Self Help

Last month I wrote on Ikigai. This month I am writing on Self Help. What is happening to me? Well, nothing. Fear not, for no alien has abducted me and replaced me with a self-help books loving clone.

I have always found the concept of self help books a bit abhorrent. If you know what’s wrong with you and you want to change yourself, you don’t need the validation of a book to motivate you. If your concern for performance improvement is genuine, the motivation to change will come from within. If not, then I can describe your situation as “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

Well if you don’t know the answer to the previous question, it’s a paradox, and so is your dependence on self help books.

Here is hoping everyone tons of self improvement minus the psychobabble of these self help books.

Ikigai!

I am not a fan of self-help books and trust me, this post isn’t about a change of heart brought about by this book!

Ikigai asks one to find a reason for being, the purpose of one’s life. Now I am sure that is good to hear and all, but how many of us can actually claim that we are in the jobs that are our reason for being! Most of us are in jobs that provide us with the basic necessities of life.

What I am trying to say is that one should find a purpose in whatever one is doing and give it 100%. Once you do that, you would be happy knowing the fact that I gave my 100% and what I now achieve is what I had worked for. I would rather be known as a diligent worker rather than a philosophical one.

What do you think?

Pivot

So, we have all heard/read this word a lot these days. A lot. Tech firms pivot into unexpected use cases for their existing products. The Excel warriors keep making pivot tables to justify how their inference is the only correct inference and nobody knows data like they do.

Why am I talking about pivots? Am I launching an app? Am I going into data sciences? No, nothing like that. Pivot would also mean the central point, the fulcrum around which things move. I want to be a pivot.

What would make me a pivot? Here are certain things I have observed about people, who I know are pivots in their lives:

  1. They promise and deliver, each time and every time.
  2. They follow through on everything, long after it’s done.
  3. They are people who can be trusted for finding a solution, not just because of their knowledge.
  4. They have amazing clarity of thought that can distil even the most complex of ideas into a simple statement of purpose.
  5. They are good not only in their fields but also add value to others work by their experience.

Hopefully, I plan to change myself. It’s going to take time but surely I will be the pivot.

Blindsided

I was blindsided, that’s it! I screwed up. I kind of knew what was coming but I didn’t think it was this close. Sometimes all of us get this feeling. We know our actions have consequences but the fact that they sometimes are so sudden that we feel blindsided by it all.

No global gyaan here. Just the fact that you can always be prepared for the worst and yet the worst will be so sudden that all that planning would be futile.

That’s what I feel right now. Remedial measures are afoot but they will take time.

Lessons from my Dad

Last week I turned 37. Mind you, neither 35, nor 40. 37.

Why am I writing about it? Or why am I writing about my dad, as the title suggests. No reason. It’s just that this was a birthday I spent alone. The better half, along with the kid was with my parents at the native place. I know, relaxed travel restrictions gave them a chance to go away from me. So I spent my birthday alone and it got me thinking. Am I a good dad? Am I doing things right?

My dad had always been strict, or so I thought. Till I was around 15-16, I lived in his fear. Not that he was a frightening dad, but just that we had never been close and so as I knew him less, I feared him more. Moreover the teen angst in me made me feel that my father just doesn’t get me and I have hurt him with my words a couple of times growing up.

There were then the years 18-25, where there was a new dynamic forming but I wasn’t still clear on how to move ahead with him. We have had disagreements and I remember him asking my cousins to do his bidding when I wouldn’t listen to him. Now that I remember that, it seems funny.

As soon as I turned 25 and started my job, I realized that all things he wanted me to not do was his way of guiding me away from his mistakes. I guess things have turned out to be much better now that I have started listening to him.

So, what did I learn from him?

I learned the one most important thing in my life. If you do the right thing, you will never have to live in fear. Fear of second-guessing every decision of yours. I have seen people take the short cut because it’s easy but then they regret it later. I will say this, the longer route might be painful now, but I know I am going to walk on it with my head held high and that’s what matters.

I hope, growing up, my daughter looks upto me the same way I look upto my dad now. Thank you , Papa!

Do as I do, not as I say!

A few months ago, I wrote about consistency. And then two months hence, I broke that rule. I didn’t write a single post in October. Not that I didn’t have time or ideas, but I wasn’t applying myself enough. I didn’t think missing a month would matter. And then it hit me.

I am writing this post on the last day of November. Procrastination is chronic, it never goes away. I was about to miss the second month in a row. But I am not having that. I have decided to do things differently. I am willing to change things, and change, I will.

I am not talking about new year resolutions, though the time for the same is soon approaching. I am just taking small steps in making myself a better man. I am going for small increments in the right direction. It might start with baby steps, but I know this is a marathon and not a sprint.

To change is the hardest thing to do, to think about change is the easiest.

If!

As Philip II of Macedon was conquering Greek city-states left and right, Sparta was left alone. Philip had achieved a crushing victory, and Sparta was relatively weak and without walls. Philip sent a message to the Spartans saying “If I invade Lakonia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.” The Spartans replied with one word, “If.” Philip eventually decided to bypass Sparta as it was a poor region and not worth the fight. Neither Philip nor Alexander attacked the Spartans while they ruled.

Why am I telling this story? The fact that a strong king didn’t attack a smaller region gives me a new perspective on things every time I get a little bogged down by all that is happening around me. Is this worth it? If I get the idea that the cost of my efforts would far outweigh the benefits I would receive, I am quick to cut my losses and move away.

While others may see that as being a quitter, I would say that I am being a realist and that’s what matters. You can’t win them all and you don’t have to. There are certain fights in life not worth winning. Winning an argument against your wife is a prime example of the kind of fight I am talking about.

Pick your battles well, for if you bleed in a wrong one, you wouldn’t live to see the glory that was waiting for you all along.

Consistency

Consistency is what I would define as showing up day in and day out and getting things done. It doesn’t matter that you are the best at what you do initially. What matters is that you are consistent in doing what is expected from you.

Why am I talking about consistency today? I was recently discussing work issues with a couple of friends. The fact that consistency helps you build a brand at your workplace was a common theme amongst us. Almost unanimous in asserting that showing up and doing the bare minimum would at least get you noticed(as there are many in the workplace, who are known to do even less than the bare minimum)

However, consistency might help you survive the workplace but nothing more than that. In these times, even consistent performers are also getting the axe. Why? It’s simple. People expect consistency from everyone. So what should be the game plan now?

The game plan now should be focussing on moving the value chain. The fact that action alone wouldn’t amount to much. One should focus on value addition in the team. Do what no one else in the team is doing. Do something that isn’t expected from you. Do something out of the ordinary.

OP(iu)M

Other Peoples’ Money(OPM). I recently came across this term while listening to a podcast on Indian Economy. The reference is to Mutual Fund salespeople who talk about the great things with the Indian economy as they need more and more people to invest in their funds. I tend to define OPM as Overly Positive MF sales. I know, not a perfect way to give a full form but you get the gist.

So, I got to thinking. I work in a bank. We also manage money for our clients. We lend it(or try to lend it, in these times) and this is how we end up making money for us and paying interest to our clients. Is everything alright with the banking system in India?

Most of us have read news reports recently mentioning that banks are parking most of their liquidity with RBI earning lesser interest rather than lending it onward and earning a bigger spread on the same. Why is that the case? The reason I believe is that most of the clients who would like money for their businesses aren’t very sure about their cash flows for the next 1-1.5 years, which makes the banks wary to lend them. Other clients would rather wait out the storm before taking any decision.

Then why is the stock market rising? It’s the cheap money flowing into India from outside. With the worldwide interest rates at the low end of the spectrum and no signs of them increasing anytime soon, cheap money is flowing into risky assets like the Indian Stock Market. Which is where you hear the MF guys selling you the India story, the 5 trillion dollar economy dream. Not that I have anything against having a positivist attitude, but you are managing money on behalf of other people. This alone should make you very conscious of what you sell as a dream. It might not be a fiduciary responsibility but it should be a moral one.

I am a realist and still believe that there is light at the end of this COVID tunnel. I am still optimistic about people and as an extension the economy coming out of this stronger and more resilient. This is how dreams get fulfilled. You fall down and always get back up again one more time.

Overworked?

It happened a couple of days back. My wife, seeing that I had been on back to back client calls(even while having lunch), asked if I could either switch off my phone or put it on flight mode, at least for the duration of the lunch? (She did take away my phone and put it on flight mode)

After lunch, I sat down to think if I am working too much or was my wife over-reacting?! Took me a couple of minutes to get to what I feel was the conclusion of this conundrum. I wasn’t overworked or anything. I just wanted to enjoy this feeling of getting swamped by work.

You see, previous few months had not been actually great work-wise. I wasn’t seeing traction in the marketplace and realised that clients had not been very forthcoming on closing the deals we had been discussing for months now. In sales, you are known only by the last deal you closed and that had been a while ago.

When I closed June, I felt that the tide is finally turning in. The client who had been missing into action for the last couple of months, calls in to discuss a few things. The client who had been non-committal on the business agrees to send me the (old) proposal signed back. So July, in its first week has been hectic. I would love to see the rest of the year this hectic.

Here’s hoping for many more days like these!

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain