Clean up act

It’s that time of the year, where most people here in India begin an extensive cleaning exercise for the big festival – Diwali. Home improvement, fixing the furniture, getting the walls done to much simpler things like throwing away unused items are on the to-do list. I decided to start a bit earlier than usual, considering its our first Diwali after getting married. As i dusted and picked up random receipts, card statements, brochures and bills i could retrace some wise and a few unwise buying decisions. While most of the stuff we had stashed away wasn’t of any utilitarian value, I had to keep some of it because of sentimental connect. Somehow there is always an emotional connect to inanimate things like books etc.

With every irrelevant and broken item i put away, i felt much better. It got me thinking to how much we accumulate over days, weeks and months without actually realizing the burden we are creating for ourselves. The burden, if that’s what we choose to call it for now – can be physical, emotional or materialistic. But no matter what, its important to pause and reflect. The cleaning bit is always a good way to let it off.

Another aspect that came to my mind about cleaning up centered on how a major cleaning of the mindset is required. In the past few weeks several stories have done the rounds on social media. First there were photo leaks due to a icloud hack, then Emma Watson got threatened after her UN speech and a powerful media house took on a popular actress. In most cases, women were objectified and blamed that they were asking for it. While the explanations defeat logic, all of this has left a lot of tongues wagging. Sure we are talking about gender equality, women empowerment and work place equality. But what would it take for us to break out of the regressive mindset? Some men would be intimidating the wife at home, getting intimidated by the female boss at work and end up going for the latest movie released to go watch some lead actress being objectified over celluloid. I cannot even begin to connect the dots and put all of it in perspective. All i know is that a major cleaning of the mindset is required. It’s not going to be easy. But given the number of decades and generations we’ve spent discussing, its most required now.



Monday musing

“The smartest, most interesting, most dynamic, most impactful people … lived to figure it out…. Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living— to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.”

– Dan Pink in his Weinberg College commencement speech


As wikipedia defines it, Leadership is basically “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. While my extent of knowledge on this subject is not as extensive as i’d have hoped it to be, i think TED talks are a good source for inspiration. I’ve seen several talks but the one that i could connect with best is the one by Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl makes an important start by highlighting that women are not making it to the top in corporate (15%) or political sector (13%) across the world. She explains how the numbers are not getting any better even withing the start-up sector. The part about women having harder choices is a valid one too. It’s increasingly difficult for married women to make the choice between professional success & personal fulfillment. Quite a lot of cases exist where women chose the former to loose out on personal fulfillment. I think that would lead to a lot of regret. She follows up that point with another valid observation that women taking up their career as the top priority tend to put off having children for quite a while or maybe don’t conceive at all. Another important obsevation is that women tend to underestimate themselves. Maybe negotiation isn’t one of the top skill sets women have. I think a lot of these notions are rooted in culture and upbringing. But, having said that even educated people carry conflicted notions. One of the most striking pointers was that success and popularity is inversely related for women. This reminds me of the #BanBossy campaign where even Beyonce had a voice to lend. I’m not quite sure at this point about the best way for one to combat all of the bias that is created for / against women. But what i do know is that this talk always inspires me to think more on the lines of what i can do better going ahead.

Blend in or stand out?

Individuality. The one notion that drives us all. I’m sure most of us don’t want to be versions of others and strive to be unique. However there are times, when one begins to wonder if they would be the thorn in the situation or blend in like the petals around a flower. Be the rock in the river or ride along the waves.

Reading a recent WSJ article on Success outside the dress code made me wonder the same. Dressing up is what we think defines us. Afterall, we normally begin sizing up people, opportunities or situations more often than not. Getting in to a client meeting? They will be building their first impressions. In today’s always online world, they have to put in minimal effort by just checking out your linkedin profile. If they are lucky, you’re on twitter too to feed their inquisitive needs.

The point really is then should you be guided by the notions that others seem to have of you or drive your own instead. The article refers to accomplished people walking in to luxury stores in their gym clothes. If people there recognize you as a part of the elite who have accomplished something, then you would be looked up to. Heaven’s forbid, if you aren’t from that set then you would be most likely tagged as a wannabe. I think the context also depends which part of the world you are from. For example, in India at a luxury store let’s just take any of the premium stores at Palladium in Phoenix, Lower Parel in Mumbai. Most of the people are pretty dressed up but if anyone with ordinary clothing walks up asking for details in a regional language, chances are they will be taken as novices. Or as many people say, “Maybe they got rich too quick”. The same idea doesn’t hold true. In the corporate culture too, you would rather be well dressed for that meeting than be dismissed on the first look. Of course, that can be taken lightly if one works in the creative side of things.

But my question really is whether one must blend in or stand out? Standing out, playing the devil’s advocate as the article suggests would be something that would go noticed. I think people would remember the person who made the most daring points, but that also depends on how dismissive they can be. Blending in works well for most of us. However, being original and driving the point across – that’s what we need to see more of. The change is already happening across B-Schools, where more recent graduates are opting to take their own route with start-ups. We will see more of this in coming years and it would be interesting to see where this heads out too. For now, standing out is the one thing that seems to be “In”.



Stubborn, Yes.

Never Surrender. Those two words pretty much sum up the approach i have when it comes to a lot of tasks. I think the more complex something is, the more driven i am to get through it. Be it a difficult book, movie or song. Situations count too. Since i’m mostly the one buzzing with sheer Pollyanna optimism i don’t find it hard to do so.

This applies to the interests i have too. Music, the lesser know the better it is for me. I would browse through multiple videos and listen to samples on Soundcloud to find the best rare tunes. When it comes to books, the same rule applies. Although non-fiction works best for me, which to many people would be something that puts them to sleep. Few years back in college too, i didn’t see my troubles as they were. I constantly thought, this is a phase and heck when will i be this age again? It’s the approach i carry even now.

So stubborn, if you call it is what i am. The harder the equation, the more i’m going to enjoy solving it. The tougher the situation, the more i’m going do my best to deal with it. After-all, we are going to get through all this alive. So why fret? The key is to enjoy what you’re doing and keep getting better at it!

Box Of Secrets

Talking in your sleep? Chances are you wouldn’t know what you said but someone else will. There are many situations that we come across where we subconsciously start picking up random conversations around us and put these in context. Here are some of the ones i picked up recently:

Water Cooler Moment

“Did you hear? He got the promotion.”

“Is that so? He didn’t deserve it. Skills come before experience? I didn’t expect it to be like this. Times are changing.”

Random Bus Ride Secrets

“I think he likes me. Did you see the way he kept staring at me that day?”

“That’s not good you know. Back off, cause i heard he is going out with Tina. You don’t want to be the other woman.”

Multiplex Confessions

“I know how this will end.”

“You are so going to have hell to pay if you spoil this for me.”

Restaurant Client Meeting

“Lets see, i think we are going to close on that client soon. The meeting went well.”

“Even if it doesn’t, i know someone who can help us get the upper hand over those other clowns. This new guy in their team knows nothing practically.”

These were some of the recent ones i came overheard. Since i knew none of the people and i’m sure they didn’t know me, no love lost.

Facing The Music

Against all odds. That’s what first came to my mind when i had to get down to implementing a lot of things some years back at work. However, it’s just the approach that needs to be changed. Instead of all the odds, i began to think of all the opportunities that i could be on. That minor change in perspective made me believe in pushing myself against all boundaries.

So a deliverable at 7 AM? No problem.

4 hour commute. Can be managed.

Can you work on this aspect (something i’ve never heard of). Sure. {Factor in late nights spent awake in reading about how it really works}

Ad-hoc meeting, I just have to pull you in to this one. Sure, you can count on me.

Among many other such situations, i reveled in the pressure. After all, what is a day worth when you don’t learn something new? I’ve learnt to read up more than my clients do, understand more than the intern can throw at me and deliver more than i possibly could imagine. It’s said that we overestimate ourselves in the short run and underestimate in the long run. In my case, i would say overestimating actually helped me in accomplishing more than i thought was possible. Against all odds, it may have seemed to others. But to me, they were in my favor. Facing the music as many would think. In my head, i was loving the music and finding meaning in the rhythm. Isn’t life itself like that? I sure do believe it is!


My Top 5 Productivity Hacks

Let’s face it. It’s mid-afternoon & you’re perplexed about the 3 mail drafts opened on your mail client. You’re trying to balance it out by running a quick pivot to get done with your analysis & in the meanwhile coffee is on your mind along with the 3 meetings you have lined up before 5pm. Looks like little will get done for you today and anxiety is causing you to scream murder!

What happened to my productive time? You wonder. Pretty sure many of us are in similar situations and seem to be stuck in a rut. So here are my top 5 productivity hacks that help me get by. Maybe these could help you too:

1. Prioritize, prioritize: Much has been said about this before. I think the challenge is keeping up with your list of priorities. You have them listed up but one minor distraction & you’re drifting already. The hack is to start using notes, get an app that will keep reminding you about key tasks. Apps that are helpful are, Reminders on Evernote or even Google Play can help you with this.

2. Toughie on your table? Eat that frog! : A popular book, “Eat that frog” talks about finishing the tougher tasks in the beginning in the first part of your day (no matter when that starts). Once you’re done with the uphill tasks, you can slide on the easier ones downhill as you wind up the day. Finish it off with a treat?

3. Put that phone face down: This is a good trick & so simple to implement. Scores of time, you’re in a meeting and notifications begin to pop up. Not only are you swaying from the discussion, but if at your desk your productivity will go out the window for 10 minutes at least. So respect those around you & your time by putting the phone face down when you need to stay tuned to the task at hand.

4. Social media sidenote: Yes, many of us have the habit to drift away in unending timeline updates and newsfeeds cluttered with wedding or baby photos. The new one is that facebook 10 years video (i’m tired of it). But the hack here is to time yourself. You can check it but maybe set a limit to say once in 2 hours. Rather than checking every hour & loosing 15 mins of your time, you can minimize the time lost by widening the time limit.

5. De-clutter. Your desk & your mind: I’m an ardent fan of the minimalist approach. A clean desk not only shows you as an organized person, it actually helps you work better. I feel that an empty space helps me focus more on the tasks i’ve prioritized. It helps me feel i have this in control. Maybe you could try it out & see if this helps. Sure helps me keep a clear perspective!

So that’s about it. These simple hacks help me do more & achieve most of my work goals. There are days when you can use these hacks to save up to 2 hours of your work day. So finish that day faster & head back to have a great dinner or a nice drink to wind up the day!


Quitting Your Job. In Style.

Most people think about it. Some talk of quirky ways they would resign. Those of you who have seen Jerry McGuire would recall the scene where he makes a speech and leaves with one lonely fish “flipper”. But, when you have had one too many coffees and pushed the gate beyond 1am to your office door (of course not when you choose to moonlight), there is a greater grit to display when you find the option to leave.

Now you could find quirky ways to do this, like sending a cake to your boss / writing a book / writing a poem / citing a funny inspiration as your trigger. But if you really want to make it viral? Make a video out of it. That’s exactly what Marina Shifrin did. On a much long night at work (Next Media Animation) she decided to do an interpretive dance to Kanye West’s “Gone”. Marina doesn’t say anything in the video, its just interlaced with dance steps and text. She’s dancing at every possible area she frequents in her previous work place in the short video. She’s edited it well too, since her job was to come up with viral videos that lacked quality but were high in quantity in her opinion. Here’s the video that actually did go viral and has more than 5 million hits:

But her ex-work organisation did not just leave it at that. They came up with an equally quirky video showing her boss and other work members dancing to the same song. They funnily are at the same work areas Marina dances in her video and look really happy (albeit we know why since its a video response). What’s more they show the swankier parts of the office and wish Marina all the best with a ‘We’re Hiring” message at the end. Here’s the video response:

This made me think about how easy it is becoming for individuals / organisations to put their perspectives out there. Take this case where an employee is making a video that could be brandishing for the company’s reputation. But, they choose to respond in a fashion that’s similar to the way Marina expressed her outrage. Countless people quit their jobs every year and some of them do rant about it on social media. In certain cases, former employees have started blogs / websites to portray their hatred for the work they did or the policies their former workplaces had. But rarely has an organisation responded back or clarified their stand. Now, there seems to be a change sweeping in. In my opinion this will not be a trend or an event to look out for. But, it does throw light on the power of social networks and how it is changing the hiring landscape. It also show how important it is to value the opinion of employees when it comes to organisations. You never know if they would choose to group up and make a quirky video about it so that the world at large gets to know. I think while the outrage may not be relevant to others, but in some aspect people tend to connect with it at some level and that’s what makes them share it. I’m sure Marina has become a viral celeb overnight and may have a lot of videos coming up where she could be more vocal than she was in the video she made. Whether this proves to be a win for Next Media Animation (her ex-employer), I doubt.