Manage Your Time Well…But, How? [Part 1 of 3]

We have all been given 24 hours in a day. Then, how do some of us appear to have more time to themselves than others?

Time management is not an outcome of complex calculations. It is as simple as it can be.

We need more time than we normally spend to savour the goodies of life.

When time is a universal constant, it needs to be handled differently.

Over the years I have come to learn 3 mantras of time management that seem to work well irrespective of the degree of perceived odds. I will not state them as principles because these are approaches that may be interpreted differently by different people.

Before I dwell on the 3 mantras, I want you to note that surprisingly, to manage time, we do nothing to the time itself. We cannot change the nature and unit of time. But, we could do things differently to make use of the time constant dished out to us.

Time Management Mantra # 1: Make the Right Choice(s)

When we want to accomplish more than the time may allow in our lives, it becomes a matter of choice. What we do on a daily or a regular basis should contribute to a bigger goal. In other words, in order not to indulge in activities whose cumulative results lead you nowhere, you must focus on activities that are derived from what you want to achieve in the long run. For example, a daily walk/jog from point A to B (when you may have the choice to drive) makes sense only if it is aimed at a long-term goal of physical fitness or endurance or simply, just plain pleasure. Otherwise, that walk may be a waste of your time.

How do you design activities of your day that sum up to a bigger overall benefit? For that, you need to abstract to higher goals of your life first.

This is how it works. If you realize, you do not have life goals, you will have to identify those first. Then, you must mark them as milestones on the timeline. To stay on course, you may want to leverage the principle of abstraction (see one of my earlier posts, ‘Planning Horizons: Leveraging the Principle of Abstraction’).

When you begin to strive to ‘stay on course’, your day-to-day activities become more meaningful and relevant in your perception.

Does this time-management exercise have to be this impersonal? No.

This mantra applies equally well to ‘achieving tangible goals’ and ‘living life’. For example, if you choose to interact with your friend more often, it may not be the derived result of a tangible goal you have in mind but a goal that makes your life worth living, that is, to keep your friend forever!

So, irrespective of what choices mean to you, just make the right ones. Only you are best judge of what choices are right for you.


Please stay tuned for the other 2 mantras of Time Management…

Appear to have lost motivation? Pluck it out of thin air…

Some undertakings in our life require a relentless drive to continue on the chosen path even if we do not get a feedback on our doings. A feedback acts like a ‘stroke’ that could either be an indicator suggesting a correction in course or simply a pat on the back.

Where the feedback wholly or partly realizes the objective(s) of an undertaking, absence of it may result in momentary loss of motivation.

In the world full of plethora of media, it is relatively easier to disseminate information or knowledge to targeted audience or readers.

But, occasionally, such a one-sided effort loses the fuel to drive forward because either the seed is in short supply or the feedback is missing.

Imagine you have launched a program for amelioration of poor children in one of the countries of the African continent. If due to any reason, you do not get input about the most affected regions, problems faced due to poverty, immediate needs of the poor children etc, you may find it difficult to plan the activities of your program as accurately as you would have liked. Also, if the feedback on your program is not available momentarily, the motivation to sustain the momentum may dwindle.

What could you do? I do not have a one-size-fits-all solution for such situations except that one has to dig deeper into one’s resolve and innovatively find the motivation to sustain the momentum. Every one of us will find that motivation differently.

All I can do is sharing with you an instance that might give you a fair idea of maintaining the level of motivation even when it is in short supply.

When candid feedback on my blog dried up momentarily from select sources due to factors beyond my control, I made a deliberate decision to continue writing for the mentee of my dreams, who I call ‘Gallardo’. Who is Gallardo? Well, Gallardo is an untiring spirit who has a will to learn; Gallardo absorbs knowledge and new information like a sponge; Gallardo is not afraid of failing; Gallardo has a ‘never say die’ attitude; Gallardo is a faith in one’s mentor. With so much at stake, I will never find myself short of motivation to write. I know in some part of the world, some day, a Gallardo would read it and benefit from it.

So, I shall keep my promise. I shall write for you, Gallardo!

Find the Real ‘You’…(Part 2 of 2)

My earlier post “Find The Real ‘You’…(Part 1 of 2)”, set the stage to prepare you to realize your true potential.

I reiterate that what I suggest is not prescriptive. If you happen to know a better D-I-Y (Do-It-Yourself) method, please do share it in the comments for the benefit of all.

The method I suggest, assumes that your true potential never dies and is always there to be tapped. It is nothing but a manifestation of your personal traits.  Preoccupation with mundane activities or adverse circumstances in your life may result in you missing out on the ‘complete picture’.

It is natural and reasonable to assume that, at a moment when it is absolutely required, your most relevant traits come to the fore.

Let us talk about the method now. This method is a simple but diligent exercise of recounting and making note of all occasions in your life when you did something that resulted in satisfaction/happiness/a feeling of pride, and at the same time did not cause any intentional or unintentional harm to anyone else. If you try recalling, you will have a sizeable list ready in a short amount of time. Try and recall all events/occasions, big or small, because your traits manifest themselves subconsciously based on the need of the hour, and not based on the enormity or significance of the occasion.

If you make a note of all such good happenings from your past, you will have a list that may have a semblance of, (1) my photogenic memory saved the day on … ; (2) my cool demeanour helped me win a difficult argument and turned the tables in my favour on…; (3) my random act of kindness or a good gesture made a kid happy or made a number of people happy when…; (4) my organization skills helped me save money when…; (5) my attention to details helped me make the right choice while buying…; (6) my endurance resulted in an advantage for me when…; (7) my mental resilience enabled me to bounce back from the setback caused by…; (8) I grasped  the concept of ‘….’ faster than the others; (9)  I picked up ‘….’ skills relatively easily; (10) the sensitivity in me helped me take control of the situation when…; and so on.

Very soon, you will have a list of your traits that did manifest on one occasion or the other in your life. Once you uncover those and dust them off, you will feel you have a large repertoire to put to good use. And, since these are your own traits that make your natural self, you do not need any special training to put them into practice once again!

Since one tends to evolve every passing moment of one’s life, this method is not a one-time assessment of one’s potential. You should set a convenient frequency at which you must repeat this exercise to include more of your natural or developed/acquired traits that played their good part since the last assessment.

It is this simple!

An observant coach or a mentor does a similar exercise for you. If you can honestly recount events from your past, you are likely to have a more comprehensive portrayal of your personality than that drawn by a coach or a mentor.

Knowledge of your true potential will help you draw the boundaries within which you can be confident of making your dreams real!

Try this today.


Find the Real ‘You’…(Part 1 of 2)

Did you ever get a feeling that your potential was inflated and was directly communicated to you as such? And, did it make you think twice if the apparently inflated assessment of potential came from your coach or mentor?

A true mentor is more likely to help you fathom the real depth of your capability. This is one of the most important tasks a mentor or a coach has to perform. It is also one of the 3 components of giving that makes a difference. See my blog post ‘Giving to Make a Difference’.

What if you do not have a mentor? In this case, the onerous task of realizing your own potential falls squarely on your own shoulders.

If you need to goad yourself to push the envelope, you need to assess objectively that your aspirations are within your reach. See my blog post ‘That Elusive Healthy Competition’ about the need to realize your own potential.

What I am going to suggest is not prescriptive. There are many other methods and tools available to help you realize your hidden potential. But, this one is quite simple using which, one seldom goes wrong in self-assessment.

Let us understand how a mentor would have done it for you. An observant mentor is likely to study your traits and plot them on a graph to derive a picture of your real self. To one’s delight, in most cases, this picture shows more than what one thinks of oneself. It is easier for a committed mentor to discern those traits which you might have overlooked about yourself.

Why is it not always easy to plot such a graph about ‘You’ on your own? Because, when we do assess ourselves, we tend to instantly compare our current achievements with our desires. Since our aspirations are always likely to be higher than where we stand today, we tend to think more in terms of have-not.

So, is it really simple to assess one’s hidden potential? I think, yes.

Stay tuned for my next post to know how…


That Elusive Healthy Competition!

There are moments in our lives when we either lose the source of inspiration or form an opinion that certain goals are no longer relevant.  Consequently, we tend to feel that we have lost our way and we have an innate desire to pity ourselves and stagnate.

Such moments in our lives demand that we evolve into a state where we could compete with ourselves, and as a result, start pushing the envelope.  But, it is not easy to convince one to start competing with oneself.

How do you even compete with yourself? Do you need to be your own worst critic? Is it this simple to keep the bias out while evaluating your own actions or performance? Though you could subscribe to this approach, action-paralysis may result. Inaction might assume the form of pertinent questions like, ‘Where do I start?’, ‘Exactly, what do I do?’ and so on.

In the coming few posts I will try addressing this possible quandary.

To be able to critically evaluate our own actions with intent to self-improve, we need at least 3 ingredients,

  • A plan or a roadmap
  • Realized self-potential
  • A method to identify opportunities to ‘push the envelope’

A plan or a roadmap will make it easier for you to maintain momentum in the right direction.  It will keep you focused. It is also likely to introduce a degree of urgency to meet certain goals by a certain point in time.  To get the context of a plan or a roadmap right, you may want to read my post on ‘Planning Horizons: Leveraging the Principle of Abstraction’.

Continual realization of your own hidden potential is probably the biggest casualty when you do not have a guide or a mentor available to you. In my subsequent posts, I will suggest some time-tested methods to help you recognize and unearth your hidden potential on your own.

Where your plan or a roadmap will keep you motivated, a realized self-potential will be your source of inspiration. And, that’s what self-mentoring is all about!

Stay tuned for more on how to compete with your own self.


The ‘Harder Right’ OR the ‘Easier Wrong’

Life happens.

As a result, on some occasions, some of our actions are emotional and some irrational.

I will not talk about success today. I will talk about the harbinger of failure in one’s life.

One of the secrets of staying on top of one’s game is to avoid pitfalls. If one does encounter pitfalls, the ‘easier wrong’ tends to take one further in a downward spiral.

It is always the ‘harder right’ that saves the day.

The ‘harder right’ does come across as retro or old fangled. It is time-consuming. And, above all, it is painful.

For those who pre-process the information in their mind and choose the ‘harder right’ to start with, the progress is slow for them, but success is almost a surety.

If you make a wrong choice or a move, the only next best thing you can do is to get back up, dust off your clothes, choose the ‘harder right’ from then on, and resume the walk on your path. There are absolutely no short-cuts.

In my life so far, I have been lucky to be close to at least two people who made the ‘harder right’ their way of life.  What a privilege for me to witness their lives first hand!

I wish all my friends courage to choose the ‘harder right’ even when the chips are down. It may not make life easier, but it certainly makes it worth living.

When should we choose the ‘harder right’ over the ‘easier wrong’? Always.

Because, it is more important to do the right thing than to merely do things right.


Innovation or Creativity is Everyone’s Cup of Tea!

Is it a must to be creative or innovative to succeed? Well, if you are born with all the luck in the world, you need not give it a serious thought and your destiny will look after you well.

But if you belong to the majority who need to put in effort to succeed, you need to be innovative and/or creative in order to find the path less/never travelled.

Imagine using the established means of transportation to get from point A to point B. If you want to reach faster, you will have to resort to one of the following: -

  •         Innovate to travel the distance faster using the same resources (means of transportation)
  •         Innovate to find a different route to get from point A to point B which makes you reach point B sooner.
  •         Create a means of transportation that takes less time to the destination.

Whichever way you look at it, a better alternative that breaks the shackles of an accepted/tested norm needs an innovative or a creative solution.

Is innovation or creativity a territory of the talented few who are bestowed with the ‘gift’ to think out of the box?

The answer is ‘No’. Innovation or Creativity is everyone’s cup of tea. Needless to say that one needs to be innovative and/or creative to make exceptional progress, be it in interpersonal relations or in performance at workplace or while competing in the playfield or any other arena.

How do innovation and creativity result?

I take my cue from an artist, Bert Dodson, who summed it up very nicely. He says, ‘Every creative thought, imagining or strange idea involves putting together at least 2 elements in a novel way. We can think of it as taking a bag containing one idea and joining it with a bag containing a completely unrelated idea. A ‘strange idea’ invariably results.’

Suppose you are confronted with a problem in business. Assuming that you know your business well, one element will always be well known to you, that is, the impact of any solution alternative on your business. Innovation is likely to result if you ‘borrow’ an idea from an unrelated domain and try applying it in the known domain. To cite an example, my knowledge of military tactics has, on occasions, helped me find an innovative solution to a business problem!

Another example could be a lady (who is also a mother) trying to manage a difficult team member in the team she leads. If she likens the difficult team member’s behaviour to that of a child, she is more likely to find innovative ways to deal with him/her!

Always remember to ‘mix two bags’ to get an innovative or a creative solution.

I wish you good luck!


Go, Get Your Dream Job!

It has always been a challenge for the young generation to secure a job of their dreams. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to landing a job at the start of one’s career, because the ‘playground’ is different in different industries.

In my interaction with the youngsters, I come across one common problem that underlies their woes. They do not have experience and without the testimony of having worked earlier, it is hard for them to make a dent in the job market and prove their mettle.

So, in other words, until they get a job, they cannot show how good they are. Is it really the case? This is where my opinion differs from theirs.

The younger generation must realize that the most people entrusted with the responsibility of hiring bank on their valuable experience and exposure of many years to make a hiring decision, no matter how structured or rigid the imposed criteria of selection is.  

Armed with this little secret, the young job aspirants can possibly create an opportunity for themselves than waiting for one.

There is a concept of mock interview but it is different from what it normally means.

A different kind of mock interview: I am going to talk about one of the little-known techniques that can land a co-op assignment or an internship or even a regular job for the kid who is just starting his/her career. I will be addressing the kid (candidate) directly in my text below.

Established Definition: So far, what we understand from a ‘Mock Interview’ is that it is an exercise that simulates real interview scenarios so that one is better prepared for the real job interview.

Modified Definition (in this context)For an interview that results in achieving objectives different from those that are obvious, a mock interview could also be an exercise to interview your potential interviewer in reality and get yourself a job!

What are you looking for? Let us say, you are looking for an internship opportunity or a co-op assignment with a prestigious company. Also, you want to skip the normal procedural channel of going through multi-tiered selection process that includes an in-person interview in the end. Probably, this in-person interview may not materialize as you may not reach that stage in all your attempts. To employ this BOLD technique, you may take the following steps: -

1. In the company of your dreams, identify the title of influence and the person holding that title who has the maximum influence on the decision of hiring you or offering you an assignment.

2. Research the person’s profile thoroughly.

3. PROPOSE a meeting to this person that he/she may find difficult to turn down. How?

How do you PROPOSE a meeting that your interviewer cannot decline?

You may debate that this entails not only fixing a meeting with the person but also driving the meeting the way you want it driven. This is the very basis of this technique. As a young candidate fresh out of college/university, it is difficult to demonstrate your experience for you have none. Then, how do you demonstrate traits that make you stand out in the crowd and help you to be considered for the coveted job over others?  Well, if not the experience, the company definitely wants the young professional to be willing to learn and of course, to have above-average intelligence, resourcefulness and initiative in good measure. The idea of proposing a meeting to the person of influence will directly demonstrate to that person all the desired traits that are badly needed by the companies today.

I call this proposed meeting a kind of ‘Mock Interview’ where the prospective candidate acts as an interviewer with a serious purpose and, in playing that role, shows all those traits that the company may be looking for! It is possible that this type of exercise is known by other popular name as well.

Proposal: You must propose a meeting to discuss/consult a topic of high interest (with relevance) and it MUST NOT be anywhere near the idea of asking for a job, per se. For example, you may call this person and say that you have done extensive research on his/her (person of influence) profile and the company he works for; and further, you want to meet with the person face-to-face to obtain valuable inputs on what is needed to become a competent professional like him/her (person of influence). If that person of influence is a woman, the kid (candidate) may approach her to gather work/life experience of ‘leading women’ in the given industry for others to emulate!

How will this proposal be viewed by the person of influence?

If you have done a meticulous job of collating facts, you will get this unsuspecting meeting 100% of the time. This is because there are not many occasions in the lives of competent professionals or top-guns where someone wants to patiently listen to their story of success with a view to emulate or to take lessons from!

What to do when the proposed meeting materializes?

Well, firstly, it is important to understand that it is NOT unethical to approach the person of influence in the company of your dreams in this manner. Secondly, this meeting is your golden chance where your potential interviewer (who might have interviewed you if you were shortlisted) is not focused on questioning you. He/she is not wearing an examiner’s hat. Rather, he/she is more likely to be in awe of your initiative, diligence, knowledge and sincerity!

To make the most of this GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY, these are some of the steps you must ensure:-

1. Do not ever deviate from the proposed objective of the meeting and prepare your questions well.

2. The homework done by you for this ‘Reality’ exercise should clearly demonstrate to the person of influence those traits of yours that the company is looking for.

3. Prepare GOOD INTRO ABOUT YOURSELF as this would be your 30-second chance to plant a seed in the VIP’s mind about your aspirations which he/she will most likely consider during/after the interview without you mentioning those overtly.

4. Also, your proposal for this meeting should have already given a clear impression that you can ‘make things happen’.

5. Very Important: Do not pay lip-service to your proposal after the meeting is over. The proposal that you make should be a serious one and should be followed through at all costs.

Will you get the job?

Yes, before anyone else does!

Happy hunting!


Giving To Make a Difference…

Now that we have rationally established that one tends to receive many times over when one gives (see my blog post “Give, ….and Ye Shall Receive”), it is time to talk about what type of giving makes a real difference.

For the most time in our lives, we are endowed with just enough to look after ourselves. So, it takes some effort to set resources aside for others on an ongoing basis. But, if we change our outlook to accommodate the following, it will become easier for us to give: -

  •         Giving is not just letting something go for the sake of others. It spells involvement that is also subconsciously aimed at gaining a lot in the process.
  •         It is possible to inject small actions in our day-to-day lives so that their execution does not overwhelm us or the beneficiaries.

When we talk of transferring intangible wealth to others, we have examples of many a bounty with varying shelf-life and impact. To maximize the effect of ‘doing good’ in its real sense, it is advisable to choose resources/methods that have a lasting impact on the beneficiary’s life.

In order to make a real difference, resources/methods that deliver the maximum impact are: -

  •         Resource: Time
  •         Method: Help realize one’s true potential
  •         Method: Give one a vision/dream that can be made real

Strange as it may sound, these are the mainstay of everything that one wants to achieve in one’s lifetime.

Give Your TIME

Time is the most vital resource that one needs to set aside. It is time that makes the process of giving meaningful.

Make time for your mentee because that is needed more than anything else to make the transfer complete and permanent.  You will realize that, the more committed you are, the easier it will be to make time available. It is your commitment that will drive you to find innovative ways to spare time to give on a daily basis.

Is it possible to attain and sustain such a high level of commitment? Yes, the very ‘incentive’ of giving ensures the desired level of commitment (see my blog post “Give, ….and Ye Shall  Receive”).

To set time aside, please go through my blog posts under Time category.

Help Realize One’s True Potential

This is the best gift you can give to a person. But figuring out someone’s potential through study of his /her traits is a deliberate exercise. If you want to do justice to this exercise, please take it seriously. Remember, if you are not sure, do not over-commit or over-project.

Once determined and shared, it acts as a confidence-builder and a morale-booster for the beneficiary, and will also remove any self-doubts that that person may have. And, while helping more and more people, please do not be surprised by the number of people who are not aware of their true potential!

Give One a Vision/Dream that Can be Made Real

The beneficiary does feel elated with the new-found knowledge of his/her potential.  But the desire to use one’s potential to the fullest possible can only be realized when one has a goal that aligns with one’s strengths and is attainable too. The next most precious bounty is to give the beneficiary a vision or a dream that is practically possible to achieve.

So, the devoted time, identified potential and a formulated vision (based on new-found potential) constitute a package that pays back more than it’s worth over time!

Try it and the beneficiary will thank you from the bottom of his/her heart.

And, isn’t that what you always yearn to receive in return? That is, to cherish and to help you sustain momentum to light even more pathways!


Give, and Ye Shall …Receive (Grow, Gain, Actualize)!

I asked one of my co-workers one day, ‘What does ‘Giving’ mean to you?’

Pat came his reply, ‘You are never afraid of losing what you do not have…so give…’. But, losing something is so material in nature. This is not the kind of ‘giving’ I want to talk about today.

On another note, it sounds so noble and plausible, ‘Give, and ye shall receive’.

Although this belief appears to have originated from religious and spiritual teachings, I will deliberately stay away from the religious, spiritual and philosophical connotations.

I will talk about ‘giving’ that enables you to make a difference in an intangible way. It brings in change for the better, not only for the recipient but also for your own self.

When ‘giving’ makes a difference in your own life, you ‘receive’. In other words, you ‘grow’, you ‘gain’, and you ‘actualize’.

Assuming that the notion of ‘being successful’ applies equally to our personal and professional lives, how does ‘giving’ make us more successful?

When we give the gift of knowledge, experience or a skill, we do well ourselves. Let us rationally analyze how.

In current times, we lead a busy life. We acquire or learn as we go along, both consciously and subconsciously. Seldom do we get a chance to save others from making the same mistakes we made when we were busy learning. When you prepare yourself to share your ‘intangible wealth’ of knowledge, experience and skills, you force yourself to realize the overall impact of your ‘giving’ on the recipient. And, you ‘grow’ at once. A sense of responsibility creeps in. It is this sense that coaxes you to put in honest effort to vet your speech, viewpoint and actions before you deliver. In other words, while giving the gift of knowledge and experience, you position yourself to learn more for the entire duration of the knowledge/skill transfer.

Your positive intention is the herald of a new paradigm that is congenial for your success too. And, this is how it happens…

You have an immediate close encounter with the truth. Suddenly, you become aware of the depth of your knowledge and proficiency, as if you have been shown a mirror! If you find yourself falling short during this process, you immerse yourself in discovery and improvement phase and later surface as the more capable person than you were before. Let us not deny that there cannot be a bigger incentive for self-improvement than an opportunity to teach or mentor someone! I have been fortunate in this regard to some extent, and I wish the same for all of you.

It has been my experience that in personal relations as well as at work place (where one strives to do better by the day), your standing, title or position does not play as big a part as your rapport with your loved ones or co-workers. If you are older or senior, younger ones or subordinates will always tend to maintain some ‘distance’ from you. This distance is an impediment to open communication and free-flow of thoughts and ideas which are the very essence of your success.

That is the reason why you should not think or spend time evaluating the pros and cons of your benevolent actions. Give unconditionally. It will do you good in many ways, many times over!

Stay tuned for my next post in which I will talk about how simple acts of giving on a daily basis can keep you charged up to do more and better always.


Get a Life…But How?

When the calendar year starts out, we find ourselves pinning hopes on the New Year.  Often, we create a list of our New Year resolutions and are pretty enthusiastic about following all of them (and perhaps more) to their logical conclusion during the rest of the year. We take time out to plan our entire year either during the last month of the previous year or during the first month of the New Year.

As the year moves into its second month, reality hits us hard and we come to terms with it gradually. We realize that our resolutions are weighing too heavily on our mind and are actually not letting us have a breather.

What we fail to realize is that the New Year, like any other year, is very much a part of our life. A Spartan approach to devote the current year to serious goals with a hope to live the subsequent years to the fullest gets us into a habit of mistreating ourselves year after year with a hope to live sometime later in future.

So, it makes sense to inject activities in our plan that help us unwind continually. These activities may pertain to having fun, indulging in our hobbies, or simply recouping by doing nothing. Let us put it this way – these activities are the ones that we look forward to periodically to break the monotony. We shall call them entertainment for our mind and soul.

If we choose not to ‘entertain’ ourselves, our interest and focus on our carefully-drawn resolutions diminishes.  But, how much of entertainment is enough? When we are faced with this question, we tend to feel guilty and the guilt shows in our plans. We tend to keep the entertainment to the minimum lest it should derail us from our path to the objectives.

We must remove the silent guilt from our plans since it eats into our general efficiency and drive.

How do we achieve a guilt-free plan? We should make entertainment an integral part of all our plans. And, while scheduling entertainmentwe must not hold ourselves back. The skeptics might question that we may end up with no serious plan. Although, this might appear to be a natural conclusion but it never manifests this way.

The reason we do not set ourselves up for a failure during planning stages while exercising total freedom to schedule entertainment is, because we are all slaves of our habits and personality. If as a principle, one lays more emphasis on entertainment, one is likely to have less steep objectives too. The flip side is also true.  If one is more inclined to pursue serious activities, one is not likely to feel guilty with less entertainment. Hence, we must let our heart decide how much entertainment we want in our life in the coming year and we will not go wrong. Most importantly, we will not feel guilty (either way) while executing our plans.

If you are in agreement with what I have said so far, won’t it be more effective to plan and schedule how toget a life first? Thereafter, what you are left with is the time you must devote to working towards your serious goals!

It is this simple to get a guilt-free life while sticking to your New Year resolutions for the rest of the year!

(For back-reference and context, please read my last blog-post, The Longest Journey is a Single Step…)


The Longest Journey is a Single Step…Simply Repeated!

In my younger days at the military academy, the cross-country captain of my squadron had this to say when it came to motivating the squadron on the night before the gruelling competition…

“All you have to do in a cross-country race is to keep the rear foot in front repeatedly. If you feel you are going slower than the others, do it faster. And, keep doing it until you reach the finish line. There is nothing more to it!”

When I give this audacious method a deliberate thought, a clear formula of success begins to emerge.

Before I dwell into this method, I will talk briefly about the ‘Long Journey’. Later, I will try and liken this long journey to a cross-country race mentioned earlier.

There are times in our life when we are left with no choice but to take a long and arduous path to our goal. It may be further aggravated by a condition that forces us to walk on this path all alone. This combination arises out of many factors but the most common ones are: -

  • The goal/feat we choose is unique and has not been achieved/attempted by anyone else before.
  • The process of achieving this goal is very lengthy and, most times, runs into years, or even decades!
  • Circumstances do not allow much support along the way.

Even if two out of three conditions prevail of the above, we have a semblance of a ‘Long Journey’ to our goal. This is where the madness of the ‘cross-country race method’applies beautifully!

Your longest journey comprises of a series of similar and/or varied single steps that you have to execute like a ritual.

In other words, the longest of journeys may not be daunting enough in spite of its enormity.

A long journey needs discipline. And discipline needs faith to sustain itself. This is a different kind of faith. You need to keep faith in each single step you take in the journey, no matter how insignificant, irrelevant or monotonous it might appear to be.

Example: You could have a goal of sending your young kid to a good school in a few years from now. You realize that you need to maintain your earning potential at a level that makes it possible for you to pay for the child’s tuition in future. It may mean that you need to stay competitive and earn well in spite of all economic downturns that the coming years might throw your way. This, in turn, might indicate that you need to be in good health, which might point towards a regular and disciplined workout for all those years. On a different note, maintaining a good earning potential might also mean that you need to keep abreast with the latest and greatest skills in your industry. And, in some industries, it might mean a disciplined self-study of 30 minutes every day!

So, two seemingly unrelated and not-so-relevant regular steps (likened to single steps of the journey), namely, a regular workout and a half-hour self-study, may, very well relate to your ultimate goal of sending your kid to a good school! These steps need to be repeated a large number of times rendering them apparently trivial in day-to-day life.

How do you conclude what (relevant) steps to run (perform) in your journey? The correlation of specific regular essential activities and overall achievement of your goal can be drawn from another exercise that I shared with the readers in my earlier post “Planning Horizons: Leveraging the Principle of Abstraction.

Every single step in the journey is important. If you do not run a few single steps, you will reach the finish line later.

And, since each missed step in the journey is likely to have a disproportionate effect, it might just get a little too late in the end!

At the same time, life need not be monotonous. In my next post, I will talk about how to‘Get a Life’ while doing what you have to do. Stay tuned.


More “TO-DO” With Less…

This post is a continuation of my last one, namely, Better ‘TO-DO’ Each Day…Day After Day

The word ‘Less’ in the title of this post connotes less time and/or less resources.

Let us first assume that you are in Stage 1 of Daily ‘To-Do’ lists, that is, you do not make a to-do list for your daily activities.

The moment you decide to start making a Daily ‘To-Do’ list, you will move to Stage 2.

Irrespective of the stage you are in, you must keep the following in mind while preparing a Daily ‘To-Do’ list: -

  • Include all possible activities including the mundane and routine activities. Since these activities eat into time, you must acknowledge their existence and their impact on time available during the day.
  • Always have a time estimate for each activity recorded against it. For example, you may record 20 minutes against an activity ‘Pay Bills Online’.
  • Your activities must include the daily and weekly chores (weekly as applicable on that day of the week), as well as trivial activities such as collect mail from the mail-box, have morning coffee, take a nap or call my old classmate etc.

To achieve Stage 3 of Daily ‘To-Do’ lists, you must follow a well-known principle or method of time management that will help you prioritize and complete activities by the accorded priority.

Brian Tracy, who is one of my many mentors on time management, calls this method “Eat the Frog and the ABCDE method”. Under this method, you prioritize the activities, and on most occasions, the items of the highest priority are the ones that are most detested or the ones that demand immediate attention. These are the ones that stare in your eyes as big ugly frogs. Brian goes on to say that if at the start of the day, one eats his/her ugliest of frogs, one is assured of an easier day thereafter.

But, to ‘eat the frog’, you need to know what are your frogs of the day. Since the term ‘Frog’ is relative, you will have certain ‘frogs’ on an easy day too.

To discern the frogs from other activities (through prioritization), you may apply the ABCDE method, where you mark the activities by the following criteria: -

‘A’ tasks/activities are those that cannot wait and must be completed on priority. The impact of not completing these tasks/activities is severe. You should complete ‘A’ activities before you attempt others of lower priority. If you have multiple ‘A’ activities, you must force-rank them as A1, A2, A3 etc, with A1 being the most important.

‘B’ tasks/activities are not as critical as ‘A’ tasks/activities. These should be done. However, the result of not doing them is that someone will be inconvenienced, but there may be no serious repercussions if these are not done.

‘C’ tasks/activities are ‘Could Do’ tasks/activities that can always wait until the next day.

‘D’ tasks/activities indicate that these should be ‘Delegated’ to others.

‘E’ tasks/activities are candidates for ‘Elimination’. Often we get into the habit of doing things without any good reason. These tasks/activities could be eliminated after careful examination.

Let us talk about Stage 4 (An Optimal Daily To-Do List). This is achieved with practice and rigor. Essentially, while preparing the Daily ‘To-Do’ list the night before, you must try to identify opportunities of: -

  • Concurrent execution of tasks/activities: One of the examples could be ‘thinking’ while walking the dog! This method helps in combining an important task with a not-so-important task so that both can be performed concurrently.
  • Deriving synergy from combining the activities: One such example could be having a list of groceries handy when going out to run a routine errand. So, one trip in the car fulfills the purpose of transporting you to the place of errand as well as the grocery store. A good time-saver.

Stage 4 Daily To-Do List accommodates the most number of activities per unit of time and also ensures that the most critical ones get done first. To achieve a Stage 4 Daily To-Do list, you must start with a Stage 3 Daily To-Do List and must incorporate the ‘time and effort saving’ opportunities listed above.

Do’s: Preparing a Daily To-Do List

  • Always make a to-do list for the day the night before.
  • Record the time estimate against all activities/events in the list.
  • List all possible activities in the list, including the routine and mundane ones. Sometimes, routine tasks/activities are the ones with opportunities for amelioration and time-saving.
  • The list must be handy at all times during the day.
  • Always keep some slots for ‘Your Alone Time’ to reflect as well as the ‘Fun Time’ to unwind.

Don’ts: Preparing a Daily To-Do List

  • Do not try to prepare the list in your head. If you cannot read the list, you will likely miss all opportunities of deriving synergy.
  • As far as possible, try to address all activities on the same day. If the interruptions are beyond your control, include those activities with the same degree of priority in the next-day list.
  • Do not hesitate in making changes to the list as the day progresses. When the list meets the reality, some changes are always in order.

Daily To-Do Lists have always made life better, easier and more rewarding for their practitioners. Those who start making Daily To-Do Lists and also start following them, they are instantly rewarded with favorable results from the very first day.

This is what some of them shared with me when they took to using Daily To-Do Lists : -

  • ‘I had time to spare even after completing my tasks in the morning!’
  • ‘I could never imagine that I could accomplish so much in a day!’
  • ‘Although I had a lot to do today but there was no pressure at any time during the day. I knew what to do if time ran out…’
  • ‘Every day I discover new openings to do more, by eliminating inefficiencies from my daily chores.’
  • ‘My very first Daily To-Do List gave me a ‘Wake Up Call’ reminding me of my obligation to my long-term goals…’

I will conclude by repeating what I said in one of my earlier posts on ‘To-Do Lists’,

‘Historically, no human being has been able to devise a more efficient method than following a carefully crafted Daily To-Do list in order to get more done during the day, be it having fun or completing pieces of work.’


Better “TO-DO” Each Day…Day After Day

In my last post, ‘, I talked about the significance of a Daily To-Do List to get all things done during the day.

But making a To-Do List alone is not a panacea for time management. There are efficient and not-so-efficient ‘To-Do’ lists.

So, how do we come up with an efficient ‘To-Do’ list?

Since the effort put in through a Daily To-Do list is a building block of the overall effort towards our long-term goals, we must break our bigger efforts into smaller chunks so that they could be addressed bit by bit in each Daily ‘To-Do’ list. For example, if you plan to finish a do-it-yourself project in 6 months, then there must be a quota of effort dedicated to your To-Do list on a daily basis. In other words, you will tend to execute your project bit-by-bit daily for the next 6 months or until it is successfully completed.

To accommodate smaller chunks of bigger efforts in your Daily ‘To-Do’ lists, you will need to calculate the size of the chunk in terms of time. Let us say, you came up with 1 hour worth of effort on a daily basis towards this DIY project. This one hour effort should then become a permanent fixture of your Daily ‘To-Do’ list until the project is successfully completed.

When you get down to populating the list a night before, you should include all types of activities, big or small. When collated fully, the list will attain the shape of an inefficient to-do list. The varying efficiency of the to-do lists results in the difference between a not-so-successful person and a successful one.

The efficiency of a to-do list has less to do with how pretty or systematic the list looks. It has more to do with getting your important things done imperatively. The not-so-important activities could be relegated to a later date.  With little practice and rigor, you may be able to address the low priority items/activities also along with the high priority ones.

Your list of daily activities is very personal to you. You will tend to learn from your own experience and you will likely go through the following stages before your list becomes as efficient as it could be: -

  • [STAGE 1] No Daily ‘To-Do’ List – You will not get much done during the day
  • [STAGE 2] A Daily ‘To-Do’ List  – You will have captured what to do but you may run short of time due to disruptions
  • [STAGE 3] An efficient Daily To-Do List – You will complete the high priority activities but may have to sacrifice the low-priority ones in case of disruptions
  • [STAGE 4] An optimal Daily To-Do List – You will complete the high-priority activities along with the low-priority ones by deriving synergy out of combination of activities

If you start at the very beginning, regular practice and rigor will help you graduate to the next stage(s) over time.

In my next post, I will talk about a systematic technique to reach Stage 4 of Daily To-Do Lists from a scratch as fast as possible.


What Do You Have “TO-DO”…Today?

When we plan to manage our time in the best possible manner, we strive to get as much done as possible in the time available.

If you have read my post on Planning Horizons…, you would appreciate the need to abstract the plan to the highest level (based on how much we want to ‘look ahead’) and then drill it down to the granular level as we roll along the time-line.

The more imminent the event, the more detailed is its treatment. Thus, our plans translate into a list of actions on a day-to-day basis at the atomic level. Please remember that the hurdles we encounter in the execution of our daily tasks are the reality of every plan that is drawn on paper.

It is by effecting daily tasks that we realize the biggest of our plans. In other words, what we may set out to achieve in 10 years will still start with the execution of actions on the first day and each subsequent day thereafter for the next 10 years!

It needs no further emphasis that the daily list of actions/activities/tasks is the building block of all endeavours we undertake in our lives irrespective of their complexity and magnitude. This is where our plans meet the hard reality of life. Since we also have to carry on with our normal daily life while tending to our goals, this daily list invariably consists of routine/mundane/trivial activities as well.

We all know such lists by a name, ‘To-Do Lists’. I will talk about ‘Daily To-Do Lists’ today.

Daily To-Do lists essentially serve four purposes:  -

  • They help organize our day
  • They help us achieve our larger goals bit-by-bit (we eat the elephant one bite at a time)
  • They help us shake ourselves out of the lethargy or paralysis that is so characteristic of procrastination (when the most humungous of efforts is broken down into bite-size pieces of work, it is not so daunting anymore)
  • They help us put our heart and soul into the task at hand without worrying about the slippage of other tasks during the day (because when we have the tasks mapped out on the to-do list, they are less likely to fall through the cracks)

Always treat your Daily To-Do list as a single step in the long journey towards your goal(s).  If you do not take this single step, you are not going anywhere. If you do not take this step in the right direction, you may be moving away from your ultimate goal/destination.

Before we immerse ourselves too much into the science of To-Do lists, let us quickly evaluate if life is possible without To-Do lists. We as human beings are easily excitable during the course of numerous events in a day. Historically, no human being has been able to devise a more efficient method than following a carefully crafted Daily To-Do list in order to get more done during the day, be it having fun or completing pieces of work. So it is possible to go on with our lives without following a daily to-do list day after day, but we are likely to lose sight of our bigger goals. And probably, no alarm bells may go off in our minds even if we continue to procrastinate.

Our daily To-Do lists must take into account the items to be done on priority; the items that contribute towards the larger goal and that keep our plan(s) on track; and also, the items that we need to do on a daily basis to live our lives. In other words, the list should have everything we need to do during the day and be purposeful at the same time.

It is prudent to make our daily to-do list for the next day a night before. This is because certain items on our to-do list may need us to prepare ourselves mentally ahead of time, such as an important presentation at work the next day.

Please stay tuned for my next post on The Mechanics of a Daily TO-DO List where I will allude to the method of making an efficient and practical daily to-do list along with the techniques to optimize the list for maximum benefits.


The Dash to Victory is Not a Dash, Per Se!

If you are amidst competition in your field, you have to stay on top of what you aspire to achieve. And, when the path to the destination is a long drawn one, it is not advisable to spend your energy before it is absolutely necessary.

While competing at the highest level, the resolve of all competitors is equally top-notch. What matters at this level, is the judicious use and timely exposure/disclosure of one’s resources or faculties. It is akin to preserving one’s winning hand until the very end.

Let us take the example of a 5000 metre track event in a competitive setting. In most cases, one who wins in the end does not start off as a leader in the race. Victories by leaders who lead in a race from start to end are either very few and far-between, or are characterized by weak or no competition.



In majority of the cases, the ultimate winner is not so obvious to the observers. Does that mean that an underdog has a better chance to win? No, not exactly. Rather, it indicates that a lot more goes into ensuring a winning performance in a competition than meets the eye.

To better understand this phenomenon, let us analyze the 5000 metre event. It is a very challenging event in athletics both in terms of distance as well as the intensity of sustained effort that needs to be packed into it.

Closely watch how seasoned professionals run this race. A champion’s approach is somewhat similar to the following: -

Phase 1 – Initial assertion: A champion starts strong so that he/she forms the leading pack. Also, when the champion breaks away from the crowd early in the race, it ensures that he/she does not have to get bogged down by inhibiting factors that result in loss of momentum at the very start. These are generally experienced as elbow-pushing and toe-stepping manoeuvres that tend to waste a lot of time and energy of those who subject themselves to this ordeal.


Phase 2 – Gauge the competition: This is a continuous exercise. It is essential to gauge what sort of calibre one is pitted against in the leading pack. A champion needs to re-evaluate every time an additional competitor joins the leading pack. This evaluation is pivotal to planning and launching one’s winning effort. The members of the leading pack carry out continuous assessment by testing others’ mettle in spurts from time to time. This manoeuvre lasts the longest and it eventually separates the men from the boys. In other words, this gruelling tussle results in the not-so-good ones falling out of the leading pack by and by. A point to note here is that, in a closely contested event, a clear leader in this phase may not be in an ideal position to gauge others’ moves accurately. And, that is why; this apparent leader is more likely to miss out on the constant evaluation of the competition around him/her.

Phase 3 – Finish strong: The evaluation phase (Phase 2) helps the champion to determine who his/her real competition is. Thus, a champion focuses on those and does not worry about the rest in the last phase. Usually, in the last lap, one invariably finds a few who break away from the leading pack as well. Needless to say, the timing of breaking away from the pack is very important. Ideally, it should be the distance over which the breaker (potential champion) can sustain the lead till the finish.


Now, if you liken a champion’s approach to how you should be approaching a competitive scenario, you would realize that the execution of 3 phases above needs a lot of preparation and homework. Please do not shy away from preparing yourself, or else, you may not find yourself lasting long enough in the leading pack.

At this moment, I feel the imperative need to acknowledge that this is not the only approach that guarantees success in the end.

Last, but not the least, here are some principles you must consider before you subconsciously saddle yourself with all undertakings as competitive activities: -

  • Know that competition applies to only those scenarios where more than one participants fight/compete to achieve a single common objective. A company offering similar product/service as yours is not your competitor if it operates outside the area of interest of your company.
  • Not all development/improvement efforts should be treated as a race. Like, do not compete with your team-mates while working as a team.
  • Irrespective of the state of your preparation, do not underestimate your competitors as they may have prepared equally well.
  • Apart from planning, preparation and a systematic approach, tenacity helps.


Do Not Look At the Scoreboard

When I started this blog more than a year back, I urged you (and I continue to urge you) to ‘Go, Get Your Gold Medal’.

In my opening post What is this blog about?, I had asked everyone to make the “right and intense effort” to go for the gold without any malicious intent towards anyone. Moreover, your ‘Gold’ does not have to compare with anyone’s ‘Silver’ or ‘Bronze’.  Your ‘Gold’ is what ‘You’ want to achieve, not what you want to achieve before others do.

Yesterday, I got a chance to witness John Wooden speak on true meaning of success.

For those who do not know who John Wooden was  – Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. He died on June 04, 2010.”

John Wooden, affectionately known as Coach, led UCLA to record wins that are still unmatched in the world of basketball. Throughout his long life (100 years, to be exact), he shared the values and life lessons he passed to his players, emphasizing success that’s about much more than winning. And, winning is much more than scoring!

So, when I listened to him, I found the very words that corroborated my definition of success. This is what he said about success: -

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

One belief you must rest assured with, is that, it is difficult for others to judge if you are successful or not. Much like the ‘coach’ says, I think it’s like character and reputation. Your reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is what you really are. And I think that character is much more important than what you are perceived to be. You’d hope they’d both be good. But they won’t necessarily be the same.”

So, stop judging your own character through the eyes of others (who actually form your reputation).

And, do not look at the scoreboard, because that’s not where your ‘Gold’ is.

Here is another sportsman, George Moriarty, a Major League Baseball umpire, who has this to say about success: -


The Road Ahead or the Road Behind

“Sometimes I think the Fates must grin

as we denounce them and insist

the only reason we can’t win,

is the Fates themselves that miss.

Yet there lives on the ancient claim:

we win or lose within ourselves.

The shining trophies on our shelves

can never win tomorrow’s game.

You and I know deeper down,

there’s always a chance to win the crown.

But when we fail to give our best,

we simply haven’t met the test,

Of giving all and saving none

until the game is really won.

Of showing what is meant by grit;

Of playing through when others quit.

Of playing through, not letting up;

It’s bearing down that wins the cup.

Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead;

Of hoping when our dreams are dead;

Of praying when our hopes have fled.

Yet losing, not afraid to fall,

if bravely we have given all.

For who can ask more of a man

than giving all within his span.

Giving all, it seems to me,

is not so far from victory.

And so the fates are seldom wrong,

no matter how they twist and wind.

It’s you and I who make our fates –

we open up or close the gates

on the road ahead or the road behind.”

Planning Horizons: Leveraging the Principle of Abstraction

The dreams that you honor and want to pursue, you need to keep those in sight at all times.

Dreams that are achievement-oriented do not come true in a flash. You need to work at them. Every small action of yours in the current time contributes to the bigger picture of the future, with or without your intention.

That is why, for your immediate or short-term plan to be of some consequence, it should be in line with what you want to achieve in the long-term.

Here comes the dilemma…

On most occasions, we do not have a long-term plan. We do not always take time to ‘dream’ far out in the future that gives us something to work towards!

When you have dreamt well enough, and you know where you want to go, you need to figure out the ‘route’ to get there. You must be able to mark the ‘route’ with milestones that are relatively smaller targets to keep you on course leading to a bigger objective.

As you proceed, the milestones that are nearer are easier to ‘see’ and assimilate.  Those farther away on the timeline are still ‘fuzzy’ until they come nearer with time. But how do you always know you are moving in the right direction? Well, you don’t, until you develop this art.

This art is based on the ‘Principle of Abstraction’.  The mechanism and practice ofabstraction reduces and factors out details so that one can focus on a few concepts at a time.

Let me recount to you a fun exercise I indulged in a few months back. Last winter I had planned to drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Although it is the straightest and the easiest route one can drive on, I thought of getting an ‘overview’ of my journey with Google Earth software. Those familiar with Google Earth would know that this software has the ability to show the route from one point to another at various scales. A route spanning multiple cities or states, can be shown as a stretch of about 6 inches or less on your desktop by ‘increasing the view-altitude’. As you reduce the altitude, you reduce the scale and can ‘zoom in’ to see details of the route at various levels.

I chose to ‘fly’ over the route using Google Earth. While I was flying, I would often raise the altitude (zoom out) to check if the direction in which I was moving was leading me to my destination. This is the very essence of planning!

If you can zoom out to get an overview of next 5 years, you have a planning horizon of 5 years. With practice and focus, one can learn to set one’s sights on the coming 10 or even 15 years. Let us say if you plan for the next 15 years, you should also develop theability of ‘zooming in and out’ to gauge how the next 10 years, the next 5 years and the next 1 year look like. Does what you are doing now lead you to where you want to go 5, 10 and 15 years from now?

Remember the more you ‘zoom in’, the more you are obligated to carve the details. The more you ‘zoom out’; the better is the bird’s eye view of the path you have undertaken, and the higher is the ‘Level of Abstraction’. The ability to zoom out to see the bigger picture is the ability to achieve higher abstraction.

This practice of abstraction helps you to vet your plan for its relevance and efficacy on a number of planning horizons i.e., a look-ahead level of 1 or 5 or 10 or 15 years!

Once you realize the importance of maintaining a rolling window of planning horizons, it will be easier for you to spell out the near-term and long-term objectives.

Take time to ruminate on this concept, and stay tuned for my next post in which I will run an illustration of this concept.

Until then, stay strong!


Make a Commitment to the Whole World!

When you take on a new challenge you need to be mindful of not wavering on your way to achieving your goal.

In my last post “When It All Becomes Too Much to Handle… “, I had talked about reserves of energy that we all abound in.

The very fact that these reserves may be wrapped in layers of comfort, support, self-preservation and resignation, the comfort of keeping them under the wraps lends itself to many excuses along the way.

The key to success lies in coming out of this comfort zone and exposing oneself to the‘unknown danger’ that only lurks in one’s mind. One of the techniques of unwrapping reserves is to hold yourself to the promise that is required of you. As long as you are the only one who knows about your resolve, you have a convenient outlet to ‘un-commit yourself’ on the slightest pretext.

What if more people knew about your undertaking? You will acknowledge that ‘abandoning your program’ would not be as easy if that was the case. This is exactly what you must do to keep yourself on course!

Yes, make a commitment to the whole world or more specifically, to the people who matter to you in your life.

Here is the best example from our recent past. In the Summer Olympics of 2008, there was one athlete, Michael Phelps, who had set a personal objective to win 8 gold medals. When the burden of promise of a single Olympic gold medal weighs so heavily on an individual, imagine what Michael Phelps must have felt under the weight of his own commitment.

But, what followed set Michael on a more resolute march towards his target. The intention, that is, Michael’s personal target of 8 gold medals, was released to the whole world through the media and that in a way, must have coaxed Michael Phelps not to waver and keep his promise in the end!

Not only individuals, this technique seems to work well with larger groups, and nations as well. We have one example from recently concluded Winter Olympics of 2010. The host nation, Canada, concluded the games with the most number of Gold Medals in the history of Winter Olympics. Canada had started an ambitious program called “Own The Podium” years before the event, and they had made it known to the whole world. By jove, it did deliver in the end!

When It All Becomes Too Much To Handle…

What I am going to talk about today is that moment in our life when we feel too overwhelmed or tired or simply bored of what we had been doing for a protracted period.

This feeling of exhaustion or tiredness or boredom may result from a number of factors, some of which are: -

  • Monotony
  • Sustained degree of difficulty in what we undertake
  • Our own state of fitness or alertness
  • Age
  • Sickness
  • Emotional setback
  • Disruptions (circumstantial or intentional)

In colloquial terms, some of us may like to term this condition as ‘burnout’.  Let me admit that I am not an expert to either define or diagnose ‘burnout’. So, I will steer clear from taking on the role of a psychiatrist.

Let us not deny ourselves the fact that success is not served on the platter, and in most cases, it demands unprecedented effort if we want unprecedented results.

What we all have to accept is that quest for excellence asks for unwavering devotion and a high degree of resoluteness.

Now, when you take up the challenge and sometime later, you confront this condition that mars your progress, you need to do something about it.

Let us examine this condition deliberately. Firstly, when you are in it, it seems difficult to find a way out. Moreover, you get a sense that you have been going it alone for a long time and you need some moral support.

Let us be aware that we are all gifted with an unending reserve of energy which resides within us in multiple sachets each individually wrapped in many layers of comfort, support, self-preservation and resignation.

Here are some instances when you might have found yourself suddenly tapping these reserves sub-consciously: -

  • When you realized that your destination was nearer than you thought…
  • When you became truly aware of the value of incentive(s) at the end of a long road…
  • When you found evidence of someone else successfully performing a feat similar to what you are attempting…
  • When the upkeep of your promise reigns higher in your mind than the pain you are going through…such as, your attempt to achieve a goal for the direct/indirect gain of your dear one(s)
  • …and so on.


Now that you have probably come to realize some of the ‘tools’ that can help you ‘unwrap’these pockets of energy, here are some of the generic ways you may adopt to ‘keep going when the going gets tough’: -

  • Divide your bigger task into smaller and manageable chunks of effort that you can record as completed’ more often and that help you determine how much closer you are to your destination
  • Identify the perceived value addition in return of your effort. Note/list/enumerate it and constantly remind yourself of that value while working towards securing it
  • Study the field of your undertaking for similar precedents in history (but only those that were successful in the end)
  • Make a promise so noble that enables you to see gains beyond yourself at all times

I will dwell more on the aspect of steadfastness in my future post “Make a Commitment to the Whole World!” as well.

Stay tuned.


The Tenacity Will Present Itself!

As a learnt behaviour, tenacity needs to manifest itself in the actions performed by us.

I am sure there must be 1001 ways to ignite the “fire in the belly”. But, the one that is relatively more intuitive for those interested in consciously developing this trait is, bysubconsciously injecting it in their ‘plans’!

So, it needs little emphasis that you need to have a plan that is both good and workable (Iwill dwell more on ‘planning’ in my posts to follow later…).

For your plan to be called ‘good enough’ to lead to actions towards definite objectives, you would always need a critical eye’ (not yours but of other person(s)) to evaluate your plan on a continual basis while you plan/re-plan to achieve those objectives.

Since you are expected to be always ‘married’ to your plan, an objective evaluation by another party will assure you of the ‘soundness’ of your plan. If not sound enough, the same evaluation will lead you to improve your plan.

A good plan makes optimal use of resources that include your time and capacity.

With an assumption that your ‘good plan’ does not leave you any slack, try and achieve more than the objectives set in your plan always and every time. The resulting actions thus, will start showing a streak of tenacity, before you realize.

I know most of you would retort, “Was it this simple?”

Please do not get unduly perturbed. The solution is really this simple!

The execution needs some practice, though.

Successful businessmen apply this technique very effectively. They always actively look for opportunities that will help them exploit the situation to their advantage. If they merely follow a plan, they are not likely to be as tenacious when an opportunity presents itself! The urge to over-achieve ensures tenacity in good measure!!

REMEMBER [From the teachings of Karate]

The punch that packs the maximum power is, not the one that is directed on the stomach but the one that is launched with an intention to break the spine!


How Can I Plan When Life Is So Unpredictable?

As I get down to write another post, I know I have to oblige my friends who are eagerly waiting for the NEXT post on “Tenacity” soon after “It is TENACITY, My Friend…” post.

Then, why this post?

In fact, what I am going to talk about today will set the stage for the much-wanted post ondeveloping “Tenacity”.

I will no longer beat around the bush. Planning plays a key role in ensuring success.

But, let us first be clear about the purpose of planning. It is a human tendency to assume that if the planning is complete and the resulting plan is a good one (how do you know?!), things (as planned) are likely to go your way.

It is this assumption that leads one to believe that it does not make sense to plan the events/actions/activities of one’s life when the run of the life is unpredictable. Yes, it does not make sense at all if you look forward to a fail-proof plan!

There has never been a plan that was fail-proof, nor will there ever be.

And, I will put it this way – it is all the more imperative to plan when the turn of events is unpredictable.  

Plan while accepting this inevitable truth that you will have to change your plan. Thus, thepurpose of planning is not to solely develop a good plan, but, it is to plan or re-plan to ensure your objectives are achieved even in the face of uncertainty!

What must you plan for? – Everything.

-          I am aware that too much of planning tends to kill spontaneity. However, those who achieved success through spontaneous demonstration of brilliance actually planned some or all aspects of their spontaneity!

What needs to be planned? – Time and Timing.

-          When you determine what you need to do (actions), plan those in the Time available and also plan the Timing of your actions.

When is your planning complete? – Never.

When your plan is called a “Good Plan”? – Only after you have achieved your goal on or before time!

Will something not go according to your plan? – Almost always. When that happens, make suitable changes to your plan.

More on planning later…

 Remember: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


It is TENACITY, My Friend

If and when you get a chance,

…try discerning the ‘killer instinct’ of a chess champion, often clad in a calm demeanour, but very evident through his actions that are a result of consistently looking ahead several moves

…imagine yourself in the shoes of a champion marathon runner who perseveres for 26 miles and then pumps in extra energy to take the decisive lead in the last stretch

…carefully follow the gaze of a mountaineer who may climb up at a steady pace looking down, but who looks up at regular intervals to mentally plot or correct a route to the top

…try living the nausea of a boxing champion who is battered, bloody and bruised on the face, with no strength in his arms and legs, but is the one who does not lose sight of the ‘target’ where he must land his punches to score points consistently…

…try following the train of thought of an excellent orator whose mind’s ‘eye’ runs through the words ahead of his delivery of a mesmerizing speech…

When these marvellous people are busy putting up their best show, they are predisposed to numerous distractions, impeding pain, weakness within, shortness of breath, mind drawing a blank, and stomach tied up in knots…

Then, what keeps them ticking…? It is TENACITY, my friend!

Some of you may be inclined to liken these examples to one’s determination or grit.

Essentially, tenacity is different.

Your grit or determination helps you hold on to your resolve until the very end, but it is tenacity that enables you to attain an edge over your competitors. It is tenacity that gives you the ‘killer instinct’ that makes the difference between the ‘Gold’ and the ‘Silver’!

So, how do you develop tenacity?

Good news is that tenacity can be inculcated!

In my next post, I will talk about some methods of infusing tenacity into our actions.

Keep In Touch…

There are occasions when we regret missing an opportunity because we did not get a “heads-up” or a “tip-off” in time to take advantage of it. On most such occasions, a live person is more likely to give us the said “tip-off” than an event or a sign/symptom or an occurrence.

Who would this very desirable person be? This person could be our well-wisher or a friend. Haven’t you found asking yourself, ”Where are all the well-wishers gone?”.

Yes, you may not find them in abundance anymore. What devoured such divine creatures? They have all become the victims of the very pace of life that they chose to live in the first place. A careful introspection will reveal that you and I are also probably subjected to similar extinction from others’ perspective.

So, is there a way to convert/nurture more/fresh well-wishers in our lives? Yes, there is. And, it is so simple. Be a well-wisher yourself. Very soon, you will have some growing around you.

Let us now figure out the way it is implemented. All I ask you is to call/write one different/new contact out of your contact list on a regular basis. The idea is to regain touch with your acquaintance on any ground (preferably, with no agenda) and show your support (to any extent feasible).

It is possible that your acquaintance may be taken aback at first since such interactions are very rare in a highly competitive world. Your sincerity should win them over. If your gesture is not taken in the right spirit by your acquaintance, then you will have a reason not to harbour misconceived notions about that person, as it is. Oh, how easy you will make it for yourself!

Let us also dwell on what will make this touch a warm/genuine one. Your attempt of getting in touch with your acquaintance should be an honest effort.  For example, if in an attempt to maintain contact with your friends/acquaintances, you tend to share borrowed email content (email-chains or forwarded ready-made content), you are more likely to annoy your friends after a little while. I will not call it an honest attempt because before the email era, we never thought of maintaining/building our rapport by simply tearing some pages out of a magazine and posting them in an envelope to our friend(s)!

The technology has covered a lot of ground but we, human beings, are still a by-product of flesh and bones and have not yet evolved into robots/machines. By all means, use the power of technology to its fullest to get closer to the people you know, but please do not distort the concepts of “keeping in touch”.

The resulting camaraderie or bond will stand you in good stead at some stage in your life. The more number of people you continue to touch, the more is the probability of you being offered a scoop when you need it the most!

Anatomy of Failure

Having overcome the fear of failure (see my blog post “What would you do?” of Aug 15, 2009), it is equally important to realize that when we tend to push the envelope, failure is a very strong possibility in our initial attempts.

Could we do without failure at all? Ideally, failure is unwarranted.

Philosophically speaking, it is this very failure that makes the success so sweet. But it is not so easy to have an abstract viewpoint immediately following a failed attempt.

So, what do you do when you fail? Well, do yourself a favour by not suppressing your true feelings. It is essential and healthy to feel bad about the failure. That is the easiest way to fuel your motivation for another attempt.

Do not anticipate failure but do not rule out its occurrence altogether. Treat each failure as a ‘wake-up call’. It is an honest feedback of your shortcomings with reference to the goal(s) you set for yourself.

In some cases, the journey to a point of failure is actually a mark of achievement to a certain degree.  At the point where one fails to pass the driving test, there is actually a certain percentage of progress (30 or 60 or 80 percent) towards becoming a licensed driver. This realization helps in alleviating the frustration that comes from failure. It verifies that all your effort has not gone in vain.

Looking at an instance of failure as a ‘road travelled so far’ also helps in identifying the gap between the current capability or achievement and the desired one. Thus, when used objectively, failure works to your advantage, and evidently, helps you focus on bridging thegap.

In spite of preaching all positives about a failure, I do not want to instil in your mind that failure is essential for you to succeed. If you have not encountered failure so far, it is possible that, in most cases, you did not need that ‘wake-up call’.  This could mean that you identified and mitigated the risk of failure before it actually occurred.

Successful people make this tendency of pre-empting the crisis, a habit.


What Would You Do?

I will talk about one possible quintessence of success, which, ironically, is its opposite.

Yes, I will talk about failure today.

Let us do an exercise. Repeatedly ask yourself a question until your conscience is prepared to answer it honestly, and when it is, listen to that answer intently.

And, the question is…”What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” (This quote is attributed to Dr. Robert Schuller)

If your conscience comes up with a mind-boggling response; you have just made yourself realize your ability that resides in your unfettered inner self.

When we attempt perceivably difficult feats, we need not necessarily succeed the first time. Unfortunately, 99.9% of us do not cross the threshold of fear to even experience that initial failure.

The failure should only be an outcome of you not knowing how to do things the right way. It should never be a result of you apprehending failure before even attempting it.

The attempt becomes a reality when you are not inhibited by the thought of failing. Thereafter, it may take you more attempts than others, but success is guaranteed.

Do not forget that every repeated attempt needs you to ask yourself this same question with the same faith and intensity. Needless to say, it is more rewarding and less frustrating when we answer ourselves honestly.

I ask you again,

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

When you hear yourself answering honestly, do it.

When TIME Is A Limited Resource…

From my last post, I will continue to talk about the Time-Math. Having realized how Goal-Fitting can help us hone our skills by keeping time on our side, another technique, Goal-Seeking, can be applied to “seek” a desired outcome within the time available.

If we develop both short-term and long-term planning horizons, there is less likelihood of having to resort to the Goal-Seeking technique. Remember, we intend to plan to succeed. Planning ahead is preferable but, sometimes, in spite of our best efforts we find ourselves in a tight spot and are constrained for time.

So, assuming you have limited time and a definite effort (i.e., we know how much total time we need for the desired outcome), you may follow the following sequence of steps to apply the Goal-Seeking technique: -

  1. Determine the maximum amount of time (generally, in number of hours) you can devote to the desired activity(ies) on a daily basis.

2.  Calculate if the total effort will suffice to achieve the result/outcome by the given deadline. If not, deliberate on Step 1 again to make it feasible. In other words, innovate to spare more time for the effort, e.g., you may find more time than normal on Wednesday evenings and/or Friday mornings (hypothetically speaking). At the end of the re-calc exercise, if the total time available does not measure up to the total effort required, you may conclude that your goal is unrealistic. In other words, it might become impossible for you to make TIME your ally for the desired purpose.

  1. Assuming the calculation (in step 2) works out fine, follow your plan religiously (this is easier said than done, hence, see Step 4).
  1. Constantly work towards diluting the disruptions. This is how you do it: -
  •  Try and over-achieve on a daily basis and notionally bank the hours (keep a record of these hours). This will stand you in good stead when, on a particular day, you lose time due to any reason.
  • Have a disruption-dilution plan in place. Assuming you do not have not any banked hours at your disposal, determine in advance the sacrifices you will be prepared to make and correspondingly, the number of additional hours you will be able to devote to bring the execution of your plan back to a state of normalcy.

Ideally, a sound plan should not have any element of the Goal-Seeking technique. And also realistically, once you get down to applying this technique, it is not as easy to implement as it appears mathematically.

There are occasions when you may need to apply this technique to achieve the desired result. For example, on a bigger scale (when the goal is not too personal to you), you may resort to getting help from others, delegation etc. to meet the deadline.

Note that very few people have tasted true success using only the Goal-Seeking technique. The Goal-Fitting technique is a better way to make TIME your ally. You may initially have to apply the Goal-Seeking technique to get into the Goal-Fitting mode, and the sooner you do it, the better it bodes for your success in future!


It All Adds Up!

I will talk about time today. Almost all high-achievers plan to get time on their side when they plan their journey to success. Time proves to be our biggest ally in the arduous path to our goal. And, when on our side, it never lets us down!

Make sure you keep time aside and devote it to your purpose regularly. It is this regular acknowledgement of time that turns into a winning formula almost at all times!

Time-Math is very strong and produces amazing results. And the two methods to apply this math are: -

  • Goal-Fitting Method
  • Goal-Seeking Method

Goal-Fitting Method: Let us say you are planning for the next 12 months. You decide that you can easily spare one hour a day on work days to devote to self-improvement initiatives. Since you are likely to get approximately 246 work days in a year, you will have 246 planning hours available at your disposal. You can now use your discretion to fit activities leading to not one, but multiple self-improvement goals in those 246 hours. All that you did was to acknowledge just one hour of your work day. Imagine a person who inculcated this habit and continued doing it for say, 20 years – that’s almost 5000 hours! Now imagine the difference between two persons after 20 years where one chose to learn to dance and the other did not even acknowledge that one hour of his/her work day. 5000 hours is a difference between a professional dancer and a non-dancer! You must remember, none of those two set out with a goal to become a professional dancer.

Those who have perfected time-math have turned out to be masters of multiple skills, and the casual observers often make the mistake of calling them “gifted” or “exceptionally talented”.  By doing so, they like to resign to a belief that it is beyond their means to achieve such excellence.

But, here is a living proof. One of my very dear friends, who is also my batch mate from NDA (National Defence Academy), holds the distinction of flying 22 different types of aircraft in his flying career of almost 24 years(when I last checked earlier this year)! Beat it if you can!!  It is very likely that among all other techniques he must have employed, time-math has played a significant role in his success.

But, remember, there are exceptions that almost go hand-in-hand and the time-math does not work well with those: -

  1. Do not apply time-math to count the number of hours “wasted” or “taken away from productive work” while you are on vacation. This is because for best results, your body needs to recoup unconditionally.

2. Do not apply time-math to more than reasonable number of hours since it will prove counter-productive.

Sometimes, to meet exceptional pressing demands in one’s life, one may have to apply time-math to the extremes. Well, such occasions will call for mastering techniques of overcoming protracted fatigue and monotony. I will talk about those some other day.

I will talk about the Goal-Seeking Method in my next post. Until then, make a promise to yourself to get time on your side!


Off the Starting Blocks!

Good news! The blog is on its way to take its first stride. I thank my friends and colleagues for an encouraging response to my opening post aka “What is this blog about?”.  In all, everyone is excited about its underlying purpose. The emails poured in with words of agreement and advice. I am sure that the reader support will only grow with time.

And, very soon, this blog will thrive on readers helping readers!

I must admit that some of my posts will be déjà vu for those who happened to implement similar, or probably, a better technique in their life. But I will talk about such techniques anyway. I feel that we also owe it to the next generation to share our experiences and learning, even at the cost of repetition.

It’s all about “winning”. Your “gold medal” is what “you want” to achieve…Concoct the right mix of ingredients, go for “your gold” and get it!