[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

What did outsourcing really do?

Monday, September 27th, 2010

In my experience, what I am hearing (and partly seeing) is that the perception of IT outsourcing (to offshore providers in Asia/South America) is closely reflected in the comic strip below.

Source: Dilbert

The folks who are being replaced by outsourcing efforts are obviously mad and enraged. The folks who end up having to manage the outsourced work and who end up “receiving and owning” are literally crying. Complaints range from poor quality of work received, to lack of resource retention at offshore locations. Communication and cultural issues doesn’t get talked as much, but they play equal role in the negativity. There is even a mushrooming in-sourcing industry.

Even though there is an element of truth in these outcries, I am somewhat skeptical if this is a simply an “expected” backlash. In some sense, these complaints raise a sense of job security or at least slows down the movement of jobs out. On the contrary, even a bit of praise for offshoring most likely results in more work shipped out.

Thanks to the recession and rising unemployment in the US, federal and state departments are taking a conservative approach by avoiding this topic or altogether opposing it, as State of Ohio recently did.

Growing up in America?

The reality is outsourcing of IT and in fact, all IT-enabled work is becoming a financial imperative. The US market for most industries is saturating so the only way to show growth in many cases, is by cutting operating costs. The easiest is to ship all desk jobs offshore. Ultimately, the folks who are cribbing must manage these issues (mostly imagined or some real!) and get over it.

The IT and BPO sourcing providers (Indian, Chinese and others) must own up to some of these issues on their part. At the moment, most of the top-tier providers are busy “moving up” the value chain, escaping from what NY senator Charles Schumer calls “chop shops”. But the entire sourcing industry must recognize and focus on its foundation – highest quality of service – to sustain the industry as whole.

Visual Communication & Teaching Techniques

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Within the last couple of days, I have come across different sets of people and websites that are turning the dial on the visual communication techniques. One of them is using it to teach the world – from basic mathematics to biology to evolution theory. Another is using it to visually communicate powerful ideas from the concept of time to capitalism.

Met Sal Khan from Khan Academy. He has created thousands of video lessons, each around 10 minutes. You really have to visit his website to get a sense for breadth of the content he has created, pretty much all by himself, with just a computer and of course, lots of passion and dedication. His story was recently profiled in CNN Money and it appears he is slowly gaining the global media attention he needs to take this to mainstream. I found his interview in WorldChanging.com even more insightful than the CNN article. I always admire folks with such tenacity, and each one of them virtually knock my head reminding me one more time everyone can make a difference in the world if they we our mind to action. Although he has made tremendous progress with content and format innovation, distribution remains a challenge. It would be great for e.g. for an NGOs such as Pratham to partner with Khan in taking these lessons to schools across India (where there is at least a computer). Another idea is to forge a distribution partnership with forward-thinking publishers such as New Horizon Media. Of course, this needs to be done across many countries to get the best outcome for this laudable effort.

And then I stumbled upon a few videos made by some of creative folks at Cognitive Media based in UK. Based on notes taken during speeches, these guys created some great graphics and videos that’s more effective to synthesize, understand and absorb, cognitively, than if you hear the speeches (or read) without any visual component. You have to checkout a couple to see if these are as effective as I think they are. Perhaps, I am one of those people who is easily inspired, but nevertheless, their work of art, creativity and innovation has touched me.

I particular liked the two videos. The first one is an insightful one related to how money is really not a motivator when it comes to jobs that required cognitive skills (mostly knowledge work).

This other video talks about the geography of time and how younger generation are digitally wired, losing the social skills needed to interact as humans in the real world. At one point in the video, he says most kids don’t wear a watch these days – is it?

I saw a lot of similarities in the way Khan teaches and the Cognitive Media guys communicate. Both augment their audio with visuals – though Khan’s visuals are more down to earth and more-like-mine than UK boys who are professional artists.

No Creativity Crisis in YOU!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

A couple of months ago, Newsweek declared that America is a deep creativity crisis. The hell broke loose. Or may be not. If anything, the article gained more readership than it possibly deserves.

The article points out that creativity is “production of something original and useful”, and I agree with original part but not so much the useful part. I accept the simple definition that creativity is just a unique expression – of oneself or of something – that’s out of ordinary. Useful or not is irrelevant. Every human being is creative in some way or other at one point of time or another, yet, most of the creation is useful only as a gratification for the creator, none beyond. That doesn’t preclude any individual from not being creative. In fact, it is in our inherent nature to be creative. We can creatively argue to death if it’s true or not.


The newsweek article highlights an experiment in which children who came up with “more good ideas grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers.”. I hope that’s an incomplete list and dare not call it as a list of what creative people become.

Creativity does not start, and certainly does not end, with art. I also see an unwritten assumption that creatives grow up to be entrepreneurs. Most artists and entrepreneurs are certainly creative, but the world will not be as we have it today, if not for the creativity of average citizen.

Last month, Fast Company’s 2010 list of most creative people in business. I dug deep into it because I see the key word in that article’s title is most and not creative. I wanted to know about and possibly meet every one of the most creatives – because these guys are likely doing what the newsweek article posited – “original and useful” creativity – useful insofar as they make money for their business.

Source: thedesigninspiration.com

To make a list of most creative people in the whole world across all disciplines would be a daunting task and it will invariably be filled with artists and entrepreneurs. You know, let’s leave that job to the magazines and newspapers – that will sure get more readership and provoke debates. For anyone who cares to look closer but a bit deeper, the most originally expressive and inspiring person might be your two year old or your ninety two year old grandma or perhaps, YOU, just the way you are.

Do what you love, express yourself exactly as you feel – in any form, shape, medium or language. Don’t just go with the flow, make your own path, follow your dreams and if required, break all the rules.

Celebrate being yourself.

Dichotomy of New Jersey

Friday, September 17th, 2010

As a resident of Jersey, I admire the issue of wealth gap that’s not so obvious to many people who live here. Wikipedia states New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the United States of America, yet, data published today indicates New Jersey’s poverty rate fell below the national average, with 9.3 percent of residents living under the poverty line. Anyone familiar with the state knows Camden and Newark are notoriously poor even though Cory Booker (whose saga I have admire) is doing his best to revive.

The report goes on to say this

A record-breaking total of 43.6 million people were living in poverty across the United States in 2009. The figure is the highest in 51 years of poverty data collection.

You know, the United States goes all the way out to save countries from across the globe yet nothing is really being done to save the poorest right here. I am not advocating for a socialist nation but I am advocating for what Aristotle might have called Capitalism in moderation. I love this country for what it has done for millions and millions of humans, both here and across the world. I owe my own personal success to this country. However, we must admit we are failing on poorest of our own people here, their children and their generations.

The pleasure of volunteering

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with KaBOOM! to build a playground for kids at the raritan bay area YMCA. About 200+ MetLife employees volunteered alongside 100+ YMCA members and few KaBOOM folks worked from 6AM to 4PM to build a beautiful playground – literally out of an empty lot. I am humbled that I had the chance to play a small role in seeing this happen. Incidentally, the kids around this place were dreaming of a playgound and we made some dreams come true.

KaBOOM Volunteers Digging

The volunteer work involved a range of hands-on work from concrete mixing to digging to landscaping, gardening, assembling the play equipments to carrying dirt/mulch around. It was hard and tiring work but it was total fun to see the playground take shape right infront of us.

I try to do such volunteer work at least a few times a year. I pick a variety of projects to get different kinds of volunteer experiences and to keep me motivated.

FIRST Robotics

I still remember the wonderful experience I had helping kids out at the FIRST Robotics Competition. On another occasion, I had a chance to speak to middle school children about my job and what it means to build a career in my job. Thanks to MetLife Foundation, we get to know of such work and have a chance to give back to the community. I regularly do charity work through Feed the Children and Kiva.org, but nothing gives the pleasure of doing it all by myself. Money is probably easy to find than getting people to be there to give a helping hand and lean on.

The local news papers ran an article about it: Vision for playground becomes reality this weekend in Perth Amboy

What is Strategy?

Friday, September 10th, 2010

My definition is – Strategy is “how” to accomplish a certain goal.

That’s the simple part. Let me help with a bit more detail.

There are usually many ways to accomplish a goal. As you think about each one of these ways, you will know which ones are good ways and which ones aren’t as good. You may have many good ways, and ideally you would chose one among the good ways to accomplish a goal and move forward with “doing” whatever needs to be done for that particular way of achieving the goal. Whatever way you picked is your Strategy. If it works well, you achieve your goal. If not, you go back and pick another way. Now you changed your Strategy and go from there. Sometimes, you may pick more than one way and do it at the same time. Which means you have multiple strategies to achieve your goal. Even if some of them fail, you stand a better chance of achieving the goal through multiple strategies route. Of course, meaningful goals need time, resources and money to achieve them, so multiple strategies may not be economical in all cases.

Enough theory. Lets do a simple exercise.

Our two-year old sometimes throws big tantrums before dinner. So my goal is to “Make my son eat dinner”. Let’s say I have say 3 “ways” to make him eat his dinner.

1) I tell him I will read his favorite “Are you my Mother” book if he cooperates and eats.
2) I offer to give him 4 M&Ms if eats dinner in full.
3) I decide to sit and eat with him, so he enjoys my company while eating.

Each of the 3 ways may or may not help me achieve the goal of making him eat. I wouldn’t know until I try. There are certainly some benefits to each and some pains (I don’t want to read ‘Who is my Mother’ one more time, please!).

Let’s say I pick the easy M&M route. So that becomes my Strategy to achieve the goal.

Now I got to do it! I have to tell him in the nicest, most convincing and believable way that he will get 4 M&Ms as soon as he finishes dinner. He may listen or may ignore altogether. (Its not so much the M&M as much as the 4 that does the trick. He could care less if I said 1 M&M!)

If this Strategy works, great! If not, I go back and evaluate the other two ways and pick my next one and do it. If he is smart, he would force me to pick more than one strategy and get me to read the book and enjoy his 4 M&Ms!

Source: Citizenpaul.com

That’s all it is for Strategy. I know the example is ridiculously simple. In reality, there will be many ways and each one with many constraints, costs, assumptions, implications, what not. In the end, how you approach is no different – whether it is for US’s military strategy in Afghanistan or Microsoft’s strategy for XBox or my local diner’s strategy for Sunday Brunch.

By the way, the usage and meaning of word ‘Strategy’ is very different from the meaning and usage of the word ‘Strategic’. The word Strategic (forget how dictionary defines it!) is a modifier and it usually means, in simple words, “Long term” or “High Level”.

Strategic Decision means a decision that will have Long Term consequences. Strategic Location means a location has Long Term impact – benefits usually.

Strategic Plan means High Level or Long Term Plan. It supposedly should include the goals and the strategies – but most don’t. That’s a story for another day.

Nominating Babar Ali for Youth Social Entrepreneurship

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Some of my readers know my interests in Social Enterprises. Ashoka is one of the organizations that inspires me and to my luck, I had one chance to meet with Mr. Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s Founder.

Ashoka is now looking for 10 youngsters from across the world to go on a TED-style stage (TEDx) to talk – and inspire the masses – about how they are changing in the world. The Staples Youth Social Entrepreneurship Competition is open for nominations.

On my part, I had nominated Babar Ali – who BBC called the youngest headmaster in the world. I stubmled upon his story in BBC a while ago and boy, he did touch my heart. When I came across Ashoka’s nomination request for young, inspiring entrepreneurs, Babar Ali immediately came to my mind.

Babar Ali's students Source:BBC

He may not have had a huge impact in Ashoka’s scheme of things, but his heroism and leadership is exactly what Ashoka is looking for. Imagine how many kids and adults across the world he could inspire if he gets 18 minutes on a world stage, in Washington DC, to tell his story about how he runs a evening school for poor children – while going to a government public school himself during the day. He teaches at night what he learns in the day. About 800 kids around his village are now able to learn and get educated, who otherwise stay at home to take care of siblings or or work during the day to feed their family. You can read more about Babar Ali in the detailed BBC report by Damian Grammaticas.

I would super excited if Ashoka picks up him! I have no idea who this boy is but I hope he will be too.

One way to make this world a better place

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The other day I stumbled upon Daily Endeavor and EndeavorPrep. It posted a question “why so few people thrive in life while other’s don’t”. They arrived at an answer that “too fewer people discover what they want to do”. Is it really easy to discover what you want to do? Is it something that someone can help us discover?

If you are one of those lucky ones who knew early in your life exactly what you want to do and is now successful doing it, read no further. What I say here is not for you but for the rest of the unlucky world.

I do not think its easy to discover what you want to do in life. I do think it is possible but it requires a lot of soul searching and reflection. The world around has tuned us to believe and follow the “norm”. We are required to “go with the flow”. If we do certain things because that’s what we want to do, we might get chastised for “swimming against the tide”. [Jonathan Livingston Seagul, ]

How late is too late to discover what you want to do? What if I am 35, with a masters in chemistry with a job running research programs for a leading pharma and suddenly I “discover” what I want to do is to be a fighter pilot? I know many would argue that one is never too late to pursue whatever they want to do, but realistically speaking the earlier you discover the better off you are and the world will likely and greatly benefit from your discovery of our your own passion.

On the other hand, some think it might be too early to attribute a passion or pick a career for kids, when they haven’t had enough opportunities to explore every thing in the world.

Between these two ends is where most youngsters get side-tracked and simply pursue whatever they can get their hands at or whatever parents suggest.


Which brings us to an issue that is close to my heart, How can we – the grown up you and I who realize and acknowledge this gap – help younger kids (say 5th to 8th grade) to be more informed and ultimately make better decisions about what they want to do in life – careerwise or otherwise?

I believe we can and should. The world of “work” is getting complicated as economies evolve from industrial to service to knowledge to creative. To make choices about what type of jobs and careers to pursue is painstaking hard so most youngster skip it outright. To expect someone coming out of high school to figure all this out is akin to dropping them in the middle of amazon jungle and expecting them to make their way back.

Career guidance programs in schools as well as government-sponsored career exploration websites seem somewhat incomplete, though certainly very useful. The labor department classification of jobs and careers is no good either. Today, a position described as “Business Analyst” likely has a few hundred variations to it depending on the industry or company or department. Job roles and job titles are invented on the fly many leading to no correlation between the actual work and the meaning the title implies. Ultimately, no one can figure all this out.

So sites such as Daily Endeavor (treat it as sort of Wikipedia for careers) are trying to directly address this need by cataloging and documenting 21st century job roles and what it means to be on these jobs. Others are trying to cater to this need through books, video [check The Futures Channel] and cable and online series – check PBS Design Squad, . The hope is to that the younger generation and mid-career changers will have more clarity to match their natural skills and passions to what jobs and careers to pursue.

I strongly believe every child and every individual has certain innate potential to be good or even great, in some things, using which they would make this world a better place. Majority of us never get a chance to know what this potential is – we just float like a leaf in the river and get by life doing whatever we can. Some realize it too late to impact the world with their greatness, even if they get to excel in their passion. Very few realize it and make the best out of it.


The best bet is to provide a conducive environment as early as possible so a 10-year old kid can independently and consciously recognize and realize his or her innate potential. It will require a holistic ecosystem of products (books, DVDs), services (online video, interviews, offline guidance, school support, parental support), tools (assessments, tests, coaching), organizations (placement services, scholarships, financing, job searches) and many passionate people to make it happen. Daily Endeavor and EndeavorPrep are definitely step in right direction. But we need more and I have come to realize that is what I wanted to do in my life. In my view, the developing countries need such services more than ever. Without such early intervention and nurtured guidance, they will end up with millions of computer programmers or hundreds of thousands of half-baked doctors, engineers and lawyers whose tomb might read “I had no idea what I wanted to do with life – so here I am”

PS: As I was writing this, it reminded me of Richard Bach’s Illusions. The hardback edition comes with a handwritten story of creatures who clung tightly to the bottom of a river. When one of them decides to let go, he is thrown over others into the deep waters. He goes off saying something like, “The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

Prezi – True creativity in presentations

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

I have been using Powerpoint for a good portion of my corporate life. It’s just another tool to communicate. With Powerpoint 2007 (and now Powerpoint 2010), you could be more creative than ever before in better communicating whatever you want. But Prezi is redefining the paradigm of presentations.

Think no more as slides and bullets. Start with a large blank white paper and draw your content out wherever you want. Take it in any direction you want and present ideas in any order, as long as they have some relationship and meaning.

Linear movement across content is pretty standard in most visual communication mediums – including books and movies. However, Our mind doesn’t not think or operate linearly – most often we jump not sequentially but tangentially. Experimental movies (nonlinear narrative) such as “Memento” will bore an average person, but will inspire others who have an appetite for defying logic. “Lateral thinking“, a well known concept in creative thinking circles, emphasizes non-linear approach to creativity. Which is exactly why Prezi has gotten all the attention and evangelical fellowship. Prezi will enable the presenter to present the information visually as close to how the information is perceived and possibly registered in our memory. The hope is that presenting information using tools such as Prezi will increase your success – be it influencing your audience or helping them learn something new.

We are so attuned to expecting things linearly that your first exposure to Prezi will not ring much bells. Although the fundamental concepts such as non-linear movement within content and zoom in/out will initially grab your attention more to the medium than the message, Prezi is redefining how communications will happen in the future.

Of course, no great presentation tool will make up for poor thinking and lack of creativity. In the end, it’s still you, who will make a great presentation – where it’s with a napkin or prezi.

Here is one Great Prezi by Kevin McAllister that I am really impressed – and hoping to use it as basis for my own Prezis.

Another good Prezi – Sweet Recipe to Solving Problems

Tips before you host visitors from developing world

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

This summer my parents came to the US to stay with us and to tour the places around. Having lived all their life in a second tier city in South India, everything in the US was so different, often puzzling, sometimes even embarrassing from them. Many days we would chat at length about why things are done a certain way in the US – and how it’s good or bad from the perspectives you have. As an example, we eat refrigerated food over a period of few days, but that made my parents uncomfortable. They haven’t had the luxury of a fridge for most of their Indian-lower-middle-class life so they don’t embrace it, while we can’t appreciate enough how convenient it is to cook for the whole week, when both of us work 8-6.

The above experience is probably common for many visitors to the US from developing and third world countries. For someone who is hosting the visitors, It would perhaps help to know a list of things to prepare the visitors before or at the beginning of their visit. So here are the few things that the hosts can discuss with visitors at the outset – which helps them settle down quickly and enjoy this great country they always dream of visiting.

Basic English Words & Phrases – Most visitors probably speak some level of English but it would greatly help to ensure they know few words that would come handy – when they meet your neighbors or when the waitress at the Diner takes an order. We could write a whole page of words but here are a few: “Hello, How are you?”, “Good Morning”, Thanks, Restroom, Phone, Dollar/Cents, Need help, Vegetarian, Water, Coffee, Bread etc.

Simple Etiquette – Smiling at strangers, saying “Hi, How are you?”, responding with “Thanks”, Holding the doors for others, Staying to right when walking, Talking mildly in public, Avoiding body odor through perfumes, Wearing a shoe/light clothing when taking a long walk, Basic usage of spoon and fork when eating in public, Being respectful of others space, property.


Using the western toilets, bathrooms & bathtubs – For visitors who have never used western toilets – this is a very touchy feely issue – which they eventually figure out and live with. However, it would help them if the host could guide them in how to use toilet paper, how to flush, how to use soap dispenser, hot water tap vs. cold water tap, how to use the shower curtains (haven’t you had a visitor leave the shower curtain outside the tub only to step out in a soaked up floor?) and shower knobs etc. While I am on this topic, if you are planning a backpack trip to India – you should definitely check out ‘How to use Indian Toilets’.

Trash & Recycle – It’s important for them to know how we collect trash and recycle. They may not be used to level of discipline we have in the US from grinding garbage in the kitchen sinks to splitting garbage and recycle bins. Its better to explain than be surprised when something stinks around the kitchen.

For Vegetarians, Get used to eating Cheese Pizza, Pasta and Salad – They will probably cringe at eating Pizza or Salad for lunch, when they are used to sumptuous multi-course meals back home. But if the visitors want to tour US at any length, they will come to appreciate the Pizza quickly. My parents now love Pizza – no surprises there.

Basic Utilities – If the hosts are working couple, the visitors would be bored to death within three days – take my word for it. So getting to use few things around the house will go a long way in making them enjoy their time during the day. Kitchen appliances – range/stove, microwave, knives, cutters etc, TV & Cable/Satellite remotes, Phone (how to call you and 911), Door Bells/Security Alarms, Treadmill or Static Bike (if you have it), Walking trails around the house and of course, leave them your home address and emergency contacts.

I am sure there are more. Some might feel this is too much taking out the opportunity for the visitors to figure all this out themselves. I would prefer to tell them exactly how to use the gas stove than to hear the carbon monoxide alarm go bonkers. It would take about 15 minutes to go through this with your visitors and everyone will feel thankful in the end.

If you have hosted visitors from countries far out and away in culture and development from the US, What else would you add to this?

Why I like NetFlix – and lessons on business strategy

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I was hooked to NetFlix when they launched – Of course, need I say I love movies? NetFlix kept my appetite going for many years. When BlockBuster made a move to offer online rentals, I had no reason to notice. When BlockBuster made a move to exchange online rentals for in-store selections, I was impressed. As a student and practitioner of strategy, I think this is one of the brilliant business moves. Right when everyone was dismissing video stores as useless brick and mortar assets, Blockbuster brought an innovative solution that converted a supposedly wasteful asset (stores) into a strategic one.

Alas – BlockBuster couldn’t sustain its strategic thinking. If you search for Blockbuster in the recent news, there are going down the drains – possibly bankruptcy soon. Among other reasons, NetFlix is definitely one big sucker kicking their butts.

I can’t stop praising NetFlix. Their collection of movies, documentaries, TV shows etc is more than enough for any above average movie/TV buff. They offer streaming at the same cost (Blockbuster was charging separately!). They offer streaming to TV via Wii – no extra cost or extra hardware, Do you want more? Now, I can watch NetFlix streaming in my damn iPhone – again no extra cost. I’m loving it. I really think future of customer service and retention is this – offer your products and services around the customer’s convenience.

I imagine the guys in the boardroom of BlockBuster still think they know what they are doing. I bet they don’t. As they were ignoring NetFlix, another innovator – RedBox is killing them. If you ever think of renting a movie in BlockBuster, think again…and perhaps, look around, you will find a RedBox and that’s all you need for the night. In my opinion, Blockbuster is letting RedBox and NetFlix kill it, rather consciously. Pick any business consultant from the street he could tell you to how to handle it (leverage you brand strength, buy one or both of them or offer the same services – just ridiculously better and cheaper).

These guys are all in the dog-eat-dog business so let’s face it and fight to win. Watch out – Folks are already saying NetFlix won’t have this business for too long. I have been expecting NetFlix should buy RedBox. Then, YouTube, Apple, Amazon, Hulu and a host of others streaming movies, TV shows and user content left and right. Besides, TVs already have built-in internet so streaming is going to be as simple as flipping channels. So I won’t be surprised if NetFlix gets killed or sucked into Amazon or some other big dogs.

But something tells me these guys are smart and will continue to innovate and play the game. As for rest of us, let’s enjoy those documentary on NetFlix that we would otherwise never to get see and along the way, watch for some real world lessons on business strategy.

Simple strategy to reduce over commitment and slow down

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Lately, I have been thinking more and more about over-committing myself. On one end are the day to day little things that I like to do – internet, books, TV, movies etc. On other end, there are bigger things such as long-range goals on sports, music, writing, business ventures etc. And then, there are things that I should do but never consciously plan for – spending more time with family, calling friends, relax, laugh out loud etc.

The desire to do “MORE” can sometimes be a chronic addiction.

Having said that, I genuinely wanted to slow down. In Praise of Slowness and ADULTITIS couple continue to inspire me to “escape adulthood” and find practical way to stop being stretched too thin.

My greatest inspiration though is closer to home: my little boy and my wife.

Unaware, he has been disciplining me to slow down. He won’t stop until I put down the phone or remote before we can play. If I have a book, he will ensure its put far away. And when he is playing, he is just playing. He makes me wish God had given a toggle switch somewhere in the head to stay focused.

I continue to admire my wife’s ability to get so much done at home and outside and yet find time for me, Rishi, her parents, chatting with friends, wishing birthdays, facebook and people.com! Not for a day had she complained that she didn’t have time to do her things, it’s really a question of if and how I am planning for and make our time together and family time.

I know many men struggle with this, so here are some steps that I am using to reduce my yeses…

1) Accept the problem exists and then sincerely commit to fixing it – if you don’t admit, then there is really no issue – at least as far as you are concerned.
2) Take an inventory of all your activities (time suckers!) that’s going on daily/weekly – don’t get worked up with GTD – just grab a piece of paper and dump it.
3) Just do the top 3 things – for next 1 month. Don’t do anything else. Your time and energy will be spent on whatever the top 3 things from your dump. Remember to share the top 3 with your family so they know you are cutting down.
4) If you are successful during the month – revisit the top 3 – change it – but stick to 3.
5) Trust that you will be happy – by doing less. Trust your soul will rest in peace no matter what.

Finally, don’t think too much. Don’t try to rationalize it. Any approach is better than no approach.

I still am struggling. The top 3 strategy is working but still takes up more of my available time. I have started somewhere, nevertheless.

What has worked in your experience?

Can you tune out of a conversation in a language you know?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

It was a moment before the doors were shut, I sneak into the PATH train in Grove street heading to 33rd Street in Manhattan, on my way to Long Island City.

If I make it before 8 AM, it’s usually easy to find a spot to stand somewhat comfortably so I lean against the wall in the corner standing right in front of two Indian guys – one an older man with silver goatee and younger guy. They looked like father and son.

I am busy reading the last chapter of “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. I have this strange habit of reading books back to front – not literally, but starting at last chapter or last page and going back. Am I the only one with this bizarre habit? I digress.

They are talking to each other in Hindi, which I understand.

Older guy: “Have you noticed there is not as many cars in the parking these days?”

I figured they are going to talk about the economy and layoffs.

Younger guy: “Oh is it? I don’t have to park”

They can’t be father and son, of course.

Older guy: “These days, I don’t have trouble finding a parking spot in the morning”

Younger guy: “Good for you. Where do you live?”

They seemed to like each other’s company and went on chatting. I was wondering how I can tune off. I couldn’t so I hear half of it and understand half of what I am reading.

Next stop; Pavonia Newport. A swarm of commuters rush in. I swear half of them are from the Indian subcontinent. I lost the little bit of extra space I enjoyed for 3 minutes.

Two more Indian guys walk straight up to the conductor’s area and stand very comfortably right across me. They must have thought we were all dumb trying to squeeze in all around them, leaving this premium spot for them! The conductors area is a 3×3 spot in the corner of the compartment that’s used by the conductor to control doors and signals to the driver. He usually moves between two compartments depending on which side the station is. Obviously, the conductor was in the next compartment at the moment.

These two guys are busy continuing their conversation in Tamil, which indeed is my mother tongue – so can’t stop listening to it.

First Tamil guy: “I sent that email on Friday but still don’t understand why they had asked me to come?”

The younger guy, who is sitting in front of me, was also watching the two Tamil guys barge into the conductor’s spot. He says to the older guy in Hindi: “There you go, he is going to kick these two out of there in a minute”

In response, the older guy leans into the younger guy and said something that I didn’t quite understand. They both started laughing.

Second Tamil guy: “What to do? That’s the way it is. I don’t know if he is trying to push his agenda here”.

First Tamil guy: “What agenda?”

Second Tamil guy: “You know? There is some serious politics going on here.”

I figured this must be one of the popular Indian IT firms loading up consultants left and right.

First Tamil guy: “I was in Atlanta three years ago, and it was not like this”

I sure thought this poor guy must have landed in Newark Airport from Chennai the night before.

The conductor walks in. “Excuse me?”

First Tamil guy now gives a naïve look: “Huh?”

The rest of us around were acting as if we were not watching any of this. I suppose something like this happens quite often given the nature of moving population in this part of the US.

The transit conductors are not the nicest public servants I know. “Can you guys move and let me do my job?” pointing to control board on the wall.

The Second Tamil guy seemed as if he understood “Oh ok!”

I turn back to my book. Where the heck was I? I am not sure if I read the whole page.

A portion of the Tamil and Hindi conversations pass through my ears. A part of was wondering the beauty of Human brain – there was no way I could tune out of a conversation in language I know.

Or may be I didn’t want to.