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