Monday, August 31, 2020

Our World: A Symphony of Drabbles - Bishan Sahai, Ruchi Ranjan and Ishika Ranjan

 A drabble I learned, is a story told in exactly 100 words. It is very exciting, as it challenges the writer to compress the idea or story into 100 words and tell it comprehensively. I remember being fascinated with how Manto wrote a story which was a mere two or three lines and ever since then, could not get my head around it. So when I heard that authors spanning three generations - grandfather, mother and daughter have compiled a set of 86 stories (to coincide with their beloved author Ruskin Bond's age), I was looking forward to reading it. Bishan Sahai, the grandfather is a retired business manager, Ruchi Ranjan, holds a doctorate in child psychology and is a trained counsellor and Ishika Ranjan is studying grade XI and is interested in English literature, Maths, photography, new recipes, sketching and music.


The stories soon showed a pattern - Ishika's stories take you around the world, even the universe, and are full of imagination and sharp twists in the end, as any young mind should be. Dr Ruchi's stories are reflective, ponderous and depict a moment, a thought, an insight sensitively. Bishan Sahai's stories are grounded, rounded and full of humour at the human condition. A drabble takes a minute or two to read, but they draw you deep into the thought, what was before and what remains after that thought, what has been said and what remained unsaid. It's like a thought snatched out of nowhere, but complete in itself. You wonder how they thought the story out, what must have inspired them, and as you read, you get a sense of their world. 

A drabble about the patronising attitude of westerners to Orientals, the colours that an orphan sees, a modern Egyptian mummy with a smartphone, a journey to the land of Lilliputs, a cricketer's source of inspiration, the story of an ex-PM's statue cleaned once a year, the trepidation of a  mom who does not find her daughter on the bus, the story of a window, the attitude of employees to not displease their boss and thereby leaving him searching for glasses which are on his head, the story of Mah Laqa Bai Chanda. a young man finding his passion, a reincarnated bride in search of her husband from the last birth, Mark Twain and his views on the Ganga, how responsibility changes an errant boy, a macabre tale of a sinister driver, and so many more.

The stories are easy and fun as promised. The authors have a distinct voice and I am sure we will be seeing more of their writing in print. It's a very interesting format and I am tempted to try it. The production quality of the book is excellent. The photographs and the illustrations add a lovely mood to the book. There's something warm, innocent and homely about the book. Overall, a fine book to read, to carry along and to dip into every now and then.  

Anjali - It's Adultish, Not Childish

 So we were discussing something and I said that these people were behaving very childishly. Anjali didn't agree. 'I don't know why they call it childish,' she said. 'Children would never behave that way.'

Hmm. She had a point. Children don't behave that way really.

'It should be called adultish,' she said. 'Only adults behave like that.'

I get it. Only adults can behave like adults do. We can never ever behave like children do. Any act that is below adult cannot be childish - it can only sink further to adultish.

Agreed AJ (as Pallavi calls her these days).

Lessons I Learned From Others 10 - Tarun Singh Chauhan and 'Limitations of Men'

Tarun Singh Chauhan, after a super successful career as an advertising man, turned to management consulting and I could see why. He had a way of simplifying things and understanding things very quickly. So during one of our conversations, when I asked him how we can motivate people who despite the best training and inputs are not performing, he came up with this brilliant reply.

'You must understand that everyone has their limitations,' he said. 'Don't push them in areas where they have limitations. Instead, the moment you realise that they are stuck, put them in a place where they can really contribute.'

Now that was a huge revelation to me. I was doggedly going with the belief that everyone has the raw material and everyone, given the right tools and training and managing, could overcome limitations and come up with champion stuff. I was getting frustrated when some eagles wouldn't do very well at crawling and some rabbits could not fly. Until I heard this and I changed my approach completely. It was a huge, huge shift in how I looked at myself and people after that.

True, we all want to do great, we all try hard too, but we are all made for certain things. There are things which are our obvious limitations. Like some take to leadership easily, some take to backend jobs easily. Why confuse the two and make a mess. The moment we realise they have their limitations, its best to complement them with someone who can help balance that aspect.

What to do with people with limitations? When we identify the limitation, don't push them in that area unnecessarily, because you will lose that person to frustration. Leave that aspect and explore other areas where the person is flowering easily. Life's easy for everyone. Why try to fit square pegs into round holes?

These days it's one of the first things I try to find in a person, or situations, their limitations - and I make a lot of allowance for that. No point stressing everyone out.

Thanks Tarun. That was a really good one.

Canteen Fundas - Fun vs Enjoyment, Instant vs Delayed Gratification

 What's fun and what's enjoyment? Why not instant gratification and why delayed gratification? What first and what next?

Delayed gratification over instant joy: How you can derive long-term happiness by investing in growth-oriented activities

Delay it | (Pic: Internet) - From link

Bhaiyya, why do people say ‘enjoy what you’re doing’ and when we’re having fun, they stop us?’ asked Rahul. ‘Is there a difference?’

‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘To understand the difference between fun and enjoyment, we must differentiate between instant gratification and delayed gratification. Fun activities give us instant gratification, are easy, pleasurable and can be addictive. Popular examples being social media, online shopping, binge-watching, video games and such. Right?’

‘Right,’ said Rinku. ‘Super fun.’

‘They’re fun because they’re instant,’ said Rakesh. ‘But they don’t help us grow nor are they enjoyable. After the high of getting likes on social media, we feel a certain emptiness inside, right?’

‘So, how can we be happy if we can’t have fun?’ asked Rahul.

‘You can by choosing activities that stretch you to the limit in pursuit of accomplishing something worthwhile,’ said Rakesh. ‘Activities that need you to delay gratification for a lasting sense of achievement. In a Stanford University study, it was found that children who waited longer to get a bigger reward were more successful. Delaying gratification was critical to success.’

‘That doesn’t sound like fun, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul.

‘On the contrary, the process of stretching and growing, immersing yourself into a challenging job, is immensely enjoyable,’ said Rakesh. ‘True enjoyment is characterised by novelty and accomplishment. It’s the satisfying high of having achieved something significant. A happy side effect is that you also achieve health, financial and expertise goals which contribute to your happiness.’

‘A classic standoff awaits us then — instant gratification versus delayed gratification,’ said Rinku. ‘Short-term gains with no long-term benefits versus short-term pain and long-term gains. Choose between topping exams and binge-watching Rahul. Now!’

‘Topping exams,’ said Rahul. ‘No brainer. But can we have both?’

‘You tell me,’ said Rakesh.

‘Hmm,’ said Rinku. ‘We could delay gratification and instead immerse ourselves into this goal-oriented work that helps us grow.’

‘And after completing these hard, monotonous routines specifically for their clear, long-term benefits,’ said Rahul. ‘We can reward ourselves by engaging in fun activities.’

‘Perfect,’ said Rakesh. ‘Enjoy the tough work first and then recharge with fun activities. I’d suggest you choose leisure activities that you experience. That’s the formula for long-lasting happiness and success.’

‘Done,’ said Rinku. ‘Filter coffee, not instant coffee, from now on.’

Pro Tip: You derive long-term happiness by delaying gratification and investing in growth-oriented activities. Minimise activities that seek instant gratification because they distract.

Death of Stalin - Movie

 2017. Black comedy on the happenings after the death of  Stalin and how Kruschev comes to power from being the most unlikely candidate. Brilliant.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Class of 83 - Movie

 2020. Atul Sabharwal. It's set in 1983 when a special team of rogue police recruits is made to bump off criminals. Bobby Deol plays the Dean of the Police Academy, the mastermind.

I really liked the sepia-tinted tone the entire movie was shot in. Like looking at old newspapers, old memories. Quite watchable.

Android Kunjappan - Movie

 2019. Cute movie. A very authentic android in a village, helping out a cranky old widower. Add a Japanese girlfriend and the mix is complete. I remembered young director Sankalp Reddy telling the class - you've got to be the first or the best. This movie certainly tried a first.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Blues Brothers - Movie

 1980. Dan Ackroyd, James Belushi, James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin.

Goofball movie about two brothers who grow up in an orphanage and their efforts to put their band back together to raise 5000 dollars to pay taxes for the orphanage. They do raise the money but perhaps at a cost of 5 million. Great music, goofy comedy. Loved it.

Thought for the Day - What Makes Us Give Up On Things

It's something that happens to all of us. We start something with great enthusiasm and genuine love and then at some point we give it up abruptly. We wonder what happened to our enthusiasm, our love for that, and all we can think of is giving it up. It's almost like that experience is too painful to continue any longer.

Pic - Satish N

It happens to children and it happens to adults. I have seen this happen to me in small things like going to meet someone with a lot of enthusiasm and then exiting early because of something that didn't match my expectations. Some small thing he said, some amount of distraction in them. And big things like not wanting anything to do with cricket after I was dropped from the Ranji team. In both cases, I was giving up something I loved or enjoyed which was not the best thing to do. Not to mention jobs we may have quit because we didn't like bosses.

The easiest thing to do is to quit. So, it makes sense to make that the absolute last option. 

The question we need to ask ourselves is why do we want to quit? Have we lost the joy and satisfaction we get out of this? Or is it because of some external factor like someone saying something or things not turning out in a particular way? For example, I like playing cricket but I may not like dealing with some disruptive members of the team, or a domineering coach. A bad teammate, a bad boss, a bad teacher can be a disruptive influence on us and it looks like quitting is the only way.

What to do then? Quit? 

If we are quitting because we are not enjoying it anymore, makes a lot of sense. Quit. It's over.

But if we are quitting because of some external factor despite us enjoying the game or job or activity by itself, we must rethink. There is no guarantee that we will not find unpleasant people in our new environment again. We cannot keep leaving things we love again and again because of some types, can we? So, instead of giving up what we like and enjoy, we could find ways to deal with the co-worker, boss, teacher. Sit back for a moment and think if that's a possibility. After all, the unpleasant interaction with such people is less than 5% of the total time so why should we give up the rest of the 95% for that? 

How to Deal with Unpleasantness?

Look at Facts - Don't Make Bigger Stories 

Let's take a situation where a coach or an insensitive teammate etc  has made an unpleasant remark and it hurt. Let's say they said 'Put more effort, don't be lazy.' The remark is said and done with. We can put in more effort and get on with life. But many times we make it much bigger than what it is. We make it about ourselves - a permanent judgment on us. We feel we are not good enough, or that the other person has not recognised our intent and make ourselves wrong, or make the other person wrong when it is a simple matter that can be gotten over with. The easiest way is to put these random remarks or incidents in context - and let them be. Not make them bigger than they are. In the larger scheme of things, its very very small. So the first thing to do is to see the facts and remove the story from it. Never ever build on that story.

Change Your Energy - Gratitude and Forgiveness

In case it happens to be a chronic issue and they are picking on you for no reason. Even in such a situation, it helps to know that we are not fully disempowered. First, we must realise that we cannot change others; we can only change ourselves. Secondly, we operate with people on certain frequencies and if we change our frequency, we may be able to tune into the better parts of the other person. So instead of making these people the villains and resenting them and their behaviour, attitude,, words etc which locks into the current frequency, even more, we need to change our approach. To change it, I have found that the use of gratitude, or even forgiveness, works like magic. In simple terms, take a pen and a paper, and find 10 good things about this person to be grateful for (including teaching this lesson). Do this every day until you feel that you are actually grateful to this person and not resentful. As you change your energy, I have found that many times, things seem to change miraculously. Either the person changes or he or the situation stops bothering you anymore, You are free to enjoy whatever you enjoyed, whatever gave you satisfaction. 

See if you can handle the unpleasant part and continue to derive happiness despite the spoilsports. If you can learn this lesson, you are in a position to enjoy your life on your own, without depending on other people's moods. This could well be the most important lesson anyone could ever learn to get on in life.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Madaari - Movie

 2016. Nishikant Kamath's last film as a director.

It deals with corruption. The son of the Home Minister is kidnapped by a man whose own son has died because of a corruption-related issue. Though the movie meanders a bit but is sustained by the class of Irrfan Khan and Jimmy Shergill, Nishikant's ties it up brilliantly in the end and makes a telling point. It's worth watching just for that - the ending - and of course Irrfan Khan. The last scene with him at the ocean, letting go of his son's belongings - only he could have done it like that.

An Online Book Launch - Our World: A Symphony of Drabbles by Three Generations

Yesterday I attended the online book launch of 'Our World: A Symphony of Drabbles by Three Generations', a collection of drabbles compiled by a grandfather,  his daughter and granddaughter - Bishan Sahai, Dr. Ruchi Ranjan and Ishika Ranjan. If the idea that three generations can collaborate warms your heart then the idea of the drabble - a story contained in exactly one hundred words, no more, no less - is certain to pique your interest. 86 in all, to commemorate their favourite author Ruskin Bond's age, they offer a fascinating insight into the minds of the authors and allow you to fill in the gaps. The date holds importance too - the launch of the book coincides with the birthday of one of the author's, Ishika Ranjan.

Dr Ruchi sent me a copy of the book in advance. I loved the way it was produced by Rupa - hardbound, very readable, lovely cover and illustrations. A perfect book for a quiet read on a rainy day (or any other day) - rainy because it's raining these days. I read the book and enjoyed all the stories and found a clear pattern emerging in the writer's voices, which was fascinating. There's a note by Ruskin Bond, a testimonial from Sachin Tendulkar, one from Shashi Tharoor. The foreword is written by Harinder Sikka author of 'Calling Sehmat' which was made into the hit film 'Raazi'. Mr Sikka was also the Chief Guest for the launch.

Anuj Gurwara, popular RJ hosted the show, and he did a fine job of it as he always does. A decade ago when I was part of some promotional activity for my book or my brother's movie, I remember he had interviewed me on air and I found him a very intelligent and affable person. Anuj invited the audience and played Ruskin Bond's video message. Mr. Bond complimented the author's on writing the book and told them that one book surely leads into another so there were more to come from them. Then Kapish Mehra of Rupa Publications spoke before the book was launched by author Harinder Sikka. He spoke about the book and there was something he said about how 'Calling Sehmat' gives an insight into the fact that there were patriots like her who risked everything for their country and if we understand that, we would not be calling all Kashmiris terrorists. It takes little to understand that, and we try hard not to look at that and instead buy into emotional hogwash.

The Dramatic Club of Hyderabad led by Pranava Singhal read out a few drabbles and di a fine job of it. Then a break as a few speakers spoke - Ishika's teacher from the USA Mrs. Summer Thompson, her Principal at her local school Mrs, Lata Shankar and her teacher Mrs Shikha Nigam. Anuj read out author-politician Shashi Tharoor's message. Some more readings of the drabbles, more messages, from Ishika's uncle and aunt. I spoke a few words too. I mentioned how I was amazed when I read a three-line story written by Manto and could never understand how anyone could write so much in so less and convey it to another person, and how when I read the drabbles, I found the same thing happening to me. I realise now, as I write, the drabbles can form the perfect hook for scripts for movies which always hinge on the 'what if'. So a proliferation of ideas from those who cannot invest time into writing a drawn-out treatment can actually write it as a drabble, which can lead to better choices for stories too. I do wish they appropriate the drabble space and make it bigger and make that a platform - perhaps with Rupa's collaboration. The Ranjans could well nurture, take forward and be the drabble destination in India.

Anuj read out Sachin Tendulkar's message and there was more drabble reading by the members of the DCH. Prof Alka Behari spoke, and so did Pranava Singhal about his association with Bishan Sahai saab and Prof Vijaya Kumar of the HLF spoke about how they reminded him of haikus. 

The authors spoke at the end. Bishan Sahai saab recorded a message about the experience. Ishika spoke about her love for writing and how she would like feedback so she could improve as a writer. My advice, keep writing, keep reading, that's the best way to improve writing, as with anything else. You have the craft, the imagination and the mindset, so you're well on track. Dr. Ruchi Ranjan spoke and said that it was her husband Jayesh Ranjan, who dons many hats as Principal Secretary to the Government of Telangana, as Chair of the Hyderabad Literary Festival, as an avid cricket and literature buff and someone who is always ready to help, who introduced the idea of drabbles to them and prompted them to write. She thanked everyone ad it was a fine evening enjoyed by one and all. 

Dr. Ruchi Ranjan, thanks for inviting me and letting me be a part of this fine event. Hopefully something of a landmark with the introduction of drabbles. Wishing the newborn 'Our World' all the best in its journey into the world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Circus - Movie

 1928. Charlie Chaplin.

CC plays a tramp who is mistaken for a pickpocket. While escaping he lands up in a circus and causes some funny moments in an otherwise dreary circus that is losing attendance. He also falls in love with the owner's daughter, is hired for his ability to make people laugh and gets into all kinds of incidents including landing up in the lion's cage and on the tightrope. He conceives the situations brilliantly and somehow pulled it off with all those animals. Ends not too happily, because his love goes off with another guy - the tightrope walker and he quits the circus. Tragi-comic as always.

But brilliant!

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - Movie

 1943. Among the 100 best all-time movies.

Colonel Blimp tells the story of an Englishman Clive Candy, who fights the Boer war, the first and second world wars. He meets the love of his life while in Berlin but he doesn't realise it and is quite happy when she marries his German foe-turned-friend. But he meets a girl who looks exactly like her and marries her and then she dies and then when he is General in the second world war he hires a girl who looks like her as his assistant. His friend realises how deeply Candy loved the love of his life and how deeply he is wedded to his English principles of playing fair, taking it on the chin and always putting up a happy front to the extent that he doe snot realise his own pain. Poignant.

Loved it. Though it begins rather messily and I couldn't quite get what was happening, once it settled down you realise you can't make movies like these unless you've lived those stories. That good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Anjali - The Art of Motivating People and Bringing Them Together

 It's an interesting trait and I know I am not the best at it - the art of bringing a bunch of diverse people together and motivating them to participate in a common activity. A few months ago Anjali found this online game Psych and she needed people to play with her. She connected some random cousins of hers,  my nephew Shrinjay who has just finished his MBBS, her cousin Pooja, who has finished her architecture, Shikha, Vajra...all graduates, and some of her own peers like Mansi. I guess those who were available and could easily access the game and were oriented to games was the criteria.

Bringing them together - Pic Satish Nargundkar

Now, they have moved on to another game called Scribbl, which was introduced by Pooja and more people got added to it. Even I played a couple of times, so did Shobha. The games occupy an hour or so each day.

But what I found interesting is that fact that Anjali drives the show - motivating, cajoling, bringing people together, setting up times, energising the group mainly consisting of people much older to her. Gifs, messages, stuff keeps flying by until the whole thing is set up. Pleeaaaase, are you theeeereeee? she goes and pleads, cajoles the group into coming together and playing. When someone cannot come or for some reason no one gets time, there is no rancour. Onwards to the next day or the next game. The space is always welcome, with good fun and cheer, high energy and everyone's welcome. Easy to walk into right?

I realise its a good trait and I also realise how I deal with such things. I ask once and then that's done. I am also wary of bringing people from different groups together. I am certainly wary of playing with people above my weight. Hmm, lessons to learn.

Soul Searchers, The Art of Breathing - Sri Rudrabhayananda (Venugopalan)

 I was searching for a book on the art of breathing for some reason last week and happened upon this book on the shelf. It covers many practices which amalgamate Reiki, Crystal therapy, Pranayama and Marma gyana. He discusses the art of breathing and visualisation for cleansing the body and soul, a method for awakening the Kundalini by which humans can help themselves and be in good health and harmony. Venugopalan or Sri Rudrabhayananda is trained in Tibetan and Indian Tantra and has been awarded for his contributions to Yoga and Kundalini.

Since it is a book about practice, more than theory, I'll just share the topics he has covered. For me, it was perfect that he started on meditation at beginners level and then at an advanced level and it looks highly doable the way he has explained it. Then he explained the chakras and the Kundalini Yoga theory and the path to enlightenment. The actual practice of awakening the Kundalini - through colour meditation, balancing left and right nadis, shakti points, awakening chakras and complete awakening of Kundalini.

Then he discusses how to awaken the Kundalini with the spiritual energy of Reiki, meditational techniques with Reiki (Sandwich energy, Mirror Energy, Distant healing, Healing the dead), Reiki III and Certification. Development of Chi Energy and Advanced techniques for Reiki channels.

Asanas, Pranayama, Aura, Crystals, Marma gyana and Mudras have all been covered.

It's pretty comprehensive and explained in a fashion that a layman can start practising which I found was the best part of the book - just right. There's not too much information nor too less - very practical. If there is some improvement to be done I wish somebody had done a better job with some spellings and proofreading. It's such a shame that such a nice book with such good intent should suffer due to small issues. That apart, I have decided to use it as a guide to begin my meditation and improve my breathing.


Lessons Others Taught Me 9 - Brother KM Joseph

Always separate the act, from the person

Brother KM Joseph, our much-loved cricket-Brother from All Saints High School, is a devoted teacher with lots of love for students. He epitomised tough love, always bringing out the best in students while being strict on discipline. On a long journey to Vijayawada, I asked him once, what his biggest learning was as a teacher.

Brother Joseph told me that one of the biggest lessons he had learned from his years as a teacher was that we should never confuse the act for the person. 'It's always the act that may not be acceptable,' he said. 'It's never the person. Many times we make the entire person 'bad' and that label stays with him or her for a lifetime. Always point out the action and tell them how to correct it.'

It was a brilliant lesson and one that I instantly adopted. How often we lazily label people, not thinking how much damage it could do to that person. How wonderful to know that all people are perfectly fine; its only that some of their actions are disagreeable.

Thank you Brother Joseph.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Gunjan Saxena - Movie

 Quite enjoyable. Got to see Kargil from a different perspective.

Online Talk to VJIM Freshers - Lessons from Sports To Succeed in Life

 I have been associated with VJIM for a few years now and have conducted a workshop or two, and several lectures. The current Director Durga Prasad and I have known each other for a while now and when he called me the other day to do an online session for the fresher batch I was more than happy. Niharika, who handles training, is a sportsperson herself and believes strongly that there are lessons to be learned from sports and hence they invited me to do the talk. We titled it 'Lessons from Sports to Succeed in Life'. The talk was for 75 minutes and started at 11 am.

The gist of the talk:


There are many similarities between sports and life especially cricket. Let’s try and understand success through the prism of sports, or cricket because sports and games are a microcosm of life. What happens over a year at a corporate setting happens in a day or a game - your preparation, your purpose, your attitude, your team binding will all result in joy or tragedy. In sports, it's even more direct whereas in a corporate setting it becomes diluted across many people. Hence I feel that sports are the best analogies to learn lessons to apply in life.

Typically there are three myths that come in the way of a person achieving success in sports and in life. They are the Myths of 

1) Myth 1 - Talent and Intelligence is the Deciding Factor

2) Myth 2 - Hard work doe snot pay;  Smart work does

3) Myth 3 - It's about luck finally

Myth 1 – Talent or Intelligence is everything

I shared my story of how I played Ranji Trophy and did fairly well but when I was dropped I didn't make any effort to make a comeback because I believed I was limited by my talent which I felt was fixed. I remember feeling the same way about intelligence too. 

When I read the book 'Mindset - by Dr Carol Dweck' I realised that everything can be learned with effort and proper guidance. The key was to adopt the learning mindset and get out of the field mindset.

Fixed Mindset Characteristics

Growth Mindset Characteristics

Desire to look smart

Desire to learn

Avoid challenges

Embrace challenges

Give up easily

Persist in the face of setback

Get defensive

Seek help to find ways to improve

See effort as fruitless

See effort as the path to mastery

Ignore useful negative feedback

Learn from criticism

Feel threatened by others successes

Find lessons and inspiration from others success

Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Reach even higher levels of achievement as a result and get closer to potential

To progress and beat this myth, even if you are the last person in this class - Adopt the learning mindset, push up effort, get help from teachers, mentors, measure progress and achieve your goals. Even if you’re the last in class today you can, by adopting this mindset, change the story in a few years.

Myth 2 – Hard work vs Smart Work

A lot of people believe that smart work means there is no hard work - that we can take shortcuts, fool and cheat the system. But smart work actually means you work harder. Champions work the hardest. Smart work is using the same resources efficiently to get better results. They figure out improvements every day and work towards a grand vision. Which means they prepare better on their routines, more smartly, more informed choices. They do the first things first.

For example, a person who is cutting rock can work very hard and cut rocks all his life without adding any value. That means he is not putting his head into the process, looking at possibilities. If he had a vision, if he thought he could build something beautiful out of the rock he could add tremendous value by making a sculpture out of the same rock. Carve out a successful career, MSD vs Dinesh Karthik

You need a big vision, the best vision of your life right now, dream big, and then apply your head as to how you can achieve it. You will find a way. That is smart work - making your resources count.

To do - Dream big vision, assess the situation, figure your strengths, figure how to get the best results using your resources

Again, the last guy in class can change things by looking at work differently. First hard work and then smart work.

Myth 3 – Luck plays a big role

As a rule we cannot bring luck into the picture at the beginning because then we have nothing in our control. It is also not scientific to believe in luck. Aeroplanes, don't fly on luck, nor do space ships go by luck. It’s not luck. It's ourselves. S I suggest you leave the church of luck aside and take full responsibility and work on fixing your shortcomings, finding why things aren't working out. Ordinary people achieve great things when they take full responsibility. (After you achieve everything you can always say you were lucky. That's the only time luck is allowed in the picture!)

The typical story is that we worked hard, tried everything but nothing worked. Bad luck messed it up for us. I worked harder but didn't get selected. But if you take full responsibility we should look at where our preparation is lacking. The formula is simple - our results reflect our preparation. Are we  fully ready - skill-wise, physically, mentally, emotionally? Are you ready to receive your reward NOW? Only then are we ready.

To do - Take full responsibility for your life, situation, prep + results, don’t blame and find excuses, fix shortcomings.

Action Points

  • Set a big vision for life, the most beautiful outcome you can imagine (high risk, high return)
  • Set goals– SMART goals - 20-year goals, 10-year goals, 5-year goals and 2 year goals 
  • Work on them – first things first – process and execution is key
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people
  • Get mentors and coaches - share your goals
  • Measure progress
  • Achieve
  • Enjoy the journey
  • Success is personal.

A Lively Q and A
The energy of the batch comes through in the questions they ask. The students asked some good questions and we actually had to stop them which is a good sign - about a cricketer who was dejected at not being selected, about not knowing which choice to take and move forward, about a parent who was unlucky in the stock market, about a writer who wants to write, about someone who asked me about the biggest risk I took in my life. Niharika asked me what inspired me to write 'The Men Within'. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the session and wished I could actually do a workshop for them based on the action points. It would make things so much clearer for them and lay out the map. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Canteen Fundas - How EQ Can Help You Go the Full Distance

 Why the smartest aren't always the most successful. And how EI holds the key.

Bhaiyya, how come the smartest people aren’t always successful?’ said Rinku.

‘Rinku, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and expertise were considered critical for success earlier,’ said Rakesh. ‘However, emotions can hijack thinking capacity, affect decision-making and behaviour, and consequently, the results. You may be ‘smart’, and yet, if you cannot manage yourself and others, you’ll find it difficult to succeed. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence says that two-thirds of competencies required for success pertain to Emotional Intelligence (EI). A person who can manage emotions intelligently has a clear advantage over ‘smarter’ peers.’

‘Wow,’ said Rahul. ‘How can I improve my EI, bhaiyya?’

‘EI comprises personal and social competencies,’ said Rakesh. ‘Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation are personal, while empathy and social skills are social competencies. Anyone can practise these skills and improve their EI.’

‘What’re these competencies about?’ said Rinku.

‘Let’s look at our personal competencies first,’ said Rakesh. ‘Self-awareness is our ability to identify emotions as they arise and understand their effect on our behaviour. Self-regulation is our ability to manage our disruptive impulses, handling pressure and adapting. Motivation is our drive to achieve our goals.’

‘Interesting,’ said Rinku. ‘And social competency?’

‘Social competence is measured on empathy and social skills,’ said Rakesh. ‘Empathy, our ability to understand others’ feelings helps us build deep connections. Social skills are our ability to lead and influence others by understanding and managing group emotions and enabling cooperation to achieve common goals. However brilliant you are, you need others to succeed.’

‘So, our competencies help us manage our internal states and social competencies help us build and manage external relationships,’ said Rinku. ‘Together, they give us an advantage.’

‘Bhaiyya, what should I work on immediately?’ asked Rahul.

‘Initiative, empathy, adaptability and influence are considered key skills for success,’ said Rakesh. ‘Start there.’

‘I’ll begin with identifying emotions and managing my reactions,’ said Rinku. ‘How to go about it, bhaiyya?’

‘Try the stop lights technique,’ said Rakesh. ‘At red, when you sense emotion rising, stop and calm down. At yellow, verbalise the problem, set goals, think about options and consequences. At green, act on the best plan.’

‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I can see how EI connects us to ourselves and the world, and improves our quality of life.’

‘Absolutely,’ said Rahul. ‘I’m sensing a desire for chai now.’

Pro Tip: EI is a key factor in your success. Work on personal and social-emotional competencies to gain an overall advantage.

31 Divas - Movie

 2018. Marathi. 

Breezy and predictable. Young theatre guy aspiring to be a film director goes through some personal challenges like going blind but comes back and finishes the film with some help from friends.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Wild Tales - Movie

 2014. Argentine. Damien Szifron.

Six wild tales, all separate, by tied by the theme of revenge. The first is about a failed musician and the people who messed up his life, the second about a stranger who takes revenge for her co-worker, the third about how a blowout over road rage leads to some crazy endings, the fourth about a rich man's son who is in an accident, one about a marriage reception going awry and one about a man with principles who is being charged unjustly for wrong parking and how he retaliates.

Gripping stuff and will definitely grab you by the collar. Watch.


Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman's 1995 book was a gamechanger in times when people were hung up only on IQ and Expertise as indicators of success. His tag line for the book 'Why EI can matter more than IQ' pretty much broke the mould. The book answers the question - why do high IQ people flounder and modest IQ people do well? A study of 95 Harvard students from the 1940s that went on into their mid-lives and careers found that the ones with the highest test scores weren't doing the best - salary, relationships, happiness, career, status. Goleman had a point.

To begin with, Goleman deconstructs the brain - the two brains - the rational and emotional brains. The emotional brain, or the primitive and limbic brain, processes emotions like love, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. While the rational mind, or the head, is about comprehension, thought, conscious stuff while the emotional brain is about knowing, impulse, powerful. It's the heart stuff and what drives action. The emotional mind is much about survival so when it gets hijacked by a trigger, it can capture and suspend the rational mind. (Now its good in a situation where our survival is threatened but in normal situations, if we do not know how to manage emotions, we could miss out of making rational decisions and affect our lives.) Emotional learning is important to harmonise emotion and thought. 

Understanding Emotional Intelligence 

When deconstructed, emotional intelligence was divided into five parts - 1) Knowing One's Emotions 2) Managing Emotions 3) Motivation 4) Recognising Others emotions and 5) Handling relationships.

1) Knowing One's Emotions - comprises of self-awareness and recognising emotions as they happen. This is the keystone of Emotional Intelligence. Self-awareness is the key to psychological insight. Be aware that physiological sensations occur before conscious awareness of feeling. Be aware, identify and recognise the emotions as they arise.

Managing Emotions - It is the capacity to soothe emotions as they appear, the ability to shake them off and bounce back at the earliest. If we let them be, they fester for a long period of time and become your temperament. You must know how to use appropriate emotion, know how to recover quickly from a low. Taking time off to cool oneself, reasoning with oneself, cognitively reframing the process are some techniques used here. Feeling the feeling instead of suppressing it, helps manage it better. Understand that all emotions and feelings are required for your emotional well being and accept them. Don't fight with them.

Motivating Oneself - It is the ability to marshall emotions in the service of a goal. It involves stifling impulsiveness and delaying gratification to be more productive and effective. Hope and optimism, the strong expectation that things will turn out well in the end, play a potent role in our success. A positive outlook helps in so many ways including health. Goleman refers to the concept of 'Flow' where one is so focused that one loses the concept of time and space, as the ideal state to achieve optimum performance. To enter a state of flow - one has to bring sharp focus, attention and concentration to a task that demands greater than normal concentration and fully immerses oneself to the extent that one is devoid of emotional static. One is immersed in the joy of doing work.  

Recognising Emotions in Others - This is the quality of empathy, of understanding people's emotions, said or unsaid. People's emotions are rarely put into words so the ability to understand what it mostly communicated through cues, helps an empathic person connect better to people. Where rational minds can only understand words, which play a limited part in communication, emotional minds are good at catching non-verbal communication and thereby making the others feel understood. Empathic people tune into the 'how' of what's being said and not merely the 'what'. 

Handling relationships - This is about the social arts, about how to manage emotions in others. It is the  social competence aspect. Goleman gives the example of how in the midst of fierce fighting in Vietnam, a group of monks walk serenely across oblivious to the danger of bullets flying about. The firing stops as the calmness of the monks seeps into the soldiers and they stop fighting for a day. Goleman says that this is the skill that helps in organising groups, negotiating solutions, bring a personal connect and improve social analysis. These are the abilities that undergird popularity, leadership and interpersonal effectiveness.

These five areas are what constitute emotional intelligence. One can evaluate oneself on these through any of the many tests online and work on areas to develop emotional intelligence.

Applying Emotional Intelligence

Goleman highlights applications of emotional intelligence in intimate relationships such as marriage, by use of detoxifying self-talk and non-defensive listening and speaking. 

At work, one can learn the art of giving feedback instead of merely criticising and learn to deal with diversity. (The example he gives of how a pilot of an aeroplane who had poor emotional quotient and who was difficult to approach actually crashed his plane because he ran out of fuel but his co-pilots were scared to tell him about it.) By bringing emotional intelligence to work the group's internal harmony increases and allows them to take advantage of their full talents and networks. 

EI affects health as toxic emotions lead to anger, stress, anxiety, depression. Benefits of positive feelings like optimism, hope are well know. In fact, they say that people who have no one to share their feelings double the chances of sickness or death. more significant the relationship in your life, the more it matters for your health. Jame Pennebaker talks about writing for 1-20 minutes for 5-6 days about the most traumatic experiences of your entire life or pressing worries of the moment to improve your emotional health. The effect of this confessional - enhanced immune function, drop in health visits, fewer days missed at work, improved liver enzyme function. in fact, a study proved that women with metastatic cancer who attended weekly meetings with support groups lived twice as long as others who didn't.

Emotional Literacy 

Goleman stresses that the effect of emotional intelligence begins early and at home. Parents do not know how to deal with the emotions of their children - most times because they are unaware of how o deal with emotions themselves. Most parents either ignore, allow without control or show complete contempt for children's emotions. The downside of not growing up with some idea of the subject or some level of emotional intelligence can lead to an effect on the children as they grow up into adults. Goleman however says that our temperament is not our destiny (we all fall into four main temperaments - timid, bold, upbeat and melancholy). emotional literacy can reduce rising rates of depression, eating disorders, addictions which are used as self-medication.

Several institutes have taught emotional intelligence with good results. The curriculum normally includes self-awareness, identification and Depression of emotions, managing feelings, impulse control, delaying gratification, handling stress and anxiety. 

Impulse Control

The key to impulse control is by first identifying the difference between feelings and actions, controlling impulse, identifying alternatives and consequences and acting on the best alternative. They use methods such as Stoplight method, PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) and SOCS (Situations, Options, Consequences and Solutions).

The key is to know that emotions first show in the body and we can, by being self-aware, notice the physical sensation. When we are aware and then identify what emotions we are feeling and appropriately name them, we can create a gap between the emotion and our impulse. (most people cannot name emotions beyond 'good' and 'bad' or the basic 'happy', 'sad', 'fear', 'anger', when actually there are some hundreds of emotions in the sub-families of the basic emotions. An interesting finding was that people who had eating disorders found it difficult to distinguish between feelings of anger, frustration and hunger, and would end up eating.)  

Our power lies in our response to the impulse. In that gap we can identify options, think of consequences and act on the best option. This would help in dealing with our emotions better. Emotional literacy can make a  huge change to our lives. 

It is a fascinating book and I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Vinod bhai for gifting it to me. 

Anjali - We Should Go Back to Nature

 There was some discussion about life in urban areas and the comfort and security we draw from living in cities. 

Anjali said 'We should live in nature only.'

I asked her why?

'I think that's how we were made to live,' said she. 'To live with a sense of insecurity, without all these unnecessary comforts. It somehow feels that's the way to live for humans appreciating life, nature etc. We won't have all these man-made problems then.'

I thought about what she said and felt that it made sense. We are so cocooned, so secure, so used to comfort that we are not really pushing our boundaries nor are we living or growing. Our lives have been reduced to survival and not about growth. Whatever growth we see is only outer and very little inner growth. For that, we need to connect with ourselves, with nature.

Not a bad idea really.

Breath of Gold - Sathya Saran

As published in Punch.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s name is synonymous with the flute, and rightly so, because together, the instrument and the player, continue to bring joy and peace of mind to millions across the world. Sathya Saran’s book, ‘Breath of Gold’ captures the Padma Vibhushan awardees’s life, his love for music, his unceasing quest to learn, his devotion to his guru Annapurna Devi, his partnerships with Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and others, his myriad compositions and his desire to nurture musicians for the future, in a well-told story packed with anecdotes. 

The son of wrestler Chedi pehelwan of Allahabad, Hariprasad Chaurasia initially trained to be a pehelwan like his father, a preparation that perhaps helped in building the strength and stamina that enables him to play to this day. The opportune arrival of a music teacher Rajaram next door, gave his musical journey a direction, though at a rather late age of 15. Rajaram, the first of many mentors and gurus, taught young Hariprasad the basics of classical music, evaluated his limited vocal range and suggested he choose an instrument to play if he wanted to pursue music. Hariprasad chose the humble flute, cheap and easily available, and learned by listening to the musicians who played on the All India Radio. Soon enough he approached Pandit Bholanath Prasanna, an artist at AIR Allahabad, with a request to teach. Pandit Bholanath not only taught him the nuances of playing the flute but also prodded Hariprasad into auditioning for AIR and securing a job as a B grade artiste.

The fact that Hariprasad kept finding mentors and opportunities at every stage of life cannot simply be attributed to luck; a lot has to do with his open, humble and learning mindset. Hariprasad’s stint with the Cuttack AIR station, his first job, jumpstarted his artistic career as the Director of AIR, Cuttack, Krishnamurthy, a musician himself, took the young flautist under his wing. The proximity to great musicians and artistes such as Pandit Bhubaneshwar Mishra, playing for hours on for Mishra's compositions in Oriya plays and films, for Krishnamurthy’s orchestra and for Odissi dance exponent Kelucharan Mahapatra’s Odissi performances gave him an invaluable exposure to music, art and the ways of the masters.

In the normal scheme of things Hariprasad’s transfer to AIR, Bombay in 1962 initially appeared to be difficult as he was well-settled in Cuttack, but it was a move that firmly established him on the map. He never looked back after that. Hariprasad initially played for AIR, then for Gujarathi plays and then for films. The incredible number of hours he played, day and night, and the quality of people he associated with rapidly broadened his expertise, spread his fame. His famous partnership with Shiv Kumar Sharma began and Shiv-Hari began composing for films –Silsila, Darr,Chandni, Lamhe - among them. The duo’s private album 'Call of the Valley' with Brij Bhushan Kabra remains the highest selling Indian classical composition till date. Hariprasad played with Pandit Ravi Shankar's troupe of great musicians Alla Rakha, L Subramanyam, Shiv Kumar Sharma and with George Harrison on the Dark Horse Records release Shankar Family and Friends. He collaborated with artistes like John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek, Ken Lauber and Ian Anderson among others. The boy from Allahabad, and his flute, were now jetsetting across the world, performing to elite audiences.

Pandit Hariprasad, at the height of his success, realised that he needed to deepen his understanding of music, and with trademark humility, sought out Annapurna Devi, daughter of Baba Allauddin Khan of Maisar, the renowned classical maestro, and estranged wife of Pandit Ravi Shankar. It took three years of relentless pursuit for her to take him on as her student and he learned from his guru for several years, adding many layers to his music. Today, Hariprasad Chaurasia, slowed down by Parkinson’s disease, gives back to the world of music, just as his guru had, through his Vrindaban Gurukuls at Bombay and Bhubaneshwar, nurturing musicians for the future.

'Breath of Gold' is a fascinating account of the journey of a man who submitted to his destiny, and went about his work with utmost dedication and humility, always remaining a student. For someone who was not born into a family of musicians, to achieve so much in a lifetime, hints at the learning mindset of the person, the humility to learn from every one and every experience. Though he played with the best in the business, Hariprasad is known to be happy to play his flute, whether it is for an audience of eight, to unruly crowds, for 24 hour long performances on Janmashtami or to elite audiences in royal palaces. It is all an opportunity to play and celebrate the bansuri that repaid his trust and led him to places he never imagined.

Structured into parts covering important phases and partnerships of his life the 253 page book is highly readable. The short chapters with interludes containing anecdotes and insights work well. Sathya Saran’s previous works included books on S.D. Burman and Jagjit Singh, so one assumes that she understands the world of music and perhaps there was a conscious effort to weave in the rhythm of the flute into the writing and structuring of the book. Apart from primary sources such as family and friends, colleagues and students, Sathya Saran draws from various other sources such as previously authored books and blogs on Hariprasad Charasia; Surjit Singh’s book ‘Woodwinds of Change’ being one notable source.

One need not have a deep understanding of music to read the book and the reader gets a fair insight into what it took Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia to achieve such heights. For those who love music, ‘Breath of Gold’ is a worthy addition to the collection.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Breath of Gold - Book Review in Punch

 Here's my review of 'Breath of Gold', Hariprasad Chaurasia's biography by Sathya Saran in Punch.

Gaman - Movie

 1978. Muzaffar Ali's directorial debut. Farooq Shaikh. Smita Patil.

An unemployed, landless youth from UP goes to Bombay on the advice of his friend and struggles to make a living, between going back and surviving in this town. He learns to drive a taxi as are many of his people from UP. Seeing Bombay in those days is lovely. One of my all-time favourite songs 'Seene Mein Jalan' is from the movie too. Jalal Agha had the longest role I saw him in.

The second migrant movie I watched in the recent past - 'Dharavi' was one, and this.

Here's a lovely review by my friend Vijay Lokapally in the Hindu.

Anjali - Online Classes in the Times of Covid-19

 As online classes continue Anjali is finding new ways to cope with the classes. She moves from room to room, depending on her mood I guess. At times she loses connectivity thanks to a power cut or something and there's a big hurry to go out into the front yard and connect through the phone. There are times when she has some tests and she wakes up really early to study. It's been a very interesting period indeed.

Regular class in the study room 

Some presentation - dressed up for it!

The children have found ways of course to beat this online ennui. They have made several groups on WhatApp and connect on zoom calls every now and then to simply chat and catch up or on occasion discuss some lesson. A few of her cousins and friends join up on this fun online game called Scribbl.

All ears - in her room 
Trying the hall for a change! 

She has also made frequent sessions with her Satish mama over zoom where he teaches her statistics or some subject that she prefers to learn from him. My domain of expertise as far as she is concerned seems to be English and Telugu. Of course, once in a while, I am also hauled in to read history along with her.

Lost connectivity -banished to the outside with a mobile hotspot!

Now the school has initiated clubs and she is part of the literary club and has some activity there too. Not to forget that now Physical Training classes have also begun where the PT sir runs them through exercises. If that was not enough, she found some videos online for exercises and does those every other day. A full day if anything. 

All zoom logins!

An early morning effort for a test!

I asked her if this constant activity, exams, was not getting to her or getting boring. 

'Not at all,' said she. 'I love school and I love studying.' Hmmm. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Paromitar Ek Din - Movie

 2000. Bengali. Aparna Sen. Rituparna Sengupta.

Complex movie of the relationship between a mother-in-law and her compassionate daughter-in-law who grow to be good friends despite the daughter-in-law divorcing the son. Loved it.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Invention of Lying - Movie

 2009. Ricky Gervais. Mathew Robinson.

Imagine a world where there are no lies and everyone belive everything as the truth. And then comes a man who invents the first lie and realises how he can manipulate the others with this idea of heaven, god, hell and good and bad. Superb idea but it lost energy a bit.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Dombivali Fast - Movie

 Marathi.2005. Nishikanth Kamath's debut. Sandeep Kulkarni.

A gripping tale of a common man who is fed up with the corruption and lawlessness all around and decides to change it by himself. Sandeep Kulkarni is brilliant as Madhav Apte, the commoner. Nishikanth Kamath's debut film won awards and was very promising. He made other movies including Drishyam. Unfortunately, he passed away recently due to illness, aged 50. 

Shobha saw her friend Sachin's message on Facebook, reminiscing about his friend Nishikanth and we soon found the movie and watched it in his memory. Wonderful talent.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey

 I've read this book and I re-read it again after buying this new copy. The power of this book is immense and one can just adopt the 7 habits and change themselves into people of lasting character, something Covey insists on. He is not much for cosmetic quick-fixes which he makes clear right in the beginning. Building character based on timeless principles is important he says and he insists on values such as integrity, humility, temperance, courage, justice, patine, industry, simplicity and modesty as keys to long term efficacy. He also says we need guiding principles like these 7 habits and put them into practice for a lifetime of investment in the right principles and practices.

An interesting image was that where habits form at the intersection of Knowledge, Skills and Drive. Nice image. Before heading into the 7 habits Covey talks about the P/PC balance where P stands for Production and PC stands for Production Capability. Clearly, he says we can only produce as much as we have the capacity for - and he cites the example of the golden goose to warn us of what happens when we lose the balance. The Production Capability has to be built over time with incorporating habits like these 7. 

The 7 habits are nicely divided into personal habits or tools for private victory and social habits or tools for social victory with the last habit being about renewal and sharpening skills. 

1) Be Proactive

2) Begin with the end in mind

3) Put First Things First

4) Think Win-Win

5) Seek First to Understand and Then to be Understood

6) Synergise

7) Sharpen the Saw

Let's look at the 7 habits with my own insights and examples too.

1) Be Proactive

This is the beginning of all creation - the thought that you can create too. Covey explains how between an external stimulus and our response there is a gap, a freedom to choose and that can make all the difference. He cites the example of how Victor Frankl used that same freedom to make something of great value out of an experience like being a holocaust survivor. Cover talks about proactivity being about ability to respond, ably - response-ability. Proactive is taking responsibility clearly for an initiative we are taking up. We can differentiate between reactive people and proactive people - starting with the language they use.

A concept he gives which will hold well for us is that of the circle of concern and the circle of influence. We can be concerned about the state of the world but we can influence only some. So Covey says that we can shift our focus our time and energy from what we cannot influence, to what we can, and work on that area. In cricketing parlance, it is called - control the controllables. We play the ball, not the bowler, or the weather or the pitch.  

As I understand it, being proactive is also about working on something that is not yet there, creating something with the hope that it will appear, and by dint of our proactive approach actually making it appear. It covers all angles, needs great preparation and planning and requires great alacrity. Like they say, when the bough is green, the songbird will appear.

In cricketing terms, being proactive is best described in fielding. Fielders can be reactive, active or proactive. Reactive fielders are those who react after the ball leaves the bat which makes them likely candidates to drop the catch because they are not prepared at all. Active fielders are those who are aware and can catch the ball if it comes straight at them- nothing more. Proactive fielders are the ones who anticipate catches in their field of control, including the farthest areas. These guys anticipate catches well before they become a reality and are so tuned to the minute changes in batsmen's mood and technique that when a catch comes anywhere in their range they are ready for it and give it a shot. By converting half-chances these fielders change the game. Proactive people do exactly that. They convert half chances into chances with their extra preparation. They are the winners.

This is the first habit. One of immense responsibility, one that takes into account all possibilities that can be covered and be prepared for every one of them.

2) Begin with the end in mind

Covey starts this chapter dramatically by taking us to our funeral three years from now. What are your family members saying, your friends, your co-workers, your community people about you? He says we have time to change our ways and change those speeches. Beginning with the end in mind is about having a clear destination so we can figure out the way. All things are created twice, once in the mind and once in reality. We are better off living by design than by default. Covey insists we write a personal mission statement which will serve as our guidebook, make our lives principle-centred and not work, money, family etc centred. With the right principles, everything will be taken care of in balance. He exhorts us to imagine and to affirm, to expand perspective rr as my friend AP Srinivas says - to hallucinate even about the big picture. Once you have a distinct vision look at your roles and goals and work on them.

To me this is incredibly insightful. Normally we start with what we have, let's say the resources we have in our pocket if we were to start a business. We would be severely impeding our vision when we start like that. It will be a stunted vision which may not do justice to our potential. The ideal way and this is what I learned while working in the bank, is to first envision the biggest scope of the dream and then look for the resources. Typically in life, we always find the resources when we want them if we look hard enough. All we need to do is to commit to a vision. So we start with the end vision of what we want to achieve as the first step. Then work backwards and you will find the resources you want. No one starts a huge project with all the money in his pocket, he sells the vision and people who believe in that vision invest in it.

In cricketing terms, this is the equivalent to starting with a long term goal, whether it is winning the world cup or being number 1 and working towards it. When the end is clear and everyone believes in it, they find the resources. India did in 1983, in 2011. We did when we won the league championship in 1994. The goal fuels energy into the present. that's why they say, dream big and hold on to it.

Covey gives an exercise where we write down all our roles and see how we are faring in it. It makes the road clear.

3) First Things First

Covey says that habit one says you're the creator and habit 2 says you begin with a mental creation. Now he says, this is time for execution. All effective management says - put first things first. as simple as that. It is one of the most powerful ideas ever to have been told and one that differentiates the wheat from the chaff, the successful from the not successful. In the Ivy Lee method, in the OKR method, in the big rocks experiment, it's always about the priorities. Most of us don't know our priorities and even if we do, we don't act on them because we are not able to see immediate results. Mostly our important things are long term and require daily incremental work.

Covey splits up time into Important and Urgent work. In his time management matrix, he gets four quadrants. In Q1, which is Urgent and Important, we are loaded with crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects which lead to burnout and stress. In quadrant 2, which is Important and Not Urgent, we are spending most of our time in prevention, production capability building activities, recognising opportunities, planning and recreation with less urgent work which show vision, perspective, balanced outlook and control over crises. In quadrant 3 we have Not Important but Urgent work, which is mainly filled with interruptions, some mails, some calls, some reports, some meetings and popular activities leading to short term focus, crisis, no goals and plans, a victim mindset and shallow relationships. In quadrant 4, we have Not Urgent and Not Important which is trivia, busy work, time-wasters and pleasant activities which leads to no work done. 

In an ideal world, we should be in quadrant 2 where we are doing Important and Not Urgent work. As simple as that. Pick up what's most important in your life and work on it first, then pick the second priority and work on it, and so on. Nothing else comes in the way unless there's some grave emergency - not a phone call, not an SMS. 

I understood it best when I sat down to write books. I would easily get distracted and write blogs or browse the net, Until one day I started working from 5 am to 8 am and realised I could get an amazing amount of work done. A walk after that and I was done with my two big jobs for the day - writing and exercise. By 930, I had the whole day out in front of me.

In cricketing terms also we address priorities. Mostly we find that at net practice we are doing everything but what's important like working on a specific area. Easily the most powerful idea for productivity. First things first is a 10x idea that can be applied anywhere. 

Covey also talks of building an emotional bank account which s interesting. He asks us to make six different types of deposits - understanding an individual, attending to little things, keeping commitments, clarifying expectations, showing personal integrity and apologising sincerely when we let people down. Doable.

Interpersonal -Leadership

4) Think Win-Win

With this habit, we move into the realm of interpersonal leadership. Of the 6 possibilities that arise out of negotiations  - win-win, win-lose, win, lose-lose, lose-win and win-win or no deal, Covey suggests we look at win-win or win-win or no deal. He emphasises that there are five dimensions to win-win - character, relationships, agreements, support systems and processes. He urges us o balance courage with consideration. 

A powerful idea where every collaborator gains. Instead of the old ideas where someone had to lose for us to win, here we are all saying we will all win. we will stand by one another and we will pull it off together. Win-win is a secure and abundant mindset, where everyone has enough, where we don't have to grab and hoard and take another's share. 

It is a brilliant idea and one that will open up your mind to the abundance of things in the world when we start to share.

5) First Seek to Understand then Talk

This is a brilliant one to make connection and win over people. Nothing works like empathic listening. Listen to their viewpoint first instead of listening to them from autobiographical responses such as Probing, Evaluating, Advising and Interpreting. Listen without judgment, with empathy and only after fully understanding, prescribe.  

This habit is all about empathy, about really communicating from a space of understanding. It means that first we set our agenda aside, then set our judgments aside, then genuinely listen to what the other person is trying to say by understanding, listening and asking questions until we fully get their perspective. Most times, the fact that they have been listened to, itself gives people a lot of comfort. They do not feel insecure, nor do you need to feel insecure. When we approach interactions from this angle, we start from a space where we have the best chance of helping one another.

In cricketing terms, I never felt this more acutely than when I was a selector. One of our colleagues was continuously creating some issues or another until one day I asked him to come with his ideas first. He was surprised at this space and came with the perfect team we could think of. I realised later that he always felt insecure because he had lesser academic qualifications and never felt heard. This time he felt heard and behaved rationally and not from a threatened space.

6) Synergise

Covey talks of creating synergistic communication by creating and safe environment and opening your heart. It appears that the cornerstone of synergy to happen is trust, valuing each others differences, being vulnerable. A bit like what Project Aristotle found out - that the best teams felt they were in a secure space where hey could make mistakes. 

Synergising is the simple principle of making two and two add up to five. This is about seeking out the efficiencies in the system, to leverage what we have to the utmost. It is something we must be proactively looking to doing every reaction, that the sum of the whole should always be greater than its parts. Every association and relation should aim for this ideal.

But then it is easier said than done. It certainly needs someone who knows he to create that space where everyone feels they can contribute. MSD was one such. One concept I found helpful in this area are the two questions by the Acces Conscious guys - 'what else is possible' and 'how can it get better than this'. What an amazingly simple concept to reach for better and never be satisfied. 

7) Sharpen the Saw

Covey talks of renewal, the time to sharpen the saw as improving our PC, our production capability. This includes four areas - Physical, Emotional, Spiritual and Mental. In physical renewal, we focus on exercise, nutrition and stress management. we work on endurance, speed, strength and flexibility. In emotional renewal, we build empathy, service orientation, synergy and internal security. In spiritual management, we work on value clarification, commitment, study, meditation. In mental renewal we work on reading, writing, visualising and planning. 

The idea is that a blunt axe won't cut efficiently so you need to work and renew your tools so they are best when you get to the real work. Whether it is about training during the offseason, or taking time off to renew and recharge on a daily basis or annual basis, or just going to training from someone who can change your life, reading or listening to talks or viewing videos, continuously sharpen the saw says Covey.

I never realised the importance of this until I jumped off the corporate bandwagon and decided to do work on my own. I then started reading, so much more and deliberately. Now I read 70-80 books a year and completely enjoy the process of queuing them up. Saw with movies, which I now choose with deliberation and rarely watch something that is out of the blue. I feel the books, movies, videos have all added to me and I love the different perspectives and angles each one comes from.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is as good as any to begin one's guiding principles and adopt these habits as second nature. It is perfect at many levels and creates an environment of high energy, of cooperation, of being secure as a person and in the world. Everyone should own a copy of it and read it every now and practice the values one by one.