Life, Transformation

Time #Day 18

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Some of the best lessons that I have imbibed, is from my daughter Dhriti. She is 8 years old, shy and curious. If I were to relate her to a character in Tom and Jerry, she would be the Rainbow dash, from My Little Pony, because she doesn’t like Tom & Jerry comparatively; she is more comfortable with the choices that she understands. She is very specific with questions. Short, crisp, which only get complimented with equally specific answers. If she found my answer vague, there would be more questions, until she is satisfied. If I devoid her of attention, she has ways to end my distraction. Believe me, you wouldn’t like her to ask questions. Like other kids, she is very persistent.

The following incidence happened just before she left to Hong Kong to see her new born cousin sister, Raina. She was mighty excited and had prepared an elaborate shopping list, which was seeking closure.

Dhriti: Dada, when are we going to buy the gifts for Raina?

Me: Sometime, when Mamma and I are relatively free.

Dhriti: When will you and Mamma be free?

Me: Weekend is more likely to be a free time for us. Thursday too, if I have time.

Dhriti: So, when will we go?

Me: We will go on Friday.

Dhriti: When on Friday?

Me: We will go at 11.30, so that we can have lunch outside.

Dhriti: Yippee!!

Dhriti doesn’t take answers that leave her guessing, she needs to have a specific date and time confirmed to her. How easy and simple way to manage activities.

But our actual life is different. When I reflect back on few business conversations, I find many lose ends. There are sometimes no specifics, when or where. This defines the difference between intending to do something and actually doing it. When we put the task on paper (by writing it down) and marking it on the calendar, we increase the likelihood of completing the task. The converse is also true. The days I found empty and found that I have accomplished little, that was the day, when I didn’t plan enough for the day. The task and goals were not on my calendar.

It is a very simple exercise and it works.

There was a research done with a two groups of people; this was a group of people who were trying to get rid of a negative habit. The first group was told to write an essay every 6 PM for next 60 days on a certain day. The second group was given a choice – they could write the essay either before 6 PM or after 6 PM with no specifics. Which group do you think faired well. 75% of the first group was able to write essays, where as none of the first group wrote. When we schedule time, we commit to ourselves the goal of completing it.

If we give ourselves, vague instructions, we will get vague results.

In my earlier post, Predawn, I emphasized the need for a good start of the day. The day starts with meditation, with specific goals that one would need to achieve. In order to further build on it, these goals would need to be written down in a journal in terms of days, weeks/months & year. In addition, they would need to be reviewed daily. I do that in the evening, with my night audit, the purpose of this 66 day exercise. (More about that in my next post.) Just these two acts of writing the points and reviewing them, has the power of changing your perspective and therefore, life.

My good friend, Deepak, further elaborated my point. He said,

When you write it down, you have already accomplished the task or your goal. When you put in the calendar (define timelines), you will get the answer, when.

Therefore make no commitments which you cannot fulfill. When you do, write it down and ensure that it is marked on your calendar.

It is the simplest life changing technique.

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Life, Transformation

R.I.A #Day 17

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Yesterday was my daughter’s last day in this term, which also meant that her holidays had started. “I’m feeling excited about the holiday, but sad about leaving my friends behind.”, she told me in confidence. She is indeed very excited about the holiday, much more than my wife. Both of them love breaks and make elaborate plans. I would be joining them in 2 weeks time, and already I’ve started to get a bit of concern.

For me the subject of holidays is two distinct emotions. On one end, I’m excited about the good times and meeting new people. And on the other, I’m develop anxiety, being concerned about losing time and opportunity. Anyone who knows me, would know how I adore my family and spend lots of time together. Whether it is organizing for a big together or handling the kids, these are precious moments that stay with me for long. But then there are distractions.

Though I enjoy these treasured moments, I feel that it is not complete and the joy won’t last long. Since I’m in process of a setting up a new entity, the more I think of it, the more I feel that the new baby needs more attention. By going on vacation I would deny it of my precious attention. Though, this is being like workaholic, but it is not that. It is not just me, I see a number of friends going through the same seesaw of emotions. In this, we want everything to be available at every time and everywhere, and this expectation includes us.

Relaxation Induced Anxiety (RIA) is not an uncommon term. Relaxation induced anxiety happens when activities that are supposed to be calming trigger worrisome thoughts that have a snowball effect into a general anxiety attack. It could be worrisome thought while you are watching a movie, or when you are sitting comfortably on your beloved sofa and as you enjoy the warmth, you feel as though you have tons of job unfinished and as if your destiny is dependent on it.

Because, we are connected so much to technology, we can be free. The email updates will keep seeking our attention, the calendar reminders will keep popping up and not to forget the few phone calls that you may get while you are on vacation. Pressures play up on your mind. Working makes you feel valuable, indispensable and boosts your self esteem. Taking these away is hard and you are bound to feel insecure. Fortunately, this is not as chronic as the others.

A couple of years back, when I employed and was going to go off on a long vacation, I spoke to all the stakeholders, including my team. On the last day, I spoke to my boss, who was also my mentor. I told him that there was a lot on the plate for the time I would be gone. He smiled and said jokingly, “We will gradually forget you. And will replace you.”. He saw the tension on my face and laughed again. I laughed too, and said that I would be reachable if he needed me. The lesson that I got was that there is no point in worrying, if there is a good system in place. As leaders, we need to strive for that.

Lesson learnt and have been practicing two basic rules for my holidays.

  1. 100% present where you are: Therefore, if on the beach, I would be with my favorite drink and enjoying the sunshine with Priya and Dhriti. I avoid taking my phone. And for the same reason, I hate taking photos, because it makes me use the device.
  2. Allocate time: If I do have to plug in, I either do that early in morning, before everyone wakes up or late at night when every one is sleeping. The work time shouldn’t eat into the holiday time. Sacrosanct.

Though I adhere to these rules with some struggle, I have a feeling that I’m getting there, soon.

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Life, Transformation

Proof #Day 16

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I was humming the opening of Bob Dylan’s song today, on the pavement. I was on my way to Spinney’s, which is in my neighborhood.

How many roads must a man walk down,
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail,
Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, and how many times must a cannonballs fly,
Before they are forever banned?

As I walked on the paved, with my hum, I noticed a group of teenagers. Slight distraction to boast about my abilities, people around me would be glad that I was humming because last time when I sang, that day, I was banned from future social gatherings. There was nothing special about today’s Thursday, it was a usual buzz in flashy Dubai downtown district, where Burj Khalifa outshines everything around. Every time, I look at it, I’m reminded of tall human ambition. Most glorious sight on earth. It wasn’t the first time that I saw the teenagers, they would be there every Thursday, with no parents and having the first taste of independence and adolescence. As I watch them, I couldn’t fail to notice the latest fashion or gadget, and at the same time I would get a feeling that I’m definitely born in a wrong generation. Boys and girls had his/her own individual hairdo, music and banter. They were having fun.

The most usual about them, a burning white stick between their fingers; the one that is lit is passed across the group. They wouldn’t be more than 14-15 years old and seem to be enjoying the moment. I could see something big going up in smoke.

It was for the first time that I could witness to a deep apathy within me and my inability to reverse any of these happening. I couldn’t go up to them and tell them not to smoke and like every other day, I let it pass. How does it concern me? I’m stranger in a strange land. I realized, I wouldn’t feel for them unless I would see in that group, anyone I knew.

How much proof is needed for us to start acting?

The cigarette packet has a vivid, horrid looking image on the pack, and says “Smoking is injurious to health.” CDC (center for disease control and prevention) quotes following statistics…

  1. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
  2. Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Illegal drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Motor vehicle injuries
    • Firearm-related incidents
  3. More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
  4. Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
  5. Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
  6. The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in the U.S.

However, someone, in the shopping counter selling cigarettes wouldn’t have these statistics handy. Or would be short on his/her sales target. Or would have put the best foot forward to service the customer. My rational thought fails, probably I’m trying to put more reasoning in it than required. It only a weekend and kids are having a good time, would you do the same. Better thought prevailed and I walked on. Rationality for an irrational universe. Yet again, I failed to stand up for a cause; if I were to test my agreeable  quotient, I would have score my highest ever. I didn’t want to be embarrassed socially. I better stay silent than speak up.

How much proof is needed for us to start acting?

How any times have we found ourselves to be in such situation, where we feel from within, yet fail to act? Family, work or otherwise. How does it matter, unless it happens to me? How many times our supreme intelligence fails to show up?

As I encounter these absurd thoughts, I hum the last few words of the Bob Dylan’s song. Ironically it says,

The, answer my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

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Life, Transformation

Fear #Day 15


I was on a long call this afternoon today. As I was driving, I was in midst of intense discussion with two overseas colleagues. I was on my phone,

Fortunately, there was no one else in car with me. However, I was not alone. I could feel that there were at least 3 parts of me at this time. My 1/3 was the driver, who was watching out for cars, ensuring that car was following the traffic laws. The driver was very vigilant, but the second 1/3, the supervisor, was critical of his actions. “Hey you missed giving the side indicator while changing the lane.” The supervisor clearly was not happy with proceedings. And then there was the worker, negotiating on phone while the driver and supervisor were having a go at each other.

Normally the drive to Al Ghurair center in Deira would take about 40 minutes, today I didn’t have a clue.

Maybe the time taken was far more, since I was still on a call. While all this action was going on, I parked the car, in a parking slot that I could find, and I don’t remember; I had a had time on my way back. The simple truth was that the supervisor approved it and therefore the driver parked it, while the worker was still at it. None of these guys had a clue.

While the conversation was still on, I had to get out of the car and get to a hotel for a meeting. So I, take the escalator, get out of the parking lot and go on the road. The hotel was on the other side of the road and therefore it involved going over a zebra crossing. But, my worker  was still in his act, trying to find a better argument. While in this zombie state, I could see that the traffic was considerably more in number, and as I look towards my right, something in me tells me it is not right. I look again and in the nick of time retract, and feel the presence of the passing truck, Ford Raptor. Thank dear God for the sound it makes. I immediately get off the call, I will call you back, I say.

If it weren’t for that sound, I wouldn’t have realized that the truck was within the collision distance and threatening the lives of many, not considering my own. It was a time to reflect.

How many times, have I known the the dangers of using a mobile while driving, and still to this day, my first reaction is not a denial. It hasn’t happened to me yet, so therefore for just one last time. I’m sure nothing would happen. What I forget is that all it takes is one incidence to wipe out all your previous statistics, Naseem Nicholas Taleb, and his celebrated book, Black Swan, explains this beautifully. Citing of one black swan in Australia, disapproved the truth held for so long that the swans are only white.

My mind knows everything, has infinite intelligence and represents flawless craft. Still, it hasn’t prevented me from talking on mobile on road. Driving while using mobile on the road is equivalent to drunk driving. Texting is worst, a study shows that a driver is 23 times more likely to encounter accident than other, because the driver spends a large proportion of his attention on mobile screen than on the road. Somehow, observations and instructions from supervisor does make sense, however hasn’t translated into a behavior. Not yet.

Fear is a very powerful emotion and has one of the most profound impact, provided we use it correctly. To the wrath of my contrarians, who would like to be fearless and would like to extract every ounce of fear you possess, I would disagree. I would like to be left with some amount of fear, because fear is one of the greatest motivator. Fear is the best  catalyst you can find, like a nitrous boost for A Fast & Furious Movie car and with the ability to propel you in the outer-space. If you use fear properly, it can change behavior.

Running was not a natural one-day-out-of-bed event. One of the evening, I realized that I’m becoming a burden with a oversized belly. My father was similar, and had a heart problem, which runs in our family. And what if I succumb to it, what would happen to my family? Gripped with this fear, I realized that there was no better way to get as far away as possible from the situation than running. The fear of losing health and haggardness drives me up every morning, to wake up during hours of the day, when there couldn’t be anything more comfortable than the bed. And then it translated to eating healthy, so that I could run better and lose weight and further on, my gym routine etc. But the truth is it all started from fear, fear of not being around for my family.

We do start our year with big motivation and great resolve, and what I would add to it is a layer of fear. Those few things which you definitely want to do, use fear as the task master with a whip (a.k.a, PK Simmons of Whiplash). I have heard a 1000 Rs. bet, which has been successful in changing behaviors. So the method goes like like this, with someone whom you trust the most, say your mentor, you give him Rs.1000 (the more the better) and commit that if you develop a specific habit, you will ask back for the money, and if you don’t, he/she gets to keep the money. The chances are likely that you would end up changing your behavior because of fear of losing the money (fear of poverty).

The only word of caution here is that, if you fear always, the chances are likely that you may become oblivious to it or it may consume you. You can’t be always on the dark side and you would have to ultimately start enjoying the new found love. You have to start appreciating the new attention that you would get once you lose weight. If you let fear overpower you, it won’t be sustainable, it would be stressful, destructive and self deprecating. You will become a maniac. Use fear well.

For me, today was an eye opener. And if I’m not able to change my resolve of not using the phone, while I’m on the road (driving or walking), I’m going to be using the AED 1,000 wager.

Any takers for that?

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innovation, Life, Transformation

Disagreeableness #Day 14

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Five personality traits make up an individuals personality, which is used by Five Factor Model (FFM) and the Global Factors of Personality. These are…


The last one is of particular interest and the antonym of the word is the subject of today post, Disagreeableness. I came across this today in Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast: Revisionist. Malcolm Gladwell’s 12 Rules for Life. Of the 8-9 episodes, I was attracted to this one because of it’s catchy headline. In blog space, such headlines would be the most apt.

The description further reads…

Crucial life lessons from the end of hockey games, Idris Elba, and some Wall Street guys with a lot of time on their hands.

It is one of the most entertaining podcasts that you would hear, if you like to discover few uncommon truths. The flow of the podcast would absorb you completely and is elegantly produced.

Mr. Gladwell has only one rule in his life, and this is being disagreeable.

Ironically, I couldn’t agree more. Being agreeable is a social norm, promotes a great bond between the members. This makes the team. The more agreeable you are, the more you will make decision which is universally liked and beneficial for everyone. You would not like to upset anyone or be in a position to be disliked. An agreeable personality type is more likely to seek approval from peers and therefore there is harmony in the universe.

On the other hand, disagreeableness is not a common desired personality traits. The definition of the word reads, the quality of being disagreeable and unpleasant. No wants to be disagreeable, as it amounts to not being social and in human resources context not a team player. In a number of instances, I have taken a decision in my life towards a certain action, not because it was be right to so do, but because it was more socially acceptable to do so. And this act of agreeableness limits us to exploit our our true potential.

According to Mr. Gladwell, “Being disagreeable is not matter of temperament, but a function of choice.” This is a continuation of his thoughts, through which he has been breaking help notions through his books- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. He finds that agreeable people hinder innovation because they are more likely to take action that would make them comply, likes and therefore conform. They’re too afraid to disrupt the social norms because they value an atmosphere of camaraderie and acceptance. An agreeable will never challenges the status quo. Unfortunately, all the rules, laws etc ensure that we conform and follow. Therefore mould is hard to break.

Whereas, the disagreeable would set new standards, trying to find what is best according to them, rather than looking for conformity. Mr. Gladwell further build his point by narrating research paper and movie storyline, where the behavior was contrary to rational and the right thing to do.

We should be disagreeable and cherish being one because in certain time of our life when we need it the most, we should be in a position to exercise it.

I’m reminded of the closing lines in the movie “Sanju”, based on the life of Indian actor, Sanjay Dutt, and his father Sunil Dutt advise to him “Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, Logon Ka Kaam hain Kehena.”

You got to do, what you got to do. Which is by the way, the most difficult thing to do.

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Habits, Life, Transformation

100% #Day 13


I’m often amazed at how many times the same thing happens to me, again and again before I realize it. I’m supposed to be getting more intelligent every minute, with every experience adding to my life. However, despite that I end up making the same mistake again and again. And on the contrary, if I succeed, the same action is hardest to repeat. Success is a difficult habit to imbibe.

I have come to a conclusion that it is important to breathe, pause and reflect, not only in morning, without distraction, but also at regular intervals in time during the day. During this brief 2-3 minutes period, I would be only be only aware of myself, where I am, and what am I doing. Sounds surreal, and I can assure you if you do the same, it will help you being present where you are with 100% efficiency. When you do so, you are no longer the slave of the passing moment, but master of your destiny. You may not reduce your mistakes, however, you will be present 100% with yourself and would take a conscious decision. And therefore more responsible for your action.

This post has been the essence of the new habit that I’m trying to inculcate, the habit of night audit. This is a 5 minutes exercise where I’m writing the answers to following questions…

  1. What were the good results of my day and why do I think they were good?
  2. Which outcomes I would categorize as bad and why?
  3. What actions I could have avoided and why?
  4. What could I have done more during the day which would have made my day 100%?

The activity takes 15 minutes at night to complete. At this point in time I’m writing only specific points and not elaborating the why as text. The Evernote application is a great cross device application, which I can access both on my laptop as well as my phone. At times when I’m in hurry, I would use my phone to write the points. If I don’t have any points for any of the above headers, I don’t write them.

Since I go through these points, just before sleeping, I also try to think about the why while I’m sleeping. Especially the point 3 and 4, which is the learning part of the exercise. I’m also hoping that this way few deeper experience connect with the sub-conscious and help me raise red flags, when I would be close to encountering such experience again. Only time will tell, how successful this exercise has been. I’m quite sure, when you start looking, you end up finding amazing things.

These 15 minutes like morning, should be completely by yourself, where you start tracing back the day minutes by minute. You can also take help of your calendar to recheck, if you’ve had a hectic day. Answers to the questions will be the treasured experience of the day, and more often it would be a gratitude list for the first question. In all my 13 days of this habit, my “Good” experiences have outnumbered the bad and could have avoided. It is a feeling of contentment when you end the day in such a way.

What I would like to start is the extension of this habit through the day, which I was talking about earlier. I would like to take a 3 minute break after every 2 hour, when I’m in office. In these 3 minutes, my intension would be to repeat similar questions. The only difference would be that the response of these questions would be tied to the objective of that hour. Such as if I’m working on an important proposal, during that hour, I would like to remind my self whether I’m making a satisfactory progress or no and what would I need to make it a success.

It takes only a few minutes to pause and to reflect what went well and what didn’t. A brief pause is what you need to be 100%.

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Life, Transformation

Simplicity #Day 12

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Simplicity as an idea is a basic tenet of faith, and its practice can add dimensions to our lives. More prominently, simplicity is embraced by Chinese and Japanese culture as Zen philosophy, which finds its expression in Zen art, design & architecture. This simplicity not only has aesthetic value, but also celebrates the individuality of the object in its entirety. Minimalism is the contemporary version of the concept and worth imbibing in our daily lives.

Simplicity can lead to a number of benefits, however we have uncanny ability to put layers in multitude till we lose the meaning. I have hugely benefited from the concept and hope that the readers are also find value.

Here are my 5 points…

1. Zero Wastage

I maintain a rule in my house that if I have anything, it should have been used once in a month. Be it your running shoes, cufflinks, or a pen, if the object doesn’t meet the criteria, it should be out of the house/work place. According to Vastushastra, our Indian architecture energy and flow methodology, any object that hasn’t been used in the house, breeds negative energy. The point has been a matter of discord with Priya, my wife, however I still stick to my rules. I keep few things that I can use, starting with my clothes to apps in my phone.

2. Zero Multitasking

Multitasking is a misnomer. May be it is a gender thing, however I’m not good at multitasking. I fail terribly and post my realization, I have ensured that I do one thing at a time with 100 per cent of my focus. This doesn’t come easily. The other day, when I went to a restaurant, I saw a family where each member was on a device. A family of 4, came out to have a nice time, but with their device. Before the food comes on the table, they were taking pictures to put it on social etc. Sharing before enjoying the aroma and presence of the family. Social and devices are not bad, but getting consumed by them is. This is the most difficult rule to implement with our daughter Dhriti, who needs an iPad on the table. We are to be blamed, because we used it when she was little, to distract her.  Now, Priya and I have made a rule on the table, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, it would be free of device. As a family we don’t look at any device during that 30 minute. This reminds of my days in my grandfather’s house, where the most exciting moment meeting my cousins over the big table; I would accommodate 10 persons and the whole place used to be full of noise. We would wait for the food to be served one by one, and be consumed by enjoying it over jokes, laughs and chatter.

3. Organization

It is said that one of the best ways to know about the person it to look at how organized are his drawers or cabinets. Organization brings about harmony and good flow of energy. It helps me to fix place for a certain object, so that I can find it easily. It also means I’m able to identify objects which I don’t use. One of the best ways that I have found to keep this to reorganize one of your storage device every week. It could start from your electronic files in your laptop to cleaning your cupboard. When you do so, you would feel the need to order and tranquility, every possible time.

4. Budgeting

One of the simplest ways to stop spending on unnecessary items is through budgeting. I’m a big fan of Mr. Dave Ramsey’s methodology, where you would list your expenses in terms of order of priority (starting with food, which is basic). You would also set priority for goals such as retirement or buying a house and then you need to track the expenses everyday. I realized that I would spend my time and money on items which are not necessary. It helped me save, be generous, and also spend when I wanted to. The clear definition of goals and spends will simplify your life to very large extent.

5. Mindfullness

You must give yourself at least an hour, without the device, where you are completely soaked in the moment. If you make this a practice, you will find yourself present every minute of the day, which is the most powerful state of existence. My morning hours of meditation and exercise (running without a gadget) helps me achieve this. Not that I have become 100% good at it, but I’m improving. I’m consciously trying to be present every minute of my day.  

As again, I would ask you to pick one and try it for the next 66 days, till you become reasonably comfortable at it. Literally, less is more.