Sunday, November 27, 2022

SELF DISCIPLINE IS ABOUT TAKING CHARGE

 Dr. Rajdeep Manwani (Rahul Dravid's classmate), narrated this story about the legend in his speech-

 
Rahul Dravid never attended classes regularly. One day he came to class from training and started writing notes with his Cricket gloves on. Everyone was laughing, talking, whispering, Rahul continued writing for that full hour.
 
After the class one of their friends asked, “why were you wearing gloves in the class? Rahul replied, ''The last two Ranji matches I played, I batted with old gloves which were very loose. When the bowler bowled, the ball went past my gloves and gave the impression of a snick. The keeper caught it and appealed. And both times I was declared out, even though I didn't touch the ball. Hence I bought these new gloves and wanted to get accustomed wearing it. I want my hands to sweat into these new gloves. So, for the next 48 hours, I will wear these gloves continuously (even while sleeping) because the next Ranji match — a semifinal — is in two days. I want my hands to sweat in and get adjusted to the gloves."
In the next 2 matches, he scored a century each and was selected to represent India for the tour to England.
 
In his book '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' Stephen Covey introduces the concept of circles of influence and says that proactive people (like Rahul Dravid in above example) – take more responsibility and focus on what they can do and can influence– and reactive people- shuns responsibility and focus their energy on things beyond their control. Reactive people maintain an attitude of victimisation and blame.

One of the business leaders that I admire, Prakash Iyer when asked what he would suggest for people to play to their full potential, said: PHD, which is:

Passion: which gives us direction
Hunger: momentum
Discipline: shows the way forward
 
When we tag people as geniuses (like we normally would associate Dravid with), we often forget that the greatest in the world have a set of routines that they practise, that allows them to deliver peak performance. It is those little, simple things done with utmost discipline that one needs to perfect and rigorously keep doing even when nobody's watching.

What are the routines of some of the inspiring people you know ? Please do try and share in comments.

(sharing a sketchnote from a few ideas i found relevant from a twitter thread https://lnkd.in/gaNx85zm
)

My Sketchnote:



LinkedIn post:

Sunday, October 16, 2022

CREATING IS THE ESSENCE OF LEARNING

 In his book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World", David Epstein brings forward a comparison between Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Tiger Woods is used as a prime example of early specialization in Golf. His father recognized his talent very early in life, nurtured it over the coming years- leading to Tiger becoming one of the greats.


Roger Federer on the other hand wasn't focused just on Tennis since his early years. He tried many different sports when he was a kid: Squash, basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis, badminton, soccer, the list goes on. He found that the type of sport itself didn’t really matter much to him, as long as it included a ball. It was only in his teen years he began to focus on tennis.

Federer's way is truly more reminiscent of today's times when shelf life of a skill is diminishing by the day. I recall in one of the podcast Ravi Venkatesan called out to "Experiment with many things and discover for yourself. (in these times, we are at) a very high risk of becoming obsolete. To avoid hard landing, you need to reinvent yourself."

To reinvent, one of the fundamental things that is needed is to embrace learning agility. We are constantly thrown in situations where we need to learn quickly and emerge quickly with a solution. How can you approach learning in this situation ?

I quite loved the way Shaan Puri mentions (https://bit.ly/3mGvKuh) about the roles we play while learning in any field. He says, we play one of the 4 roles:

1 - Sketpic (on sidelines, judging everyone)
2 - Cheerleader (on sidelines, cheering other people doing things)
3 - Participant (in the game, using stuff other people created)
4 - Player (in the game, creating things yourself)
As much as possible, try to be at level 4.

Catch the summary in my sketchnote.

Learning in any endeavor is maximized if we have proper skin in the game i.e. we are learning and creating at the same time. As we embrace our own reinvention journeys, it makes ample sense to prioritize to "Do" some real stuff while we gear ourselves up to "Read" tons of stuff. Reading without doing is only half as effective.

What do you think ?


LinkedIn Post: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/anujmagazine_creating-is-the-essence-of-learning-in-his-activity-6910764449230454784-y4kK/?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web


Sunday, September 18, 2022

FOLLOW THESE QUESTIONS FOR WRITING CLEARLY


I am quite fascinated by the concept of 'Digital Body Language' that Erica Dhawan introduces in her book by the same name.

The premise of this book is that humans rely on body language to connect and build trust, but with most of our communication now happening from behind a screen, traditional body language signals are no longer visible. The new signals and cues like how an email is written, liking a post, using emoji, responding promptly etc. have replaced traditional body language

In summary, digital body language is so incredibly relevant now, something that cannot be ignored. Of many ingredients that constitutes digital body language, the writing skills have particularly become quite important in the digital work era.

Like building any muscle, one must constantly hone writing skills to positively augment one's digital body language. How does one nurture writing skills ?

There is a plethora of advice/books available on this subject but i quite liked the ideas shared by Shreyas Doshi in his twitter thread https://bit.ly/33kxJN4

For clear writing, answer these questions

- What am I really trying To say ?

- Why should people care ?

- What is the most important point ?

- What Is the easiest way to understand the most important point ?

- How do I want the reader to feel ?

- What should the reader do next ?

For better retention and comprehension, sharing my sketch summary here.

What are the writing tips that have worked well for you ?


My LinkedIn Post:


Saturday, August 27, 2022

HOW INTROVERTS CAN PREPARE EMOTIONALLY FOR OFFICES REOPENING

 

I recently stumbled upon and reread an article I wrote on the topic "Introversion at Workplace" (https://lnkd.in/darykgtM) This was written way back in the year 2008. One positive change that I have seen since then is that workplaces are increasingly becoming more inclusive. One gets a lot of hope when topics like inclusivity get the airtime in leadership meetings. On the other hand, arguably, the inclusion based on personality types is a topic that isn't talked about as much as it probably should.

Introversion and Extroversion are considered different ends of the human personality spectrum. An introvert person draws their energy from their internal world of ideas and emotions whereas an extrovert person gets energized by the external world through socializing, meeting people, going places, doing outward bound things.
 
In her book- "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", Susan Cain emphasizes that companies should not create workplaces tailored only to extroverts. She suggests that to provide both extroverts and introverts with a suitable environment, make your workspace more flexible: give employees the chance to exchange ideas but also to withdraw and be alone.
 
Work from home truly provided ample spaces for introverts to recharge and reenergize. However, with the offices reopening (even though partially) we usher in truly into the hybrid work era. While organizations need to do their bit to make employees with introvert personalities feel more inclusive, the onus. to an extent, also lies with introverts to tune-in for a return to work scenario.
 
Harvey Deutschendorf, the author of a recent Fast Company article (link in comments) shares the simple strategies for Introverts to prepare for return to office scenarios. Summary of the points below-
 
1. Practice self-care: “When introverts practice good self-care and tap into their unique ability to listen deeply, collaborate, problem solve, and build trust, they can leverage their subtle but powerful abilities.” 
 
2. Ask for what you need: Having a frank conversation with your manager about how you work best can go a long way to quell nerves about a return to the office.
 
3. Reach out to others for support: Many introverts have a small close group of people in their lives outside of work that they can reach out to for support during a difficult transition time.
 
4. Gradually expose yourself to new situations: Slowly exposing yourself to new situations before the actual event will help ease the transition
 
Catch the summary of the article in my sketchnote.
 
What ideas do you have to make workplaces more inclusive based on different personality types ?


LinkedIn Post: 
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/anujmagazine_how-introverts-can-prepare-emotionally-for-activity-6909683782904074240-K8ps/?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web

SEEK LEVERAGE. ALWAYS

 

I recently recalled a 2006 Davis Cup Tennis match between India and Pakistan. A 5 match series was tied 2-2. Indian captain Leander Paes, a doubles specialist by then, took a call to play the decisive last match against top Pakistan player- Aqeel Khan. All was going well for Leander when he won the first 2 sets. Things took turn when he started getting symptoms of cramps. He lost the 3rd set and his situation deteriorated by the time 4th set started, which he ended up losing 6-0. He took a medical break, came back and put up an extraordinary display of grit and determination to win the last set and the tie 6-1. Leander was later asked about the 4th set where he got a bagel (in Tennis parlance, losing the set 6-0), I remember being astonished by his response that he played that game with sub-par performance deliberately so that he could preserve his energy (till he got medical attention and stayed fresh before the start of decider set) and also stretch his opponent a bit more.
 
I felt astonished because we are tuned to always hearing that the sportspersons are wired to give their best every moment. But sometimes, as Leander showed, it is prudent to take a view of larger goals and not put 100% to win smaller events along the journey.
 
The context with which I got reminded of this match was when I recently read about Shreyas Doshi LNO effectiveness framework (source in comments). This framework is based on the premise that time management is more about effectiveness than about efficiency. It calls for breaking down work tasks into 3 categories that I summarize below (and also in my sketchnote)
- LNO stands for: Leverage Neutral Overhead tasks.
- Leverage tasks 10x your impact. Neutral tasks get you 1x results. Overhead tasks are like necessary evils.
- The framework asks you to plan your focus, spend your energy and decide your level of perfection depending upon the category of the task. For Leverage tasks- do a great job. Ok job for Neutral tasks. Just get the overhead tasks done.

High leverage activities gets you more bang for your buck. A few examples: Getting product vision/strategy right, automating a daily part of your work, mastering public speaking. Thinking about leverage helps you factor opportunity cost into your decision making. As a rule, the highest leverage activities have the lowest opportunity cost. For Leander (in above example), preserving his energy in the 4th set and getting to medical help faster was an act of high leverage.

All your tasks are not created equal. All of us start our day with limited bank of energy. The fine act of categorizing the tasks and being intentional about our focus, energies, perfection on select (high leverage) tasks can help us create more impact in lesser time.

What do you think ? Do share examples from your career where you can seen the concept leverage work.


LinkedIn Post: 
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/anujmagazine_seek-leverage-always-i-recently-recalled-activity-6908234944141774848-aieA/?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web

HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR MOST POWERFUL STORIES

 One of the most impactful commencement speeches was delivered by Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. Jobs made many powerful points but people still remember and talk about them till date is arguably because of one reason- Steve Jobs used personal stories to drive home the key points.


He included three stories from his life: one, in which he tells an anecdote about dropping out of college; another, about the lessons he learned from being fired by Apple in 1985; and lastly, his reflections on death.

That stories make presentations memorable is a well-known idea but one of the aspects of story telling that many struggle with (atleast I did) is how to recall stories from our own lives and leverage them to authentically drive home the point.

What mental models should one follow to recall and deliver stories from one's own life ?

Nancy Duarte in her effective Harvard Business Review blog (link in comments) shares about quite a useful framework to unleash stories from our own lives. Key points from the article:
1. Most people try to recall memories chronologically, which may not always be effective.
2. Sit down with a notepad and think through the nouns that are important to you.
3. Unleash stories from your life via the nouns- People , Places, Things- that matter to you.
4. Take the story kernels you arrive at, write one line summaries and catalogue them.
(Find the summary in my sketchnote)

Simple points, but like with anything meaningful skills, it will require rigor and discipline to master.

As Jobs later says in his speech- “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards."

Cataloging our own life's stories gives us a better chance to look back and connect the dots.

What do you think ?

Saturday, July 9, 2022

EVERY PROBLEM IS AN OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE

Sharing three short stories that I came across via the casual reading pursuit over the last weekend.


In Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Penny Oleksiak became Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete (with 7 medals in swimming). After this feat, she tweeted-
"I just googled “Canada’s most decorated Olympian” and my name came up. I want to thank that teacher in high school who told me to stop swimming to focus on school bc swimming wouldn’t get me anywhere. This is what dreams are made of."

Beau Jessup, as a 16 year old, went along with her Dad to China. During the trip, they met Dad's business colleague who asked Beau to suggest an English name for her daughter. Beau took that request seriously since naming a child is an important event in one's life, something that stays for rest of their lives. She asked the family various characteristics they wanted their kid to have and suggested an apt name. Upon returning, Beau did some research to figure out that there wasn't any organized business (a gap!) that helped Chinese families name their kid in English language. She found an unmet need, while all Chinese babies were given traditional Chinese names at birth, there was a growing demand to name kids in English language too. (an opportunity!) In the next few years, she has helped name 670,000 babies.

Finally, the story of Brian Fitzpatrick from Google, which appeared in HBR a few years ago. Brian joined Google as an Engineer. In his quest to better the end-user needs, he identified strategic gap in the organization. He felt that Google wasn't doing good enough job in giving users better control of their personal data. His efforts led to Google building a product called Takeout (https://lnkd.in/geu4sSDw) that allowed users to export the captured user data from various Google Services. So much was the impact of this project that the then CEO Eric Schmidt started highlighting Takeout to regulators and customers to build a strong case for Google's non-monopolistic practices and focus on user's privacy.

To summarize:
1. Gaps (problem areas) are all around us, it just takes a courage and a bit of situational awareness to embrace them and turn them into opportunities).
2. Ravi Venkatesan aptly describes in his recent post (link in comments) "Those who see an ‘π—Όπ—½π—½π—Όπ—Ώπ˜π˜‚π—»π—Άπ˜π˜†’ in every problem have often built things that have pushed the world forward."

Quoting Stephen Covey-"Effective people are not problem-minded. They are opportunity-minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems."

What's your take on this ? Do share more examples from from your experience.



My LinkedIn Post:

A GOOD REST IS HALF THE WORK

Recently, came across an interesting article from The Guardian that rekindled my memories of a TED Talk that I reference later in this post.

The article titled "Rise and shine: how footballers are harnessing the power of sleep" (link in comments) argues the importance of sleep and it's direct correlation with performance of the top footballers.

"Sleep is the ‘most important aspect of health by a country mile’ so clubs are doing everything to ensure players rest properly. "

Why is it that the sportspersons value rest so much and we as a professionals undervalue it to the extent that we ignore it ? We somehow take regular late nights as a sort of badge of honour, something synonymous with working hard. Why doesn't rest and recovery feature in a professional's calendar as much as it should ?

Sharing this eye-opening TEDx talk by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith ~ Work-Life Integration Strategist (link in comments)  in which she unshackles many myths about rest and looks at it in a holistic way suggesting 7 types of rest:

1.Physical
2.Mental
3.Sensory
4.Creative
5.Emotional
6.Social
7.Spiritual

Catch the summary of the talk my sketchnote but would urge you to spend ~9 min to listen to the talk. More than ever the concept of rest needs to be understood and inculcated in today's times.

My bonus learning:
Sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two.

Which of these types of rest do you practice ? Do share your experiences.


My LinkedIn Post:


WHAT REALLY IS PASSION ECONOMY...

Just finished reading a book titled- "Booming Digital Stars", which captures the journey of 11 successful digital creators from India. The common theme that appeared in all the featured stories was that of people choosing to back their with innate passions, strengths and talents and making it big as creators. They are the ones who found their calling as digital creators and jumped on the bandwagon of passion or creators economy.


Jaspreet Bindra in his insightful LiveMint article on Passion Economy (https://bit.ly/3LMHLu5) traces back the history of web's business and shares a wonderful insight. When the original World Wide Web was conceived, Time Berners-Lee and his team intentionally left an error code 402, which stands for 'Payment Required'. The original intention was that every visitor must pay something to view a web page, but the schema was never built. Web business models evolved in an alternate sequence (as outlined in my sketchnote based on Jaspreet's article below).

Li Jin (from a16z) delivered an influential work in the field of Passion Economy and says - "In the past decade, on-demand marketplaces in the “Uber for X” era established turnkey ways for people to make money. Workers could easily monetize their time in specific, narrow services like food delivery, parking, or transportation." This lead to an era we know as Gig Economy. If Gig Economy was about mass standardization (think Uber drivers, Food Delivery crew etc.), Creators Economy helps one monetize one's individuality. (think YouTube Influencers, eBook writers, Digital artists).

Creators Economy (often interchangeably referred as Passion Economy) brings forward as new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship. While often compared with Gig Economy, Passion Economy is co-existing in the same ecosystem. With the tools for creation (such as YouTube, SubStack, Patreon etc.) becoming better and the payments getting frictionless (think UPI, Square, Stripe etc.), Passion Economy promises to be bigger in the time to come.

What's your take on the Passion Economy ?


My LinkedIn Post:

LEADERS ARE MADE, NOT BORN

One of the defining moments of corporate leadership at the start of pandemic came in from Arne Sorenson, the former CEO of Marriott. Arne sadly passed away almost a year back after bravely battling pancreatic cancer. Despite his illness, he braved Marriott through the tough times. Catch the glimpse of his extraordinarily authentic leadership when he released a public video for his employees. https://bit.ly/34TXzGs

His 5 minute speech is a case study in compassion & empathy. He presents himself as vulnerable yet fully in control of situation- a rare combination. Here are a few lessons for me, especially in dealing with warlike situations:

1. Despite his frail condition, he made it a point to speak with employees. Simple lesson, often forgotten: Talk to your team, they need to hear from you.

2. He called the pandemic situation (for hospitality industry) worse than 9/11 & 2009 financial crisis combined. Lesson: Be transparent, don't sugarcoat the words. Delivering bad news is something a leader has to learn to do well.

3. He commits to forgo his full salary & his exec team by 50%. Gives a message that he & his immediate team are first in the line of fire before the impact reaches employees.

These learnings are quite well-reflected and put in context by Ravi Venkatesan in his book- "What the Heck Do I Do with My Life?". Ravi says- "Leaders are made, not born. While some people are born with leadership traits, the vast majority of leaders are primarily made by life experience, or what we call crucible experience." (Included my Sketchnote summary of the chapter)

Arne's crucible experience moment was dealing with the unprecedented impact the pandemic was having on his industry. This experience shaped his leadership.

Ravi also mentions in his book- "When the sacrifice is called for, leaders must sacrifice first before asking others to give up something." , this act of sacrifice was clearly reflected in the way Arne conducted himself.

Of his 63 years of existence, most of us were exposed mostly to these 5 minutes but the manner in which he handled these 5 min left a treasure-trove of learnings.

What's your definition of leadership ?


My LinkedIn Post:

SMALL HABITS DON'T ADD UP, THEY COMPOUND

 Till early 2000s, Britain had a pretty ordinary performance (by its own standards) in Cycling events at Olympics. It had just won 1 Gold medal in 76 years. But the world witnessed a massive transformation by the 2008 Olympics where Britain won 7 Gold medals on offer in track cycling and then repeated this performance at 2012 Olympics.


What really changed ?
One, it was leadership. Dave Brailsford was appointed as a head of British cycling in early 200Os.

Second, was an approach that Dave introduced. Dave was a proponent of an approach was called as 'The aggregation of marginal gains'. Simply put, it was a philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. It came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

A few examples (among many) where Dave applied this principle:
- Hired a surgeon to teach athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition. The team didn't shake any hands during the Olympics.
- To gradually improve athlete's sleep cycles/postures, they brought our own mattresses and pillows.
- They redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable and rubbed alcohol on the tires for a better grip. 
- They tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the fastest muscle recovery. 

The whole idea was to think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. More than perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements. It allowed team to search for improvements everywhere and they found countless opportunities.

This is an idea that the author so beautifully expresses in his best seller (and potentially life changing) book- "The Atomic Habits". Have included my sketchnote summary of the book.

As James Clear sums it up wonderfully- "In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't. This is why small choices don't make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

What are the work areas where you believe the philosophy of 'aggregation of marginal gains' can have an impact ?


My LinkedIn Post:



Saturday, June 11, 2022

READING IS TO THE MIND WHAT EXERCISE IS TO THE BODY


I recently reread Satya Nadella's first memo (link in comments) to the Microsoft employees after becoming it's CEO. As one might expect, it lends an immense sense of clarity and also some lessons that can help shape our thinking.

As an example, he says "Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.", something we all possibly know but it's so impactful to hear coming from a leader of his stature.

Other aspect that caught my attention is the below excerpt that outlines his hunger for learning, something he amplifies in his book "Hit Refresh" as well-
"Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things."

Satya's love for reading is clearly fueled by his desire to satisfy his extraordinary curiosity

Why else would you read ? There are obviously many reasons and I found Vala Afshar's tweet just so relevant. Included my sketchnote based on the ideas shared in this tweet.

So how much can you read ? Here's actionable insight Prakash Iyer on inculcating the reading habit. This is something i read almost a decade back in one of writings Prakash shared in Careers360 magazine, has stayed with me ever since-

"If you read for just half an hour everyday, you could finish a 250 page book in just two weeks' time. That's 26 books a year. A 100 books in next 4 years. Just think, what difference would that make to the quality of your mind, your career, your life ?Just 30 minutes a day can do the trick, so stop giving excuses about not having the time to read."

What are you reading these days? Do share in comments.

WHAT EXACTLY IS AN NFT ?

 

NFTs have been a talk of the town for a while now. To me, the jaw dropping moment in NFT's journey was when a digital artist named Beeple (originally named Mike Winkelmann) sold his digital art for whopping $69 million. As part of a project called “Everydays,” he created and published a new digital artwork every day, currently in 14th year. Everydays is a collection of 5000 individual pieces of digital art all in one collage, which got sold for such unprecedented amount.

The event like these, though rare, piques your curiosity towards the mysterious world of NFTs. So what really is an NFT ?
NFT stands for- Non Fungible Tokens. As Jaspreet Bindra explains in this short video (https://lnkd.in/gDVKr9hh , < 5 minutes)-

Fungible, something that is replaceable by other identical item. Non-Fungible means not replaceable. “Non-fungible” means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a dollar is fungible — you can trade one for another dollar, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. Each NFT is one-of-a-kind.

You might wonder what problems do NFTs solve ?
Traditionally, Internet platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. monetize the content you share but they keep most (all!) the value generated. If you are a producer of digital product (think image, music etc.) , there are no definite ways that can help you validate the ownership and fairly return you the value you deserve. 
In some ways, most of us have been guilty of downloading other people's work without paying for it. Economically, when there is no scarcity of a product, there is no value.

NFTs helps create digital scarcity and scarcity leads to value. It creates the scarcity by making digital products unique. NFTs are simply assets on Blockchain networks and stored in Blockchain as smart contracts. Think of NFTs as numbered tokens, and tokens as a certificate of authority.

One word of caution is that NFTs are in the early stages of adoption. Think websites of late 1990s, something that started with a big bang, outsized valuations but got stabilized after the bubble burst. The story that I started this post with, which created the NFT hype, it turns out that the buyer is actually a business partner of Beeple. OpenSea, the most popular NFT marketplace has a tool for free minting of NFTs. The platform has admitted that 80% of these NFTs are plagiarized works, fake collections, and spam. (Source: https://bit.ly/34IHA1F)

These deviations prove that there is still some time before NFTs becomes mainstream but a more balanced view comes from Paul Graham in his recent tweet-
"NFTs can be used for so many different things that you're inviting history to make a fool of you if you dismiss them. Even if I were sure that most current uses of NFTs were bogus, I'd never dare to say that all possible uses were."

Catch the summary in my Sketchnote.

What do you think of NFTs and its future potential ?