Wayward to forward

Last year, I was not using a smart phone. However, I wanted to get a feel of mobile applications and hence installed an Android simulator on my laptop. Using the simulator, I could run and experience many apps including social media apps like WhatsApp and FB.

I was already on social media but WhatsApp was a different feel. Initially, there were only occasional one-to-one conversations. My WhatsApp chat space remained by and large a silent room. Gradually, some closed groups (like those operated by my school friends, former colleagues and relatives) added me into their respective groups. Once I got into the crowd, WhatsApp was no longer the same silent chat space that used to be. Cacophony started invading my mind-space. Likewise, I also spent a lot of time in FB, which kept dumping heaps of social content that were sensational but made no sense either to my life or business goals. For a long time, I managed to carefully wade through the social din.

But gradually and unconsciously, I let myself to be dragged into the quicksand. Soon, I got myself chest-deep into the conversational mud, consuming meaningless posts, forwards and AV media. I also started acting like one of the clan, forwarding whatever I felt as interesting or useful, to whoever I felt would benefit from those forwards. In fact, by shouting over the noise into which I had drowned unconsciously, I behaved like an irresponsible member of a society that acted without a purpose, direction or focus.

Consequently, I wasted quite a lot of my precious time, energy and professional credibility. On and off, I also got into unplanned interactive one-to-one chats (some short, some very long) with some friends, throwing all my work and other responsibilities to abject neglect. I was morphing into an uncharacteristic clone of myself.

At the same time, challenges were mounting on the personal as well as business front. Suddenly I started sensing this pattern on all aspects of life, viz., personal health, family health, finances, children’s education, business operations, household breakdowns and others. With limited waking time on hand each day, after allocating for business, fitness and family care, I was finding it impossible to attend to these challenges and urgent projects. With age on the wrong side of 50, life was only becoming tougher than ever day-by-day.

Given this state of life, by lending physical time and emotional space for long sessions of chats and unproductive social conversations, I was forfeiting whatever little time I had in a day.

As the year-end of 2017 approached, it somehow injected a deep sense of fear. Looking at the year gone by, I felt deeply remorseful for being too cavalier about my goal, time, energy, intent and actions (or rather non-actions). I admitted to myself that I was essentially ruining my life for no material or spiritual progress and was setting myself up for a sure-shot failure. I decided to step up and become serious about life.

Ironically, early this year, I got a smartphone gifted by my cousin. First, I thought I would not install WhatsApp and FB on my smartphone and instead use it for basic functions and some transactional apps. Then somehow, I felt it was not a wise thing to do. I went ahead installing all popular apps. Nevertheless, I took one important decision, viz., to exit all social groups in which I was a member. Once out of all groups, chat space once again became less noisy. I also actively refrained from one-to-one chats with anyone. It felt fresh.

Albeit being a potentially distracting gadget, the smartphone turned out to be providential arrival. Unlike my experience of using WhatsApp and FB on my laptop through the Android simulator, using these apps on my smart device failed to give me any thrill. I could feel my obsession withering off.

With this sanity dawning, I organized my device with tools, widgets and apps that would aid me in productivity, transactions and purposeful messaging, rather than relegate it too an instrument of distraction and cheap entertainment.

I reserve for future posts, details of how I organized my apps and how the device has become an indispensable tool for ‘GETTING THINGS DONE‘.

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The show is not over yet!

We can define our life in many ways – as a set of experiences, as the number of projects executed, as a game, as the number of breaths still left for each one of us etc. In fact, Scott Hanselman (coder, writer, speaker and teacher) looks at life in a totally unexpected dimension, in his interesting website (http://keysleft.com). The site greets us with a grim pronouncement: ‘You have a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die.’

Of these many ways to measure, express and define life, the most commonly used and understood tool has been the ‘Time’.

Each one of us, when born, is supposedly given a life that is measured as 100 years of existence on this planet. As time flows by, the life measure keeps depleting like the upper layer of a sand clock. However, unlike the sand clock, the time so far spent or exhausted in our life is never perceptible to our senses and mind, which is tragic. As a result, we often become forgetful of time and live under an unconscious assumption that the upper layer is inexhaustible and perennial. We believe, deep inside our hearts, that death is far-from-real. Unfortunately, this flaw in the mind is compounded by its ignorance about what measure of life (viz., total years of existence) has been preordained for us, when we were born.

A cricket player (batsman), who is playing a limited-over game (of 50 overs) when he starts to bat, understands that he has only 300 balls left to make a really big score. And as each over gets completed, he is constantly reminded of ‘overs completed’ and ‘overs left’, which helps him continuously redesign his innings, in order to maximize his score. Similarly, a person driving to catch an airplane, knows at any time, exactly how much time is left in order to reach the airport and accordingly keeps constantly re-calibrating his driving parameters like route, speed etc.

Is not our larger life similar to these micro-scenarios. Should we not play the game of life with constant awareness of ‘How much has been spent’ and ‘What is left’?

A person rushing to catch a plane, will not stop over on the way, for a coffee OR for answering a phone call. A batsman in a rush to score runs will never allow himself to be distracted by anything else that will make him lose runs for a ball.

Then, why in our normal course of life, we often (in fact, for many of us, always) utterly lose track of what we are supposed to be thinking, speaking and doing OR rather what we are supposed to be NOT thinking, NOT speaking and NOT doing?

I recall a parable of ‘Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’ that I read long back. It was something like this:

A certain man, once went to a theater to watch a drama, carrying a mat under his arm. Someone told him that it would take a while before the performance commenced. Unable to sit quiet in anticipation, he spread the mat on the floor and dozed off. When he woke up the drama was over. He returned home with the mat under his arm!

Takeaway:
Forgetting the purpose that we have set out for, unaware of the number of keystrokes left in our hands or ignorant of the number of remaining Sundays in our lives, should we continue scattering our attention, energies and time on stuff that do not matter even a wee bit in our lives?

Action:
1. Let us identify and list seven things in our life on which we have been squandering our attention, energies and time, all these years.
2. Let us banish these stuff forthwith from our consciousness, lock, stock and barrel.

Elvis has not yet left the building!

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Ignore excellence, be sloppy in execution – if you don’t care about success!

Once a master sculptor had just finished creating his most exquisite idol (on which he had been working for many months), when he suddenly seemed to realize something amiss. After intensely scrutinizing the form that he had just given life to, he shook his head disapprovingly. Mumbling something to himself, he then set upon the task of sculpting the idol all over again – which to many, would appear a daunting and discouraging ordeal to embark on.

A puzzled onlooker interrupted the sculptor and almost sternly asked him why the latter was sculpting the idol all over again, when the previous idol was immaculate. The scupltor told the onlooker about a miniscule flaw in the idol that made him redo the work all over again. The onlooker carefully and minutely examined the idol many times but could not notice the flaw at all with the naked eye. Even when assisted by a magnifying device, the flaw was almost imperceptible until the sculptor pointed it out.

The onlooker was perplexed at the sculptor’s fastidiousness, which, he felt, lacked pragmatism and bordered on an obsession that the sculptor lacked will to resist. Almost questioning the scupltor’s wisdom in creating the idol again, the onlooker observed that nobody (not even another expert) would ever know that the flaw existed unless the sculptor himself pointed it out, to which the master gave a calm but sharp reply, ‘But my conscience knows it and would forever remember!’

—–

In the words of ‘Gary Ryan Blair’, ‘From typos to tardiness, many people and organizations act as if details just don’t matter much.’ He adds, ‘From start to finish, the distinguishing characteristics of success are found in the details. The popular philosophy that instructs us not to “sweat the small stuff” is flawed, because it breeds poor customer service, under performance, wasted opportunity, mistakes, inconsistencies, rework, and oversights.’ How profound and true!

Meticulous attention to details is always concomitant with another success trait, viz., commitment to excellence. Great persons in each field have always combined passion for excellence with loving attention to hundreds of small, seemingly insignificant details in order to deliver consistently superior results.

As opposed to an uncompromising quest for excellence, an attitude of mediocrity shows itself in many ways – as sloppy execution, average outcomes, tarnished reputation and lost business. Gary is simply brilliant when he declares ‘… In today’s competitive environment, mediocrity is a self-imposed death sentence.’

If ever you want a living example of quality, superior craftsmanship and loving attention to detail, look at yourself in the mirror. There cannot be a better inspiration than the maker of that unique ‘work of art’!

So, from right this moment on, let all of us resolve to:
~ Celebrate excellence
~ Deliver consistently delightful customer experience
~ Make competence our second nature
~ Pay careful attention to even the smallest details

Let us learn, acquire and apply the ‘Professional Strategies’, ‘Personal Character Traits’ and ‘Universal Principles’ that inspire excellence and drive superior results in all that we pursue and aspire to succeed in.

Let us make Everything Count!

(‘Everything Counts‘, is a book by the top strategic thinker and visionary, ‘Gary Ryan Blair’, fondly called the ‘GoalsGuy’. The book offers strategies and principles for driving excellence and delivering consistent results.)

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Remembering the dispellers of darkness!

Last week, the eastern world celebrated a special occasion. Like each year, Hindus, Jains and Buddhists in India, Nepal and all over the world, observed ‘Guru Purnima’, which is the first full moon night after summer solstice, in the Hindu month of Ashadha (June–July). This festival is traditionally celebrated to express gratitude and respects to mentors.

On ‘Guru Purnima’, Hindus pay reverence to ‘Maharshi Veda Vyasa’, the sage who is held high among the tradition of Gurus (mentors) and Sishyaas (disciples) and who is believed to have incarnated on this day. Buddhists celebrate ‘Guru Purnima’ to mark the occasion of Buddha’s first sermon, which was delivered on this day. ‘Guru Purnima’ is considered an auspicious time for those who are embarking on spiritual learning of any kind.

On this sacred occasion, I am dedicating this post to the Gurus, masters and mentors, in every walk of life.


Personal success depends on a lot of factors. Among them, I consider as the most powerful factor, the influence and guidance of a mentor (Guru). If we look at the history of successful people, almost all of them have invariably been led to their success path by their respective Gurus.

In fact, in many spiritual traditions, Guru is revered as the sole reason for the success and enlightenment of a disciple. ‘குரு லேக எடுவண்டி குணிகி தெலியக போது‘ (No one, however virtuous he may be, without the grace of a Guru will know how to cut through the forest of mental confusions!)’, declares Saint Thyagaraja, who was a one of the greatest composers in the South Indian Classical Music Tradition.

In our own lives, we come across many people who teach us various things. Are all of them our Gurus? Is there a difference between a teacher and a Guru?

Anyone who imparts knowledge to us that helps us achieve our goals in life, is a teacher. In that sense, those who coached us in schools and colleges, were teachers.

A teacher shows us a way.
A teacher’s role is informational.
A teacher gives us methods, techniques and tools.
A teacher hand-holds us and helps us practise what we have learned.
… But all of them are not Gurus.

A Guru is one who enlightens. The word ‘Guru’ has its roots in the Sanskrit language, in which the word means ‘removal of darkness’. ‘குருட்டினை நீக்கும் குரு‘ (the one who removes our intellectual blindness), says Thirumoolar, who was a mystic, saint and poet in Tamil (the classical South Indian language).

A Guru opens up closed gates in our mind, so we start perceiving as obvious, things that were non-existent before.
A Guru provides an inner experience, which gives us an ‘Aha’ moment.

Here are some more distinguishing features that set a Guru apart from a teacher or a coach.

A coach teaches HOW. A Guru makes us see the WHAT.
As an enterpreneur I had to acquire many skills. I worked with coaches who trained me on many skills and aspects of my business, but it was ‘Dan Kennedy’ who made me realize WHAT the most important skill that I needed to acquire, train and master, was. His advice ‘… the ability to sell is THE number-one most important, all important personal skill. If you are uncomfortable or ineffective at selling yourself, your ideas, your products and services, etc., you are severely handicapped.’, was a life-changer.

A coach helps build our SUPERSTRUCTURE. A Guru helps us acquire a robust FOUNDATION.
A cricket player known to me, has many coaches who have trained him on specific batting techniques and styles, but he considers one of them as his Guru, who gave him his foundational learning viz., importance of fitness, consistency of practice and the discipline of showing up for training every single day.

A coach helps you UNDERSTAND. A Guru removes FALSE NOTIONS that cloud UNDERSTANDING.
From childhood, I have come across teachers and trainers who taught me various meditation techniques like observing my breath, focusing between eyebrows, being mindful about the ambient sounds alone, chanting a mantra, visualizing a deity, praaNayaama (roughly translated as regulating my breath) etc. But it was the Guru who revealed the simple truth that ‘meditation is not an act’ but rather ‘meditativeness is a state of being’. He made me see the point that I can never meditate but can only be meditative. The search stopped.

A coach imparts LEARNING. A guru opens the right door to the LEARNING.
When I started my programming career about 3 decades ago, I learned, from bosses, trainers and books, the grammar, techniques and tips of various programming languages. But it was my senior colleague, who made me realize that each language had a specific way of thinking that was intrinsic to it and unless that was mastered, the code written in that language would never be optimal; for instance, coding in SQL would be optimal only when the business logic is thought through in terms of sets, tables and relations.

A Guru’s role and influence in our life is transformational and changes us in a way that we no longer are the same persons as before. That is why, among the many forms in which, God is invoked, the form of a Guru is the most sought after. In Yoga tradition, God is considered to be the first (or the Adi) Guru of the universe. Saint Arunagirinathar, concludes his devotional outpourings with the appeal to Lord to appear before him as his Guru (குருவாய் வருவாய், அருள்வாய் …)

From legends, mythologies, history and up to the modern professional times, there have been numerous examples of Gurus (mentors) and Sishyas (students) in all fields of learning – the oldest known Guru being ‘Adi Guru’ of the Yoga order and the recent one being ‘Kobun Chino Otogowa’, the Guru who gave the ‘Steve Jobs’, as he was, to the world.

On the occasion of ‘Guru Purnima’, I respectfully remember all the Gurus, who have set me on the right track, who have helped me remove the veils of ignorance and misunderstanding and who by their nudges and hammer blows, have caused transformational change in my life for the better.

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“You are responsible for my suffering” – Oh! really …

I do not know how humanity existed before my time. But now, I can see that almost everyone is in some conflict or the other, always. And everyone keeps blaming someone else or something else for their suffering.

  • The husband blames his wife for his misery. The wife blames her mother-in-law.
  • The parents blame the school for poor education. The school bemoans the quality of the students for poor results.
  • The citizen blames the government for all existential troubles. The politicians blame the people for lack of ownership.
  • The socialist blames the capitalist for the latter’s greed. The capitalist blames the market for his inability to close deals.
  • The management blames the employees for poor performance. The employees blame their bosses for their lack of motivation.
  • The loser blames the system for being unsupportive. The officials blame the player for his incompetence.
  • The atheist blames the superstitious of being a cheat. The follower blames God for being blind to his woes.
  • Super powers blame the developing countries. Warring nations blame each other.

And the list goes on.

The manner in which humans have shirked responsibility for their own well-being is in shameless display. Schools do not inculcate the basic character trait in each child, of taking ownership of his or her own life.

Social analysts may blame different things as the fundamental causes for this state of human affairs. But a little stepping back, a little reflection, and a little objectivity will reveal the truth that human EGO is THE root ailment to be cured. Each of us has got into an apparently-incorrigible habit of thinking excessively about ourselves.

I am the victim.
I am the sufferer.
I am a beggar.
I am humble.
I am invincible.
I am infallible.
I am unquestionable.
I am an intellectual.
I am a savior.
I am a super-power.
I am mighty.
I am the perfect person.
I am the seeker.
I am the sought.
etc.
These are some of the identities each one of us wears and refuses to shed.

We believe that we are either the center of the universe and that the universe must revolve around us or we are the boundary of the universe beyond whom nothing exists. As a result, we always expect the world to pity, care, comply, admire, fear and do us a favor by making us eternally happy. We fail to realize that nobody owes us a dole; that the world does not care and that the world is what we make of it.

I am not suggesting that we must imagine a heaven, when there is real pain and trouble in our lives. As our age-old wisdom teaches, ‘The pain may be real. The suffering is always our choice.’ There’s absolutely no virtue about being a conceited whiner.

Whining inflates the ego and perpetuates the misery. Humble, focused and determined action alone annihilates the ego and gets us out of our troubles. 
This is worth repeating… 
Whining inflates the ego and perpetuates the misery. Humble, focused and determined action alone annihilates the ego and gets us out of our troubles. 

It is time, each of us realized that we are roaming corpses, who mean nothing to the grand universe and that the world would be better off without us.

It is time, each of us stopped thinking too much about ourselves and understood the triviality of our little selves.

It is time, we stopped garnishing our character with deceit, laziness, low standards, slavery, greed, arrogance and violence.

It is time, each of us took charge of our own lives and stopped pointing fingers at others and the world.

தீதும், நன்றும் பிறர் தர வாரா – harm and good are never caused to us by others‘ – reminds an ancient Tamil poet. It is time, parents and schools taught this basic lesson to children.

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Six reasons why I will continue avoiding media in 2017!

It is more than 12 years, since I stopped reading newspapers and watching television. After I moved away from employment into my own venture, my focus sharpened and my priorities drastically narrowed. My mental peace, energy levels and productivity became paramount in my life. The best deployment of my time was no longer a choice, it became critically mandatory for my survival. That was when I sat on multiple rounds of soul-searching to identify signals and sift all noises out, organize what was absolutely essential and trash everything else, discover techniques and disciplinary habits to survive and stay on course. In one such moment of reflection, I took this life-changing decision to boot out newspapers and television, which were gnawing at my life and well-being day-after-day-after-day.

On this new year day, I remembered that momentous decision and felt like the scene had not changed even a wee-bit over the past 12 years. In this short recollection, I want to share a few reasons, why media continues to be on top of my ‘No-no’ list even now. Here are those reasons:

Reason 1: Irrelevant and distracting
Like many people, I believe in a goal-driven life. My thoughts, words and actions are broadly guided, by either my goals or my responsibilities. In my experience, media (mainly, newspapers and television) contain stuff that have no meaning to me in terms of either my goals or my obligations. For example, a report of a strife somewhere or a policitcal debate on a policy announcement do not help me serve my customers in a better way, nor do they contribute to my health or children’s education or my personal finance. Likewise, more than 90% of the media content are absolutely irrelevant to my life and hence are a big-time distraction, which take me away from my main purpose and pursuits.

Reason 2: Opinions and not truth
Certain matters, reported in the media, do seem to have a little bearing on my life and transactions. However, in most of those cases too, media reports more of opinions than of facts. Even where facts are reported, they are either trivial or partial. I never get to understand the total picture of any subject or situation, by simply going through the media content. Partial reports and lop-sided opinions, end up confusing and injecting, in my mind, unwanted prejudices, which I am better-off without.

Reason 3: Noisy and negative
All content are reported in equal terms. Economic policy announcements, Sports events and Education news get reported on par with the news about a local brawl. Content of all hues and categories are mixed up, thus creating layers and layers of noise above a few important stuff, which may have some remote relevance. Moreover, the language employed by the reporters is negative and offensive to my sensibilities. These news reports bemoan more than they celebrate. Willingly getting exposed to such a negativity as reported in the media makes me depressed and robs me of all hope about life and people. (Also read my thoughts titled ‘So, you poison yourself every day!‘, in which I talk about the toxic nature of media content and its deleterious impact on our existence).

Reason 4: Littered with advertisements
As in many businesses, media sells content either free or cheap. Invariably, in all those businesses, customer becomes the product. My time and attention are taken away and sold to the advertisers by the media houses. Even if I am a little aware and choose to skip the commercial interruptions, getting past all of them to find ‘my’ content, is a friction-filled process. Consuming news that way, is painful, costly, ineffective and inefficient.

Reason 5: Poorly organized content
In a typical newspaper as also in televison, stuff is organized as per the whims of the provider. There is no way for me to organize the content and make it easy for me to search and consume matters of my interest. Further, even if I have freedom in choosing what I want to consume, I have absolutely no freedom in filtering out or refusing to buy, what I do not want to consume. In other words, if I am interested only in sports, a typical newspaper will have everything else too, which I have no freedom in saying ‘no’ to. Whether I need it or not, I have to buy the entire stuff, as bundled and thrown at me by the provider.

Reason 6: Effort-intensive content consumption
Lastly, there are no media formats that provide micro news or easily consumable news capsules. Typical newspapers contain big write-ups that are not only time-consuming and effort-ful to read, but also pose a comprehending challenge to me, especially when time is premium.

I earnestly hope that some of these reasons may resonate with you and help you get a perspective for your own life. I will be eager to understand, you own reasons for avoiding media or accommodating it as a vital part of your life.

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Find the right audience who ‘see’ your ‘real value’

Once, a boy asked his father, “What is the value of life?” The boy’s father gave him a stone and said, “Find out the value of this stone, but don’t sell it.”

The boy took the stone to an fruit seller and asked him what its cost would be. The fruit vendor examined the shiny stone and told the boy, “You can take 12 oranges and give me the stone.” The boy thanked him for his offer but politely told him that his father had asked him not to sell the stone.

The boy then went ahead and met a vegetable seller. “What could the value of this stone be?”, he asked the vegetable seller. The vegetable seller also looked at the shiny stone and offered, “Take one sack of potatoes and give me the stone.” The boy again politely refused the offer to sell it.

Further ahead, he went into a jewelry shop and asked the shop owner for the value of the stone. The jeweler inspected the stone under a lens and said, “I will give you a million for this stone.” As the boy shook his head in refusal, the jeweler negotiated, “Alright! take 2 24 karat gold necklaces, but give me the stone.” The boy explained why he could not sell the stone and came away.

By now, the boy had understood that the stone was no ordinary one and that it was a precious gem. So, he went into a precious gems shop and asked the seller to evaluate the stone. When the precious stone shopkeeper looked at the rare big ruby, he spread out a red cloth, placed the ruby on it, circumambulated it and prostrated in front of it. “Friend, where did you get this priceless ruby from?” he asked and added, “Even if I offer my life, I will not be able to purchase this priceless stone.”

Surprised as well as confused, the boy returned home and reported to his father all that had happened. The boy’s father gave him the following lesson of life: “My son, the answers you got from the fruit vendor, the vegetable seller, the jeweler and the gems expert explain the value of your life. Listen, you may be a precious gem, priceless like the stone that you carried; but … how people value you will be based on so many factors like their problems, pains, dreams and aspirations, their “perceived” benefits from you (i.e., how much they think you will be able to remedy their ills and fulfill their wills), their level of knowledge about you and their trust in your intentions and abilities and their own financial status (particularly their ability to spend). Hence, it is in your own interest that you must find someone who understands your true value. Until you discover such people as would understand your worth, do not sell yourself cheap. Do not dilute and dissipate your time, attention, efforts, emotions and ideas by sharing them with all and sundry.”

Now for entrepreneurs, especially those who sell their own product, there are a few lessons to take away from this story. Let us look at them in the light of the father’s advice to his son, in this story.

How customers value our product will be based on so many factors like

Factor 1 – Their problems, pains and aspirations
In the story, the fruit and vegetable vendors had a problem of disposing of their perishable inventory rapidly. A cold-storage system or an access to a bigger market would have resonated with their needs, wants and dreams. Hence, when the boy showed them the stone, they not only failed to understand it but also found no connection between the stone and their own business pain. Perhaps, finding the shiny stone fanciful, they were considerate enough to offer a dozen oranges and a sack of potatoes, respectively. However, the jeweler and the gem stone seller, related the stone to their own situation. For them, keeping the stone in their stores would boost their store image while fetching them a handsome profit.

Let us relate this to our own sales situation. Initially, we may have created the product for an ‘assumed’ pain of an ‘assumed’ target. As we start testing the market, we are bound to get corrected in our assumptions. We have to start gathering and nurturing leads with an initial set of hypotheses, while remaining open enough to get exposed and knocked hard on our theories. We may validate our initial assumption about a particular target segment for our product or discover an altogether a new audience, who may find a pain or two remedied by what we offer. So, when we go to market with our offering, we must find the right audience to stand before. Otherwise, we face the risk and disappointment of showing up before a crowd, whose pains and dreams have no apparent connection with what we are giving them. For example, if we create a ‘learning and skill development platform’ keeping an organization’s knowledge-management need in mind, we may find students and educational institutions showing more interest (than business organizations) in using the platform for managing their skills gap and skills inventory.

Factor 2 – Their “perceived” benefits from you
In the story, the real worth of the stone had no relation what the vegetable vendor and the fruit seller perceived. Whereas, the precious gem dealer ‘saw’ in the stone an immeasurable value, which may have surpassed even what the boy himself ‘perceived’.

Likewise, as a product creator, we often place a value on our creation, but the prospective buyer is the one who decides what the market worth of the product is. Their ‘problems, pains and aspirations’ along with ‘their idea of how much your product would alleviate their pains or how closer to their dreams, your product could take them’, actually decides what price you can hope to realize from your product.

Factor 3 – Their level of knowledge about you, their trust in our intentions and abilities
When we first engage with prospects, they do not know anything about us or our product. Without that warmth, a cold first-interaction-sale is bound to fail. Without knowing anything about us or what we are trying to help them with, the prospects would dismiss both us and our offerings as either ‘not useful enough’ or ‘of very small value’ that they can afford to let go. Moreover, they may carry a doubt about our ability to deliver and provide support. Hence, it is our obligation to engage with our prospects continuously and educate them about us, about what we offer and also provide references from other happy customers, so as to build the trust and warmth required for the prospects to start accepting us and hence placing a reasonable value on what we offer, without a sense of anxiety or defense.

Factor 4 – Their own financial status
It sounds illogical that our product’s value is influenced, if not determined, by what our prospects can afford to spend. When we create a product and determine its price tag, we have an assumed idea how much benefit our customers would derive from our product. More often than never, our customers use our product in a manner different from how we assumed. So, the value that they place on their ‘idea’ of the product would be different from ours. Sometimes, even a completely orthogonal dimension such as the expenditure budget would decide how much price the customer would be willing to pay. A low budget and hence a low value thought of by the customer, does not actually demean the worth of our product. It may only mean that we may have to break-up or repackage our offering in different ways and chunks, so as to match the customer’s ‘affordability’.

In conclusion
Entrepreneurship is not merely a technical challenge of creating a product and selling it at any price to any one who comes our way. Like the boy in the story, an entrepreneur needs to be mindful enough to know whom to sell the product to so that maximum ‘perceived’ value can be delivered and maximum ‘price’ can be derived.

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Execution is Everything – Everything Counts!

A man once ruefully recounted his also-ran life to his friend and said, ‘You know what, I, actually, wanted to become a doctor and create a positive impact in the lives of people, … just like my father’. His friend asked, ‘Is your father a doctor?’. The man sighed, ‘No friend, he also wanted to become a doctor’.

Intentions are by no means trivial. But results are what eventually show. Intentions put us on the running track. Action alone gets us to the winning post!

Everything Counts!

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Are you effective? Read this and you will know …

The Effective Executive – Oh My God! What a striking force, Peter Drucker starts this book with! I could feel its power piercing through my impervious grey layers, right from its first paragraph in Preface. It reads like this:

“Management books usually deal with managing other people. The subject of this book is managing oneself for effectiveness.”

From knowing what one is supposed to do to managing one’s time, setting priorities, making decisions, (delegating) finding the right people to execute the decisions, conducting effective meetings and communicating for results, The Effective Executive covers every aspect of effectiveness in the life of an executive and a knowledge worker.

With right mix of anecdotes and ready-to-use prescriptions, this book will save each one of us precious years and painful effort, in learning how to get right things done and achieve the results that we hope for.

Here are a few lines that I savored from this book, which I am sure, will strike a chord with you.

  • “Intelligence, imagination and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.”
  • “There are few things less pleasing to the Lord, and less productive, than an engineering department that rapidly turns out beautiful blueprints for the wrong product. Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective.”
  • “Good executives focus on opportunities rather than problems. … effective executives treat change as an opportunity”
  • “Decisions are made at every level of the organization. … Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.”
  • “I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time.”
  • “Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events.”

But what hit me as the most powerful lesson was this gem on managing time (I am taking the liberty to borrow from Darious Foroux’s nice article in ‘The Medium’ – Know Thy Time: Peter Drucker’s Strategy To Become More Effective)

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I cannot stop wondering at the relevance of this brilliant insight to my own life, from this precious possession and a must read for every one – The Effective Executive

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So, you poison yourself every day!

Answer these questions to yourself, honestly.

  • Do you start each day by flipping through the newspaper?
  • Do you regularly watch boisterous television debates or revel in soaps or worse still, get emotionally involved in woeful news casts on television?
  • Have you ever felt or thought about the impact of media exposure on your emotional well-being?
  • Has the media exposure ever made you feel happy and inspired? OR has the media exposure always left you sad, resentful, helpless, hopeless, angry, disturbed and stressed?
  • Do you believe that the news and other media content that you consume, are relevant to your life? Will they help you accomplish your dreams and goals? OR do you feel that you have wasted your time (and hence, life) by thoughtlessly squandering it on media?
  • If ever, you have felt that certain news and television shows were useful and relevant, do you feel that you got the complete truth? OR do you feel you were left confused, misled and vague?
  • Afer consuming the media content, did you acquire a fresh perspective about certain stuff OR do you feel that your old biases and beliefs have got reinforced and vindicated?
  • Has the newspaper and television exposure, left you scatter-brained and unable to concentrate on any other task that you ought to be doing in order to achieve your dreams?
  • After so much of media, do you already feel an urge for watching some other TV channel OR for surfing some other gossip on the web OR for flipping through the pages of some other newspaper? Are you feeling addicted?

Despite the diversity in nationality, language, religious faith, culture, education and social affluence, it is a surprising fact that almost all households are united in the habit of starting their day with newspapers and ending it (or rather finishing it) with television.

From childhood, I too was indoctrinated into the belief that I must develop the habit of reading newspapers everyday, in order to improve my general knowledge as well as language. Even today, my kids are being told in school that they must be reading and following news, regularly. When television came into my life, this belief got extended to the audio-visual media too. I started watching news hours regularly on the television. Gradually, this habit extended to other television programs, which provided fodder to my senses, while numbing my thinking faculty.

Not long ago, when I threw my job away and embarked on my own entrepreneurial journey, sanity started setting in. I had to suddenly take charge of my life, health, habits, projects, time and most importantly my daily routine. I listed out all the routine tasks that I did everyday and evaluated each of them for their relevance to my chosen goal. While many routine tasks, which I was mindlessly repeating, simply ate my time and stalled my progress towards my goal, I found, to my shock, that media exposure alone not only wasted my time but also affected me mentally, destroyed my focus, delayed my getting into the flow and eventually moved me away from my goals. Media exposure was in no way connected to my business or life.

One day, I did a fun exercise of listing down the salient news headlines from that day’s newspaper and categorized each news item as negative or positive. For example, a news item that reported a murder was ‘negative’, while a report that celebrated a paralympic gold medal victory was ‘positive’. I also did another categorization of the news, as either ‘relevant’ or ‘irrelevant’ to my life. Irrelevant news were those that meant nothing to me. I found, to my shock, that out of 30 headlines that I sampled, 27 were ‘negative’ and all the 30 were ‘irrelevant’. The news reports were making me angry, desperate and helpless, forcing me to waste further time and energy by ranting about them on the social media. These negative emotions sapped my days of their vitality, creativity and motivation.

I booted newspaper and television out of my life and rehashed my routine. I designed my days to help me start early, get into the flow fast and finish my day with some sense of peace and fulfillment.

Since then, I have spoken to many people to find out why they are into mindless media immersion. Many of them felt challenged, argued with me and even called me a fool to ask the reason behind such an ‘obvious virtue’ as reading newspapers or watching television. Some even thought I had failed to make it big in life, only because of not being ‘connected’ to the ‘happenings’.

Last week, I chanced upon a superbly written article by Benjamin P. Hardy – Tell Me What You Did Today, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are. In that eye-opener, Benjamin talks about defining our ideal day, staying motivated, stating and following implementation intentions and having a discipline of self-regulation.

But, if our ideal day is contaminated by media indulgence, then all our ‘implementation intentions’ are certain to get ruined. It is like designing a nutritious diet regimen but starting each meal with a cup of poison.

Did you drink your cup today?

If you like this article and feel that, it can benefit someone, please do me a favor by sharing this. Thumbs up or thumbs down, I am eager to know you reaction and comments.

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