February 23, 2015

Lessons for a father - Playing the game (Part 1)

There is a part of the new age learning and teaching process that revolves around game mechanics and game design techniques. This is called Gamification. The intention behind it is to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. It taps into the basic human desire of status and achievement.

I have been studying up on it for the past few weeks. It is a powerful method that is being used by organizations around the planet in helping people achieve everything from learning a new languages, follow process, increase efficiency and teamwork or even on-board new employees. That is not the end of it though. 

The same technique can also be used to engage customers, promote desirable software usage behavior (websites, applications and games all fall under this category) and even supplement, and sometimes replace, conventional classroom learning.

There are constituents of Gamification that would hold true in case of parenting or leadership too. One of those constituents are what are called Activity Loops. They

used to encourage a user along a desired path of activity.

Activity loops in a gamified system are of 2 types:

  •     Engagement Loops
  •     Progression Loops

Engagement loops
encourage a person to perform in the form of an accomplishment. The feedback, in terms of the accomplishment, then becomes the motivator and encourages people to take their performance to an even higher level.

Progression loops allows for the participant to move in multiple smaller progressive steps instead of one big leap which might overwhelming. Each sub-accomplishment allows for "rest" in between to set the player for a bigger/ harder fight in the next stage.

Leadership, or parenting, also expects us to provide external motivation whenever required. By following rules of gamification, we can follow a process that is capturing people's imagination around the world and gaining a lot of momentum.

Let us play the game in all its glory and keep improving with our accomplishments.

February 16, 2015

Lessons for a father - Are you smart enough to build Rome?

Image Courtesy: Flickr
My fitness trainer, Daniel, often motivates me by telling me that "Rome wasn't built in a day". That is his way of keeping me focused and remind me that physical fitness cannot be achieved in a day or two. It is continuous work that involves self-betterment.

Daniel is right. He usually is about all things fitness. But the same logic can be extended to just about anything that can get better, and for me, that is everything.

I can become a better father and connect with our child at an even deeper level. I can become a better husband so that the best thing to even happen to me, my partnership with my dear wife, gets even stronger. I have a whole list of things that I can do to become a better son, a fiercer friend and, possibly, a good leader.

All of that, like Daniel suggests repeatedly, is not going to happen in a day or a week or even a year.

Rome took centuries to be built. It emerged over time but was never a finished product. It kept evolving, getting better, and adapting to the world that kept changing around it.

While it was getting better, Rome was destroyed, voluntarily and involuntarily, multiple times. What made it successful was its solid foundations and the perseverance that its people showed towards it with the dream of making it a great city. History would suggest that they were successful.

Similar to Rome, our greatness can be a lot more possible with a foundation built on belief in ourselves, goodness in our hearts and reason in our heads. All that should also be accompanied with adaptability that allows us to evolve in all our relationships, professional or familial. 

To be like Rome then, we must be ready to work hard continuously - evolving, destructing and reconstructing and putting brick on brick. Greatness will not come soon but then, it is not meant to!

February 9, 2015

Lessons for a father - Taking our trash out...regularly

Image Courtesy: Flickr
Thursday is special for a lot of reasons. The end of the conventional work week is nigh. In the west, the day is named after Thor (the Norse God) and that makes  the day, by definition, super powerful. In India, the day is named after Brahspati, the guru (teacher) to all the Indian Gods and the regent of the planet Jupiter. Again, the day holds incredible power but also, almost equal parts, wisdom.

It is also "special" because the beginning of the day is marked with my dear wife reminding me, almost every week - yes, it is that bad, that trash needs to be taken out. The difference is those alternate weeks when both the trash and recycle bins need to be kept out for collection.

That is the house trash though.

What about the trash we carry within us? 

The week is spent in doing a lot of things. We meet people, some because we want to, others because we have to. We do hard work while taking unintentional failure in our stride. We give every day our best and we all need our power packed Thursdays, our take-out-the-trash-day.

I think we should choose a time, preferably every day, when we introspect and meditate our way out of the negativity inside. That trash can take a much higher toll than what we throw out on in the week.

Here is what has helped me:
  • Create your own System Of Positiveness. Working out, good reading, meditating or switching off from the rest of the world and being with family and friends helps.
  • Concentrate on what is going on right at that moment. Nothing else is under our control anyways.
  • Try and run away from the "what if's" of life. Again, what might happen and what has already happened cannot and will not change unless we do something about the current moment.
  • Believe in something and stand up for it. It does not have to be religion or faith. It does not have to be world peace. It must be something that we truly believe in.
  • Have a vision and mission in life with the acceptance that life has a very wonderful habit of surprising us. Change is not entirely a bad thing.
Have a good cleaning day!

What else have you tried to clean yourself of built-up trash?

February 2, 2015

Lessons for a father - Chaos Or Art?

Image Courtesy: Flickr

What is art? If we look at one of the many officially definitions available online, we would get something on the lines of:
[Art is] the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. - source
Technically, the definition is correct.  But there is something missing. I think art has a lot to do with the creators but it also has also to do with the people that experience it. A beautiful painting or poetry without connecting with people (even one person!) might end up being easily forgotten. 

The question then becomes this? Is it art if no one gets it? If no one gets it, is it just colorful lines on a piece of paper than being the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci? If no one understands it, or appreciates it, does it make Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge any less?

What if we apply the same principle to leadership? We might all consider ourselves to be great leaders. There is nothing wrong there. I am pretty sure that Messrs da Vinci and Coleridge drew and wrote not to be famous but for the shear joy that it brought to them. Their greatness, however, has to be, at least partially, attributed to the love and appreciation that they have received ever since they went public with their art.

Things that we do not understand or connect with are usually shunned. The importance of good communication and of patience cannot be highlighted more than when we are trying to bring about a real change through our leadership. The "also ran" do not provide inspiration. They do not set standards that people try and achieve and surpass in time. They are not the ones that become heroes. They, quite simply, also ran.

We might be able leaders. We might be artists with the ability to be the next Picasso or da Vinci or Kipling of leadership. We might be fine remaining where we are. It becomes a different story, however, if we want to be great at what we do. That requires others. 

True greatness will only come if we really touch peoples' lives to the point where they reciprocate with an elevated performance or change in behavior or achieving greatness in their own way and in their own time. Till that happens, the art of our leadership may make us happy but would lack real value.

January 26, 2015

Lessons for a father - Bringing Emotions To Work

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We have all had those days in our lives. Those are times when our favorite project is cancelled after weeks of hard work; when a customer gives us a lashing when we were actually sure of having a good meeting; when our friend (and co-worker) is laid off suddenly; or our boss assigns us more work when we already had more than our fair share of work.

Been there. Done that. Got a whole wardrobe of t-shirts.

If you are one of those lucky few, however, that have not had to deal with this, then you must know of people who have lost control of their emotions at work, slamming doors, yelling at co-workers or customers, and saying things they ultimately regret.

We all realize and understand how high people’s elevated emotions can run at the office.

In an ideal world, negative emotions would never seep into our professional lives. Work cannot be built around what we like or do not. My needs and demands, especially emotional ones, might not find any place at work. If they do, and some of them are met, we work at a place that is worth staying at. I know I do. That does not mean, though, that I do not have bad days.

Being emotional, even negatively so, might not be the culprit here. I think it is our incapacity to recognize our reactions as being emotional and controlling them before hurting someone else or, as it happens most of the times, ourselves. We require a calibration and an immense control over our behavior in times like those.

Leaders too make mistakes in this regard. There is belief sometimes that good speeches and an occasional loud cheer can tame and control their team's emotions. That is hardly the case. Peter Drucker had observed many years ago that, there is “so much talk . . . about ‘giving workers a sense of responsibility’ and so little about their responsibility, so much emphasis on their ‘feeling of importance’ and so little on making them and their work important.” He equated all this to a “soothing syrup for irritable children.” Even if it does work, the effect is very temporary and, in the long run, does more harm than good.

An organization cannot, even with the best intentions, create permanent happiness. It cannot, if we do not want it to, curb our negative mindsets into positive energy. We are individually responsible for that. And yes, happiness is an emotion. So is pride in our work. Frustration at failure is a very human emotion (one that should not stay for too long!). We are humans after all, and being emotional at work or otherwise is how we do things.

So yes, I would like to (and I am blessed with one!) have a team of emotional people work with me. I would like them to be happy with themselves and take joy in what they create. I would want them to feel bad when things do not go as planned. I would want them to hate failure.

But, I would also want them to have the sense to take a walk, or talk to someone they trust or go workout or have tea and do whatever it takes for them to not impact themselves and others with negativity.

January 19, 2015

Lessons for a father - Do Not Forget. Do Move On.

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Tough week this. Physically and emotionally, it took a lot to get through. It will be sometime before my professional team can get through the toll that last week has taken on us.

Having said that, I do realize, and appreciate, that I work with some very strong people. Their mental strength is par none and if I could choose a team of people to work with, I would not choose anyone else.

No matter what we do, we all deal with adversity. Sometimes, unfortunately, the challenge we face in our fight against adversity is just a bit too much to deal with immediately. It takes time and a lot of effort. Life, however, goes on even while we deal with our misfortune.

So what do we do at times like these? We compartmentalize. We push the thought aside and keep moving forward. Over time, we deal with the repercussions of the event. With time, we learn to accept loss and teach ourselves ways of not getting completely and solely engulfed by the event(s) that transpired. 

Compartmentalization does not make us cold, it makes us human. The idea of carrying, but putting aside, grief or anger for more than a moment, with the intention of forward movement, is what makes us strong. We must realize, however, that the negative impact of the event must be dealt with over time to stop a complete breakdown from occurring.

Adversity meets various reactions from us. We must stop whatever we are doing sometimes. At other times, we need to surround ourselves with our professional or familial teams. Some events might force us to ponder alone. Howsoever we might react, the reaction cannot be deemed wrong. It is how we deal with what life sends our way. Our reaction to situations makes us, us.

Lesson for this father this week; forget or not, cry or not, miss or not, talk about it or not, never allow adversity to take over your being and stop you from moving on.

January 12, 2015

Lessons for a father - The Idea Of Absolute Independence

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Let us start with a premise. No matter what the reason, all violence - especially one that spills innocent blood, should be abhorred and cannot be justified.

What happened in France this week and in many nations around the globe in the name of the divine, even in God's name, cannot and must not be tolerated. The killing of the Charlie Hebdo  staff by, not the followers of a faith but, terrorists has brought a very opinionated and hardly-ever-united world together. 

It makes me think about the idea of absolute independence though. 

Independence cannot make us insensitive. We are free to say, write and express whatever it is that we want, but it must not come at the cost of someone else's ethos. We love this time where we are free to choose whichever side we want, or no side at all, but respect and tolerance is a two way street and it should be kept that way.

Yes, there are people in the world that can do with a little more tolerance towards others. Yes, there are people that need to understand that they or who they follow is not the target necessarily. Yes, a little more loosening up might be required. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But, those who have the power to do so cannot redefine freedom either. If my faith asks me to cover my face in public, I should have the right to do so without the government telling me otherwise. If my faith asks me to wear a cross around my neck, I should be able to do that. If what I believe in asks me to have a beard, I must be allowed to grow and keep one. 

Freedom and independence do not choose. They are universal and people should stop expecting a homogenous world. There is diversity and context in the world and it is time we accept that.

So yes, I hate the fact that I live in a world where journalists can die because they drew a cartoon of an entity. I also cannot begin to understand a world when deaths, for things much trivial and in numbers much larger, in South and Central America, South Asia and Africa are going mostly unnoticed. Maybe, it is time we woke up and realized that we are connected as human being.

We definitely have a lot to think about this week. In the meantime, yes, Je Suis Charlie but also, Je Suis Anand and Je Suis Ahmad and Je Suis Abraham. Most importanly, Je Suis Human!

Hopefully we all can find peace within us.