This is the key to building a successful career.

When is it ok to be abrasive at work, to ride roughshod over people’s feelings and to hold the view of my way or the highway? The answer is never.


The early years of my career (and some later as well) were punctuated with incidents that showcased me as an aggressive pushy professional, keen to make his mark. My approach at work was to ensure my viewpoint carried through to the other, his or her feelings be damned. I was brusque in my attitude and said what was needed to be said, regardless of the audience. 

The end result was on expected lines. I was typecast as an abrasive person who while good at his work, was lacking inter personal skills. This of course impacted my appraisals as well.


After spending more than half my life in the corporate world, here’s what I have realised – this is not a make believe world where anything goes. It consists of real people who have real feelings and are just trying to make their mark while making a living. So it always helps to realise the human core at the heart of everything we do at work. 

To understand that all our actions at work would impact our colleagues in some way or another. This realisation requires that we be sensitive to them, in the way we interact – assertive yet respectful, honest yet tactful and professional yet with an inherent understanding and empathy towards their behaviour and actions.

This approach was amply demonstrated by quite a few SVP/ Directors that I have had the good fortune to work with. The more senior the person, the more sensitive he is towards interactions with colleagues, and towards making sure that work is accomplished in a collaborative manner. Sure there would be disagreements and different points of view. But the disagreement is always channelled in a constructive manner, away from the person and towards finding an amicable yet workable solution that meets corporate objectives.


This then is the core learning experience of my career; one that has changed my outlook both as a professional and as an individual.

Do you think this perspective is useful? What has been your biggest learning from the corporate world?  


3 Traits that will propel you to becoming a Super Achiever

I recently watched Bohemian Rhapsody (the movie) and was once again swept away by the sheer genius of Freddie Mercury and his band – Queen. It remains one of the most versatile rock bands of the eighties and each band member displayed oodles of talent that came to the fore with every album that they recorded. While reminiscing later about what I love about Freddie, I reflected that there were 3 traits of the Queen frontman that truly inspired me and are great takeaways for all of us.

The young Farroukh (Freddie’s real name) was supremely confident of his talent. His Self-belief was unshakeable – he knew he was destined for greatness. It didn’t matter that he got rejected by producers or other musicians. Freddie knew he had it in him to succeed.

In one scene within the movie, Freddie and the band are at an introductory meeting with EMI records. When the music company manager suggests that “if everything turns out right, you could get some airplay” Freddie instead of looking perturbed, states with a quiet confidence that he expects more, much more.

That’s self-belief which actually transforms your destiny because you are already visualising your success. And once you can visualise it and live it in your mind, the same success manifests itself in your physical reality. Believe in yourself and your uniqueness. Create your own destiny by believing and trusting your inner voice and your deepest desires.

The second hallmark of Freddie was Passion for his music. He always invested 100% of himself into every song. An indelible image in my mind remains Freddie’s face while he belted out his foot stomping hits or crooned a ballad – eyes closed, veins popping, a sweating face taut with the intensity and passion that was his forte and which gave Queen’s music that cutting edge. Freddie lived his music with a fanatical passion that ultimately propelled him to becoming a Legend in the annals of Rock music.

If you are a diehard fan of Queen (like me) you would have heard all their songs. And what impresses me most is the sheer Creativity of their repertoire. While the other band members did contribute to this aspect, it was Freddie’s creative brilliance that stood out in their best work. His indefatigable thirst to create unceasingly, without caring for censure or praise, was a testament to his work ethic. And the more he wrote and sang, the more the creativity flowed. 

A simple way to become creative is to create – do whatever moves you. Draw, paint, write, sculpt, write code, invent, discover – do whatever it takes to create your best version of who you are. The more you dive in and forget yourself while pursuing your own creative path, the richer would be the end product that you finally hold up to the world.

Find your passion, something that you love doing. Then just do it, over and over again. Passion gives you the edge, the reason for your existence and imbues your existence with vivacity.  

An unwavering Self-belief, relentless Passion to make the best music and a Creative outpouring that continues to astound fans even today. These then, were the cornerstones of Freddie Mercury’s greatness as a musician par excellence, one who was feted by his peers from the rock music genre as well as the classical elite and of course millions of fans.

As you may rightly observe, these traits are not confined to him or the music industry. These are the prerequisites for anyone who seeks to be Excellent at what he or she does.

Believe in yourself, fuel the Passion and keep Creating. That’s what I truly believe. 

But don’t take my word for it. Take a look around you and identify the achievers, the truly successful. Do they exhibit the qualities that we have discussed above?  What do you think ?

picture credit: by Frederico Birchal, via Behance

The Man in the mirror

I am not one to keep examining my appearance every now and then. The couple of times I do look at my reflection are  limited to my visits to the washroom. 

Earlier, even when I did glance at myself, it would be with a critical eye. Oh there I was again. I would search for the perfect version of myself. Always with a straight face, always serious. I mean,  looking at yourself is nothing much to celebrate, is it ? And anyways , what’s the big deal about admiring your own face in the mirror ? 

Then, after spending the most part of my life with the same face (you don’t get a choice, you know) and after reading countless messages about being kind to yourself,. I tried something. 

I smiled at myself in  the mirror.

The other guy smiled back and it felt good. The familiar eyes crinkling in recognition of a familiar face, the happy smile turning into a wide grin.

Why should we always need to smile at others – family, spouse, colleagues et al ? What about the one and only person true to you, always fighting for your cause, never expecting any kindness or love from – your own self.

We are always so judgemental about ourselves. At least I was, until recently. Always condemning my reflection for the mistakes I made, not happy with who I was or what I had become. 

Remembering only the mistakes ,  not the highlights, not ready to accept that I was who I really was – an imperfect human being with flaws, warts and all.

But when I smiled at myself, I realised that I do deserve it. I deserve to be kind to myself and doesn’t kindness begin with a smile ? Why am I so stern with me ? Is it because I am expecting myself to be perfect all the time ? 

Smiling at me makes me feel good about myself. It reminds me that I will always be there for me. That is a comforting thought.

So the next time you catch yourself looking at a mirror, smile at the person looking  at you. She’s your best friend and deserves your love. Smiling at the man / woman in the mirror makes you kinder to yourself.

When you can smile at yourself without judgement, without the need  to be perfect, you will feel a lot lighter and happier. After all isn’t being comfortable with one’s self a Happy feeling ?

Image: courtesy Depositphotos

Motivation is overrated – This 1 trait instead will help you achieve your goals.

Let us assume you are embarking upon a diet – Keto, paleo, low carb, etc. You have done the necessary research and are convinced about the diet that sounds right for you. Day 1 starts with great enthusiasm and you are super excited about your plan and vow to stick to it. Day 2 also starts well and you go as per plan. But a couple of days later, the inevitable happens. You go out with friends to a pizzeria and upon seeing the cheese laden marvel, your mind coaxes you to pick up one slice. It doesn’t help that your friends also egg you on and before you know it, you have devoured the slice.

If the single slice was an aberration and you are strong enough to say no, the diet journey continues, albeit with a few hiccups as mentioned above. But if you are prone to one hiccup every day or other day, there goes your diet and plans to fit into those slim fit jeans. So, what went wrong? Did your motivation levels dip upon seeing the delicious calorie laden slice? Why did your brain not stop you from reaching for the pizza ? Where was the motivation to stick to the plan ?  Turns out that Motivation doesn’t really matter. It is a Discipline that is required to sustain your diet plan.

The key difference between the two approaches lies in the underlying rationale. Motivation is based on an emotional or feel good factor. If one is feeling lively and energetic, we say the person is high on motivation. Conversely, a low morale and a dispirited approach is likely to be termed as low motivation. Motivation is fickle as it relies on feelings and the emotional quotient of a person.

By contrast, Discipline involves zero emotions, as it well should. It relies on a strong sense of purpose and completion of the task, without any regard for emotion. Discipline is when one trains the mind to be strong and forge ahead with the task at hand, irrespective of the emotional state of mind. Discipline brooks no excuse and needs to be adhered to.

A strong focus on discipline trains the mind and makes it stronger. You are what you think said the Buddha and this truism is reinforced every time we follow a disciplined effort or plan. When you rely on motivation, it is a crutch to lean on – an excuse for failure. When the mind is disciplined, there is no need for falling back on any emotional or mental support. You are your own support. The more you stick with discipline, the easier it gets. The mind becomes stronger and less prone to being buffeted by the whimsical winds of emotion.

The beauty of Discipline is that it can be applied to complete any task. A gold medal in swimming ( a la Michael Phelps), a Phd. In robotics or the will to learn salsa – all these are possible with a steady dose of Discipline. Think of it as a bitter but extremely effective medicine.

The obvious question now would be how do we build this bedrock of Discipline in our lives ? Is it even possible to inculcate in oneself such a trait, with the world constantly pulling at your senses from every direction? Discipline seems such an archaic virtue in today’s context. How does one internalise this character defining trait ? The answer lies in following the plan below :

Focus: Any effort that you make to start building Discipline within your daily life must have one essential ingredient – an unwavering focus. Don’t get distracted by the flashy and the trivial. Our phones are designed to distract and deter us from pursuing any worthwhile goal. Ditch those meaningless updates and whatsapp messages. Keep your focus on your goal.

Remember that you are doing this for a purpose. And make that purpose the centre of your focus – the bullseye. Swami Vivekanand summed it up brilliantly – “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on it. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to Success ”.

Take baby steps: I am a big believer in this philosophy. The road to a thousand miles begins with one step. Don’t let the enormity of your goal deter you. Start small – one step at a time. I used to think earlier that going full blaze after your goals is the way to success. I was wrong. A small but powerful book helped me realise the beauty and effectiveness of this approach – Mini Habits : Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. If you are serious about cultivating Discipline, I urge you to read this book. The mind is tricked into believing that you will write only that one page, climb only one flight of steps or lift only that one weight. Do it – trick your mind. Once you start on that one small activity, you will soon get immersed in it and your mind will automatically reach out to do more. You are then on the path to winning.

Repeated action : Discipline gets reinforced by repeated action. A difficult exercise routine seems an unbearably uphill task on day 1. By day 3 it gets slightly easier and by day 7 it even becomes pleasurable to complete. The repeatable nature of a disciplined approach helps make the task /activity progressively easier to complete. On the other hand, an approach that relies on motivation alone, is not consistent and is at the mercy of mood swings. Such an effort cannot last. Keep doing what you do, don’t get distracted and stop.

An unwavering focus on discipline helps you to stay the course. Discipline is a hard taskmaster. It brooks no excuses and needs to be built on the foundation of an iron will. Once started, you must not stop. There is no room to give in to excuses. Although there will be a multitude of reasons why you should give up, these are all false. They are designed to thwart your ambition. Don’t let them.

You now know that the way to cultivating a Disciplined mindset is to start small, stay focused and repeat your actions till it becomes a habit. This will bring you slowly but surely to your goal, whatever that is. The fulfilment of your goal is the end result of all your effort and must be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, right ?

As it turns out, the goal is the end result but something greater happens to you once you embrace discipline in your daily Life. Your mind becomes calmer and stronger. Your mental reserves of strength increase and this in turn gives you the quiet confidence to take on further challenges. The expansion of the mind helps you to grow as an individual and fulfil your destiny. As Jim Rohn has wisely said – “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

So what is your plan to make Discipline a part of your daily life ? Let me know.

Image credit : truly tafakari.

The path of the 4 Ps to energise your career

Have you ever felt drained out, demoralised or demotivated by the rough and tumble of the office environment?  Do you feel mentally fatigued at having to deal with the political one upmanship that is the norm at the workplace? Are you wondering what you are doing at a workplace where your manager does not seem to recognise your efforts?

A couple of years ago, I was precisely in the same situation. A sense of fatigue and hopelessness had crept in. I was demotivated and held a gloomy view of my career as well as life in general. My interaction with colleagues was minimal and I avoided mingling with them. I felt persecuted and insecure. But then I discovered one thing which helped lift me from the morass of self-pity and pessimism.

That was my writing.

I had published my first book – a collection of short stories – Cartwheels of the Mind in 2014. This maiden literary effort of mine caught the eye of my Director who encouraged and praised my effort by showcasing the same to the entire team on the floor. This brought a huge smile to my face and gave a tremendous boost to my self-belief and confidence.

Earlier this year, I finished writing the first draft of my first full length novel. I am currently in the process of refining the book, identifying an editor and finalising a marketing strategy. All this work on my passion and hobby has made me realise that there is a definite link between following your passion and becoming happier at work. I give below the way of the 4 Ps that I think is a sure-fire way to raise your energy levels at work and make you happier.

Passion: The first thing you need to do is to identify your passion. This can be anything. From cultivating a green patch, to climbing mountains; from singing out your heart to telling your story. The possibilities are endless. But here’s the catch – it must be your passion. The thing you love doing the most, not because others are doing it, or because it makes you look cool. But because it ignites a fire in you. It fills you up and expands your horizon. It excites you and makes you feel alive.

So, rule #1 is – find your passion.

Purpose: Now that you have identified your passion, you realise you are now filled with a Purpose. The need to do something, be someone or show your prowess to the world. Purpose defines who you are, it provides meaning to your Life and bolsters your self-confidence. You are no longer just ambling along the highway of Life. You know what you are here for. This is a primal urge for all mankind that often gets obscured by the hurly burly of modern existence. Purpose provides you a sense of self-worth that transcends work titles and job descriptions. It fuels your existence.

Perseverance: Ok, so now you know what excites you. This activity (and it must be an activity, not merely a thought) sets your pulse racing. What are you going to do about it? To sit back and relax is the antithesis of what you should be doing. You need to FEED that passion. Which means you must persevere to keep doing what you love to do, in small doses, day after day. This perseverance to do the thing you love to do, is crucial to fanning the flames of passion in you and will keep you from day dreaming about what makes you feel good, to actually doing it. An ounce of doing is worth a ton of passion.

Positivity: The culmination of the path that you have started on, as shown above, is the infusion of positivity in your Life. You are now filled with optimism and energy because you know what your passion is, you are filled with the evangelistic fervour of your Purpose and you take small steps on a daily basis to fulfil that passion. The combination of the above steps lead you to becoming an optimistic person, one who is more cheerful and has a more benevolent world view.  This positivity seeps into your career as well and the outcome is a noticeably peaceful and energised you, one who is not buffeted by the storms of petty politicking or manoeuvring but holds her own. Your efforts at the workplace are infused with a renewed enthusiasm and vigour.

The 4 Ps above are not stand alone but are synergistic in nature, each part of the process feeding the next in a powerful Circle of positivity.

To summarise – find your Passion. One that fills you with a Purpose which if you will Persevere with, will lead to a virtuous circle of Positivity and Happiness. Adopt this for yourself and then watch the transformation unfold.

I have experienced the benefits of the 4Ps – try it and see if it works for you.

This is the most important trait you should possess

The case for willpower being a key weapon in an individual’s arsenal is an open and shut one. Throughout the ages, many traits have been pointed out that are crucial to a person’s success. Discipline, determination, single minded focus, perseverance, agility – all these are perceived to be the cornerstone for achieving Life goals. Yet, this innocuous and seemingly easy word is key to everything that is achievable. It has been proven time and again that when faced with insurmountable odds, it is always this trait and no other, that proves a person’s mettle and helps the individual to scale the peaks of success.

The brilliance of Stephen Hawking comes readily to mind, as a classic example of what willpower can achieve. Everyone knows how this immensely gifted scientist overcame his apparent fate of being a quadriplegic to becoming the most luminous academician – physicist of our times. The movie which chronicles his life story also corroborates this. It didn’t matter to Hawking that he was diagnosed with an unusual and paralysing disease. What mattered to him was his single-minded obsession of unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos which led to his celebrated contributions in the field of physics and cosmology.

It then becomes increasingly obvious that the key to Hawking’s success lay in his indomitable willpower to overcome his physical impairments and never give up sight of his ambition. It is this trait that was instrumental in shaping his life and career and propelling him to the rarefied realms of scientific theories of black holes and quantum physics.

The strength that willpower brings to an individual is something which I have personally experienced as well in many areas of my life.

A simple example of physical exertion comes to mind. Although I have been of fairly sound physical shape for most of my adult life, I have taken up jogging only in the last few years. I found that initially I could jog no more than one or two kms at a time. But over a period of time, I resolved to increase my jogging distance and kept at it. To my surprise (though why should it surprise is the question) I have now reached a minimum of 5-6 kms that I can complete at a stretch and my aim is to better this distance as well. Although this appears to be an insignificant distance when compared to some of my friends who run distances of 10- 25 km and more, it becomes a personal achievement to be able to surpass what I thought I couldn’t do. And I can do this only because I keep telling myself not to give up. Only a couple of kms to go. I can do it. I must not stop now.

That is willpower in its most elementary and beautiful form.

It is the fuel that helps you grow beyond your self-inflicted boundaries. Cultivating willpower is essential for anyone wanting to achieve success – whether it is acing an entrance exam, climbing the highest peak or subduing one’s own self-destructive passions.

To attain ever increasing amounts of this most precious personal trait, I recommend the following game plan, based on my struggles to attain more of this greatly beneficial characteristic. This is by no means the ultimate plan, just one that has worked for me and continues to do so :

  • Start small, then keep building – it is always a daunting task to take on the entire objective or goal in one fell sweep. So start small – one step at a time and gradually build up your reserves of strength, distance , emotions whatever it is you are aiming for. This will help you to overcome the initial starting issue as the goal will also seem achievable. Once you have achieved the first milestone, move it a little more so that your next one is then ready.
  • Engage in a physical activity – this is essential because it is an example where you can quantify the effort and the outcome. It also gives you the biggest kick in achieving something which you thought you could not do – and in the process, push your boundaries. It could be anything – from a walk in the park, to practising yoga at home or pumping iron. A physical activity that you can perform and then look to scaling that up gradually, gives you first hand evidence of the confidence that you can do it. To top it off, the afterglow of successfully completing your goal is a great and fulfilling feeling.
  • Periodic fasting – this habit enables one to train the mind not to give in to hunger pangs. It helps in keeping a reign on your daily impulses and curbing the most fundamental of all desires. This in turn helps build willpower. Again, you need have a highly ambitious plan to start with. Start with maybe a morning session of abstinence followed by a day’s fasting and gradually move your way up. If you can suspend your primal desire to fill your stomach for predetermined intervals of time, it will aid you in your quest to building an iron wall of willpower.
  • Just do it – The classic Nike tagline has an inherent simplicity and focus that I love. Motivation is overrated. When you feel yourself not upto it and the desire to throw in the towel is great, you need to just go ahead and do it. Don’t rationalise and don’t procrastinate. Force yourself to do whatever it is you have promised yourself. That is the best route to build your willpower.

To summarise, there are a number of qualities that are essential on the road to success. All of them are important to enable us to get there. It is also important to cultivate those habits and traits that are good for us and help us become stronger individuals. But a person who has enormous reserves of willpower will always reach his or her goals, come what may. She will not be deterred by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the way. Armed with willpower, an individual can smash all records and scale the highest peaks. Or better still, he will, in a steady march towards fulfilment, reach the apogee of all human endeavour – conquering one’s own impulses of the Mind.

 

Why changing your mind is the worst you can do.

Hi friends,

Today I want to talk about changing your mind about the really important things in Life.

In today’s world offering us a plethora of choices, it is all too easy to fall prey to the fickleness of one’s desires. When the going gets tough, choosing a different option may seem to be the right thing to do.  After all, you are answerable only to yourself and no one else. So why not?

But do you really gain when you change your mind about something significant, a life changing event, a course correction that would alter your footprint on the sands of time?

I would like to share with you my personal experience with changing my mind over a significant goal that I had.

One of my favourite dreams was to live in a foreign land. For the longest time, I had this longing to live in a country like the US or Canada or the UK. Places which I had visited or seen in the movies and magazines, which promised a better standard of living or a higher quality of Life. Almost a decade ago, this longing turned into ambition and I decided to do something about it.

I painstakingly gathered all the relevant documentation that the Canadian immigration rules demanded. I made multiple copies of my marksheets from school and college. I even enlisted the help of an advocate who provided me with the necessary certifications and validated my documents.

Imagine my delight when I finally got an intimation from the consulate telling me that my application  had been approved for permanent residence status in Canada. My joy knew no bounds !

With great enthusiasm, I made the necessary preparations for my journey to the promised land. But before embarking on this long and exciting voyage, my wife and I decided to seek the advice of family and friends. And they were most helpful and did offer many suggestions to ensure we would have a stable and secure start in Canada. The first thing they said was not to pack up everything and go. Always keep a backup…. Just in case. So we decided that instead of leaving lock stock and barrel, we would take it nice and slow. I would go first and scout around for a job. And after securing a “good” job I would then plan to get her there as well.

I landed in Canada in the summer of 2007, all starry eyed and excited. The place was everything I had dreamt of or heard about. Toronto was all that a large metropolis should be – sophisticated, bristling with cars that whooshed silently by, zero pollution on the roads, spotlessly clean in most places and most of all , the air had a scent of freshness that I found exhilarating.

Within a month and a few days, I had lined up a couple of interviews at major banks. Everything was hunky dory. However, due to the feedback that I had received over the past few weeks of my stay there, I found myself faced with a barrage of reasons as to why I should not consider relocating to Canada. From job insecurity to the harsh winters to the lack of a sound education system, I was buffeted by a slew of reasons, all of them looking gloomy and sinister.

In hindsight, what happened next sounds ludicrous. I suddenly decided that the effort was not worth it. That I would not succeed at what I was aiming for and that it was all a huge waste of time. On a whim and an impulse, much to my boss’s amazement and chagrin and my wife’s acute disappointment, I chose to return to India.

So why did I do that ? Choose not to pay attention to my inner voice and carry on? What made me so fickle minded that I forgot my life’s ambition and succumbed to a momentary lapse of weakness ? The answer is simple – I changed my mind about who I was and what I wanted to achieve. Just like that. And in the bargain lost out on my only chance at building my dream life in Canada.

So dear reader, take this small piece of advice that I share with you now. Change your mind about small things, things that don’t matter. Change your mind all you want about having that expensive  watch or that new car or that set of pearls. But don’t ever change your mind about the things that truly matter, for that can cost you your Ambition, your Dreams and your Hope.

Be steadfast and committed as you set out to achieve your BIG goal – whether it is climbing Mount Everest or becoming a pro footballer or a renowned chef. In the short run, things may appear bleak and forbidding, difficulties may seem insurmountable, the world may seem pitted against you. But don’t you back off. Don’t change your mind.

Always keep choosing the same goal, vision or objective. That is the only way to succeed.

As Og Mandino so eloquently puts it :

“So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For now I know one of the  greatest principles of success; if I persist long enough I will Win.”

 

What are your thoughts on this article ? Do share your comments below.