Sunday, December 30, 2012

Time for a fresh start - 2013 is here!

How do you plan to enter 2013? Right from Sydney's Opera House to New York's Time Square people will gather and wait for the count down 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1... What a way to start the year in the company of wonderful people! But you know what, this company will soon leave. After all, they need to mind their own businesses just as you need to. So lets get personal.

How do YOU plan to enter 2013? You have got 2 options - either ENTER FORWARD or ENTER BACKWARD. That reminds me of a humourous ad which I have inserted below. As a teacher, I have enjoyed watching this ad. Remember, those who can laugh at themselves will never have end of fun in life!

Let us get back to those 2 options. In option-1, you can enter 2013 FORWARD. That means, you choose to leave behind all the disappointments of 2012 and take a step forward. You leave the regrets behind to embrace the possibilities ahead. What is your 2012 inventory? We're good at accumulating junk - not just physical, but mental too. If your 2012 inventory has too many mental junks, just discard them. Its time for new priorities and  new resolve. 2013 is here and let us face it! Though people say history repeats itself or life is a cycle, I have a different perspective. No 2 days are alike, no 2 years are alike. 2013 will be different and your time has come. Are you ready?

In option-2, you can enter 2013 BACKWARD. That means, your focus is still on the past and it is a wave of time that takes you into 2013. Nostalgia is good but only for reflection and not for action. Interestingly, many people start the year with a hangover - not the sort that you're thinking about :-) A mental hangover characterized by regrets of the past, worries of the present and fear of the future. Don't let your 2012 failures to ruin your 2013 prospects. Another reason for entering backwards is the fear of 2013. Yes, it will have its share of challenges to throw at you. Who knows, this is the year that will make or break your career. But the best way to face the future is to face it.

I am ready to enter 2013 FORWARD. How about you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Starting well

A new academic year (2012-13) is here. This blog post is dedicated to my new students - the freshers at the Department of Management Studies, Pondicherry University.

I like starts, that too, good starts. A start offers you a clean slate, a fresh hope, a level-playing field and a world of opportunities. No matter how your past looks like, a start is a great opportunity to re-write history! No matter how your records stand, a start is a time to make amends. No matter who is running alongside, you start off as equals.
Though a finish (especially, a podium-finish like what will see in London 2012 Olympics in a few weeks from now) is what counts, nevertheless, starting well is important - be it at school, work or in a relationship. To a large extent, good starts end up in good finishes (unless, you're South African cricket team in a world cup! Oh, I feel sorry for them!).
A good start is important because of the following reasons:
1. A good start lays a solid foundation for what you want to do further (I'm sure, you've seen it in cricket)
2. A good start gives you tremendous confidence to face what lies ahead (imagine, having to catch up or make up for the lost time)
3. A good start puts a lot of things in proper place - be it priorities, principles or people in life.
4. A good start keeps you focused on where you want to go. People lose sight of their destination, yield to distractions and fail to finish, when they scramble after a bad start, and
5. More importantly, you get only one opportunity to make the first impression. (Did you notice anyone talking about second or third impression?)
So a good start really counts!

Good start is a fine art! Have you heard the line - Begin with the end in mind? Steven Covey popularized it as habit #2 in his famous 7-habits book. Watch this fish in order to understand why you need to start with the finish in mind.

Even as you have walked into a B-School, can you imagine how you will walk out, sometime in May 2014? That is beginning with the end in mind. Did you realize that you would have got an MBA which will take you far in life? Did you realize that you would have, in these two years, made good friends who will stick for life? Did you realize you would have faced teachers who would take pride in you years from now? Many of you had come on the admission day with your parents. I saw expectations and anxiety written all over their faces. Did you realize that you would have made them proud? I am refering to a day in Summer 2014. But for now, make a great start.
This print ad from Microsoft is one of my favourites. As a teacher, this is how I see you - Not as you who are, but as who you can be. This is how I begin with the end in mind. Your potential is my passion. You will see it in action when I see you in class next week :-)

God bless you!

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to drop a comment. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If anything can go wrong, it will. Is it?

Murphy’s law states that IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG, IT WILL. Sounds philosophical, isn’t it? It also sounds a bit pessimistic and cynical of everything. There is even an air of uncertainty and helplessnes to this statement. Time and again, Murphy's law has provided refuge for the excuse-seeking quitters seeking to distract the attention from fixing the problem. The most recent example is that of the Indian Cricket team's captain (albait, a world cup winning one), M.S.Dhoni stating, 'What could go wrong, went wrong' after a rather embarassing defeat to the current No.2 Test Cricket team - England at the Mecca of Cricket - the Lord's cricket ground. Is Murphy's law the end of conversation? Period? The mother of all excuses?

Where did this Murphy's law come from? Is it an alert for the optimist or an excuse for the pessimist? Capt. Edward Murphy was an engineer at an American Air Force Base in 1949. He working on US Air Force Project MX981 which was designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.
One day, after finding that an electrical instrument was wired wrongly, he was annoyed at the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it". The project manager kept a list of such profound statements uttered in fits of frustration and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law. Soon, it became popular and it said, IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG, IT WILL.

For Capt. Murphy, it was a reminder to the engineers and team members to be cautious and make sure everything was accounted for, and to let no stone be left unturned. In otherwards, Murphy’s law, though sounding pessimistic, actually is optimistic in refusing to let everything into the hands of fate.
There are so many interesting corollaries to Murphy’s law. Let me tell you a few of these corollaries.
Murphy's First Corollary says:  Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse; Any attempt on your part to correct this will only accelerate the process.
I know it sounds a little funny, but it makes you feel helpless, especially if you are the person in-charge of making a few things to happen. Well, the crux of the matter is the element of control and the timing of control measures. Life is a sequence of events – from childhood to adulthood to old age; from school to college to work; from a dependent child to an independent adult to a care-giving son or daughter. If these sequences of events are left uncontrolled, Murphy’s law suggests that the consequences are going to be bad. Therefore, a right degree of control – both internal and external - is necessary as we move on in life. Moreover, the timing of control measures is critical. Too-much-too-late is a lament we hear often in lost causes – be it a cricket match or a terminal illness or an election campaign. We even have a proverb – That which can’t be fixed at the age of 5, can never be fixed at the age of 50. We live in times when it is fashionable to talk about freedom and not about control. But in the reality of life, freedom with responsibility is what matters and counts. If freedom sets the sails of life, it is responsibility that anchors life. In short, Murphy’s first corollary implies the need for control and proper timing of control while managing a sequence of events.

Murphy's Second Corollary says: It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
On the surface, you feel a distrust on co-workers, a helpless feeling of reconciling with inefficiencies or even sarcasm. But it helps to contemplate this further. It is said that nature always sides with the hidden flaw and therefore, the hidden flaw never stays hidden for long. As a result, in this fast-paced world, a ‘chalega’ attitude is more prevalent than perfectionism. While working as a team, trust is necessary on your part though this trust may not be kept by others. So what is the solution? Give up? No. Give in? Absolutely not. The solution may lie in having a ready-list of the next-best-alternatives as Plan B or Plan C. It takes a lot of humility to accept human frailty and a lot of wisdom to keep a Plan B ready. Many a times, that makes a difference between winners and losers. The real life applications abound. You just got to observe the coalition politics, corporate strategies, cross-functional careers and out-of-the-box solutions to sense Murphy’s law at work. In short, Murphy’s second corollary implies spreading the risks, having a set of workable alternatives and not getting surprised by surprises in life.

Murphy's Third Corollary says: If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
Why would Murphy want people to be paranoid even when things are working out pretty well? I guess, success gives you a license to enjoy the moment but never to take your hands off. The Students Scout Movement has a famous slogan – BE PREPARED. That’s what Murphy’s law implies. It helps to suspect success and inspect failure but very often we end up doing vice versa. It is during those moments of introspection, we come up with better way of doing things. It opens the floodgates to creative thinking, constant improvisation and critical problem-solving. After all, life on planet earth should get better and not stagnant. We got to make this world a better place. In short, Murphy’s third corollary implies a cautious optimism, continuous improvement and not getting carried away by fleeting success.

You like it or not, Murphy’s law is an interesting take on fate. While it is essential to believe in the Divine, it can be very superstitious to leave things to fate. For many, fate is a fatal excuse for their failures. For some, overcoming fate and creating a destiny for themselves is the crowning glory in their lives. Man is free but fate can be enslaving. Fate may be an excuse for failure, but it is never the secret of success. The secret ingredients are still hardwork and a dream that powers a person to greater productivity and significance in life.

I'm not sure if you know this. God is a dreamer and you are His dream. Wake up and live up His dream. If someone wants to give excuses, let him. But you have dream to live. Should I tell you that you have my best wishes?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Attitude is everything

You have heard this: Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. But it is easier said than done! We gain knowledge, acquire skills and learn beahviour, but when it comes to attitude, we have no clue as how to develop a great attitude towards life, people and profession.
In professional development, our competencies are determined by knowledge, skills and behaviour to a great extent. If this competence must be turned to performance, attitude is the key. Competence + Attitude equals performance.
Why is attitude considered very important? The HR executives say that they hire for attitude and then train for skills. Because 100% Attitude and 5 Techniques will beat 100 Techniques and 5% Attitude EVERY TIME. Skills can be imparted. But attitudes have to be self-nurtured.
In an employability survey, recruiters were asked: What counts more than an employee's aptitude, hard skills, and technical competencies or an employee's attitude, soft skills including self-motivation, commitment, and communication? 60 percent of the organizations responding to this survey, ranked attitude as their #1 concern. Attitude is everything!
How do we define attitude? Attitude is the way you choose to view your world. It’s a matter of outlook and is definitely a matter of choice. You alone are responsible for cultivating the attitude that gets the results you want and deserve. It also means that no one can rob you of your attitude unless you let them.
Here are three popular attitude strategies - ACE - they are tools to help you maintain a winning attitude and they will improve your level of energy and enthusiasm immediately.
A - Acceptance: I see people who get depressed over things they have no control over—weather, traffic, outcome of a cricket match and so on. If you have no control and no influence over a situation, the only healthy way to deal with it is to accept it and move on. Remember the 'Serenity prayer'? Here it is ...

C - Control: There’s only one thing you truly control: your choices. Most situations are beyond your control, but what you do in those situations is up to you. In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey says the most important thing he’s learned is that you have the power to choose. When you control that, everything about life improves immediately. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is, with you also! Therefore, mind your choices.

E - Environmental influence: Are you the one who influences others or the one who gets influenced by others? How are the people around you? Are they a bunch of negative thinkers? Are they pessimists who fail to see the silver lining in every cloud? Are they the ones to spot a problem in every opportunity rather than finding an opportunity in every problem? I think you got to watch out. Be in the right company which will make the world a better place. It is said that bad company corrupts character and a corrupt character will ruin your attitude.

 Mr. Page Pitt is a well renowned Professor of Journalism. He should have failed in life, but instead he succeeded. Listen to his story. After losing 97% of his eyesight at age 5, he refused to attend a school for the blind. He was accepted into public school where he played baseball and football. Remarkably, he went on to complete college and become a top-notch journalism professor with a reputation for demanding excellence. A student once asked Pitt which he thought would be worse; blindness, deafness, or not having arms and legs. He replied, ‘None of those things! Lethargy, irresponsibility, lack of ambition or desire: they’re the real handicaps. If I don’t teach you anything but to want to do something with your lives, this course will be a magnificent success.’ Often he told his journalism students, ‘You are not here to learn mediocrity, you’re here to learn to excel’.

Your biggest enemy is not the challenges you face; Your biggest enemies are complacency, negativity, self-imposed limitations and self-pity. We’ve got all kinds of excuses for not doing more with our lives.
Attitude, after all, is everything. Let me quote Jesus from the Bible: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. So don’t worry, be happy. Life is too wonderful to be spent worrying. See the world through the glass of positive attitude. You will find a reason to live and help others live.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Does success matter? (Part 2 of 2)

Many success stories have turned into tragedies. The way up and the way down are one and the same. How many times have we seen a promising sportsperson tasting success quite early in his or her career only to fade away from the limelight! How many times have we seen a business starting with a bang only to go bust a little later! Here are three tips that may help you avoid this tragedy:
No.1. Avoid complacency after tasting success. No two challenges are alike. Just because you succeeded once, it does not mean you will do it next time as well. Having a healthy respect for competitors usually has a reciprocal effect. Then the world will be a better place. It is said that when the sun rises in a jungle, every lion knows that it must run faster than the fastest deer to avoid going hungry. And every deer knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion to live another day. Each day has its own challenges. 
No.2. Avoid distractions after tasting success. Success comes with a price, apart from all the accompanying perks. Comparisons could follow. Flattery would flow. Money would pour. Each one of them could be a potential trap. Remember, in the journey of life, success is only a passing station. Stay focussed on the destination and enjoy the journey. You will miss the train if you get stuck in a passing station. 
No. 3.  Avoid pride after tasting success. Someone said, pride is the sin of comparison. Success is not when you do better than others but it is doing your best. You are a unique person. Look around there is no one like you. The same is the case with every person. Watch out for pride for it comes before the fall! Arrogance is not confidence. Success looks so adorable when it is clothed in humility. Hope you will like that outfit!

Success stays on the sands of time, only till the next wave (or, the next winner). 

Is there a better alternative to success? Yes, it is called significance.  People strive for success. I say, be significant and do something significant. Do you remember the Marathon winner at the 1968 summer Olympics held at Mexico City? No? Don’t worry, not many would, any way. But let me tell you about the man who finished last in that race. John Stephen Akhwari was a marathon runner from Tanzania. Half way through the race Akhwari fell, badly hurt his knee dislocating the joint. Most runners would  have given up. But after a few minutes John Akhwari picked himself up, strapped up his leg and kept running. A little more than an hour after the winner had finished, with just a few thousand spectators left in the stands, into the stadium he came. His leg was bloody and bandaged. But finally he hobbled across the finish and the crowd roared as if he had been the winner. He finished last among the 74 competitors. Later when he was asked why he kept running though he would never succeed and he had every reason to quit. This was his reply – “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish the race." That’s not success, but that’s significance – not just for himself but for the indomitable human spirit!
There are many differences between being successful and being significant. Here are some of those differences:
The successful Vs The significant
In-ward looking                        Out-ward looking
Self-obsessed                              Cause-obsessed
Temporary                               Permanent
Makes you competitive             Makes you complete
Relative term                            Absolute term
Significance, very often is accompanied by a by-product called success. It is a smart thing not to be so obsessed with a by-product and instead focus on the main thing. I wish you significance – in all you do.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Does success matter? (Part 1 of 2)

We live in a world that is obsessed with success at least in materials terms. The one who has the most toys is considered a winner. Friends flock and enemies envy those who make it to the top – be it in cash, kind or position. It is said that nothing succeeds like success. And winning is everything. Is it true? Does success really matter? If yes, how much? Is there more to life than marks, ranks, trophies and money? 
Here is a 2-part blog post. In this part, I've talked about the stress and strain of success. Then on how to react to success. Because honestly, many do not know how to handle success. In the second part, I will talk about how many success stories turn into tragedies. In conclusion, we will talk about an alternative to success. Be assured it is not failure. There is more to life than to be just successful. In fact, Jesus Christ said, “What if the man gains the whole world and still loses his soul? What can he give in return for his soul?”. There is more to life.
Any winner can tell you that success is a lot of hard work. It demands physical and mental energy. As a result, an obsession with success can drain off all your energy. In the journey of life, success is a passing station. Those who enjoy the journey – be it at school, college or marketplace, have more time. Those who are obsessed with a brief stop-over at the passing station of success, seem to have less time. A key issue is: success at what cost?
I recall watching on TV a 100m running race at the Olympics several years ago. At the end somebody (Ben Johnson?) was crowned as the fastest man on planet earth. A few days later, he was stripped of his gold medal after being diagnosed with using performance-enhancing drugs. Success turned into shame! What was worse was his untimely death as a result of side-effects. Today, everybody wants success. The first question to ask is: AT WHAT COST? Not at the cost of personal integrity. Not at the cost of family and relationships. Not at the cost of future. Therefore go for success which is worth your blood, sweat and tears. Don’t settle for empty cups, bigger numbers and fleeting fame.
The problem with success is that it changes hands and no one holds it forever. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Football World Cup or Wimbledon hall of fame.
The obsession to succeed puts tremendous pressure on a person to prove himself or herself. This pressure results in mental stress and physical strain. An interesting problem with success is that the more you succeed, the more you will want to succeed. There is no end to obsession with success. If you thought success will relieve all the pressure, stress and strain, you got it wrong. It only puts additional pressure – the pressure to prove yourself, the pressure to show that you’re not a one-time wonder, the pressure to live up and the pressure to defend your position. So before you want to succeed, count the cost! May be, you should even consider how you will react to success.

Once there was a dog race. The challenge for the participating dogs was to catch the speeding, electronic rabbits in their respective lanes. Obviously the electronic rabbits were programmed to be faster than the chasing dogs. But then one day, when the race was on, an electronic rabbit broke down on the lane. The chasing dog caught up with it. Having done the incredible, that is catching the electronic rabbit, it now did not know what to do. It was just jumping around the broken-down rabbit. Well, how will you react to success in your life? Some get puffed up with pride. Others look down on others. Some others set higher goals and start the rat race again. A few will be like a turtle on top of a concrete pillar and saying, ‘I’m sure I didn’t get here by myself’ and they will be thanking God and people who mattered in the journey. Let not success get into your head or failure into your hearts. Success has spoilt many and don’t you add to that list. Success is a good time to feel good about yourself and a great time to show gratitude to others.

... to be continued