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23 May 2012

What gets your goat?...

As per phrases.org.uk, the phrase 'Get your goat' means 'to make you annoyed or angry'.
Everyone have things that get their goat, actions of others that annoys you, or some bad habits that irritates you. 
You know what gets my goat? Inefficiency...
Incompetence, bad planning....
Let me give you an example.
Our organization was celebrating our company day. The days falls in the month of July. July is the monsoon month in India and we have incessant rains with thunder storms and strong, gusty winds. The function was planned in this weather.
Not only the function was planned in monsoon, it was also conducted in a large hall open on all sides except the top.
Just as our CEO started his speech, as expected,  the rain started pouring. Along with that, the wind started blowing real hard. So all the people sitting on the wind side of the hall started moving towards the drier side. The atmosphere was filled with the sound of chairs being pushed around, people scrambling to move out of the path of the wind, ladies drying their clothes....
What a mess..
All through, our CEO kept talking. Just when everyone had settled down, the power went off.
And there was no backup generator !!
And finally, to top it all, our dinner was planned in open air and they had no backup plans. It was a funny site to see the waiters in rain coats and hoodies frantically trying to serving soups and salads to a scrambling public.
Suffice to say that no one could get a 'whiskey on the rocks' that day !
We are a project implementation organization. We are supposed to manage projects, anticipate risks and take mitigation steps. 
And we couldn't even plan a simple 4 hour event in a rainy season when rain and thunder showers is not just a risk, it is a certainty. That is inefficiency.
That gets my goat.
I observed the same level of inefficiency today.
We had gone to attend a function, followed by lunch. There was no planning, no information as to where the lunch was going to be held, there was no one to oversee, we had to wait for almost two hours to complete the lunch and the service was pathetic.
Someone could have owned the whole process and ensured that things were smooth.
No one did. So I had to waste two hours of my time. 
That is inefficiency. That gets my goat.
What about you? What gets your goat?....

22 May 2012

Your Father is a hero...


Our batch in Engineering, batch of TEC 86, was the best batch of our times. Our batch excelled in Curricular, Extra Curricular, Co-curricular and sports activities with the same flair, elan and panache...
Each of us, in our small capacity made some differences, some contributions and efforts to make our batch what it was,the winners in any 'Inter Year Competitions'. Some of our batchmates  like Jiji,Tom Alex, Gopi, Santosh Mathew, Eipe, Habeeb, Ambika and many others made more contributions than others, but that do not lower the contributions of all of us. We created the 'eco system' of the batch around which all of us could grow and thrive.
To my mind, one person who excelled at what he did and equally helped in building a strong eco-system was Hanumant.
During our college days, Hanumant was the fulcrum around which most of us in the batch navigated. He was good at sports. He was a very talented badminton player, he was a member of the college Cricket team, and a member of the college table tennis team. In addition, he was a member of various arts initiatives and he was friendly with most of us in the batch. He was respected by the seniors, the batch mates and the juniors alike. 
This was not easy. 
During those days, our college was rife with political brinkmanship and skulduggery of huge proportions. One could not look at another college mate without labelling them as belonging to one party or another. Hanumant effortlessly navigated these rough and cloudy political seas with the ease of a trapeze artist. 

(Note to myself: this is a stupid, cliched sentence. Trapeze artists do not navigate the rough seas, a sailor does. I  should change the sentence)

Hanumant effortlessly navigated these rough and cloudy political seas with the ease of an expert sailor.
He was the Captain of the college badminton team, which also had the reigning mens national Champion George Thomas in its ranks. If my memory serves me right, under his captaincy, our college won the university title. 
He had his feet on different boats and he balanced the situation with felicity which was the envy of a lot of us.
Why am I saying all this?
I remembered this when I met Hanumant at Mysore this weekend. 
We had met over dinner, my family and his - wife Vaishali, daughter Manasa and son Krishna, during our quick, whirlwind visit to Mysore. We were talking about the new multiplex which Vaishali owns in Mysore.
"I never knew if Hanumant had cleared his Engineering", Vaishali was narrating about the problems faced while constructing the Multiplex. "of all the problems that I faced, installation of Electrical equipment was the most difficult. Hanumant helped me extensively during the installation that I realized how good his knowledge of electrical engineering was."
I looked quizzically at Hanumbant. Why did not his family know if he had cleared the engineering?
Immediately after the final exam, Hanumant joined his father in his textile business. Since he was clear that his career was in business, he never bothered to collect his degree certificate from the college. 
"So you always had doubts if he was an electrical engineer?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes", she replied half in jest. Vaishali has a cute way of smiling. 
"During the construction of our multiplex, I was flooded with opinions, views and advises on how to handle the electrical installation. This is the most challenging part of the construction of a public building since we need multiple clearances from various departments. All of them needed a lot of technical clarifications. I was becoming desperate. That is when Hanumant took charge. He negotiated with the vendors, went into details of each and every procurement and job, interfaced with the government authorities to get the clearances..." Vaishali was looking at Hanumant with that shy affection that most Indian woman display when talking about their husbands. 
"So it took the construction of this multiplex for you to understand the true potential and capability of Hanumant?" I was dumbstruck at the magnitude of the question.
"Yes, without it I would never have known how good an engineer he is", answered Vaishali thoughtfully.
"Let me get this clear. If it were not for this multiplex, you would not have known one of the most significant aspects of your husband, that is, his capability. Forget his knowledge of Engineering, but what he demonstrated in this multiplex episode is his flexibility in wading in to uncharted territory and successfully completing the tasks. In that episode he demonstrated a significant personal strength, and you are telling me that this was hidden to you all these 20 odd years that you have been together", as mentioned before,  I was amazed.
"Did you know that your father is a very good badminton player?", I turned to Krishna.
"I know that he plays badminton. I don't know how good he is", the child responded.
"During our college days, he was the captain of the college team. The team also included George Thomas, who was the all India Champion. While your father was very good, in one game, George gave your father 14 point handicap and beat him 16-14. Under your father, we won the university title" I told Krishna. 
The kid looked at his father with a new pride.
Friends, this is the question that I am asking you.
All of us were heroes, one way or other, during our growing years. While some like Hanumant excelled in different sports, most of us has demonstrated heroism during our child-adulthood. Even, small acts like throwing stone the farthest, climbing the tallest trees (and peeing from great heights on unsuspecting people walking below), or throwing stone, bringing down the mango, wiping it with green 'Communist Pacha' leaves, sitting under the tree and eating them...
All these are acts of heroism that our kids will be proud to know. 
The question is how many children know the capabilities of their fathers? (I am writing this from the father perspective, but this applies equally to mothers). How many family myths of our heroism we share with our children, our family? In traditional households, these tasks are done by the grandmothers, but in the modern nuclear family, the children are missing that important link that teach the children about their parents. 
In the absence of these family myths, the kids judge us by the 'standards of heroism' as it exists today. My father do not even have an email address, I heard one child say, how ancient is that? you know, my dad still use Windows XP, I try telling him to switch to Windows 7, but he doesn't listen to reason, says another kid.  Even now, my father do not know how to transfer files from one pc to another using bluetooth, says another boy. The other day, my father accidentally deleted a very important file and he was going crazy. I pointed out to him that the deleted files are in the 'recycle bin', what kind of ignorant person are you if you do not know about the 'Recycle Bin'?..
The fathers of today struggle to meet the new standards of todays kids and all of us fail, some miserably. 
How do we resolve this? Does it take a crisis (as in case of Vaishali and multiplex) for our family to know our potential?
I remembered the book 'To kill a Mockingbird' that I read some time back. The leading character is Jem, the daughter of Atticus Finch, who is a widower. Every time Jem goes to school, her friends talks about the heroic acts of their parents. Jem grows up believing that her father is an incompetent lawyer. One day, the village was attacked by a rabid dog. While everyone was sitting inside, it was Atticus Finch, who bravely ventured out, took his gun and shot down the dog. That was when Jem knew that in his young adulthood days, her father was the best shot in all of the state. 
Do we need our own 'rabid dog to kill' for our kids to know that we are all heroes in our own way?
Do the children need to know? Is it relevant for them to know what we did in childhood or adulthood? 
Just think about it. In case you think it is relevant, do not wait for your own 'Rabid Dog' moment to demonstrate your heroism. 

21 May 2012

Cheetah Lessons...

Mysore Zoo has a Cheetah. I saw it during my visit to the zoo yesterday.
There it was, sitting silently in its  10 meter by 10 meter cage. Looking at the Cheetah, sitting silently, with all these stupid people watching it, I just wondered if the Cheetah knew its strengths.
Did it know that it is the fastest land animal in the world?
Does it know that its siblings in African Jungles are lording over the jungle?
Does it know that most of the other animals are scared of it? 
Does it know what it is capable?
Seeing that Cheetah, sitting in a small cage, I felt utterly, desperately melancholic....
How could man capture a royal animal that should belong to the African Jungles, bring it and put it up in a tiny cage and allow all these morons to ogle at it from a safety of the banisters? That animal is meant to be living in jungles, hunting and preying on animals and run faster than any other land animal.
Instead, what is it doing in a small cage in some zoo in South India?
Suddenly I realized that what is happening to that Cheetah is happening to most of us.
Very often we build cages around us. The cages could be simple as our mental blocks or more complex as the expectations of people around us. The cages may be the misjudged comments made by people whom we trust, or they may be lack of trust in our abilities demonstrated by a significant person in our lives. The cage may be our fear of failure, it may be our fear of success, or it may be our lack of self-belief.
Whatever may the self-created cage be, many of us are like that Cheetah. Possessing tremendous potential, but allow us to be caged by external factors, over which, we feel we do not have any control to change. 
Unlike that Cheetah, we can take action to come out of the cage and unleash our potential. We have the power to break those cages and have faith in our abilities. 
The problem for many of us is that we do not even know our potential.  We simply sit in our cages and wallow in self pity for our incompetence, while the truth is that we are highly capable to achieve anything we set out to do. 
So, go get out and take action. Take some steps to ensure that you unleash your full potential...
Go ahead and.... 
....write the book that you have been planning all along..
....Design the database that you have been postponing.
....Repair the kitchen drawer like you always wanted to
....Do something, anything.
Don't be like that Cheetah. Don't sit idle and hope for things to happen. Take some steps now.
Here is a scary thought.
What if that Cheetah never gets any opportunity to realize its strengths? What if that animal is condemned to spend the whole life in that 10*10 cage never realizing what could have been. 
What if we never realize our capability and go thru the motions day after day, month after month, year after year. What if we never realize that if we had wanted, we could have changed the world....
That is scary.

20 May 2012

Personal Success Pointers..

Today, while driving from Mysore to Bangalore, I was telling my son the two key pointers, two key catalysts to personal success.
"The first success factor is to have a personal goals, or multiple time-bound personal goals. You would be surprised to know how many people out there are leading their lives without any goals whatsoever. They spend  their lives in packets of time, in blocks of time.  Day after day, month after month, year after year, they will get up in the morning, go thru the motions, reach office, do the same work for 8 hours, come back home tired, freshen up, eat and sleep. This routines repeats over multiple time packets. 
More than 99.99% of the people in this world, live their lifes in this manner. However, some day in the future, they are bound to wake up and ask themselves the question, what have I been doing with my life? What have I achieved in my life? Are my achievements commensurate with the time that I spend so far? Do I have a goal to achieve in life that keeps me going day after day? What is the legacy that I am going to leave?
In most cases, by the time one ask these questions of oneself, it will be too late to make any changes.
Why did this situation develop? The reason is simple, these people do not have an overarching personal goal. The goal should be big, it should be exciting and it should be elevating. To design such a goal, you need to spend a lot of personal time. However, in their hurly-burly, day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck lives, they forget or overlook spending quality time for themselves. The result is ultimate frustration and sub-optimal performance.
So the success factor number one: Have a clear, documented, time-bound personal goals. They should be SMART - Specific / Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound - goals. Ideally you should have three goals, Short term, Medium term and Long term. Short term should span a time frame of less than a year, medium term should span from one year to three years and long-term should be goals over 5 years or less."
My son was all attentive..
Enthused, I continued. "The second success factor is also one which almost 99.99% do not practice. Most of the people are adept at catching people doing something wrong. That is a part of our evolution where we are equipped to find things going wrong. However, to be successful, you have to turn the tables around. You have to catch people doing things right. All of us do both right and wrong actions on a daily basis. The talent to be developed is to 'Catch people doing things right'. That is where you gain long-term gratitude of people. Unlike 'Catching people doing wrong' which is easy, since evolution has programmed us to do that, 'Catching people doing right' needs lot of practice. However, once you catch people doing right, you suddenly find that what you thought wrong was not wrong afterall, or its negative impact is not as significant as you thought it was. 
So, to achieve great personal success,  focus on two basic actions.
1. Have a clear goal (s)
2. Catch people doing right and ignore when people do wrong.
Hope my son is convinced...


18 May 2012

Promote Yourself..

In general, we Indians do not know how to promote ourselves. We rarely focus on the positive. Throughout our childhood we have been told not to gloat over your successes and hence we do not find it necessary to publish our successes, to promote ourselves.  We know very clearly each and everyone of our weaknesses, but we hardly are aware of our strengths.
Take this incident for example....
I was discussing with my friend Asok about a common friend...
"There are a lot of positives about XXX. But he always talks negative. For him nothing is good, nothing is working..Everything is bad, damaged and we-dont-know-where-it-will-end-up negative. He always talks about his problems."
Ashok is a worldly wise kind of guy having been and entrepreneur for a few years before joining workforce again. He has an armory of stories, anecdotes and opinions for any occasion. My comment was too controversial for Ashok to let go easily.
As is his wont, Ashok started elaborately. He took a deep breath and started to unleash himself.
"The reason why XXX is focused on the negatives is because he is a techie. I have interacted with a number of techies. Let us say, you ask a techie to give you an overview of his work. He will always start off like "Well, I am now working on the new interface. We have identified about 3 bugs. We are working on it. We also have completed the testing, but we are not sure if the test cases that the customer provided covers all the exception scenario. Well, there are a few bugs in the interface, but we are working on it.". Said Ashok.
"If you dig deeper you will find that this was an extremely complex interface with huge number of customization. In addition, you will see that there are only three bugs and that we are well within the six sigma as far as bugs are concerned. . But that is not the impression that your techie guy gave you. He made you feel as if nothing is working, when only a few processes are not working. That is your techie guy. All negative." Ashok continued.
"What about others? Who are always positive and gung ho?" I queried.
"Ahh, that is a good question" responded Ashok "Just try and ask a sales person to give you the overview of his work. He will always start off with successes and always underplay his losses. He will say something like, 'I had a chat with CIO of XYZ corporation. He has told me that he is going to sign the 50 Million deal in our favour latest by the end of the month. In addition, I am closely following another 100 Million opportunities and at least one of two of them should click by next two weeks. Also, I was just in call with the head of the business at ABC Corp and the have fixed up a meeting next week. Currently ABC is engaged with our competitor. But I know that ABC is not happy with them. It is only a matter of time before we push the competitor out of this engagement. This is a 50 Million sureshot opportunity.  Unfortunately, we lost LMN to our competitor. He was able to quote a lower price by squeezing his margins. However, our company policy do not allow me to give competitive margins to the customer." 
"As you can see all the good news are 'Opportunities just about to click', and the only fact was that the sales person lost a customer to the competitor. But look at the difference in approach between him and the techie. Techie focuses on facts, on problems and issues with minimal focus on good news, while the sales person is focusing on 'Opprotunities' while downplaying 'Negative Facts'. Ashok continued. 
"This, Rama, is the difference between a sales person and a techie", said Ashok, "Talking of our friend, XXX, he is a techie and so he is only focusing on the negatives. He has to focus more on the positives and less on the negatives. He has to behave like a Sales Person and not a techie."
The points made by Ashok made me think about the comments made by the CIO of the company where I was doing a project. He had called a meeting of the team and asked the project managers (consultant and customer project managers) to give an overview of the project.
"Well, the project is going ok. We still have problems. We have 47 open issues, out of which we have 23 bugs, 10 are under analysis...The users are still working on some challenges...." The project managers started off like a 'Negative' train or something.
CIO Cut them short. "Over the last few meetings I have been observing that in every meeting, you only focus on the negatives. I know that your team has done a tremendous work.Why don't you focus on the positives for a change? Why don't you start off the meetings by highlighting the positives before you move on to problems. Of course, we want to hear the negatives. But your team needs to hear positive stuff from you", the CIO ended his monolog.

That is it my dear friends. That is the lesson. If you can't promote yourself, who will do it for you? If you do not focus on the positive, if you do not promote yourself, is there any point in blaming others for not recognizing the excellent work that you are doing? Think about it..

17 May 2012

The appreciation deficit...

The question is: Why are people very quick to accuse others while they are either slow or totally ignore appreciating the contributions of others?

I have put in my papers from my current organization. The other day I went to inform Raghu, my team mate from the previous project, that I am quitting.
Raghu and I had had a disturbing relationship during the project. I was the project manager and he was the lead consultant in the project. Initially he had an attitude problem and I, being the project manager, was forced to handle the same aggressively. As a PM, I believe that, there are two reasons why people do not contribute in a project. One is the attitude problem, the consultant feels arrogant and do not take active steps in the progress of the project. The other is the knowledge problem. This is easy to handle. You have to provide training and monitor the consultant closely.
Raghu had attitude problem.
I escalated the issue within the organization and had Raghu removed from the project. 
Sometime later I had a crisis in the project and the only resource available was Raghu. Reluctantly, I had him back in the project for Raghu-Phase 2. 
Raghu in the new phase was a revelation. His attitude had totally reversed. He suddenly became a significant contributor in the project. Raghu always had knowledge. When his knowledge was coupled with a positive, helpful attitude, the turnaround was remarkable. Raghu could easily resolve any issue given to him. In case he needed help, he was quick to take ownership and ask for support. 
Team was quick to recognize the turnaround. Raghu was very helpful and supportive and in turn the team also started depending on him. Raghu did not complain.
I sent frequent mails to Raghu and his manager about the positive turnaround. All of us were happy. 
The project was also highly successful.
As told above, I went to inform Raghu about my decision to leave the organization.
"Ram, I wanted to tell you all along, you are the best PM that I have worked with. The initial interaction with you opened my eyes. If it were not for you giving me the second chance, I would not have got so much value addition and also would not have got an opportunity to be a part of a successful project. Of course, I resented it when you put pressure on us. But now, in retrospect, I see that the pressure you put was very effective." Raghu was effusive in his praise
"I spoke to Joseph about you. He told me that when it comes to knowledge of customer and their business, you are the best there is. After working with you in this project, I also share the same opinion. You are a remarkable project leader and a human being. The best thing about you is that you are there on the ground with us in helping us out of any trouble that we might face. There are hardly any PMs who have the knowledge and have the attitude to support the consultants", Raghu continued.
Joseph was another consultant who had worked with me in another project. There too I had applied a lot of pressure on Joseph to deliver quality and he came out with flying colours in that project. During the two years that I was with him, Joseph never mentioned about his positive views about me.
That is the issue here. Why don't people appreciate more and appreciate more promptly? Most of the people are quick to come out with criticisms, but only few know how to provide timely appreciation. I was very happy to get this appreciation from Raghu. But I doubt if he would have told me this if I had not been resigning.
And I am yet to get any appreciation from Joseph.

Message: Appreciate more and appreciate more frequently. Don't wait for others to resign before you appreciate their contribution. 

Resolution Experience....

What is the definition of quality? 
According to Robert Pirsig, 'Quality is Mental Satisfaction'. Once you get some work done and you are extremely happy with it, then you can say that you received the highest quality. In case you have any 'post purchase dissonance', if you have the nagging doubt at the back of your mind that 'something is not correct', they you have not got quality.
I was thinking of Quality during my recent interaction with Rozana.
In the organization where I work, there is a centralized payable team that handles all the employee expense reports. Once the employee / consultant incur expenses on a company project, they can claim expenses through and Expense Portal. The Expense report that you enter goes for approval and once it is approved it gets paid by the payable team led by Rozana.
We have a severe time limitation. The consultant has to get the expense report paid off in a span of one month from the expense date. Since he incurs expense on a daily basis, the consultant accumulates about 15 - 20 days of expenses into one report and submits the same for approval. This will give him about 10 days of window where he can follow up to ensure that the expenses are paid off to the credit card company.
As you can see the time window is very tight for completing the expense processes.
While entering the last expense report, I encountered problem. The system was not opening to allow me to enter expenses.
I was stuck and was becoming frantic. I raised a service request with the technical team. That Service Request travelled all over the place for about 14 days before reaching Rozana's team. 
One analyst from the team called up. She wanted to see the issue. I demonstrated the same to her. At the end of it all, she seemed confused regarding the cause of the problem. She told me that she will raise another SR and there will be a delay in resolution to this issue.
I flipped out.
"I am going to escalate this issue", I told her.
"Ram, please talk to Rozana before you escalate. She is our team lead", the analyst told me.
Rozana being the team lead, I was hesitant to call her. However, since my escalation is related to Rozana's area, I thought I will inform her before I escalate. It is only fair that she should understand the situation before it gets escalated.
Rozana was brisk as she came over the phone. She asked a few questions like when was the last time I raised an ER? What changed between the time that I raised the last SR and now? 
Other than informing her that nothing has changed in the last 15 days since I entered the first and successful Expense report, I couldn't help her much. .
"See Ram," Rozana spoke patiently, "That you were able to raise an SR about 15 days ago means that there is nothing related to the application. Your problem is related to local machine. If you are using IE, delete the cookies and temp files and try again."
Cookies is a problem normally affecting Internet Explorer. Quickly I tried the Expense Application using Google Chrome. Normally Chrome is not affected by cookies.
And it worked. The problem that was bugging me for the last 14 days, was suddenly resolved. And I was very happy. 
That is quality. Rozana was able to ask a few pertinent questions, identify the correct issue and suggest resolution all in a span of 15 minutes.
"Cost of tightening the nut: One Dollar"
"Cost of identifying which nut to tighten: 99 dollars"
By asking a few pertinent questions, Rozana was quickly able to identify the correct nut to tighten. And that completely resolved the issue. 
That is quality my friends. Identifying the key issue and providing the correct resolution. 
I liked it. 
Rozana, you are great !!!

Powerful Tips....

Once in a while you come across powerful tips related to personal challenges....Here are a few of them.

Tip 1: Leave the last morsel on the plate: A weight reduction tip that I found very useful is to 'Leave the last morsel on the plate'. The logic is that when you see an empty plate, you want to refill it, but if you have some food on the plate, you won't go for refill.
This is a very powerful approach. It is very difficult to leave the last morsel on the plate. It is heart-wrenching to see the last morsel on the plate and decide that you are not going to eat it. 
And it is these kind of sacrifices that help you lower your weight !!!
Tip 2: Complete one task in the morning before checking your mails. Another problem that we face is 'How do we get things done in the day'? You have a set of items planned in the 'to do' list. In the evening, you find that you still have most of those items as 'to do' at the end of the day. How do you ensure that you start well in the day?
The tip is to complete at least one activity at the start of the day before you check the mails. Always check the mails only 'AFTER' you finish the first task in your 'to do' list.
I tried it and found that it provides excellent results. Only caveat? you should have planned your tasks for the day. With out a plan for the day, you will not get anything done.
Tip 3: Alternate goal approach to goal setting. Another tip is related to goal setting. Many a times, we find that it is difficult to achieve the goal that we set for ourselves. The tip is to set an 'Alternate / pleasurable / enjoyable' goal, the achievement of which will directly lead to achievement of your primary goal.
Take the example of weight reduction for example. Assume that your goal is to reduce your weight by 5 Kgs. (Trust me, very difficult). In your goal oriented world, you will focus on dieting, on eating more fruits and vegetables, walk every day as activities to achieve your goal.
Suppose you have an alternate goal of participating in the 50 Kilometer Cyclothon taking place in your city. So you strive to meet this goal by regularly cycling more than 50 Km and focus on achieving your daily target of cycling kilometers. Since this goal is time bound and achievable (and pleasurable?), you will focus on this goal and in all probability achieve this goal. Through achievement of your alternate goal, your primary goal of weight reduction will be automatically achieved.
And you would have eaten tasty food too...
Once I tried this alternate goal approach. Instead of focusing on the weight reduction as a goal, I focused on consuming about 400 KCals per day on the treadmill. I named  this goal as '10000 in 25' (10000 KCals to be consumed in 25 days). Since this was a clear and measurable goal, I was able to track the daily progress on an MS Access database that I created.(So I learned MS Access in the bargain !!). Once you have a goal to measure and track, it is very easy to achieve the goal. 
I easily achieved the goal with about 3 days to spare. In the bargain, I lost weight and my belts and pant became looser. 
In the process, I became more confident about my ability to set goals and achieve the same.
Tip 4: Plan for 'Exceptional Things'. In his book '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', Stephen Covey talks about things which are urgent and things which are important but not urgent. Most of our 'Tasks to do' programs focus only on the 'Urgent' tasks to be done. Focus on 'Exceptional Things' help us to prioritize our 'Important' tasks over 'Urgent' tasks. At the beginning of each week, plan for the 'Exceptional' things that you want to do during the week. This can be as simple as updating your CV to as complex as completing the first chapter of the book that you always wanted to write. The only criteria is that the task should not be mundane like 'I will have a hair cut today' or 'I will send a mail to my friend' or even 'Buy the ticket to Mumbai'. The task should be 'Exceptional' for you.
The theory is that the moment you start thinking of 'Exceptional' things, the brain wakes out of the inertia of thinking mundane and starts focusing on the things which are truly important for you. Try this for a day. You will come to know the tasks that are important for you.
Tip 5: Take decisions. This is a lot tougher than it sounds. While it is very easy to think about alternatives, it is not easy to take decisions.
For example all of us have known about people who do not like their current state of life but are not able to move on. They will keep on talking about 'how bad the situation is' but will not take any decisions. They could evaluate the options and 'decide' to stay put. Once they do that, staying in the current situation becomes 'their decision'. You can see that, while the situation has not changed (they are still in the same position as before), the perception of control has been internalized. And that is a big change.
By helping you to internalize the control, decision making help you a long way in self development.

15 May 2012

Be My Guest Blogger...

I invite you to publish guest posts on my blog.

What: is a guest post?

Guest post is a blog post that you create as guest in a blog maintained by others. You can publish guest posts in the blogs that provide that facility, like this blog.

Why should I publish guest posts? What the benefits that I can get?
  • You will have a wider audience
  • Your posts will be back-linked to your blog: Hence more blog traffic to your blog
  • Opportunity to express your views to the world
How will I create a guest post? What is the process?

In order for your posts to appear in my blog, send the following details to my email id: ramaswamy.vk@gmail.com
  • Your post
  • Your website / blog URL
  • Your email address
  • A brief profile about you. This should be personal and not formal.
What are the Conditions for posting to my blog?

  • Brevity: The blogs should be brief and to the point. Maximum length per post is 500 Words
  • Relevance: My blog is dedicated to positive self-driven growth through Innovative approaches. Your post should be relevant to this theme. The post can be related to life challenges faced and overcome, the positivity journey, Reviews of Books on Positive self-development, use of humour as a tool to overcome challenges or any other topic related to positive growth. 
  • No links: The story should be your own in your words. No links to outside posts are allowed.
  • Originality: The post should be original and not copied from other sources.

And finally caveats..
  • No payments will be made to guest posts on my blog
  • Decision as to if and when your post is published in my blog is entirely at my discretion.
  • Your posts may be edited to suite the requirements of the blog.

13 May 2012

Book Review:"The Habit of Winning", Author: Prakash Iyer

For all of you who felt that there was no Self-Development book with Indian Perspective, here comes 'The Habit of Winning' written by Prakash Iyer.

Mr.Iyer is the Managing Director of Kimberly Clark Lever India and is based out of Pune. This book evolved out of the articles that he wrote (and continue to write) in the Motivational Column in Careers 360

Habit of Winning is the first book written by Mr.Iyer. The book is based on all the lessons that Mr.Iyer was imparting over a period of time through his column.

This is a very good, easy to read book, filled with examples and very relevant and topical anecdotes. All the key points are illustrated with stories that add a punch to the points being illustrated. While there are anecdotes from various countries it is the stories from India that brings out the 'Aha' moment to an Indian reader. The anecdote of ' Breaking the Dahi Handi' beautifully illustrates the concept of team work like no other illustration would.

Being an avid cricket enthusiast, Mr.Iyer brings out the stories from the cricket field to illustrate some of his points. Irfan Pathan's example illustrates how one could handle pressure (when he bowled a tight final over and took 2 wickets helping India score a rare series win against Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (when he was hit on the nose by a bouncer from Waqar Yunis and still batted on to save a test match against Pakistan!)and Anil Kumble's (when he bowled 14 overs against the West Indies with a fractured jaw!) examples on the other hand illustrate the value of perseverance and then the remarkable story of Navjot Siddhu to llustrate personal transformation. From being one of the slowest scorers in Indian cricket, Siddhu went on to become one of the leading one-day batsman for the Indian team, that is personal transformation for you!.

Mr.Iyer talks about a boxer to explain how to get over personal setbacks. Once a boxer is hit and is lying on the floor, he has just 10 seconds to bounce back and continue the fight. Most often the great boxers win their matches by quickly bouncing back from the fall. Mr.Iyer points out that most often we as individuals deliberate over our failures too much and forget to bounce back quickly to fight another fight...

The book is well structured with eleven logical groups. Starting with the importance of goal setting, the book takes us through various personal characteristics including Self-belief, Perseverance, the mindset of a winner and the importance of Giving. The next group focus on the Winning bias, a set of action items that define a winner. From there we seamlessly move on to the importance of teams and the next group explains how we can find our balance in life. The book ends by calling us to act upon our lessons that we learned in life and in the book. 

In the beginning of his career, the author worked with Pepsico in India. It is no wonder that he brings up experiences from his Pepsico years to illustrate some of the points. The reader gets a brief peek at the legendary competition between Pepsico and Coke !!.

The author mentions that he also reads a lot of western motivational literature and some of the points are influenced by such greats as Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar.

Any book that seek to influence and motivate you should have the following characteristics. It should have a structure, it should not be preaching, it should partner with you in your growth journey, the points should be intuitive (Why did I not think of it that way? like I felt when I read the story of Boxer and his 10 Seconds) and illustrations and anecdotes should be relevant and significant.

As far as these characteristics go, this book eminently fits the bill.

In my opinion, this book is very relevant to the current state of the country. India has moved on to a growth trajectory and in the coming years, the country will need leaders who can see the big picture (the so called 30000 feet view) as well as appreciate the detailed picture. India has, in its 5000 year history, generated a significant set of motivational and leadership literature. However, almost all of them are either in the form of Metaphors (like Mahabharata) or downright philosophical (like the Upanishads). To meet our leadership needs, we need motivational and leadership literature that simplifies, illustrates and elaborates the traditional lessons with modern, contemporary examples. That is where books like 'The Habit of Winning' play a significant role.  

Go ahead and read it....It is worth your time. You will be a better person once you complete the book...

You have to state it to get it...

I had just landed in Bangalore at midnight from one of my tiring overseas trips, desperately wanting to reach home and get to the bed. 
The cab driver turned out to be chatty. "Which country did you visit, sir?" he asked.
"Egypt", replied I
"It should be fun travelling to all those countries, isn't it?" he asked.
I concurred.
"I wish I will be able to travel in an aircraft one day" he said
"What you have done now is to express your wish to the universe. Now that you have expressed it, the universe will ensure that your wish is fulfilled", I told him. 
"I don't know how I will achieve this wish. Air travel will require a lot of money. I don't get that kind of money driving this taxi", he told me.
"The world is filled with people who do not express what they want. They assume that they will not get what they want and hence do not express their wishes. There are only few people in the world who express what they want. Just now, you have become one of them. You have now placed your order with the universe. Now it is the responsibility of the universe to make your wish come true", I told him.
"You make me feel optimistic, sir. I hope I will travel by air one day. If I travel, I will remember you. Now that I think of it, you are correct. Most of my friends want a lot but they do not express it for the fear that they will not get it.", the driver responded thoughtfully.
"The reverse is also true. Sometimes people do not express what they want for the fear that they will get it", I pointed out.
"I don't understand this sir, why should people fear that they will get what they want?" queried the cabbie
"Let us take an example. Suppose you want 3 Crore rupees. The moment you think of it, you are worried that if you get it, you will have to deal with a lot of people, relatives, criminals, tax people...In your mind you are not comfortable or are so scared of getting what you want that you do not express your wants to the universe", I told him.
"You are probably right sir", responded the Cabbie dubiously. He could understand someone not expressing what they want because they feel that they will not get it, but he couldn't understand someone not expressing what they want because they are scared that they will get it. 
*********************************************************************************
I was telling this incident to my friend Abhinandan. Then he told me the story of his friend.
Abhi and his friend were classmates in Engineering college. Toward the end of their college days all the students were busy preparing their CVs and circulating them to all the companies that came to the Campus.
His friend also prepared his CV. However on top of the CV he wrote this statement. "Please consider this CV only for US opportunities."
All the students felt that it was a stupid move. They felt that as such it is difficult for a student to get any job and their friend was spoiling his chances by restricting the companies that may be interested in his CV.
They told the friend to modify the CV and make it generic. But the friend stuck to his CV. He was very clear that he wanted only a US job opportunity. He was not interested in any other opportunity.
The rest is predictable. SAP recruited him, trained him on some module and posted him in the US. He was the first student from their college to go to US.
Of course, many other students of his batch also ultimately reached US, but after navigating a lot thru different companies in India. 
Friends, this is the power of expressed, stated wishes. To get something you have to follow two steps. 
Step One, want it passionately
Step Two, verbalize your want to the Universe
Let the universe work out how to get you what you want. It is the expert at getting people what they want.

Tambram Egalitarianism

Recently I attended a function at my cousin's house. 
My cousin runs an Investment Advisory Organization in Bangalore (PeakAlpha:). He is my 'Chithappa's' (Father's younger brother) son and is like a younger brother to me. His sister Shoba is a jounalist and writer, Shoba's husband (we call him Ramani, actual name is Narayan Ramachandran) was the Head - Emerging Markets for Morgan Stanley India, and now works independently. Ramani's father, Mr.Ramachandran IAS was the Ex-Chief Secretary of Kerala State and mother Padma Ramachandran IAS was the Ex-Chief Secretary of Gujarat. 
Ramani's sister is a leading doctor in US.
Why am I saying all this?
We, the invitees to the function sat for lunch and were being served food by all these luminaries. I should say that if a person serving was less in stature than the CEO of an organization, he was frowned upon.
This is egalitarianism at its best. There is no status differential on a lunch table of Tambrams. A clerk can sit with a nephrologist and they will talk about price of land in Kaladi, their native land. Only in Tambram function will an Ex-Chief Sec, will stand shoulder to shoulder with a CEO and a Cardiologist to serve food to the invitees. 
All these leading people serving food to us made me, with and Engineering Degree and multiple MBAs, feel like an inmate of an Orphanage being fed by Irfan Pathan taking a break from hard fought IPL match.
A Tambram lunch is the ultimate egalitarian system there is. Nothing can beat it.... 

12 May 2012

About people in USA

Over the last 10 days or so, I have been interacting with the US folks (See how I am talking about 'folks' ?)
I have been impressed by the kind of energy that I see everywhere. The people with whom I have interacted with are all professional, matter of fact, talking loudly, clearly, courteously and to the point..
I mentioned this to my friend Ebby. He has been in US from 1996. He maintained a different opinion.
'When I came in '96' (Said Ebby) 'I also shared the same opinion. I thoughts that the american people and different and smarter. But over the years, my views have changed. Of course, there are smart people in US. But there are smart people everywhere. It is not that people in US is exceptional in any way. One this has to be granted. The people in US are more process and systems oriented than people in India. We are always 'managing'. We know that at the end things will work out.', boy, didn't Ebby have his opinions.
'There has to be something about US', I pointed out, 'for it to come out with many path breaking innovations over the years?'
"The most important characteristic of US is the right to free speech, the right to voice the opinions. This is guaranteed by the constitution, (the first amendment) and is jealously and vigorously protected. This ensures that different opinions have a chance of being aired and heard and incorporated in the decision making process. This strengthens and improves the decision making process and ultimately leads to better quality decisions." Ebby Said.
"This is not possible in India", I pointed out, "Even if you do not like someone's opinion, the social conventions mandate that you have to express the opinion carefully and without offending the people concerned. In addition there are all those 'affected parties' that can harm you, as demonstrated by what had happened to MF Hussain".
"That is not the problem with free speech. It is more of a problem of Governance deficit" Ebby pointed out. I had to agree.
"I have observed one thing. Most of the Indians who come to US do well. There is something in the Indian DNA that makes us genetically peripatetic. We travel all over the world, settle down anywhere. We literally follow the Hindu principle of 'Vasudeva Kudumbakam' (Universe is one family)" Ebby Said.
"Probably we find it easy in the US. After navigating through the daily struggles in India, we find it easy in the 'process centric' culture in US. For example, once I know the traffic rules, it is easy to drive in US. It is not like that in India", I pointed out.
Ebby was tired of this discussion. "May be", he said.
And that was that....End of a scintillating discussion.

A Magician's Melancholy...

This is a story I love a lot. I wrote it a long time back. I don't know why it was lying in my draft folder for so long....

“Life is an illusion,” said my friend Shiva.
If the above statement were to come from you, my dear reader, or me, one would perhaps raise one’s eyebrows. Sympathetic persons would perhaps rush to our aid with tissue papers and what not. But that is not the case with Shiva. Coming from him this was a normal statement. 
For, you see, Shiva is a magician. 
More than that, he is a magician of repute. In the circles of occult where he dwells, his name is mentioned with awe and reverence. His fans call him ‘Shiva the shiverer’ because his trick of cutting a lady into four pieces sends shivers down the spines of the audience. He has received the prestigious ‘Prestidigitator of the year” award from the “Prestidigitator’s guild of eastern India” (Even their letterhead is in magic ink) twice. Both the times the president of the guild had called Shiva to the stage, waved his hands, plucked a trophy from thick air and handed it over to Shiva. 
When a person of his stature calls life an illusion- who can argue? Who will dare counter it? I mean he is eminently qualified to make that statement.
“Life is not fair,” declared Shiva again.
When a statement like this comes from a man who can get anything he wants just by waving his hands, one has to take note. Moreover when one considers that it was only one year back that Shiva had got married and was happy. Was that an illusion?.. one wonders, one raises one’s eyebrows. And finally when one sees that Shiva was making such depressing statements hardly one week after becoming the father of a beautiful baby girl, one has to positively take cognizance.
“What caused your melancholy, Shiva? ” I inquired.
Shiva absent-mindedly waved his hand, caught a stone and threw it at a passing dog.
“What would you say when I ask you whether magic is an art or science?” he countered with a question.
“Of course, it is a science.” I replied with some feeling, for this was an issue on which I had put in a lot of thought.
Shiva didn’t reply. His attention was focused on a distant skyscraper. At length, having got tired of looking at it, he made it vanish and turned to me.
“So you think magic is a science, don’t you?” he queried.I nodded my head in asseveration.
“That is what I used to think,” he replied with painful sadness.
“You no longer feel that?” I asked.
“No, I think magic is not a science. It is an art. And I am not cut out to be a magician. I am not an artist,” he replied with bitterness.
“Oh, come on, you are a very good magician. And you know that.” I hastened to encourage him.
“Let me tell you why I feel that I am a failure,” said Shiva.
“It was one of those days, which makes people say that our city has only three types of weather – hot, hotter and hottest. I was waiting for the bus to take me home. The whole world seemed to be indoors but for me standing at the bus stop. I was looking here and there, thinking this and that and I did not see her coming. All I can say is that one moment she was not there and the next moment there she was. She looked like one of those ethereal beauties that get cut into five pieces in the latest David Copper field show.” 
"It was love at first sight for me. It was so silly. I didn’t even know her name or whether she was an assistant to any of my professional competitors." Shiva continued.
"Being a magician has many a drawback (and I can enumerate them if time permits) but it has its advantages when it comes to getting acquainted with pretty ladies. It was with me…the wave of a hand to create a dark cloud."
“I think it is going to rain,” I told her.
She was startled for a moment but pulled herself back.“I don’t think so,” she was skeptical.
Unobtrusively I made the cloud darker.
“Yes, I think it is going to rain. But it is so surprising. It was very hot and sunny a moment ago. It almost looks like magic,” She said.
"Friend, let me tell you something (said Shiva). As an opening gambit, nothing can beat the weather. We talked about the weather in our city and much more. She was from the neighboring city and had come here for an interview. She was well educated and her hobbies were reading and cooking.Surprisingly she knew a lot about magic. She had heard about Houdini and was a fan of Sorcar. As far as her knowledge in magic goes, she said that she knew a lot of card tricks. She even told me a few. They were elementary tricks, which I used to perform as a kid. But I pretended to be surprised by them anyway."
"Soon we started meeting each other regularly. It was just a matter of time before we fell in love with each other. Like I said earlier, magic has its uses, especially during courtship. There was never a meeting where I did not give her any presents or gifts. Sometimes they were things that I purchased from shops. But even when I forgot to buy a present, I could always pluck something from the air and give it to her."
"Many a diamond brooches, apples, barbie dolls and books did I give her thus." Shiva smiled at the thought.
"During our courtship I told her that I was a magician. I informed her that my ambition as a magician is to perform the ‘ultimate magic trick’. You know what it is? It is the ability to create a beautiful lady out of thin air. As far as I know only David Copper field has performed it. He created a lady and named her Michelle Pfiffer. And later married her."
"I wanted to become the second magician to perform the ‘ultimate trick’." Shiva continued.
"We got married around eleven months back." Shiva informed me.
"Married life is heavenly, my friend. It is my conviction that everybody should get married. My wife turned out to be a good listener and was always ready to help me out with my work. You know that I am called ‘Shiva the shiverer’ because of my ability to cut a lady into four pieces. What you don’t know is that I had extensively practiced this trick on my wife. Once I had accidentally cut her into six pieces instead of four. Royal mess it was. It took some effort to restore her to normal.”
Shiva took a pigeon from his pocket and let it go.
“What I did not know then was that she was learning magic all the time. I don’t know where she got the time for it, but she was practicing it unknown to me. I learnt this by accident. Last week, last Monday to be precise, when I reached home after a hectic day, the servant maid opened the door. She informed me that my wife was in the bedroom. When I went there I saw her lying on the bed with a beautiful girl lying beside her. I asked her where she got the girl from? She informed me (with a mischievous smile) that she had created her from thin air with a wave of her hand." Shiva said with a perplexed look.
"Can you believe it? Here I was, trying for over three years to learn this trick and she had picked up the skills in just six months. Now you know when I say that magic is an art. I have found that I am not a good artist. My wife is."
“I am only an ordinary magician,” concluded Shiva bringing the skyscraper back to view.

Shooting of Gabrielle Glifford of Arizona....


When I was a kid, I used to take Homeopathy medicines for my Bronchial Asthma.

As soon as I take the medicine, my asthma will exacerbate. I will have severe wheezing, breathlesness and will also have some rashes developing all over the body. It is very scary for the observer.

When I was reading about the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Glifford, the democratic congress worman from Arizona, I was reminded of my Homeopathy medicine days.

For US, the election of Barrack Obama as president has been like taking the first dose of Homeopathic medicine. All the pent up anger, frustration and all the basic instinct that were hidden for the last so many years (probably since independence) is coming out, warts and all. We have far right propounding very violent ideas and actions, we have the 'Oh So Educated' americans comparing themselves with the uneducated terrorists from Pakistan and Sudan (if they can do it, why can't we?), we have the emotional opposition to a legal structure (Mosque) being coming up at 'Ground Zero', we have vitriolic rhetoric coming in from radio and talk show hosts........

We have all the pent up symptoms erupting, warts and all....

The latest in this very charged up environment is the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Glifford. Her crime? She supported the 'Healthcare bill' of President Obama and she is a democratic congress woman is a heavily conservative republican area. She was shot in her head while she was meeting her supporters in her hometown. As per various news sources, the assassin came from behind.

How cowardly can you get?.....

About 6 people ended up getting killed in the shootout and the congresswoman is admitted in the local hospital and is in critical condition.

America is a young democracy and do not have the emotional maturity to handle a fundamental shift in the political environment. As long as the president is white american, the things are fine. We are good, broadminded, god fearing people. But the moment the color of the president changes? Some of us turn into these intolerant and vitriolic human beings.

Oh, come on, this country is deep in debt. The per capita income is 33070 USD while the per capita debt is about 44000 USD. At about 5% savings rate, it will take 27 years for each individual to pay back the debt. Compare this with India whose per capita income is USD 1040 and the Per capita debt is about USD 450.

Papa don't preach.....

By voting for Barrack Obama, the US electorate set a very brave and noble example to the whole world. The people of the country earned a new respect in the eyes of individuals like me who was deeply and emotionally involved in the process. However it was distressing to find that in the recent election to Congress many American's voted republican. I think that this result is more of a 'Post Decision Dissonence'. Having voted for a black president, many Americans are now wanting to go back to the emotional safety of a white political paradigm.

Homeopaths across the globe say that to get the best benefits out of Homeopathy, you have to continue taking the medicine despite the initial discomfort. The initial discomfort is the result of body expelling a lot of toxins. Similarly, in my opinion, US should continue the progressive path that it has choosen during the presidential elections in 2008. That is the only way for the US to attain moral superiority. A morally superior US is fundamentally essential to the global fight against terrorism and to create a healthy comity of nations.

In case US succumbs to 'Post Decision Dissonance'. countries like India and China who, throughout their centuries of history, have seen many ups and downs, may not be affected much. But that will leave US very week and will spell disaster for many of the youung nations who are looking to emulate US.


My Planned trip to USA

I am travelling to USA this weekend...
Despite being in IT industry in the area of ERP Consultancy for the last 11 years, this is my first visit to USA. I plan to be there for about 4 weeks.
I have visited many countries in the last 5 years. The countries visited include UK, Bangladesh, China, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Oman and Colombia.
I have piled up around 200000 flying miles over the last 5 years. I hold a Silver Card from Air France.
Some of these trips have been for as low as a week and some as long as two years.
None of the trips have raised the kind of hype in my family as the US trip.
I am a Tamil Brahmin, popularly known as 'Tambram'.
We Tambrams travel a lot. We travel to different states in India and different countries in the world in search of education / employment. We are omnipresent.
You drop a stone in any part of the world and the chances are that it will fall on a Tambram.
For all our peregrination tendencies or wanderlusts, Travel to US evokes a primordial passion among Tambrams that none of the other countries can evoke.
US is the guiding post, the proverbial holy grail for Tambrams. You are not considered a professional till you have been to US.
Almost all the Tambram families have some relative or other in the US. The guy could be a leading Scientist in NASA or she could be a leading Gynacologist with John Hopkins (we are known in India for our intellect).
As soon as I informed my mother that I have got a visa to travel to US, she was ecstatic. She was on the phone in a jiffy and in 30 minutes all our relatives had known about my impending trip to US.
Within an hour calls started coming dime a dozen. My uncle wanted me to at least call my cousin, if possible visit him. My aunt wanted to know if I can take some sweets to her granddaughter in the US.
I tried pointing out that I was going to be located in the northeast of US and her daughter was living in the southwest of US. I told them that the time difference between east and west was 3 hours !!
Another uncle called me to inform me the places that I should visit in US. "Don't miss Niagara Falls", he told me. That is an advice that I am going to take.
The advises to the new Tambram visitor concludes when one of the relatives call him and inform him as to where in US he can get 'Curd Rice'. That is the mother of all advises.
(For Non-Indian readers of this blog, 'Curd Rice' is prepared by mixing boiled white rice, plain yogurt and a bit of Salt. It can be eaten with different types of pickles. It tastes heavenly. For us in South India, no meal is complete without Curd Rice)
For Tambram, going to US may be important, but eating 'Curd Rice' in US? That is the holy grail....

My evolution....

In the language of IT Products evolution, I am currently in version Ram4.0.
Ram1.0 can be traced to the first 24 years of my life. During that period, I was shy, nervous and self-doubting to the extreme. I was inconsistent in my studies, doing exceptionally well in some exams, and exceptionally poorly in others. Fortunately, in some of the key exams, I did exceptionally well. 
I completed engineering when I was 24. At that age, with a degree in engineering, I was the most self-defeating person that you can imagine. While externally I presented an air bravado, within, I was a defeatist. I could not start anything without the sinking feeling that I was going to 'sink'. To overcome my shyness and to cover up for the fact that I did not have self-esteem, I went to the other extreme, of trying to be funny, clownish and happy-go-lucky. The way I saw it, I won't achieve any goal that I set for myself, so might as well be happy-go-lucky and make most of it. 
My vision of the world was very narrow and naive. I assumed that everyone was like me. Of course there were those who got into IAS and IIM but they were from a different planet. I was not one of them, I could not achieve any such goals. In my mind I was week and slow in Mathematics. My mental picture was that of a fumbling, incoherent individual who will mess up all the interviews that he attends. 
It happened exactly as I had imagined. I still remember the time I went for an interview with BPCL. It was a prestigious company and the posting was in Mumbai. The company had a sprawling campus in Mumbai and my uncle was working as a director in that company. For all practical purposes, if I do well in the written tests and do reasonably well in the interview, that job was mine. 
I wanted this job. Good job, in a good campus in a good city. What more can you ask for?
Since I wanted this job desperately, I knew I was not going to do well in the interview, that is, if I clear the written exam. I was more comfy about the written exam since people are not going to be around asking questions. As expected I cleared the written exam. 
By the time I was called for interview, I had built up so much pressure within that I was almost shivering as I entered the interview room. There was a solitary interviewer, an old an pleasant man.
In the shivering state that I was, he was almost like a monster. I fumbled on basic questions like 'tell me about yourself?'. Technical questions on my favorite subject 'Thermodynamics' was responded with incoherence and fear. 
Within five minutes into the interview, both of us wished we were elsewhere. And we were, after about 7 minutes. 
Of course I did not get the job. 
Ram1.0 is littered with examples of consistent, systematic failures with occasional successes. I had all the tools, I had intelligence, was smart (I knew I was smart), possessed a high IQ. But like Karna in Mahabharata, I was destined that my tools will desert me in times of need.
Then I got a job with SAIL and I was in Durgapur. That was the start of Ram2.0 as it were. 
Ram2.0 took off from where Ram1.0 left off. I carried my diffidence to my work. I was immature at first and my immaturity got me career lows a multiple times. I was passed on for promotion a couple of times. I tried IIM entrance multiple times but did not clear the exams even once. While I put in a lot of effort for the exams, I had this mental block that I will not clear the written exam. In retrospect, it was the scary prospect of interview that mad me flunk in the written exam itself. I will have some self respect tell people that 'I did not clear the written exams. If I had, I would have got into IIM. Interview is not difficult'. I cleared the IAS preliminary exam three times but did not clear the final exam even once, there also the mental block being the prospect of attending interviews.
In Durgapur, I became friendly with a couple of girls and that changed me a bit. Brought a bit of confidence that girls could like me. Throughout my life I had studied in Boys / men only schools and colleges and for me it was difficult to talk to girls in a mature manner. In Kerala, I had always been failure while interacting with girls, being either comical or distant from them. So to be liked by women for being a man was a refreshing change. In 1995, I took study leave from the plant and joined MBA program at Kolkata university, having given up on my dreams of getting into IIM. I majored in Finance, and found that I had a flair for the subject. Even though I did not get a job after MBA (I was about 32, and as far as companies were concerned, I did not fit the 'profile' meaning I was old). So I went back and worked at Durgapur for another year.
The worst year of my career...
Ram3.0 evolved all of a sudden with a big decision that I took in 1998. I was getting a good salary and benefits in Durgapur, but in 1998, I quit the job to take up the role of a faculty in a management institute in Bangalore. The salary was pittance. Almost a fifth of what I was getting in Durgapur. But my gutsy decision made me realize that I have the potential and the ability to take tough decisions. While we can argue on the merits of the decision, it changed my perception of myself. I was no longer a failure. My future was in my hands.
Bangalore of the late 90's was an exciting place. There were opportunities everywhere for the right talent and knowledge. Even though I had no clue on IT, I had a lot of 'Domain' knowledge of production and a good grasp of Finance. I attended and IT course (which is detailed in this post) and joined Sonata software as an ERP consultant implementing Scala.
Soon I found that I had a flair for ERP Implementation. I could empathize with the users, talk their language (I had 10 years of working experience in the industry) and understand the full view of business since I had both manufacturing and financial knowledge. I found that I could quickly and clearly understand the problems of the users and provide very good solutions to them. 
As I notched up one success after another, my confidence grew, an so did my arrogance. My 'world view' of myself was that of an exceptional ERP consultant. I got accustomed to positive feedback and could not take kindly the well - intended negative feedback from my boss. I quit multiple companies and finally ended up in my current company.
I travelled widely during this period and developed a set of broad perspective and also learned to appreciate differences in people and cultures. 
And finally, in the current company, I learned humility. In a company full of knowledgeable people, I was again and again and again reminded that I was not as great as I thought I was. I was passed on for promotions multiple times. I have learned to be humble, while keeping my confidence that I am a good ERP consultant.
Now as I stand on the cusp of starting a new career, I am currently at the beginning of Ram4.0. I have learned customer service from my multiple successes and learned humility from multiple failures.
I am more confident and through age has become more wise. I have learned that there are good people everywhere and that you have to do the best you can. I have built up pan-industry, pan-application and pan-domain experiences in the last 10 years. I have travelled extensively and has learned lessons from people of different countries. 
Those are the tools and experiences that will be useful as I embark on the evolution of Ramaswamy to Version Ram4.0.
Wish me luck....


Beautiful words in English...

The other day I heard a radio ad which mentioned 'Delectable' chocolates. 
I simply fell in love with the word 'Delectable'. 
The word conveys a lot of positive stuff. A 'Delectable' chocolate is good to look at, has the perfect blend of Cocoa and Sugar, just sweet enough, just hard enough to hold but soft enough to melt in your mouth.
I love the sound of the word. It sounds very good. A delectable woman, for example, is the best there is. She has beauty, grace, poise, friendliness and she knows how to make you a man. She has the hint of flirt and oodles (there is another word that I love) of empathy for you as a person.
Are there other words that I love? Of course there are.
Like 'Halcyon', for example. 'Halcyon days' brings a hint of all that is great and beautiful about the past. 
Mellifluous is another word that I love. It is an adjective that adds to the quality of a person as in 'she has a mellifluous voice'.. 
Oh, I am in love with her....
Any other words that come to your mind?

Story of my Travel transformation...

Contrary to the title, this is not about my travel. This is more about personal transformation...

In one post in my blog, I mentioned that your past do not represent your future. If you look at people, 'What they are' is determined by their past, but 'What they will be' is determined by the actions that they take from the current moment. In my opinion, it is silly to judge people by 'What they are' because, all your interactions are going to be an unknown 'What they will be' person.
This specific post was referring to my brother Mony, who would easily have been written off in the past, but has since staged a stunning turnaround by modifying his actions.
Here is another illustration that your past and your current situation can be significantly different from what will be.
I joined work force in the year 1987 having joined a leading steel maker in India as a mechanical engineer. I worked in the company for about 11 years. We were working in a place called Durgapur, which is in the state of West Bengal in the eastern part of India. For about 9 years, the only thing I remember doing is to get up in the morning, go to office, come back home, eat, sleep and start all over again the next day.
Working in that company, I did not have any opportunity of travel. The only travel I did was to travel back to my home in Kerala during the vacations. That too by train. 
There was not a iota of hope that I will be able to fly (even within India) let alone travel abroad.  As far as I knew, I was destined for train travel, mostly between Durgapur and Kerala.
During that time, the company I worked for went in for a round of modernization. As a part of the exercise, a group of selected engineers traveled to Holland for additional training. This group included a few of my friends. I was not in that lucky group. When they came back, they had brought us some gifts and regaled us with the stories of what happens in other countries. While we all enjoyed listening to their stories, we were also jealous of their opportunities to travel abroad. 
Listening to their stories we had the vicarious satisfaction of having traveled to Europe. 
Opportunity for me in that company to fly to another country? Out of question. 
At that time, if you had told me that I will be travelling to many countries at Company expense, I would have laughed at you. I would have asked you to visit a Shrink and get your head examined...
My travelling abroad? Are you out of your mind? I did not even have a passport.
Then sometime in the year 2000, I joined an IT company in Bangalore as an ERP Consultant. 
I still remember my first travel abroad. It was to a place called 'Pudong' in China. This was to the China operations of 'Grundfos', a leading global pump manufacturer. I had done an impressive project for Grundfos in India and the India company recommended that I go to Grundfos China. The contact person in China was a person named 'Vincent' (Of course !!).
The Singapore Airlines Flight was supposed to start at 11.55 PM on 30 November. However, it was delayed by about 15 minutes and started at 12.05 AM on December 1st 2001.
December 1st is my birthday. So my first travel abroad started on my birthday !!
If this was not a good omen, I have never seen one...
Since then I have traveled to many countries implementing ERP solutions. I have visited China (Beijing and Pudong), Bangladesh, UK, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sharjah, Egypt, Jordan, Colombia, Mexico, Mauritius, France and US. I have piled up more than 200000 flying miles in different airlines including Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa, Biman Bangladesh, Aero Mexico, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Avianca, Delta and United Airlines. 
I have visited the Pyramids in Cairo, Petra in Amman, taken the Seine river cruise in Paris, been to Golden Gate Bridge in Sanfrancisco, dipped my feet in the icy cold waters of North Sea in the city of Scarborough in North London, taken long walks on the Great Wall of China, done Snorkeling and Para-sailing in the cool waters of Indian Ocean in Mauritius....
I am now the unofficial travel consultant in my organization. Anyone travelling to Latin America comes to me to get my inputs on the best route to take. I advice them on the route, the airline, the rates, the best hotel to stay....
You know, the works....
In 90's if you had told that I will be flying extensively one day,  that I will be advising people on trips to Latin America, that I would be vacationing in Mauritius, I would have laughed at you. 
I would have been guilty of extrapolating my past to my future. 
In late 90's, I would not have known that in the next 10 years, I will be piling up over 200000 flying miles. That is an impressive 20000 miles a year....
As on the year 2001, there was big difference between 'What I am' and 'What I will be' in the next 10 years....

Five things an Indian needs to Learn to survive in US.....

1. Learn to drive on the right side of the road.
2. Learn to use Automatic transmission vehicles. Most of the vehicles in India are manual transmission. So, when an Indian rides on the US roads, when the vehicle slows down, he invariably presses his left leg (in India to press clutch to shift to a lower gear) and more often than not, his left leg is on the break and the car comes to a sudden halt. 
3. Learn to drive on the freeway and navigate using GPS.
4. Learn to say 'There you go' in a lilting voice.
5. Learn to say 'Have a good one...' with a smile.
6. I will add a sixth one. Learn to smile and be pleasant. Every time I am back in India, I see grumpy, worried faces. We lack the ability to smile. I guess 5000 years of intensive philosophy of Karma, the Upanishads, the Vedas, Bhagavat Gita et al, has made us into these serious, morose group of people. At least we should learn to smile when we are in the US. No one in US will cheat you if you flash your smile. I saw so many Indians (including very pretty Indian ladies) in the US who had left their smiles back in India. Even in Niagara, when everyone around was smiling, laughing and generally enjoying themselves, the Indians stood out, unsmiling, serious, like a secret service agent at a White House Correspondent's dinner. 
I have another planned post on why Indians do not smile....

10 May 2012

10 things to do in Delhi....

My friend Habeeb wrote to us that he is planning to go to Delhi for a training.
I wrote him a list of 10 things that you can do in Delhi. This list is based on 'Top 10 List' of David Letterman..
Here are the top 10 things that you could do in Delhi. This post was written at a time where there were a lot of protests going on in Delhi against Corruption.

Those of my readers in US and Alaska won't find this any funny. Suggest they skip this post.

10. Stand on top of Redfort and do a 'Republic day' speech in 'Chentamil (Pure Tamil)' [Normally this speech is given in Hindi, our national language]
9. Meet Manmohan Singh and convey your disappointment at his performance. Do not forget to get his autograph.
8. Meet a few left MPs before they become extinct
7. Walk on Connaught Place with a placard that reads 'We are from Kerala, our weather is pleasent'
6. Do an item number in Rajghat.
5. Go to Ramlila grounds and flick a few stuff lying around there that belonged to Baba Ramdev Devotees.
4. Do actual 'Yoga' in Ramlila grounds rather than the 'Nautanki' that was on TV.
3. Go against the crowd. Chant 'Corruption Zindabad' in front of Anna Hazare
2. Meet Raja and Kanimozhi at Tihar Jail and give them a complaint about your Aircell connection.
1. Be a member of Lokpal committee. I hear anyone can join.