Thursday, July 6, 2017

A meet with an inspiring lady

A spring morning an innocent-natured, financially and academically backward lady came to my hospital. She started asking me that if she wants her son to pursue the education of medicine, then what’s she required to do. Her dream was to make her son a doctor.

I told her that a person is required to do MBBS to become a doctor. Not to discourage her, but to prepare her for the struggle in store, I also told her that it’s very expensive and tough, and that her son will need to work super hard.

She again asked me the name of the course, and I repeated MBBS. She wasn’t still able to remember the name, but I said that at present what’s necessary is that her son must study hard and Biology is a necessary subject.

Talking with her I felt pleased because she appeared very simple, focussed and clear-hearted, unlike people who indulge in gossip and pointless affairs.

I inquired what’s the occupation of her husband to get an idea of their financial condition. She told me that he builds houses, which means that he doesn’t earn much. I said that from where she will arrange the fees and all. She told me that she has some land, and after selling it out, she will do the arrangements.

“There would be folks,” I told her enthusiastically, “who would discourage you, but you mustn’t give up.”

She optimistically nodded ascent. Imagine a village lady, uneducated and unaware, cherishing dreams of her son becoming a doctor and getting education from one of the most prestigious medical universities of the country. It doesn’t appear rational, and many rational folks in the light of their common sense would have dismissed her dream and discouraged her from pursuing that course.

Call me impractical if you wish, but I believe that she might get success in realising her dream. Many times folks succeed despite having very low resources and tough backgrounds.

Can a poor person who never went to college become a world-famous writer? Can a person who can’t speak a word or move even his finger rule the realms of physics?

Going by the rationality of the mediocrity anyone’s answer would be know.

But the only problem?

He would be plain wrong.

Charles Dickens, one of the most celebrated English writers, never went to college, and because of poverty he couldn’t attend school for more than four years. Stephen Hawking, due to multiple disabilities can’t speak a word and move a finger, yet he is one of the most honoured scientists of the world.

There’re a bunch of such impossible-appearing possibilities then why can’t the son of that downtrodden lady become a doctor?

I want to be like people who sincerely and diligently soldier on to climb up the success ladder. Even if someone isn’t able to climb up so successfully, it’s pleasing because at least he put up a fight and therefore remained far from frivolities. Success is in the act of true striving.

I believe, though you’re free to disagree, that when a person truly wants to accomplish a noble aim, powers beyond his ken come forth to push him forward.

It’s not fair to declare in a self-praising style that someone won’t be able to trek impossible-looking mounts. Conquering Everest once upon a time was impractical.

Why little is sufficient

Ever wondered why folks with fewer resources snatch success while the resourceful lag behind? Yeah, the same rags to riches story…but why is it repeated so often?

Is there anything we’re missing from this unexpected success? No, willpower alone can’t be the driving force.

I argue that folks succeed despite having fewer resources because they focus their energies on the root and weed out the dead-wood. The other side, folks who’re convinced that a rich variety of resources are in their reach tend to be careless, and consequently they don’t rouse themselves to grab out the very best from inside them.

I’m reminded of a Hollywood movie scene. The villain sprays hundreds of bullets towards the hero, but he doesn’t return even a single gunshot. When the villain’s bullets get exhausted, the hero quietly steps out, aims at his opponent, fires the only bullet he had, and kills him.

The lesson?

The hero had only one bullet, but he knew how to utilise it in the best way.

In the same way, those who have fewer resources, are naturally convinced that they’re responsible to make the best of whatever little they possess, and therefore they centre all their powers at their work. The results are therefore more heart-warming.

A person who has to return the book to the library, for instance, is convinced that he might not have the luxury of laying his hands on the book again. He penetrates the content with x-ray eyes, notes down the important points, and goes through the book like a thirsty searches the water.

Compare this person with him who has a bunch of books on the same subject lying on his table. This person is convinced about the luxury of time/availability, of the variety of choice at his disposal, and both these luxuries (of availability and of choice) paradoxically work against him.


When he picks up one book, he knows that he can read the same material however many times he wishes to, and therefore he pays it inadequate attention. He also knows that there’re a bunch of books on the same subject in his easy reach, and this luxury of choice, at the slightest boredom or difficulty, prompts him to put that book down and skim over other books.

The same rule, with more or less the same intensity, is predominant in all the fields. It’s because of this reason why less is often more and why more is often less. It’s perhaps because of this reason why the less resourceful climb up the success ladder and the resourceful ones end as runner-ups.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I'm doing these small big tasks these days (am I foolish?)

“If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.”

Samuel Butler, nineteenth-century novelist

Inspired by the power of less, since this 13th of March, I started carrying out only three small tasks per day. The first concerned my health, the second my soft skills and the third doing good to anyone else.

For my health, I decided to eat a fruit every morning, to burnish an area of my soft skills I kick-started speaking for 10 minutes on any topic, and in doing good to someone else, I take a little step. All these three activities, as you can see, are small and therefore easy to execute.

I chose to start small because launching directly in a huge project was becoming a drag on my will and enthusiasm. No matter how deeply I tried and desired, I was unable to carry out self-improvement activities in the way I felt was ideal.

Unsurprisingly, it burdened me with self-reproach. I felt discouraged, and instead of going forth on the track of self-improvement, I skirted off from it.

If I can’t single out 15-20 minutes per day for eating a cluster of fruits and salads, it’s fine. If I can’t muster up the will of exercising for 45 minutes per day, it’s fine.

In the beginning I can munch a fruit per day, and once encouraged by this improvement, I can opt for bigger tasks. Obviously I can eat a fruit going to work per day, and it doesn’t require much effort of the will.

Is it logical to quit even the tasks easy for us because we can’t take up the tough, the ideal? I guess no.

If you can’t tend to all the birds of the planet, will you choose to look the other way if a bird in your backyard is ailing? I won’t.

The same logic is applicable when it comes to taking steps that are vital for our growth. I guess that the biggest reason why I shy away from productivity-friendly activities is that I interfere what I can’t do with what I can, and thus all gets lost.

Eating a fruit every day, speaking for 10 minutes and a small deed to help (rather serve) a fellow human is easy. Once these three activities are woven in the dailyness of my routine, I can think of going further.

But before the 13th of April, I’m disinclined to weave fresh activities in the name of self-improvement, as it stands the risk to backfire. I’ll review the results then.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why I say no to things I love

"If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up every day and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you want to learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you." Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest persons, while talking to the students at the University of Nebraska He is flying thousands of meters above your head in the deep blue sky, cutting the cheerful-blowing winds and clouds in the one-engine airplane. Your keen, fascinated eyes are fixed at the whizzing airplane, a parachute flutters, he screams half in joy and half with fear and jumps off in the wide open sky. As this skydive enthusiast touches the green earth in the dazzling sun, you feel his heart leaping out, so damn thrilled he is by the experience. “I wanna do it again!” he screams repeatedly, at the top of his voice. For years you had craved and dreamt to skydive. And today the plane is roaring right in front of you, the merry breeze is caressing your hair as if inviting you to float in the sky with it – you have the much-craved chance of quenching your wish. Think. If you bash your fear, a few moments later, you too can feel at the top of the world. Would you skydive? Am no Sigmund Freud (nor I pretend to be one) so I can’t tell your reaction. Am only an average guy – eager to squash my fears – and here’s how I would react: “I wish I could, but… [Insert my excuse.]” “I’ll go for it next time because… [Insert my excuse.]” And I’ll invent a bunch more excuses. The real reason? Fear. The fear of smashing the comforts of my boring life for doing things I love. And it’s because of this fear that I say no to activities that can wake me up excited every morning. Skating? No. Diving in the milky sea water? No. Talking to an influential person to bash my bashfulness? No. And there’re a host more things that I love and wish doing but the damn fear of skirting off the same comfort-proof life is nerve-racking. And I guess that it’s tough for you, too. Maybe you had once fallen for a drop-dead cute girl but cancelled opportunity after opportunity of proposing to her because you were scared. Maybe you had wanted to set out on that dream, adventure-rich trip but the fear of disturbing your boring work schedule had postponed it. Yeah, it happens all the time. We love chasing activities that excite us but when right opportunities come flying to us? We look the other side and hope for perfect times! I have taken a few small and big uncomfortable decisions, and realised that perfect times that we wish for never arrive. I never found the perfect moment to get married. To hop on to a different career track. To have children. Of branching out to disturbance-fraught Kashmir. But, I went ahead. And now it has crystallised into my head that the perfect moment of doing something is when we decide to do it. Waiting for perfect moments is fooling yourself, actually. "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist And my next scary project? Meeting the governor of my state (Uttar Pradesh) and asking him about overcoming fears and failures. Just because I fear and love talking point-blank to influential folks. Yes, I have a fear of failing, but fear is the price we pay to feel excited, to do things we love. Right?

Monday, November 7, 2016

4 surprising points that instantly turned me very confident at public speaking

In my quest of self-improvement, I quite often take up challenges so to overstep my comfort zone.

My challenges aren’t akin to scaling Mount Everest; they could be as simple as refusing to bear a colleague’s gossip for the sake of work.

The recent challenge I rose up to was delivering a PPT presentation to a group of ophthalmologists about assistive technology – which enables the blind to use computers and smartphones independently.

A small step?

Well, it could be so for you, but given my introvert nature, it was a challenge.

Here’re 4 points emanating from that performance:

1. The original fear was less than expected

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Mark Twain

Once again the wisdom that our fear about something is less than we expect it to be proved true when I delivered this presentation. I had feared that I might choke midway or feel insulted because of foolish mistakes, but nothing of this happened – my overall performance, barring a few slips was good. It again impressed upon me that if I want to grow, then I must look directly in the eyes of my fears – instead of cowering in my cocoon – dreading destructive consequences.

2. Pressure was good because it guided me

"Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise."

Kobe Bryant

Admittedly, there was pressure on me to perform. I didn’t want to waste the time of my educated and learned audience. This pressure compelled me to keep my content compressed, which worked in my favour, and to be assured that I’m not going unduly fast, I even asked the audience if my pace is fine – a question which I hadn’t expected before. I shed a special care on the main points and skipped over the less important ones.

3. Mistakes are natural – halting due to them is foolishness

"Many a false step was made by standing still."

Fortune Cookie

In the very opening I erred in reading out the title of my presentation. No doubt, it was a blunder. But losing no moment or attention unit in worrying over this blunder, I focussed my concentration to deliver the remaining presentation in the best way. I realised that inactivity triggered by the fear of mistakes is already a cardinal mistake. The best policy is to accept that mistakes would cross our path, and because of them there’s no need to feel overly nervous. It curbs further mistakes that embarrassment might trigger.

4. Excellence is achievable, perfectionism isn’t

"Perfection is a good ideal and direction to have, but recognize it for what it is: an impossible destination."

Tim Ferris

Shoring up the aforementioned point, many a good work wasn’t executed for the fear of perfectionism. I erred a bunch of times during the delivery, but to rate the overall performance, I’ll agree with the views of the doctors that it was excellent. Yes, it was far from being perfect. But had I feared that my performance isn’t going to be perfect, and therefore there’s no need of rising up to the opportunity, it would have been a big mistake. I then would have remained remote from excellence. It requires courage to stand up despite your imperfections, and other than this, there’s no other way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why I stopped reading newspapers and The 80/20 Rule

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

Mark Twain

Well, there was a time when I read news for around two hours a day. But not now.

Actually one blessed day I came across the Pareto’s Principle, which said that 20% of our inputs create the 80% of the results. The same 80/20 pattern applies on different areas: less than 20% of our clothes we wear more than 80% of the times. Less than 20% of our contacts we talk to more than 80% of the times…less than 20%of the apps in our phone we use more than 80% of the times and so on.

This rule set off a series of vital questions in me:

Am I investing my limited energy and time on the 20% of the inputs that cause 80%of the results?

The answer made me guilty. It was a clear, resounding no.

Then I asked myself:

Why am I not able to take on the 20% activities which bring about the 80% of the results?

The answer I came up with was simple: because I was cluttered with too many activities that were not in tuned with my core aims.

Then I asked myself:

What activities I can cross off to make room for activities aligning my core interests?

Several activities sprang to my mind, the prominent being reading newspapers. I deliberated over the question that would it be okay if I quit reading newspapers very carefully, because I had learnt a great deal from them, and once it was one of my chief amusements.

But then I thought about my core aims. I compared the loss I’m incurring on myself by not shedding adequate attention on the activities that support my core interests with the pleasure and benefits I get from reading newspapers. I also tried to foresee the improvement I’ll get by investing the same amount of energy and time to chase my core interests that I throw on reading newspapers.

I had to take a call. Is hanging on to an old amusement more important than pursuing activities that form the core of my interests and growth?

The answer was a clear no. I felt that if I’m earnest for my core interests, then it means that I weed out the petty pleasures that come in their way.

I don’t say that you too should stop reading newspapers, or that they’re totally useless. What I want to say is that if any activity is preventing you from following your core work/interests/passions, then you must take a call.

The second cause behind quitting newspapers is a bit subtle.

I was drawn towards newspapers around 10 years ago, because back then I wanted to improve my language and general knowledge. So far the language part is concerned, I think that now I can improve it from resources that better suit my needs and interests. And general knowledge carried in the newspapers isn’t that relevant for me, because I have little curiosity for the dirty skirmishes that so often flair up among those very important people. Besides, I can quickly get an in-depth information about any important event or scheme by logging on to any detailed journal/magazine ( to name one) or by going directly to the root of the branch I require information about.

In this way, I filter out tons of irrelevant information that would have unnecessarily consumed my limited attention units. “Filtering out extraneous information,” says Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice, “is one of the basic functions of consciousness. If everything available to our senses demanded our attention at all times, we wouldn’t be able to get through the day.”

Is there any activity you can cut off from your schedule to make room for pursuing the tasks that relate to your core aims? Be ruthless, don’t hang on to it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A productivity treasure you possess but ignore

Ever asked yourself how in exams you cover so much?

One core reason:

You try beating the deadline

If you adopt the habit of working under deadlines how much your progress will accelerate?

Well, you can better answer it yourself. What I know is that you’ll progress with an accelerated pace.

But the billion dollar question is how can you adopt the habit of working under deadlines?

To answer this magical question, let’s skim over Parkinson’s Law.

A British naval historian and management theorist, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, proposed a law in 1955 called Parkinson’s Law. “Work,” it said, “expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

We use more time because more time is available. Because more cuts the blessing of less and we choose not to use our real potential. Because excess time entices us to indulge in insignificant details which prevents us from attacking the bare minimum, our consequential work with full focus.

Therefore, if we’re asked to do an assignment in a week, we spend the whole week doing it. But if we’re to do the same assignment in two days, we squeeze out the very best of ourselves to beat the deadline.

You can think that due to shorter deadlines our quality of work will suffer. You might debunk the idea of working under shorter deadlines – slapping the conventional wisdom on it that the longer time we spend on a project – the better its quality.

But then how almost always we give our best in exams? How do we often surprise ourselves by performing unbelievably well under pressure of shorter deadlines?

We generally perform better under deadlines because we enter into a monoideal state, where we focus all our attention and energy on only one (and only one) task so intently that all distractions get ignored. Our subconscious knows that we’ve to complete this work in this short chunk of time (after which we’ll be free) so it directs all its hidden powers to complete it. Tim Ferris in the Four Hour Work Week says, “The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.”

So there’re two key advantages of Parkinson's Law:

  • Deadlines intensify focus which results in good quality work
  • More is accomplished in less time – leaving sufficient time for enjoyment

This sounds lots of hard work, but when we’re able to do the work of ten hours in around two (and that too in a better manner) then naturally we’ll have lots of free time. Cal Newport, an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University and who advises people how to get optimum results by deep work says, “A small number of highly intense hours, for example, can potentially produce more results than a night of low-intensity highlighting.”

Newport has written several books on deep work and blogs at . His formula is:

Work Accomplished = Time Spent x Intensity

Nevertheless, Few projects are huge: you can’t complete a 300-page book in a day; nor you can prepare a well-researched presentation in an hour. In his reputed book The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman says, “Parkinson's Law should not be considered carte blanche to set unreasonable deadlines.”

The method of working under artificial or self-imposed deadlines can certainly boost our productivity but there’s a difference between method and implementation. Two thoughts which motivate me to work under self-imposed deadlines and which will help you too are:

  • The joy success will bring me
  • The sorrow failure brings

Monday, November 10, 2014

The shocking secret for fluent English flashed

You don’t need to master the rules of grammar to speak correct English in the same way as you haven’t mastered the rules of grammar of your mother tongue.

I’ve seen a host of folks perfect in grammar but poor in speaking and a host of folks bad in grammar but excellent in speaking. Ask complex grammar questions from native Brits or Americans and you’ll find the majority fumbling.

Take your example: do you know all the grammar rules of your native language?

Even if you know, you would have never cared about them while communicating because you got a huge exposure to your native language. This would have adequately proved to you that to learn any language correctly, exposure is extremely crucial – while grammar is secondary.


So tip number one:

Expose yourself to correct, fluent English communicators as much as you can.

Where will you find excellent communicators?

  • Discovery Channel (English version)
  • National Geographic (English version)
  • Animal Planet (English version)
  • NDTV24X7

If you minutely watch these channels (particularly first 3 in the list) you’ll unconsciously soak up some precious elements of originality from them.

And what’ll tell you what originality is?

If you acquire originality, you’ll communicate as if English is your native language, your mother tongue. The more originality you’ll soak up, the stronger grip you’ll get on English language. Take this originality statement lightly and you’ll miss the most charming feature of English language even if tomorrow you learn to be perfect in grammar and build up a huge vocabulary.

Unfortunately, this is the point most English speaking trainers are clueless about. They blindly follow the same wrong method and teach the students likewise. What’s worse is that sometimes they even teach the students to imitate the style of native speakers.

The result?

A dirty flood of fashionable English speakers.

Truth be told: rare are people who speak English so purely as if it’s their mother tongue. It’s easy for you to be of them by avoiding the crooked path and learning English straight from its fountainhead like native speakers.

Observantly watching TV channels, however, is only one small piece of the puzzle. You’ve to routinely jot down some attractive words, look them up in the dictionaries and bring them in use. Learn the accurate usage of only a few hundred words (around 300) and you’ll move damn smartly over the most rugged of paths.

Do you know one of the biggest blocks in fluency is having a poor word bank? Yes, you may not use every word from your stock – but their presence will accelerate your fluency.

So this brings us to the exercise section.

  1. Regularly watch any of the aforementioned channels or any other English channels
  2. Regularly note down new words and speak them out in any recording device
  3. Speak on different topics, keep recording them and give your best
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