Dwell in Possibility

Dwell in possibility”, borrowed from Emily Dickinson is one theme that is guided me so far and will continue to guide me in the future. 

Every single day brings along a world of possibilities and one thing that determines what we see and how we see things is out own attitude. If you look for problems and constraints, you will always find them – even in the best of situations.

Possibility thinking is an attitude of seeing things and asking, “What’s possible here?” and then working to bring those possibilities to life. Because, ultimately all human progress depends on ability to see possibilities and make them happen.

In my own career, the mindset shift from constraints to possibilities has helped me immensely and continues to help. How do you dwell in possibilities? Here are a few things to consider:

  • It starts with a belief that possibilities (and solutions) exists. It is not about denying constraints but working your way around constraints.
  • It is about persistence in looking for answers when you are unable to find straightforward solutions to constraints.
  • It is about having an eye for what’s working and how can that be amplified as much as it is about knowing what falls in your circle of influence.
  • It is about learning to live with uncertainty and still acting with confidence.
  • It is about realization that things don’t have to be the way they are and that making a change is a possibility.
  • It is about being able to challenge the status-quo knowing that there are better ways of doing things.
  • It is all about execution putting all your energy out there to take the right next steps.
  • It is about riding the waves of change rather than being crushed by it.
  • It is about consciously pursuing the path of your heart and go where it takes you – even if it means living on the edge. Because as Seth Godin says, “If you can’t fail, it doesn’t matter.” 
  • It is about moving beyond our best and being prepared to fail fast, early and often to succeed eventually. Having high expectations from the self and from others is vital because making possibilities happen is hard work.
  • It is about being impeccable with your words (one of the four agreements)  because our choice of words create our possibilities.
  • It is about a strong desire to make a positive difference and contribution in your own life but making a difference to others (your people, organization, teams, family, friends etc.)
  • Living in possibilities is a mindset of serving others by working with them, collaborating with them and finding people who can be your allies in making things happen.

It seems like the only option we have to truly steer ourselves forward is to embrace the mindset of possibility and abundance. Then why not commit to live by the words of Emily Dickinson and “dwell in possibility”?

A worthy goal for 2017 and beyond.

Also Read at QAspire:

In the sketch: Ancient 16th century windmills from Zaanse Schans, The Netherlands (illustrated from my visit there in Dec 2016).

The Circle of Influence

Yes, we all are concerned about so many things. From economy, inflation, politics, our own health, our mortgages, future of our kids and the list goes on. In businesses where things are in a constant state of flux, things get worse. 

Acknowledging these concerns is important but constantly spending our scarce energy only on these concerns is futile. When faced with situations, challenges and concerns, it may be useful to ask the following questions:

  • Can I do something about it myself? Is it under my direct control? Is the onus of resolution or change on me? (Direct control)
  • If not, can I influence someone who can address/solve/change this? (Influence)

This is our circle of influence*. Anything outside this is a circle of concern. We can remain concerned about it but may not be able to do anything much – except for adapting to these situations and choosing our response in line with these concerns.

In organizations, a LOT of time is spent on discussing about things outside the circle of influence – and it is a waste. When the same energy is utilized to address things within our circle of influence, progress happens. As we do more within our circles of influence, the circle expands. We become proactive when we understand our circle of influence.

Focusing on circle of concern alone is negative energy that breeds scarcity mindset. But acknowledging concerns and then focusing on your circle of influence opens up possibilities and fosters growth. It is abundant.

“Try to Absorb what is useful, Discard what is useless, and Add what is essentially your own.” – Bruce Lee

Once you have identified your circle of influence, it is important to also act on it. When you can solve something, you must solve it without letting your worries and concerns interfere. Knowing that something is in your circle of influence and not doing anything about it is a real disservice (to yourself, your teams and your organization).

This is even more critical when people look up to you as a leader.

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* Stephen Covey defined circle of influence in his iconic self help book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. (1989)”

Three Friends, Diverse Stories and One Lesson

Three friends meet over the cup of coffee and some nicely made sandwiches.

It is a typical “friends meeting” with no specific agenda. They start talking about their lives, how they navigated through their careers, struggled and found their way through.

They narrated their personal stories of triumphs, tribulations and a constant inner struggle that goes on during those formative years. They shared major change events, turning points in their lives/careers, complexities and uncertainties. These stories helped them understand each other at a deeper level, but it also extended a common realization.

What these stories narrated was our ability as human beings to deal with uncertainty. When we pass out of school and then graduate, we are surrounded by possibilities. These possibilities and related uncertainties forces us to bring out our best. We work through that maze to find something we love doing or something that we are successful at. Success breeds more success and we start growing in our personal lives and climb up the career ladder.

With this growth comes comfort and certainty. We love this comfort and get used to predictability in everything we do. We want things to be done in a certain way and the element of “exploration” is almost dead. Along the way, we may become too timid to take risks, explore the unknown and work our way out through a maze.

Three friends, diverse stories and one realization – let our growth NOT become a barrier to possibilities that lie within us. Let us remain agile, alert and awake to everything that provides deeper meaning, satisfaction and joy to us.

It turned out to be the time well spent.

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Announcement:  Please check out my newly launched Tumblr blog. The purpose of this blog is to share interesting stuff, quotes and ideas from my friends in blogosphere more frequently. It is somewhere between a regular blog and twitter. In that space, I will share every insight that inspires me with a link to the source. 12 posts already and growing. Please check it out, subscribe and participate.

Focus on Relationships and Tale of Two Leaders

Consider the following tale of two sales leaders who wanted to be successful:

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In his quest to achieve his sales targets, Peter was overly focused on "closing the sale". When in front of a customer, he often focused on what the "next steps" would be. He sold from the mindset of "What all can be sold to this customer out of all my services?" and tried to maximize his sales. He would constantly try to fit his services and convince customer that they really needed it. He believed that sales was all about selling ice cubes in Antarctica! He danced in joy when he closed a sale – and would then focus his energies completely on next sales closure. Peter was successful on a short-term, but his success was often short-lived. He wondered ‘Why?’

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Jack, on the other hand, believed in "building a relationship". When a sale was closed, he considered it as a beginning of a relationship. When in front of a customer, he mostly focused on "understanding/listening" what customer had to say. He sold from the mindset of "What are your problems and how can my services solve them?" and tried to map services with real problems. He believed that sales was all about building relationship through delivery of "value". Without getting overwhelmed (or overjoyed) about the sales closure, he focused his energy to communicate and align people for success. Jack was considered ‘slow’ initially, but he knew he had built a foundation of great relationships for a long term.

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The difference between Peter and Jack was that of the mindset – of purpose and of clarity. Jack knew that business happens and reputation is built only when you solve "real" problems of your customer. For that, first step is to understand and carefully listen. That is the starting point of all relationships. The difference between their mindsets is same as the difference between "hearing" and "listening", between "watching" and "seeing".

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Note: This post is a continuation of my first post “Focus on Effectiveness and Tale of Two Managers” – written on same lines, but with a different message. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet!

GIVING is GROWING (Generosity and Leadership)

I am on my way to Helsinki (Finland) and it turns out again that traveling is the best time to read/think/write. Thanks to offline blogging tools, you can now write anywhere. I wrote a blog post earlier while traveling in a VR Fast train between Helsinki and Tampere.

This time it is Delhi IGI airport.

I have a wait time of 6 hours (past midnight) before I catch an early morning flight to Helsinki. I asked myself, “How do I productively use this time to ‘give’ something valuable to readers of this blog?” This got me thinking about the power of GIVING. The act of giving forms the core of all human transactions and yet, in the race of stiff competition and survival, we often tend to hold things back.

Acts of Giving, Generosity, Service and Helpfulness – Why do they matter? Consider the following:

  • We spend all our life trying to keep ourselves happy (via material acquisitions) only to realize later that true happiness is in GIVING, in selflessly helping people and serving customers.
  • True act of service is to give selflessly without expecting results. This also relates to theory of Karma (preached by Lord Krishna in the great Indian Epic Mahabharata). Even Bible says “give and so shall you receive”. But we often don’t pay heed to these while we struggle to compete and survive.
  • It is said that we learn more when we teach. Similarly, we get more when we give.
  • When you give and receive in cycles, you form strong and authentic relationships.
  • To me, the best act of giving is to help someone when they are in need, to add value to them via meaningful conversations and genuinely offer help. In fact, you have to first offer help before you get the right to seek help.
  • Giving is beyond just money or material wealth. You can give your service, knowledge, love, care, attention and time.
  • As a leader, you can only “get” the best performances if you “give” your best attention. You can manage your people ordinarily (as a job) or you can engage with them and seek to give them more and more.
  • I heard a phrase “All life is give and take” – you see, here as well, give comes first and then take.:)
  • When you demonstrate generosity in giving, you create a positive ring around you which not only keeps you happy but also positive and motivated.
  • Acts of giving lifts our spirit and makes us lighter from within. When we give, we become selfless, leaving selfishness aside. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can vouch for this.
  • Just as you look for opportunities to grow, you should also look for opportunities to give. More you give, more you grow.
  • From a business perspective, when you meet requirements, you “satisfy” the customer. When you give more than their expectation, you delight them. Delighted customer brings more business. It is cyclic process of giving and receiving.
  • Giving is at the fulcrum of wealth creation process.

If you agree to these ideas, I would like to leave you with three critical questions:

  • What positive difference are you bringing about in someone else’s life by giving your knowledge, ideas, love, care, attention and time?
  • How many times did you refrain from sharing some very useful information in your organization fearing that your competitors would get better than you?
  • When did you last “exceed” someone’s expectations?

On that note, have a wonderful Sunday and a great week ahead!

Photo Credit: Kris Litman’s Flickr Stream