Oct 26, 2008

The Do Lectures - A Website Which Inspires, Simply.

TheDoLectures Sometimes the efficacy of the internet is brought to us by some simple but thoughtful sites. And it’s a delight when it's serendipitous. One such little nugget is TheDoLectures.com. It's just about the 'do'. It's a site which was born out of a dinner table conversation between >David and Clare Hieatt. I wish I had such bright sparks of inspiration while chewing the cud. The site is simply about bringing some of the doers of the world onto the podium and let them share their insights with the whole wide world. And refreshingly it's not about the big 'do's'...the ones in the shadow of the limelight but with an achievement to boast of, also take the stage.

They share their knowledge, the wisdom and their individual visions. I took in some of the lectures...The one by Andy Kirkpatrick was great to say the least. Not verbose, not dull and definitely not without a lesson. Andy Kirkpatrick by the way is a climber. Not a social one but something far more exceptional - he does it on some of the world's highest mountains. He talks about three fears - fear of the heights, fear of snakes and fear of the unknown. Through the metaphor of the mountain and his climb he describes his 'ascent' out of the fears, beautifully.

The site is all about such people, known and unknown but with balls of fire. And the common thread through all the videos of their talks and presentations is there effort to rub off all that pep on us. So without further ado, head over to the site and talk a look for yourself. Perhaps, you will find something to think (and do) about.
The only requirement when you visit the site is of course a browser with Flash Player 9 plug-in, a net connection and an interested ear.

I would like to thank Aibek over at MakeUseOf.com for this piece of serendipity.


Here’s the lecture by Andy:

Jul 5, 2008

Women Scavengers From India Walk The Ramp In New York

Usha Chomar is just one of the 3, 40,000 toilet cleaners in India. Born in deprivation, living in neglect but with a for upliftment. This is her story and many like her.

The word 'scavenger' has two different connotations. The first - Any animal that feeds on refuse and other decaying organic matter. And the second - Someone who collects things that have been discarded by others. It is sadly the second that is the kismet of many women (and kids) in India. Coming from the least economically privileged part of India's society they grow up with the sobriquet 'untouchables'. It is as damning for them as it is for the race which calls itself humans.

But this week some 36 of such women made there way from the bylanes of India to the ramps of New York. They sashayed down the catwalk alongside professional models in a display of recognition and respect courtesy the United Nations. The 36 women are special invitees at the conference to mark the UN's International Year of Sanitation. The special fashion show, Mission Sanitation was part of the U.N Program. The women walked the ramp with models who wore some of the clothes stitched by these workers.

For 36 year old Usha Chomar this was a memorable experience. Though she gave up scavenging three years ago, the memories of her own personal struggle are fresh.

"I have always done the work of scavenging and have faced humiliation all my life."

But with the offbeat 'recognition' given to her by the U.N, she felt finally respected...and like a human. Usha feels that if she could turn around her life so can others of her ilk.

"I tell all scavenging women that it is not impossible for them to change their lives and command just as much respect as any other human being."

Recalling her experiences since the age of seven, experiences which would make most of us cringe; she harks back to the days when she carried human excreta in buckets on her head. With the arrival of the rains the excreta would come down on her head and her body. She used to get vomiting, nausea, pain in the stomach and never felt like eating anything. But her work managed to feed her family of four.

Her life changed for the better when Mr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the head of sanitation specialists Sulabh International, an Indian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) visited the locality. Bindeshwar Pathak gave them a chance to forego their past and start a new life of purpose. He established Nai Disha (meaning ‘New Direction’), a branch of Sulabh International, in Alwar which became the centre for the production of pickles, noodles and other eatables. This gave them a modicum of financial security and more importantly removed them from a demeaning occupation.

The change in there lives exemplifies also the changes in Indian society. After years of isolation, India's socially marginalized classes are being brought back into the mainstream. Governmental legislations coupled with pioneering work done by NGO's like Sulabh International is furthering the change. It is time we reclaimed the word - human

Jul 3, 2008

A Top Business Graduate Peddles A Dream On A Hand Cart

After graduating from India's top business school, this unique individual returns to his roots to fulfill a dream of making his home state the vegetable hub of India.

Indian Institute Of Management is one of the most elitist institutes in the world, comparable to the best anywhere. Churning out IQ blessed business graduates every year, who go on to occupy the top echelons of the corporate stratosphere. Kaushalendra could have easily chosen this as his destiny and nobody would have begrudged him that. An IIM graduate of the 1997 batch, he chose a different road to follow. The road lead to his home state of Bihar, a state blessed with a bounty of resources but cursed with under-development and mismanagement.

His mission - to make Bihar the vegetable hub of India. From a white collar job to the dust and grime of the rural hinterland, his journey with a pushcart is of one single minded purpose.

Kaushalendra says,

"I am here to do something. It was my childhood dream to contribute to the development of rural Bihar. I have opted to make vegetables the new brand of Bihar."

He is fondly called as the 'MBA sabzivallah’, literal for MBA vegetable vendor. Here is the story of this remarkable social hero.

It was 10 years ago that Kaushalendra started his 'enterprise'. Hailing from a farmer family, the roots of his thoughts and motivation originated from the state of affairs in rural Bihar. With a business degree from the prestigious IIM, Ahmedabad he started collating grassroots knowledge through extensive research and fieldwork. He met farmers and studied their cultivation methods.

In India, vegetable distribution is a complicated chain of processes. It finally culminates at the hands of the local vegetable vendors who sell the vegetables and fruits from manual push-carts made up of cycle wheels and a wooded platform. Often rickety at best, the push-cart system of vegetable distribution has existed for decades. This is where Kaushalendra focused his attention.

Drawing upon a project he had initiated early in his career to develop a push-cart capable of taking heavy loads (up to 450 pounds); he launched his 'line' of push-carts under a brand name. His pushcart is made of fiber with an attached weighing machine, is ice cooled to keep vegetables fresh for up to five days. He plans to take Samridhi, launched by his NGO Kaushalya Foundation, across the country and abroad within five years.

Under his business model, vegetables are priced slightly lower than those sold by other vendors. To further synthesize demand and supply, his organization has tied up with 250 vegetable growers in different villages around the region. He has also tied up with the Agriculture Training and Management Agency (ATMA) to take his dream to vegetable producers in different parts of state.

It is his belief that Bihar has a unique potential to harvest and profit from the untapped potential of its natural resources. If marketed properly, vegetable growers and consequently the entire state will gain from the nature's bounty which the river Ganges provides.

It is difficult to imagine this bespectacled IIM graduate pushing a hand-cart and promoting a cause which many of his peers and perhaps a progressive nation on the warpath of industrialization gave up long ago. But for the farmers in Bihar, the success of his venture could again bring renewed respect for an occupation which literally brings the food to our tables.

*According to a survey published by the prestigious London-based weekly Economist's "Intelligence Unit". IIM Ahmedabad has been ranked 64th in the list of the Top100 Business Schools in the world. Only four other Asian schools figure in it. Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, U.S was at the top.

Jun 18, 2008

Stanford Graduates Bring An Idea And Rays Of Light For Rural India

Rural India is the new developmental marketplace as some new age entrepreneurs fuelled by venture funds take it upon themselves to shed some light on the India that still lives on without electricity.

My father's oft repeated story that he learnt his alphabets by the light of a kerosene lamp has become a home grown cliché. But like most, it is a true cliché. India has come a long way since then because I am writing this article on a word processor on a computer.

Today, his family may have outgrown his own cliché, but this is daily truth for many parts of rural India. 60 per cent of rural households still make do without electricity. We as the modern child take power and its supply for granted. This is the dichotomy of 21st century India. A country which ignites a thousand tonnes of propellant to launch a self made rocket into space cannot ignite light in some parts of its land.

There are two pressing crises to deal with today in rural India. The first is of course electricity and the second is supply of clean drinking water. The first is perhaps more paramount because without it the second might not flow. It is not that India is apathetic to this cause for rural development because initiatives continue to be taken to fill the void between rural and urban India. The Electricity Act 2003, which allows for the first time in India a private utility to produce and distribute power, provides a glimmer of hope not only for the country but more so for the rural areas. The government is pushing the cart and now gradually private enterprise has come in to lend a hand. Whether as philanthropic initiatives or as a socio economic experiment, change is in the air.

One such has come from faraway America. A start up company founded by graduates of Stanford Business School, D.Light Design aims to put in its bit to resolve the problem and earn a bit along the way. As a source they have used solar energy, something which is available in India all year round. The means is called Nova Light. It is simply a LED (Light Emitting Diode) based lamp that D.Light says will run for 40 hours on a single solar charge.

D.Light plans to sell the light for $15 to $30; the higher price includes both the solar charging panel and an AC charger. The men behind this unique quasi-business initiative are Ned Tozun (President of D.Light), Sam Goldman and Xianyi Wu. The three classmates believe that they can make an impact and create a profitable business out of it. So far they have raised $1.6 million in convertible notes from venture capital firms Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Nexus India Capital and Indian firm, Mahindra and Mahindra. Enough to fund their prototypes and road testing in the dust bowls of India's rural heartlands.

Bill Reichert, managing director at Garage Technology Ventures believed the trio had a wining formula when he decided to invest in them. He says.

"If you want to light up the world, you've got to offer a solution that fits the needs of the people you're selling to."

The genesis of the idea happened in Ned Tozun's mind back in Stanford when he took a class at the Stanford Design School called "Design for Extreme Affordability." The class was full, but Tozun kept showing up anyway. Eventually, the professor let him join the class, which focused on rapid development of prototypes. Tozun followed up with the same persistence he displayed at Stanford. His company has brought out three models or versions based on his LED design.

The Comet is similar to the Nova but is stripped down. It might sell for $18 to $16. The Vega, is a compact fluorescent designed for families who live in areas where electricity is sporadic. The Vega will sell for $10 to $16. To cater to the lowest denominator of the poor in rural India, Asia and Africa Tozun's company realizes the importance of keeping costs low.

People who earn a wage of $1 a day would find it prohibitively difficult to earn and save the double digit dollar amounts. As a first step, D.Light is manufacturing the units in low cost labor area of Shenzhen, China. D.Light is also partnering a nonprofit group in India which plans to sell one version of the LED lights for just $1 apiece to Dalit families (formerly called the "untouchable" caste) in the state of Karnataka. Donations will be sought to cover the remaining costs.

India's rural development will have to use such innovative solutions to bridge the cost and development divide. A lot of similar companies to D.Light are experimenting with alternative sources of energy like biomass, ethanol and of course solar energy.

The solutions will not only address the power issue but the effects of illumination will also cancel out the over dependence of rural India on kerosene. A fuel which has been traditionally used not only in India but also in Africa, is dimly lit, spreads noxious fumes and is an environmental hazard. It is estimated that kerosene lamps kill or maim millions of children per year, and are a leading cause of indoor air pollution. Over a five-year period, one kerosene lamp releases one ton of CO2 into the air (equivalent to driving a car from San Francisco to NYC).

President Ned Tozun proclaims,

"Our mission is to eradicate the use of kerosene. People leave the kerosene lantern on low all night long as a kind of night light, and they wake up and cough black soot."

It could be a vision statement for a company which hopes to be a frontrunner amongst the rural vanguards. If their efforts succeed, it could spell a new paradigm shift for companies. Socio-economic development could become a new thrust area for new age entrepreneurs and businesses. Ultimately, light might arrive at all the doorsteps of those living in the darkness of rural Africa and Asia.

Also, posted by me on DigitalJournal.com

Apr 12, 2008

Race Against The Clock - Pursue Your Life Goals

A post on the value of urgency in time management and following our life goals.

“Whatever your passion, pursue it as though your days were numbered. Because they are.”

This was a quote I spied on a car sticker. They say that wisdom often passes us by and the car was certainly traveling. But the saying caught my eye. I don't know if the driver's passion was racing but the speed at which he was driving made it sure that, life certainly wasn't. As the car made me eat dust, I started thinking on the 'motivational' bit which had struck me. I realized I was on a 'drive' after all. Ha, Ha.

The questions came up as I started thinking about my life. What are the passions of my life? Am I pursuing them with the ambition that they demand? Will I be happy when I look back at the days gone by and think - Yes! I have done justice to my life's desires. It struck me that though it was true that I was following my passions, at least some of them, it was a tepid progress. The '...pursue it as though your days were numbered.' bit was missing. My thinking was that tomorrow is always a better day. I was not living in the moment. I was not putting my heart and soul into my ambition and goals. It was all very appropriate to put my list of goals on paper and plan them out. (The gurus of motivation would have been proud of me and my lists.) But I had to add the adrenalin to those sundry items on the list. Invest the motley with energy, verve and zap. To squeeze each second towards the achievement of my goals. It is an oft repeated quiz of motivational speakers, 'What would you do with the day if it were your last?' A day just might be too short for me. I would spend it entirely with my loved ones, my life goals can go for a toss. So, for myself, I would like to alter the time given to me to about a year maybe. A perfect unit of our life and it gives me just the right amount to accomplish a couple of my goals at least. Let me think on that. What would I like to accomplish this year, if it were my last. I know at the back of my mind that hopefully it’s not going to be, I am going to grow old to see my grandchildren poo and pee. But it is an inspirational hypothesis anyway.

If we can fill a single year with the microsm of our existence, we can maybe pinpoint our priorities much better. It clearly became apparent to me that I would at least do things with a lot more energy and vitality. So, I prepared another of my lists with the rider that I have just a year to accomplish it. I discovered the hitherto 'lifeless' bulleted items suddenly leapt out of the page with sudden encouragement. Tomorrow then, I start a new drive.

Strength Or Weakness

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.

"Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?"

"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.

"No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

"Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"

"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grap your left arm."

The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

Apr 9, 2008

My Four Pillars For High Achievement

Four Pillars (cr. Flickr, Creative Commons License)
If I aspire to make each of my moments count, I shall endevour to live by and lean on these four pillars of action.
Why 'action'? Simply, because as guiding wisdoms they are clear as daylight, but if you and I have live by them then the word, 'Action' has to be in force.

These  are the foundation for achievement, peace of mind, and personal satisfaction. It's simple, really. So simple that we tend to forget them and in our desire for something more complicated, we often miss the oldest trick in the book.

Success is based on these 'Four Pillars of Action'

Pillar 1: My Core Values. Knowing what I believe, what I value, what I stand for, is essential. My values are my compass. They are the touchstone against which everything else is measured.

There are hundreds of values that compete for our attention, and it is vital to know which ones are at the core of our life. If we aren't clear about our highest values, our chances for long-term satisfaction and success are greatly diminished. If we aren't crystal about our values, we will wander forever, lost in a world of endless choices with no clear direction.

Among others, my own short list of primary values includes integrity, loyalty, and "putting in before you take out." I value unselfishness, consistency and reliability. Curiosity and creativity are high on my list. Each second of each living day, I want to to do and give my best for myself and for others.

What's on your list? Have you written it down? Have you reviewed it with loved ones, and up-dated it recently?

Pillar 2: My Life Goals. Where am I going and what am doing with this wonderful life? What are my 5 and 10 year priorities?
What are the big pieces of the jigsaw that I need to concentrate on for finishing the big picture of my life.

Are my goals written down, have I shared it with family and friends? Have I reviewed it recently and up-dated it at least once a year? How will I measure my success if I don't have any goals to tick off?

Pillar 3: My Monthly Projects. Do I have a 6-week project? Highly successful people know their priorities in the shirt term too and they work on them every day. They have 30-day targets, and quarterly deadlines. They have a list of items to be completed by the end of the month. What am I working on? How much progress will I make by 5:00 P.M. Friday evening?

Highly successful people always work from a written list of short-term projects. They always know the next step, the most important piece of the puzzle, and they don't waste time. What's on your list of projects?

Pillar 4: My Daily To Dos. Our entire life is just a sum of our single days. High achievers maintain a personal list of "practices" they do every single day. These are things like exercise, meditation or prayer, time to plan, and other daily actions that create the life they truly want. My personal list includes an hour to read, and touching base with myself through "Meditation", every day. Aerobic exercise and of course a spot of blogging.

What's on your "Daily List"? Take care of yourself, every day. Have some fun, every day! Do the things that create and build the life you really want, and do them every single day.

These are the four lists that I think make life worthwhile. They are the lists that high achievers keep close to their hearts and on top of their desks. They are the lists that guide their actions and inform their efforts. They may be written on simple note paper, but they are fundamental to creating and living the life we truly want.

What's on your lists today?

The House of 1000 Mirrors

Mirrors (From Flickr under Creative Commons)Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house.

He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his.

He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the house, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house.

He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door.
When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again."

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

Apr 4, 2008

Time Management With Value Added Time

Creative Commons License AttributionThe good thing about time is that of all the resources, it is the most egalitarian of all. The good thing about time is that it can be managed. The bad thing is that hardly a few of us manage to do it. Time management is one of the basic skills we should all try to learn perhaps as well as we learn our alphabets. With all the literature, lessons and tips written on it, time management is becoming more of a science and less of an unconscious habit. More often than not our efforts to respect time and learn better the art of its management are brought out when we are pushed to the brink of time drought. The brim of our lives full, and space for not even a minute more, we fall back (or forward?) on time management principles. It happened to me and I am sure somewhere down the line it has happened to you too. So here's a little tip I was taught. It might not give you another round of the sun, but can give you a few hands of the clock at least. The time management principle I learnt is an old salesman's trick. Nothing fancy, it just stresses on doing the small things promptly and the big things bit by bit.

To illustrate value added time with an example...

As salesman, we were expected to fill out our daily reports quite literally, daily. Now, ask any salesman, he will tell you that it's a chore. And as chores go, it's a salesman's Valium. My sales report consisted of filling out the details of the calls I had made for the day and it's specifics like customer details, discussions, price quoted etc. About 10 to 12 rows and columns of sleep inducing data. My earlier practice involved doing it at the end of the day at home. Tired to the bones and more interested in lounging before the television, I more often than not missed it. Of course, I never missed the whipping the next day from the bosses. It was true for me and it was true for others. Then, I hit upon the concept of Value Added Time or VAT. The basic idea is to use our wasted 'in between tasks' minutes to finish off the mundane work bit by bit. We all have those minutes. Here are some of them -

- Walking to the nearest grocery store to pick up supplies
- Traveling to work
- Waiting for someone
- Waiting for an appointment
- Waiting for the TV show to start

If you think through, you will get your own list. A few minutes but when they add up they are precious minutes. Now make up another list of all the routine jobs you can finish bit by bit in these minutes. Maybe, a telephone call you have been putting off for a while. Use these minutes, a few chatty moments is better than none at all. Carry a book along in your bag or a small notebook. Read a few pages while you are waiting for someone or finish some lists you were planning using the small notebook. Sometimes between TV shows, I clean a corner of my room. Multiply it by a more intervals and my whole room is clear. And doing these everyday things chunk by small chunk doesn't tax me at all. You can do a small exercise. Just for a day, I did a small exercise. I calculated how many of minutes I wasted in between other activities. I found out it was approximately 2 hours. Two hours! Multiplied by 30, that's nearly three and a half waking days!

So, here I am now, adding value to my time - by adding up the minutes. Little minutes by little minutes, chunk of work by tiny chunk.

Oh, yes...do I finish my daily reports? You bet I do. As soon as I finish an appointment, I take 4-5 minutes to put in the details on the sales sheet. By the last call, my report is finished and so is the problem for the rest of the day.

The Secret Of Jimmy Yen

File Photo From Time Magazine

A jury of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Orville Wright thought enough of Jimmy Yen to vote him one of the top ten Modern Revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century. Yet all he did was teach Chinese peasants to read.

What made that so amazing was that for four thousand years reading and writing in China was only done by the Scholars. "Everybody" knew, including the peasants themselves, that peasants were incapable of learning.

That thoroughly ingrained cultural belief was Jimmy Yen's first impossible" barrier. The second barrier was the Chinese language itself, consisting of 40,000 characters, each character signifying a different word! The third barrier was the lack of technology and good roads. How could Jimmy Yen reach the 350 million peasants in China?

Impossible odds, an impossibly huge goal-and yet he had almost attained it when he was forced (by Communism) to leave his country.

Did he give up? No. He learned from defeat and expanded his goal: Teach the rest of the Third World to read. Practical reading programs, like the ones he invented in China, started pumping out literate people like a gushing oil well in the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India-people became literate. For the first time in their entire genetic history, they had access to the accumulated knowledge of the human race.

For those of us who take literacy for granted, I'd like you to consider for a moment how narrow your world would be if you'd never learned how to read and there was no access to radios or TVs.

180,000 Chinese peasants were hired by the Allied Forces in WW1 as laborers in the war effort. Most of them had no idea-not a clue-where England, Germany or France was, they didn't know what they were being hired to do, and didn't even know what a war was!

Try to grasp, if you will, the vacancy, the darkness, the lack that existed in those people because they couldn't read. Jimmy Yen was a savior to them.

What was the secret of Jimmy Yen's success? He found a real need, and found in himself a strong desire to answer that need. And he took some action: He tried to do something about it even though it seemed impossible. He worked long hours. And he started with what he had in front of him and gradually took on more and more, a little upon a little.

The English author Thomas Carlyle said,
"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

And that's what Jimmy Yen did. He started out teaching a few peasants to read, with no desks, no pens, no money, no overhead projectors. He started from where he found himself and did what was clearly at hand.

And that's all you need to do. Start now. Start here. And do what lies clearly at hand.

Small Hands Of Hope. Street Children Start Their Own Bank

A story of a bank in India run by and for street children. An initiative by a social service organization has led to bank which offers loans to poor children to start up small businesses and teaches them to become self-reliant.

Street Children

At an age when other children put in their pocket dime and cents into a porky piggy bank, these bunch of kids are running a bank all on their own. But then again, these bunch of kids are different from the regular sorts. They are the deprived class, the street kids...you might say straight from a Dicken's novel. No gargantuan glass tower, no fancy facades, but the idea and the purpose is noble enough. Welcome to the The Bal Vikas Bank, or Children's Development Bank (CDB). This is a unique initiative by a New Delhi-based NGO or Non Governmental Organization, Butterflies. Street children make up a small percentage of the population in India and other Asian countries (and also elsewhere). They are scattered amongst rag pickers, shoe shine boys, workers in tea shops and small eateries which abound in the cities.  In a world of deprivation of their own, they feed on morsels and later-drugs. The vision behind the bank was to inculcate a sense of saving in street children, for whatever little they earn from odd jobs gets spent on vices like alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

The program began in 2001 and as Suman Sachdeva, project development manager of Butterflies says,

"The Children's Development Bank is not a stand alone programme. Since it's run by and for children, it inculcates in them a sense of responsibility. And it also brings them on the path of education since one can't be expected to maintain ledgers and passbooks without being literate."

So in a way, it motivates these young children to seek out more for themselves by way of a better life through direction, education and hope.  They have been trained by volunteers from HSBC Bank, these children in the age group of 12-14 number about 1700 in Delhi alone. It has caught the imagination and is slowly spreading its wings in places away from Delhi too. Delhi has four counters. It has presence in Calcutta, Srinagar and Leh (Places within India) and the model is gradually getting exported to Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, while talks are on with Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Here's how it works.

The bank opens everyday from 6 pm to 8 pm; timings are usually fixed according to the children's convenience, because they are usually working in their jobs throughout the day. To open up an account, a child has to first fill up an application form. He is then given an account number and a passbook. The minimum opening balance required is Rs 20. The interest rate an account holder gets on his savings is  3.5 per cent. If a child deposits money everyday for 11 months he gets a bonus, which acts as a motivational factor. In case a member wants to take a loan to start a new business, a street educator or bank promoter helps him draw up a business plan. The application is then forwarded to the loans committee that quizzes the applicant on his skills, his budget, where he plans to run the business and other details. The period of repayment is discussed. Once the committee is satisfied the proposal is okayed and money -- 20% of the member's savings amount -- is credited to his account. With the CDB's help, street children who usually start out as rag-pickers have now begun selling tea and plastic toys on handcarts, and set up other small enterprises. This has not only ignited their entrepreneurial skills but also has given them confidence and self respect. It specially helped girls to empower themselves.  They have started tailoring or embroidery shops, and protected themselves from being pushed into prostitution.

The membership of CDB comes to an end when a child turns into an adult. Then he has the option of transferring his account into any of the other mainstream banks.
Their are certain rules which are followed. Pickpockets and drug addicts are not allowed to become members. And loan requests to start cigarette or vice related shops are not approved. It is also mandatory for adolescent boys who take loans to continue their schooling. Most BVB members are part of the National Institute of Open Schooling and continue studying whilst running their businesses. Also, plans are underway to send some of the children into some of the specialized training schools to augment their skills.

A truly path breaking effort which deserves to be lauded. This is an example of how things can be moved along and improved if society applies itself to use it's latent potential.

Note: According to a recent estimate of the International labor Organisation (ILO), more than 120 million children between the ages of 5-14 are employed as full time laborers around the world. A good number of such children labor in the most hazardous and dangerous industries. In India itself, it is estimated that there are at least 44 million child laborers in the age group of 5-14. More than eighty percent of child laborers in India are employed in the agricultural and non-formal sectors and many are bonded laborers. Most of them are either illiterate or dropped out of school after two or three years. In spite of legislation against any form of child labor, the problem persists.

Also, published by me in DigitalJournal.com

Mar 9, 2008

A Story of Redemption, Thug Turns Over New Leaf

Taking inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi's life, a hardened criminal turns his back on crime and redeems himself. A remarkable story of life transformation. My article is taken from a recent newspaper report.

Mahatma Gandhi would have been a happy man. This is a story of salvation we hardly get to hear or see in our profligate times. What chance would you give a hardened criminal with 18 cases of extortion and assault registered against him? It would seem none. But Laxman Gole gave himself one chance when his 19th arrest came calling. A Class 7th dropout from school it's an all too familiar story. He took to the streets and to crime at the young age of 16. It started with a razor assault on a drunkard and soon his reputation preceded him. He rapidly established himself as a slum lord of a locality participating and abetting extortion and other severe form of gangland crime. The prick of conscience can be very powerful it seems. On his 19th case, Laxman Gole confessed his crimes. He was convicted for two years and emerged from the experience as a changed man. His transformation from a gangster to reformed citizen came about through a copy of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography gifted to him during one of his stints in jail. He immersed himself in the works of Mahatma Gandhi, learnt to read and write in Hindi, English and Urdu. He also started teaching his fellow inmates, who now write letters of gratitude.
Laxman Gole
Today, Laxman Gole is a free man. He has been hired as a full-fledged volunteer with Bombay Sarvoday Mandal, a 50-year-old charitable trust which promotes Gandhian values. T R K Somaiya, Sarvoday veteran manages the foundation. He has played a significant part in Laxman's changeover. He regularly sent him Gandhian literature when Laxman was in jail. His mentor today hopes to channel that same spirit which changed a self into work that can change others. He plans to send Laxman to all the prisons of Maharashtra, India as living proof of what a person can become.

"In all these years I have worked for this organization, I have never seen a more positive change taking place," said T R K Somaiya, who manages the organization. "I think we must support him. We are now ready to bear all his expenses and fund his further education too."

The story does not end here. Today, Laxman Gole is preparing to appear for the Class 12th exams from the Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi. His journey has started and he hopes to inspire others along its way.

Also published by me in Digitaljournal.com

Feb 21, 2008

Free Your Fears Fire Your Potential

Conquer Fear
They say that we are born with only two fears -

 The fear of falling, and...

 The fear of loud noises.

The rest of our fears are 'learnt' as we walk along life. When I look back at my life, this four letter word has been a self inflicted stumbling block. Yes, nothing less than self inflicted because most of my fears have been the product of my own over working imagination. Lack of self belief and an abject dependence on the status quo had paralyzed my desires and self-motivation.

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."
---- German Proverb

Telescoping back I remember my two biggest fears. Fear of public speaking and my ultra fear of water (Brought about by "Jaws"). These two fears I later learnt are shared by the majority of mankind. Universal fears. But at that point of my life I was not really concerned about the rest of mankind. It was me alone with my fears. Providence took care of the first fear in Business College, when I had to give weekly presentations in front of a 100 odd audience. I did botch up the initial five to six at the lectern. My legs shook more vigorously than my mouth...but gradually with persistence, courage and with the knowledge that I couldn't get any worse than I already was, I started to improve. It took time and lots of missed grades but by the second year, I had made the lectern my ally. I was no Winston Churchill but I was no turkey either.

The second of my fears took a little longer. In my 30th year, I put all my trust (and my life) in my instructor and completed two laps of a fathomless neighborhood pond. This achievement was more treasured for me because it was a deliberate attempt to conquer my fear.

Both times, I have realized that those two fears weren't monsters at all. I had made them bigger than they actually were. My imagination was the compost on which the fears had fed. Today, I take a formulaic approach towards my other sowed fears.

If my imagination can make the fears a gigantic fiend perhaps a change in outlook can make them friends. I have thus started to reframe the other fears that come along.
I ask myself a few questions...in the answers lies the neutralizer for the fears.

1. What am I so afraid of?
2. Is this fear stopping me from becoming a more self confident person?
3. What’s the worst thing that can happen if I attempt this?
4. What’s the best thing that can happen?
5. Looking back at my life 20 years from now...will I feel regretful and wish that I should have done this?
6. Has anyone else faced the same fear and come out on top? If they can...why can't I?

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

To overcome a fear, all we have to do is to realize it’s their and do the thing we fear anyway. I am sure I wasn't born with a lot of derring-do, but then I wasn't born with fear too. So why let it be a speed breaker on my life's path. And why let it be one in yours. So try to free your fears and set fire to your potential.

To sum it all up here's some wisdom from Jane Addams -

Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt.

If you have conquered any of your fears do comment and let me know. Perhaps, it will be a continuing inspiration for me.

Jan 29, 2008

Reflecting on the Self - Moral from a Poem

Their is a blind self in all of us. A part of our being, a stranger to us. At times I have made a conscious effort to recognize my own blind self. Why? Because within this blind side of my personality could lie the answers to many of my most vexing questions.

What do I truly desire from my life?
Is it money...is it respect...or is it simply peace?
Why do some of my relationships work and what irks me about some others?
What are my goals? Are my goals in consonance with my actions?
Am I on the right path? In my career, am I always doing the right thing? or am I in the right career?
I have constantly asked myself these questions and many more. And whenever I am flummoxed for an answer, I read the poem - 'The Guy in the Glass'.
It  exhorts us to examine our own selves. To self reflect on our actions. Stripped of our ego, if we can stand bare in front of ourselves, we can get answers to a lot of questions. The answers can pave the way for a better life, a better relationship or just a better sense of being.

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

~ Dale Wimbrow 1895-1954

The original poem by Dale Wimbrow titled "The Guy in the Glass" was first published in the American Magazine in 1934. The magazine had asked their readers to offer an answer to a young man's question to the Editor of the magazine as to "Why he should be honest." . . .

Jan 27, 2008

Persistence – Ten Rules For Myself

It has been a few days since my last post. Some unexpected events took me away from my self proclaimed goal of a single blog post a day. I must admit, I lost a bit of my focus again. But here I am back typing away and writing a few words on taking on our goals yard by each yard. I (and I believe - we all.) need the crutches of Focus and Persistence.

What has set me on this topic is the success found by a friend after two years of grueling attempts. He achieved a career breakthrough for himself when all appeared lost. As I harbor similar aspirations, I found within him only, the quality of persistent actions which made him succeed.

Persistence is the sibling of focus and one of the pillars for success. We may not have talent, we may not have an education, we definitely need not be born with a silver spoon but if we do not have persistence towards our goals we then don't have anything. Persistence is the determining factor between a humdrum existence and living a life of goals fulfilled.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
- Calvin Coolidge

Perhaps, I need not write any more. The said quote says it all.

I am not privy to anyone else's life but only my own. My story has been of many failed attempts, but also of bullheadedness. As I look back at my life, I realize my little triumphs had more to do with my singular 'stick to it' than anything else. I was and still am not talented by any stretch of the imagination. For every inch of progress, I have had to work steadily. And progress has come about whenever I have trusted myself and time. That's why I believe along with persistence, patience is an oft understated virtue.

I was absolutely inept at Mathematics during my school years. Euclid and Pythagoras weren't exactly my pals as I fumbled from one exam to the other. But I realized I needed to work on it, and I assiduously did. My grades remarkably went up along with my expenditure on the midnight oil. That is the first case of conscious doggedness I can recall.

I also realize that whatever (and that has been quite a handful) failure's I have had has been for the lack of persistence than anything else. I gave up too soon. And today I have remnants of regret.

Therefore, today I have decided on some 'Laws for Persistent Actions' for myself. My endeavor will be to follow these to the best and to the limit of my abilities.

1. No regrets. I will follow my dreams to the fullest. With all my energy I will give it my complete will and effort. So that even if the desired result does not come about, I will have no regrets. I know I tried.

2. I will live activate my dreams through little actions. Yard by yard, push by little push. I need not take massive action each day. But a little measurable step forward will bring me that much more nearer to my goal.

3. I will live in the moment. Not in the past and not too much into the future. The full realization of the present will make the future come about on its own. Let me effuse all my energies on the present so that I don't rue the time lost when the clock ticks over.

4. I will keep my goals always in sight. I have written down goals. I carry a copy with me in my wallet. I am making a daily habit of at least going through it once. The other places I have kept it, is as a wallpaper on my monitor. It’s always in my face and I hope in my subconscious too.

5. I realize that obstacles will come about. I need to work around them. Goals are what lie behind all the stumbling blocks. If I cannot vault over them then I will walk around them. It might take longer but I will get around the block.

6. I will focus on one or two goals only. Focus is concentration on one single point. It’s much easier to be persistent when we have clarity of a single goal. Too many goals dissipate our energies and loss of energy is always followed by loss of persistence.

7. I will trust myself. When others can do it, so can I. I try out this mantra every day. I know all the power to achieve my goals lies within me. I only have to harness it.

8. I will take a break. I have to fill myself up with energy. After every slight success it’s important to taste a reward. Just to chill out for a while and then get back on the job rejuvenated.

9. I will be flexible. Constant action sometimes demands inconstant methods. If a way is not working too well, I will try to find out some other way to do it. Their always is more than one way to bell the cat.

10. I will be patient. What defeats persistence is time. Time is our greatest friend as well as our greatest enemy. Persistent action by its very extension means overcoming an obstacle over time. So I have to make time my ally and trust that with patience I will complete my goal. If I can progress a little each day, I will have utilized time.

A small footnote - With all the distractions around me, it has taken me exactly 6 days to finish this post. But I have done it. A small victory achieved. I guess that’s persistence …and now I am off for a nap. :-)

Jan 16, 2008

Broken Toys

I stumbled upon this poem. A small poem on 'letting go'...an addendum to my previous article.

Broken Toys

As children bring their broken toys,
With tears, for us to mend;
I brought my broken dreams to God
because he was my friend.

But then instead of leaving him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.

At last, I snatched them back and cried,
"How could you be so slow?"
"My child," He said, "What could I do?
You never did let go...."

author unknown

Click on post title for source webpage

Jan 15, 2008

Dependent Relationships - Barrier to Self Growth

Most of our relationships are co-dependent. But even within this truism, are we so dependent on some relationships around us that are own self image suffers? It is a paradox of our times that this age of 'I-Me-Myself' also has most of us in some form of relationship addiction. Is loving a bit too much necessarily harmful? I believe it can be, if our own self expression gets subdued. Dependency of any form takes away the focus from our own self’s and shifts it to some other external object. At first it’s just an enjoyable indulgence, and then it gets to be a habit and gradually turns into a full fledged addiction. This form of an attachment exists in all of us to varying degrees. It is not a disease but it can be potentially harmful. It is characterized by caring so much for the other person that self love and self respect is the first casualty. At times we are so attached to someone that we feel that we can't live without that person. Our walking hours are spent trying to live up to an image. The image may be an illusion after all in our heads. Living an illusion takes a lot of energy and thus is mentally draining. It also warps our own concept of who we truly are...and what we can become. In an addictive relationship we live for that person rather than for ourselves. It is a feeling of need and to be needed that drives the relationship. Any disturbance in the sea of calmness causes ripples in our lives. It changes our moods and attitudes. Also addictive relationships harm the other attachments in our lives.

For all such relationships their is only one absolute cure. It is to 'Let Go'.

To let go of a relationship, need not mean - walking away. But in a more apt way it signifies an attempt to throw away the excess baggage which holds back the growth of the self. It means making decisions through which two individuals can love, live and grow in peace and joy. It is also to realise that no one can truly grow in the shade of the other. It means to, move on. It also means at some level to give up on your ego and accept change (...and a little bit of pain). Their are no formulaic ten steps to a self dependent relationship. We need to find the answers for ourselves. For that we need to look inward first.

If we feel that we can't live without that person we should try learning to give to ourselves and others what it is we want from the relationship.

Our simple job is to become the person to ourselves what we want the other person to be. Only than can we move away from 'our need' and be more 'in love'. We will be able to love others for what they are rather than what they can do for us. Instead of demanding love as an obligation, we can give from our hearts and feel fulfilled.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
~Kahlil Gibran

Jan 10, 2008

Life lessons from Narayana Murthy

One of life's heroes. N R Narayana Murthy.A man who made it big in business and life following sutras of ethics, integrity and hardwork.This is from a pre-commencement lecture at the New York University (Stern School of Business) last year. He speaks on the turning points in his life and the lessons it taught him.

His 'final words' sum up the man who is a true icon for us...

I believe that we have all at some time eaten the fruit from trees that we did not plant. In the fullness of time, when it is our turn to give, it behooves us in turn to plant gardens that we may never eat the fruit of, which will largely benefit generations to come. I believe this is our sacred responsibility, one that I hope you will shoulder in time.

Click on title for the related article...

The Three Important 'R's' for a Relationship - Repair, Reactivate and Renew

Of the plethora of tips, advice, and articles on the net the majority address the relationships between man and woman. Often the spouse or the beloved. While it is true that the eternal struggle between 'Mars' and 'Venus' pre-occupy us more, it is also naturally true that we have other relationships to think about. When we increase the field of our vision we should realize that the 'others' in our life are no less important. Perhaps, our thinking is slightly indicative of the fact that we tend to take these for granted. For instance, I can't remember the last time I said a ' I love you' to my parents. Of course, their first impression would be that I have gone off my rocker! But that is besides the point. Relationships are somewhat like a pond...where we have to cast pebbles of thought for the ripples of affection to take place.

The sweep of my relationships includes my parents, my friends and my near relations. The pond is quite large and thus it seems I have many pebbles to gather. We as a habit make a list of resolutions. I will lose weight, I will earn more, I will wake up early... usually populate that list. This year, I have decided to put - renewal of relationships right up their. Its not that I suffer from sense of blankness in my relationships...by far its warm and loving, but with each passing day I realize, today's are turning into yesterdays rather fast. Tomorrow, most of the relationships won't be their. Age will catch up...some will pass on...others will move away. So it’s important to dwell on the moment. Fill that moment with laughter, conversations and memories. After all one day, life will be about memories. So it falls on me today to create those memories.

The first thing for us to do is to create an 'inventory' of our relationships. It could be like individual accounts in a bank. Just a mind exercise, but it will tell us the credits and debits we have made into those accounts. And just like real world accounts, credits add more value than any associated debits. For example, I have some friends from my college years. I had spent my major waking hours with them during those 'wonder years'. Some adventures got captured in photographs lying about. Yes, I have kept in touch with them through an occasional email. But we all need to go beyond that. So for me it has become important to just call up and wipe the distances in more ways than one. It's just takes a phone call.

Then, there are some difficult relationships. Discordant, misunderstood and distanced. We all have one or two of those I guess. For them the only prescription would be - Break the damn ice. Just start a talk. It could be about the weather for all's sake. I guess in most cases theirs no need for a verbalized sorry. It's an underestimated but a powerful word. Just the beginning of a conversation could signal a thaw in the frost. Let's hope all of us can be good ice breakers.

Then there are some other relationships where we have invested far more than we should have. And as a result have suffocated the relationship. It's at a standstill. The good thing about such relationships is that it's at least their. All we need to do is to give the other person their own space. Instead of throwing our expectations on them. Every individual need space to grow and move forward. They also need to change. For that, just let those relationships be. Manage your own expectations and let the relationship find its own voice. That's the only thing you can control. Always remember, how hard it is to change ourselves...what hope have we got to change others.

As the year starts, I hope by its end I have a few more wishes to send, for those friendships which I have managed to repair, reactivate and renew.

Jan 9, 2008

Spend Time with Your Loved Ones

I read an article recently (*wrongly attributed to comedian George Carlin). The article is on the importance of relationships and the value we should attach to it.

The article may have been wrongly credited but the keynote of the piece that, we must spend sometime with our loved ones, because they are not going to around forever - remains true.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

* see - http://www.georgecarlin.com/home/dontblame.html

Jan 8, 2008

Be Courageous and Persistent

Aristotle believed, and I think correctly, that - Courage is the first of the human virtues, because it makes the others possible.

Others cannot define who we are. It is a proactive step we need to take on our own. In the face of every obstacle and setback we need to take steps almost daily to become the kind of person we desire to be. Not for our parents, not for our friends but only for ourselves. Everyday when I am feeling down over something or some decision, I ask myself this question. Have I been courageous with my life? Have I justified the decisions I have taken with courage, hard work, persistence and patience...or have I simply fallen by the wayside when the hand of obstacle came hurtling towards me? To gain courage is to change your beliefs about what you deserve and about what's possible with patience and persistence. It is soul searching by another name. Their was a time when I should have been more courageous. Perhaps I lacked honesty with my own ego. I did not follow up my actions and risks with the required amount of persistence. Aristotle maybe did not elaborate but surely the second virtue has to be 'Persistence'. Persistence not only in the face of insurmountable odds but also against the daily blocks and distractions that life throws towards us. It is I guess more easy to be courageous sometimes because courage takes only an instant but persistence can ask and take more from us. In some cases it takes an eternity. Courage could be the flash but persistence surely is the sweat. As I answer the question for myself. I can see that I have been more courageous but hardly persistent. That is why my courage has failed in the face of odds. Courage will make me walk away from my comfort zone. It will also help me to stretch my limiting beliefs, but I need the daily dose of persistence to see all of it through. That is the commitment I must make to myself.
If you read this post, do ask yourself the same question.

Have I been courageous? And then...Have I been persistent?

Then only can we all break through all the self imposed limitations we have allowed to come in our way.

Jan 6, 2008

How I started dreaming again…

My earlier post was about daring to dream again. In this post I write some of my thoughts on how I started to reboot some of my dreams.

- Take time out. Dreaming also takes some dedicated time. Create a time zone for yourself. Away from the hurly burly of the day, some time, some place where you can be alone with your thoughts. I generally think my thoughts on my early morning jogs or just before going to sleep. Or when I am commuting. Believe me, with all the traffic snarls and hold ups, theirs no shortage for ‘time’!

- Start off with a small ‘Dream List’. Settle on one or two dreams. Too many will take away the focus. I started out small. Take for instance my penchant for writing. Blogging offers me the opportunities to write of my own free will, something which was not available before. It’s a dream for me to extend this hobby of mine to something more substantial…to give it a proper creative outlet. I have started out. I work on my blog everyday. I am trying to achieve my goal of a post a day. A small start…lets see where it take me. A dream does not have to be small or big it only has to be. Like for me it’s a blog for you it could be a novel.

- Dream…and then ‘Do’. Dreams without actions are of no value. What is important is to follow up on the dreams with thought out actions. The first step I have always found out is the most vital of all. Thereafter, its just the momentum which takes off all the brakes. I always try to focus on the first step. Often without a definite plan. As the ad slogan goes - Just do it. When I started out writing and blogging, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I couldn’t differentiate between Blogger and Wordpress. I just started. Even now, my blog is without many frills. I know I have started, I will gradually learn as I go along. And the first piece I wrote, was ‘About Me’…!

- Mine your resources. Some dreams cannot be achieved alone or it’s simply easier to take somebody’s help. For us today, resources are unlimited especially information resources. Libraries, the Internet, television, newspapers…nobody had it so good. Their are social networking sites where you can freely ask for advise. I did so, when I thought of starting out with content writing. And I got some pretty good suggestions. Think about all the resources you would need to fulfill your dreams. As you start out, some more will materialize. Perhaps you will find a mentor…perhaps someone with just a single suggestion. That is the fun of every long journey. It’s never alone…we have new experiences if we look out for them.

- Develop a plan. If you are the systematic types like me, you can develop a plan with definite timelines. A step by step map with milestones. The benefit is that you can chart your progress and steer your way around obstacles. The downside is it makes a dream seem ‘like an exercise’. But I think it does help.

- Keep your ‘Visualization’ on. Constantly imagine…even fantasize, how would it be like when you finally achieve your dream. Give the dream its color, sounds, smells and
feeling. Make it come alive. One of my constant dreams was to own a laptop and create a mobile office and entertainment center out of it. Last month I finally achieved it.

- Celebrate. Imagine achieving your dream. How is it going to end? Promise yourself a big celebration the day you reach your final marker. Remember, you deserve it!

Footnote - I have linked some of dreams to a Super List - 101 things I want to do before I die. That’s the ‘Magna Carta’ of my life.

Jan 4, 2008

Dare to Dream…Dare to do

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain

So asserted the famous novelist. I remembered when I was a kid, my favorite dream was to become a fighter pilot. I had all the names of aircrafts and their configurations down pat. My favorite pastime was drawing aircraft sketches on any paper I could find. Spoilt many a notebook with that hobby of mine. Flying like Superman had come much earlier and batting like Tendulkar much later, but as they say those were the stuff of dreams. I guess all of us were dreamers in our ‘wonder years’. Wide eyed dreams, the reality of life hadn’t touched us yet.

I guess as the years slipped by, so did many of our dreams. Yesterday, I sat back and tried to recollect some of my childhood dreams. You can very well imagine the wistful look on my face as I remembered some of them. Our dreams maybe slipped away because we were made to grow up by life around us. Somebody probably told us - ‘Forget your stupid dreams…be responsible…you are not a child anymore…its time for you to get a job’. What’s more, I guess we believed those voices. Innocence went first, our dreams maybe followed soon after. We let our dreams die.
Hey, but the good thing about dreams is that we can switch it on again. We maybe had pulled the plug, but we can plug into our dreams again. I for one have started doing it again.
Here’s why-

1. Lying on my deathbed, I don’t want to say to myself with my last breath - ‘If I only had done that…!’ I want to die with as few regrets as possible.

2. Maybe the dream I dream today, will be the catalyst to make my life or somebody else’s life a bit better. Perhaps, I dream of rekindling a damaged relationship. Wouldn’t that dream and its achievement do something for my life?

3. Dreams have the power to ignite passion and energy. A viable dream can galvanize me into action. Kick starting me from my lethargic block.

4. Imagine pursuing and achieving a small dream. For me its as simple as a trip to The Himalayas…for you it could be the Swiss alps (I have dreamt that too!). Imagine the pleasure. Won’t that experience be a life fulfilling one. A small dream could give the momentum to larger fantasies. Therein lies their power.

5. I want to leave some memories for others. I want to fill the memories with the dreams I have and will achieve.

6. To disturb the status quo, to life a fulfilled life, only magnificent dreams will help me to achieve that. So here I am trying to reconnect with my dreams.

And I have ultimately realized, my class teacher was very wrong - Daydreaming is not at all bad as it is made out to be!

Jan 3, 2008

The Secret to Move Forward - The Wind for my Wings

Whether life hands you a bucket of stuff that you want to get rid off, or you are now sitting on the sidelines of life pining for something more, the riddle remains the same. How to push your self forward? How to change your present set of circumstances?
My heart and mind say,”Go!” but my feet don’t budge. My parents tell me,”This is good for you.”, but my body doesn’t move forward. Is it plain lethargy or is it something more?
It all seems so simple actually when we think about it. We want something…but we just can’t move forward with the same verve. Our wings lacks the wind so to speak.
In my opinion, their are two roadblocks we face - resistance and fear.

Resistance is the invisible force which retards out motion. We by nature expect things to go along as they are. It is our comfort zone. Imagine we are swimming in the ocean. Now, I just thought about swimming back to shore and to comfort. As I swim against the tide, the undertow would just drag me back and gradually I will get exhausted. I will probably drown in my attempts to reach the sanctuary of the shore. If I do as experts advise: swimming parallel to the shore while the currents subside, I will reach my shore.

Here lies a small secret to move forward - Don’t resist what is beyond control, focus on what is.
It is impossible I guess, to spend my energy along two directions, to struggle against what is not in my hands and in the same breath to strive for what is in my control. We expect things to be as before, we often ask as bad luck strikes,”Why me?” or “Why couldn’t things be the same as before?”. We might whine, we might cry…but then the time comes for all of to shift gears. Often we may feel that our situation is unfair, but the situation is as it is. With all my realization, I try to embrace whats good in it. Do I need to learn anything? Is their a hidden opportunity here? Can this situation strengthen me? When you cut away all the crap, you will see that every bad situation can sow the seed for something good. It might be minuscule…but so is a seedling before it transforms into a tree. The trick and the effort lies in finding that obscure ‘good’.

After identifying this ‘good’, I try to shift my horizon to what I want to I want to feel. If I am feeling bad…how do I want to feel (obviously - good!). If I am hurt…how do I start feeling upbeat? I give myself permission to dream…to wish…and to hope. What remains is just to get back on my feet, square my shoulders and follow my heart.

Their is a beautiful saying - ‘ When the tide of life surrounds you and the water upsets your boat, don’t waste your tears on what might have been…just lie on your back and float.’

The second obstacle we usually face is - Fear.

Fear of the unknown, anything outside our comfort zone. Fear of failure…fear of success and how to retain it…fear of not being loved…fear of being loved and losing it…fear of not being enough.
Fear should not be immobilising. We just have to try and change our thoughts and attitudes. In any situation, we should realize that we are only one amongst the billions. The fear we so dread, has been faced by many before us and will continue to be faced by many after. If others can overcome their fears so can I. Make a battle-cry for yourself…I do too. I have handled other things before, I will handle this one too. I will face all the problems that come my way. After I conquer this, the ghost of this fear will be gone for ever. Just as when we learnt to tumble and cycle for the first time…watched our first horror flick…killed our first cockroach…proposed to a girl…gave the first interview…or got married, we can find the courage to face any new fear.

The secret to moving on is quite simple - keep moving, one thought, one step, one day at a time.

Jan 2, 2008

Something more about Abraham Lincoln

Listen to this…on a man who had to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles but never thought about giving up. This is perhaps the most inspiring piece I have ever come across.

He had to work to support his family after they were forced out of their home. 1816
His mother died. 1818
Failed in business. 1831
Was defeated for legislature. 1832
Lost his job and couldn’t get into law school. 1832
Declared bankruptcy & spent the next 17 years of his life paying off the money he borrowed from friends to start his business. 1833
Was defeated for legislature again. 1834
Was engaged to be married, but his sweetheart died and his heart was broken. 1835
Had a nervous breakdown and spent the next six months in bed. 1836
Was defeated in becoming the speaker of the state legislature. 1838
Was defeated in becoming elector. 1840
Was defeated for Congress 1843
Was Defeated For Congress. 1846
Was defeated for Congress again. 1848
Was rejected for the job of land officer in his home state. 1849
Was defeated for Senate. 1854
Was defeated for Vice-President — got less than 100 votes. 1856
Was defeated for Senate for the third time. 1858
Was elected president of the United States. 1860

It took him more than 30 years of toil to make it to the White House. So we shouldn’t get discouraged. Take a printout…stick this in front of your desk. Don’t quit

How Average People Like Us Can Excel

Staying up at night, just before going to sleep I have often wondered about this. Sometimes in frustration, sometimes in hope for a better tomorrow. How can a average guy like me excel in life? I like to think myself as a jack of a lot of things but a master of none. How do I become a standout, an achiever? I was a good student but never a topper, was good at sports but never good enough for the top grade, met my targets in my career but never surpassed them consistently. Many of us think about going to the next level. What should we do about it? The only good thing about all of our ordinariness is that is that there are so many of us. So I am not alone in my pedestrian journey. The other good thing is that all of have the power to change. We all can be supermen of our own lives. And we don’t have to be from Krypton. The power is within me and you.

Theodore Roosevelt said once: “The average man who is successful is not a genius. He is a man who has merely ordinary qualities, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree.”

Fitting words. So, what are the qualities or attitudes we need to develop to push ourselves further.

Learn self discipline

Perhaps the most important virtue we should develop. It is the key which can unlock the doors of our potential. Life by its very nature is distracting. Self discipline is the big pot of glue which will make us stick to the all important task in front of us. It will cure our procrastination, another ally of our lack of success. Self discipline is about developing a laser focus, to do what is important right now. To postpone that nice movie playing on the TV, to say no to useless gossip on the phone, to sleep for one hour less, work or study for an hour more. Average people who want to excel have a ’stick-to-it’ attitude. They don’t expect quick fix results. They work on the particular task till the last period. They try to do the best they can. Many people on the other hand get frustrated with slow progress or lack of results. They give up and move on.
I know a few people who are just simple graduates but have worked hard to build their career step by step. That’s a very important lesson in sticking to it. We all can develop the ability to focus on what’s important.

Have a positive attitude

I have a poster in front of my desk that says - ‘Every time something bad happens, you can choose to be a Victim or a Victor’
The single line says it all about developing a good positive attitude. Success is slow, painful and full of more lows than highs. To have a positive attitude, we need to be self motivators. Work on positive affirmations. Say to ourselves that success is just around the corner. I realize that whether I think negatively or positively, both take the same amount of energy of thought. So why not think positively and visualize good outcomes for myself. Attitude after all is everything.

Manage expectations

Successful people especially average ones realize that the path forward is full of sweat and grind. Average people lack the special skills or the touch of genius to make an impossible task possible with a magic wand. Average people are the foot soldiers who have to take it step by step but have to stick to the path. Nothing is going to come easy to us. Everything we want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if we want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything. We have to realize that. Tiger Woods probably has hit thousands of balls before he putted to win his first trophy. We see the achievement but not the years of hard practice that went into the making of a Tiger Woods. Success is rarely overnight.

Learn from relationships

We can succeed or learn from the talents of others. We cannot progress in isolation. Each relationship we nurture teaches us something is we care to look. I learnt the value of ‘organization’ and ‘method’ from a former boss of mine and also from my elder brother. Today, I am much more systematic in the way I approach a particular task. Each individual has some quality which can rub off on us. For that we need to get closer and imbibe the best. I knew a person who had a spastic brother. She had to interact with doctors, volunteer helpers and educationists everyday. Through this she developed her unique skills of negotiation and people management. She brought these skills to her work and made a success out of it.

Keep Improving

The Japanese have a word for it - ‘Kaizen’. It is quite simply an incremental improvement method. You improve in small steps. More than a method, it is a philosophy and a way of life. We should be willing to change. Because every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. We may be average, but we can target ourselves to learn new skills. For instance, I have decided to learn two new things every year. For this year it was learning graphic designing and blogging. For a five year period I will learn ten new things. With the advent of cheap internet resources to learn are available to us at the touch of a button. We would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

Bounce back from defeats

Their is nothing more powerful than an average person who holds his head high and goes about life with a surety and zest. Success and defeat come in equal measure. What we learn determines our growth. Sometimes, setbacks forces us to think creatively, to find new solutions and to adapt. When one door closes another opens somewhere. This is a very true maxim. Abraham Lincoln could have been destroyed by his seeming ordinariness. He came from a very poor background and was ungainly in appearance. He went on to greatness and gave a new definition to the word - ‘Average’.

As Lincoln once said - ” God must have loved the common people, because he made so many of them.”