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22 March 2015

Six behavioral patterns that can make you a winner.....

There are six behavioral characteristics that can separate winners from losers. While these points have been discussed ad nauseam in internet articles, here is my idea of 6 traits that separate winners from losers.

1. Abundance mindset: Winners display abundance mindset while losers display limitation mindset. You can see this mindset in action in the person who gives one rupee to an old woman beggar and another person who gives 50 rupees and stands to talk to that same lady. You can see this in the husband whose constant refrain is 'We don't have cash'. Keep on repeating the same and you will see that your words will come true. Winners know that the path to riches starts through giving not through receiving. That is counter-intuitive, but that is how the laws of universe works. Winners are givers. They are thankful that there are people out there who are doing them a favor by agreeing to receive what they give. They are not proud that they are able to give. They are humbled by the experience of giving and the kind consideration of the receivers who has obliged them by accepting what they give..

2. Gratitude: Winners display Gratitude while losers display Entitlement: Winners know that there are a number of people who contributed to their success and they display enormous gratitude to those people. Winners know that 'They didn't build that'. For example, their parents provided them with the education, they had great teachers who gave them the confidence in themselves, they have colleagues and coworkers who have contributed to their success, there is divine providence that helped and guided them through difficult situations. Winners are always looking for opportunities to pay it back. Every morning they get up with a prayer of gratitude to the universe for helping them explore their true potential.  Losers on the other hand believe that they are entitled to every good that happens to them. They are entitled for every good that happens to them. If bad happens, it is the fault of the universe. 

3. Searching for good in people: Winners always look for good in people, losers always look for mistakes that people make. Winners know that every individual has their potential and is capable of delivering exceptional work. They are always looking for opportunities to find people 'doing things right'. They know that if people do not work up to their potential, it could be due to the fact that they need guidance and support to do a good job. Winners are quick with appreciation and lookout for opportunities to appreciate the good in others. Losers are always looking for ways to criticize people. They don't realize that when they point one finger at others, four fingers are being pointed at them

4. Anticipate Change (Temporary mindset): Winners realize that people and situations are always on the flux and they have to continuously work on them to maintain and improve the same. They believe in the Heraclitus adage that 'Sun is new everyday'. Even while the individual or situation is remaining the same, the environment, physical or psychological, is changing almost every minute. They do not take anything for granted and will regularly question the status quo and take corrective action to ensure that they have the situation will under control. People with the 'permanence' mindset will assume that everything will remain the same always. They do not see  the changes that are taking place everyday. They do not try to mend relationships, they take people for granted and they allow situations to deteriorate without being aware of the deterioration that is happening around them. Permanence mindset is the reason why families breakdown, the Organizational discipline is violated and things just go out of control and take a turn for the worse.

5. Details and action orientation: Winners tend to get into details of issues. They question, they seek clarification and they keep probing to go to the root of any issue. They plan very thoroughly and follow up on each task. They are action oriented and they know that things are not going to get right automatically and that they have to take required action to meet their objectives. They ask the 'How' question a lot. Losers tend to think at high level and rarely go into the details let alone to the required action. They tend to talk at the 'Want' ('I want to get good grades') or at the 'Should' ('We should take action to remove corruption') and at the 'Why' ('Why are things going from bad to worse?') levels without ever reaching the 'How' level where solutions reside. 

6. Winners anticipate and prepare. They are the scenario analysts and they are ready with SOPs to handle any eventuality. They plan. They are the ultimate followers of the dictum 'Trust but verify'. Their reactions are always planned. Losers on the other hand do exactly the reverse. They are always reactive and adhoc. They act only AFTER the disaster has struck. They always end up doing damage control and never learn from their mistakes. They flit from one preventable disaster to another.

Well, that completes my list. As you might have guessed by now, I have examples of each of the behavioral traits that I mentioned, both of a winner and a loser (more of them). I am sure that you can identify at least some people in your life that can fit into the above groups. 

I would love to hear from you about what you think and examples of behaviors that fit into the patterns above.

15 March 2015

How I started a new life in 1998....


Note: This post is presented as a part of Housing.com series on #Startanewlife. 
Checkout the embedded Video presentation of Housing.com



The year was 1998. I had been 11 years into my job, a boring deadend job, away from my family, in an alien culture with no visible prospects of career progress. Every day I was getting up and going to do the same boring job again. And again. Every morning I woke up frustrated and depressed. There was no opportunity for personal growth, no opportunity to learn anything new. 
I was looking into an career and personal blackhole. 
All around me world was changing. The Financial Reforms initiated by the government in early 90's was beginning to pay off for the country. The stock market was on a roll, the economy was upbeat, Infosys was declaring bonuses and dividends like crazy and there was optimism and enthusiasm across the country.
Except for me. 
As I looked to the future, I could see nothing but darkness. I was too old for a job change and jobs in manufacturing sector, of which I was a part, was very scarce. Also the part of the country where I worked had a reputation of trade unionism and was widely considered to be unprofessional. Rest of the country was not very enthusiastic about recruiting engineers from that part of the country. 
In addition jobs were plenty available in my home town in the area of IT. And here I was, with no idea of I or T.  I was even scared of booting up a computer. I thought that if I entered the wrong password, it would explode...
Both professionally and personally, that was the lowest point in my life.
In 10 years, I had been promoted twice to reach the post of 'Deputy Manager' with a salary and perks working out to about 7 Lakhs per year. Company provided accommodation, medical facilities, free power and water etc. 
Looking that way the life was good. But I was atrophying inside.
In the December of 1998, I got an offer from a management institute in Bangalore for the post of 'Faculty Associate'. That was the lowest position in the institute. There was no salary. I was provided a stipend of 10000 rupees per month. 
I accepted.
It took a lot of courage. There was some pressure from family. I was leaving a prestigious and secure public sector job for a low paying private sector job. Some people thought I was taking too much risk.
But I was adamant that I will take this up. This was any day better than the career abyss that I was looking into. 
That was the start of a new life for me. The management institute had all the facilities for me to learn new stuff. IT training was available aplenty. 
I joined an expensive, 6 months IT training program conducted by a leading vendor. By the time I completed the program, I had became one of the very few 'Sun Certified Java Programmers', completing the exam with 86% score.
In end of 2000, I joined an IT Company as an ERP Consultant and have been working in that area for the last 15 years. 
The job is very satisfying and the salary is good. 
Looking back, I see that the bold decision that I took in 1998 was the reason for the success later. I backed myself despite a lot of self doubts. The moment I did that opportunities opened up for me. I became confident of my abilities and my presentations and interview responses displayed conviction and confidence.
That is the lesson. Back yourself and you will never fail.

02 March 2015

Animal Farm...

Even though my father was an electrical engineer by profession, farming was his passion. He had enough land to indulge in his passion and he went the whole hog when it comes to farming. He was at the forefront of farming in Kottayam district and he used to plant whatever crop was the flavor of the season, He planted Paddy, Tapioca, Cashew, Robusta Plantain, Banana, Black Gram and Cocoa. He was in his elements once he was on the farm. He will shout at the labourers, caress the flora and fauna and was very happy with his plants and trees..
One aspect of the farming related to domesticating the animals.
Ever since I can remember we reared cows.
We had lots of land and feeding cow was not at all a problem. Also, since we used to cultivate various crops, cows could be fed the left overs once the crop was separated. For example, we used to give the cows dried paddy leaves, also known as hay (of the 'Making Hay While the Sun Shines' fame), used to mix the chaff and husk in water and feed the same to the cows and of course the leaves of the 'Kappa' plant was also given as food to the cows.
My mother came from a family where cows were non-existent, but she quickly learned to take care of the cows. She did not have to bathe the cows since we had servants to do that. However milking the cow in the morning and evening was her job.
Once she tried teaching me the process of milking the cow.  'First of all you have to get the calf do drink some milk from the udder', she told me like she was explaining the route followed by Magallen, 'Once the cow feels the tongue of the calf, it secretes the milk to the udder (Called 'Paal Churathal' in Malayalam).. Once the udder is full of milk, you first wash it with water. Then you apply Ghee on the udder to make it smooth. Then you milk each udder with the hand till all the milk is drained from the udder and then you move on to the next udder'....
Yucks...
'Half way through you again get the calf to drink the milk and follow the same process'....
One cow used to give about 3-4 litres of milk in one sitting which was sufficient for a large family.
To ensure that the calf do not drink milk at other times, you keep them separate. However some times the Calf will manage to evade the watch and drink the whole milk from the cow. Someone will come and shout 'Kidavu paal Kudichu' (the Calf has drunk the milk). That day, we hardly get any milk from the cow and my dad will come and scream at everyone.
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'Amme, Ambiye Pashu Kuthi' (Mother, Cow has gored Amby) screamed the panicked maid.
Mother came running out. The cow was standing with its newly born calf and a profusely bleeding Amby, my younger brother, was lying in front of the cow with blood spouting from his right cheek.
When this incident occurred, we were in Nattakom a small village in Kerala. I remember this incident very clearly even now despite the fact that when it happened I must have been five and my brother was four. 
The cow had recently given birth to a cute little calf and we brothers were very fascinated by the calf. All through the day we used to spend time near the cow watching it pamper its calf. We felt that the calf was our friend and it was our responsibility to look after it.
It must have been about three in the afternoon on that particular day, I think. Mom was inside the house. Both of us children were playing in the field just outside our house and the cow was tied to a nearby tree with the calf next to it. 
Amby wanted to offer something to the calf. He plucked out a coconut leaf, about a foot long, from a small tree nearby and took it to the calf.. 
There are some things from your childhood that you distinctly remember despite the passing of years. This was one such incident. I was there. We were playing, near the cow. It was afternoon. This was a brown cow with long horns. The cow was newly purchased, if I remember correctly.
Amby went too close to feed his friend, the calf. The cow, the protective mother, thought that Amby was coming to harm the calf and lunged at him. 
In the blink of an eye, the cow had gored Amby's right cheek and lifted him up about 2 meters and he fell down on the ground all bleeding and screaming.
Once Amby fell down, the cow did not do anything further. It, probably having realized the magnitude of what it had done, moved back a bit scared. It could have moved forward and crushed Amby. He was lying right in front of the cow. 
It was so surreal to me, who was only five years old. I remember seeing all these happening in front of me and not reacting at all. The magnitude of the event did not strike me. 
Of course, it was not supposed to. I was only five.
The servant lady came hearing Amby's screams. 
They took him to the hospital and he had to have 6 stitches in his cheek. Even now you can see the mark on his cheeks.
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Despite his short stature, my father was a brave man. Early in our lives, when I was 4 or 5 years old, we used to live in a place called 'Poovan Thuruthu', where the family had large tract of land. Electric supply was very erratic during those days. Sometimes at night, mostly when it rains, the electric supply will go off. Then my father will take a torch, open the door to go and check if the fuse has blown or it is real power outage. 
Especially when it rains, sometimes the snakes will come in our house. Mostly they are non-poisonous snakes, about a foot or two in length that they will take shelter around the door handle. My father will blow the torch in their eyes, temporarily blinding them, pick them up by hand and throw them out. Then he will go out and check the fuse. Mostly it will be general power outage.
Of course I have not seen my dad do this, but I have heard from my mom about these episodes.
*********************************************************************************
My father also bought at least one dog.
I think he wanted it for security. 
Bringing a dog to a vegetarian, Tamil Brahmin house is the stupidest thing that you can do. There is no match between the values as practiced by us and the dog. Especially so when it comes to food. We are pure Vegetarians. We eat Vegetables, Cereals and Pulses. And the dog? It eats meat.
The twain doesn't meet at all.
Despite this, my dad brought a dog home.
Every time it hears the sound of the meat vendor or the fish monger, the dog will become frantic. Dad arranged someone to take the dog out and feed it meat and fish. However, ultimately it has to come home. After eating all that carnivorous stuff, it will come home without as much as cleansing the mouth. 
And lick all of us to show its bloody affection.
My mom, that pious, religious lady, hated the dog. 
Thankfully my dad got rid of the dog somehow.
********************************************************************************
I can't remember any more animals in my dad's life.
How many more do you need?
Note: The title is taken from the book of the same name by George Orwell. There ends the similarity

01 March 2015

Kottayam Peregrinations...

One of my fondest childhood memories are the long walks that we, I and my brother, used to take with my dad.

My dad was a born walker. He loved walking, ramrod straight, with a quick gait belying his short stature. He must have been about 5'4", but his lean body (no doubt due to all this walking) gave the illusion of height. While walking his right index finger was always straight, as if pointing facts which other people did not know. Most of the time, the finger will be writing something in the air or drawing a circle in the air. In fact I have inherited this trait of his and now realize that this was the outcome of a mind fast at work.

He used to come back from office at about 5.00 PM. Almost immediately and almost everyday he will go to Kottayam, a town about 3-4 Kilometers from our home. Kottayam is a smallish town with two roads, K K Road and Bus Stand Road being the main thoroughfares. There is a Temple in the middle of the town typical of almost all the towns in Kerala. Since Appa was originally from Kottayam he used to have a lot of acquaintances in the town and rare are the days when we do not meet at least a couple of them.

One of the regular destination was the 'Chanda', the vegetable market. He will linger around each shop, scanning each vegetable and arguing with the vendors about their freshness. The ultimate objective was to bring down the price he paid for the vegetables. The vendors knew this too and they always over quote before reluctantly bringing down the prices as if acceding to my father's superior insight. 

My father realized it too. Still this little game played out in front of us whenever we accompanied my dad to the 'Chanda'. I hated the visits to the 'Chanda', I hated the dirt, the noise, the slush and the slime. But my father was in his elements in the 'Chanda'. 

Since appa was paying for the trip and the perks, we kids had to put up and shut up. Also we enjoyed the walk. 

Mother was not a part of thease daily walks. Most of the time he will go alone and sometimes he will take us, me and my brother, to walk with him. It was strenuous, walking with him. He loved long, quick walks and we kids, about 7-8 year olds, found it difficult to keep up. Once we get tired, my dad would reluctantly slow down, brief enough for us to regain some energy and off we will go again, like a rogue rocket or something.

While we didn't care for the walks, the perks that came with it were very persuasive. Every time we went out with him, he would take us to the restaurant. There were two main restaurants in Kottayam at that time.  Both of them still exist, though not at the same location. One of them was Indian Coffee House, a farmers co-operative and the other was Hotel Aryabhawan. For us going to the restaurant was the highlight of the evening. During those days, money was tight and hence going out to eat was out of the question.

As you can imagine we, me and my brother, treasured those walks mostly for the perks that came with it.

We used to have a fixed menu in those restaurants. At ICH, we will have cutlets or sandwiches followed by Rosemilk (Milk flavoured with Rose Flower Essence). It was ‘Nei Roast’  (Ghee Roast: South Indian Pancacke laced with Ghee. ‘Nambisan’ ghee was the most famous at that time) and coconut chutney in Aryabhawan. I used to eat Nei roast with sugar, a habit that I carry to this day.

We used to hold his hands, me and bro. We will walk on either side of dad, holding on to his index fingers. My brother was more of the silent type, while I was the babbler. I used to talk non-stop. At that time I was learning multiple languages, Malayalam and English, and was learning to read. I will read out name of each shop, written in both languages, and dad will patiently correct me if he was in the mood and if not, especially  if he was preoccupied, he would ignore me.

(For a long time I remember thinking that the word ‘Accuracy’ was pronounced ‘Ahkuraki’  I never remembering asking my dad about this word. Probably because there were no shops with this name on our trail.)

Once in a while dad will buy Lottery ticket from an invalid vendor. The ticket cost One Rupee and the first price was 100000 (On lakh) Rupees. While I suspect that winning that free money was his motive in buying the ticket, he will take the moral high ground. ‘20% of the price of the ticket will go to that invalid vendor’, he will tell us, solemnly like he is Mother Theresa or something, ‘that man is poor and invalid and still he doesn't want to beg. We should appreciate his efforts by buying the ticket from him. Winning is not important, helping him is important’, the last part of the statement told while looking up, hoping that the invisible audience up there is listening.

Father’s wish was fulfilled. While he was able to donate a lot of ‘20%’ to the invalid vendor, he did not win a single lottery.

You have to be careful what you wish for because you will get it.

While money was tight through the year, there were two times in a year that we splurged. One was at the beginning of the school year. The company where dad worked gave him allowances to buy dress and shoe. While we, me and my brother,  were studying in different schools in the initial years, latter we joined the same school, the school uniforms were the same, Khaki shorts and white shirt. Readymade shirts were not available during those days. You have to buy clothes and get the dresses stitched. We will go for the cheapest clothes that can meet the basic uniform requirements. Both shorts and shirt was made of cotton cloth which will shrink and crumble after a few days of use. Into the second or the third month, the short would have converted themselves into Boxers and Shirts, white coloured ones, will shrink to the size of Tights worn by ladies.

We kids carried on despite, since most of the kids in the school were wearing similar clothes.

In one year, dad discovered ‘Egyptian Cotton’. A cheap alternative to cotton which was very soft and comfortable to wear. I remember enjoying that dress and looking forward to wearing it every day. I was the cynosure of all eyes, wearing that soft cotton clothes. Parents of many of my friends had not discovered Egyptian Cotton that year.

Of course later on it became a rage.

Purchasing Shoe was another experience. In the initial days appa got ‘Shoe Allowance’ – cash to buy Safety Shoes for his factory use – for which he had to submit the original bills as an evidence of having spend it on buying the shoe and in the later years he got ‘Coupons’ that he could exchange in the Shoe Shop. With coupons, there was no need for submitting bills and the associated bureaucracy.  There were two shoe vendors in Kottayam during those days. One was Bata and the other was ‘Carona’. Dad used the allowance to buy shoes from Carona.

Buying footwear was an elaborate ritual for our family. The entire family – father, mother and the works-  would descend on Kottayam town, destination being Carona Shop in KK Road. Once at the shop, we will try out different shoes and chappals before zeroing in on the footwear for the entire family, shoes and hawai chappals for children, good chappals for mother and black shoes for my dad.

That was the only time of the year when we bought footwear. All of us were supposed to manage the rest of the year using the same pair of footwear.

Since children spend most of the time in the wild world outside, the chappals would get damaged quite quickly. We learned to repair the hawai chappals ourselves. Most of the time it is the flap (called 'Valli' in Malayalam) that gets damaged, not the sole. We will buy spare flaps and fix them to the original shoe. I became expert at this. I will take some coconut oil and apply it around the hole and push the flap inside. If the hand do not work, I will take some small polished stick to push the flap inside the hole. With some effort, the new flap would fit in the hawai chappals.

Of course, the simplest solution to the problem of chappals getting damaged by use was to not use them. During the normal days, you will see us kids wandering around without a footwear.  The shoes and chappals were only for special occasions like going to school or going to Kottayam.  Most of our time was spent barefoot. Countless are the times when the thorns of mimosa plant pierced our sole. Many a time, we were able to pull it out with our nails (yes, long nails was a fashion among us kids then). If the thorns have gone deeper in, we will wash the surrounding area and remove the skin of the sole with a sharp razor blade (carefully of course, we did not want another wound) till the skin was sufficiently removed and we could pluck out the thorns with our nails.

I digress...

Coming back to our trips to buy footwear, once the same is completed, all of us will go to Aryabhawan (since ICH also served non-vegetarian, mom refused to go there) and eat our favourite food.

The second time in the year we splurged was during Diwali. Father used to get Diwali Bonus and we all would trundle out, this time to cloth shops to by dresses. During those days there were only two shops in Kottayam. One was ‘Seematti’ and the other was ‘Parthas’.  Our first destination was always Seematti since Parthas was more expensive. Me and my brother will get colourful shirts, Tees and shorts , mom will get Sarees and dad will buy white dhoti and shirt of sober colour (dad hated flashy colours, he was not a ‘Colourful’ man).

And we will all troop out to Aryabhawan for dinner.

The time difference between footwear and dress invariably caused problems.  On Diwali day, we will wear colourful dresses and shabby footwear and walk around the village, go to temples and such. No one noticed this ludicrous difference since every kid was dressed incongruously.

For Diwali, we also used to buy fire crackers. We all will get up at about 5.00 AM, father will light a notional cracker, which will make a lot of noise and wake up the neighborhood. During those days there was a lot of harmony within the village and no one complained.

Vishu, Kerala New Year, always celebrated on 14th of April was another occasion where we burst crackers. On both these days,  we had to get up in the morning, have a bath and go to temple.

Going to temple was mandatory.

While dad made us walk a lot, we kids did not feel much tired. Well sometimes we did feel tired, but holding on to those short, fat fingers rejuvenated us and gave us energy to continue.

That was my dad. A small man who carried a large heart. A heart that could bestow unending stream of affection on all he encountered.

Our hearts are filled with loads of memories of our numerous interactions.

Now that he is no more, we should treasure those memories.

30000 Visitors to my blog....

On 28-Feb-15, my blog hit 30000 visitors. It had hit 20000 visitors on 21-Feb-14. Which means about 30 Visitors per day on an average last year.

Personally, for a blog which started in 2005, I think my Social Media Presence is not so great. I am targeting about 100000 visitors in my blog in the current year.

Thanks you readers for visiting my blog. Some of my posts are good, some not so. Pl. read and comment your views about my blog.