Providence after doing your best.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
What a day today ? It is a Sunday – and I needed to go to the market for the weekly veggie & non-veg. But the morning was really striking. What all happened were really irritating outwardly – but strangely enough, I did not feel irritated or upset at all – rather, mentally, I was observing like a by-stander and making inferences regarding learning points that I would be writing about in the context of what happened to me this morning.
First, it was my non-stick tea pan. I find it very handy for heating plain water or making tea. I do not use this for any other purpose . Nevertheless, my great lady ( my domestic help ) had managed to ruin even this pan with her carelessness by using hard scrubbing stuff while cleaning, although I must have asked her n times to use only spongy stuff for cleaning non-stick utensils. The pan had about two circles on the inner side – roughly about the usual water level taken daily for making tea - where the non-stick coat had come off. My mother was after my life – throw this, throw this – any non-stick utensil with even a small patch of scratches must be thrown away as per her. But, somehow, I was still using that and could not throw this, till now.
Today morning, I just put the pan with milk-water mix for tea – certain ideas came in flashes to my mind, which I sat down to type out on to my computer and lo..o.. I totally oblivious to the fact that my tea pan was on stove. It was only when the entire kitchen was full of burnt gas & my niece smelt something burning and switched off the gas, that I came to realise what had happened. The pan was totally burnt - thank god - I immediately threw it to the dustbin.
Strange, I was really feeling good :
– Firstly, finally I consigned it to the dustbin. Non-stick wares are actually unhealthy to use when their coat comes off. Although I knew that, perhaps I was using that pan for so long just as a matter of habit. Also may be because it still appeared to be useful. Getting burnt made it convincingly useless - hence easier to discard despite my past attachment to it.
- Secondly, I have a new pan. Although it has been there for long as a buffer stock, I never had the opportunity to use that. Now I can take it out and use !! Wow !
Many bigger things happen in life in a similar vein. Until and unless you burn your ship, and are left with no alternative but to explore ahead – you usually show a strong tendency to hang on to the current and known, or try to replicate the past and known, and rarely dare switch course for something new. Basically, it is the fear of the uncertainties, that holds one back to where one is, whether or not that status quo is worth maintaining. When such tendency to hold on is very strong, nothing less than a “burning of the shelter” is required to get you going on a look out for a newer avenue, for a newer destination.
Soon after this incident, I again found myself in an unsolicited problem that day. The sewerage work is still going on in our apartment premises. So every now and then , u will find cuts on the pathways and open pits in our compound. But, till now, at least they were taking care to see that each car has at least some way to move in and out of the campus.
When I went down to go to the market, I found that it was really difficult to take out my car from my parking slot due to cuts and pits. But somehow, I mentally measured up from all sides, and thought I can manage to take my car out through back drive. Unluckily, my calculations went a little awry and I could know at a point that the right front wheel would go down a pit, if I continue. So, just before the danger point, I stopped my car; but despite keeping it on handbreak and gear, I found that the car was actually sliding back - if I left the brake free. Hence, I decided to stay on and kept pressing the brake.
I really needed someone to put a brick or something behind my rear wheel – so that at least I can move ahead & get down to see for myself how much space is available on all sides for the movement without a disaster. But no one was around. Then, I thought of one of our neighbours – happens to be a colleague also. Gave him an SOS call – thank god, he was available at home. He & his son came down and helped me with taking the car out of the garage. As u know, in congested space, negotiating turns really require someone outside to tell you where exactly to cut or stop. Thank god, at the right time, instead of panicking, I drew upon my aquaintance, got help and finally, got over the problem .
So, learning points for me are :
- Do not panic. This is perhaps the most basic and most fundamental ground rule to face problems and challenges, which is mostly observed by its breach ! And personally, while I have usually maintained my cool in professional front (virtually, I laugh through all problems and find them getting solved very soon ), I have been rather impatient when it comes to personal problems where somehow I know my limitations - like driving a car, finding out a new place all by myself, carrying a huge weight etc. But today, I swear, I did not panic , because I knew I have to solve it by myself, my hubby is not around to help me out.
- In a difficult situation, always know the specific problem, instead of getting confused out of panic. ( When I started on back gear, I knew that my real problem was the pit, although space constraint was there on all sides and I knew I have to carefully negotiate. So, my focus was on the pit and I could sense exactly the moment my wheel was about to slip into the pit. ) So, know where exactly the problem is and focus on avoiding or solving that, as the case may be.
a) get out and give the steering to my neighbour, who is a more seasoned driver . I did not do that, as that would have amounted to straightaway giving in without even trying. And then, I would have lost out on learning & my own confidence-building .
b) after getting the car up to a safe point, park it, take an auto and go for marketing. I did not do that – same reason as in the first case. Avoiding a problem in most cases leads to a bigger problem. Next time, I would have imagined problems and stopped driving gradually.
c) I had some alternative ways of moving my car out of the parking space, with directional help from my neighbour and his son outside. I chose the best one, which we thought would give me more space to negotiate the curves. And it clicked.
- Express gratitude for the help offered to u . ( Sounds like stating the obvious and ornamental. NO ! Expressing gratitude from the bottom of your heart does not come naturally to many and in the process, these people without their knowledge start losing friends .)
This was just a very small problem. But even bigger problems in life can be addressed effectively, when we understand these basics on how to approach a solution, when faced with a problem. There could be many more dimensions to problems and the art of problem-solving, when it comes to bigger problems. Especially, some problems will be such, that those can not be solved within the given context and you have to necessarily go out-of-box.
The point is, the moment we realise that problems are not something to run away from, rather these are opportunities in disguise – opportunities to learn more, opportunities to have better things, better life, better state of being – that we face and deal with them more effectively.
“ What are Problems ?
R eminders - We are not self-sufficient.
We need God and others to help.
O pportunities - They pull us out of our rot.
And prompt us to think creatively.
B lessings - They open up doors we usually don’t go through.
L essons - Each new challenge will be our teacher.
E-verywhere - No place or person is excluded from them.
M-essages - They warn us about potential disaster.
S-olvable - No problem is without a solution.”
So..o.. Do not live with problems, neither run away from them. Face them, fix them or find the pathway through them to move on to a next level where these problems no longer remain relevant.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Long time back, a hilarious advertisement used to come on TV. In a crowded townbus in a metro, one passenger pushes the man next to him … you know… those elbow pushes!!
Angry, the other man yells.. “ Hey, why did you push me ?”
The first one says with a naughty giggle, “ Okay, I admit.. …, I gave you a push, but why did you take it ?? ”
Joke apart, this captures some very insightful ways of looking at others in your life !! Ordinarily, all of us tend to attach a lot of importance to what others say about us, what others think about us, how others feel about us etc. etc. Well, it is but natural. But to what extent and in what context others’ opinion should matter should always be upto us, not others.
It entirely depends on you, whether others affect you (adversely) or impact you (positively). If you thought the other fellow in the moving bus pushed you ( a verb - where the control lever rests with the other in the environment ), then you are allowing the other to decide how you feel. But if you thought the other fellow gave you a push ( a noun – where you can still retain the verb – i.e. control lever ), then against each give by others, you have a take - about which you get to decide, whether you take it at all, and if you decide to take it, how you would take it !!
Point is: you must have grip on some hold-on or other in a moving bus !! Making sense ? Those hold-ons are our own beliefs and convictions about our values, our own abilities, our self-worth, our own goals …, our own reference points internally…. in short ! Once we have this, our position will not get totally destabilised by others’ perception about us. Only when we are shaky about our own convictions and self-worth that we start attaching unwarranted and undue importance to others’ negative feedback on us, without weighing those. Similarly, when we lack a true appreciation of our own abilities and self-worth, we overestimate ourselves based on exaggerated positive feedback on us from others, which is an equally adverse situation.
[ Clarification: Although feedback is a very limited version of other’s perception about you when it gets expressed, or the vice versa, I am taking this liberty to use feedback as something said by others about you or something said by you about others , i.e. views on a particular person ( not something inanimate ). Perception is a very wide concept, needing comprehensive analysis and I am not planning to deliberate on that right now. ]
When I say that you must decide on whether or not to take other’s feedback, I am not at all suggesting that to play it safe, you should totally ignore other’s feedback. In fact one should face it… if one is genuinely interested in growing !!
Taking other’s feedback does not at all mean that we are allowing our reference point to be external. When you shut yourself up against all feedback…. it is like closing your eye to the reality around – the reality of perception of others about you or your actions (may not be the absolute reality) is going to stay there whether you see them or not. Rather, the chances are more that if you do not see them with open eyes, you are likely to imagine ( which could be more unreal and many a time more devastating .. ) ; 2nd ly, if you are not seeing them, you may be losing an opportunity either to clarify your position to those who really matter to you and/or you may be missing out on an opportunity to learn further from other’s wisdom/perspectives and finally grow as a person.
Well, to me, most of the problems we face are rather created by ourselves when we do not know how to take feedback from others. Only when we go overboard by letting other’s feedback control our feelings and action without reflecting on it that we would be allowing ourselves to be governed by others – and that position is neither desirable, nor correct .
A big event of running competition was organised. Among those who ran the race, there was one person who had joined the competition for the first time. He had joined the competition to win over his fear of failure first. There was another person who had joined the race to better his own previous performance. And there was another who had been consistently striving to come first.
As regards the 3rd person, the winner of the title - yes, he must also welcome all the cheers ( positive feedback) and feel legitimately happy and humble - encouraged to try it out for a bigger win next time, instead of allowing pride to creep into him because of others’s high opinion about him.
Giving feedback is a still more serious job and requires not only a lot more maturity, but also competence, clear vision and courage – as it requires appraising skills with objectivity and transparency !!
Life in general, and professional life in particular, is an Obstacle Race and where you are now is actually decided partially by the number, nature and timings of the obstacles you have got over till you reached your current position. It is never a level playing field for any two people. Hence, to give feedback on others, you are required not only to have competence to judge the other person’s inherent abilities, but also must possess necessary clear-sightedness to see the obstacles en-route that the other person has braved to get to the current position.
The closer you are to the person you are giving feedback on, chances are more that your feedback will be closer to the reality ( provided you are not biased yourself). Problems get manifold when it comes to giving feedback on persons or phenomena from a distance.
Even if competence is presumed, feedback may still be far from the reality if you are at a distance and can not see the entire pathway travelled by the assessee. In such cases, you must have the willingness to make a conscious effort to see better by using additional tools ( just as you use, say, a pair of binoculars to see distant objects outside your range of normal sight !)
I give the following simple example to drive home my point ( no offense meant to my male friends) :
It is like both have run obstacle races – only difference is while the track of the man was full of obstacles visible from a distance, a major portion of the woman’s track was full of the visible obstacles similar to the man’s plus a whole lot of small, small pieces of glasses and stone chips spread over her track all through, arresting her speed, but not visible from a distance. In all probability, she still was running with equal or greater ability!!
Basically she was running the race with bruised feet, while he was running with normal bare feet (or with a pair of shoes on!! ).
If you are in a position to see both of them from close quarters, you are likely to rate both of them at least equal, as there is a scope for you to appreciate the small small pieces of glasses and stone chips on her way, over and above the similar obstacles faced by both.
When you are giving feedback on a person who you can see closely, most likely it will turn out to be a realistic reflection on the person being judged. But when you are giving feedback on someone from a distance – it reflects more on your ability to assess and give feedback, rather than a feedback on the other person, unless you make a conscious and conscientious effort to see things clearly overcoming the distance factor, by using additional tools.
We must also introspect how we tend to jump at judging others impulsively when we get a somewhat unacceptable feedback from them on us – without realising that we, too, are getting caught in the same snares !! Lack of objectivity!!
Let us always remember, there is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability- it is the ability to recognize ability .
Next time, you get to hear something complimentary or something nasty, about yourself from someone else, pause and decide for yourself, if that is worth taking or not. And if you decide to take, make sure you take it only to benefit yourself –either as an encouragement or as a constructive criticism, from which you can take tips to grow wiser and happier. I am sure, if only you learn to take feedback in its correct perspective, the whole world of experience can change for you in a dramatic way and you can actually achieve much more … in a positive way.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Lord Ganeshji’s BIG HEAD inspires us to THINK BIG ; the BIG EARS prompt us to LISTEN PATIENTLY to new ideas and suggestions ; the NARROW EYES point to DEEP CONCENTRATION needed to finish task on hand well and quickly; the LONG NOSE tells us to poke around INQUISITIVELY to learn more and the SMALL MOUTH reminds us to SPEAK LESS and listen more .
( Lord Ganesha ! Bless me with what it takes to attain these - I need special blessings for the last bit (speak less) !)