Three ways to identify an opportunity

June 28, 2020

Years ago, two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential. The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.”

The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.”

A situation may be viewed in two extremely different ways – negatively or positively. This is the reason why most of us do not identify an opportunity.

How can we identify an opportunity?

  • Think positive: Our thoughts matter a lot. This is what I alluded to in my previous post. Positive thinking helps us seize the opportunities that come our way. Even in the current times of COVID-19, an unprecedented health and economic crisis, people have managed to explore opportunities. We see plenty of examples during lock downs – learning on line, sharing skills on line, working on line as well as helping others – that are truly inspirational. Even people not comfortable in using technology have managed to learn and use it. This proves the immense potential of human beings to learn and adapt.


  • Take action: Do what you can in a given situation, no matter how complex it is. This however happens only if we think positive. Staying positive and focused, enables us to take action whereas negativity brings in despair and inaction. No matter how strong the winds are, a skilful sailor keeps his destination in mind or changes the destination to sail towards a new horizon.


  • Seek help: It may be difficult to handle a complex situation alone. Rather than feeling frustrated with a problem and giving up, talk to people and seek help. Richard Branson has advised well, “ If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.

Together, we shall overcome COVID-19

May 31, 2020

Are we going to live with COVID-19 for ever? Has the COVID-19 caused the worst economic recession of our times? Will the life be same ever again? Will there be a second wave of COVID-19?

Allow me to first share the following story:

An Indian used to sell samosas (fried patties with potatoes filling inside). His samosas were delicious and in great demand. He would sell all he produced in a couple of hours.. He earned so much that he could send his son to a prestigious business management school.

The son returned with his degree. He advised his father to start thinking of an alternative as people have become more conscious about their health and want to avoid eating fried snacks.

The man thought about the ways of reducing the cost of production, so that he does not incur losses if there were less buyers.  First, he changed the quality of the oil he was using. After a week, he observed that there was a decline in the sale. His son’s words echoed in his mind and he thought people are actually not interested in fried potato-filled snacks. He then reduced the quantity of potatoes inside the samosas. The sale declined even further. He believed that his son was actually right. Peoples’ eating choices had changed. He made a few more similar efforts until he found that there was no sale at all. Finally, he had to shut his business.    

The answers to the COVID-19 questions and concerns that I started with must be seen in the context of this story that offers important lessons:

  • Pondering over his son’s advice, the samosa seller thought his sales were declining when actually they were not. A hypothetical situation made him worried and he ended up taking wrong decisions, one after the other.
  • The son was cautioning his father about a change in eating habits of people, and preference towards non-fried healthier snacks. The samosa seller could have tried of a healthier substitute, such as baking instead of frying. But he missed the point, and started cost saving measures that affected the quality of his product and reduced the sale.

What we think about COVID-19 is key. Of course, we have to deal with the crisis and its impact but let’s not allow the hypothetical fears overwhelm us. 

Scientists, doctors, governments, NGOs and international organizations are doing their best. Besides, there are inspiring stories of peoples’ action of kindness and support for those who are affected the most. There are already stories of flattening the COVID curve; of success; of positive effects of social distancing; and a gradual return to normalcy.

Think positive. Our thoughts matter a lot. Psychologists have suggested not to watch and share depressing news all the time. It will cause stress and affect our mental health.

Don’t feel defeated. Let’s continue to remind ourselves: Together, we shall overcome COVID-19.

COVID-19 has taught us a new way of life

April 26, 2020

Are we getting closer to win over COVID-19? Not really.

While some governments are gradually relaxing their quarantine measures, some have extended the lockdown phase. Relaxations being announced should not mislead us. Given the huge economic impact, the pressure to get the economy moving again is the main compulsion behind these decisions. New cases are being reported every day. We can’t be complacent. The risk is still around.

There are several lessons that seem to be emerging.

First, COVID-19 has reminded us about the importance of personal and public hygiene. We can break the chain of infections by continuing with good hygienic practices. We should wash hands frequently and avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose. These measures adopted in past few weeks have shown a positive impact, not just on COVID-19, but on other infectious diseases as well. Let’s stay committed to these practices.

Second, COVID-19 has revived the humanity. Social distancing has enhanced social interaction. It has shown that we can be in touch with each other and take care of each other without actually meeting in person. We are touched by the amazing acts of kindness, care, and compassion that we are seeing in this time of crisis. Distributing food parcels to the needy; doing grocery for elderly neighbours; expressing gratitude to health care workers; and setting up online support groups are just some of the many acts we see around us. People are sharing whatever they can. Let this spirit continue.

Third, we can live with less. Being homebound for over six weeks now, we have realized that our basic needs are actually very few. We can stay without shopping for clothes, perfumes, watches, and other things that we keep buying even though we may not need them. We can cut short on expenses over marriages, birthdays and anniversaries. We must do this to be able to generate resources to help those who have lost their earnings during COVID-19. Can we not use some of these savings to help others?





Five things we can do during COVID-19 quarantine

March 30, 2020

We are in the midst of a huge crisis caused by COVID-19. Quarantine. Lockdown. Interruptions in sales, production and job losses.

I felt sad reading news about a migrant worker saying, “I will die of hunger earlier than COVID-19.” Equally frustrating is to notice someone sick with the virus and unable to get a bed in intensive care unit. Scientists, leaders and philanthropists are doing what they feel is best.

But what can we – the people who have a job, all meals to eat, a house to live in, and some money in banks – do?

I will propose the following five ideas:

  1. Embrace social distancing but keep in touch with each other: One of my friends told me that her physiotherapist regularly calls her and reminds her to continue with her exercises. My friend is touched by the gesture. Online/skype /zoom calls with family, colleagues and friends are a great way to keep in touch. Talk to people. This way, all will feel less isolated.


  1. Applaud health care workers but follow the instructions: Health care workers are at the front of the battle, risking their own life. It is a great idea to applaud them. But this is not enough. We need to reduce the burden on them. We can do this by changing behaviours and embracing safer practices such as washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing.

  1. Do what you can: We can all do a few things to reduce the shock on people who are suffering the most. If God has made us the source of livelihood for some like drivers, domestic help etc. we need to pay them even if they can’t come to work.  Leaving all to the mercy of governments will not work.  We can use our networks and skills to do fund raising and support the work of NGOs. It is heartening to see great acts of solidarity, support, kindness, and care on social media.


  1. Don’t spread fake news: Social media is full of news. A friend sent a message on WhatsApp saying “I haven’t got any message on COVID-19 in last ten minutes. Am I the only one alive? We all need to be careful. To get factual information, use credible websites such as the World Health Organization, rather than forwarding unconfirmed sensational news.


  1. Take care of your health: In crisis situations like this, your own health can suffer. Stocking food and groceries may be necessary but do keep the medicines you/ your family needs. Continued teleworking can be stressful. Don’t forget to do your exercises. Realizing that I was not walking as much as I normally do in my office during the first week of teleworking, I have started talking some of my phone calls while walking in my room. It helps. I feel less tired and stressed of sitting in one place.

How to institutionalize lifelong learning?

February 28, 2020

Jobs losses due to advancement in robotics and automation are causing concern to everyone. Constantly changing workplace environment demands workers to be regularly skilled and re-skilled. Experts feel the only way we can manage this change is by focusing on lifelong learning.

“Organizations learn through individuals who learn” –  Peter Senge

What are five things organizations can do?

Redefine the objective of performance appraisals:  Employers need to take a re-look at their performance appraisal system and make learning a critical objective. A forward-looking learning objective – linked to the interest and aptitude of the employees and needs of the organization – should be identified; learning paths and processes should be identified; and continuously monitored.  Organizations should award those who achieve their learning objective. In short, learning should be a key performance area.

Train managers in giving feedback: Organization can benefit a lot by offering training to their managers on how to give feedback, positive as well as negative. Feedback, if given in the right way and at the right time, can be motivating. It improves performance. It offers job satisfaction to employees and contributes to their learning.

Look at the attitude while hiring: In addition to looking at job-related experience and competencies, organizations need to hire people who have an attitude to learn, to acquire new skills and to keep pace with the changing environment.

Invest in developing skill-enhancement courses for employees: Organizations need to invest in developing courses for their employees that provide them with necessary knowledge and skills throughout their working lives. There are several online courses offered by companies such as Coursera, Amazon, Udacity etc. Universities are also embracing online and modular learning. Organizations needs to look into these and explore the option of developing some tailor made courses for their employees to enable them enhance their skills, which are critical for meeting the organizational goals.

Learn from other organizations: Even though each organization is different, there is always a possibility to learn from each other. Having a dialogue with different organizations and looking into different practices can benefit all.


Don’t shy from doing good even if you are bitten

January 30, 2020

Our response often depends upon the way people treat us. We get respect, we give it back; and if we receive harsh treatment, we reciprocate the same way.

However, we need to ponder if this is the right thing to do.

A Zen Master saw a scorpion drowning and decided to pull it out of the water. When he did, the scorpion stung him. Feeling the pain, the Master let go of the animal, which fell into the water and started to drown again. The Master pulled him again to save him but the scorpion stung him again. A young disciple was observing this. He asked the Master, “Every time you try to pull him out of the water, he will sting you. Why do you still do this? “
The master replied, “The nature of the scorpion is to sting but that will not change mine, which is to help.” Then, with the aid of a leaf, the Master drew the scorpion from the water and saved his life. He then told his disciple, “Do not change your nature if someone hurts you, just take precautions.”

The wisdom shared by the Zen Master is profound. We don’t need to change our nature because of others.  We must continue to help others even if we receive a scorpion-like response.  But, this is not easy.

How can we develop such an attitude?  Following tips might help:

Lower your expectations

In most cases, we get hurt when our expectations are not met.  It really helps to lower your expectations from family, friends, relatives and colleagues. We need to understand that no one is perfect. Like them the way they are, not what you would like them to be. Someone has rightly said, “Don’t blame people for disappointing you, blame yourself for expecting too much from them.”

Forgive people

If we don’t forgive people, we are the ones who suffer. Holding on to hurt, pain, resentment and anger harms us more than it harms the offender. Forgiveness helps. Life is too short to carry the burden caused by the doings of others.  I have already written a post:  If you don’t forgive,  you harm yourself.

Learn to control your anger

Ask people around you. Almost everyone would be repenting about things they have done due to anger. We need to find ways of dealing with anger.

Our response under unpleasant, painful and stressful conditions defines who we are.  The phrase – once bitten, twice shy – is good only to the extent of drawing lessons, not to stop us from doing what we believe in.


Peace in world depends upon who we vote for

December 29, 2019

We were at a friend’s place recently for lunch and were chatting after the meal. Ongoing conflicts and polarization of the world around the issues of nationality or religion, pushed by right-wing politicians, dominated the discussion. We were concerned by the growing rift and tension between several neighboring countries, and division of society around the issues of race, nationality and religion.

Can this trend be stopped? Will 2020 be any different? I would like to believe so provided the world learns the lesson and does not vote for people with divisive polices. We must elect leaders who are kind, compassionate and cultivate friendships rather that spreading hatred.

At this stage, I would like to share the following story:

A farmer in China had a neighbour who was a hunter and owned ferocious hunting dogs. The dogs frequently jumped the fence and chased the farmer’s lambs. The farmer complained several times to his neighbour about it but got no response. One day the dogs attacked again and injured several of the farmer’s lambs. Out of desperation, the farmer complained to the local judge. The judge said he could punish the hunter but then the farmer would have an unfriendly neighbour for life. The farmer thought for a while and said he would like to have friendly ties with his neighbour. The judge then offered another solution. Acting on the advice of the judge, the farmer took three of his lambs and gifted them to the neighbour’s three small sons. The boys were thrilled and immediately began to play with the lambs. This changed the hunter’s attitude who built a strong kennel for his dogs, and they never bothered the farmer’s lambs again. From this point onwards, the hunter frequently shared with the farmer the game he had hunted. The farmer also reciprocated by regularly sending lamb meat to the hunter. Within a short time, the neighbors became good friends.

Imagine what a different world it would be if those in power create friendly relations with all; and show care for those who are weak and in minority.

I wish 2020 will turn out to be a happy year, particularly for those whose rights are being violated and are currently living in the state of insecurity.

We need to be happier a lot more

November 29, 2019

In one of my recent conversations with a friend, I asked him, “how many times he feels genuinely happy in a month?” He thought for a while and said probably two to three times. My response to this wasn’t very different either.

This low level of happiness experience made us worried, and rightly so. We deserve to be happier oftener than that. I have been thinking since then, and after some reflection make the following suggestions:

Convert smile into laughter

An old friend recently shared a joke. It made me smile. First, I thought of sending a typical – LOL (laugh out loud) – response on WhatsApp. But then I called him and we had a good laugh together. This is one example. We can do anything like watching a funny movie, a comedy scene, or laughing over funny instances in our life. Do it as often as possible with family and friends.

Talk to close friends as often as possible

Spending time with close friends makes us happy but we don’t seem to find time for this. Keeping in touch through WhatsApp messages or Facebook gives us all a false sense of staying in touch. Don’t communicate through emoji signs. Talk as often as possible. Close friends may have moved to different places and would be busy with their lives. But they will welcome your call. And now we have several options to talk, including that of video calls. Make use of these. Talk with your close friends as often as possible.

Nurture relationships

Research shows that people who manage to maintain good relationships live longer, happier and healthier. Relationships are built on trust, care and consideration. True, you can’t erase the wrongs of the past but can certainly decide what to do next to improve your relationships.

Forgive people

Life is imperfect and full of bumpy roads. We come across people who make us unhappy, hurt us, and trouble us. We remain sad thinking about their behaviour towards us. We need to forget and forgive. We realize it or not, we feel happy when we forgive someone.

It might be a good idea to set up weekly happiness goals, which are nothing but a set of simple, doable tasks which make us happy. We certainly need to be happier than we are.

Having a hard time, mind your self-esteem

October 30, 2019

Self-esteem is extremely important to be successful in life. Life’s experiences, achievements, failures all affect our self-esteem.

We need to protect our self-esteem particularly during hard times and setbacks. I would like to propose the following five ideas:

1. You may realize it or not but you have several accomplishments. Think about them. It will make you feel good, and will have a positive influence on self-esteem.

2. You can enhance your skills or learn a new skill. Nowadays there are plenty of options, including online learning. Try it, and see the difference it makes to your self-esteem. Set up smaller goals and work on them.

3. Do not bother about what others might be thinking about you. No one has time to analyse you as much as you think. Ask yourself, do you have time to analyze others. You don’t. Likewise, others don’t think much about you too. You are what you think you are.

4. A person with high self-esteem knows his strengths and makes use of them, whereas a person with low self-esteem thinks more of his weaknesses. In one of my earlier posts – How to build a high self-esteem– I had written that being mindful of good things in our life is first step towards building a high self-esteem. During hard times, it is even more necessary to reflect and ponder over what good things you have, rather than what you don’t have.

5. Happiness has a positive impact on self-esteem. You feel good when you are happy. Therefore, find time for your hobbies, spend time with friends and do anything that makes you feel happy. Happiness can be best learnt from children, who are happy with what they have, not with what they would like to have. I have already written – How to be happy: Learn from kids – which has a few ideas.

How to retain confidence during failures?

September 28, 2019

Having read my previous post – the value of failures – someone asked me, “I agree that we should learn from our failures but the problem is that our confidence gets shattered due to failures. What can be done for that?”

Indeed, confidence shatters during failures. However, there are ways to work around this.

Let me first share a short story:

A bird got tired of flying and landed on a branch. The bird rested there safely, enjoying a good view from the branch. Suddenly came a strong wind. The tree swayed and it looked like the branch will break. However, the bird was not worried. Why? First, it knew that it was able to fly; and second it also knew that there were other branches and other trees. Not all branches were going to fall due to wind.

We can draw some important lessons from this to retain our confidence during setbacks, failures, and unforeseen events.

First, let’s always remember that failures don’t reduce our abilities. Just like the bird knew it was able to fly, we must know that we have the ability to pursue our goals. Failures can never take that away from us. For example, not getting good grades in an exam does not mean you will not do well in future exams. Just draw your lessons from this experience and try to do better next time.

Second, like the bird knew it could sit on another branch, let’s always remember that there are always other options, other destinations and other goals. We should not give up. Writing a post on – Train yourself to develop a never give up attitude – I had shared story of Derek Redmond and stressed that this attitude can be developed only when we train ourselves to respond to failures that come along the way or to have a new goal if the previous goal becomes unfeasible.

Third, an out of box solution. In the event of a setback, take your attention off it for a while and do something that can give you a sense of achievement. For example, last week, I did a two-hour online course and felt good to have passed it in the first attempt. It helped lift up the mood, the confidence and had an overall feel good effect. Try this. It really works.