April 21, 2014

Lessons for a father - Who Do You Work For?

Never stop writing your own story, your own way. – When writing the story of your life, never, ever let someone else hold the pen.  Make conscious choices every day that align your actions with your values and ambitions.  Because the way you live each day is a sentence in the story of your life.  Each day you make a choice as to whether the sentence ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point.

I read this on a blog called Marc and Angel Hack Life (here is the link). It struck a cord because of a belief that I have always had. We all are answerable only to ourselves.

Let us work on the premise that belief is true. Can we, then, allow anyone else to determine how we lead our lives? Can we surrender ourselves to someone else's idea of how we should succeed and fail? No. But a lot of us do that almost daily.

We use phrases like "they told me to do it that way" or better still "we have always done it that way".

What we do, when we pass the ownership of an event or of a decision on to someone else is give them control over ourselves. We convince ourselves that someone, superior than us, at least in our minds, has a better chance of making us successful. We therefore, at some level, hold the belief that its those others that we work for.

Is that really the case though? Aren't we, all of us, working really for ourselves? Don't we represent our own fears, values and aspirations? Why then would we be willing to hand over the remote control of our lives to others, even for a moment? Yet, we all do it. Why?

I think we do it because it is easy. We do it because as long as "it is not our fault" when goals are not met we are fine. We do it because we are scared of failure and have never thought about rebounding from one. We do it because we hate conflict. We do it because we do not want to show our vulnerability. We do it because we want to do it.

Think about it. We believe in God because we want to. We work on becoming good citizens or leaders or parents because we want to. We win because we want to and,  sometimes, we lose because we want to. 

We become what we want to become. So how is it that somewhere on the path towards our goal, we let someone else reset our goals and paths for us? We fail ourselves by doing that.

Let us start a trend then. Today and now. Let us ask ourselves if what we are about to do taking us even a step closer to our goal. If it is, we should go ahead and do it. If not, we should not. Let us wrest back control of our lives from whoever we have given it to and become owners of our own destinies.

While doing that let us ask ourselves every day: Who do you work for? If the answer is anything but "Myself", it might be time to rethink. 

What else do you think we can do to take back ownership of our lives and decisions?

April 14, 2014

Lessons for a father - Deliberately Created Simplicity

Image Courtesy: Flickr
Simplicity is beautiful.

It is also powerful. So much so, that authors have written about it, poets have dedicated odes to it and great singers and songwriters have sung about it. And, I crave it!

That desire and a recent training session on a project management methodology and a book all pointed in the same direction for me this last week. In other words, I have to train myself and those that I can influence, to think and work towards what I wish to call DCS, or, Deliberately Created Simplicity.

What I propose we do is pretty straightforward in theory:
  • Break every problem down into a collection of small, but easier, problems.
  • Make the problem statements understandable for everyone, so anyone can play a role.
  • Work on these small and, yes, simple things.
  • Make goals very achievable, tangible and real.
  • Appreciate and applaud the effort that everyone puts in.
  • Failure might be minimal but still create a mechanism so it is not repeated.
  • Most importantly, focus on the present.

DCS is going to allow me break seemingly complicated tasks into ones that I find a lot more doable. 

For example, the desire to re-imagine our basement is going to give way to "let us replace the lock on the door of the basement today". There we go! I do not have to think of the entire basement. Replacing that lock, on the other hand, should not take more than 10 minutes. Oh yes, I can do that!

At work, for example, "work towards increasing the quality of overall communication" might give way to a much smaller project of "working towards having no spelling mistakes in our emails". Important, but smaller in size and scope, with a very clear definition of success.

The world is growing smaller in size and very complicated in definition. I am regularly impressed with people that work on fantastically complex problems. Just like them, I am a student of my art and love to work on real and hard issues. Something tells me, however, that time has come for me to rewire my brain. Not all complex issues need equally intricate solutions. E.F. Schumacher, in one of his most influential quotes, suggested "any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction". 

Challenge accepted Mr. Schumacher!!

Is there a part of your life that you can simplify? If so, let me know!

April 7, 2014

Lessons for a father - Geography And Stupidity Are Unrelated

Image Courtesy: Flickr

It is actually very funny to be human. We fight everyday to prove, to each other, how different we are, and completely ignore how similar we really are. 

Let us look at the instance where we all make stupid mistakes. It doesn't matter where we are from, where we currently live and what we do for a living. We either already, or soon will, have the privilege of making mistakes.

But our propensity to be stupid, sometimes, is not the only thing that makes us similar. 

Most of us want to improve and build upon what we already have. People who do not have anything would probably want a few things. Those, on the other hand, that have had a bit of luck would want to be luckier. Those who truly give would, I have a feeling, like to give more. How about those who are happy or sad? Both would probably want the same thing: more happiness! 

Point being, we are similar in wanting things. That makes us behave like each other. It seems like our needs and geography are unrelated too.

But, can our origins determine what we can or cannot do if we wanted innovate or lead?

Having been on the receiving side of an experience like that, I can say, with a bit of experience, that the answer is a very temporary yes and a more long lasting no. 

If we want to practice leadership with passion, ethics, courage, integrity, humility and faith, our current or past set of latitudes and longitudes really do not matter.

If we want to innovate, solve problems and be willing and available to help, the only thing that matters, it seems, is that our head and heart are in the right place.

It looks like, then, that stupidity is not the only thing that binds us and makes our original and current address meaningless! 

What are some of the other things that make us similar?

March 31, 2014

Lessons for a father - The Leader I Want To Be (A Prayer)

Image Courtesy: Flickr

I wanted to commemorate a huge personal milestone with something special. Writing a blog for at least a year has been on my bucket list and today marks the 1st anniversary of that effort. What I have written below summarizes the kind of leadership I want to follow. Whether it is for my son at home or my team at work, I do hope I can make a tiny, but positive, difference in their lives. Thank you for being a part of the journey till now. Normal services resume next week.

He who does what ought to be done.
He who kneels, but only to his One True Master.
He who works with justice and reason, his two best friends,
And with courage and conviction, hand in hand.
He who lauds enemies, not friends alone.
He who walks the extra mile,
And goes back to bring others along too.
He who scales the highest mountains and still knows,
He is but a speck of dust.
In his image, cast me Lord.
For that is how I wish to serve thee.

March 24, 2014

Lessons for a father - What Is Your Least Favorite Word?

Image Courtesy: Flickr
We all know that words are supremely powerful. Whether it is a request or an order, love, hate, justice, inspiration or leadership, we all use words to describe and communicate the feeling.

It should be no surprise then, that we are told time and again to choose our words well. I have also realized over the years, I am sure all of us have, that we like and dislike some words more than the others.

So here is my question for you: What is your least favorite word? (Use this link to let me know!)

Mine is the word almost.

I do not like it because it conveys the story but in a very non-transparent way. Consider the following statements that have "almost" in them:

  • The project was almost successful.
  • Your child is almost walking.
  • I was almost on time for the meeting.
  • I almost followed the rule, or 
  • I am almost certain of it.

All these statements, apart from having the word almost in them, have something else in common. They do not really mean anything. At least not what they are supposed to mean.

An almost successful project could be a failure. An almost timely arrival to a meeting will still not be called professionalism. Almost following the rule and driving over the speed limit, for example, might still get you a well deserved speeding ticket. Almost certain still makes us unsure.

Both leadership and parenthood force us into situations where we can make mistakes. I have never been against failure or making mistakes. What I dislike, at a very personal level, is being indecisive about something. So here is a tip: When you are unsure of what to do, read and learn about it as much as you can, and then make a decision and no matter what happens, learn from it.

What other words do you think should just not exist?

March 17, 2014

Lessons for a father - A Supercar And Teamwork

Image Courtesy: Top Gear

What does a super car and teamwork have in common? Maybe there is nothing on the surface, but there is a lot of commonality if we looked "under the hood".

The Car

The car I in question (and oh, what a car it is!!) is the Porche 918. Consider this from the car's Wikipedia page:

The Spyder is powered by a 4.6 litre V8 engine, developing 608 horsepower (453 kW), with two electric motors delivering an additional 279 horsepower (208 kW) for a combined output of 887 horsepower (661 kW).

Those are some very big numbers belonging to a very good car. There are a few numbers and facts which are more than just technical specifications. They represent to me the very foundation of great teamwork.

A 4.6 litre V8 engine giving 608 horsepower is a very strong engine. It can be the core of a good car. However, that engine, coupled with 2 electric motors and an additional 279 horsepower, delivers possibly the greatest car of today. 

The 2 different sets of technology and innovation display teamwork and, in the words of Aristotle, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

And Us

So what is the commonality then?

We work with multiple people in a day. It does not matter what we do in life - professionally or otherwise. At work, if we are a part of an organization, we might be working with sales, accounting, administration, engineering and marketing. At home, we might be working with our spouse, our children and members of the group fondly, and collectively, referred to as "family and friends".

If we, with our individuality intact, work towards a common goal of being successful (whatever our definition of success be) we can create our own version of the Porche. We can create a team of super charged components that can leave any competition trailing in our wake and do seemingly impossible things.

If we are able to emulate what the beautiful piece of machine has proved to be possible, where we work not just to give our best individually but also work towards the benefit of the entire team, who knows,  we might even get away with the price tag of US$ 845,000.

March 10, 2014

Lessons for a father - Here Is How To Be Happy

Image Courtesy: Flickr

Archimedes is supposed to have said that many years ago when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. He is said to have been so eager to share his discovery that he leapt out of his bathtub and ran through the streets of Syracuse (Sicily) naked. 

Enough about Archimedes though. I want to talk about something that is very close to me.

I have always believed that happiness comes from within. External sources, circumstances and events usually play a very temporary role in elevating, or exacerbating, what is already within.

So, the question really is: How do we get happy and remain that way?

Multiple theories exist to do that. However my favorite one, a belief that I had been harboring, was given a huge boost from Dan Gilbert (way back in 2004 but I heard his TED talk this week). According to Mr. Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, our beliefs in what makes us happy are often wrong.

He suggests, like I have always believed, that if we tell ourselves (yes, it's that simple!) that we are happy, our mind does weird things and responds with happiness. 

So, there it is - the key to being happy is making ourselves believe that we are happy. The key is to tell ourselves, constantly and without a shred of skepticism, that we deserve all the good that we have, the bad will go away with time and effort and true happiness is within us.

It is very important, both at work and more importantly at home, to achieve a level of happiness that does not leave our side when the going gets tough. To bring joy to this world that seems to crave for chaos is a noble service that we should all indulge in.

Find Happiness. Feel Inspired. Dream Mighty Things.