Your Future Self!

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Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using  an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?”  I said, “Go, ahead!”

He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.

He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”

You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!

You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.

You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.

Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.

In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!

Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”

 

Distress or Destress!

Modern life has become quite stressful; that does not mean that older life was not stressful. Stress in modern times and olden times were of different types. In olden times, falling sick was very risky because chances of someone dying due to small health issue were very high. There was always a fear of famine, causing food shortages over a long period; attacks by other animals were not far away. Collecting food and water was a major daily problem. Compared to that modern times are a cake walk. But in today’s times the work pressures, performance pressures, financial pressures are very high. We have increased our “basic” requirements so high that there is always a rat race between the money you make and EMI’s you pay. Commute times have gone up in main cities. Luckily basic health issues are much less compared to olden times, especially deaths due to simple health complications are reducing, indicated by an increase in life expectancy.

A friend, before retiring, was top boss of a very very large company and would travel minimum 15 days in a month, followed by 12 to 14 hours of a workday, sometimes, when he was at home base! Stress was a part of his life. He took guidance from a life coach and over a period managed to reduce his stress levels. Here is what he tried.

Winning at all times: First thing his coach told him was to attempt everything, make life changes, on a very small scale and these changes should be incremental. The coach said it is the same as achieving success in your career. The coach told my friend, “You became a big boss over a period of 40 years. Were you made big boss within 10 years, you would have failed!” The coach told him a story of corporate honcho, who was in 40’s. The honcho decided to start running for exercise, he was reasonably fit and reached a stage where he ran a marathon! Next year, he again ran the marathon again but his timing was a couple of minutes slower, compared to the first year. He was very much upset for “losing out” to himself. He decided to run another marathon, but only after a six weeks gap. His body refused to cooperate with him, and his timing was one hour slower! He was devastated. Then he discussed this with his wife. She told him that you need not “win” everything in life. She said, “That you are able to run a marathon, is a great success in life, and on top of that you ran two marathons only with six weeks gap! That is a great achievement. You are not a professional runner, so timing hardly matters. Participation is the most important part of life!” Lesson learnt, do something incrementally and everything need not be a win-lose combination. Taking part itself is a win-win situation!

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Breathing and Meditation: These are two equal things which are useful for reducing stress. We always tell others in a stressful situation to take ten breaths, or count ten! What is that? It is breathing and meditation. Instead of reacting quickly to a situation, it is a good idea to give time, digest the situation, understand it, check different options, different views! When we rush into anything, it creates stress for you as well as others. Another thing that can happen due to rushing things is that we may not consider all the options available and can make mistakes.  It is well known and scientifically proven that deep breathing and meditation help improve oxygen level in our blood and help reduce stress! The meditation increases emotional control and brain power.

Listening. If we concentrate on listening to other people, the way we focus when we meditate, our interaction immediately becomes richer. The other person feels that we are listening, almost physically. And when they know that we are listening, they form a bond with us, faster. Life almost immediately feels richer and more meaningful. Listening is a positive interpersonal communication behaviour. When we form a quick bond with others, the effect on the relationship is excellent and mutual communication starts quickly between the two people. My personal experience is that the quicker you create a bond, easier it is to succeed in, your work. I had an excellent rapport with a senior officer from an organization. We used to fight tooth and nail, professionally, but conflict resolution was always a win-win situation for both the organizations, thanks to personal rapport.

Questioning. This isn’t about asking other people questions, it’s about questioning the thoughts your mind creates. Just because your mind creates a thought doesn’t mean it is correct. It is better to get in the habit of asking your mind, “Is that thought correct?” And if we are not absolutely certain it is, just let it go. It is good to thank your mind for coming up with the thought and move on. This liberates your mind from the negativity of throwing out an idea, originally thought by you. You learn to discard it because you are not sure about it. It is a good idea to acknowledge rather than repressing negative thoughts. Instead of trying to ignore something we believe to be true, questioning allows us to confront our thoughts head on and to discredit them because they are wrong.

Purpose. What is your purpose of doing something? It is not something about the purpose of life, I am not talking of  lofty thoughts! If you are trying to create a document and coming up with a great idea, you should give it your completely undivided attention. People are known to check their e mails more than 30 times in an hour! People immediately look at a WhatsApp message, the moment you get the receipt ding. It is not necessary and it is not really essential. Doing these things increases your stress levels because you want to give replies, take your mind away from your document, break the link in your thought process. If you are having a cup of tea, have that cup of tea! Don’t try to multi-task. That cup you take is to really to refresh your mind. In today’s electronics world, don’t let the electrons dictate your pace of work. We see a lot of glorification of multi-tasking. But does it really help? Suppose you are going to complete three things in four hours. While multi-tasking there is always a changeover time that our brain requires. I am sure you may take four and a half to five hours to complete a four hour job, and possibility of errors increases.

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Friends, enough stress is a good thing to have as it motivates us do things properly, efficiently, to achieve success. But if you have been participating in sports, you already know that “You win some, You lose some”! This attitude will take you to lead a successful, healthy life, no sleepless nights (with sufficient sleep every night)! You will be able to start every day with an urge to climb the hill just on the outskirts of your town! Mount Everest is for professional climbers!