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28 February 2013

Rule of thirds for happiness in life....

'Are You Happy?' --Jeffrey Selingo, Columnist and Author
"The advice came from Clint Williams, an editor at the paper. Near the end of the summer, many of the fellows were figuring out where to focus our job search or weighing job offers. Many of us didn’t know what to do next. What would make us happy?

Clint had a rule of thirds for happiness in life. He  told me to ask three questions: Are you happy with your job? Are you happy where you live? Are you happy who you’re with (depending on your circumstances that could mean friends, spouse, partner, etc). If you answer Yes to at least two out of three, you found your spot for the moment. If not, you need to make a change to one of them."

The Karna Metaphor...

Let me tell you about a great mystery of life...
People with great potential are not able to use their potential at critical junctures. While persons with significantly lower potential are able to focus their potential and achieve great victories.
A classic example is Vijay Amritraj. During his peak he was considered to be one of the top 5 best tennis players in the world. He regularly used to beat top players like Jimmy Connors and McEnroe in various ATP tournaments, but he never won a grandslam. 
Or take the case of Ivan Lendl. Considered arguably the greatest tennis player in his generation, he never won a Wimbledon. He reached the Semifinals or Finals of Wimbledon 7 times in his career without winning even once. 
Take the example of South Africa. Leading up to multiple World Cup Championship, they were THE team to beat in One Day internationals. But in crucial, winnable games in the World cup, they lost their way, often ending up being considered as 'Chokers'.
Why does this happen?
I am reminded of the Story of Karna in Mahabharata. 
Karna is considered to be the greatest character in Mahabharata. Spending his early years as the son of a Charioteer, Karna distinguished in various forms of warfare and was the greatest archer of his time. Early in his life, Karna had the ambition of learning the 'Brahmastra' mantra from the great sage Parasurama. However Parasurama was a sworn enemy of Kashtriyas (warrior class) and had declined to give training to Kashtriyas. Knowing that Parasurama trained only Brahmanas, Karna disguised as a Brahmana and asked Parasurama to teach him the Brahmastra mantra. Thinking that Karna was a Brahmana, Parasurama accepted him as his disciple.
One day Parasurama was sleeping with his head on Karna's lap. At that time, a bee came and started stinging Karna's lower thigh. Though it was severely painful and profusely bleeding, Karna was afraid that if he moved his legs, his master would wake up, and hence did not move his thighs and continued to suffer the pain and bleeding.
When Parasurama woke up, he found out what had happened. Knowing that Brahmanas could not suffer such pain and only Kashtriyas could suffer so much of pain, Parasurama confronted Karna and asked him to tell the truth. 
Karna told him the truth that he was not a Brahmana.
On hearing it, a furious Parasurama cursed him that, at the most crucial moment in his life, Karna will forget what he had learned from him. All the knowledge that Karna learned would be useless at a crucial point in his life where that knowledge is absolutely required.
This happened in Mahabharata war. At the crucial moment when he was fighting Arjuna, Karna forgot the Brahmastra mantra resulting in him getting killed by Arjuna.
Most of us are like Karna. We go about absorbing enormous amount of knowledge but at crucial situations which matter, we forget the knowledge, we get afraid to take that final step and hence we get results significantly below our potential.
Wasn't it Ellen DeGeneres who said, 'Human beings use only 10% of our brain power. Imagine what we can achieve if we use the remaining 60%'
Why am I saying this story now?
I know of a person who is very intelligent, knowledgeable and full of energy. It is obvious to others that he has significant potential but he is not effectively using it. The problem is that he is oblivious to his potential and the way in which he is wasting it.
One day, we were facing an issue and he was owning the issue. He did a good job of analysis, he  came up with multiple solutions. But exactly at a time when he had to take a decision on the final solution he caved. The final solution was obvious to all. But he lost his confidence (I think) and said that he wanted further analysis. Immediately, someone in the team took over and decided that we will go ahead with the solution. 
At that moment, when he caved, he ceded the turf to someone else. All the good work that he had put in will be forgotten. The only thing that will linger is the knowledge that someone else took the final decision and he caved when it mattered. 
This is Karna in action. This person had the knowledge, but at the time when he should have taken a decision, he lost his nerve and lost control of this issue.
Isn't there some Karna in all of us?

26 February 2013

Three Inspirational Stories...

Here are three inspirational stories filled with wisdom. Coincidentally, all involve Professors

Story # 1: Weight of half glass of water

Professor came to the class, and, without saying anything filled a glass half full with water.

Students, all expectant to hear the eternal question about 'Glass half filled or half empty?' braced themselves.

'How much does this glass weigh?' asked the Prof.

How much does a glass half filled with water weigh? 'Two ounces' came one answer, 'five' piped another student.

'The weight of this glass depends on how much time you are going to hold the glass' said the wise Professor, 'You might not feel any weight if you hold this for a few minutes. But if you hold it for an hour, it will feel slightly heavy, and if you hold it for a day, it will be very heavy. Hold it for five days, and your hands will start aching and you will find it difficult to hold the glass.'

'Situations that create hurt and stress are like this half filled glass. If you keep it for a few moments, they will not hurt, but if you carry them with you throughout, they will start hurting you severely, making you ineffective'.

'So', said the professor throwing out the water through the window, 'throw out those stress inducing feelings and emotions before they can hurt you'.

Story # 2: Glass filled with Stones

Professor comes to the class, picks up a glass and fills it with some stones.

'Is this glass full?', he asks the class

'Yes', responds the class unanimously

Then he pours in a few small pebbles. The pebbles occupy the space between the stones.

'Do you think the glass is full now?', he queried

'Yes', answers the class a bit dubiously

The Professor goes on to fill the glass with sand. The small grains of sand fills the gap between the pebbles.

'Is the glass full now?', asks the Prof.

'Yes', the class is absolutely sure.

The Prof. goes on to pour a cup of coffee in the glass. 

'You see', says the Professor, 'this glass is an analogy for your life. The stones represent the things that are very important to you, like Values, Goals, Family, Friends, Work Life Balance, Hobbies etc. The pebbles represent those that are not as important as stones, but important nevertheless like your job, money etc. The sand represent the stuff that are the least important to you like checking the mail, updating face book status etc'.

'If you fill your life with lots of sand, you will not have any space for things that are important to you. So it is important for you to fill your life with 'Stones' and a few 'Pebbles', with minimal space for 'Sand'.

'What does 'Coffee' mean?', wondered the class.

'Oh, no matter how full your life is, there is always space for a cup of Coffee with your friends', the Professor replied.

Story # 3: Glasses of different colours

A group of friends met up for their 25th Class Reunion. Hearing that their venerated Professor lived nearby, they decided to pay him a courtesy visit.

The professor warmly welcomed them and all sat in the lounge over cups of coffee.

There were a number of cups set on the table. A few of them were beautiful cups, brightly coloured with very good designs and a few were bland white cups.

They all took the bright coloured cups and filled coffee and started drinking.

'Do you notice something?', said the Professor, 'all of you have chosen bright, designer  cups to drink your coffee. None of you have taken the bland, white cups.'

'However, what you are drinking, coffee, is what matters to you. The colour of the cups is just peripheral to the task of drinking coffee. But you instinctively chose the designer cups'.

'This is what happens in our lives too', Professor continued, 'What matters to us is the values we develop, the happiness that we earn as we progress in life, the strength of our families, the respect that we demonstrate to our parents, number of friends that we have, the valuable time that we spend with our kids as they grow up...'

'These are all important stuff', the Professor paused to let it sink in.

'But what do we focus on? We focus on making money, we focus on building beautiful bungalows, we focus on owning large amounts of property, we focus on our jobs...'

'These are all peripherals'.

'We focus on the peripherals, while missing the 'Coffee'. We work late at the office, on the latest deadline, while we miss our daughter's performance in the school play. We travel on 'Business' and miss our Spouses Birthday. We focus on finding faults with our near and dear while taking for granted the good things that they do for us day after day.'

'We pull our bed sheet tightly around us and miss the brilliant Sunrise that is welcoming us just outside our window'.

'It is important to identify the 'Coffee' in our lives and focus on them and the 'Designer Cups' in our lives and defocus on them', finished the Professor.

25 February 2013

The Spring Transformation....

It is spring time here again in Bangalore...

Some of the trees have already shed their leaves and are adorned with new,glistening, green leaves. Some of them are already decked with brightly coloured flowers. There is a smell of spring all around.

Some of them woke up late. Like a passenger late for the train, they are frantically trying to catch up,  shedding their leaves at a furious pace, afraid of being left out of the show.

The other day, my car was parked under one such tree. When I came back after an hour, my car was literally flooded with brown leaves.

Watching nature reinventing itself, redecorating itself, shedding the old useless leaves to make way for new glowing ensemble, made me think. Year after year, like a clockwork, nature dresses up in Spring, attracts birds and bees that will help it 'spread its message' and finally, having completed its task, shed the old leaves and wear new ones.

I mean, isn't a lesson there? Shouldn't we all be like the nature? What about taking some tips from nature?

Starting from childhood, we pile up ourselves with bad habits. We go thru the motions of living, do not set any goals for ourselves, eat all those junk food, put on fat, sit ages in front of our PCs, Laptops, Tabs and mobiles, do not go out and play, don't have time to exercise, do not socialize, do not read good books, do not watch good movies, work and wear out ourselves, do not plan our tasks, do not set ourselves goals and targets, do not schedule...

Go thru the motions...

We blame ourselves, find faults with others, become ineffective in personal relationships.

Day by day, month by month, year by year, we let these bad habits pile up. 

All these bad habits take up our time and resource. Which means that they 'crowd out' good habits. Good habits need time to develop. And that is what is not available for us since all our time is taken up by bad habits.

Have you read a good book recently?
No man, I am so occupied.
When was the last time you complimented you colleague?
Are you crazy? What has she done to deserve a compliment? 
Want to watch Lincoln?
I am afraid I am busy.
Want to come to the garden and smell flowers?
You mad? I would rather update my status on Facebook....

Shouldn't we take some lessons from nature? Shouldn't we all have our spring cleaning? Shouldn't we have our own 'Personal Spring' season, where we identify and shed bad habits and let new habits develop?  

Our ancestors, those dudes who lived in the era of 'handwritten letters' and 'newspapers' and 'going to bank to withdraw cash' and 'waiting in line for making a long distance call' realized this. They realized that people should dedicate some time every year to remove clutter from their environment and their minds. That is why they brought in the concept of 'Spring Cleaning'. 

It is time that we adopted the concept of Spring Cleaning. Let us identify at least one bad habit and try to rid ourselves of that. Have a time-bound program. Remember, nature has a window of about two months between Winter and Summer to remove the dead leaves and bring in new bright ones. Here are some of the lessons that we can learn from nature when it comes to getting rid of bad habits.

1. Identify your bad habits: Every year, the nature only sheds its dead leaves, The roots, the stem, the branches are all left untouched. Just like nature, you also identify the bad habits that you want to shed.

2. Identify a good habit to replace a bad habit with: This is a very important step. Nature doesn't just shed old leaves and say ' I am done. I have removed all the bad leaves. Now I do not have to do anything.'.  It continues the process by replacing the dead leaves with brand new leaves. For every bad habit that you want to shed, identify a good habit to replace it with.  

3. Shed bad habits completely and thoroughly: Nature do not do a half-baked job. Come spring and ALL the bad leaves fall and new good leaves comes in their place. Just like nature, if you identify a bad habit, shed it completely.

4. Have a time bound plan: Nature binds itself to a fixed time window in which to shed the old leaves and bring in new ones in their place. Just like nature have a time-bound plan, have a very clear time window in which to relieve you of bad habits.

5. Consistency is the key: Nature is anything if not consistent.Every year, around mid-January, the leaves start shedding and by mid of March, the old leaves are replaced with new ones. Just like nature, once you start shedding bad habits, do it consistently, stick to a fixed time window, have a fixed start date and a fixed end date ans stick to it year after year. 

6. Replace bad habits with good habits: This is important. Nature doesn't just shed old leaves, it replaces old leaves with new. Similarly, once you give up a bad habit, it is very important to fill up the available time with a new habits. It has to go hand in hand. I see many people make the mistake of working on removing their bad habits without devoting enough time to replace it with good habits. Without this replacement, you will end up replacing one bad habit with another bad habit. It doesn't help at all. Bad habits and good habits are like left hand and right hand. They go together.
Struggling to start a new habit? This might help

7. Shed one bad habit at a time. Nature do not wake up one sudden day and shed all the leaves at one go. The leaves are shed one leaf at a time. Similarly, you also have to shed one habit at a time and eliminate it completely. 

8. Be aware of the external dependencies: As spring approaches, nature knows that it is time to shed the leaves and adorn a new look. Somewhere else, the birds and the bees also knows that in another two months, the nature's renewal will be completed signalling them to start their activities. They wait patiently for nature to complete its tasks. The trees do not see the birds, The birds do not see any specific tree. But both know that they are dependent on each other. They instinctively know that there is a mutually beneficial relationship between them which will commence once the nature completes its 'Spring Cleaning'. Just like that there is something out there which is patiently waiting for you to shed your bad habit to bless you with abundance of richness and growth and personal happiness. But, you have to initiate the process. The blessings will not come to to you till you shed the bad habits. If you do not shed the bad habits? Well, the blessings, help and support will flow to those who take the time to do that. 

Tell me what other lessons that you learn from observing trees shedding their leaves in Spring. I would love to hear your views.