Distance and ‘Somewhere only we know’

I realize distance makes things very tough for any kind of relationships. I didn’t necessarily have to be at a ‘distance’ to realize this of course. But, as a result of living practically away from my ‘home base’ for 6 months now, I have realized a few things about long distance friendships-

– The relationships that are typically affected are any that are brought together/helped by circumstance. (i.e. co-workers, football friends, housemates etc).
This is because the lack of a common ground means a lack of communication which brings me to my next realization.
– It is not easy to ‘pick up where you left of’. In my limited experience, it takes a bit of ‘alignment time’ and typically only comes with conversation. Often, with the distance, our minds conjure up perceptions of distance and difference when there might not be any.. or forgets that there actually might be some difference. And that can be a bit of a blow. The ‘pick up where you left of’ happens when the ‘awareness of small details’ checkbox is covered.
– The ‘small details’ are everything! When you are a few 1000 miles away, the only thing that makes you feel closer to someone are when you share the moments. Not the big ones.. but the small ones. That funny incident, that stroke of bad luck. This doesn’t take too long but it is vital that is done.
A friend of mine sends in a 10 minute power packed audio with his updates for the week in reply to my generally long emails. I call it power packed because it is typically packed with small details. And boy, does that make a difference! Because the next time we are on skype, I am sure going to begin with great joy laughing at some of the things he mentioned – it would be my way to ‘touch base’ and feel included.
– ‘Included’ brings me to the next point. I guess it comes from the basic human needs – to feel included, to feel appreciated, to be loved etc. This flows from the need to know the ‘small details’. I guess we like to know we are being thought of, being missed etc..
– There are 2 things that make long distance friendships work.
– Some kind of overlap. Typically, this is working on a fun project with each other. The excuse of ‘work’ ensures the ‘syncing’ and ‘aligning’ happens.
– Discipline. Lots of it. And on both sides. I realize this more and more as I get into the ‘new life’ at a place that it requires some proactive prioritization. And that’s where most long distance friendships don’t quite work out.
After that treatise on ‘long distance friendships’, here is a song for the week. This one reminds me of many good times.
Oh, and it always makes me feel like a rockstar when I scream along with the chorus. My ex-housemate in Oman always said it gave him nightmares, or something like that.. haha

On the power of checklists

‘Under conditions of true complexity, a centralized command-and-control decision chain doesn’t work all that well. Instead we get better results by codifying what needs to happen into a simple checklist and giving people the freedom to act and adapt using their best judgment’

The Situation: Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. A lone agent of the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) actually spotted the situation in a helicopter and immediately filed an email report to the centre as all other communication failed. But, none of the FEMA top management used email..

In the meanwhile Wal-mart, a company known for great systems for all eventualities (much like Mcdonalds), had 126 stores in the New Orleans region.

Wal-mart’s Response: CEO Lee Scott immediately sanctioned all his managers to ‘make the best decision’ they could ‘and above all, do the right thing.’ Acting in accordance to their checklists and judgment –

– Wal-mart distributed diapers, water, baby formula, food, sleeping bags and toiletries to all affected residents
– One assistant manager even took a bull dozer worth of food and gave it away to residents.
– Another broke into the store’s pharmacy when the hospital ran out of medicines and was later lauded by senior management
– Wal-mart even supplied the National Guard with food and water a day before the federal government could respond

By the end, Wal-Mart sent 2,498 trailer loads of supplies and donated more than $3.5 million in merchandise. This demonstrates better than ever that checklists work very well in complex situations as they hit a balance between what usually seem conflicting virtues

I read a detailed summary of this book this week and I have been very impressed! The author, Atul Gawande, is a famous surgeon and as the medical, aviation and construction industries use checklists more extensively, Atul is very aware of their impact. He makes a strong case for us to use checklists extensively in our lives – especially since they ensure we don’t sleep up in a crisis situation! More on this next week maybe.. :)

Source: Weekly Book Learnings and ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande

Sporting Nirvana

A few things that came to mind on this wonderful sporting day –

– The appetizer was Manchester United coming back from 2-0 down to win 4-2. Sometimes, I wonder why they bother with the first half.. because they always play in the second.
It struck me that winning teams have steel.. and it makes winning inevitable.
– I felt the same every time India was in a tough spot against Sri Lanka in the final. I was certain we would win. This world cup win was coming. And it happened..
– This world cup win was coming. Saurav Ganguly and John Wright instilled a fighting spirit in the Indian team in the early part of the decade and we came close to winning in 2003. Of course, we had our low thanks to Greg Chappell.. but ever since Dhoni and Kirsten got together, this was coming..
I mention Ganguly and Wright because stars like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan (a.k.a Zak) came through then.
– And M S Dhoni – what a leader. Cool, calm, confident.. totally deserving of the victory. And a legend already..
– And finally, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.. fitting ending to this legend’s last world cup.
A great sporting day overall!

Songs and us

When an emotion attaches itself to an incident or experience, it makes for a strong memory. (This is thanks to a close friend who is very biology inclined)

I think therein lies the power of a song. Songs we like (or dislike) typically arouse emotions and these attach themselves to a situation or experience. That is probably why some very depressing songs can arouse laughs and happy memories.. and vice versa. Where you heard the song, who you heard it with etc influences the very idea of the song in our minds after all.

Some songs, however, tend to be universally happy. For example, Summer of 69 is one of them. It is one of those tunes that tends gets everybody happy and singing along..
A thought that crossed my mind today as I was listening to a ‘happy memory‘ song is that we are essentially like songs, every one of us. We all have our own (different) tunes and depending on our mood and general demeanor, we are likely to leave the people we meet with a strong memory..
So, what sort of memory do we want to leave people with? And what sort of memory do we leave people with?