The Rice Cooker

Have you observed how a rice cooker works?
You put in grains of rice and lots of water. Then you heat it and the cooker gradually uses the heated water to cook the rice. Required amounts are taken in, the rest is thrown out.
Isn’t it much the same with our days? All the stimulus that comes at us is the water i.e. colleagues complimenting us, colleagues dissing us, other good news, bad news and the like. The heat is similar to the pressure we have everyday to earn, to deliver etc. The rice is what we are building, working on..
We just need to be good rice cookers – take the useful water, throw out the excess/unwanted and become useful in the process.

When you work your butt off for something

You tend to count results. (What happened? Did they turn out in proportion to the effort? Were they deserved etc?)
Results are important – there is no doubt about that. We are measured by them at the end of the day. However, the bigger the stakes, the bigger the chances luck influences those results.
As a result, it is very easy to be disappointed by bad results when they do come our way. And sometimes, a stretch of bad luck may even influence some critical points in life.
In my view, we are probably better placed if we ask ourselves one additional question
What did I become from it?

Many a time, the results may not go our way but the learnings from the experience make it well worth it. Failing a driving test may be well worth it if we ended up becoming better drivers.
I spent a good part of 3 years working on a dot com that didn’t work out. Was the result ideal? No. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. The learnings I got and the people I met gave me a platform to build from, for a lifetime.. Often, it is the 2nd question that saves us from ‘death by introspection’.

Invest in your learning

I always remember the funny joke about how $20 looks extremely big when contemplating a donation to a nearby charity but looks extremely small in a bar.
I remember very clearly the time when a few friends and I decided to engage a tennis coach for $15 per hour last January. I debated it a fair bit – any expenditure as a student was always carefully weighed especially since I had gone bankrupt and lived on loans from friends just two years prior. But, I decided to go for it.
We ended up having 8 lessons and that $120 was among the better investments I have made. I learnt enough tennis to atleast feel comfortable on the court. And today, I played a couple of friends with a Danish friend who was class. He beat me 6-3, 6-3 and deservedly so. His technique was just way superior to mine.
The difference was just that he had invested a fair amount more in his learning than I did. And he still continued to do so.
At this point, I am talking tennis but it’s amazing how easily this can translate to work. Learning at work is often reading voraciously, building up a sense of awareness about the industry, about the world and about people – all of which pay themselves forward. And of course, investing in experiences that broaden our horizons..
The options are all laid out as always. The big question is – do we do it enough?

Rome was not built in a day

This is a reminder to myself.

I spent a significant amount of time this weekend working on my book. I am pleased to announce we have a tentative title. It will be called ’21 Days’ as it is about the 21 day trip that Sarah and Lars (the main characters) take.

I took up this book project for a number of reasons – and one of the most important ones was to give myself a lesson in patience. And I will be the first to admit that I am struggling with this test. For somebody who is just naturally impatient, this is the mother of all tests.
Here’s why –

– It has been 6 months now since I started writing this book and yet, I am only 30% through the 1st draft. The good news is that most of it is sitting in my head (the skeleton atleast) and just needs me to sit down and type it out.
– It takes an incredible amount of time to get into the ‘zone’. I gave up on trying to write 2 hours every weekend because it just doesn’t happen. I need larger chunks.
– Writing is very very very tiring. I feel exhausted at the end of the whole exercise today – satisfied with the progress.
– The thought of only reaching an end many months from now often feels depressing. I am often tempted to just close the project and forget the idea but that’s when I remind myself that this is not so much about the book as it is about learning something. Phew. Tough choice.
– As a way of visualizing the end, I wrote out my ‘Acknowledgments’ page and visualized thanking a whole bunch of people who have supported and encouraged me. That was great fun and I wrote out a chapter all inspired right after that.
All in all, the good news is that I made a decent amount of progress on it this long weekend. Hope to add more on to the progress bar tomorrow. This post is one of many similar ones to follow – a reminder to myself that Rome was not built in a day. Step by step, we make progress..

On Tom Sawyer

This week’s book learning is from Dan Pink’s book on ‘Drive’.

Tom had just been given the rather boring task of whitewashing his Aunt’s fence. As he began painting, his friend Ben came by, nibbling an apple.

(Language below has been edited for sake of simplicity)

‘Would you like to go swimming, Tom? Don’t you wish you could? And not just work on such a beautiful day’
‘What do you call work? Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?

That put things in new light in Ben’s eyes. ‘Say, will you let me whitewash?’ Ben asked

Tom immediately proceeded to play ‘hard to get’ – ‘No no. My aunt Polly is very particular about this fence. I reckon there’s only 1 boy in a 1000, or maybe 2000 who can do this’

‘Please Tom – I’ll give you my apple.’ Ben offered longing to paint the fence.

And thus, as the day progressed, many boys came and went. Tom ended up wealthy owning several marbles and other such goods while Aunt Polly’s fence was of course, whitewashed three times over!

Through this example, Dan Pink illustrates a simple point that has been around for decades. ‘Carrots and sticks‘ are not the answer to everything! Simple shifts in perspective and the way we position work can convert ‘work‘ to ‘fun‘ in no time. We are personally way more inspired to be ‘the best fence painter in the world’ versus earning $5 to paint a fence.

Here’s to tapping onto our intrinsic motivation this week, then!