Month: April 2010

Cutting losses

When things go wrong, don’t go with them. Anon

Those who are active investors in the stock markets would be familiar with the adage’ Cut losses’. This simply means that when the tide turns against you and your investments start showing losses, it is best to sell and suffer a minor loss rather than sit tight in the hope of  a change in fortunes and loose very heavily. While the logic of the argument is very well understood, human nature being what it is finds it hard to accept the loss and so we wait in hope only to realize too late that discretion should have been the better part of valour.

While the stock markets abound in such die hard fool hardiness, real life is not too different. Part of the problem about cutting losses stems from the conflict between what the heart feels and what the mind thinks. We are simplistic enough often to logically conclude that what goes down must come up again or vice versa. The theory is perfectly true when seen in isolation but when seen as part of a continuum called life, we have ample opportunities to ride a wave but not the acumen to consistently remain on top of the wave. The lesson to us is that when we are on the way up. It is prudent to get out lest we get caught in the vortex and get sucked in. Unfortunately our greed and ego blinds us to the realistic peaks and lures us to believe that the best is yet to come. Sadly we then become prey to these vices and cannot get out of the vortex of false hope.

Equally naïve is our belief that we are smart enough to analyze trends, have sophisticated modeling mechanism to predict the future and the wherewithal to sustain the pressures that come with the  territory. History is resplendent with examples of the colossal failures of the once successful kings and rulers who blinded by success could not in their wildest dreams  or nightmares imagine failure of any sort. The end of the monarchy system is proof of how the power of the people and the advent of democracy has consigned to history  what was once perceived as an impregnable fiefdom of the kings and their courts. Coming to the present day, the big businesses that ruled and monopolized the economy in the early 20th century have all but disappeared and replaced by more technology driven newbie’s.

No sooner do we spot a problem then our mind goes into an overdrive to rationalize, justify and generally uphold our beliefs so that we don’t face the discomfort of having to acknowledge that the problem is real. If the problem persists we try to trivialize it, explore possibilities to circumvent it and in desperation even make feeble attempts to minimize the impact of the problem. Only the wise and the enlightened, the one who uses both the mind and the heart can foresee the folly of riding a loser and will quickly cut losses, dump the loser and either jump on to safe shore or latch on to a possible winner. As they say it is better to lose the battle and win the war than the other way round.

Remember: “I believe there’s an inner power that makes winners or losers. And the winners are the ones who really listen to the truth of their hearts.” Sylvester Stallone

Try these:

  1. In your chosen field of expertise, try to predict the changes that will come about in the next one/ tree/ five years. Ask yourself what your strategy will be to ensure that you can leverage the changes to your advantage. This could imply that you have to consciously give up a current line of action in the hope that you can leverage the changes coming about by your current if you see that banking will be more electronic and less physical are you ready to embrace e-payments as of today or will the fear of phishing and cybercrimes hold your resolve and you maintain status quo?
  2. If you are a sports enthusiast or an investor in the stock markets make a realistic analysis of your favorites (team / stocks). Which team do you expect to win the current season and will you bet on that team even if it is not your favorite? Substitute stock for team if you are a stock enthusiast. Why do you hesitate to change loyalties when it comes to betting?

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Troubles that treble your life

Never complain about your troubles; they are responsible for more than half of your income. Robert R. Updegraff

Stop to think about this profound observation once again before you read on. Now quickly calculate your bank balance and estimate what the source of income is and simultaneously ask yourself if you love everything about your source of income. You can be sure if you had a choice you would definitely like to trim a few unpleasant chores that are part of your current job profile or maybe you want to change your current income source /profile altogether. Yet, the lure of the income more than compensates for the pain of putting up with a nagging boss, indisciplined co workers, long hours of work, the constant stress at work, the repetitive and boring nature of your work etc.

Troubles have a way of sneaking in and as much as you try to side step it, they have the uncanny knack of sticking like a leech. No sooner that you overcome one set of troubles another set is ready for the onslaught and the repercussions tyrannical. The fillip side is that most troubles eventually subside and occasionally go off and more importantly these troubles are the reason you get rewarded. Some troubles if borne with a grin and pleasant demeanor give instant income as is the case of all those who get tipped; be it waiters at a restaurant, the bell hop or the  cab driver.  For many others like insurance brokers, real estate agents, salesmen and the like the rewards are directly linked to the quantum of sale and this involves not just persuasion but even persistence, self belief and tremendous patience.

For most mortals who are employed the job profile is always a mixed bag with little choice left to us. Not only does the job get boring and repetitive but the lack of appreciation, the invariable berating of superiors and the fine tightrope walking at the work place balancing equations with colleagues are troubles that weigh heavily on you. Yet the monthly/ fortnightly/ weekly paycheck more than outweighs the troubles that you have to put up with. For the self employed and the business tycoons they love their independence but when the economy is down and the creditors keep knocking at the door and the liabilities are piling up, the troubles suddenly seem to be multiplying. With no one to blame, no escape route and not alternatives the only recourse is to squarely face the troubles even if it means having to beg or borrow. Yet when the going is good, the tax man plays spoil sport, the employees behave like unruly children and the household budgets leap frog and ensure that your troubles are far from over.

Look at the beggars on the street who have to bear the brunt of dirt and squalor not to mention the inhuman treatment meted out by passerbyers , the harassment of the law enforcers  and the ignominy of never knowing what they get at the end of the day. Yet, for all their troubles, they earn and survive and for them their whole earnings is based on the troubles they put up with. Maybe our troubles pale in comparison; but we definitely earn an income completely disproportionate to our troubles. Amen

Remember: “The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles”

Try these:

  1. Draw up a balance sheet of all the troubles and rewards of your job. The troubles to be put on the liability side and the rewards on the income side. Don’t forget that having a job / work/ business is the biggest fixed asset. Perhaps now you can see why your balance sheet is asset heavy !
  2. Pick out 3- 5 of your troubles and ask how much (in % age) of your income are you willing to part with for someone else to take over that trouble. This will give you another perspective about how the troubles are nothing compared to the income that they generate.

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Making amends

Our mistakes won’t irreparably damage our lives unless we let them. James E. Sweaney

We are fortunate that most of our mistakes are never fatal. It is only in an  extremely rare case like being involved in a fatal accident where your mistake has taken lives that you will always live with the guilt of your mistake. Despite counseling one will find it hard to erase that colossal mistake from one’s psyche forever.  As you are right now reading this post, you have not made the gravest mistake of all, committing suicide. Every other mistake can be faced even if it cannot be corrected and that is why when the turmoil and pain of the mistake subsides every person can take charge of his / her life and pursue their own path of excellence.

The one mistake that you cannot correct is the mistaken belief that your follies condemn you to a life of misery, guilt and worthlessness. It is therefore necessary for each of us to look back and reflect on our mistakes, be it as trivial as bullying others in school or copying in exams or more serious infractions like physical abuse of someone you resented or stealing and mugging. The normal tendency is to first rationalize the mistake as necessary under the circumstance but with age and maturity we may suddenly feel guilty and remorseful. This is a critical stage when many people find it hard to pardon themselves of the mistakes that have hurt others. Their inability to apologize or make amends for the mistake,  is a cross too heavy for them to bear and they are racked with guilt and in acute cases leads to depression and illness.  Good counseling and the realization that they can make amends by being even more conscientious individuals will go a long way in them getting rid of their misery brought on by guilt.

Take the case of a young boy who despite being warned,  plays with a ball within the house and breaks a priceless family heirloom. The immediate response would be a sound thrashing and an earful of choicest abuse. What is worse is being constantly berated and warned that his indiscretion has cost the family a heavy loss. Long after the boy has reached adulthood if the same charge is leveled at family gatherings the young man is bound to be deeply hurt and traumatized and then begins a tryst with his psychological rehabilitation. On the other hand if the young man is counseled that his mistake has proved very costly but the family forgives him, he would be remorseful but his self image would not be thrashed and tarnished. In any case, it is imperative that the person be made aware of the mistake but equally important that he not be crucified for the one mistake many times.

A very common mistake people make is to confuse failure as irreparable and a colossal mistake made by them. Be it failure in exams or business or marriage, errors of judgment , failure to foresee the future, taking undue risks etc. are mistakes that often even the most intelligent people make. It is interesting to note that there will not be a single person who has never erred. It is the people who try to escape from their mistakes who ultimately become failures. They could turn to addictions like drowning their sorrows in drinks or constantly remaining in an inebriated state or hiding from the law for fear of the law punishing them or the worst cowards prefer to take their life. When you confront your mistakes only then can you fight it and emerge victorious.  A mistake after all is only a little blip in the wonderful life of yours; why let that blip become a constant beep in your life?

Remember: “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”Winston Churchill

Try these:

  1. List out the mistakes you made yesterday. Ask how many of them were fatal? How many were serious mistakes? Why did you make those mistakes? Was it carelessness; misunderstanding; ignorance; doing work mechanically; not being diligent etc. How do you think you can avoid these mistakes? What other corrective measures did you take?
  2. What was the worst mistake you made in your life? How did you cope with it? Is that mistake still rankling you and disturbing you? Have you apologized for the mistake? How did you make amends for the mistake?

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Every path has its puddle. English proverb

For the world at large the lovely pathways are not just tempting and alluring but are an invitation to explore the yonder. Amidst this tranquility most unexpectedly we come across a puddle and we are in a quandary as to how to get across without wetting our footwear or getting splashed upon.  If we are just taking a leisurely walk, the puddle might be insignificant but if the path is the one we are taking for a serious business appointment the puddle can mess up more than just ones shoes.

If you look back at your childhood, the thought of the rainy season will bring us fond memories of the numerous puddles that we delighted in jumping in without a care in the world. No doubt there were times when the fear of parental reprimand would cross our minds but in the child like exuberance we just let the puddle absorb our attention and blanked our mind of the consequences. While dad would be furious at the soggy shoes and socks and mud splattered books and bags, mum would be focused on whether we would fall sick and get fever. The scolding and stern warnings rarely deterred us from jumping in headlong into the next puddle simply because the thrill of playing in the water, splashing around and enjoying the mess was too alluring to avoid.

With childhood gone in a jiffy and adulthood suddenly overtaking us responsibility weighs heavily on us. The carefree days are long past, we are acutely aware of the business of life and the rains are now more of a nuisance than pure unadulterated fun. Now the pathways suddenly seem to stretch, the cool shades of the trees lining it seem to be more somber and dull and the unexpected puddle now seem like a chasm too wide and threatening. The change is not in the environment but in us; the mindset that one never feared is no longer carefree and the onus of the future seems to weigh us down. The puddles are obstacles, they are messy and we hate the thought of finding a way to sidestep it.

If we just let the child in us take over our lives occasionally, we would enjoy not just the puddles but life itself. We would suddenly realize that life is actually a lovely pathway, lined with wonderful flowers, leading us on to the most amazing scenery where surprises await us with open arms and the occasional puddles are best enjoyed by jumping in and not gingerly side stepping it. Go on and tread the paths you have never used and look around and enjoy the scenery, smell the flowers, step on to some bird droppings and fall down for then you will get to smell the mud and the puddles will help you clean up.

Remember: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” Seneca

Try these:

  1. Read any of the numerous books on the life of the great American educationist George Washington Carver. It is an inspiring story about the hurdles that he overcame right from his birth to his adulthood and old age. It will provide you inspiration and motivation to realize that hurdles are simply to be overcome and no one can stop you from attaining your goals.
  2. Make a firm resolve that from today onwards you will attempt to tackle at least one of your pet peeves  or disliked tasks first thing before you begin your day. E.g. Tackling paperwork which you dislike or replying to emails / correspondence conveying negative or bad news or spending time on planning the day etc. The trick is to focus on those tasks that you postpone for the last and attempt it first so that your mind is more relaxed and your attention is fully on the other tasks on hand.

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Being Consistent

It isn’t hard to be good from time to time … What’s tough is being good every day.  Willie Mays

When we look back at the numerous New Year resolutions we have made and check out the success rate we might be rather embarrassed to note that we have barely managed to get just a few of our resolutions going and even amongst these few many may have died a natural death by the end of the first month. The problem is not with the ideal that we have set for ourselves nor is the problem with our personal abilities to see it through but the real issue is our inability to be consistent and focused over a long period of time. We succumb to the imaginary problems that come our way, find it tough to get our rhythm back once we lose it and simply give up because the goal seems far and the effort very daunting.

Let me share a personal experience to underscore the point that we will face obstacles but we need to find a way around it, through it, under it or over it. When I started this post I had the loft idea that I would write every day. The first month the effort was not too tough since I was extremely motivated and the feedback very alluring. Soon it came to a pass that I was not able to access the net one day and had to skip a post. That was very disheartening and the possibility of skipping that post very very tempting since in my mind I had a valid excuse. However the next day I decided to write two posts to catch up and be on track. This provided stimulus for some more time. The next time I was compelled to miss a post as I was out of town and did not have net access, the first incident gave me the impetus to do the catch up. The problem though is keeping my energy levels high and my approach disciplined despite the occasional hiccups. As on date I am well on track with this being the 116th post since 1st Jan 2010.

If that sounds like a good boast, let me tell you about my battle with the bulge. I have started walking for the nth time and alas my resolve for anything strenuous is very weak. If the late nights watching the English Premier League Football are not adequate excuse, on the other days I can’t get out of bed simply because the IPL cricket matches have taken a toll. The net result is I have legitimate excuses to put my conscience at ease and insufficient resolve to keep up to my lofty intention of reducing my weight. The point I seek to emphasis is that we are selective in our options and choose whatever our preferences are and these are not necessarily based on rational or logic. While my writing seeks to give expression to my passion and hence closer to my heart; the later objective of losing weight is more to keep my spouse happy, to some extent to make me feel good but in the long term to reduce the friendly taunts of well meaning friends- not motivation enough?

Many of  will identify with this dilemma where we have Jekyll and Hyde like personalities. Knowing this we hate ourselves for the evil of succumbing to flimsy excuses, flimsier rationale and throw in the towel at the flimsiest of temptation. Yet the good in us is not lost, nor our ability to surmount the lethargy; all we need to do is regain our rhythm, refocus on our goals and find motivators stronger than our temptations. I am signing of this post because I need to get up and go jogging tomorrow- no excuses what so ever.

Remember: Part of courage is simple consistency.” Peggy Noonan

Try These:

  1. Revisit your New Year Resolution list. If you cant find it prepare one and start implementing it.
  2. I know of a couple who got married on a 22nd of a certain month. Ever since, on every 22nd they make it a point to go out for dinner together. Can you think of something similar to do and ensure you can consistently keep up to it?

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Step by step

The distance doesn’t matter; only the first step is difficult. Madame Marquise du Deffand

Time and time again, we are faced with the dilemma of coming up with idealistic intentions but with a hundred excuse for not getting moving on executing the noble and lofty ideas. The first and major reason is because when we think of the ideas, we are doing armchair thinking resting on our backside, perhaps lazing around and just letting our minds exercise a bit. Real life is all about rolling up the sleeves, moving ones butt and sweating it out a thought that is both non appealing and possibly frightening. The second reason is our inability to commit ourselves and take up the gamut. The net result is procrastination, dithering and sidestepping.

If we just pause and approach the entire task as strings of little tasks to be accomplished it is possible that the matter becomes more approachable, less daunting and manageable. Look at a marathon runner train. He/ she first attempts shorter distances with a view to working out both stamina and style to be adopted in the long run. Over an extended period, they increase the distance, improve their timings, work out their strategy to ensure they are in the leading pack and yet balance both timing and stamina. The end result is the ultimate motivator but it is the intermediate targets set that ensure the small doses of motivation required to begin the task and provides the impetus for continuity.

Check out a person going to a gym either to reduce or to build muscles. The first couple of weeks are stressful simply because the exercising stretches the muscles and the body gets stiff and painful. Equally important is the fact that on the face of it there seems to be no progress when one checks in the mirror and that is an added dampener. Yet the coach / trainer keep assuring that the progress is definitely there and that it will be visible only after a few weeks and purely based on trust you continue the regime. In real life we are our own coach most of the time and unless we surround ourselves with well meaning friends and positive people any negative comment can put the brakes on ones effort.  It therefore also stands to reason that we must reinforce our self believe with positive thoughts and intrinsic motivation. We are then ready to take not just the first step but all the subsequent steps too.

Remember: “Many fine things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow”

Try these:

  1. Take a pen and paper and make a list of 20 things that you need to do in the coming week. Relist them in order of priority. Start doing the first three things on the list NOW. Keep pegging away at the other items and review your success rate at the end of the week.
  2. Ask your spouse or sibling or parent  or friend for a list of the most annoying habits you have. It could range from biting your nails to overeating or being untidy or being too loud etc. It does not matter if you agree with their observations but choose at least 5 items for you to work on and change starting NOW. Keep pegging away at the other items and review your success rate every week.

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Words and Action

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. Friedrich Engels

The great philosophers of the world have their place under the sun, for they have tried to delve into the more complex aspects of life that ordinary mortals find hard to phantom let alone understand. Yet it is the ordinary mortal who lives, breathes and works so that the world is better place to live in. The world is also full of people like us, the ordinary folk who have to live by the sweat of their brow and by dint of sheer hard work. For the vast majority of ordinary people, philosophy is as just as useful as hay is to a dog; just about keeps the cold out but can’t do a damn if one is starving to death.

When vied against this backdrop, it stands to reason that there is a compulsive need for people to focus on action more than mere words. While words can put things in perspective it really can’t be a substituted for the need of the moment. The classic case is when confronted with emergencies like a fire or a road accident. We can have a multitude of onlookers all proffering well meaning advice but for the people at the receiving end of the disaster it is the person who braves the odds and valiantly acts who is the messiah. Or take the case of the exceptionally talented substitutes on the bench in a crunch match. The coach has to choose the right substitute who can deliver in the shortest possible time and while the spectators look aghast when some substitutions seem bizarre, when the person delivers there is huge sigh of relief and an occasional pat for the coach for his/ her astuteness and cunning.

Does this mean theory has no value? In fact the theory is at the vertex of the action. The only difference is that the theory is developed logically and with some empirical base and is tested only when put into practice. All long term planning is at the centre of any development. Theory is what makes the development easier, faster and realistic.  The theory provides the blueprint for the future course of action. Sound theory ensures that the action when taken works perfectly to deliver what was visualized and what is needed.  The theory allows one to juggle with assumptions, gives reign to creativity, considers varied scenarios and lives very little to chance. Yet a theory cannot take care of all contingencies for the unexpected can occur anytime. The journey of the Titanic is a Titanic proof of the theory being perfect but the execution going awry for the contingencies planned didn’t account for the scale of the actual event nor the inadeptness of the people in charge.

Remember: “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

Try these:

  1. Over the next month decide on learning a new skill. It could be learning to swim/ learning a new sport/ learning a few new card tricks etc. Pay close attention to the theories and particularly the rules of the game. Observe your own speed of learning and the kind of expertise you get and ask yourself how much of the theory helped and how much of new learning you got when you actually played the game/ got involved in the activity.
  2. When in a competitive environment particularly sports pay attention to the contrast between the winners and the losers. Look at their body language, their style of play, the changes they made during the course of the game etc. Do you think a stronger imbibing of the theory of the game could have enhanced their skill sets? In the case of the loser was it just their lack of skills / stamina or was it the inadequate knowledge of the game/ lack of experience that was the stumbling block?

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If the best man’s faults were written on his forehead, it would make him pull his hat over his eyes. Gaelic proverb

We all have our faults and that is what makes us human.  That also makes us unique individuals with an independent mind and thought process, we exhibit varied temperaments and have a streak of cunningness in our selfish being. We are constantly challenged by life to choose between good and evil, between giving in to the lure of vices and preferring the path of righteousness and constantly waging a war with temptations.

There is nothing inherently evil in us but circumstances make us prone to succumb to the worldly charms that are forbidden or tread a path of questionable credence. If Adam committed the original sin his offspring Cain wasn’t too far behind; in fact he went one step further than his dad who only blamed his wife, but Cain denied any knowledge of his crime and then perhaps it became a family trait that continues to date. The Old Testament is full of even more perverse human failings that would perhaps shock and sound extremely repulsive. The Ramayana and Mahabharata too outline the myriad hues of human failings be it treachery, jealousy, cunningness, power struggle, double crossing and Greek Mythology too does not lag far behind in bringing to the fore the faults of human kind.

While we are often tempted to point fingers at others, gossip about another’s wicked ways or slander another person without batting an eye lid, we remain either blissfully ignorant of our faults or conveniently ignore or rationalize our acts of omission and commission. If we just accepted the feedback that our well wishers and close associates give us and pondered over them it will dawn on us that we are guilty not just of committing a fault but worse still is our crime of condoning another’s indiscretions and deliberate acts of illegality and crime. This brings to fore another aspect of our faults viz. us turning our face away from an unpardonable act and thereby giving our tactical support albeit surreptitiously and covertly.

When we seek to condemn another and label a person as bad, wicked or devilish we must be ready to accept a similar charge being laid at our doorstep for none is so pure and holy that our conscience is spotless or our conduct blameless.

Remember: “Think of your own faults the first part of the night when you are awake, and the faults of others the latter part of the night when you are asleep” Chinese Proverbs

Try these:

  1. Ask your very close friends and colleagues to tell you 5 areas of improvement. If you analyze these you will be able to pinpoint those areas of your personality that needs a major make over. Prioritize them and work on them systematically.
  2. Sometimes our major fault is bad mouthing another either by being very critical or gossiping or insinuation. Look out for these apparently minor faults but deeply hurting behavior. You also need to ensure you stand up for those who are unnecessarily being criticized bad mouthed or blamed; for silence is golden except when you need to stand up and voice your concern.

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Loving your work

To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?  Katharine Graham

Ideally, everyone must get to do what he/ she loves; unfortunately life rarely offers this luxury to anyone and in any case there will some aspect of every job that we are bound to dislike. It is also good thing that we don’t always get what we want for that would make life quite boring. The challenge still remains how does one the job that has been entrusted to you?

The trick to enjoining any task is believing that the task is important. The moment one looks at a task as a waste of time we get demotivated, we seek shortcuts to minimize the work load, we don’t feel guilty of doing a shallow job and worst of all we try to avoid the job. Enjoying the task is possible if we don’t look at the task in isolation but see its criticality in the overall scheme of things. If the security guard at the bank didn’t feel he was a very key member of the team, he would when the time came to really put his life on the line, prefer to take the rap for dereliction of duty for the price paid then would possibly  be a lot less. On the other hand a policeman on duty or a soldier on duty knows the dangers of his job and yet takes pride in his uniform and his responsibility and so they never bat an eyelid when confronted with ultimate challenge of having to put their life on the line.

While it maybe relatively easier to recognize  that the job function you play is vital, it might be harder to get to love the job day in and day out. Monotony of the job routine is the first culprit followed closely by disagreeable specifics like paper work and poor working conditions and it could also be because of job insecurity, lack of quality leadership etc. This is where intrinsic motivation plays a vital part. You need to look at the excitement of the job, the little things in the job that make you feel happy and proud, seek out specifics in your job that you love. It could be the wonderful colleagues, the responsibilities in the job, the work environment etc. Once you have found the right motivational mix, you must not let trivial day to day issues interfere with your enjoying your job. A simple test of how much you love your job is to see if you love Mondays and don’t crave for Fridays consistently.

Once you find your job fun and also realize that you play an important part in the whole process then work takes on an altogether new meaning and you will always have spring in your step and take pride in telling about your job to others. More than that is the realization that you are so blessed to have the most wonderful job in the world. Add value to what you do by simply being more polite, more courteous, more committed, deliver more than what you promise and suddenly your job becomes as important to you as your life. Just observe the way your favorite waiter goes about his job or how the most popular boss at work goes about his job and you will find one thing common in both; they both enjoy what they do. Your designation, your earning, your position in the hierarchy etc. all become secondary to the fact that you love your life and your job.

Remember: “Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie

Try these:

  1. Make a list of things that you can do, to make your job even better both for those who deal with you, your colleagues and your boss. Start implementing it from today. Observe the difference it makes to your life.
  2. What are those things in your job that you dislike or detest? Can you see why those tasks are important in the context of the job. How will you get to like the job or get someone else to do it? If you feel your job sucks then ask why are you still doing it? The answer may help you move on to another job or get you to appreciate your job better.

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Being realistic

One arrow does not bring down two birds. Turkish proverb

In this fast paced world we are prone to be caught up in the mad race to grab that elusive pot of gold. In this process we are bound to force the pace, press the accelerator and possibly drive a little recklessly. That is when we also get the bright idea that we can possibly increase our odds by attempting to bring down two birds with one arrow; a task that is not just superhuman but unrealistic.

When we set up goals that are unrealistic we end up wasting a lot of energy, squandering our resources and ending up frustrated. Many a time our goals are not determined by our ability or interests but are dictates of family hopes, societal approval and convention.  This leads to a peculiar problem where you pursue something half heartedly, keep struggling to cope up and then attempt to make up by a zealous pursuit of another objective. Imagine you studying engineering but your passion is acting. You attempt to do both, the former to make others happy the later for your own self gratification. While you may barely clear the exams you might end up winning some honors in the acting field but when you have to make a career choice you are back in square one and the acting honors suddenly look worthless.

A more common problem is not having any goals and drifting along in life and imagining that whatever you do is taking you closer to your undefined goal. This in effect implies that your effort becomes the arrow and every alternate task you take up becomes a bird to be ambushed. When you realize that you are not being rewarded for your efforts, it dawns on you that no one really cares for your efforts but all of them are focused on what you have achieved. You might become wiser  and more realistic and that si when you decide to outline the goal for yourself. With the goal in front of you, all your efforts, expertise and energy are focused on achieving that one goal which will give you the pot of gold in the form of recognition, rewards and satisfaction.

There are some skeptics who will say that it is possible to kill two birds with one stone.  True but then that would be exception rather than the norm and is often a byproduct of pursuing an original goal. E.g. You score vital runs to help your team win a cricket match and in the process also win the man of the match. The later must never have been your original goal but you got lucky on that day.

Remember: “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”  Aristotle

Try these:

  1. Play a game of Chinese whispers with two or more teams, each having at least 8 members. Put the teams into a competitive mode against each other with the first team to retell the original story/ joke correctly being the winner. Most times, none of them will tell the story / joke perfectly simply because they are pursuing the twin goals of understanding and winning both at the same time.
  2. Plan a day long outdoor work schedule like shopping, paying some bills, meeting a sick friend in hospital, dropping of some packages / invitations etc. If you schedule your visits right all tasks must be accomplished on time. Do you think you can achieve perfection or will external factors disrupt your schedule? How will you react if just one of your original plans is done and the rest remain pending.

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