Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (Book Review)

Ikigai is the Japanese art of living. I am a fan of Japanese way of thinking whether it is related to how they led the quality movement or how they exercise their craftsman spirit in day to day life. I had heard and read about Ikigai and wanted to dive deeper into the underlying philosophy because I feel that finding our Ikigai – our reason for being – is vital for us to be better human beings and hence leaders.

I therefore picked up the book Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life hoping to find ways to discover our calling, our reason for being, raison d’être.

My Review of the Book

I feel that while the book covers a lot of good content, it lacks depth. In less than 200 pages, the authors try to cover many things like ageing, food, yoga, tai chi, stress management, concept of flow state, stories about centenarians from Okinawa in Japan, resilience, meditation and antifragility. Reading about so many different things tied to the core concept of Ikigai without going into depth can only lead to basic awareness. So, the book is good for beginners who are exposed to these topics for the first time. I would personally prefer a more nuanced conversation around the topic rather than cursory information on many related topics.

What I liked though was the stories and quotes from centenarians of Ogimi region which is one of the blue zones that boasts of highest life expectancy in the world.

Key Highlights

“essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

“Our ikigai is different for all of us, but one thing we have in common is that we are all searching for meaning.”

“Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.”

“The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.”

“Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, ‘Walk slowly and you’ll go far.’ When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.​”

“the people who live the longest have two dispositional traits in common: a positive attitude and a high degree of emotional awareness. In other words, those who face challenges with a positive outlook and are able to manage their emotions are already well on their way toward longevity.”

“In order to achieve this optimal experience, we have to focus on increasing the time we spend on activities that bring us to this state of flow, rather than allowing ourselves to get caught up in activities that offer immediate pleasure.”

“Our ability to turn routine tasks into moments of microflow, into something we enjoy, is key to our being happy, since we all have to do such tasks.”

“Artists know how important it is to protect their space, control their environment, and be free of distractions”

“There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, as Viktor Frankl says, your mission is to discover it.”

10 Rules of Ikigai

One thing I liked the most was the summary of book in form of 10 Rules of Ikigai. It summarizes the overall approach to living a good life. Finding your Ikigai is a lifelong journey of understanding yourself better, doing things that you love, putting your gifts to significant use and learning along the way.

Here is a sketchnote summary of 10 Rules of Ikigai:

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In 100 Words: Three Questions to Lead the Self

A priest was confronted by a soldier while he was walking down a road in pre-revolutionary Russia. The soldier, aiming his rifle at the priest, called out,

“Who are you?

Where are you going?

Why are you going there?”

Unfazed, the priest calmly replied, “How much do they pay you?” Somewhat surprised, the soldier responded, “Twenty-five kopecks a month.”

The priest paused, and in a deeply thoughtful manner said, “I have a proposal for you. I’ll pay you fifty kopecks each month if you stop me here every day and challenge me to respond to those same three questions.”


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables and Posts


Being a Self-Aware Leader: Tasha Eurich

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me. Tiffani is also the author of a WSJ bestseller book “Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business


“Knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers. It is up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years. To do those things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself – not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.” – Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself

As human beings, we evolve and change continuously. Over a period of time, our interests, world view, ways of working, speed of thinking, approach to learning changes. This combined with longer careers, rise in independent workers (gig workers) and disruptive changes only means that professionals have to take charge of their own careers and constantly map the changing self with a changing world to stay relevant.

In this conversation with Tiffani Bova at WhatsNext podcast, Tasha Eurich outlines two kinds of self-awareness. Internal self-awareness (insight) is about knowing who we truly are, our values and what we value. External self-awareness (outsight) is about  knowing how other people see us.

In a world where people are so busy responding to external expectations and go with the flow, it takes courage to peep within, develop insight about self, build outsight and find ways to do a more meaningful contribution.

Do enjoy the full conversation and here is the sketchnote summary of key insights from the podcast that I enjoyed.

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Other Sketchnotes I created for WhatsNext Podcast:

Leadership and Self-Awareness: Insights from Tasha Eurich Part 1

In the spirit of “slow learning”, I have been using my commute and travel time to listen to selected podcasts where thought-leaders and doers from different disciplines share their nuanced insight on what it means to lead, learn and change in a new world of work.

Play to Potential podcast by my friend Deepak Jayaraman is one of my favorites. Deepak recently interacted with Dr. Tasha Eurich – an organizational psychologist whose recent book “Insight” is all about self-awareness being the secret ingredient of success in 21st century.

I believe that all external leadership starts from being able to lead the self effectively. Self-awareness therefore is the starting point of leadership.

Unless we are clear about who we truly are, what we value, what difference we seek to make and how the world sees us and our work, we cannot be effective leaders.

In the conversation, Tasha Eurich emphasizes on importance of self-awareness as a meta skill that can set the upper limit of success.

We are living in a world where we are more and more focused on ourselves and at the same time seeing our selves less and less clearly. – Dr. Tasha Eurich

Do check out full conversation and here is a quick sketchnote summary I created for this episode:

Also Read at QAspire:

Mental Habits that Support Lifelong Learning

No significant learning happens only through consumption of insights. It happens when we act on what we learn, go through the experience, take risks and then develop insights through the lens of that experience.

Just like organizations need to build right mental models for creating a learning organization, individuals need to build mental habits that enable lifelong learning. After all, as Whitney Johnson puts it, the fundamental unit of change is an individual.

What are these habits? I summarized 20 lessons on lifelong learning in my 2011 post where I emphasized on risk taking, developing commitment, being a part of a learning community, stepping out of your comfort zone, learn from failures, reading, listening and seeking feedback from others on what we do.

Recently, I was re-reading John Kotter’s book “Leading Change” from HBR Press and came across a chapter dedicated to leadership and lifelong learning with a short summary of mental habits that support lifelong learning.

I quickly summarized those key habits into the following #sketchnote:

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Future of Work: Back to Crafts

When you consistently create novel work with care and attention in a way that changes others for better, you can call yourself a craftsperson.

Because craft is about adding your uniqueness into each piece of work you ship. Craft is about creating an experience for others through your work. Craft is about generous sharing with your community. Craft is about exercising your judgment, nuanced process and intuition through your work. It is about adding your unique personality in the work.

Craftsperson is someone who delivers consistently, shapes a conversation, resets the expectation and makes a difference. Craftsperson is someone we look up to.

Laetitia Vitaud in her Medium post titled “Back to Craftsmanship” says:

human work will produce value when it’s not machine-like and that artisanal work can be expected to thrive. Routine work is essentially alienating work whose automation or crowdsourcing is a liberating phenomenon.

Craft, in this day and age, is not just about traditional art as we know it. The spirit of Craft is visible when someone engineers an experience, writes elegant code, builds a new business model, writes a piece that moves us, teaches in a way that changes people, sells in a way that creates win:win and connects in a meaningful way.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said,

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

We can do our work as a “routine” or we can use it as an opportunity to truly express ourselves. It is the latter that builds meaning of our work and insulates us from long ranging effects of technological forces like automation.

Here is a sketchnote summary of insights from Laetitia Vitaud’s post.

P.S.:

Last month, I was interviewed by kind folks at IMD1 (I am the One) portal where I shared my insights on leadership and art. Do read the full interview here.

Taking Charge of YOUR Learning

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Working with so many people, I have come to a rough observation that professionals broadly fall in two categories – ones that ‘have a plan’ around their learning pathways and the ones that don’t.

We live in a world of infinite possibilities and sometimes, the very breadth of choices available to use can blind us, paralyze us into inaction. I have seen many professionals who choose to simply coast along the current context. They usually end up being the victims of their circumstances (crushed by the wave) because they never could think ahead and plan “their own thing”. In a strange way, they almost surrender themselves to their current work context and remain stuck in finite set of activities.

On the other hand, there are people who map their internal potential and interests with opportunities outside. They “pick” their battles ahead of time (ready to ride the wave), prepare for it, invest proactively in learning both explicit and implicit aspects of the subject, seek out c0mmunities of learning and leverage opportunities in current context to practice their learning.

Lewis Caroll famously said,

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

In a world where shelf life of knowledge is continuously shrinking, we need

Organizations are in a state of constant flux with business models becoming obsolete, new models emerging  and new technologies disrupting businesses/individuals.

Thriving in such a world means actively managing your future, learning at the speed of change, making quick sense of big shifts and responding accordingly.

As business theorist Arie de Gues said in his 1988 HBR article titled “Planning as Learning”,

“We understand that the only competitive advantage the company of the future will have is its managers’ ability to learn faster than their competitors.”

This was true in 1988 and it is even more relevant today.


Also Read:

The Fog

Fog

Our train encountered heavy fog on that winter morning. At one point when visibility was less than 100 meters, I thought the train will not move forward. We had little choice but to stay put and trust that things will start moving. And it did, although quite slowly.

It was an interesting setting. When I got down of the train at a quaint station to click some pictures (and also stretch a leg after hours of non-stop journey), my mind went on a train of thoughts as it usually does during travel.

The train. Dense fog around. People moving here and there on the platform. The hazy trees at a distance. It all seemed very familiar. I felt as if I had seen this before. We all have probably seen it before.

A lot of our life is like this. If you can clearly see the path before you, you may be among the lucky few. For the rest of us, it is mostly difficult to see past the haze and uncertainty of the very next moment. But we move on, even if slowly, with a hope to get to clearer views. We trust something within ourselves and something beyond us and that keeps things moving. We persevere and keep the faith and suddenly, the vistas clear up offering magnificent views. The struggle through the fog makes it even more special.

The next time I am surrounded by fog in life, I will remember this – that the tracks are still in place, the green hazy trees at a distance will get clearer, hope will guide me there. That I need to trust the process.

That I need to just keep walking.

(Written: 2016)

3L’s of Self-Directed Learning: Insights from My TEDx Talk

I started 2019 by delivering a TEDx talk at TEDxGCET in Vallabh Vidyanagar. This post covers a few key insights extracted from the talk. Video to be posted soon.


Formal education is a launch pad that equips us with fundamentals. But we need wings to fly long and high in the direction of our dreams. Ability to learn in a self-initiated mode is one of the most critical skills to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

Real learning is an inside-out process. It starts from a deep internal desire to know something, do something and change something. That’s when you take charge of your own learning.

If I look at my own journey and connect the dots, I find three things that that forms my 3L framework for self-directed learning.

The first L is “Labor of Love”

My son is fascinated by drawing and he loves creating greeting cards. When he is immersed in the process of making the card, he completely loses the sense of time and place. Fully concentrated in creating the lines and coloring.

For him, it is not work but it is play. He does it NOT because someone is asking him to do it. He does it because HE finds pleasure in it.

That to me is labor of love. Playing where our passion is. The key questions to ask then are:

  • What is it that you would do even if no one paid you to do it or asked you to do it?
  • What are your intrinsic skills – things that come naturally to you?
  • What puts you in the flow state?
  • What change do you truly want to see around you?

From an early age, I wrote because I wanted to express myself. This need to express translated into other related mediums like blogging, speaking, leading teams, running organizations, writing books and creating sketch notes.

In each case, I started at a very basic level but when I continued doing it persistently, I eventually got better at it.

When we play at the intersection of passion and effort, we elevate our game and improvise without even noticing it.

The second L is for “Lifelong Learning”

Our school system trains us to be passive learners and we always rely on someone else for our learning.

The essence of self-directed learning is to keep the inner fire alive, have an open and curious mind, , creating new knowledge through action and experimentation, make new connections to your existing knowledge, improve upon your skills and collaborate with others. It is about exposing yourself to diverse experiences and disciplines to generate independent thought and recognize patterns.

My journey into social media and blogging taught me one of the most important things about self-driven learning:

We don’t learn anything in isolation and our best learning happens when we learn with others.

Internet has made it easier to find your heroes, watch them do the work and learn from their journeys. We need to invest in finding likeminded people to share our work with, draw inspiration from, learn and collaborate.

Network and community is a great learning enabler.

One more element of lifelong learning is having a multidisciplinary approach to work. When you pursue different disciplines, you can easily use expertise from one domain into a totally different area.

Differentiation in career and innovation always happens where two disciplines intersect.

My sketchnote project is the intersection of my ideas from my blog and my drawing practice from 20 years ago when I was preparing for architecture entrance exam.

In his Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs said that when he was studying at Reed College, he got into learning calligraphy. And many years later, his understanding of calligraphy inspired beautiful typography in Apple products.

He nailed it when he said that dots eventually connect. Whatever we choose to do, it eventually connects.

Lifelong learning and multiple interests empower us to seize unique possibilities when faced with adversity.

Finally, the third L is “Leverage”

Leverage, in simplest terms means finding a way to make a positive impact for yourself and others through your learning. It is about putting your learning to good use. We don’t truly learn till we execute our learning to solve real world problems.

My leadership improved when I looked at my role as a way to serve those I was responsible for.

Real learning is in the act, in putting your learning to significant service of others. Your work becomes art when it changes the self and others for better.

Today, knowledge has become a commodity and everything you want to know is out there on internet. We have moved from an industrial world to knowledge world to a creative world now. In this world, what you know is not as important as what you do with it and how you apply your knowledge to solve real world problems.

We are living in the golden age of self-directed learning. Getting information, sharing your work and connecting with others is just a click away. We have a world of possibilities now open to us.

The problem is that we are used to navigate with the help of predefined maps. Self-Directed Learning is an exploration of what lies within us, what lies outside of us and finding that sweet intersection where the magic really happens.

That’s when you truly learn things that are unique to you. That’s when you can differentiate yourself.

That’s when you stand a chance to change the world within and outside for better.


Here is the visual summary of the talk in a #sketchnote form.

tanmayvora-tedx-selfdirectedlearning


And, here is the picture of me delivering the talk Smile

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Peter Senge on Leadership Development

Real leadership does not happen after we get hold of lofty titles and peak positions in the hierarchy.

Real leadership happens when we are aware of our gifts (given to us), when we hone those gifts in the spirit of serving others, when we find whitespaces (gap between our vision and the current reality) and put our gifts to good use in filling up those gaps. Real leadership happens irrespective of external validations and titles. In fact, titles and external validations are only the by-products of the pursuit.

The reward of leadership is not just the difference we make to the context or to the people we work with, but also the kind of person we may become as a result of the pursuit.

Peter Senge on Developing Leaders

The Fifth Discipline – The Art and Practice of Learning Organization” by Peter Senge is such a profound book that each time I revisit it, I find something deep in a way that it serves as a timely reminder for initiatives that I may be working on. The book has an entire section that really clarifies what being a leader really looks like.

It was interesting to know that the root of the word “leadership” comes from Indo-European word “leith” which means to cross a threshold. It points to having courage to extend the boundaries, think differently and going beyond the normal call of duty.

The heart of leadership development lies in the word “charisma” as Peter Senge clarifies it.

“In fact, the word ‘charism’ comes from the Catholic church, where it means one’s distinctive personal “gifts” given  by the Holy spirit. To be charismatic, then, means to develop one’s gift. In short, we develop as true charismatic leaders to the extent that we become ourselves.”

The section outlines the concept of creative tension – that all great leaders have to deal with the tension between holding a vision and deeply assessing the current reality. It is the gap between the two that becomes a force of change. It is the source of all great leadership – at a personal level as well at an organizational level.

Finally, Senge argues that real leaders rarely see themselves as leaders. Instead, they focus on doing the work – on what needs to be done, the larger system in which they operate and people they work with.

Here is a visual summary of a particular section focusing on leadership development.

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On Learning Slowly

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The thing with fast food is that you can avail it quickly and when more people avail more food quickly, it soon becomes a commodity. And very often, fast food may just fill the stomach without nourishing much.

The food we value is the one that not only has the right nutrients, but is also cooked with care and attention to ingredients, balance of flavors and texture. It fills our stomach, nourishes us and feeds our well being.

I guess it’s the same with the media we consume. In a  bid to stay updated all the time (which is hardly what we call learning), we consume a lot of Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook updates etc. These are quick bites that may fill your time with an illusion of learning, unless your goal is to just fill the time with something (and hide behind it).

But if you are set out to truly learn something and go deeper, then you need slow media that is cooked slowly with care, has the right ingredients and is nourishing.

Sound bites are intellectually stimulating but unless they go deeper into our system, no change actually happens.

And learning that does not lead to change in mindset, actions and behavior is not learning, but only intellectual stimulation.

The other problem with these sound-bites is that they offer a very narrow view of the topic at hand. Truth is that nothing happens in isolation and everything is somehow connected to a larger system in ways that are not always visible.

Real learning involves a systematic exploration of all connected aspects of problem at hand. It requires a more nuanced conversation.

Take leadership, for example. Real leadership is rooted within our own deeper self, our past conditioning, cultural background and the demands of a given context. It demands a layered conversation and systems thinking within a given context, not just a list of silver bullets.

When there’s unlimited shelf space allowing unlimited podcasts, which can be of unlimited length, the goal isn’t to get the show on the air faster or to make it noisier. Instead, the goal, like the goal of a good book, is to say something worth saying, and to do it in a way that’s worth waiting for. – Seth Godin

Slow media is anything that takes time to create and consume, provokes thinking, challenges our assumption, initiates a conversation worth having, nudges us to act differently and creates an emotional connection.

Social Web is noisy and cluttered because people try to create media that pulls mass viewership to generate required number of hits, likes and shares.

The essence of social learning is to find authentic sources created with the spirit of a nuanced and collective exploration and stay away from sound bites. 

Personally, I find most value in having a good layered conversation with someone I admire, reading good books that are written in a conversational tone, podcasts and videos where individuals share deep and relevant insights on something worthwhile and blogs that carefully weave a conversation incrementally through the posts.

But then, I just don’t skim through these (or bookmark them for later reading even when I skim). I preferto read with a pencil. I take notes as I go, summarize in visual notes, then share on the blog and connect insights that are related and relevant. Finally, when it all goes deeper into my system, some of it manifests in action. That is how we learn slowly and improve gradually.

To really learn effectively, we need to consume slow media, slowly.

And then reflect upon it. And put it into practice in some way or the other. Blend it with our experience. And then share what we learn with communities that feed us.

And that’s never as easy as walking up to the always-on social media counters and grab a quick bite!

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P.S: Big thanks to Shilpa Srikanth (@S_scoops) for creating her version of visual summary for this post. Check it out here.

In 100 Words: Giving Attention

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Everybody we meet is trying to get attention through tactics. More clicks, eyeballs, likes. What if you focus more on giving attention?

What do you deeply care about? What are you trying to make happen? Who are you trying to help? These are good questions to find out what truly matters and then pay attention to only those things.

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” – Simone Weil

That’s what great leadership is all about. Not just competing to get more attention but using the privilege of leadership to pay attention to enabling people and things that matter.


 Also Read at QAspire:

Technology and Being Human

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me. Tiffani is also the author of a new book “Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business” due for release in August 2018.


Sometimes, when I see a group of people sitting physically with each other yet engrossed in their mobile screens, I feel that technology has turned us into gadgets and made us less human.

Sure, social media has transformed how we connect, collaborate and learn. But it also seems to be taking a huge toll on precisely those things that make us human.

We are not gadgets. We are capable of thinking deep, connecting the dynamic dots, be creative and solve important problems in novel ways. We are capable of dreaming, hoping, perceiving, creating, telling stories, collaborating and connecting. We are capable of deep work and generosity. And these are the things that make us human. This is how we become wise in a world where knowledge is essentially commoditized.

The key then is to leverage the social platforms as much for our learning, connecting meaningfully and collaborating rather than just allow platforms to entice us into mindless consumption.

Austin Kleon, someone whose work and art I admire posted the following:

Do more things that make you forget to check the phone.

Creativity and learning stems from doing meaningful stuff in a way that serves the community and changes others for better. That is at the heart of embracing craftsman spirit.

Do check out the wonderful podcast episode with Arianna Huffington and here is a sketchnote summary of some of the key insights.

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Related Reading at QAspire:

Leadership: Humility and Focusing on Others

I often meet business leaders who are so full of themselves. When interacting with others, they try to keep the needle of focus constantly towards themselves, their business, accomplishments and stories.

It is easy to get caught up in the self because after all, you are a up there and you make things happen (or so you think!).

In one of the leadership workshop I attended in early years of my career, the trainer beautifully described humility as

Humility is like the banks of a river that gives direction to the flowing water without possessing it.

Leadership in any form is about others. A leader is just a means to an end. A steward of the larger cause, whatever it may be.

Like banks of a river, leader holds the context together in order to channel the energies of people. A leader enables flow (progress) by enabling others, asking right questions, coaching others and learning in the process. The focus of a leadership conversation is the needs of others, needs of the context and needs of the customers.

I read Dan Rockwell’s recent post titled “The Seductions of Arrogance Compound the Elusiveness of Humility” where he outlines 5 practices of humble leadership. It is a thought provoking post that emphasizes on ‘practicing’ humility by focusing on others.

Some critical questions to consider, whether you lead a kid, a team of professionals or an organization, are:

  • How often do you, as a leader, brag about others?
  • How many times do you turn the focus of conversation on others?
  • How many times have you stood up to accept responsibility, especially of failures?
  • When was the last time you thought about amplifying someone’s strength rather than focusing on their shortcomings?

Here is a quick short sketchnote summary of Dan Rockwell’s 5 practices of humble leadership (Read the full post here)

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On Disrupting Yourself

I created a series of sketch notes for Tiffani Bova’s “What’s Next” podcast where she meets brilliant people to discuss customer experience, growth and innovation. Tiffani Bova is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I will post sketchnote versions of selected podcast episodes that enlightened me.


During 2001 dot com bubble, one of my friends, a competent software developer, was laid off because of lack of business in the technology he worked in. He was smart enough to understand that the company needed people in a new project that was to be developed on a totally different technology. He learned the new technology, re-skilled himself fast enough to face a client interview for the new project and was retained even before his notice period got over.

In my formative years, he stood as an example of someone who totally disrupted himself when he was forced by external circumstances. Obviously, today’s complex and fast changing world demands individuals to disrupt themselves based on internal drivers of change, before external circumstances compel them to change.

In a business context, there are many organizations like 3M, Apple, NetFlix and Google whose success can be attributed to their ability to disrupt themselves continuously.

In this episode of What’s Next podcast, one of my favorite authors and thinkers Whitney Johnson says,

“Not just products, services and companies, the fundamental unit of disruption is an individual.”

Individuals disrupt themselves when they take some risk, do things that they have never done before, learn constantly, connect the dots and think about intersections between current reality (what they have done so far) and possibilities (what they could do with all innovations around them).

One of her key advices in the podcast is:

“Play to your strengths, not just what you do well but what others don’t.”

The insights in this podcast are very relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Here is a high-level sketch note summary of this excellent conversation, which I encourage you to check out.

Tanmay Vora Whitney Johnson Sketchnote

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In 100 Words: Immersion and Doing Work that Matters

We cannot be anxious about something “out there” – a goal, a target, an external reward, a validation from others and generally things that feed our ego – and be immersed in what we do at the same time.

To be able to do great work/art that changes others for better, we need to let “joy” rule us instead of “ego”. Then there is no self in the game: self is just a conducive medium for the inspiration to show up in form of work.

If/when this happens, rewards and recognition will be by-products of the pursuit, not the pursuit itself.  


Also Read at QAspire:

Move And The Way Appears

I am a big fan of taking small, daily steps in the direction where your energy takes you. I started this blog 11 years back with very insignificant posts that no one read. My first sketch note a couple of years back was far from being good. My first steps towards a health and wellness were slow and tentative. But how does that matter?

Because, those first few insignificant posts did not deter me from moving forward. I wrote, and wrote more. And as I did that, I learned how it works. I did more of what worked and here we are – a blog with tens of thousands of readers each month, sharing their encouragement to me via comments, likes and shares on several social channels. This blog has a life of its own.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things bought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I remember I was hesitant in sharing my first sketch note. But less than 2 years after I shared the first one, the sketch notes have gone viral – from social media to global conferences to office walls to being included in books. When I started, did I have a purpose to make them viral? I just knew that I enjoyed making them, learning along the way and improving all the time. I was pursuing joy and suddenly, the way started appearing.

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of only standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

I lost significant weight (nearly 12% of my total body weight) in past 4 months.  My big plan was to move one small step at a time – read a bit about what it takes, take small steps towards cleaner eating, do small changes in lifestyle, get more active and suddenly, it all started revealing. Lessons came to the fore as a result of moving forward slowly, daily and steadily.

My biggest lesson in learning is:

It doesn’t matter what you wish to do. It never happens in one big bang. Instead, it happens in a series of small steps taken with an open mind, learning along each step and putting that learning back into the next step. And then it grows, purpose reveals and you are on a journey before you realize. Forward motion, however small, feeds our esteem and inspires us.

Purpose may not always be the starting point of your journey. Sometimes, you start the journey and the purpose reveals itself.

And who knows, small steps you take in the direction of your heart may open up new paths for you and inspire others? Small is never insignificant, but a powerful step towards a higher purpose.

Move, and the way appears!


A Round-up of Related Posts at QAspire to add to the conversation:

Peter Drucker on The Effective Executive

Ultimately, leadership is all about ability to act on the ideas. In that sense, anyone who thinks of the self as a leader has to be good at executing things. Probably a reason why top leaders in organizations are referred to as executives – the one who executes, not just someone with a fancy title and corner office.

Leadership is a very broad term and leaders in organizations come in all shapes and sizes – from introverted to extraverted, charismatic to simple, people oriented versus task oriented and the differentiation goes on.

But Peter Drucker, whose work has played a defining role in my own growth as a manager and leader, identified eight practices of effective executive based on his observations over 65 years of his consulting career.

The June 2004 article by Peter Drucker in Harvard Business titled “What Makes an Effective Executive” is a must read, if you are a student  of leadership.

Here’s a short snippet of 8 characteristics along with a quick sketch note.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

  • They asked, “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.

– Peter Drucker, What Makes an Effective Executive

Related posts at QAspire

In 100 Words: Boundary

We get too bogged down by our self-imposed boundaries.

Boss won’t allow.

That is not our process.

I’ve never been told!

Not my job.

They need to do it!

And it goes on. But what if we cross that boundary and get into the realm of:

What can I do?

Who can I influence?

How can we make it better?

How can I elicit their commitment for this?

It’s a different conversation that requires great deal of emotional labor. As Seth Godin says in Poke the Box, boundaries are in our heads, not anywhere else.


Related Posts at QAspire.com

The Spark of Initiative

There are people who coast along, go with the flow and do as directed. And then, there are those who strive to add value, raise the bar and make a difference.

If you belong to the latter, Seth Godin has some simple (yet profound) guidance for you. He wrote about three ways to add value – by doing things, by taking decisions and by initiating. Our education system trains us to do things efficiently. Our experience may lead us to a point where we can decide effectively what’s best for ourselves, our team, project and organization.

But we need to learn the art of initiating things ourselves; by having new ideas, starting small experiments, taking tiny risks, caring enough, exerting emotional labor, doing the right thing when no one is watching, learning along the way, adapting our approaches and then hopefully, see our ideas come to life.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.

Not going all the way, and not starting.”

– Siddhartha Gautama

In his book “Poke the Box” Seth Godin wrote,

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

In a future that is increasingly getting automated, it is this spark of initiative that is and would remain our real competitive advantage.