Thursday, May 31, 2007

i-TFTD #18: Learning from the Dictionary

i-TFTD #18: Learning from the Dictionary

Some unusual words courtesy; interesting to know there's a word for such a thing; all are avoidable behaviour.

sequacious (si-KWAY-shuhs) adjective: Unthinkingly following others

misology (mi-SOL-uh-jee) noun: Hatred of logic or reason

verbigeration (vuhr-bij-uh-RAY-shun) noun: Obsessive repetition of meaningless words and phrases

*We* don't do such things, right? Others do.

Under normal, favourable conditions most of us are logical, independent thinkers who speak well.

It is when faced with adversity, a threatening situation, a crisis, when things are not as we expected, that we sometimes feel compelled to be sequacious.

When our boss (or subordinate or spouse) has a valid counterpoint and is more logical, we tend to temporarily become misologists (yes, it is a word).

On getting caught doing something we ought not, or, when an important person in an audience asks a tough question on the weakest area of a presentation we made, we instantly acquire the skill of verbigeration.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

i-TFTD #17

i-TFTD #17

Some of my favourites:

1. I don't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.
-John Cage

2. Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

3. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and over again, but expecting a different result.

-Albert Einstein

All of them exhort us to be willing to consider new thoughts, ideas, inputs and approaches.

Sometimes we behave -- especially those of us in higher positions --  as though discussing an alternative idea is by itself harmful. We cite our experience with past attempts and our wiser judgement to preempt a suggestion. Even if, at the end of considering a few more ideas, we decide to go with the idea that we originally thought, the exploration would still prove useful. If nothing else, it adds to our conviction and gives the satisfaction of making a well-considered decision.

Better results, by definition, can only come from a better approach to action. To be able to process newer ideas, we need periodic refreshing of the mental database with new data.

Nobody would admit to being afraid to learn. But it manifests itself in different ways like, "I am too old to change", "I already know all this", and "Reading a book never helped anyone achieve anything". Other tactics we subconsciously deploy are to find fault with the persons providing learning opportunity, to question their ulterior motive, to criticize the style in which the input is given and so on.

Monday, May 28, 2007

i-TFTD #16

i-TFTD #16

#16-1. It's so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to.
-Annie Gottlier

#16-2. Swallow your pride occasionally, it's non-fattening!

#16-3. Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch. 
-Ivern Ball

The first and third are related. It is possible to psyche ourselves up to do something with gusto, and that makes a difference to the results. Try it and you will see. Ultimately it can actually become a habit and you will be a valued member in every professional or social group. Unfortunately there are still some who tend to say, "Don't be enthusastic all the time about everything." Ignore them.

Petty ego issues are all too common, a frequently occurring barrier to success, to better collaboration and to achieving all we can.

Friday, May 25, 2007

i-TFTD #15: The Law of Giving

i-TFTD #15: The Law of Giving

The Law of Giving
by Ernie West

When you give of yourself you will receive in return. And it pays the best dividends.

There is a universal Law of Giving which dictates that by giving you will receive. It defies all logic. The thinking mind cannot comprehend how this can be so because the two actions are in direct contradiction to each other.

It is a sort of paradox. Trying to figure it out could cause you to spin in circles. You get by giving? It sounds absurd.

Giving freely of yourself and your time, money, attention etc to others pays you the best return on your investment. Keeping things to yourself selfishly causes what you do have to remain the same or even to dwindle.

It almost takes an act of faith to understand why this is so. Our thinking minds will almost short circuit while attempting to decipher the concept.

Let me interchange "subconscious mind" and "heart" to make it easier to understand. Here is what I've come up with: the reason you receive by giving is because WHEN YOU GIVE, IT CHANGES *YOU*, IT CHANGES YOUR HEART!

And when you are transformed on the subconscious level, all kinds of unexpected things happen. People have been rewarded in all kinds of ways

when they gave. Relationships with people are a two-way street. When you plant good seeds in their life, they will reciprocate by planting good seeds in your life.

The tree that grows in *YOU* as a result produces more fruit, providing more seed for you to reinvest. It's an ongoing loop that grows, provided that you continue to plant.

There is a clincher, one that most are not willing to try out for long enough because they are not patient and want immediate results. The clincher is this: YOU MUST GIVE WILLINGLY AND WITH NO THOUGHT OF GETTING IN RETURN.

This ties in with planting good seeds in others. It must be done with no expectation for reward. And it must be done long term. Every day. Day after day. Selflessly. Cheerfully. With a great attitude. With a sincere desire to help others any way you can.

If your first thought is like mine was when I realized this, you are probably thinking, "Even if this did make sense, it's not fair! People will just take advantage of me. I don't want to just keep giving and giving, I want to get something in return!" We all must undergo the change of heart that happens as a result of adopting a giving attitude.

The return comes as a result of the hearts of other people responding to what they sense in you. Sure, some might take what you are offering and run, but so what? Who cares? For every person that does this there are many others who will give you a much greater return than what you invested in their lives. Give freely of yourself today!

I love articles that attempt to provide rational explanations to age-old beliefs. This ones combine logic and psychology to explain why a giving attitude actually helps us.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

i-TFTD #14: The Upside of Irritation

i-TFTD #14: The Upside of Irritation

There are many stories of spiritual masters embracing the presence of an annoying student in their community. There is even one story that documents a teacher paying an irritating person to live among his students. From an everyday perspective, this is difficult to comprehend. We generally work hard to avoid people and things that we find annoying so they don't bother us.

From a deeper spiritual perspective, however, irritation can be an important teacher and indicator that we are making progress on our path. Being able to remain centered and awake even when we feel uncomfortable is much more impressive than doing so in an environment where everything is to our liking. No matter how good we are at controlling our circumstances, there will always be factors and people that we cannot control. How we respond to these experiences to a great degree determines the quality of our lives. The goal of spiritual development is not to learn to control our environment -- which is more of an ego-driven desire. And while having some measure of control over our external reality is important, it is when we are confronted with a person or situation that irritates us and we can choose not to react that we know have made progress spiritually. It is when we have mastered our internal reality that we will have become the masters of our lives.

The more we try to eliminate annoyances, instead of learning to handle them gracefully, the further we get from developing the qualities that come with spiritual growth, such as patience, tolerance, and acceptance. It is often in the presence of people and experiences we find annoying that we have an opportunity to develop these qualities. Fortunately for most of us, our lives offer an abundance of opportunities to practice and cultivate these traits.

Many times over the years, I have pondered on this theme and tried to observe my reactions. I wondered if "putting up" with something is the same as choosing not to react; whether inability to confront, some kind of fear is motivating me not to act. There is also the worry that suppression of anger will cause other side effects in the long run. However, the following has helped me:

1. Try to remember always that every human being is doing what they think is "a good thing". If at all I wish to influence their behaviour I have to aim at their logic or their heart, not their ego.

2. Interacting with and trying to understand different kinds of people helps enlarge my perspectives, leading to fewer things that really annoy. A little humility helps.

3. In certain situations I could display anger or passionately debate something but the important thing is not to seethe inside. Keep your inner focus on issues, results and not on individuals. After all, anger and dissatisfaction, when channelized into the world of ideas, are what have led to many innovations.

Finally, my getting irritated is useful if it induces me to act on improving myself and the situation, it is useless if all it does is affect my balance and  my relationships.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

i-TFTD #13

i-TFTD #13

#13-1. Sometimes runners wear weights while training, to build up their muscles. Then when they take the weights off, they feel like they can almost fly! Our troubles, like those weights, strengthen our spirits and help us prepare for the next race.


#13-2. You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.
-Abraham Lincoln

#13-3. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be...

-Isaac Asimov

By actively seeking to solve small problematic situations we could train ourselves to better tackle bigger ones.

Too many people try to derive glory only from the achievements of their family, the reputation of institutions they have studied, and the organization they belong to.

Most individuals and organizations are constrained in their innovation effort by their practical knowledge of the past and the current, which is why those few who are able to imagine the future are able to make significant breakthroughs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

i-TFTD #12

i-TFTD #12

#12-1. There are two ways to live life
One as though nothing is a miracle,
the other as though everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein

#12-2. Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
- Goethe

#12-3. We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
- Albert Einstein

Deep study of any subject be it science or the humanities, should make one wonder at the fascinating Universe we perceive ourselves to inhabit. Activities like trekking, star gazing and playing with a small child also have the same effect on me.

The second quote above can be seen as a time management tip (important versus urgent activities) but it is true in a more profound sense. In our interactions with people who matter, do we let a petty ego gratification override the opportunity to reinforce our relationship and leave a positive imprint on the other person?

"Stuckness" in thinking is too common an occurrence. To break out of it when faced with vexing problems, we need to seek inspiring input from outside. Could be another person, book or forcing ourselves to consider different viewpoints.

Friday, May 11, 2007

i-TFTD #11: Two Wolves

i-TFTD #11: Two Wolves

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My child, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Simple. Puts responsibility on our conscious will. "Feeding" could take the form of indulging or admiring in others.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

i-TFTD #10: Abolish SWOT Analysis

Abolish SWOT Analysis
From a newsletter from

Did you know that Babe Ruth, a famous baseball player, was once a pitcher? At one point he made the deliberate decision to stop pitching so he could focus on batting. He took a lot of heat for his decision because he was a *good* pitcher. He stuck with his decision though because he knew he had the motivation to be a *great* batter.

Often the difference between being good and being great is making adjustments that allow you to spend more of your time developing your greatest strengths.

Ever had an annual performance review where the first part was about the wonderful things you did that year, but then the focus quickly shifted to a discussion about shoring up your weaknesses? It’s an all-too-common scenario. And it’s probably a waste of time.

The "fix your weaknesses" school believes that with enough discipline, determination and training, anyone can do anything. Unfortunately, it confuses weaknesses and limitations. Weaknesses reflect a lack of skill (how to do something) or knowledge (what you know). Weaknesses can be overcome by education, training, experience and practice. On the other hand, limitations reflect a lack of motivation (what you do well naturally). These really can’t be overcome, because new motivations can’t be acquired.

In fact, if a person has low motivation in a particular area, spelling for example, there is very little likelihood that he or she will ever be a great speller. The best they will be is adequate. Who wants to be adequate?

It’s a much better idea to build on your strengths. If you want to move up from being good to being great, know what your talents and motivations are, and build on them.

Why? Because you will develop what you do best and enjoy most. These are your strengths, and they are yours for life. You can build on them, and they won't let you down. Think about it: what would your life be like if you got paid to do what you do best and truly enjoy? Awesome, isn’t it?

This short snippet is one of many recent articles and books on a concept called Strengths-based Performance Management. The biggest proponent of this is Marcus Buckingham, former head of Gallup, who has mined the huge research database of Gallup to write books such as, First Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths.

The typical SWOT Analysis approach is to spend more time on weakness areas (called as "areas of improvement" or "areas of development") and recommend various actions such as attending training. The latest brain research shows how the basic behavioural tendencies are formed between the ages of 5 and 15, in terms of strong synaptic connections. We love doing and getting better at what we are good at. If we can therefore channelize these talents into work output, we can achieve excellence. We should be attending more training on our strength areas!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

i-TFTD #9

#9-1. Do not confuse notoriety and fame with greatness... For you see, greatness is a measure of one's spirit, not a result of one's rank in human affairs.

-Sherman Finesilver

#9-2. Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

#9-3. Don't limit investing to the financial world. Invest something of yourself, and you will be richly rewarded.
-Charles Schwab

Name and fame are results of our actions, which reflect our attitudes. They are indicators and are not worth pursuing by themselves.

We have to begin where we are -- where else?! Too often we ponder over the past, delaying the beginning of useful action. This quote also indicates we need to have a realistic assessment of where we are, not self-inflated opinions of it.

Once we know where we stand, and remove any confusion of our goals, we can begin investing -- of ourselves and in our selves.