Find relevance in your work

May 28, 2017

Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, in his book — Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — shares some invaluable insights on success.

Knight’s first job was to sell encyclopaedias. He did not have much success. His second job was to sell securities. He did not do well here either. Just when he was beginning to lose faith in his ability as a sale person, he set up Nike and started selling shoes. According to Phil Knight, he succeeded this time because he was selling a product he believed in, and liked.

Knight had been an athlete on his college team. He loved running. He knew how important a good pair of shoes was to a runner. This made him a credible shoe salesman, and the rest is history.

Knight’s personal life story reinforces the point that secret of success lies in doing what you like doing. Knight was not failing as a salesman, he was just not selling the products that he was interested in, or had the passion for. The moment he got to sell shoes, he excelled.

Everyone is not as fortunate as Knight to find a job or a career of his liking, though it is worth trying. Not everyone is daring enough to make a career transition either.  As a result, there are people who have the aptitude for selling shoes remain stuck in selling shampoos. They struggle to deliver the results and don’t reach their peak. And, this affects their self-esteem.

No one likes all aspects of his/her work. We have only two choices: Either dare to change or find relevance in the work we do. Finding relevance means we should see the connection of our work with a higher level goal. Pursuing a worthwhile goal most often gets the best out of us.

In one of my earlier posts – Managing Self-Esteem at Work – I had made a few suggestions. Contentment comes in finding relevance in things we do; and in pursuing goals that give a sense of satisfaction. Since Knight had been an athlete himself, he did not just sell shoes, he believed in making shoes that would help sportsperson achieve their dream. This led him to constantly work on improving the design and features of his products.


Ideas that help in achieving a goal:

April 29, 2017

I have a friend who runs for 5 kilometres a day, seven days a week. Weather does not affect his schedule. It may be too cold, too hot, raining or snowing, he finds a way to go out and run. And, he has been doing it for 23 years.

People like him who strictly follow a schedule to achieve their goal are few. We see a much larger number who start something and then give up. Drop out rates in gym and fitness centres, hobby courses, sport and training courses are always high.

Why is it that some people follow a plan of action and achieve their goals but most don’t?

I asked my friend what keeps him going. His answer was simple, “I enjoy it and actually look forward to running every day.” This sounds too simplistic but if you think it is a profound idea. If we are pursuing something that we look forward to doing, we are more likely to do it. For example, in a weight loss programme, there are several options. A person who likes to socialize will not enjoy running alone on a treadmill. He might be better off playing a sport of his choice, walking with a friend, and doing other group activities.

Most of the physical activity programmes fail because their goals are too ambitious. They are often results-oriented rather that task-oriented. When expected results are not achieved, people get frustrated and give up. In my view, ‘walking 10,000 steps in a day’ is far better than setting a goal of ‘losing 3 kilograms in a month.’

A key point that we often miss is that every success comes after a long process of continued failures in our chosen path. Short and task-specific goal like walking 10,000 steps a day is better in this context as well. It reduces the chances of failures. Even if you do less on a few days, it does not matter. You don’t feel the same sense of failure as you would if you had set yourself a goal of losing 3 kilos in a month.

The final point: we should not allow ourselves exceptions and excuses like not finding time, having too much of work etc. I worked with a consultant recently. We had an important meeting to prepare for and worked till 11 in the night. When we finished and I was looking forward to go to sleep, he told me was going to the gym because he did not want to miss his workout. That should be the spirit.

New Year Resolution: Do make one!

December 29, 2016

The countdown to 2017 has begun. It is time to wish each other a happy new year; and make resolutions.

Making New Year Resolutions is an ancient tradition. Ancient Romans used to begin each year by making promises to Janus – the God after whom the month of January is named. Over time the concept evolved and the resolutions moved into the mould of self-improvement. Now, we find them in the arena of enhancing knowledge or skills (like learning a musical instrument, a new language etc.); doing things for family/improving relationships (like going on a family trip, spending time with children/parents, forgiving someone); and taking care of health (like quitting smoking, going for exercise to loose weight) etc.

A 2007 study from University of Boston found that 88% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions fail. Top two reasons for this are: setting unrealistic goals; and not keeping track of the progress.

Why should one make New Year’s Resolutions when they are more likely to fail?

The fear of failure should not stop us. There is an inherent element of failure in all plans. Isn’t it? A successful person is the one who sets realistic goals, makes plans to achieve them and executes them as best as possible. So, go head and do make a New Year’s Resolution for 2017. Instead of being overwhelmed by the majority, get inspiration from the 12% people who did succeed in achieving what they had resolved to do. Be with the achievers.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-10-01-41Make a new beginning. Don’t let the failures of past affect your determination to succeed. Forgive those how have hurt you. Forgiveness will not only improve relationships, it will free you of bitterness and negativity and you will be able to pursue your dreams with full energy.

I wish all a very happy and successful 2017. May it open new doors for you and bring peace in the world.



Break the ropes that hold you captive

July 30, 2016

When faced with a problem, you have two options: do something to solve it or do nothing. Everyone will agree that we can’t let it go and do nothing. We need to do something to get out of it but not everyone does it.  Why?

Let me share a known story:

A man once saw elephants that were held by a small rope tied to their front leg. He wondered how such huge creatures can be held only by a small rope. They could break the rope any time but, for some reason, they did not do that.

He asked their trainer, who said, “When they are very young and much smaller we used the same size rope to tie them. At that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away, so they never try to break free.”

Most of the time, we don’t even make an effort to do something because we are conditioned to believe that this is the way our life is destined to be. We need to change this fatalistic attitude. We need to break the rope that holds us captive.

The real challenge is that the ropes that hold us captive in our life are not visible. In most cases, they get developed as a result of life’s experiences, circumstances, setbacks, broken relationships etc. As time passes by, we get “conditioned” to accepting the life as it is; and stop making efforts to improve it.

We need to find and break the ropes that keep us captive, without even thinking about failures. Failure is part of learning. We should never give up the struggle in life. Theodore Rosevelt sums it up well, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

Success is a by product of delayed gratification

April 26, 2014

Success is not about what you achieve. It is about achieving what you are capable of achieving. But does anyone know what he or she is capable of achieving? Not really! This is the concept that Joe De Sena presents in his book – The Spartan Up! The book is co-authored by Jeff O’Connell.

Spartan warriors of ancient Greece have inspired generations. They trained hard for years. Their motto was: never be satisfied with what you achieve. In 1972, Walter Mischel, a Stanford researcher, gave his child subjects their preferred treat—a marshmallow, cookie, or pretzel but with a choice: They could eat the treat right away or wait 15 minutes, at which point they could receive two. The researchers found that those kids who were willing to postpone gratification became more successful adults than those kids who couldn’t. Joe puts it well: success is a by product of delayed gratification. This is so true. When we look around we find so people who look successful, yet they are not happy. They are not happy because they have not realized their full potential. They felt satisfied too early in life, stopped running after achieving a milestone.

True, going to the next level requires one to try harder, face discomforts and cross hurdles. According to a racing proverb, “You run the first half with your legs, the second half with your mind.” Joe says his book is really about the second half of the race. When I asked him to illustrate this point further, he said, “No matter how fit I was at any point in my life, I have hit a wall with my body and endurance… when I do my mind needs to take over. I was doing the Iditarod by foot and at mile 300, I was done. I did not want to take another step…then my partner collapsed and wanted to be left in the snow…I tied him to me and pulled him through the snow to the next town. I didn’t have the energy to this but my mind did!”

You may not win every race or overcome every obstacle but each attempt can be a profound learning experience. Joe’s ideas are not just tips from a self-help guru. As he relates his own adventures of Spartan races, his ideas are more inspiring. It tells you the recipe to success and emphasises the importance of hard work. The Spartan Up! – is not just to be read- its concepts are to be applied in life – by all.

Lessons from living legends

January 30, 2014

What would you do if you were asked to share 3 lessons of your life in 2 minutes? Sounds difficult! But 25 Indians, honoured by the President of India, as living legends did an incredible job. The occasion was the 25th anniversary of NDTV-an Indian TV channel.

 It was enlightening to watch and listen to the life experiences of these living legends. The messages had some common threads: Have a dream and pursue it with passion, work hard, have courage, be open to learning, have an attitude for gratitude and be trust- worthy.

The following ideas have stayed on with me.

 “We never achieve anything by ourselves, we achieve with the help of communities around us,” said the noble laureate Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. What a wonderful thought! Our achievements are due to the support of people around us. This realization itself will always keep us grounded and success will never get into our heads. Indira Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCO, added,” Just as people have helped us along, it is our job to help others achieve their dreams.” She gave a profound message: Help others rise.

 An elderly advice always helps. Recalling the advice of his father, the film star Amitabh Bachchan said, “It is good to get what you want but it is better not to get what you want. He said it took him a while to understand how is it better not to get what you want until he understood that it is better because you then get something better as per the plan of God. The message is clear: Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get what you aim for. As times passes by, you will realize that you got something better.

Miracles do happen. Is it not a miracle that an ordinary bus conductor like me is here today with such distinguished people,” said another film star Rajnikant, touching all with his humility.

The Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had an advice for youngsters, “Play a sport. It will help you concentrate better.” Dr. Ventakraman provided another practical tip, “even as you pursue your dreams, keep your options open in case of setbacks. He substantiated this message by sharing examples of setbacks he himself faced in his life.  He did not get admission in the best colleges he had applied for and he was not called for interview despite applying to over 50 positions.

NDTV deserves to be congratulated for planning such a meaningful celebration of its 25th anniversary. The programme can be seen at:

Realizing your dreams…

November 30, 2012

I wrote my previous post based on my visit to Unity College in Lucknow. It is always a pleasure to visit it. I saw it when it was set up and run out of a small rented place. And now, it has a magnificent building of its own, set up close to the sprawling monuments built by the nawabs of Avadh.

 It is rare to find three institutions with such need-based and complementary missions located in the same premises. Unity College provides education at an affordable cost; Unity Mission School provides totally free education and other necessary support to children who cannot afford to go to any school; and Unity Industrial Training Center provides vocational training to adolescents.

 This has been made possible by the vision of Dr. Kalbe Sadiq. He had a dream years ago: Every child has a right to education. He knew achieving it would be difficult, particularly in an area where children were seen (and still are) as an additional working hand to contribute to the family’s income. His  model is exceptionally good. It ensures enrolment of children in school, reduces school drop outs, brings drop outs back to the school, and offers vocational skills to those who cannot go for higher education. Dr. Sadiq believes that no one should be deprived of education for want of resources. His institution supports with scholarships as well and several of his students have pursued higher academic and professional education. If someone can’t go for higher education, he or she can get vocational training in a trade of his interest and aptitude and make a dignified living.  He has worked towards it consistently, against all odds. Over 2000 students in Unity College, over 1500 children in Mission school and ever increasing enrolment of young men and women in vocational training courses demonstrate the success of his untiring efforts.

Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad, the former President of India, was invited to interact with the students of Unity in one of the recent annual felicitation functions. Dr. Kalam inspired young children as he always does. The success of Dr. Sadiq’s mission is truly depicted in the statement of Dr. Kalam,“ the dream is not what you see in sleep. The dream is what does not let you sleep.”

I feel honoured to mention the two great men of our times in this post and hope it will inspire us not to give up in persuasion of our dreams.