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

Related Posts at QAspire

Real Influence is a By-Product

The world today reveres influence and this leads people to chase influence. When influence becomes a goal, you can easily lose focus on what truly builds influence.

Influence – real influence that changes people and their behaviors for better – is a by-product of:

  1. Clarifying your values to yourself and hence to others
  2. Living those values and setting the right example (being authentic and integral)
  3. Making a meaningful contribution to community (yes, business IS a community)
  4. Being super-generous about sharing your work, insights, art and gifts
  5. And being a champion at listening to others (listening is a way to respect others)
  6. Building trust one contribution, one conversation and one result at a time
  7. Truly connecting with others (technology is just a medium)
  8. Believing in your insights and ideas (strength of belief feeds passion)
  9. And still being flexible and open minded about letting the beliefs and learning evolve
  10. Sharing stories that move people to better position (in thinking and in actions)
  11. Providing a lens to people to see things from your unique point of view
  12. Taking the conversations forward by “adding” meaningful perspectives
  13. Being intentional about being generous
  14. Always being constructive in thinking and ways of working
  15. Being consistent in your pursuits

What do you think?

Also Read:

Emilie Wapnick on Being a Multipotentialite

Some of us are fortunate to have found one true calling early in our lives and career but for most of the others, finding what really interests us is an ongoing exploration – a journey where we go along the direction of our energy. And then there people who are wired to have many different (and often evolving) interests.

In her TED Talk titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick refers to people with many interests as “Multipotentialites.”

In her talk, she explains:

“The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.

But what if you’re someone who isn’t wired this way? What if there are a lot of different subjects that you’re curious about, and many different things you want to do?”

She then defines a multipotentialite as:

“someone with many interests and creative pursuits. It’s a mouthful to say. It might help if you break it up into three parts: multi, potential, and ite. You can also use one of the other terms that connote the same idea, such as polymath, the Renaissance person.”

Being drawn to many different things can be easily seen as a limitation but what Emilie found out is that there are tremendous strengths in being this way.

Based on the talk, here is a sketch note depicting the multipotentialite superpowers.

And finally, in the words of Emilie Wapnick:

to you I say: embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.


Skills For Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work

My dad retired as a Library Science professional soon after which the profession of Library management was transformed by digital forces. With the rise of digital content, we now needed different kind of librarians who could help us walk through this maze of information and find what we need, not just deal with only physical books. The way libraries are structured and run has completely changed (and it continues to evolve).

In past 15 years, we have seen number of businesses being disrupted or transformed completely by digital forces. This may accelerate in future with the continuous rise in automation.

Experts predict that we are heading towards a “jobless future” and that it is both an opportunity and a threat. Even if we don’t think too much about what happens over a long frame of time, we can still agree that what bought us here (technical skills, expertise etc) may not be sufficient to take us towards success in a volatile future. What skills do we need more of as we head into future?

I read an interesting (and long) post by Janna Q. Anderson titled “The Robot Takeover is Already Here where she says –

“Skills young people should be learning to be prepared for a career in 2020 include:

  • The ability to concentrate, to focus deeply.
  • The ability to distinguish between the “noise” and the message in the ever-growing sea of information.
  • The ability to do public problem solving through cooperative work.
  • The ability to search effectively for information and to be able to discern the quality and veracity of the information one finds and then communicate these findings well.
  • Synthesizing skills (being able to bring together details from many sources).
  • The capability to be futures-minded through formal education in the practices of horizon-scanning, trends analysis and strategic foresight.”

Here are a few skills that I would like to add along for succeeding now and in future.

  • The ability to learn constantly in a self-directed mode
  • Social Intelligence and ability to connect with people beyond geographical barriers virtually in a deep/meaningful way and collaborate.
  • Adaptive mindset to evolve the thinking and learning to keep pace with the pace of changes around us.
  • Interdisciplinary thinking (more here)
  • Critical thinking (more here)

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not in fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

The future that comes to us (and generations to come) will always be uncertain and outside of our control. The key to navigate through uncertainty is to focus inwards on developing agility in skills, learning and mindset – all of which are completely in our control.

Update 29.07.2016 – And here is a sketch note version of Fast Company’s article “These Will Be The Top Jobs In 2025 (And The Skills You’ll Need To Get Them)

The Love of Learning

How do you respond constantly to the disruptive forces at work? How do you navigate in a world of work marked with constant and rather rapid changes? What is the key to success in an increasingly uncertain future?

Vivek Wadhwa wrote an interesting article at Washington Post titled “Love of learning is the key to success in the jobless future” which I read with great interest.

Here is a snippet from the post:

“A question that parents often ask me is, given that these predictions are even remotely accurate, what careers their children should pursue … I tell them not to do what our parents did, telling us what to study and causing us to treat education as a chore; that instead, they should encourage their children to pursue their passions and to love learning. It doesn’t matter whether they want to be artists, musicians, or plumbers; the key is for children to understand that education is a lifelong endeavor and to be ready to constantly reinvent themselves.”

Just today, I heard myself saying this in conversation with a colleague,

If someone ever asked me, “If there was ONE lesson you had to share with your own kids about how to succeed in their career?”, I wouldn’t wait for a moment before saying, “Learn constantly, for the joy of it, on your own and make it a lifelong habit.”

In early years, ability learn on our own increases confidence. The mindset of constant learning is a mindset of an explorer who is constantly looking for ways and creating maps on the go. It expands our cognition and as we engage more in learning, we start seeing connections between what seemed like discrete dots. It expands our  cognition and awareness. Most importantly, self-directed learning moves the focus of our attention inwards. When we cannot control what is happening outside us, we can always choose our response to those external events. Constant learning allows us to respond better. Research also indicates that later in life, constant pursuit of learning leads to regeneration of brain cells.

After reading this article, I am a bit relieved that my advice in this hypothetical situation wouldn’t be completely out of place.

Here is to the spirit of staying hungry and staying foolish. Happy Learning!

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P.S: I am currently learning how to deepen my learning experiences through the power of visual note taking. You can see my experiments here.

Hidden Strengths – Unleashing The Leadership Skills You Already Have

Most people ascend to leadership positions based on their areas of natural strengths. Tools like SWOT analysis also focus excessively on two things: strengths and weaknesses. So, our natural response as leaders is to leverage our strengths and improve on areas of our weakness. Yes?

But there is a large space between our strengths and weaknesses that which is hidden. Authors Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell calls this space as “Hidden Strengths” in their new book by the same name. About 70% of our skills fall in this hidden space where we are neither excelling nor failing. And according to authors, our focusing on our hidden strengths provide a very fertile ground for our leadership and professional growth.

The book points to research which states that,

“Effective leaders evolve and grow throughout their careers, whereas failed leaders get stuck in a pattern of overusing their strength to the point of staleness.”

After a while, overusing our strengths may just turn out to be one of our weaknesses. And therefore, it is vital to first know the hidden strengths and then work to develop in those areas.

Our natural strengths are an intersection between our talents, knowledge and skills. However, the possibility of having natural strengths is only to an extent of 20%, i.e. your top 20% of skills. For rest of the skills there are missing pieces.

This book can be your effective guide in identifying those missing pieces. To do that, this book provides an overview of 28 skill areas that are divided into four categories:

  • Leading Self: How aware are you of your skills and limitations? How strong is your ability to self-regulate?
  • Leading Others: How do you interact with others in the organization?
  • Leading the Organization: To what extent do you think about the direction of the organization and how you function within it?
  • Leading Implementation: How are you ensuring that things get done?

Knowing that constant learning is our biggest competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world, we all try hard to develop our skills in areas we think we need to improve. But having a handy guide like this book can provide a definite direction to your self-development efforts.

This is a compact 80 page book that is not preachy in its tone, doesn’t offer any quick fix models but just outlines the premise, key skills and why they are important. Free online profiling of hidden strengths that comes with this book  also complements for brevity in content.

Whether you are a leader looking for improving your skills further or an aspiring leader, this book will offer useful insights into some of the key skills that contribute to great leadership.

The Guy in the Glass: Dale Wimbrow

My friend Utpal wrote a blog titled “Your Mirror is a Powerful Tool”. While his post is about reflecting upon the right questions in life, it reminded me of one of my favorite poems “The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow.

It is a powerful poem that emphasizes on being integral and true to our own selves. Right from the time we start the school, we are taught to meet external expectations like grades and ranks. We grow up learning how to meet external expectations and somewhere along the way, lose the sight of what is truly important to us.

So, here is the poem.

When you get what you want in your struggle for *pelf,

And the world makes you King for a day,

Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that guy has to say.


For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,

Who judgment upon you must pass.

The *feller whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back from the glass.


He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,

For he’s with you clear up to the end,

And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.


You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,

And think you’re a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.


You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

* Pelf = Wealth, Feller = Fellow

In this context, I learned a very important lesson recently. To be able to make friends with your own self and being comfortable with solitude is a great source of strength, wisdom and confidence. People who are not integral with their inner selves constantly strive to remain externally engaged.

So next time you stand in front of the mirror, pay attention your inner self. Look at yourself in the eye.

Then listen to what that guy in the mirror has to say!

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In 100 Words: At the Right Place?


A baby camel once asked the mother, “Why do we have a hump?” Mother camel replied, “We are desert animals and we need hump to store water.”

Curious, the baby asked further, “Why do we have long rounded legs and long eyelashes?” The mother proudly replied, “Long legs help us walk in desert and eyelashes protect us from desert sand and wind.”

The baby said, “Oh! We have everything we need to survive in a desert. Then what the hell are we doing in a zoo?”

Skills, knowledge and abilities are only useful if you are at the right place.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

In 100 Words: There is No Bad Weather

A retired weatherman was once questioned by a friend, “What kind of weather is it going to be tomorrow?”

“The kind of weather I am going to love,” was the instant response with a gentle smile on his wrinkled face. “How do you know that it will be the weather you will love?” the friend was curious.

The weatherman went on to explain, “35 years in weather department has taught me just one thing: there is no bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. To make the most of everything that doesn’t go as planned is an attitude thing!”

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

The Other Side of Appreciation

[Note: This post is a continuation of thoughts from my earlier post “Building Engaged Teams with Power of Appreciation”]

Yes, appreciation is the fuel that drives people forward and leaders need to learn the art of genuinely appreciating the behaviors they value. On the other side of this equation is the person who is being appreciated, the professional whose inner desire is to be accepted, appreciated and understood. The challenge in creating a culture of appreciation is to ensure that people don’t just do things for the sake of being appreciated.

Human beings have an obsession to decode success. The first time they do something new, it is a creative act, the magic. If it works, they try to decode the act, look for patterns and create formulas. Formulas rob us of the the creative fun involved in doing our work.

If you are a high performer who is blessed with a lot of appreciation from your leaders and peers, here are a few points to note:

  1. Don’t let it go to your head. Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest cricketers world has ever produced. Recently when he was asked about the secret of his humility, his response was simple, “I don’t let success, records and adulation go into my head”. Appreciation should catalyze our creativity.
  2. Appreciation is a by-product. Treat it accordingly. When you do your work with a constant expectation of appreciation, you are working for something which is not in your control. You become too dependent on an external validation to let others decide if your work was good. Focus on inner satisfaction of doing your work in the best possible way and let appreciation be a by-product.
  3. The work you are appreciated for should meet the goal. What if you shined but the team lost? The joy of being appreciated when your efforts helped the team win is very different from being appreciated when you shined but the team failed.

These pointers are important to consider, else appreciation is a double-edged sword that can go either way. Make sure the appreciation you receive helps you elevate yourself.

Join in the conversation: How do you deal with all the appreciation you receive? Does it go to your head or heart?

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Social Media and Leadership Success: A Few Parallels

When I first learned playing Guitar, I focused too much on notes, specifics and techniques. The more I practiced, the more I realized that notes, specifics and techniques are important for producing good music, but not sufficient.

So what was missing? The starting point of becoming a good artist is to have an emotion, an intent. Once you can touch the emotion and are intentional about it, tools and techniques are generally not difficult to master. Music played with technique may entertain us at the best but music played with emotion can move us.

In casual conversations, a lot of friends express a desire to start a blog. This desire is mostly fueled by success of others. They seek help in starting a blog, in creating a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Here’s what I tell them:

The intent of connecting with others meaningfully is at the heart of social media (and leadership) success. With intent comes emotion which leads to difference. It is about liking people, interacting with them, learning from them and contributing back.

It is not about being like someone else, not about ability to use tools but about being your authentic and credible self. Once you are intentional and have right emotion to feel the content (be it music, writing, social media, programming, whatever), tools and techniques are easy to learn.

Unfortunately, most people do the inverse. They first focus on tricks and techniques and then search for emotional connect. Even before they start doing something, they want to measure their success. They end up spreading themselves thin on various social channels and often create noise.

Finally, like any other successful journeys, social media is a process and not a destination. Here again, intent and emotion fuels us through the road. I have seen companies hiring a social media marketing lead and expecting immediate business leads. It seldom happens.

Once you understand the four aspects below, you will do better, not only in social media but in other areas of life as well:

  • Be intentional. Develop an internal need to do something before attempting it.
  • Fuel it with emotion. Understand the impact of what you say and do. Be passionate.
  • In the beginning, don’t measure. Focus on contribution, not on results. Later, measure right things.
  • Enjoy the journey. Seek out new avenues. Connect meaningfully with others. Make a difference.

Join in the conversation: How do you use social media? What parallels can you draw that can help us in other areas of life and work?

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Note: This ideas in this post emerged while talking to Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence – as the name of her blog suggests, she uses social media to connect authors with online audiences, weave an influence and make a difference. Thanks Becky!

Food For Thought – April 2012

From a number of GREAT bloggers and authors I read, here are a few snippets of thought provoking insights – straight from my feed reader. Note: Important take-aways marked in bold+italics.

Michael Wade on “What Managers Can Learn from Novelists

Recognize that life is not a novel. At least, not in most cases. The most powerful characters in life are the quiet heroes who support families, meet obligations, hone skills, and fulfill civic duties. The same is true in the workplace. Your most important employees are not the charismatic home run hitters. They are your base hitters who, although devoid of drama, win ball games.”

Nicholas Bate suggests, “Spend Time With The Best

The best will remind you that nothing’s guaranteed but more is predictable when you take responsibility for you career rather than leaving it to your CEO, take responsibility for you life rather than leaving it to a smooth-talking politician and start reading every day. Hang out with the best. Listen to the best. Read the best.

Wally Bock knows “Where Greatness Lives

Like great companies, great business teams are excited about the work they do. Foster excitement in the work. Revel in it.”

Dan Pink shares “50 Centuries of Work = 5 Important Lessons”. One of them below:

“Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.

Chris Guillebeau thinks, “It’s Not the Process, It’s Not the End Result, It’s the Act of Making Things

No matter what, you’ll encounter setbacks and experience disappointments. But when you encounter them, your response is to keep creating. Use the setbacks for greater good. Write your 1,000 words, paint your painting, build your business, lead your team—whatever you do. Focus on the act of making things. The act of creation is where joy and effort intersect.

Giving Up On Need To Be ‘Rational Always’

As we grow, our belief system firms up with notions of what is right and what is wrong. What works and what not. At work, our beliefs further solidify according to the context we work in. Understanding of data, facts and trends is important because it make us “rational”.

The problem starts however, when we try to be rational all the time. A leader who always takes a rational standpoint fails to inspire people, because people are not always rational. An individual who always goes with conventional wisdom, proven tracks and charted paths quickly becomes “one amongst many”. Parents who drive kids with their own pre-existing beliefs do more harm to kids than help. Purely rational, planned strategies will never allow organizations to have major breakthroughs. A sales professional cannot sell effectively based on data and facts, for people buy on emotion, and then need facts to justify that emotion.

Rationality makes us highly predictable. It does not leave any room for an original thought. If everyone does it, and if it is working reasonably well, we should do it too.

The key is to give up on our urge to be right all the time, and balance structure with chaos. Listening to the rational mind and the emotional one.

Things like passion, faith and belief are mostly irrational. When people take “leaps of faith”, they are seldom based on evidences and numbers. They do it because they are passionate about it and they believe in the outcome. They take a decision and then work hard to make those decisions right. If those decisions don’t go as planned -they learn. That is how we change ourselves, our teams and our organizations – one irrational and original thought at a time.

As Godin says,

Irrational passion is the key change agent of our economy. Faith and beauty and a desire to change things can’t be easily quantified, and we can’t live without them.

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A Simple Checklist (But No Simpler)

Albert Einstein believed that supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible.

He said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Here are some very basic (irreducible) questions that can act as powerful checklist to assess your processes.

– Why are we doing what we are doing?

– What all we do?

– How are those linked together?

– How is it done?

– What are the dependencies?

– Who is the customer? What does customer expect?

– What are the top 3 areas where small change can lead to a big difference?

– What all is redundant?

– What can be eliminated to reduce waste (of effort/time/energy/money)?

– What can be simplified?

On a second thought, you can also apply these questions to your own set of working patterns/personal initiatives/career. It’s not just organizations that have processes. We also have our personal processes (ways of working), and they play a huge role in what we deliver to the world as individuals.

Quality (and hence excellence) is largely a personal affair!

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Note: I am scheduled to speak at Ahmedabad Management Association on the topic “Personal Mastery: They Key to Deliver Quality”. (Friday, 08-Jul-2011 at 6:30 PM IST at ). It is an evening talk open for all who are interested. Are we meeting? 🙂

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Related Posts:

Lifelong Learning – 20 Lessons

Three Rituals For Constant Alignment and Learning

On Personal Mastery and Commitment to Learning

Getting Work Done: Flow and Distractions

Across the web, I have recently read articles/posts that underline an important thing – technology is taking a toll on our productivity and is keeping us from doing work that really matters – that is, if we allow.

I have seen both sides of the coin. I often get into a state when my work seemed to be just flowing and I never realized that I was doing the “work”. Things got done, time just flew, priorities accomplished, progress happened and a sense of satisfaction prevailed.

On the other side, I have been a victim of technology as well. Times when I got so distracted by my urge to “check” things – mails, social media comments, short message on my cell etc. – that it kept me from accomplishing what I had planned. I dread such days.

Tony Schwartz calls this phenomenon as “Personal Energy Crisis”. He observes,

“Human beings aren’t designed to run like computers: at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. By mimicking them, they’re ending up running us.

This post also throws some light on the fact that modern organizations cannot build competitive advantage by just asking people to do more. Read on for more insights.

In his recent post “Are You Making Something”, Seth Godin observes,

One reason for this confusion is that we’re often using precisely the same device to do our work as we are to distract ourselves from our work.

This one is so true – our worlds (personal and professional) converge on devices we use. I recently saw an advertisement of a 3G service which says “Mix your worlds”. I am not sure if mixing our worlds would help us stay more productive and efficient!

Bottom line:

There are no silver bullets when it comes to personal productivity. Staying connected with world is as important as accomplishing meaningful work. The key is to strike the right balance. It is only when you spend quality time with your work that you can deliver quality in your work.

Join in the conversation:

How do you strike a balance between the urge to “check/stay informed” and the need to get important work done? What personal productivity rituals worked for you?

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BONUS: Read this excellent post by Tony Schwartz on Harvard Business Review, titled “Six Keys To Be Excellent at Anything

Thursday Thought: The “Real” Worship

A quick thought. A lot of people worship religiously by following age old traditions, maintaining rituals and visiting religious places. That is the kind of worship that connects us to the Almighty.

In my view, the “real worship”, the one that deeply connects us to our own selves, is to:

  • first be ‘human’ in everything we do.
  • know how to ‘give’ generously (and unconditionally).
  • fully express ourselves through our work, and change the world for better.
  • bring out the best in people around us.
  • be able to forgive others. (Remember: Life’s too short to carry burden of regrets)
  • strengthen our character by consistent integrity.
  • embrace simplicity. (Clutter takes us away from ourselves)
  • always strive and see positive side of things.
  • smile, be happy and spread the cheer.
  • live a full, engaged and passionate life.
  • remain curious, read, learn, teach and grow.
  • strive for physical and mental wellness (not just health).
  • be grateful for whatever we have.
  • nurture our friendship and treasure our relationships.
  • spend some time everyday with self, reflecting and introspecting.
  • enjoy good music, good art and anything that gives us joy.
  • plant (a tree, an ambition, a seed of thought, an idea)
  • live in the moment. (past is gone and we don’t know the future yet).

The paradox of a hyper-connected world is that it has become easier to connect with people across the globe, but difficult to connect with our own selves.

So, take some time out to do the “real worship” – today, tomorrow and everyday!

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Have a GREAT Thursday!

Improvement, Change and Strength of Belief In Outcomes

We all find it difficult to stick to our new year resolutions beyond a few months. A lot of people wish to focus on their health and start exercising. Many people I know want to quit smoking. We have a lot of “wishes” on improvement, but we often fail to take some real actions.


Because change is hard and most of the times, we are resistant to change. Not only because it pulls us out of our comfort zone, but also because when we initiate a change, we don’t see the end results very clearly.

My gym instructor recently shared a very good insight. He observed that people who constantly focus on the pain when exercising give up sooner. He also noted that people who look for instant changes in their health after a few days of exercising also get disappointed soon.

That insight goes well with my own experience which suggests that all meaningful changes take time, demand persistent effort and are driven by strength of our belief that things will be better after a change is implemented, be it improving processes or getting in a better shape.

I realized that we only change when we “have to” change (externally driven) or when we strongly believe in the result of change (internally driven). Most people/organizations don’t think about meaningful changes unless the consequences of not changing are serious or our survival is at stake. In my view, it is always better to be internally driven to changes and improvement (and hence constantly improve) than to be forced upon by external situations. Because the latter often tends to be more painful.

Bottom line:

How much you improve (as an individual or as an organization) is directly proportional to the strength of your belief in the benefits of change.

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P.S. Read this interesting quote on Twitter, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.

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Have a great day!

‘Their Work’ Versus ‘My Work’

When you work in an organization or within a team, you can think of it as ‘doing the work for someone’. For the company. For the manager. For the client.

Or you can think of it as ‘doing your work’. There is a big difference.

Our work is a way to express ourselves. A programmer expresses himself through code. A dancer through her dance. A writer through her words. A leader through his actions. In that sense, our work is our statement. It carries out stamp. It tells something about us.

When you say, “I am doing my work”, you make it personal. It is only when you take the work personally that you can stamp it with excellence. Thinking that you do the work for someone else, you generally do it for the sake of doing it. Simply getting through it. It does more harm to you than you can possibly think of, in a long run.

So, the next time you ship your deliverable to someone (a client, your boss, your peers), think about the statement that your work makes. The stamp it carries.

This Monday, you have a choice. To stamp your work with ‘mediocrity’ or with ‘excellence’. This choice and how it is exercised consciously everyday determines your future and the difference you will make to the organization, team and society.

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Engaging in Alternative ‘Creative Pursuit’ to Be More Effective

Most people love to remain engaged in their ‘core’ area of expertise. They spend long hours over the years to understand, study, apply and innovate ideas in this core area. Most of the growth happens when we stick to one thing and do it really really well.

In my experience, the key to remain innovative in your core area is to find an ‘alternative’ – a creative pursuit that you love, that is different from your normal work and where you spend at least a few hours in a week. It could be playing a guitar, learning salsa, hitting the gym, writing a blog, reading novels, learning how to cook, starting a social initiative and so on.

I know a doctor who is passionate about music. He does not miss a single live music concert that happens in city. “It just refreshes me, pours new energy into my system and makes me more effective at work” – he says. He also started taking tuitions on music in the weekends to explore his passion. What a fun and what a refreshing change.

Studies have shown that these ‘alternate’ activities have a huge impact on your stress levels as well. They could be your greatest tool to bust that stress you accumulate by doing the routine. These activities can also stimulate different faculties (emotional, creative and logical) of our mind.

For me, writing is refreshing. I love the written word and I get a kick when my mind works in tandem with my fingers ferociously hitting the keyboard to produce ideas in form of words. I practice my passion for Quality – the core. But I stay effective because I write. Writing then, is more of a selfish activity for me.

Biggest folly is to think that these ‘alternate’ activities are time-wasters and that we could have produced better results had we spent that time doing our core work. In my view, it could have been counter-productive. Spending a few hours on these alternative activities is not a ‘waste’ but an ‘investment’.

The key however is –

  • To experiment with yourself and do things you like doing (or you wished you did).
  • Find out activities that gave you most pleasure. (you wished you did them more).
  • Eliminate the rest and focus on these one or two activities.
  • Devote/plan at least a few hours a week to do these set of activities.
  • When you do these, don’t plan too much. Just go with the flow. Enjoy those moments.
  • Create an alternative body of work that you could be proud of.

So stick to your core and get better at the ‘alternatives’ – they could be so much of a fun, so much of refreshment and a great tool for making you more effective in your core.

On that note, have a super-effective week ahead!

P.S: My post “On Leadership, Opening Up and Being Prepared” is featured in February Leadership Development Carnival, along with a number of fantastic posts from Leadership community and friends. Check it out.

Book Review – ‘There’s An Adult In My Soup’ By Kim and Jason Kotecki

adult_in_my_soup_front_1 I am currently reading a simple yet amazing book titled “There’s An Adult In My Soup” by Kim and Jason Kotecki. Thanks to Kim and Jason for sending me a signed copy. They are on a mission fighting “Adultitis” – typical adult syndromes that infect us as we grow. In that process, we loose our child-like qualities that made us happy and jovial. Our daily conundrums trap us and we forget that life happens to us when we are busy making other things happen. This book is a gentle reminder to remain open, optimistic and child-like to enjoy the simple joys of life.

Excerpt From chapter “Trading the Cracker Jack Prizes for the Peanuts”

God has scattered these free prizes all around us: a watercolor sunset, the smell of fresh cut grass, the intricacy of a snowflake. We’re so busy being self-absorbed and stressed-out that we miss them all because they’re hidden just below the surface of our hurried consciousness.

Any book that relates well with your current circumstances will quickly hit you. So if you are going through a “busyness” syndrome and looking out for more from life, this book will quickly break the ice and become a good guiding friend. Better yet, this book will lead to some self-revelation if you are suffering from adultitis but don’t know about it yet! Jason’s illustrations in the beginning of every chapter makes it more interactive and light-weight.

Excerpt From chapter “While you were busy, life passed by”

Here’s what’s really happening: life is passing us by. We miss out on important stuff because we’re convinced that the busyness is a standard operating procedure. And we’re deceived by the mirage that someday, if we work hard enough, our to-do list will be cleared. As David Allen reminds us in Getting Things Done, you will die with things STILL in your to-do list. This never-ending hamster wheel is a part of adulthood we need to escape from now and then.

If you like the book, you will also love reading Kim and Jason’s Blog