Wednesday, January 30, 2008

i-TFTD #89: Identify Your 8% Worriable Items

i-TFTD #89: Identify Your 8% Worriable Items

The Great Problem-Solving Tool
Successful people are not without problems. They're simply people who've learned to solve their problems.
by Earl Nightingale
All creatures on earth are supplied at birth with everything they need for successful survival. All creatures except one are supplied with a set of instincts that will do the job for them. And because of that, most creatures don't need much of a brain. In the Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Archibald MacLeish's play The Secret of Freedom, a character says, "The only thing about a man that is man is his mind. Everything else you can find in a pig or a horse." That's uncomfortably true.

Take the magnificent bald eagle for example. To see one of them swooping down and pluck a live and sizeable fish from the water on a single pass is astonishing. More astonishing still is the eagle's eyesight. And because of its need to see small rodents moving in the grass from high altitudes or a fish just inches under the surface of the water, its incredible eyes take up just about all the space in its head. For the eagle, its eyes are the most important thing, and everything else works in unison with them. Its brain is tiny and rudimentary. It doesn't think or plan or remember; it simply acts in accordance with stimuli.

And it's the same with most other living creatures. Even the beautiful porpoise, with a much larger brain, and the chimpanzee are easily tamed and taught. Only one takes 20 years to mature and has dominion over all the rest on the earth itself, and has today the power to destroy all life on earth in a couple of hours. Only one is given the godlike power to fashion its own life according to the images it holds in its remarkable mind.

The human mind is the one thing that separates us from the rest of the creatures on earth. Everything that means anything to us comes to us through our minds, our love of our families, our beliefs, all of our talents, knowledge, abilities. Everything is reflected through our minds. Anything that comes to us in the future will almost certainly come to us as a result of the extent to which we use our minds.

And yet, it's the last place on earth the average person will turn to for help. You know why? You know why people don't automatically turn their own vast mental resources on when faced with a problem? It's because they never learned how to think. Most people will go to any length to avoid thinking when they're faced with a problem. They will ask advice from the most illogical people, usually people who don't know any more than they do: next-door neighbors, members of their families, and friends stuck in the same mental traps that they are. Very few of them use the muscles of their mind to solve their problems.

Yet living successfully, getting the things we want from life, is a matter of solving the problems that stand between where we are now and the point we wish to reach. No one is without problems. They're part of living. But let me show you how much time we waste in worrying about the wrong problems. Here's a reliable estimate of the things people worry about: Things that never happen: 40%. Things over and past that can never be changed by all the worry in the world: 30%. Needless worries about our health: 12%. Petty miscellaneous worries: 10%. Real legitimate worries: 8%.

Thinking and common sense are less common than we usually imagine. Even at a spiritual level, our mind and the images it forms are considered as all of reality. Yet we rarely pay as much attention to the quality of inputs, processing ability and attitudes that determine our success and happiness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

i-TFTD #88

i-TFTD #88

#88-1. Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.
-William Feather

#88-2. The best way to judge an individual is by observing how he treats people who can do him absolutely no good.

#88-3. Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.
-Mohandas Gandhi

Though the first is about persistence (or determination/going the extra mile) and the second is about handling people (or dignity/magnanimity), I think they are related in one aspect.

In today's result-oriented environment, many look at human relationships also with an RoI (return on investment) perspective. So helping someone who cannot be of "use" is unconventional, different from the crowd.

Similarly, everyone gives up at some point but many who have achieved something remarkable did it by not letting it go, not willing to agree to settle for less.

Somehow both seem to indicate a good kind of stubbornness.

The third quote happens to be from one of the world's best known "good stubborn" persons.

Monday, January 28, 2008

i-TFTD #87 28-Jan-2008: Use Confusion to Your Advantage

i-TFTD #87 28-Jan-2008: Use Confusion to Your Advantage

Use Confusion to Your Advantage
by Doug Sundheim

If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.
-Tom Peters

One of my clients, a successful 40 year veteran in the insurance business, is a master at using confusion to his advantage. 75% of what comes out of his mouth are questions trying to clarify something. It's like watching an episode of Columbo. Recently we chatted about his style and he explained it this way. "I definitely ask a lot questions to get people to open up, but it's more than that. I geninuely don't know the answers to most of the questions I ask. I think too many people pretend they know things that they don't - because they don't want to look foolish. What they often fail to realize is that they're killing opportunites to learn in the process.

Consider this:

Contrary to popular belief, confusion isn't a bad thing. In fact, confusion can be a very good thing. It shows the gaps in your understanding. Don't shy away from it. Get inquisitive. Ask questions. Use it to get smarter. Furthermore, realize that if you're confused, it's likely that others are as well. And sometimes sharing your confusion is an effective way to open powerful and productive conversations.

Try this:

1. The next time you feel perplexed about a situation, share it with someone.
2. Ask for their thoughts (people loved to be asked for their opinion).
3. Listen closely for something you might be missing.
4. Repeat frequently - there's no use doing all the thinking yourself - it takes too long and you only get one opinion.

My musing: Feeling overwhelmed with the complexities of today along with the accelerating pace of change, is a pre-requisite to prevent jumping to conclusions based on a limited perspective. The way a question is asked can turn a puzzling problem into a clearly solvable issue. Perspectives can be enlarged by tapping into other minds, especially those that are not well-informed about the situation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

i-TFTD #86: Don't Follow the Follower

i-TFTD #86: Don't Follow the Follower

Don't Follow the Follower
by Earl Nightingale

95 percent of people never succeed because they're following the wrong group.

Processionary caterpillars travel in long, undulating lines, one creature behind the other. Jean Hanri Fabre, the French entomologist, once lead a group of these caterpillars onto the rim of a large flowerpot so that the leader of the procession found himself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.

Through sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible, but it was outside the range of the circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path.

People often behave in a similar way. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become deeply established, and it seems easier and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change, even when that change may represent freedom, achievement, and success.

If someone shouts, “Fire!” it is automatic to blindly follow the crowd, and many thousands have needlessly died because of it. How many stop to ask themselves: Is this really the best way out of here?

So many people “miss the boat” because it's easier and more comforting to follow to follow without questioning the qualifications of the people just ahead than to do some independent thinking and checking.

A hard thing for most people to fully understand is that people in such numbers can be so wrong, like the caterpillars going around and around the edge of the flowerpot, with life and food just a short distance away. If most people are living that way, it must be right, they think. But a little checking will reveal that throughout all recorded history the majority of mankind has an unbroken record of being wrong about most things, especially important things. For a time we thought the earth was flat and later we thought the sun, stars, and planets traveled around the Earth. Both ideas are now considered ridiculous, but at the time they were believed and defended by the vast majority of followers. In the hindsight of history we must have looked like those caterpillars blindly following the follower out of habit rather than stepping out of line to look for the truth.

Prudence, common sense and a bit of humility demands that we examine and adhere to what most others do. The message here is to not do it unthinkingly or out of mental laziness. I have experienced that in order to dare to do differently in important matters, I need to practise it by deliberately standing away from the crowd in small matters, once in a while.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

i-TFTD #85

i-TFTD #85

#85-1. A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
-Walter Gagehot

#85-2. When you hire people who are smarter than you, you prove you are smarter than they are.
-R H Grant

#85-3. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seek out nurturers, avoid and ignore the naysayers. Trying ten things boldly and succeeding in two is what successful and happy people always do.

Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. Those unsure of themselves tend to feel comfortable when surrounded by lesser individuals.

It is easy to show good character in pleasant and favourable circumstances but adversity brings out the real character.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

i-TFTD #84

i-TFTD #84

Some of my favourites, all related to learning:

#84-1. It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
-Mark Twain

#84-2. You can learn new things at any time in your life if you're willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.

-Barbara Sher

#84-3. The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.

-Niels Bohr

If I am willing to think of myself as a beginner, I do not hesitate to acknowledge that there are things I don't know. Which, in itself, helps learn what is needed. The more mastery or knowledge I gain in a subject, the more I become aware of exceptions and the existence of things I might not be knowing, thus making me a little less arrogant, less rigid, less cocky. And more willing to accommodate other possibilities, more open before jumping to conclusions and judgement.

Profound truths ("deep fundas" as young Indians say) and paradoxes are often found near each other.

Monday, January 14, 2008

i-TFTD #83: Don't Judge In One Season

i-TFTD #83: Don't Judge In One Season

Lesson on Life

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment. The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.

Moral: Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest. Don't judge life by one difficult season. Persevere through the difficult patches and better times are sure to come some time later.

In addition to the optimism lesson, one can also deduce that we tend to form opinions based on a limited experience.

Friday, January 11, 2008

i-TFTD #82: Don't Stop, Start!

i-TFTD #82: Don't Stop, Start!

Leading Ideas: Don't Stop... Start
by Doug Sundheim

Nature abhors a vacuum.
-Fran├žois Rabelais

Consider this:

If you want to change something in your life, it's common to try to stop the behaviors you don't like. While this certainly seems logical, it seldom works. The reason is simple - it unintentionally creates a vacuum where the old behaviors used to be. And since nature hates a vacuum it will fill it with anything it can find - usually the very behaviors you're trying to stop since they're so familiar. Instead of stopping certain behaviors, try focusing on what you want to create - and the new behaviors you need to get there. Eventually, with practice, new behaviors will develop enough muscle to naturally replace the old ones.

One place this idea can be important is in changing one's management style. Often I have clients who are abrasive with staff members and want to change how they interact. One in particular admitted that he really hated his own behavior. He then asked for my advice on how to stop it. I said, "Before we try to stop your current behavior, let me ask you one question - what do you want to start doing instead?" He looked at me blankly and said, "I'm not really sure." "That's the problem," I said, "Let's start there."

Try This:

1. Notice any place in your life where you say you've got to stop doing something.
2. Shift your mind to think about what you need to start doing in that area.
3. Be specific. Write down the exact things you want to do.
4. Don't admonish yourself for doing the old behaviors, rather stay focused on starting the new ones and the old ones will diminish on their own.

A similar concept applies when we discuss alternatives. I find many of us clearly stating what we do not want and what should not happen but we find ourselves tongue-tied if asked what is it that we would like to happen. Some believe this has to do with the way the mind works, it is essentially a filtering mechanism. It takes conscious effort to focus on the desired outcome than on the hurdles. Imagination is more difficult than knowledge?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

i-TFTD #81

i-TFTD #81

#81-1. There is only one success - To be able to spend your life in your own way.
-Christopher Morley

#81-2. It takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.

#81-3. Enthusiasm is the baking powder of life. Without it, you are flat; with it, you rise.

What is "my own way" keeps changing so I should not get stuck with a vague image about my ideal life formed many years ago. I should clarify and re-evaluate this ideal once in a while and see if I can do things to broadly move in that direction. If I am constantly doing things different from what I say is my desire, maybe there are other desires I am fulfilling? Being clear about it helps me feel better.

One cannot expect trust, one can only help create it through consistency and transparency. On the other hand, one should guard against making sudden, rash judgement about people who have earned our trust over a period of time. Give them the benefit of doubt, defer any conclusions or action, and openly ask the person.

People in all kinds of situations are usually happier when they bring enthusiasm in whatever they do. Some tend to brood and worry and be anxious even in leisure-time activities like a picnic! One advice I often give is even if you are complaining about something, do it with full enthusiasm. Launch into a tirade, like Indian actor Nana Patekar does in some of the Bollywood movies! One reason, I believe, for the popularity of laughter clubs is that many people have forgotten how to have a hearty laugh.

Monday, January 7, 2008

i-TFTD #80

i-TFTD #80

#80-1. Whatever the mind of a person can conceive and believe - IT CAN ACHIEVE.
-Napoleon Hill

#80-2. People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives.

-Stedman Graham

#80-3. A certain amount of opposition is a great help to man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind.
-John Neal

The second one is so true. In fact a bestseller book called "The Road Less Travelled" by Scott Peck, starts by saying that this "Why me/us?" is a very common feeling of individuals, communities and even countries.

I like to remember the third one.

Napolean Hill was one of the first authors who brought the power of positive thinking into prominence with his books. The first time I read about this idea was in a book called, "Bring Out the Magic of Your Mind" by Al Koran. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, explained why this works in his book, "Psycho-cybernetics". This powerful concept is now accepted wisdom amongst top achievers in sports and business. Apparently this same concept is elaborated in a recent bestseller by Rhonda Byrnes called "The Secret" where she calls it The Law of Attraction.

Friday, January 4, 2008

i-TFTD #79: 3 Tips to Be a Prime Mover

i-TFTD #79: 3 Tips to Be a Prime Mover

Are You Indispensable?
Take these simple steps to make yourself a Prime Mover in your organization indispensable to your company and customers.

by Dan Strutzel

While skills can certainly be replaced public speaking, negotiating, selling, accounting, etc., there are certain individuals who bring such uniqueness in their performance of these skills, that they simply can't be replaced. In her classic novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand described what she called "The Prime Mover" a heroic individual who contributes vastly more value to society than the average person whose leadership and ingenuity are essential to keeping the engine of an organization working. In fact, in the conclusion to Atlas Shrugged, all of these Prime Movers go on strike, and, as a result, the society grinds to a halt.

So, whether you're the CEO, a midlevel manager, or an entry-level employee, here are just a few steps you can take to make yourself a Prime Mover indispensable to your organization and customers.

1. Give it Your Stamp of Authenticity

What qualities do you have that are unique to your personality? These are the qualities that everyone, from family members to co-workers, comment on again and again. It may be an incredibly positive attitude, an attention to detail, a flair of eccentricity, being a great people person, etc. Find a way to infuse that quality into every task you undertake in your organization. Skills can be easily replaced; authentic individuals performing those skills in unique ways cannot.

2. Become Truly Excellent at What You Do

There is no substitute for excellence. You can be authentic and helpful, but if you don't produce results, your time in any organization will be limited. Identify the three key skills that are central to producing bottom-line results for your company. Create your own self-directed university around these three skills, and begin to tackle each skill, one at a time, in three-month increments. Do this by reading books, taking seminars, listening to audio programs, or finding a mentor to coach you. Nine months from now, you should graduate from your self-designed university with an A+ in results, and a bulletproof career.

3. Follow Up Immediately

In a 24-hour economy, where the 200email and 10phone mail day is no longer uncommon, people have become more accustomed to long delays in receiving responses to their messages. You can use this to your advantage to help you stand out from the crowd. Develop the reputation of someone who follows up immediately. Use the advice of productivity expert David Allen and use the "two-minute rule" for responding to messages. Ask yourself with every email or phone mail, "Can I respond to this in two minutes or less?" If so, respond to it now, since it will take you longer to file it or reconsider it than respond. Follow this one rule, and it will label you as a lightning-quick responder on nearly 90% of your messages, and you'll form a powerful impression of someone who is committed to and in charge of your work.

Simple-sounding tips but can transform anyone's career. The recent emphasis on identifying and playing to one's strengths as opposed to fixing weaknesses is also about achieving excellence in those areas where we have a passion and talent.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

i-TFTD #78

i-TFTD #78

#78-1. Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up you get a lot of scum on the top.
-Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

#78-2. Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.
-John Maynard Keynes, economist (1883-1946)

#78-3. I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process.

-Diane Nyad, painter

A little shake-up to thought patterns of individuals, teams, organizations and society is recommended at periodic intervals. Events and circumstances might occasionally force such a review and renewal, but attainment of new levels of success requires doing this proactively. A useful New Year resolution, methinks.

Such a move beyond the familiar would naturally involve a temporary discomfort but the outcome is worth it.