Friday, August 29, 2008

i-TFTD #152

#152-1. We build (software) systems like the Wright brothers built airplanes -- build the whole thing, push it off the cliff, let it crash, and start all over again.
-R. M. Graham

#152-2. Act as if everything you think, say and do determines your entire life - because in reality, it does!
-Laurelle Adrian

#152-3. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
-Leonardo DaVinci

A counterquestion to the first one is: the Wright brothers succeeded, didn't they? That too in a big way where many failed for centuries earlier.

The second one seems obvious but do we really remember or even accept it? Whenever we behave in a particular way knowing that it is not exactly the best course of action nor the best attitude to adopt, if we remind ourselves that ultimately there are consequences to everything good or bad, maybe we will change.

Only someone as sophisticated as DaVinci could come up with the profound third statement. I believe one has to progress in stages: from

-simplistic (simple due to lack of awareness and limitation)
-complex (sophisticated if polished, complicated if not)
before cycling back to
-simple (by choice).

Monday, August 25, 2008

i-TFTD #151

#151-1. Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.
#151-2. Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.
-Liz Smith
#151-3. We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.
-David Hawkins

The first one is profound. We find it easier to blindly mimic the procedural aspects of a past success rather than imbibe the spirit, the values, and do the hard work of evolving an approach suited to the changed times. This reminds me of the inspiring anecdote of Maitreyi, one of the two wives of sage Yajnavalkya. When he decided to retire to the forest and asked his wives how they would like all his possessions to be divided amongst them, she expressed her curiosity to know about that which made him leave all his wealth. This story forms the context for a large portion of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – one of the old philosophical texts roughly dated to the 8th century BC that contains, among other gems, the doctrine of "neti, neti" (not this, not that) and the "Lead us from Darkness to Light" snippet beginning with "asatoma".

A lot of books such as Execution by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, The Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton and Getting Things Done by David Allen are selling by the millions because they purport to help us get started with the right action.

I believe our words have an impact on others and ourselves much more than what many believe. Actions obviously have a bigger impact on changing the environment. The third tells us that the biggest impact is from who we are so we need to choose our words and actions such that they help us in becoming what we wish to become.

Monday, August 18, 2008

i-TFTD #150

i-TFTD #150

#150-1. Change is not only likely, it's inevitable.

-Barbara Sher

#150-2. Change can either challenge or threaten us... Your beliefs pave your way to success or block you.

-Marsha Sinetar

#150-3. People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.

-Stephen Covey


"Change is the only constant" is a cliché today but I find it fascinating that Alvin Toffler predicted with his first landmark book in 1970 -- "Future Shock" -- that the pace of change will accelerate, and that individuals and societies will succeed based on their ability to cope with rapid and continuous change.

When confronting a change we often respond with, "Let this settle down, let things get back to a normal state, then it will be comfortable." This can sometimes lead to serious problems -- wherever "first-mover advantage" applies. We have to learn to be comfortable with not just a changed environment, but a changing environment. For those who like his style, Tom Peters's "Thriving on Chaos" offers tips.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

i-TFTD #149

i-TFTD #149

#149-1. It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action.

-Al Batt

#149-2. While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.


#149-3. The first two letters of the word goal spell "GO".

-Eleanor Doan


August 15 being the Indian Independence Day, we have the tradition of celebrating it with decoration at the office on the previous working day. Someone asked this morning, "Why do we have posters saying, 'Happy Independence Day'?"

I guess many of the post-1947-born Indians do not fully appreciate the freedom we have. We only have to look around and there are millions in the world without the basic freedom to access information, speak their mind and act.

The above action-oriented quotes would not resonate with them as it could with people in a free country.

Wishing all India-lovers a Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

i-TFTD #148: Who Packed Your Parachute?

Excerpt from Aim for the Heart by Tom Mathews

As a leader, do you honor and appreciate the power of WE? Do you stop to thank and recognize the members of your team? Do you consistently show an attitude of gratitude?

I recently read a great story about Captain Charles Plumb, a graduate from the Naval Academy, whose plane, after 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam, was shot down. He parachuted to safety, but was captured, tortured and spent 2,103 days in a small box-like cell.

After surviving the ordeal, Captain Plumb received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts, and returned to America and spoke to many groups about his experience and how it compared to the challenges of everyday life.

Shortly after coming home, Charlie and his wife were sitting in a restaurant. A man rose from a nearby table, walked over and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

Surprised that he was recognized, Charlie responded, "How in the world did you know that?" The man replied, "I packed your parachute." Charlie looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up, and said, "I guess it worked!"

Charlie stood to shake the man's hand, and assured him, "It most certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today."

Charlie could not sleep that night, thinking about the man. He wondered if he might have seen him and not even said, "Good morning, how are you?" He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn't know.

Plumb then began to realize that along with the physical parachute, he needed mental, emotional and spiritual parachutes. He had called on all these supports during his long and painful ordeal.

As a leader, how many times a day, a week, a month, do we pass up the opportunity to thank those people in our organization who are "packing our parachutes?"


Opportunities to express our thanks abound every day. We avail of the facilities and services of so many people from morning to night, many of us do not even give eye contact to the bus conductor meticulously handing over our ticket and balance money, or to the helper who picks up the empty coffee cup from the meeting room.

The importance of cultivating an attitude of gratitude has been touched upon here before. Say “Thank you” generously, every time, to everyone. It relieves stress, gladdens hearts and generally does some magic to our circumstances. Try it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

i-TFTD #147

i-TFTD #147

Time for one of those "slightly different tone of thought-provokers"...

#147-1. If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit.


#147-2. The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all of your time reporting on the nothing you are doing.

-Cohns Law

#147-3. It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

-Upton Sinclair


One reason that Scott Adamss Dilbert is so popular is that the kind of things mentioned above are fairly commonly seen in the corporate world.

I often see cynical views propagated as useful, practical tips. To take a non-corporate example, it seems that some driving school instructors in Mumbai actually suggest to learners that they must drive in the rightmost lane (thus preventing the progress of others in this fastest lane) because then they (the learners) only have to worry about taking care of vehicles on their left side!

Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, to mean "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation", where he also described how ideas or songs, especially mistaken ones, spread amongst people. The concept of computer virus was not known at the time but meme is similar to an idea virus. We need to spread good concepts (a virus-killing virus?) in a similar, self-replicating manner.

Monday, August 4, 2008

i-TFTD #146: Choices and Decisions

i-TFTD #146: Choices and Decisions

Choices and Decisions

by David Allen

Choices are more productive than decisions.

"Decide" embodies the same Latin root as "homicide," "suicide," and "genocide," and in a subtle way carries the same kind of finality and heaviness. There's a sense that decision is a point of no return no turning back, no recourse, no freedom.

"Choosing" leaves us room to breathe, the openness to live and learn, to course-correct, to change our minds. Whereas deciding tends to frame our thinking as right and wrong, choices allow us to express a preference. Every choice is a decision, and every decision a choice, of course. But one of the greatest obstacles to effectiveness and success is the fear of making a wrong one.

So we can use all the ammunition we can get to support our willingness to make a mistake. Words have great power, and it's a good idea to choose the best ones.


Amazing how simple words can contain seeds of powerful perspectives. I can choose to decide in the face of unknown factors, or choose to postpone deciding.