Open and Closed Mind!

 

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In life, we find that some people always make progress, move ahead in life. But others keep on repeating the same mistakes and get stalled in life. Why does this happen? There is no clearcut answer for this. The main reason for this could be their approach to life, the way they try to solve the problems; it is about their mindset. The more successful people have an open mind, whereas those who don’t do well have a closed mind.

Open minded people have the willingness to learn and are not afraid to accept that they have gone wrong. Those with a closed mindset never want to admit that they have gone wrong; they will fight tooth and nail to prove how they are right. Ultimately, your approach to handle problems defines success or failure in life. In fact, the problem starts with closed minded people putting up a show that they are open-minded. This non-acceptance is dangerous.

Having the courage to accept that you are wrong is a good beginning. The progress graph slope depends on your ability to accept new ideas, especially the ideas which you do not prefer.

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Typically, a closed-minded person does not like his ideas challenged by someone. Such people cannot accept the fact that others may have better ideas, different ideas which need to be considered. These persons are not amused when someone asks them a question. The closed-minded person will never ask a question about someone’s idea, he will just make a statement to the effect, I don’t agree, or I don’t like it. The open-minded person will ask a question about new ideas. Why do you think it is a great idea? Can we do it slightly differently so that your concept becomes even a better idea? Such questions indicate that open-minded person is basically ok with the idea, but a few points are not clear to him. Maybe there is another way of looking at the concept which you might have missed. The person wants to contribute, and the question makes you think a little more. Such queries can lead to a better conclusion on the subject. It will lead to bringing different viewpoints forward. Finally, such arguments, questioning could lead to the concept of agreeing to disagree! Such conclusions are always drawn after healthy discussions.

The thought process brings us to a discussion on questions and statement. A statement indicates one track mind. I want to do this in the following manner, whereas the query means the thought process, of being open to the idea and trying to get into the depth of understanding the concept better. It also indicates that the open-minded person is accepting the fact that others can be smarter than them. Like closed-minded people, they don’t think that they are the best! Open-minded persons always have a curiosity about how others feel.

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People’s default behaviour offers quick information about them. When you disagree with someone, what’s their reaction? If they’re ready to rephrase what they just said or, even worse, repeat it, then they are assuming that you don’t understand them, rather than that you disagree with them. They have that superiority complex. Open-minded people will see through other people’s eyes, they will consider other people’s viewpoint. When you disagree with an open-minded person, they are quick to assume that they might have misunderstood something and ask you to tell them where their understanding is incomplete.

Close-minded people react with, “I may be wrong, but here is what I think.” This statement is trying to mask that you are close-minded. An open-minded person will put things differently. He will say, “I may be wrong, but why do you do it this way? Can you elaborate further so that my understanding will be better.” He comes up with a question and not a statement.

A close-minded person does not like to hear any voice other than his own. He will block others from speaking. He does not like the idea that he has to rephrase what he said and explain again in more details. The open-minded person will say, “Hey, friend! Why don’t you say something? I have put an idea which I think may be useful, but your suggestions will take care of points which I may have missed, or I may not have even thought of those points.”

I read an interesting theory on the net. The method says that the close-minded person uses an analogy that at the end of the day, only one sperm meets the egg to create life. Once this meeting takes place, the egg shuts off its system. No further sperms are allowed. But the open-minded person has a mind and a thought process where many ideas and concepts are accommodated, merged and tried leading to a far superior solution. His mind will think of these many ideas back and forth before finally concluding.

One thing the close-minded person does not have is humility. When humility is absent from your persona, one becomes close-minded. Where is humility hidden? It comes out from accepting your failure, recognising that you have made errors of assessment. Acceptance can never happen when you have a closed mind. Most important is that you do not have to worry about being close-minded. You have plenty of company. But do you want to change it? Do you want to become a better version of yourself? It is doable, and you need to work on it. It does not happen by accident.

Being open-minded does not mean that you spend an excessive amount of time considering patently bad ideas just for the sake of open-mindedness.

If someone offers you a freebie, be sceptical. There is no free lunch in life. If someone tells you that he has found a technique so that humans can fly, ignore him. If someone comes to you with a brilliant idea to cheat people or government by fraudulent schemes, close your mind. Being close-minded in such cases is the right thing to do.

When you find yourself exhibiting these behaviours at any moment, acknowledge what’s happening and correct it. Don’t blame yourself. As soon as you can, find a quiet place and reflect on what’s going on at a deeper level. Try to do better next time. Remember that this stuff takes efforts.

Friends, ultimately everything boils down to the company you keep. Everybody has a mentor in life and selecting a good one is a great beginning. If close-minded people surround you, you will have to work hard to remain open minded. But if you are close-minded, don’t fret, take efforts. You can change yourself provided you want to change. Things are not on auto-pilot; you need to work hard for it. Don’t worry; it is doable!

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Administrative Reforms Tsunami!

 

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The above slide depicts the difference between a specialist and the generalists. India currently is administered by Generalists where now the need is for both Generalists but in many places that of specialists.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/plan-to-import-talent-a-third-of-deputy-secys-from-outside-govt-starts-work-to-induct-400-directors-5776102/ 

This news item from a newspaper must have sent shock waves through a particular section of the administration in India. Prelude to this was the appointment as External Affairs Minister, of Mr Jaishankar, recently retired career diplomat who had handled his work with aplomb during his career. Instead of appointing a politician, Jaishankar, the domain expert was appointed.  

The British ruled us for 150 years. They created an administrative infrastructure to suit their needs and not the needs of India. At the top of the pyramid were the elite IAS service and other such allied services. Their job was to ensure that the British rule and its arm functioned smoothly. Their main targets were to ensure that the taxes were collected on time, to break the agitations against the British government and nip them in the bud. (Remember Jalianwala Baug?) An example of different priority was the cultivation of opium in Bengal and Bihar. British made sure that all the produce was sold to the government and at one stage British sold Opium worth Seven Million British Pounds in a year to China from India; for opium growing areas officers were expected to give top priority to opium fields over all other functions. Anti-mutiny work and Opium farming were a couple of services which indicated that the system was designed to run in ironclad fashion with no allowance for deviation. It was a sound system, and it served the purpose of the Britishers. We inherited and continued with the same system even after the Independence was achieved, which helped us initially. It served its purpose till the last colony, the one in Goa by Portuguese, was driven away in 1960.  

As usual, everybody was happy with the status quo. Why repair something which ain’t broken? Out of all central services, the IAS was considered top echelon even above the Police. As administrators, they advised the government on every subject under the Sun. The system continued to remain ironclad with all the keys safely with the IAS team. They decided rules, regulations, salary rules, transfer rules everything. It ensured that Civil Services always had the best deal. They continued to have a group of staff to support them at home with many other facilities. As per the rules, they were generally transferred every three years or less to make sure that special interests were not created. So from district administration to finance, finance to technology, technology to Land reforms and the law was the typical journey. They were considered experts in whichever department they were handling.  

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I started thinking about persons who appear for a competitive examination at the age of 25. Based on this examination and interviews, they are selected to become an officer to run a district, the state and the nation. The system was probably alright till the ’70 s of the last century. But slowly, with the advent of computers and India getting linked to the global economy over a period, their “expertise” was found wanting though was never challenged. Most of the selected persons have been smart people with reasonable intelligence. But the situation has changed so much in the last 25 years or so that everybody realised that we must have domain experts to run the government departments too!  

All domains have become multidisciplinary where even technologists can find going tough. For example, GST involves knowledge of taxation, law, commerce, computers and project management. Aadhar card needed software knowledge, database expertise, data science; fortunately, we had Nandan Nilekani to handle this.

Rajeev Gandhi recognised the lateral entry need in government when he was the PM. He invited Sam Pitroda to suggest the ways and means for India’s entry into the modern telecom & electronics era. That was a masterstroke, and India did start moving in the right direction under Pitroda’s guidance. But such entries were infrequent. Pitroda had direct access to Rajeev Gandhi so he could put aside objections from the administrative framework. The massive behemoth of administration prefers the status quo to anything else. The people were Subedars in their domain. They would try and not take decisions or move the files backwards and forwards. The administrative infrastructure was like Khan Market gang, privileged, with everybody knowing each other. India moved at a snails pace if and when, in spite of the group. Twentyfive years back, the Indian growth story started, so did the need for the specialists.  

Who could break the shackles of generalists? Dilliwalas? No way. In came a confident Narendra Modi, a rank outsider from Gujarat with a background of a tea-seller. A common man but a man with zeal to take India forward. In his first term, he broke shackles and started with improving efficiencies. All the subedars had to swipe their cards in the office at nine am. Time frames were decided for specific actions and achieved. 

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Now in the second term, the government has realised that only the advisors and consultants are not going to make the government more efficient and successful. Executives also must be specialists where needed, and this is what the government has started. Now if you reread the above article, you will realise the importance of specialists. I am very much aware that every system needs both specialists and generalists. For understanding social issues (and many such issues) and tackle them, generalists will continue, and they may be essential also. But the government is trying to fill 1/3 of the positions with specialists.  

Two critical points to be remembered are that the empire is going to strike back looking for rules, loopholes and ways of preventing lateral entry from happening. After all, the entry of specialists is directly affecting their career prospects and importance. Reservations is another issue that needs to be handled. In allowing the lateral entry, reservations need to be kept in mind. When the first nine such positions were filled, the HR department decided to advertise each post as an independent post and not as a pool of secretaries. Single post declaration allowed HR to overcome reservations requirement. The change will cover a large population in India. Though the number of entries being discussed currently is only 400, unrest can start leading to agitations. 

Friends, the modern world, say in the last 30 years has changed so much that the specialists and subspecialists will be needed everywhere. How can the administrator decide which fighter plane India should buy? Should we have Shinkansen or Maglev or TGV trains for India? How to improve and ensure that modern electronics goods are manufactured in a big way in India? Even specialists are going to find it tough to understand such things. But this change is going to create a big Tsunami for the administrators whether they like it or not!

How do we believe the untruth?

 

lie1To lie is a false statement deliberately presented as being correct, a falsehood. I have taken this meaning of the transitive verb “lie”, not about the physical position as in lying down. During our life, everybody lies at some stage or the other. We makeup stories and defend them tooth and nail. We do this because our brain is quirky and works differently, conveniently to suit the situation. Lying is a reaction of our brain to an event. Consider an event where our hand or fingers touch something scorching hot, unknowingly. The signal goes to our brain, it is processed, and another message is sent to our hand, to remove the hand immediately. During this process, there is no jumbling in understanding. There is a tightly coupled linear relationship between cause and effect. In this case, there are not many variables; hence, the result is clear cut.

But things are never in black and white; these are mainly shades of grey. These grey shades are what confuse us, and we end up not telling the truth, or we lie. Not thinking about the fact is not necessarily lying. There are reasons why we lie. These can be for some benefit, to avoid a tricky situation, to mask our errors, and so on. Sometimes the conclusion is drawn which are suitable for someone.  But sometimes the reasons can be funny.

Years back when my son Sachin was doing engineering, our daughter Priya was in kindergarten school. Sachin would share some anecdotes during our dinner. The moment he finished his story, Priya would start telling some fantastic tale. All of us would sincerely listen to her, but in the end, she used to be very happy. Her reason for such a story was to take part in the conversation, be part of it.  She was not lying for any benefit but just to be involved.

Deepak had gone to Delhi for the first time, enjoyed the crowds, the food and the sights. At the end of the day when he reached the hotel, he realised that he had lost his wallet. The story was used in a group to discuss people’s behaviour. People were told this story as an exercise. In this story, the cause and effect are not so obvious and are vague. The vagueness creates a different thought process and opinions from people. No background about Deepak was shared with the group.

The people from the group were asked to recall the most important word from the sentence about Deepak’s day in Delhi. The most recalled word was “Pickpocket”. Based on this word, there was a lot of discussion about the crime in Delhi, how the situation is going out of hand. There were suggestions galore as to how to help move around safely in Delhi. The beauty was the word “Pickpocket” was never used in the sentence, and the critical word was “Sights”! It was about Deepak viewing the sights of Delhi and not about his losing the wallet.

During the evolution of our brain, there appears to be a bug formed. When there is vagueness in cause and effect, we tend to create our own stories, each one to his imagination. Do we try to create a plausible reason for what could have happened instead of asking the narrator how Deepak lost his wallet? Deepak’s wallet was missing could be explained differently is what we forget. Deepak could have forgotten his wallet in a restaurant or a store where he purchased some colas. Deepak could have accidentally dropped his wallet while using washroom somewhere. There are so many possibilities, but most people thought about a Pickpocket. Why is that so?

When the group was explained these possibilities, most were upset. Their ego was hurting. You have a particular thought process about various places, pre-set notions. Delhi connects with the crime, Pune connects (or at least used to) with retired people and so on. So people go by the easiest and the simple story that comes to mind. When questioned about logic, people don’t like it; they become uncomfortable. Since this was a group meeting, people got restless, they went on persisting about their theory. They wanted to stick their guns. In Delhi, how else could a wallet be missing? It must have been stolen. The voices were raised, egos came into the picture.  All this happened due to the evolution bug in our brains.

I will share my personal example. I wear goggles these days but do not wear them when I am required to drive. The goggles are not suitable to correct my eyesight. I was getting ready to go to the gym and started looking for the case. I walk to the gym. The case was missing from the regular place. I rechecked my sack. I emptied the stuff, but it was not there. I was trying to recollect if I had misplaced them during my travel to Mumbai last week. We had a driver; hence, I had taken the goggles with me. I retraced the whole journey. I took Jaya’s suggestion. We rechecked a bag we had taken during the travel. Nada. For a change, I kept my ego aside and told Jaya that I might have forgotten the same in our car! When I checked the vehicle, the goggles were there.

Why did original thinking take place? First and foremost, how can Pramod forget the glasses in the car, he is such a tidy person. So I thought about so many other plausible things to justify my thinking.

There is another method of spreading a discrete lie. My friend and I were in a professional meeting. During tea-break, a subject came up about the Managing Director of another company. My friend made a casual remark that he was the classmate of the MD. One more person in the group also happened to be the classmate of the MD. He said, “How come we never met before if we were in the same class?” Our friend was NOT the classmate of MD in COEP but in junior college. Our friend had a unique style of lying discretely about his qualifications. He had done his BSc. He also had another habit. He was very handsome and had a mature personality. In the later phase of his career, people started calling him Dr So and so! He never told anyone, ever, that he was not a PhD!

All this tells us one principle. Next time when you are not able to justify your explanation about your story or analysis of the situation, use Ctrl+Alt+Delete key in your mind. The action will hopefully push your ego away and reset the position. Make a new start; think again, try to take the direction to the truth. That is what your aim was, and you had made an error in the first place.

To err is human!

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The common phrase ‘To err is human’ is often heard in its fuller form ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’ It means that we humans are bound to make mistakes, and err while we live. But it is crucial that others forgive those who have made errors. Without this forgiveness, people will try to avoid the work they are doing.  One thing for sure is that what we are talking are errors and nobody wants to make errors deliberately.  But the slide above is a more realistic representation of the human thought process.

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But there are some fields where errors are almost non-acceptable. These are the functions where human life is involved, for example, the medical field, the pilots, and so on. Errors in these fields can lead to loss of human life and/ or property. But that is another subject.

Sometimes we all lose our way. We are humans, after all. We make mistakes. We focus on the wrong things. We pursue goals at all costs. We waver on ethical and moral cliffs. We get too far down a slippery slope. We steal. We cheat. We lie. We deceive others. We deceive ourselves. We don’t open ourselves up to our friends. We see crime or fraud committed by our friends and colleagues, but we don’t speak out. These can be misjudgments by good people. In these moments we’re not the friend others deserve, the partner others choose, the child our parents raised, the epitome we wish to be, nor the person we’re capable of being. But does this mean that we should not get a second chance? Does it mean that we should be blamed throughout our lives? Should we be punished for life? 

Take the case of Australian Cricketers Smith and Warner. They were caught planning and cheating to alter the ball condition in a test match; there was video evidence. They were sent back from the tour and banned from playing Cricket for one year. It was a great humiliation. Loss of face which happened because of a moment of indiscretion; the indiscretion was caused by an urge to try and win a test match at any cost, by any means. Were these players born cheats? Were they bad humans? I don’t think anybody is born that way. They learned their lesson, accepted the punishment with humility and fought their way back in the team by sheer performance. Last week, Smith was being punished the second time by booing crowd at the Oval in London in a World Cup game against India by mostly Indian group. The second part of the proverb came into play to the surprise of all. Their cricketing foe Virat Kohli gestured to the crowd, while batting, to cheer Smith instead of booing. Such magnanimity! To me, this gesture was more pleasing than the Indian victory. It showed how Humane Virat is! Later he said, “Smith was already punished; he has all the rights to make a comeback!” 

It is not the failure that defines people; it is how they come back from disaster. It is already a bad thing that you stumbled, but it is worse if you do not want to change, improve and attempt to become the right person again.  

What defines a mistake? What is an error? When we started living in an organised society thousands of years back, the society formed its own rules. The societal norms became acceptable by trial and error. In the absence of the concept of ownership in the pre-farming days, the standards were different. The idea of marriage and ownership did not exist. When couples had sex, there was no question of breaking the rules as there were no rules. Probably, only the mother knew about the birth father of the child. The concept of theft was not very serious, as almost no one owned anything.  

But there are mistakes and errors which are the time honoured ones like a promise given to another human being. In today’s world of social media, we have too much data and information flowing in our direction. Add to this the travel time required in major cities, which has gone up.  We have so many “friends.” It is moralistic thinking “to err and to forgive”. All these can lead to failure on our part to honour commitments.

But with modern society, new thought processes have also come into vogue.

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This is a tongue in cheek slide which reflects on the current management principles. The rules and thoughts about erring are quite different because of politics in any organisation. Those who can win the political game, win the race. Forgiveness be damned! This my friends is real life! Proverbs and sayings are for mere mortals not for hotshot managers!

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This slide, of course, is looking at the new technology with humour. Computers have made life quite simple for us. At the same time, we are becoming over-dependent on computers. How can the computer make a mistake is a real question? The way computers process data and information for us is totally dependent on how we humans have programmed it. To correctly program the computer, those writing the program should understand the subject in details. Advice from domain experts is critical. I will share one professional experience with you. We had sold a software product to a multinational for their business processes. Later on, the GST regime started. We had made our product GST compliant. From the customer side, they had a top-notch management company to advise them on the subject. Some changes were needed in their SAP. We called for a meeting to check the compatibility of our system. We found that the knowledge of the domain team from consultants was not adequate. With our experience, we knew that in such a complicated situation, a smaller vendor is declared erroneous! Might is always right. But we made sure that we were perfect and their system was tweaked to match our policy.

So in the real world, the mighty is always right, they never err! So it is necessary to avoid errors or mistakes. Also, it is essential that the whole world knows about it. But in personal life, forgiveness works, and you don’t need to blow your trumpet! Forgiveness reminded me of a story.

A thief is caught after some theft in his village. His mother comes to see him at the police station. Before being taken away, he requests a private meeting with his mother. He embraces her and bites her ear. She screams, but the thief says, “Mom, I always used to steal things in school, but you never reprimanded me, in fact, you almost praised me. Your forgiveness was wrong as you never scolded me. Look now, I have become a thief!”

 

 

What decides our behaviour?

Everything in this world takes its shape, form supported by the environment. But we forget that our behaviour also depends on our ecosystem, our friends and family. When we are born, our world is made up of parents and some close relatives and support staff. From day one, we are going to do things the way the momma did things. Daddy comes in the picture only once in a while. The momma effect is very predominant and lasts throughout our life.

Many times, we think that our behaviour, our self-control comes from within but that is not so. In life, it is controlled mostly by friends, family but predominance is that of the friends. Those we surround ourselves with, have the power to make us fatter, drink more alcohol, care less about the environment and be riskier with driving habits, among many things.

Such behaviour is not merely peer pressure, in which you deliberately act in a certain way to fit in with the group. Instead, it is mostly unconscious. Beneath your awareness, your brain is always picking up on cues from the people around you to inform your behaviour. And the consequences can be serious.

Lest I forget, our spouses also affect our behaviour to a large extent. To give an example, we rarely see couples where only one spouse is very thin or fat. Such rare cases are due to some illness like thyroidism or stomach related issues. It is natural because couples usually eat the same type of food, a similar quantity of food. They also tend to have identical exercise habits. Couples often help each not to stray from good practices.

If your regular group of friends has a large number of smokers, there is a possibility that you may start smoking. Similarly, if you have some additions to your group of some active anti-smokers, you might rethink about smoking and may reduce smoking. Sometimes we tend to react strongly because of some incidents. Years back, when we were just married, we had a group of friends, a spillover from college days. The group had a predominance of people who drank alcohol. Though we were not in alcohol, we continued to have fun. But a couple of incidents changed our thinking. The charm of meeting together was getting reduced, and we realised that our friends could not enjoy the chat if alcoholic drinks were not served.

On top of that, a couple of our friends started drinking more than they should, leading to some unfortunate behaviour. We started drifting from that group, never to come close ever again. Later on, as I grew older, I found that when people talked positively about drinking alcohol, they tend to drink more. My views against alcohol were pretty strong, so I would tend to drift away from people who could not handle alcohol.

An experiment was conducted to study the effect of outside interference. Two students were brought together to discuss a variety of subjects. There would be a third participant, an actor, who would be dressed sometimes like a student or other times like a professional. Depending on how this third person intervened, for or against the subject, the discussion between the two would get modified. Sometimes this person would mildly interfere, and other times, he would give a strong reaction. The original views of the students would get altered depending on the type of interference. They hardly knew the third person, but changes in thought processes developed subconsciously.

When we eat with people who typically eat a lot, we also tend to eat more than what we usually do. The same thing happens with cold drinks or tea. Many a time, we are not even aware that our behaviour has changed. Human nature is such that if you are not sure, we simply copy others. But such changes occur if you know the people well. With total strangers, our behaviour pattern does not change.

Many eating places employ a straightforward trick. They will put some posters on the walls or some flyer on your table. These will display beautiful photos of dishes/ drinks which the restaurant wants to promote. There might a banner saying, “the most ordered food, our speciality, the Malai Kebabs”. Most of us on reading this we might get influenced and order Kebabs! “Drink our Mango mocktail to quench your thirst” is a simple cold drink made using raw Mangoes (Kairis)! We tend to order it!

There is always a good and a bad side to everything. When we realise that our behaviour can influence others, we should use it. I have given examples mostly about eating, smoking and drinking alcohol because these patterns can be easily noticed. A friend had travelled to a foreign country in a team. The travel was years back when some things were not available in India. During a training program, he would slurp loudly while drinking coffee. An awkward situation was created. After a couple of days, their team leader suggested to that person that he was the only person, slurping the coffee. That person was sincere and said that he was never told about this by anyone before. But he immediately stopped slurping. His initial slurping must have been the norm from the small village where he lived while growing up phase.

I know a young man; he was bright and smart as a student but never studied enough. He never realised his potential. His parents found that most of his friends were of that nature. They somehow managed to convince him to mingle with friends who were more sincere in studies. The student did exceptionally well with this change and now is an excellent professional.

A classic example of the personal ecosystem effect is the Pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. Till the age of 25, both did exceptionally well in Cricket. Kambli was a little ahead of Sachin at that stage. But around that time, their ecosystem started taking effect. Both had very different personal backgrounds. Kambli’s career tapered off from that stage and Sachin went on to become an all-time great cricketer. Not only that, even their personalities became very different. Along with others, Sachin was very close to his childhood friends and family. These relationships kept him grounded and rooted in the underlying philosophy of life; in the case of Kambli, things changed a lot as he did not have that ecosystem. Handling fame became tricky for Vinod!

When we are born, we do not have the choice of relatives we have, but later we can choose what we want to do in life. What type of person shall one be? We can choose schools, colleges and do not forget that we can select our friends too! Our parents and relatives are not optional, but we must remember that they always want us to become good humans, a better professional and a fitter individual. There is a natural tendency of people of similar thoughts coming together; so believe in your instincts and do your best in life. The system will take care of other things. Cheers!

 

Be a proud foot soldier!

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Five years back, I had written a blog where I wrote my thoughts about a tree that we have in our garden. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

In retrospection, I find that my impressions of that time have hardly changed. The world can never be full of topnotch performers, leaders, inventors, people who lead the human race. The world is full of average people, with ordinary ambitions like you and me. You may never be famous, but that is ok! Do I mean to say that we should never dream, we should never think big? Should we not keep on gazing at stars? Should you not be the one hitting the sixer to win the Cricket World Cup? But there can be only a Dhoni to millions of cricketers playing on the grounds of Yorkshire, Maidans of Mumbai and the gullies of small towns in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is ok to be average.  

In the days of modern communication like FB and WA, the perspective can become skew. When an event takes place and is shared, you get a million likes! (Ok, I am exaggerating, but you get a lot of likes) You have some similar event in your life, but you don’t publish it on the FB, or maybe you publish it. You get five likes. You don’t need to get frustrated. What you have done is liked by your dear ones, and you have felt the joy because you did it. To me, the pleasure of doing things is more important than getting the likes. Just because you got a minimal number of “likes” does not mean that your deed was less important 

mundane1

You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter what their dreams or circumstances are. Success is not in fame and glamour, but in routine and mundane too! Real meaning and purpose of life can be found in doing something useful for your family and friends. Cheering up your friends, and spending some time with a person who is unwell and looking for company.

We have been lucky that many people come to Jaya and me to share their woes, sometimes not even looking for advice. We are not analysts, nor are we experts in resolving personal issues. But it is a great pleasure to see a smile on that person’s face when he goes after sharing.  Here what we do is give them an ear and make them feel at home. Tricky situations in someone’s life should do not make them bad people. We should make sure that their dignity remains intact after the discussions. 

In today’s world, we see many achievers who are below 30 years of age. Their every deed, every achievement gets them on TV and the internet. After watching these repeatedly, we start feeling inferior, for no reason. We think this way because we inadvertently begin comparing our lives with those of the achievers. We believe that the achievers life is the new gold standard of how to live life. But don’t forget that you are not called to live their life, you are to live yours! 

Your life’s calling is to help and love those near and dear ones in your life.  You should do this in your neighbourhood, your community or your circle of influence. By doing these good things, you may never be on TV; you may never be publicly praised. You may never be garlanded. Your fulfilment is based on what you are doing on your own rather than whether you are your interviewed on TV or there are articles written in various publications. In whatever you are doing, give your best shot! Make the best of what your life has given you.  

Look for small gems that life brings to you. Your grandmother may have better advice for you than the bestselling author.  Your mother might share with you a little titbit, which might help you complete your project faster. You may find a single mother telling you more about the sacrifice that some expert on TV may say to you. 

These are the men and women we ought to seek out in life—and learn as much from them as we possibly can, about living life to the fullest. Seek out those mentors. They may never be famous, but that’s O.K. 

In the blog link above, I have said the same thing about the flower Parijatak. That flower is not a fancy one like a rose or a heliconia. The Parijatak is like a footsoldier but keeps marching along like the infantry. It is not glamorous; not many people discuss it, not many write about it. These trees do not offer shade like their cousins, the Banyan and the Mango trees. But they keep on giving pleasure in their own way.  

It is not a crime to be well known and famous. But a tiny percentage of people reach that pinnacle. That does not mean that you and I are not important. It so happens that among a lot of talented people, some are at the right place at the right time. Hence, they reach the top but if you don’t reach there, it is not the end of the world. Not reaching the top does not mean that we should not enjoy whatever contribution we are giving to this world; we should always enjoy it. Offering the same help and support to others is a joy that cannot be compared with anything. A Padmashree winning person and one without the award may be doing the same work, with the same passion. Not winning the award should not make you unhappy because your happiness is in doing it and not in being recognised. 

Keep on marching, friends! That is what the foot soldiers do. 

 

 

 

 

 

Life’s Spreadsheet!

Toyota started using a set of principles and behaviours in a certain way that would help make the company better, efficient, profitable, productive and successful in general. Obviously, they put in terrific efforts to make it happen. Our lives are equally complex, but we handle things more in ad hoc way than doing them systematically. When we get married, there are two of us involved in almost everything. But we treat life like a game of tennis, that too, singles and not doubles. If husband and wife can work in tandem life quality will be superior to the “singles” way of life. At least switch over to the game of doubles! I am going to say something that you may find a little too theoretical.  

We can apply the famous Japanese principles of Kaizen and 5S principles to our lives. Kaizen is about continuous improvement. 5S is part of Kaizen and is a way of organising a shared workplace. Sounds good? Now, do you think these two principles can be easily applied in our day to day life? Yes and No. Knowing the principles is okay, using them in the workplace is fine, but how do you apply them at home? Well, it needs to be done the same way it is done at the office. 

For this, we need to collect data! Oh, I am so drab! What am I writing? We just got married, it is not even a month since we came back from the honeymoon and Pramod is telling us to collect the data! So unromantic! But friends, the honeymoon period tends to end as it is a finite timeline. Then starts is grocery, laundry, office pressures, missing of periods and children being born! The real life starts now and not during the honeymoon.  

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I have mentioned very few things from the unending list, and life is already looking complex. Add the children’s schooling, business travel, guests at home, illnesses, parents getting older and yes deaths! All these things are going to start happening, and we do not have much control over their timings. Does your home environment feel like a factory atmosphere? Too many things to do, timelines are tight, and on top of that, we are playing a singles match and not the doubles!  

Improvement in the factory working looks for profits and market share but improving in the working at home is to look for happiness. Achieving happiness is not tangible; hence, it is difficult to achieve and define. But like in factories, we will need data to start changing things. What better way than collecting data using excel sheet? I had written a blog regarding who is the primary worker at home. You may read it if you want. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/12/primary-help-really/ 

We have been brought up in a patriarchal society, and the “home” workload is expected to be taken up mainly by the lady of the house. So why not start with the list of chores that are required to run a household. The tasks could be daily, weekly and monthly. Unless you put them down in an excel sheet, you may not even remember them. It is possible that you may forget to do infrequent tasks. So, the to-do list is equally essential for all. We have reached a stage where we now agree to create a to-do list.  

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How will the ultimate goal of happiness be achieved? First and the foremost step to me is equal distribution of chores between the two. This redistribution will give both additional times, which can be used as “me time.” When we start noting down tasks, we realise that commute time can be converted into exercise time by going to work using cycle. It is changing the method to achieve two goals. It can happen by rescheduling and evolving practices; we may be able to spend more time with family and friends, resulting in happiness. There is a possibility that you have a home from where both are required to travel long distances for work. I know of a couple who jointly travel almost six hours every day for work. Over a period one of them changed a job, and they changed home. Their travel time is now one and a half hours. One of them needed to exercise for health reasons; now it is possible to do it.  

Before this exercise, there were fights, resentment, unpleasantness because time was at a premium. It is possible that some of the tasks you may never have done before marriage. You are learning to do them “on the job”. If you note down the tasks in details, you can find ways of doing things more efficiently. Maybe you were using the dishwasher and washing machine on alternate days. If you could change this frequency to twice a week, you will gain additional time. You had to rush regularly to buy groceries at the last moment, track its usage, and you will find that there is no emergency rush to buy things. Happiness?  

Still, do not believe in spreadsheets; let us understand things further. From singles, you have started playing the doubles game. A glance here and a signal there would tell your partner what to do or what you will do. In the initial phase, this looks efficient. You are playing a doubles game with home and office. These are your two formidable opponents. Then you have an addition to the opposition team as children arrive on the scene. One of you starts travelling outstation for work; the complexity goes on increasing. The glance and signal do not work as you have to go for PTA and on the same day, you have a critical presentation! Oh, on the same day the wife’s car was to be given for service. Complexity goes up geometrically.  

So, now listen to the expert Pramod! I am just kidding! We also learnt to do things the hard way. Why not try Kaizen? It is a continuous improvement of whatever you are doing. It may be household stuff, office job, handling kids patiently! “Hey, dad, what happens if I write on the walls with my Crayons?” Losing your temper is not going to help you; find out improved methods to convince them to change their mind. Maybe take wife’s help; she may be better than you in this aspect. Keep your ego aside. But are you going to change things as you face them? Why not gather data in that elusive excel sheet? You can start by analysing major chores and the way you are doing them. Give marks, say 7/10 or 2/10. According to importance and scores see how things can be changed. Decide what score will reduce your stress, open up avenues to get free time, reduce the temperature of the system. Home is the reverse of IC engines. IC engines run more efficiently as their temperature goes up and stabilises. Home engine runs efficiently at room temperatures.  

5S is a method that is easy and complex both. It deals with house-keeping methodology on the shop floor. House and homes are the same, are they not? So why not try 5S at home. I will not go into details of 5S, but it will suffice to say that if used correctly, our homes will become clutter free! Try with some of your cupboards. You will see many handkerchiefs, pairs of socks, innerware. How many of these were not used for the last three months? I have taken three as a random number; you need to select the number that will suit you. You may find that 50% of this stuff was never touched in those three months. Why not give these to charity? There are many such nooks and corners in our home which can be declogged. Your mind is clogged by the physical clutter in the surroundings. 5S will help you declogg your mind too! Serenity is one word that comes to mind that you will achieve by removing clutter.  

Friends, I have too much in my mind about what I want to say so maybe I should stop at this stage. I have chosen the Japanese methods for their simplicity, and these are really useful in real life. So open that Laptop and start creating an excel sheet!

The first item, “Don’t waste time on reading Pramod’ blogs”! Or maybe you should read them!  

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