Wednesday, June 30, 2010

i-TFTD #289: The Dictionary Continues to Inspire

i-TFTD #289: The Dictionary Continues to Inspire

Continuing the popular Learning from the Dictionary series (available here, here and here):

overslaugh (o-vuhr-slaw), verb tr.
-To pass over someone in favor of another, as in a promotion
-To bar or to hinder

Simon Legree (SY-muhn li-GREE), noun
-A harsh taskmaster
After Simon Legree, a brutal slave dealer in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

prolix (pro-LIKS, PRO-liks), adjective
-Tediously wordy
From Latin prolixus (extended, poured), from liquere (to flow), which is also the source of words such as liquid, liquor, licorice. Now you see the connection—why consuming liquor makes people prolix!

Trust I am not being prolix in suggesting managers to get work done without always being a Simon Legree, else they risk being overslaughed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

i-TFTD #288: Colors of the Wind

i-TFTD #288: Colors of the Wind

Colors of the Wind (song from Disney's Pocahontas)

You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
how can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

(Thanks to R Raghavendran for sharing this. He recommends reading this along with listening to the song, available on various sites.)

The three highlighted portions are powerful statements, all directly applicable to leadership situations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

i-TFTD #287: On Choosing Dots to Connect

i-TFTD #287: On Choosing Dots to Connect

#287-1. You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success—or are they holding you back?
-W. Clement Stone

287-2. You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.
-Adlin Sinclair

287-3. How we choose what we do, and how we approach it... will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The advice embodied in these three quotes, in this order, can be a powerful technique to apply. We do not pay much attention to what is around us: the people, values, culture, facilities, sounds, sights and smells we surround ourselves with can have a subtle but steady influence on our moods.

Our maturity is in overcoming any negative effects of our environment through what we decide to focus upon. If we tend to magnify the negative, there always seems to be enough of it. I can train myself to magnify the possibilities, which impels me into positive action. This, in turn, may influence changes in my environment.

If we are able to acquire the habit to do these things regularly, our activities and progress can attain a coherence, can lead to a bigger vision. This is what Steve Jobs and others call “connecting the dots”.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

i-TFTD #286: Be Unique and Forgive-worthy

i-TFTD #286: Be Unique and Forgive-worthy

#286-1. Every one of us is precious in the cosmic perspective. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.
-Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

286-2. A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.
-Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

286-3. I have never gone to sleep with a grievance against anyone. And, as far as I could, I have never let anyone go to sleep with a grievance against me.
-Abba Agathon, monk (4th/5th century)

As filmmaker Warren Miller put it, "You are a unique person, just like everybody else!"

It shocks me how many intelligent people waste their energ
y on past wrongs, imagined slights and confrontations already dealt with. I had planned to narrate a sad story as example but I forget what it was. A bad memory is a blessing in this context.

The monk's credo seems simple but it is certainly not easy to do, especially the second part.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

i-TFTD #285: Short Poetic Inspiration

i-TFTD #285: Short Poetic Inspiration

#285-1. I am myself
when I'm alone
but I need you
with me
to be the myself
that I like better.
-'Company' by Ramya Sriram, Indian poet (1988-)

#285-2. Come to the edge, he said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came. He pushed them,
And they flew..."
-Christopher Logue, English poet (1926-) but often wrongly attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire, pseudonym of Italian-born French poet Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky (1880-1918)

(Thanks to Charushila Dhote for sharing this.)

#285-3. Along this tree
From root to crown
Ideas flow up
And vetoes down.
-A senior executive, quoted by Peter Drucker

This tiny poem resonated with me instantly because I have struggled to express the thought, in different contexts, that we as living beings, have to aspire to change in the quest to be better. Yes, self-acceptance is a useful and sometimes necessary act, but it is a temporary tool, not a licence for complacency, stubbornness and a general mental laziness.

From big, bold steps taken by creative visionaries to entrepreneurial chutzpah to small daily acts we may dare to do (like speaking in front of an audience for the first time or confronting someone at work), we all know the need to take that step but hesitate based on imagined consequences.

In the organizational context, courage is needed not only to express new ideas but to listen to opposing views and evaluate them dispassionately.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

i-TFTD #284: Navigating Change

i-TFTD #284: Navigating Change

#284-1. Either you're an agent of change, or you're destined to become a victim of change. You simply can't survive over the long term if you insist on standing still.
-Norm Brodsky, entrepreneur

284-2. If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going.
-Irwin Corey, comedian

284-3. It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
-Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse

Methink in today's world, even standing still does not feel like standing still! Even if we intellectually accept the need for initiating and being a part of change, actually practising it in the middle of uncertainty, ambiguity and unknown parameters is mighty tough. I am often struck by how, those who are highly effective when things are going well, suddenly seem to appear incompetent and even incoherent in the face of unexpected circumstances.

To be able to navigate change, one needs to cultivate a sense of playfulness, an experimental attitude and self-confidence anchored on fundamental principles.