In 100 Words: Feed Your Focus

Nicholas Bate once sent me a bunch of inspiring cards made with lot of love. One of those cards read,

Every YES contains a NO (YES to staying late is NO to Lego with your daughter)”

Every NO contains a YES (NO to the gym is YES to more stress)”

When we say YES to being available to the world all the time (especially when it is so easy to do that), we say NO to focus. If we don’t focus, how will we think, plan, execute, review and align?

NO to distractions, YES to focus and space for creativity. 


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In 100 Words: Face The Light

 

In moments of uncertainty, inspiration came to me in form of a tweet with a visual that read,

“If you see shadows, it is because there is light.”

I instinctively told myself,

“If you face the light, shadows fall behind.”

The mindset of abundance asks, “What’s possible?” instead of “What could go wrong?” and focuses on those possibilities because constraints are almost a given in work and life.

Only then, we can start focusing on possibilities, thinking beyond the boundaries, raising the bar, stepping into the unknown and doing what truly matters.

We try. We err. And then, we learn!


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In 100 Words: An Open Mind for Lifelong Learning

When our mind is like a mountain, it is nothing but a heap of fixed beliefs and knowledge that does not evolve.

To have a mind like a valley, we need to pursue things with a sense of wonder, knowing that we don’t know and having a receptive frame of mind ready to absorb. An open mind enables critical thinking, diverse experiences, experimentation and iterative learning by connecting the dots.

Isaac Asimov echoed the same sentiment. He said,

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”


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In 100 Words: Invisible Chains

Once there was a circus Lion who was so tamed/trained that he never knew about his real strengths. He was then left in the jungle where real Lions lived. Upon seeing other Lions, the tamed Lion started running fiercely driven by fear until he saw his own reflection in a pond. He realized that he was also a Lion as powerful as others.

Metal chains are easier to notice but mental chains of our past experiences, fixed beliefs and perceived limitations are invisible. Mental chains are best broken with curiosity, openness to new experiences/ideas and an attitude of lifelong learning.

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Also Read: Other Insights and Parables in 100 Words

In 100 Words: Agility and Embracing Uncertainty

We are comfortable with what is predictable. This impacts our choices because we want to maximize the chances of success.

Then, once in a while, we are thrown into situations where we have no control. It compels us to carve a way out and create a map as we go. We learn the most here.

The key to success in VUCA world is to embrace the uncertain without waiting to be thrown into it. That which is predictable merely keeps us in the game but when we embrace (and succeed at) the new and the uncertain, we elevate our performance.

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Also Read: Parables in 100 Words

In 100 Words: On Blind Rituals

 

A cat that lived in monastery distracted evening meditation of the monks. One day, teacher ordered that cat be tied up daily during the evening meditation. Years later, when teacher died, the cat was still being tied up in the evening. When the cat died, another cat was bought and tied up to maintain the tradition. Centuries later, learned descendants of spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about significance of tying the cat during meditation.

In organizations and in life, complying with traditions without understanding them is a huge waste. When context changes, our thinking needs to evolve too. Isn’t it?


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

In 100 Words: Heaven or Hell?

A Rabbi used to tell a story of his tour to the heavens.

He first went to the Hell and it was horrible. Tables were laden with sumptuous food yet people looked pale and hungry. Their arms were strapped with wooden planks such they could not bend their hands to put food in their own mouth.

It was the same story in Heaven, except that people looked contented and happy. When he closely observed, he saw that people were using strapped arms to feed each other!

Hell or heaven is not about circumstances but about how we treat each other.


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

In 100 Words: Pursuit of Happiness

In a group activity during a seminar, one balloon each is given to all 100 participants who were asked to write their name on it. Balloons were collected, jumbled and put in another room. When people were asked to find balloon with their name in 5 minutes, chaos ruled!

Then, speaker asked them to pick up any balloon and give it to person whose name was written on it. Within minutes, everyone had their balloons!

Speaker said, “Happiness is like these balloons. Try to find yours and you won’t get it. Extend it to others and you will get yours!”


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In 100 Words: The Perfect Pot

A pottery teacher divides her class into two halves and gives them an assignment to create pots during the semester. One group was asked to focus on perfection of the pot and second group on number of pots they finished.

First group worked hard to create their perfect pot while second group immediately started making all kinds of pots.

End of semester, two groups were judged based on their most perfect pot. The pot made by second group won. Because they were judged on quantity, they executed more, practiced more and hence, delivered better than those who chased perfection.


Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

In 100 Words: Excellence by Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals was a great Spanish cellist and conductor who is considered one of the greatest cellists of all time. He believed that music has the power to save the world.

When he was 93, he was asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours everyday. Pablo’s response to this question, in my view, is the hallmark of excellence. He said, “Because I think I am making progress and improving.”

Malcolm Gladwell famously said, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

The quest for excellence never ends.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: The Formula for Success

A man approached JP Morgan with an envelope and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell you for $25,000.”

JP Morgan replied, “I don’t know what is in the envelope, however if I like it, I will pay you what you asked for.”

JP Morgan opened the envelope, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look, a mere glance and paid him the agreed-upon $25,000.

The Paper:

1. Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.

2. Do them.

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Hat Tip to Tom Peters’ collection of Top 41 Quotes (PDF), which is also a must read!

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora

In 100 Words: No Strength Without Struggle

The caterpillar was turning into a butterfly. In that biology lab, the teacher explained how butterfly struggles to break the cocoon as students curiously observed this metamorphosis. Before leaving the class, she urged students to just observe and not help the butterfly.

After a while, one of the students took pity on the struggling butterfly and broke the cocoon to help. But shortly afterwards, the butterfly died.

When the teacher returned, she saw what had happened. “Your help killed the butterfly. Struggle helps butterfly in developing and strengthening its wings,” she said.

“Our struggles are the source of our strength.”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, Butterfly in the Park

In 100 Words: The Cracked Pot and Leadership

An elderly woman used two pots to fetch water, each hung on the ends of a pole. One pot was perfect and delivered full portion of water while the other had a leaking crack. The imperfect pot felt very ashamed and this went on for a year.

One day, the woman told the cracked pot, “Do you see flowers on one side of the road? They are your gift to this world. Knowing about your flaw, I planted flower seeds on your side of the path which you watered”.

We all have cracks. Effective leadership is about handling them well.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, Earthen pots arranged on the roadside, India.

In 100 Words: On Criticizing Constructively

Painting

A novice painter once put his first painting at a busy cross road for people to mark mistakes. End of the day, the painting was full of cross marks!

Next day, he made the same painting and displayed at the same cross roads. This time, he kept colors and brush there and requested people to not only point out mistakes but also correct it themselves. The day ended and painting was intact with no corrections made!

It is as important to say no to constant negativity as it is to pay heed to constructive criticism that helps us improve constantly.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: Elevate Your Game

Statue of Three Smiths, Helsinki, Finland

The coach felt the undercurrent. There was a visible problem between the two teams who were trying to kill each other’s morale before the big game.

One day, the coach gathered both teams in one room. He then drew two lines on the board; one longer than the other. When one of the captains was asked to match the lines, he just erased the part of longer line to match.

The coach smiled and said, “You could have done the same thing by extending the shorter line. To win, we should elevate ourselves rather than trying to pull others down.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: Humility, Life and Leadership

Humility

In that leadership workshop, the trainer and the participants were discussing about the importance of humility in life and leadership. Some people defined humility as ‘modesty’ while others said it was about ‘seeing the self as a means to an end and not an end in itself.’

After listening carefully, the trainer said, “Humility is like the banks of a river that gives direction to the flowing water without possessing it.

“In life and leadership, we are only great to an extent we empower others without having any pride in possessing them. It’s about standing with people, not above them.”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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A Note of Gratitude: to our friend Kurt Harden (at Cultural Offering) for including QAspire Blog in his annual list “25 Blogs Guaranteed to Make Your Smarter

In 100 Words: What You Leave Behind

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel once read his own obituary that described him as a “Merchant of Death”. When Nobel’s brother died, a newspaper reported Nobel’s death by mistake. Because Nobel had invented dynamite, the obituary described him as someone who found ways to kill more people faster.

“Is this how I really want to be remembered?” he asked himself. To improve his image, he left 94% of his huge fortune to award people who made greatest contributions to the mankind through their work. (Nobel Prize)

Fortunately, we don’t need such accidental reminders to ask ourselves: How would I like to be remembered?

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: The Pursuit of Happiness

My one year old son seems to be in a perennial state of happiness. His playful presence and vibrant energy makes everyone around him happy. He knows how to make the most of simplest of things. “What’s his secret?” I was thinking to myself when heard I this wonderful story from a friend.

A man once asked a Buddhist monk, “I want happiness.” The monk smiled softly and said, “First remove ‘I’ – that is your ego. Then remove ‘want’ – that is your unending desire. Now all you are left with (and were born with) is ‘happiness’.

I got his secret!

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: On Success, Happiness and Frugality


One definition of happiness is ‘ability to live life on your own terms.’ But sometimes, we define our happiness based on what others do, and then we try to ‘catch up’ with them compromising our own core values.

Aristippus, a Greek philosopher gained a comfortable position in the Kingdom through constant flattery of the King.

Aristippus once saw Diogenes, another Greek philosopher, dining on a meager meal of lentils and advised, “Learn to flatter the king and you will not have to live on lentils.”

Diogenes replied, “Learn to live on lentils and you will never have to flatter anyone.”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: Why Wait?

Driving to the office everyday is a very humbling experience.

Just a few kilometers on the bustling highway, there is a crematorium with two chimneys emitting light-grayish fume. Passing through a cemetery or crematorium, I come face-to-face with mortality. We are all going to die – and that itself should be a powerful provocation to realize the preciousness of life, to think about one’s priorities, be more human, joyful and grateful.

People who survive near-death experiences often tend to live more intentionally and fully afterwards. My point is: Why wait for such rude reminders when you can do that right away?

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Note: I met super-talented and amazing Kiruba Shankar yesterday and my conversation with him sparked the ideas outlined in this post. He is working on a very exciting project “Unkick the bucket” where he attempts to discover our true priorities in life.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Photo Courtesy: ProAudience on Flickr