Don’t waste efforts on being Happy!

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World over there is a considerably large industry called Happiness Industry or Being Positive Industry! You must be wondering after reading the title! Has Pramod gone bonkers? He looks like a positive guy; he always writes about being happy. What has happened to him? My usual pursuit of knowledge allows me to read different thought processes and documents from the world over. Initially, I was also surprised to learn some reports which said that our default status is not about being happy.

As per the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, happiness is “like a feather flying in the air. It flies light, but not for very long.” Happiness is human thinking, an abstract idea with no equivalent in actual human experience. Positive and negative effects do reside in the brain, but sustained happiness has no biological basis.

Humans are not designed to be happy or even content. Instead, we are intended primarily to survive and reproduce, like every other creature in the natural world. A state of contentment is discouraged by nature because it would lower our guard against possible threats to our survival.

Till we became an organised society ten thousand years ago by learning to farm, there was hardly any difference between humans and other species. Let us not say that humans were technically advanced compared to others. Look at the nests built by the birds; they are technical marvels. Look at the gut feelings of animals; many animals understand if there would be an earthquake shortly. Dogs can detect mines and drugs! Each of the species had their specialities. The common aspects were reproduction and survival instincts. Let me assure you the life was not easy then and it is not easy now!

I have recently written a blog about Happiness, and I thought that there is no point in writing details about happiness.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/happy-happy-we-shall-be/

The survival in olden days was from the severe nature, other animals or predators. Humans, with their intelligence, came up with many inventions and found some defence mechanisms, helping them survive more easily. But mind you, you have to endure still or survive. Even in the twenty-first century, we sight tigers and cheetahs in the Pune district. My son, Sachin, was saying that even today they have to be careful about Bears that are sighted in greater Seattle area, especially during winter.

Survival in olden days was from drought and floods. Is the 21st century much different? Today, there is a drought-like condition in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, even though half the monsoon is over. Last week a train full of water tankers was sent to Chennai. Assam and Bihar are facing severe floods due to heavy rains. People have been dying due to floods and may die due to drought too if sufficient monsoon rains don’t come.

So some population is in survival mode all the time. Have we forgotten about poverty on the terra firma? Development does bring prosperity, but still, a large number of people world over are poor! Survival against nature, other species to a small extent, and poverty is the requirement in the so-called modern world. Happiness is there, come on, I am not a pessimist! But it is there like a golden ray of the sun coming through the dark clouds! Happiness is a fleeting moment in our lives.

Friends let us not forget that happiness is that fleeting moment; it is like the flying feather taking a small flight before settling down. Our default status is a bit of struggle most of the times, surviving and reproducing. Is reproduction an easy path to glory? Yes, it is glorified as coming together of two human beings in a sexual act. Then there is that long struggle of nine months for the lady. The sexual act is the fleeting moment of happiness! The expected new arrival is a delightful moment for the couple and the family, with nine months of looming struggle. Morning sickness, too much weight gain in some cases, unexpected medical conditions like diabetes during pregnancy are the tough things the lady has to survive. Have we forgotten birth? It is supposed to be the toughest event in women’s life. If it is not natural birth, then it is the C-section and recovery from the surgery! In the whole gamut of struggle, there is that delightful feather taking the small flight, the newborn!

Each era has its tough times. In the four centuries between 14th and 18th, there were wars everywhere. The relative peace in between this time and the 20th century was a struggle against diseases, the world over. Hundreds of would die of plague, cholera and typhoid. There was no cure. Patients were managed by the doctors and not treated. Modern medicines were yet to come. The relative peace of this period was followed by World War I and World War II! The WW II ended with the dropping of nuclear bombs in Japan. Millions of people died in these wars. But war forced the world to look for cures to injured soldiers in wars. Sulfa and Penicillin were discovered in this period, gave humanity the miracle drugs! These dugs again brought the smiles and happiness back in our lives. Then one after another modern surgical and diagnostics methods have come. Has it brought permanent or long-lasting happiness in our lives? The answer is no! Yes, some cancers are now getting cured, but many new uncurable ones are getting detected. Alzheimer and Dementia are seen more as longevity has become the norm! So in between periods of survival, happiness is achieved.

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What am I talking? Am I saying that you can be happy or you cannot be happy? Only thing I am saying is that happiness is there in life; don’t be after it. Don’t get driven by slogans to spend your money on books or programs. We are happy and sad in cycles. After a routine life sometimes there are events in life which make you miserable. The sadness does not last forever!

Similarly, after the sadness period, there could be routine drudgery, then there will be a sudden period of happiness! Both happiness and sadness are cyclic, and their cycle will go on. Happiness starts with the arrival of the new one. (don’t forget that the mother has given her nine months of tough period to achieve happy times of her life.)

In today’s parlance, I will give an example of this cycle. Your child grows old enough and takes wings to fly the world over, the way you wanted your child to go! You are happy, but then comes the usual drudgery of their life and their slowly become professionals. A grandchild is born, you are happy! But are not happy that you cannot see it immediately. Life goes on with happy moments, sometimes sad ones too! Then suddenly, your child can come home for a few days (please note that it is your home, not the child’s home) for a few days; there is happiness. Life goes on and on!

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Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin called life. To your surprise, you will find that this is the only coin that stands on its edge most of the times. Only for a small duration, it becomes flat depending on the which type of event we have in life; happy or sad! Do you know that after some time has passed, the coin automatically stands on its edge, the phase known as routine life?  Don’t worry; I have not gone bonkers. Be as happy as is possible! You cannot tell the clouds to give space for the sunlights to come out; similarly, your mental phase happy or sad comes when its time has come.

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India Shining Silently!

Among the political upheavals, hyperbole things are changing in India, slowly but surely. There was a political slogan, India Shining,” sometime back. But India is silently shining. The surprising part is that the change is happening on the Engineering side of life. The engineering feats are not sexy like IT, where smart men and ladies market their achievements.  

I read a couple of news items today. I found them very interesting for a different reason. One of the articles was about railways, and the other was about DRDO. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-railways-piyush-goyal-premium-trains-rajdhani-shtabadi-5796304/ 

I will talk about the railways one first. When we speak of railways, we visualise historical systems, dirty platforms, and bogeys. In general, we get to remember inefficiency everywhere. But this article shares details about how a 20-year-old problem was resolved by Railway Engineering arm. The problem was about LHB coaches which were put into service; these were imported from Germany. There was a problem of coaches shaking, giving jolts while braking or at a higher speed. Railway team found a solution locally. There were about five thousand coaches involved. They replaced the Center Buffer Couplers with new design couplers. They also found that the usual braking method also caused these jolts. Hence they asked the drivers to use regenerative/dynamic braking system when speeds were above 30 Km/hr. With a combination of these two, jumping teacups and jolts have become history. There were 5000 such coaches, but with proper project management, the work on all of them was completed in two years. These stories don’t come out with fancy celebrations; these projects were done as part of routine practice. Great story to make everyone proud. 

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-israel-spike-anti-tank-missiles-drdo-5796306/ 

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The news above is another silent development of a highly complex military requirement of anti-tank missiles. Initially, the order was placed with Israel, who had a fierce competition with the US. This order was placed in 2014 for 351 launching systems and 8000 plus missiles worth US $ 500/ millions. Indian organisation DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) was also in the process of developing the missiles locally. After successful second stage testing at Ahmednagar, the government decided to cancel the contract with Israel and go ahead with DRDO under Make In India initiative. These weapons are highly sophisticated and use infrared technology which has been proven during testing in hightemperature regions of Rajasthan deserts. No fanfare, the sheer hard work is the key to such success stories. Again this is the story of excellent project management where DRDO will deliver all the systems by 2021 as per requirements of the army! Kudos to DRDO. 

At the end of the second world war, Japan and Germany had lost, and many of their factories and cities were destroyed. All the treaties that were signed ensured that they would not resurrect rapidly. But somehow these nations rose literally from ashes like the Phoenix bird! All this was achieved due to the dedication, will power to excel and love for the nation.  

India, as we know today, became one nation for the first time at the time of independence. With the diversity of people, religions, languages, cultures, it was like Europe or much more complicated. Getting people together itself has been the greatest achievement of the last century, though we do not realise this. India has another significant problem. Our diverse culture has been very mature and has an old history of thousands of years. So, specific thoughts and beliefs are ingrained very firmly in our minds. We take time to change. Added to this was the large population. That India has survived and prospered is a miracle by itself.  

Slowly, we have started to learn to keep the diversity at home and now work together with professional pride as a single proud nation. Reading the above stories gives great hope to me about our great nation and people.  

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The viaduct of Pune Metro!

There are many such stories which are known to us, and we have started taking things for granted. Metro railway is an institution built singlehandedly by the doyen of this technology E Sridharan. He was also instrumental in developing the Konkan railway system. The system was one of the most stringent projects to build because of the tricky mountainous terrain. What Sridharan did was a technological marvel, management marvel. All the projects handled by him were always completed on time.

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Konkan Railway Bridge on the river Panval

My classmate Shashikant Limaye was the chief engineer for bridges on the Konkan Railway project. Shown above is the bridge designed by him on the river Panval (Yes it is supposedly near my native place Panval, where I have never been!). This bridge is 80 meters high from the ground level. It is considered a significant technical achievement in the project. How do people like Sridharan achieve such things? Looking into the smallest of the details has ensured everything works like clockwork on these projects. There is an exciting story about Sridharan. As the Metro lines started becoming operational in Delhi, he would visit different sectors every day to begin his work. Where he would go was not known to anyone. As he entered the station, he would bend and check if there was dust on staircases and escalators by wiping with his hand. What was the result of this dedication? Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow are all having Metro lines or are in the process of installation. All projects have always been completed on time.  

These projects have proven that in India, we can do worldclass technical work and have excellent project management abilities. In the example of bogeys, do not forget that these bogeys were not in one place but spread all over India. The work was completed without hampering the regular services.  

We have been doing great things in Technology. ISRO has already proven that it is India’s showcase worldclass organisation. It competes and beats others from the world in quality, performance and equally importantly, costs! 

On the business side Reliance has done a fantastic job of creating world-class large business; they have proven the same again in their Jio venture too!

But somehow we are not able to go up the value chain in other areas where we can do it. I am talking about the IT industry. They started doing well in ’90 s of the last century with Y2K! They started making big money and started getting large service contracts. Such contracts led to making even more money. In 20 years, these companies became very large, and have so much money that they did not know what to do with that money. Recently they started buying back their own shares from the market. The buyback indicated that they had no plans for developing new skills and gaining expertise in more modern areas. They have still not shown the willingness to go up the value chain. They have the people, the money but lack the will! I sincerely hope that these companies invest some money, human resources, and efforts in creating world-class products! Don’t just become Billionaires; become proud owners of great products!  

 

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by aviators and mariners, but in some countries, local organisations such as firefighters, police forces, and transportation organisations also use the term. 

 My buddy Nayan shared with me an interesting article! It was under a mundane title “Thought for the day.” The writeup was summarised well in the last sentence! 

“Don’t forget that while you are busy growing up, your parents are growing older!”  

Our biological age increases every second which is known to us. The phenomenon is as natural as a tree grows. The basic fabric of today’s society started to form around ten thousand years back when humans took up farming. Farming meant that you sowed something, which would take a month or two to be ready. So, when you planted, you stayed put at that place. Starting of organised farming was the process of the switchover from a nomadic society to a stable community which is rooted at a site, though this happened slowly. You liked the surroundings; there was a river nearby with plenty of trees! You had your plot for farming and built a shelter. That was home. More people came and stayed put in that area; this was the creation of the village.  

Organised society created stability but took centuries to reach today’s format. With stability, came revolutions of a better kind, Industrial revolutions. This revolution brought scientific thinking and research in society. In the last hundred years, there has been tremendous progress in the medical field, treatment, and healthcare. We are becoming a healthier society. The population has grown in substantial numbers. The phenomenon of “parents also growing” is a recent one from the last 30/40 years, at least in India. This problem has been existing in countries like Japan for a much longer time. 

As usual, I will blame everything to longevity, improved food quantity and quality, better medical facilities (though affordability can be an issue). Are all these changes bane or a boon? Of course, they are a boon! The only point is that we are not used to them. A few years back a Japanese friend requested me to send some chikki for him to Delhi. Chikki is an Indian sweet made of Jaggery and peanuts. My friend wanted to take it to Japan for his mother who was around ninety years of age. In Japan, they used to get similar sweet in olden days when his parents were younger. My friend shared with me that his father was 93 years old and would go and buy grocery a couple of times in a week, travelling in a Metro.  

Coming back to the article Nayan shared with me, in India another significant change is taking place. Along with longevity of parents, the children are travelling to greener pastures in different countries of the world. Some migrate permanently or go on projects for a few years; then get better opportunities and continue staying away from “Home”! Definition of the home has also changed. Children move out of the “Home” many times after 12th grade, so technically they have left home to take up professional courses. Post education, they start their career in India or abroad. At that juncture, the parents may be busy in their jobs and could be in the age group of 50 and 60. Around 50 years back, males died 3 to 4 years after retirement. Now they don’t, which is good news. But this has led to the issues for which Indian society is not mentally prepared. Parents are living much longer than at any time before, and our community is not prepared for it. We do not know how to handle this, and there are no fixed norms. Do old parents live away from their children? Should they live in old people’s homes? The problem becomes even more complicated when one of the spouses dies! Who will look after parents if they become weak and cannot handle their activities? What would be the support system? There is no organised support system, at least in India.  

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So, the article suggested and shared a story of using modern technology, not for automation but to remain in touch. A group of very senior citizens created a WA group, and it was mandatory for each member to send Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night message to the group at a particular time, allowing for some deviation. Messages made sure that persons in the group are ok. If a message from someone was not received for a specified time duration, they had formed a system to go and physically check with that person. In the story, somebody did not send a message, and his friends rushed to him and found out that he was unwell. They rushed him to the hospital. Later when the son came, they explained to him that providing for is not the only need of the parents, but they need to interact with someone, meet someone when possible. They asked the son, “When did you last talk to your father?” “See, that’s why we have this group. Otherwise, we people would be talking to walls and windows”, the couple said as they left. This was the whole point.

Nayan and I were room partners in COEP hostel; later during the day our third partner, Sharad sent me a story about a lady from Switzerland. In Switzerland, people get sufficient pension for their retired life. But they have a concept called “Time Bank”. The lady, who had retired and aged 67, was helping some people who were 80 plus. When she retired, she took up an assignment of supporting these old people. She does not charge any money. Whatever time she puts in is added to her “Time” account. This “Time” can be withdrawn when she will need support in her older days. There will be someone to support her who will put in “Time” which will get added to the next person’s account and the cycle will go on. What a fantastic way of supporting older adults in need of support.  

It struck me with an idea of combining two different stories which are two very similar thought processes. Today our group of college friends are of the age around 70, but at some stage, some help will be needed, so here is what we can do. These are preliminary thoughts but can be converted into a full-fledged system. 

  1. Create a WhatsApp group- use it for daily tracking as mentioned above 
  2. There are some apps available to track the user’s location all the time, and certain people like his family and a few close friends can know where the person is located. (Ok, those who are going meet the girlfriends will also be tracked!)  
  3. I don’t know how far this is practical, but one must have a landline at home. Sometimes the mobile phone doesn’t connect!  
  4. Include likeminded younger people who have just retired. They will be volunteers who can physically take up support responsibilities. 
  5. Subgroups can be formed based on the locations. But the basic system alerts could be used by all.  
  6. There can be a team of volunteers of much younger people who are willing to take up a social cause. They can take it up as once in a month activity. The volunteers can 
    1. Take the elderly to shops, banks or small purchases 
    2. Take them to movies, dramas 
    3. Arrange community get-together for the elderly 
    4. Help them go to local offices 
    5. Train them with the usage of new gadgets and technologies 
    6. Play games or solve puzzles with them- find your way of spending time with them.  
  7. I read one interesting but touching story of an old woman whom a volunteer would meet once in a month. They got very close to each other. One day she said that she wanted a promise from him. He was surprised as she had never demanded anything from him before. He said, “Ok, tell me.” She said, “Will you promise me that you will shade some tears when I die?” 
  8. Give them love and affection.  

Your question is right why the title is Mayday! Mayday! It is not an emergency situation, yet. The situation I have described above is the real-life situation, and it needs to be treated with the same priority we give to the distress signal. Else? I don’t know.  

Looks like destiny is going to bring Sharad, Nayan and me back together though Nayan is in California and we are in Mumbai-Pune area.  

Friends, you will hear much more from me on this subject, in future. 

Elderly2

 

 

What is good? Balance or Imbalance!

 

WorkLife3How does one decide what is correct and what is wrong, in our life? What is the meaning of the balanced life we live? This dilemma is faced by all of us. Since the last 50 to 70 years, life has become fast the world over, due to various things. In recent times the working from home concept and the facility has made life more comfortable but at the same time complicated and hectic. The work from home concept came up due to the internet, computers and space issues. People from organisations are working in the US, Europe, India and Japan. All have different time zones. A lot of work and projects keep on happening all 24 hours because it is working hours for some part of the office in the world. When there are some essential discussions people will join the meeting at 4 am, 12 noon, 7 pm or 12 midnight. Such meetings are many times regular bi-monthly meetings.

What happens to work-life balance in such cases? It goes for a toss! When you have such meetings, are you left with home life? Certainly not. But if you want to grow in the career such meetings, extensive travels, dinners, conferences are part of work life. So how do we keep the work-life balance? When we use the word balance, we tend to think about putting limits on either home life or work schedules. Neither is good.  People who must go home at 4.30 pm every day, come what may, tend to get noticed (and also tend to get a notice with a pink slip!)

Let us accept the fact that there is a work-life balance issue. You have a great career going, and you have a fantastic family life. What is this? Utopia? Fantasy? It is neither. The same problem or issue can be expressed differently. The balance that we are talking about is not the real balance but finding the golden mean. Trying to achieve the work-life balance limits many things.

The human race will not prosper or grow if we always talk of balance. The balancing act is a low aim, we don’t force ourselves to do better. We do not push us, our employers, our leaders to do better and better. Still in many companies waiting long periods is considered the ultimate, without checking the results achieved.

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We should aim to achieve everything but must remember that all that cannot be completed in one go. There are times when we can give more time to home life, and sometimes you are required to do the same for work. These should be treated as natural ups and downs of life. If you think big and look at the bigger picture, you are more likely to achieve your goal.

All of us work because we want to support ourselves, our families, and the people around us. We are all doing work that we’re proud of and that provides meaning and purpose to us. But even if our job does not make you very joyful each new day, working is a part of what each of us does and the contribution we make to our society.

When you separate work and life, then you cannot keep a “connect” between the two activities. But when you think of work as part of a full life and your daily ritual, then we can see that one is dependent on the other, for success and improvement.

What are the disadvantages of talking about balance? One can fall down badly if you lose the balance. That falling or failing will happen in our lives. We need to find a solution which will evolve rather than taking a fixed path. We have some good days and bad days and some ok days. This is a normal variation in life and can happen in both work and personal matters. If we are not mentally prepared for this evolution, then a faltering step will put you in a tough situation.

If you look for a very steady lifestyle, it never happens that way. Sometimes you may have to work longer, your spouse is unwell,  so on the way back, you will have to pick up dinner too! Sometimes you may have to miss an office picnic because your niece is getting engaged on that day! One does not have to feel sorry about both situations.

I will share with you an important event. More than fifteen years back my mother expired. She was 78. The funeral was at 5 am as she had died late at night. After coming home, we were trying to absorb what had happened. Jaya had some foreign visitors in her office, and there was a concluding meeting at 9.30 am. All of us at home coaxed Jaya to go and attend the meeting; the guests were to travel back home that night. What was the point in cancelling or postponing that meeting? Jaya came back home at about 11.30. Guests were never told about the event at home, and it was work as usual.

How was the lifestyle in my grandparent’s time? He would probably go to the office at 10 am. Was back home at 4.30 pm. By 6.30 pm he would have his meal and start preparing to go to sleep at 7 pm. He would listen to news on the radio in those days. There was nothing else to do anyway. Now we are spoiled for career types, for entertainment, social media and what have you! These days one has to be careful about the time spent on social media. It can severely damage your work-life balance.

Today Jaya and I went for a brunch with our daughter Priya. We spent one lovely hour together. The rule was to keep the phone away. Priya was allowed to answer the phone when her patients called.  We somehow managed to carve out quality time with Priya from her busy schedule. You don’t have to do the balancing act all the time, instead you act!

It is important how we talk about any situation. Let us avoid the balancing act of work-life and try to think about bigger and better things to achieve fulfilment. Don’t forget that our life does not move on what has happened previously. We can take our stand to achieve our goals. Doing a balancing act may never take you towards your goal.

Jingoism or Pragmatism!

Years back when Japan started exporting good cars to the USA in a big way in the ’80 s of the last century, there was a lot of noise created in the US! The US decided that this needs to be handled at the highest level. During a visit of a President of the US, they had informed the Japanese government that the President would push Japanese to open their market for American cars. Japanese agreed immediately. During the meeting it was it was declared officially. When the detailing was being worked out, Americans found that American car makers, engineering-wise, were unprepared, to make right-hand drive cars needed in Japan. They lost ¾ years in this! Rest as they say is history.

In the last few years, the winds against the so-called free trade have started blowing in the USA! Even in Britain, Brexit has happened, and Britain is hoping to walk out of the European Union. Brexit is a classic case of a referendum. The young people who did not want Brexit were too busy to take part in the poll. The seniors did. Currently, the British people have a significant advantage of visa-less travel to Europe. The young brigade could jump to holiday locations, for a job or weekend excursions to the places of their choice. British business had a big, trade barrier-free market available to them. Current British Government is trying its best to find a face-saving formula or do what the majority population wants. (even though referendum said otherwise) Another option may be a second referendum.

Every nation, every society needs to look after self-interest and self-respect. As the country grows, its business grows. The business growth will make the nation and its people proud. Value-added growth could happen when modern products and services are developed in the nation internally. The business needs support from the government, for such a growth. The Indian government is attempting to follow this method. When they sign a contract for import of high technology defence items like radar, planes etc. they try to ensure that the deal is in two parts. Initially, India imports some quantities fully assembled; later at least 30% of production is done in India along with some local partners. Make in India is the name of this project. The results of such initiatives will be seen 20 or 30 years hence.

Why do nations change their thought processes? A country like the United States is technologically the most advanced nation in the world. In the last 50 years, they have many world-class organisations, especially in the IT field. Most of the other countries play the catch-up game with them. They have created world-class hardware and software products like iPhone, Android OS, Windows OS, Microsoft Office to name a few of them. They are also famous for aircraft manufacturing facilities. But where hardware manufacturing was involved, they slowly moved production to China. China also has done a terrific job of going up the value chain; China is now called the world’s manufacturing setup.   Similarly, India has become back office of the world. Since the last couple of years, India is also trying to go up the value chain.

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With the election of Trump, thinking in the US has started changing. Why did this happen? When we refer to the USA, we think only of the East coast and the West coast. We never bother regarding the Rust Belt. Rust Belt is the American midwestern area where industries went into decline due to various reasons. The decrease is mainly in sectors like steel, mining and to some extent automobile.  Add to that the local culture which went into a social rot. The problems of this area can be understood if you read a book called “HillyBilly Elegy” by D Vance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy

We will understand better, Trump’s election victory, after reading this book. Jingoism has started after the win and America began to looking inwards by having tariff wars with China and India. Trade wars also led to the wave, “Make in America”!

History repeats due to lack of proper planning. Apple is the classic case of Make In America failure. There is the story “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in the U.S.A.” in New York Times. Apple started churning out great products in the last decade, after struggling since ’80 s of the previous century. They wanted to make the most of it and began subcontracting work. This improved their profitability. Over a period, they shifted all their assembly work in China to Foxconn. Most of the significant components in iPhone were made in the USA or other parts of the world. Assemblies and small parts were made in China. As assemblies entirely moved to China, US industries were left with unused capacity for many small items, and they closed shop or moved to other business. The classic case is of a non-standard screw needed in the assembly. China can produce any quantity of such screws. When an attempt was made to move production back to the USA, capabilities for producing such items were found missing. On top of this, Chinese wages are the US $ 2.10/hr for workers as against the US rates which are very high. On top of this, the totalitarian regime in China does not bother about labour laws. Meeting the targets are achieved by waking up the workers from home at night (when required) and are made to work the night shift. Getting people out of bed for factory work is not possible with US laws and culture.

Jingoism does not solve the problems; it merely creates an unhealthy atmosphere. In the case of Apple, history is getting repeated as it did in the case of cars in the last century! Governments and industry both need to be pragmatic. Apple is facing another issue. The iPhones assembled in China get a tag “Made in China”! The US government wants to charge high tariffs on “Made in China” items. On one side iPhone sells are sliding, margins are slipping; market capitalisation is dropping fast. Higher tariffs will add to Apple’s woes!

While taking any decisions in life, especially when these decisions are business related pragmatism should come to the fore and not Jingoism. The British decided in the referendum about Brexit. The analysis found that high % of citizens in the group above 55 age were for Brexit. Whereas against Brexit was a mixed group, young and old. Brexit is going to create problems for the young ones.

Jingoism takes a society towards a situation where governments promise something during an election or political rhetoric but are not able to deliver — not being pragmatic leads to further churning. Governments try to show their strength by taking a firm stand which is not sustainable. Politicians remain in political mode all the time leading to Jingoism.

Hope the leaders and nations who are following the path of Jingoism learn their lessons quickly; otherwise, the voters correct the same anyway. But for the period till next election, a lot of damage is done to the fabric of the society, and most importantly economic setbacks can cause long term damage to all concerned.

Goals or Systems!

Goooooooal! This is the loudest roar that you hear on a football field. The target while playing the football match is to score at least one goal more than the opponent! Of course, more the merrier! We always want to have goals in life so that we feel that we have achieved things in life. Some of the aims that we have are, getting into better shape, building a successful business, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family—is to set specific, actionable goals. Actionable is the operative word.

We all want to set our goals and keep on doing things to achieve them. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. I remember having set many goals during different stages of life. They were

  • Making a certain profit in business, reaching a certain turnover in the fifth year of business.
  • As a sportsman, you may want play for your national team in the next four years.
  • You are going to the gym your goal will be to reduce weight by certain kgs, in a fixed duration.

For many years, this was how I approached my habits too. Each one was a goal to be reached. I set goals for the grades I wanted to get when in school, for the weights I wanted to lift in the gym, for the profits I wanted to earn in business. I succeeded at a few, but I failed at a lot of them. Eventually, I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed. I wanted to represent the state in table tennis but I failed badly at a much lower level. A friend achieved the same easily.  His goals and my goals were the same. But he succeeded and I did not. I was always wondering why I did not succeed? Then I realized that though our goals were the same, the systems he followed to continuously improve, were very good and consistent. He would practice improving his service, return of service and his defense.

Sachin Tendulkar is a classic case of continuous improvement. In the season 2003-2004, he showed his real mettle. At that time, he was getting out hitting shots on the off side. He scored 241 runs in the first test against Australia and did not hit a single shot on the off side! He followed a perfect system that removed kinks from his repertoire. Scoring double century was not his goal!

Winners and losers have the same goals: Winners and losers always have the same goals but it is how the winners achieve this is important. They follow the same training regime as losers. They have put a system in place. It is the adherence to the systems that make them winners. On the way, if the winners lose they don’t give up or they don’t change their goals. They modify their system, they improve their systems. Japanese method of Kaizen tells us the same thing.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “improvement”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. This means that it applies to the whole team. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied to healthcare, psychotherapy, sport, life-coaching, government, and banking. By improving standardized programs and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste and improve continuously.

Achieving goals is only momentary: Suppose you enter a room full of clutter. You make a goal of eliminating the clutter. You work hard and do it. The room is spic and span. You are happy and thrilled. But to me, this is a temporary satisfaction. You do not convert this into habit (system?) of cleaning, making things spick and span, regularly; if your team,  does not get involved into Kaizen of daily trying to improve on the previous achievement, the end result will be clutter again, and momentary happiness, will remain, momentary. The room will be back to clutter.

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counter intuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that achieve those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.

Goals restrict happiness:  Systems-first mentality provides the antidote. When you want to follow the processes rather than the end product, called goal, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. At every stage, when the system works properly, it is inching towards the final goal of success. The success of every stage is more important than the final goal. Sometimes the final result may be achieved even though the steps in between were not successful. But if each step is successful then the final goal is bound to be successful. In doing so, at the success of every stage in between, we reach happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress: The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game, perfect the stages in between. True long-term thinking should be goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement, Kaizen! Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Germany and Japan lost the second world war and their economies were devastated. Germany was split into West and East Germany. But Japan and West Germany were in pursuit of systems, perfect systems, sustainable systems, continuously improving systems. Both countries have done exceedingly well, in a short duration! The result of this pursuit in Japan, was the evolution of the system of Poka Yoke.

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “inadvertent error prevention”. The operative word in this is “inadvertent”. In this system, if a component is missing, if a step is incorrectly followed, the process just cannot be started. With such perfect systems and processes, the end result, “the goal” is simply a formality.

Kodak had a goal to create the path-breaking product. They achieved their goal by inventing the first digital camera in the world. But probably because of their original dominance in the camera using films, they probably did not have systems to launch the product successfully. The end result, others raced ahead and Kodak had to shut down their business, they went into Bankruptsy. To me, Goals or Systems is not a question! We should be shouting Systeeeeeeem, instead of shouting Goooooooal!

Lazy or Innovative!

 

TwoThumbsTyping

Humans always want to do things differently and easily. We say that fashions come back in circles every 30 years! But pictorial writing took a few thousand years to come back! Are humans lazy or innovative? From pre-historical days, we’ve learned to talk, we’ve learned to write, but we’re only now learning to write at the speed of talking (i.e., text), sending messages. If you are talking to someone face-to-face, you don’t need an additional word or symbol to express “I’m smiling” because you would be smiling. Research determined way back in the 1950s that only 7 per cent of communication is verbal (what we say), while 38 per cent is vocal (how we say it) and 55 per cent is nonverbal (what we do and how we look while we’re saying it). This is good for face-to-face communication, but when we’re texting/WApping, the hypothesis goes for a toss. 93 per cent of our communicative tools are out of the picture.

In came Emojis! Emojis were born from the mind of a single man: Shigetaka Kurita, an employee at the Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo. Back in the late 1990s, the company was looking for a way to distinguish its pager service from its competitors in a very tight market. Kurita hit on the idea of adding simplistic cartoon images to its messaging functions as a way to appeal to teens. The emoji means, “picture words”—were designed by Kurita, using a pencil and paper, and were inspired by pictorial Japanese sources, like Manga (Japanese comic books) and Kanji ­(Japanese characters borrowed from written Chinese). I always had this feeling that Emojis show a feel of Japanese/Chinese characters and now I have come to know that I was not wrong.

These 176, initial crude symbols became very popular and Japanese Telecom adopted them. These were used only in Japan.  Apple put these characters in iPhone in 2007 for phones to be sold in Japan; it was meant for Japanese youth and was hidden deep down in software layers. But tech-savvy users in the US found these Emojis and then it was only a question of high-speed proliferation. Now even people above 80 are using WhatsApp and use Emojis very comfortably. In a survey in 2013, it was found that 73% of people in the USA and 82% of people in China were using Emojis in their communications. There is one interesting thing I have observed about Emojis. Since the faces shown in them are basically based on comic books, there is hardly any angry Emoji! Using Emojis, people can love, feel sad, feel elated but it becomes difficult to hate or feel angry using Emojis!

The meaning of Emojis interpreted in different areas of the world are flexible and that is the real beauty of it. 🙏🙏 is an Emoji that is interpreted as Namaskar (Hindu Greeting) in our part of the world. But in the western world, it is interpreted as High Five! If one needs to discuss or comment on something serious, the best solution is face to face talk, next best is Emojis and third place goes to the written text. These not very professional looking cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux, they keep on changing. The written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, for personal communications, especially when it’s sent using tiny screens, tapped out in real time.

airport-signs-11109624

The beginning of writing started with pictorial drawing and their interpretation. First written symbols that began in our lives are pictures. Pictograms—i.e. pictures of actual things, like a drawing of the sun—were the very first elements of written communication, found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. From pictograms, which are literal representations, we moved to logograms, which are symbols that stand in for a word ($, for example) and ideograms, which are pictures or symbols that represent an idea or abstract concept. Modern examples of ideograms include the person-in-a-wheelchair symbol that universally communicates accessibility and the red-hand symbol at a pedestrian crossing that signals not “red hand” but “stops.”

One thing is sure that pictures, emojis have a definite advantage over written communication. I will tell you how I got confused in Germany, way back in 1984. I had gone to West Germany of those times. I was travelling back to the place of my stay in a small town called Menden, using the train system. I was required to change the trains at a couple of places. I saw one railway employee with a tag, “Information”. I was happy, finally, I found someone speaking English!  I went to the railway employee to seek the directions. Later I came to know that Information in German is pronounced as, Informatsionen! The person said, “Ich spreche kein Englisch”, which I assumed as “I don’t speak English” He held my hand, took me to the correct platform and pointed to me the direction! No Emojis!

 JoyEmoji

The Joy Emoji shown above, is referred  to as “Face With Tears of Joy” or “the LOL Emoji” (Emojis don’t have official names, just nicknames created by their users)— it dates back, in North America, to roughly 2011, when Apple put a readily accessible Emoji keyboard in iOS 5 for the iPhone. Which means that in a few years, Face With Tears of Joy ­vanquished the 3,000-year-old symbol “~” called Tilde, which is at the top left-hand corner of our keyboard. Tilde is used as a symbol for approximation. Let me tell you briefly about ~! It was one of the most common symbols used in written language for a long time but was overtaken by LOL in three years! That is the power of Emojis!

Then comes the issue, are Emojis the right way to communicate? I think so because when we communicate with each other on social media, it is more of an informal discussion. In our lives now social media communications are very large in volume. Formal work or business related communication is still a letter or an email! You may send an informal consent for a purchase order on WA, but will end with, “Purchase Order follows”.  Of course, there are personal feuds or lover’s tiffs that can happen on WhatsApp. Now I have passed that stage but had WA been available in my younger days, I would rather have used  Emojis. If I had to show my displeasure, I would have used 😕☹😒 instead of saying, “I am unhappy or sad because you said blah blah on phone!” This one sentence would lead to so much more exchange, of initially tough words, and maybe then harsh words. 🙂🙂

Spelling mistakes or deliberate spelling errors are part of communication. ध चा मा is a famous historical saying in Maratha history during the time of Peshwas. There was an order to धरा someone, means capture someone. ध चा मा means the letter ध was replaced by मा . The order became मारा, someone, means kill someone! Don’t be under the misconception that such errors can’t happen while replying using Emoji. The following Emojis are next to each other on the keyboard, 👏👄.  A young man wanted to appreciate what his female boss had achieved. By mistake, he sent 👄 EMoji instead of 👏. This was before, “delete message” facility in WhatsApp. Sheepishly he went to the boss to apologize. His boss said, “Meet me in the evening!” The office was almost empty when he went to her cabin. He was shocked when his boss replied to him with,😘😘 in person! Boss is always right!