[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Benjamin Zander’s art of possibility

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Last week, I was reading a book by Alan Fine, “You already know How to be great” and in it Alan writes about Benjamin Zander‘s method of “Giving an A” to all his music students right at the beginning of the semester in exchange for just one home work: Write a letter that begins with “Dear Mr. Zander, I got my A because…”.

I have not heard of Benjamin Zander before but I was hooked. The clock had just crossed midnight and it was awfully quiet, yet I couldn’t help but try to learn a bit more about him. Soon, I grabbed my headset to watch on my phone his great TED Presentation.

What got me hooked was not so much the idea of “Giving an A” or Mr. Zander’s flamboyant stage presence at TED, but it was the contents of an actual letter from one of his students, a young Korean flutist,…

Dear Mr. Zander, my teacher,

I got an A because I worked hard and thought deeply about myself as a student in your class-and the result was truly magnificent. I have become a whole different person. I used to be negative about nearly everything, before even trying. Now I’m much happier than I used to be. Around one year ago I couldn’t accept my mistakes. I got mad at myself after every mistake I made. But now I actually enjoy my mistakes and I really learned a lot from those mistakes. There is more depth in my playing than there used to be. At first, I only played the notes, but now I’ve discovered something about the real meaning of all those compositions. Now I play with more fantasy. I’ve also discovered my own worth. I’ve discovered that I’m a special person because I saw that I can do anything if I believe in myself. Thank you for your lectures and classes because they made me understand how important I am and the true reason why I make music.

This kid really made it sound too simple but this exercise in imagination is hard. I need to imagine myself in the future, and then look back at my own life and further imagine what I learned, how I changed, what I achieved etc. While I need to do this exercise lot more thoroughly, I am already imagining the moments when I speak at TED.  When that possibility materializes, Benjamin Zander will be my role model!

If everything is invented, why not do it right? Source: royblumenthal

I recently wrote about Running our own race in life. I said, Every life is a story unfolding – a story you create, whether that story is told, written or read by others doesn’t matter. What matters is we live our life the best we can.

What Zander’s suggests is for all of us to open up to imagining the perfect story of our own life. Not just imagine it, but Write it. See it.

Believe in what you imagined, after that, it’s a matter of living the endless possibilities.

Next generation of Designers will be everywhere.

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Inspire - Source: Smashing Magazine' Floral Typography

If you like the idea of making your environment a better place to live, then you are person who embraces design thinking. The environment could be just your room or house or could be whatever you do for living, or be it the world. Design thinking is about taking a different perspective, a view of a creator.

Designers come in all flavors. The traditional ones design cars to toothbrushes. The contemporary ones design cities, websites and iPods. The next generations of designers are going to be unlike; they will bring a fresh mix of right and left brain thinking to everyday problems, everywhere.

I like this article on Smashing Magazine titled Five and a Half Habits of Highly Effective Designers. It is intended for web designers – the folks that dream up the look, feel and aesthetics of web pages and the graphic design that goes with it. But I thought the ideas are apt for any designers, the types I defined above. The habits highlighted in the article are valid for individuals too to better design our own lives – especially the last habit described, Habitually Rewrite The Habits

Roger Martin's Knowledge Funnel

On on the same topic, I recommend a book by Roger Martin, “The Design of Business”. It’s a quick read and the model he defines is one I found intriguing. While the model is somewhat same as in six sigma approaches, Roger does a nice job of articulating it in a simpler way.

If you take an inventory of any business problem today, they will likely fall in one of the spaces within the funnel. Innovative companies, such as Samsung (let’s give a break to Apple) manage their product lines rigorously – ideas mature through the funnel and gets mass produced at the bottom of funnel, while newer ideas are brewed and hashed out at the top. Future of all modern business will be based on principles discussed in this book. You can read Roger Martin’s blog here.

XPlane is one of those companies that you should know about. They spearheaded design thinking early on, though many firms now exist in this up and coming space of Design and Innovation consulting. I encourage you to watch this video made by XPlane (their blog here) in honor next generation of designers out there – like you and me.

A love letter to Designers from XPLANE on Vimeo.

Stunning Popup Dinasours, Slick Ganesha and Malgudi Days

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Today, my in-laws joined us for an extended stay through the summer. Rishi was instantly elated seeing them though he last saw them over a year ago. Being somewhat of a sticky kid he is, I was expecting he would hesitate to respond to them. Wrong! He was on his way and within a few minutes it was as if we have all been together forever.

Robert Sabuda's Stunning Dinasour Pop-Up Book

With every visitor from India comes loads of books for me and Rishi. My FIL has a fantastic collection of old books mostly published in 70s-90s of last century. I suppose he hasn’t still read many of them, for he religiously travels only with books from his own collection to read. This time I have quite a few “gold pieces” (as he would call them) including a couple of RK Narayan’s books to spice up my summer.

But what seized my attention was not the usual suspects but two books intended for our 2.5 years old, who exhibits symptoms of a ravenous reader.

The first is a pop-up book titled Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up.  I have seen pop-up books before and Rishi has a few that are fantastic, but this one is unbelievable. Not without reasons has it scored solid 5 stars in Amazon review from 167 reviews. I was flabbergasted with the production quality of this book, specifically the pop-ups of various sizes, shapes and intricacies.  Today, I become a unofficial disciple of pop-up book design guru Robert Sabuda. Dude, you are one heck of a creative person who will inspire me from now onwards.

Cool Ganesh's Mousescapes

The other book is YAG (yet-another-ganesh!) book. I got to believe there must be millions of Ganesha & Krishna cartoon/illustrated books published just in the last few years in India. But this one is unlike any that I have seen. That it is commissioned by Chinmaya Mission and written by one of it’s swamini’s seemed little odd. Nevertheless, we must appreciate their courage to take a more innovative route in how the book turned out. Cleverly titled, “Ganesha’s Mousecapade” is work of beauty in the hands perhaps the best, contemporary designers and illustrators in India . Where the quality jumps out is the work done by Brahma Design and owlandbat.com in creating fantastic “2D animation and motifs from  India Madhubani art“.  The illustartor has done a masterful job of juxtaposing the epic characters and mythical timescape with today’s sensibilities and slickness – reminded me of KungFu Panda.  The Ganesh illustrated in this book is as cool as a movie star you have never heard of, but can read about in this brilliantly-written Slate article. You don’t have to believe me, but find a way to check out “Ganesh’s Mousescape” yourself.

Oh, flipping through one of FIL’s RK Narayan book reminded me of Malgudi Days. This website, aptly named, Malgudidays.net, carries the full set of 39 episodes of Malgudi Days which arguably is the most beloved TV series of last century – or may be even this century.

Yearning for the times...Malgudi Days

Twitter’s brilliant sweetspot!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I was late to sign up on Twitter but am now convinced it is truly a brilliant idea. It allows me to stay connected and follow anyone who I care about. It doesn’t have to be a person, it could be a firm or brand or whatever meaningful entity that deserves even one person’s attention! It doesn’t matter if that other person doesn’t know me – in most cases they don’t know me, but what matters is I am now as close to them as I virtually can.

In the pre-Twitter days, there wasn’t an easy-quick-and-dirty way to accomplish this – besides visiting websites and subscribing to blogs and news feeds etc. It was even worse in pre-Internet era! All I could wish for was to hope that Esquire magazine would publish an article about Cory Booker for me to know what he is up to. Today? Cory Booker goes above and beyond to keep me informed of what he is doing and thinking. All I had to do is just to follow him on Twitter…How insanely cool is that, especially if he is one of those people who inspires me everyday? He does, for ONE MILLION followers, like me.

Strolling across one of the isles in Barnes & Nobles the other day, I stumbled upon a book called “Procrastination Equation” by Piers Steel. Impressed with some of the ideas he espoused, I wondered if the author is on Twitter so I could stay connected with what’s on his mind. Not surprisingly, he was on and active on Twitter, and in seconds, I was set to keep track of him. Practically speaking, I am all set to stay abreast from one of the best minds on subject of Procrastination. Just a few years ago, that act would have meant writing long letters across the continent! And, no doubt, I would have procrastinated the hell out of writing a letter. Twitter simply eliminated the impulsiveness & the delay in Procrastination. Woh Woh? Hold on. Not clear on that last statement? Here is the Procrastination Equation that Piers writes about:

Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel

Piers thoughtfully clarified the formula (in a footnote in the book) by adding “+1” to the denominator so the division doesn’t go nuts. Motivation=(Expectancy x Value)/[(Impulsiveness x Delay)+1]

With that formula in front of you, now feel free to cogitate on that statement again: Twitter simply eliminated the impulsiveness & the delay in Procrastinating the action of connecting with the book’s author.

Where Twitter becomes a Himalayan challenge is when I start following a lot of people (a lot is say 50 people, at least for me). At that point, I should let go of any intention to “keep up” with everything coming in from everyone I follow. If I try to keep up, I am doomed! I realized Twitter becomes a shallow stream of universal consciousness and all I should and can do is to be content with occasional dips in the stream. I can always selectively dig deeper for particular topics or people – but the stream itself only goes as deep as few days! The world rightfully loses and doesn’t care about last week’s or last month’s or for that matter, yesterday’s state of universal consciousness – tweets!

Even if I am simply using Twitter to just follow – I get so much out of it. When I start tweeting or even better, retweeting some of what I follow, the power and quality of stream multiplies by as many followers as I have and as many people I follow. When everyone start doing the same, this power becomes unbelievably exponential! Not only what I say is heard by some (if not all followers), but I also act as a catalyst in passing every information that needs to be heard! As we have seen in the news lately, that exponential power of Twitter is precisely what is driving social revolutions left and right of Middle East. It first revolutionized the digital world, now it is doing the same for the real world – where revolutions matter the most! So what country is up next? In the universal scheme of tweet-consciousness, nobody knows! Time of course will tell.

Twitter, perhaps unintentionally, ended up in a perfect, irreplaceable sweet spot between one-to-many (radio/tv) and one-to-one (phone/text/IM) and many-to-one (newspaper/magazine) and many-to-many(websites/blogs) communication streams. I am trying hard to imagine what would be next – short of a gift of telepathy for all.

Twitter's sweet spot in (information) revolution

Reading to be a Writer

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

God knows I want to write more. This blog has been virtually haunting me everyday to do so.

Of late, I have been reading more and practically stopped writing. Except, of course, writing at work. Which doesn’t count in my books as the same writing in this blog.

Perhaps it was the haunting or an intuitive attraction to certain books, I have been heads down reading books about writing. Two of them I highly recommend for anyone, who first wants to read good books, and second, have tender hopes to write – even if its in private.

As it usually happens, I stumbled upon during my usual wanderings in the library, a fantastic book by Francine Prose’s “Reading Like a Writer” (A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them). I ended up overwhelmingly proud of myself for finding this book, rather serendipitously, that I just ordered a used copy of this book to own for life. She dissects some of her favorite books and authors on how they have chosen and written certain words, sentences, characters and story lines. Prose, herself a versatile writer, takes a back seat as a humble reader, to bring to light some of the fascinating writings across English literature. I, for one, have not even heard of most of the writers she mentions. That’s a blessing and curse. Why Curse? May be that’s harsh, but I curse myself because I don’t have the breadth of reading to know many of them. Every writer she brings forth is typically an accomplished person, but one must be a omnivorous (I picked up that word from her book!) reader to have come across all of these authors. Why Blessing? Indeed, because now I know who I can read if I ever run out of books to read. But, hold on, running out of books to read? that ain’t happening baby!

The second book is one I own and go back to every so often. Especially when the demon in me occasionally shows up in deep sleep, only to remind me that all I can do is read, read and just read even more but can’t get my ass to write more! I have previously written about William Zinsser. His most popular book, On Writing Well, is worth every dollar (though you can buy a used one for pennies!) not so much for writing instructions but to be a constant reminder that simple writing and especially writing well, is absolutely doable, be it painful. See, Zinsser is not one of the greatest writers, but he is one of the common, but good writers who exactly reinforces my confidence that I can be one too. If you are interested, Zinsser writes a weekly blog, “Zinsser on Friday”.

I want to write, simply for the purpose of expressing myself in a simple yet coherent way. Besides, as both Zissner and Prose constantly remind throughout these two books, writing well is all about rewriting. It’s not about writing more. It’s not about writing with fashionable and Shakespearean words. It’s about writing and rewriting and immersing ourselves in the pleasure of toying with simple words and sentences, literally crafting it, to get the point across in its most economical, smooth and simplest way.

On the other hand, Prose’s book at times made me wonder how in the world could someone come up with such fantastic writing. She brings to our attention writings by Samuel Johnson, that is so good to the extent of wiping off all my confidence that even I can craft great sentences. I mean, seriously, Samuel Johnson must have been a genius, if he naturally had the flair for such writing.

Here is a glimpse into fantastically crafted paragraph from The Life of Savage, By Samuel Johnson

It has been observed in all ages that the advantages of nature or of fortune have contributed very little to the promotion of happiness; and that those whom the splendour of their rank or the extent of their capacity have placed upon the summits of human life, have not often given any just occasion to envy in those who look up to them from a lower station: whether it be that apparent superiority incites great designs, and great designs are naturally liable to fatal miscarriages; or that the general lot of mankind is misery, and the misfortunes of those whose eminence drew upon them an universal attention have been more carefully recorded, because they were more generally observed, and have in reality been only more conspicuous than those of others, not more frequent, or more severe.

To be clear, I didn’t completely understand the entire meaning in one pass. I must have read it a few times before I digested his point. Perhaps, I am not used to this type of sophisticated 20th century writing, but, every time I read, I pause on certain places, just to wonder about what must have gone through his mind when he wrote those words – “splendour of their rank”. To imagine writers of past have hand written or typed all their writings is unfathomable. I am only glad I didn’t have to hand write my writings – would absolutely end up with no hope for any aspirations to be writer.

80/20 rule

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

“Most of what any of us achieve in life, of any serious degree of value to ourseleves and others, occurs in a very small proportion of our lives.”

May 2010 be the very best ever!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

I look back at the year that just ended and feel thankful for everything. Personally and professionally, it has been a year with significant milestones crossed. Let the new year bring fresh perspectives and opportunities to scale new heights.

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

I had my 30 seconds with Bill Drayton

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Last night, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Bill Drayton at a speech he gave at Princeton University. He is one of my role models and I don’t think its an exaggeration if I see him as a modern day version of Gandhi. He is on a mission to identify, encourage and support “changemakers” across the breadth and depth of human society. These ‘changemakers’ are working on the ground solving pressing social problems and Mr. Drayton ensures that these changemakers get whatever they need to do their best and sustain their impact. We need more Draytons and more organizations like the one he is pioneering: Ashoka. If I have a choice to be someone, I would like to be Mr. Drayton someday. Seeing him yesterday talk and spending a few seconds that close to him has reinforced my faith that I will be able to do what he has done, and more.

Mr. Drayton is credited for bringing social entrepreneurship to the forefront of America. During his speech yesterday, he pointed out that social entrepreneurs and their enterprises existed for centuries (so all we are doing is just finding more and more of them and shedding some global light on their work). He said we might just be reaching a “tipping point” of getting social entrepreneurship to mainstream. Many other organizations and individuals have dedicated their lives to direct welfare of society, but Ashoka has done it differently, in my humble opinion. I say it because I see their model as based on what I call ‘McKinsey of Social Enterprise’. When I graduated from NYU Stern, I seriously considered working for Ashoka. There were many personal reasons for not pursuing it rigorously. But the desire continues to deepen. That’s part of the reason why I showed up right away in Princeton, when I got a google alert that Mr. Drayton is speaking there.

He speaks so softly that folks at back couldn’t hear everything clearly but he spoke with a good sense of clarity regarding whats required to make meaningful changes in the society, for good. He was speaking to an audience of about 100 students from the Princeton’s engineering school, particularly those enrolled in Gordon Bloom’s Social Entrepreneurship program. The fact that such courses are already being offered to under graduate students and that Mr. Drayton’s latest Youth Ventures is reaching out to younger generation to be “changemakers” speaks for the “tipping point” of social entrepreneurship. On the topic of leveraging human potential, Mr. Drayton has also written an insightful article recently on the topic of how flight of increased productivity year after year is causing the depletion of natural resources and why the world must wake up soon to “engage people and to retire things”.

When I look back at my own life growing up in Coimbatore, India, I had been a “changemaker” in a real sense. I was an active member for many years in a social service club (Rotaract)and was also the president of the club during which we won awards for some innovative service work. I felt good doing that type of work, even while hanging around with my best buddies. However, I never consciously thought about what I was doing and if it will have any inherent relationship to what I will do in future.

I remember vividly the times I had spent with the Handicapped Children Society. We loved the smile on their faces so much that they became our default place to campout every other Sunday and do some gratifying social work. I can’t forget how much the children enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of Rajnikanth movie. There was this one boy who really wanted to grow up to be like Rajinikanth. I hope he is doing well somewhere.

My life, however, moved on after I graduated from Engineering College and commitments from the family front required me to stay focused on earning. It reminds me of the opening scenes of ‘Forrest Gump’; I went with the flow just like a feather caught in the breeze, moving to Chennai and then to US, building a career that I didn’t think much about. I hate to think this way, but I did lose sight of social work for quite sometime, until it dawned on me again.

Just around the mid point during my 2.5 years in NYU, I figured I had pretty much ended up where I am in life, by sheer ‘go with the flow’ mentality without thinking through what I really want to do or be. This is not to say I didn’t have commitment. I worked very hard to be where I am and grateful for the people and opportunities that helped along the way. But, as they say, ‘you know when you are on a mission’. I knew I was not.

I enrolled for a Social Enterprise class with Bill Shore. I was one of the just 5 guys in about 30 students who enrolled (guess more women cared about society, than men, at least in Stern, that year!). Stern is known for Finance majors and I wasn’t surprised that there were only 30 students. In fact, it’s the opposite, the 30 students really knew what they were getting into and possibly why. So it couldn’t have been a better setting. Having read Bill’s book prior to start of the sessions and sitting through the classes, guest lectures and case discussions made me feel like I have somehow found the deepest core of who I am and what I want to be. Perhaps, it goes back to my high school days of social work around Coimbatore and I do think experiences from childhood, one way or other, returns to remind who you really are. At last, I found something that just was always there for me for the taking. I want to be a social entrepreneur. A big, audacious changemaker.

I truly believe God has placed the seed within all of us. A seed to become meaningful persons and play particular roles in serving the humanity. The seed grows and symptoms of its growth may manifest more clearly during childhood, but somewhere along the way due to family and social settings, the growth is inhibited. For many, the seed gets buried deep enough that it takes a lot of time and energy to unearth it. But the fact is, the seed is there for us to find, nurture and make a beautiful tree out of it.

All said, how to get to from where I am today to where I want to go, is going to be work in progress. It starts with the faith, the rest must fall in place. I must continue to do what I need to do.

Echoing Green

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I was back at NYU Stern campus last night after almost 3 months. For the first time, I was visiting as an “Alumni”. Ah! just to say it feels nostalgic. I met a few of my classmates and a bunch of Alumni and almost all the 08 graduates were just excited that we are done with it! but still figuring what next to do…

In my chats with another alumni, I heard about “Echoing Green“, an organization that selects and funds social entrepreneurs targeting social issues around the world. I am writing about it now because I took up social entrepreneurship as one of my specializations in business school and took up a very eye-opening course with Billy Shore and Sarah K. Chiles. It was an excellent exposure, especially to Bill and his thought process. He is the visionary behind the non-profit “Share Our Strength” and the author of “The Cathedral Within”. Apparently, Echoing Green supported Billy Shore and Share Our Strength in its early development, through another grant program.

The 2008 fellows of “Echoing Green” sounds like a promising list and at least one of them matches with one of my core desires to make a difference. I will be reaching out to them soon to help in any way I can. If you like any of the ideas, You shoud too!

As an end note, this quote from Echoing Green website grabbed my attention and is worth mentioning here.

“…it is important to realize that the world does not depend on you. It will go on its own way, and you shouldn’t expect anyone to be thankful for the work you’re doing. If you decide to do something, it is because you want to do it, and nothing more” – as mentioned by Rahul Panicker here.

Randy Pausch legacy

Friday, July 25th, 2008

A few months ago I was browsing through a ReadersDigest at the OBGYN’s office and stumbled up on an article about Randy Pausch and his “Last Lecture” and his book, under same title. Stuck with pancreatic cancer since September 2006, Randy braved through the last two years like a true hero. An accomplished engineer, professor and a humble man with many dreams and wishes, Randy delivered the “Last Lecture” not so much for the namesake or even for the thousands of people who showed up to see it live and the millions who are still watching it in YouTube, but just for his three kids! I can now relate to why he would have done better than I would have 7 weeks ago (our son was born on June 2nd). The hardest thing in life is to be upbeat when you know you are dying. I remember reading a small and wonderful book called “Tuesdays with Morrie” and felt the exact same emotions for Randy as well. I am sure hundreds of others like Randy and Morrie pass everyday without much fun fare, leaving their legacy with people near and dear to them. Randy was in a place and position from where he could make a difference in the world by giving back whatever he could, with the little time he had. And he did!

Time magazine declared him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world! If you watch the lecture (knowing his background), you will be influenced as well.

He died last night. May his soul rest in peace! May his legacy live forever!

Big Picture TV

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

BigPicture TV

I was looking through some of the online short film contests and came across Big Picture TV. It is a neat project conceived and executed by Marcus Morell. Simply put, he has reached out to some of the leading thinkers and advocates working on environmental and social causes to share their insights. It is a worthy cause and demonstrates the power of new media and how it is leveraged to connect the movers to the masses. The website is neat and elegant though I was having problems with playing the videos.

Most of the people speaking are unfamiliar to me. Not surprising, I haven’t heard of many of them, given the momentum and breadth of support that environmental movement has and of course, my lack of awareness too!. I guess what matters is their insights and ideas more than who it is from. If you have heard of Cradle to Cradle, you should listen to Bill McDonough. I have read that book through my brothers recommendation and his ideas are fascinating and much needed. You should also check out his speech at the TED conference.

Kudos to Big Picture TV for bringing ideas into action! It goes into my favorites!

Reading “Small Giants”

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

small giants I am in the middle of reading Small Giants. This is a great find and I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. A part of me wants to be an entrepreneur badly. I really want to be in the media business producing content for children’s education and entertainment and I always search for how other successful entrepreneurs started from scratch. Small Giants not only talks about that but also talks about the principles these small private companies live by to stay small but stay great social citizens!

The book profiles a bunch of small companies and their entrepreneurs (some of them great leaders too) and how they started off and how they either resisted the temptation to grow and remained successful or gave up to the growth syndrome only to learn the lessons the hard way. Its a good read if you aspire to have your business one day. It will be of immense use to know what you will go through, once you become successful, which you will, if only after a failure or two. Good Luck!

Focusing & Getting Things Done!

Tuesday, December 7th, 2004

If you havent read this book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, I strongly recommend you read it as soon as you can. But if you are like me, you will read it…and….do nothing about it. Dont, this book is meant to be read and acted upon by following the personal productivity workflow model that David recommends. I was totally impressed with the book when i first read it and was pretty confident that it will work…I just didnt have the will to do it. But that was then.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten into a serious act of following david’s GTD ( famous shorter version for Getting Things Done, search google for GTD you will know).

To start with, I bought David’s second and latest book, Ready for Anything. A small book, easy to read, contains good zen-like thoughts on getting and being ready to do anything, right from daily chores to taking on the challenges of future. It also is dispersed across the book with precious sayings by some great minds. As an add on to that book , I also bought, The Power of Focus. Another insightful, down-to-earth commentary on why our habits are important and why we need a purpose and how habits combined with purpose help us focus on anything we do. Finally, I grabbed from my local library ( Somerset county library, I love it) another tiny book, but of great value to me, Motivation & Goal Setting by Jim Cairo. If you cant anything else, just get this 100 page book that you can read in half day and follow what it says. Come throw stones at me if it doesnt change your perspective on life/work/goals etc.

Another inspiration for this came via CBS 60 minutes. Harini and I had a healthy debate this past sunday on something called AADD (Adult Attention Deficit Disorder). Watching this show on CBS about AADD and how it has been gaining more attention, I was debating if I have this disorder. Dont be alarmed with the term “Disorder”. The very argument thats happening today is if this should be classified as a Disorder or a “Lifestyle”. AADD simply put is doing zillion things at the same time and not spending enough time with enough attention and focus on one thing at a time. If you are reading this, while chatting with someone on an IM, while also listening to music, while your husband is talking to you from behind, while you also take an occasional look at the window to see who is standing outside, you will most likely be classified as having symptoms of ADD according to the medical definition of AADD[Look at this survey, if you answer “Sometimes” to atleast one, You got it!]. Isnt that funny? Thats what the CBS 60 minutes show alluded to and which is why I argued that we all have this. Now this is all about money for some pharma companies, expanding the simple definition of a disorder to as many poeple as they can and so excited to see their customer base increase 10 fold for tablets (Strattera Pills) that help is Focusing. Later in the program, it made more sense when they talked about how its about lifestyle and not necessarily a disability. I also learnt that great minds like Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Einstein and few others had ADD. So we all should be proud to be distracted. After all, it juices up our creativitiy.

Here is my take on it: Its not abotu AADD or other crappy medical terms, its all about the distractions and priorities. Today, there is just too many distractions. Cell phones, Pagers, telephones, internet, emails, TV, radio, music, noise, books, cooking, cleaning, health concerns, relationship issues. Its tough to “focus”, if you go by the definition of the word focus. All is required is planning, prioritizing and committing to doing thigns a certain way.

If you have used emails/Instand Messagers at work, like Outlook or Notes or Yahoo IM or MSN, there is cool little feature that pops up and blinks everytime a new email or message comes in. Thats a distraction. Do you pick up your cell phone or land line as soon as it rings, thats distraction. The first thing I did after reading those books and looking at the CBS 60 minutes was, disable that notifier in Lotus Notes and Yahoo IM. I check my email only twice or thrice a day. A new email waits there until I get to it, I dont read them anymore as soon as I get them. Next, I lowerd the ringer on my work phone to bare minumum and dont pick up the phones everytime it rings. Changed the message to say like “I may be working on something important, leave a msg, will call you back”. And last, I committed myself to NOT open more than one browser window at the same time and read more than two things at the same time. Finish one, get to next. No 7 windows at a time and Alt tabbing between them. These three things, have changed my style quite a bit in the last few days. I already feel I am getting some things done better than before. But I am sure this is just the beginning. I am waiting until I completely “set up” my David allens’ GTD workflow at home/work.

To get another bloggers take on GTD, read this very well written overview blog by David Pollard. I agree with Pollard that for folks like who get most of their work done in a computer, a manual file folder based GTD workflow[A quick overview here], may not be appropriate. So i am going to try out the software tools. Check these GTD tools.

gyronix – Turns Ideas into actions.

GTD at OfficeZealot – Lots of articles/tools on Getting Things Done!

Life Balance

EccoRocks another free personal productivity tool.

I find all this helpful and am psyched to try them to to become a better person. By the way, its been widely accepted in the self-development industry, that its the brightest people who need GTD workflow and tools. So you got more reasons to feel good to try it out.

As Dave Pollard says, I also hope the David Allen puts this book for free on the web so millions of others can realize their fullest potential. There is also an audio downloadable version of the book at Audible.com.

Refreshing with Bach

Saturday, August 7th, 2004

Life seemed to have run too fast since the last time I was typing something here. Inbetween those days when I thought I should write something, I was inflicted with a sense of mental block. Right at that moment, I feel there is literally NOTHING i could write about. You know that kind of feeling ‘You suck Dude, Go shoot yourself!’ sometimes flashes to me…thats what I mean….So with all the other stuff happening around us, no wonder the left over time from work/eat/sleep is hardly enough to ‘think’ about anything else. I know a lot of people out there love their work because they work everyday in something they are really passionate about. Not everyone is that lucky. Do I belong to that? Hmm…I should admit partially no, but sometimes the search never ends. Reminds me of something I heard from someone..Where ambition ends, Success begins…How true?

We saw Bourne Supremacy last weekend. I am a fan of Matt Damon ever since I saw movies like Good WIll Hunting and Talented Mr.Ripley. I dont know what made Matt/Ben refer to Ramanujam in Good Will Hunting, but I was totally impressed with that thought. The Bourne sequel, Bourne Identity stood out to be different from the type of international spy thrillers. Supremacy didnt let us down and kept us the edges very much. The stunning scene sequences truly keeps you wondering whats next to come, while the car chases were riveting (gave me what I payed for :)). The background score especially the fast percussions pumps your heartbeats a bit up so you are in sync with the gravity of the chases. Good Job. If you are wondering what the story is about, remember the tamil flick ‘Vetri Vizha’, Kamal/Prabhu starrer? Sometime last week we caught up with Bollywood world with ‘Main Hun Na’. If this movie can become a super hit, I think I will direct a movie someday and rest assured that it will become a superhit. The word Pakistan just a bit overused. A scene where a psycotic former Indian army officer(Sunil Shetty) mercilessly shoots an poor pakistani lad is unnecessary. Even though the story clearly intends to befriend pakistan, such scenes even if for just a secon, furiates everyone. The bad but true face of terrorists & millitants were far better as shown in Roja(and even kannathil muthamittal), here it was more kiddishly comical than anything else. I would blame it more on Farah Khan than Sunil. Also, for heaven sake, why dont Shahrukh change his style? He can do better movies than helping Farah Khan. Sushmita was tough sell, i am not sure if shes got the looks anymore?. Anyway, my opinion doest matter, the movie apparently is a super hit. What can I say, Indian audience will remain as unpredictable as always. And the last in our movie week, this friday, Harini didnt miss a chance to pick up ’50 First Dates’ starring Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore. Simple story line, Adam falls in love with Drew with love at first sight. He realizes the next day that she has strange type of amnesia where she forgets everything that night and always wakes up to remember the day before her fatal accident. So he flirts around her everyday trying different things to impress her and date her. Of course, noone would do it but for Drew barrymore and Hawaii! This will make a perfect story for an Indian (tamil) movie! There was only one good thing in the movie…it was the spectacular Hawaii. Niether was anything funny in the movie nor emotional. Sandler has become so famous and rich he will make such movies for his own fun, out of his vacation in hawaii.

Gladly wrapped up ‘Writing down the bones‘ but was desperate to read something refreshing, I picked up Illusions from my shelf for yet another read. Some of you might know Richard Bach from Jonathan Livingston Seagul, if not, dont miss your next chance to read this very short masterpiece by Bach. Illusions is one of his follow-ons to Seagul. Though I believed (more now) in subconscious thoughts and their powers, Bach rejuvenated my thinkings on parallel universes and oppurtunities to realize its values. Bach describes our fears/skills/character/dreams and other such traits of human mind as having connections to parallel universes, where we might be seeing and talking to others(in their parallel universes). Like this as he goes, it is an interesting phenomena and so he has a cult following in the meta physical readers.

How to connect with anyone in less than 90secs?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

I finished listening to this book very recently. I picked it up casually from the free local library…just curious to find out if he can really say anything about truly connecting with people? I thought, even if he said one thing I didnt know, i would be more powerful as an individual that without it isnt it? Surprisingly, this is a wonderful book and I recommend to everyone as a casual read or listening. Some things I learnt/liked from this follows.

Three most important qualities that anyone should develop : Enthuisiasm, Curiousity and Humility. As he says, Enthusiasm is such a great addictive quality. Being enthusiastic will only take us further beyond and will never drag us down. Such a person would never be low in morale and will always be looking forward to next good thing. Curiousity, Nicholas rightly points out that is somethign we all had as kids, but we let it go when we become ‘educated’ and ‘civilized’. Kids never hesitate to ask questions and so should we all be. Never stop to seek. if we do, we stop to learn and stop to know and eventually stop to grow as a person. The third quality, Humility is the ultimate. This is also the toughest to practice. Its the ability to under represent ourselves as opposed to over projecting us. Just imagine, the first two qualities combined with the third, isnt it truly an ultimate combination of a true leader? Think of any great personality you know and they virtually will have these three in them.

Looking right into the eyes! Nicholas stresses this every few pages. Its partly scientific partly phsycological. I kind of agree when he says looking straight on to the other person’s eyes is the most direct connection between the two hearts. As I read this, I thought about this? How many times do we really see another persons eyes, right into it, right in the middle when we talk to anyone? Surprisingly we do it very least. We see their nose, chin, temple, eyes as a whole, lips, face, around the face but not many times right into the eyes for extended duration. Check yourself the next time you talk to someone. Besides, when you start looking right into the eyes, it tends to reflect you off. You will feel it when you practice it. You cant hold it for too long there. He suggests a great tip to practice looking into the eyes of anyone we meet, to make that first heart to heart connection. Look at their eyes for atleast 5-10 seconds, note the color of eyes but just note, dont have to remember. The effort you take to note the color of their eyes will keep you looking at their eyes for few seconds thereby connecting your hearts. It works for me. Try it.

Few other simple ideas from nicholas that are truly wonderful :

Always keep your hands “out” when meeting someone new. never put them in your coat pocket or trousers or in your back. The animal instincts in all of us wants to make sure we are safe and the only way we know for sure, atleast instinctively, is if the other person has nothing in their hands.

Try to mimic the other persons tempo, tone and style of speech and behaviour. This is again natural instincts I guess. He uses a fantastic way to describe this: When you say ‘I like you’ we actually mean ‘I am like you’. Do you see the subtle difference? Its like saying you and I are very similar and you do everything the way I like you to do. With this concept, if you read the last tip again, you know why its a good idea to imitate the other person when talking to them. Don’t overdo it. It must be very subtle. The other person based on your supposedly natural action and behaviour should like you and so will listen to you and hence will ‘agree’ with you. If they speak fast and loud, you also do that, but sneakily. To do a better job with this, listen and watch for a while before jumping in, this will give bit of a time for you to comprehend the other person and adjust yourself to present yourself in the best convincing way.

There is more I would want to share, but steal the book if you get a chance and experience it for yourself. If it works, lucky you!

A great note from the book : “Before people buy anything, they have to buy YOU”

Impressive run in the last two months

Friday, April 16th, 2004

Yes, I have completed ( in full ) atleast three books in the past two months : Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Management Challenges for the 21st Century by Peter F Drucker and the once famous, Business @ the speed of thought by Bill Gates. Its pretty amazing considering I had read no book in full in past few years(But I sincerely and regularly buy more every year and read few chapters!). But as much as I say its a big deal, it was equally easy…why? For I didnt read them, I listened to them. All of them were audio books, that I smartly grabbed from the local library and listened during my 40 minutes each way commute to work. It doesnt matter, I am very glad I did and encouraged to listen to as much as I can. The one consequence was I missed listening to NPR, a great company on the air, when I am left in the traffic.

Gandhi – A recent acquisition

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

One of the books I have always wanted to read is the autobiography of Gandhi. While that thought remained in the back of my mind, I never really came across this book and never gave a thought to find out if this would be sold today in real bookstores, though I knew I can definitely find one on the internet.

The moment dawned when I was given a $10 complimentary Barnes&Nobles gift card for offering to donate blood ( they didnt accept me since I had made a trip to India, a country black-marked for dangerous contagious diseases, in the past 1 year). As soon as I realized that the compliment was a gift card to an online book store, I started wondering what I could possibly buy for $10. Obviously no book worth reading sells in that price range. A enticing thought ran thru my mind…why not buy a used book? Well, on such moments mind works faster by flashing more thoughts that you want, I remembered Gandhi immediately followed by a reminder not to forget Nehru, Akio Morita, Abraham Lincoln, followed by few others whose autobiographies I had been wanting to read. Within a few minutes of search on the used books section of the site, MK I encountered Gandhi somewhere in a community library in wichita, kansas and Morita with someone in boston. Each of them were trading at throw away price of less than $2. I was elated and acquired them instantly. Unfortunately because of their remote existence, I had to pay more than their price for shipping, to see them united with me. After a patient daily examination of our mail box for 10 days, they both arrived safely and coincidentally wrapped in a local news paper. While the Sony creaters edition was more recent, Gandhi’s was too precious to be sold for that price. It was the first american edition printed in 1957. Somehow I sensed a strange feeling within me when I held the book out of the newspaper wrap. The papers were too old to be flex anymore, they were hard and would break into pieces if I held the book stronger or drop it. Perhaps it was the first owner of the book, who had underlined those sentenses throughout the book. I have one less thing to do when I read it myself. They both are eagerly resting, sometimes in the bookshelf, sometimes on the coffee table and yes sometimes in the bathroom, for me read their life, that just simply rewrote the future of two nations.

Reading about Writing

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

Reading has become one of best pastimes ( passion too! ) in the past few years. As an eventuality, writing has gotten into my wish list. The issue is its far easier to read (anything) while its not an easy to job to write about anything, not to say, that will be read and likened.

I found this small, wonderfully written and extremely useful book in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when we were there for new year 2004. Its ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg. It was written a few years ago and I found this just at the last minute on the last aisle after I spent 1/2 hour going around the store on full round. I think I am lucky to have sighted it. Its a great book and I attribute the book for the most part, in encouraging me to reopen my web log. I encourage anyone hesitating to write to read this one. If you dont start to write atleast a few lines at the end of first 3 or 4 chapters, I think Natalie failed!

I also just finished ‘Life of Pi’. I will spend another tail end of another good day like today, to write about it.