The Brighter the Picture, the Darker the Negative

I am a firm believer.

The happiest people I’ve met have had tough tough experiences that have shaped them in the past.

They represent true success, in my definition as well.

Why else do we chase success, if not for happiness?

I’ve found myself appreciating life more after many failures and low points.

The journey’s too short to spend time sulking.

So, if you’re not happy today, take more swings. Ask that girl out, ask your boss for more responsibility, start work on that side project, commit to that crazy exercise regime, find a job that best uses your talents..

You probably will not be ‘successful’ in everything you try.

But there is a chance that you will  probably be that bit happier.

Joy wouldn’t be good if it wasn’t for pain after all.

Worth a shot. 

Prezi for Creative Presentations/Videos

Thanks to my amateur video days with ExpressionHappens, I have worked with a few video editing softwares – we used Windows Movie Maker when we started and eventually switched to Adobe Premier Pro. Post talk show making, I took a liking to Camtasia Studio as Adobe Premier Pro, while very advanced, was far from simple (typical Adobe product).

And then came Prezi. I had been waiting to test it for a long while and it was in July when I tried it for the first time, to great results. And post RealAcad, it was soon time for a 2nd attempt. This time, however, I ran into difficulties. The simple reason was that I needed a video file and Prezi doesn’t do that for you (runs contrary to their business model). The end result anyway was pretty enjoyable and definitely a welcome change from the traditional ‘video’.

There is a lot that could be improved about the video itself (length, for starters) but I was hoping it would give all of you a better idea of what RealAcad is really about and I’m hopeful it has done that. (Especially since I’ve blogged about RealAcad extensively here)
The coolest part of this process was understanding what Prezi could do. And I realize I love it for it’s ability to tell a story and because it results in a nice mix between video and presentation. 
All in all, a fun tool. Worth a try for your next creative presentation. 
(If you don’t need a raw video file for upload to YouTube etc, then the process is MUCH simpler. However, if you do choose the complicated path, I have detailed how I did it. )
For those interested, the process of making this video involved – 
– Scripting the story on Prezi (i.e text, videos, photos etc)
– Screen recording the Prezi via Camtasia’s Recorder (this was a bit of a bottleneck as I needed to do so after hours at work since having a ‘big screen’ helps greatly! 
– Next step was audio editing on Camtasia Studio. This involved ensuring the audios from the videos were syncd at the right places etc 
– And voila! we were good to go.  

Hacking Life – Energy Drivers

Over the past few months, one of my ‘know yourself’ projects have been to understand the impact of – Food, Sleep, Play, Work, Initiative-Work on my energy and happiness. By Initiative-Work, I refer to everything I do beyond being an Associate at a-connect.

And I’ve realized the priorities are as follows –

1. Sleep
2. Work
3. Play
4. Initiative-Work
5. Food

Now, this means a few things:

– Food doesn’t impact my happiness as much as I thought. As a result, I find myself finding a combination (eg: a couple of lunch places I like) that works and sticking to it. Not much variety required. No frills.

– As a result of this, one of my bigger challenges during the day is to make sure I eat (!). Once I get into a state of ‘flow’, I often forget to eat for long periods/postpone it and that’s resulted in more than a fair share of stomach trouble! As a result, I have alarms on my phone every 4 hours..

– Initiative-Work is very important to my happiness and keeps me going. However, I find I’m less driven if I’m not feeling ‘utilized’ at work. Much less driven actually.

– Play and exercise has a direct impact on all additional initiatives. Most of my ideas pop up during my early morning Hour of Power.

– But the biggest revelation of them all has been the importance of sleep to my energy. I have been pushing myself to sleep 8 hours for over a year. And, now my Sleep Cycle alarm clock confirms an average of 7hrs 30 mins of sleep.  The difference between a sleep deprived day and a fully rested one is pretty stark – during the former, the period following lunch in particular is less productive, I need to listen to high octane music and getting through some parts of the day can feel like a chore while during the latter, I feel myself literally powering through. And of course, I have numbers to back this up.

Essentially, this little experiment has been exciting as I’m beginning to understand what makes me tick. The results have led to conscious choices very regularly. For example, I was back home late last night and had 2 choices – sleep 6 hours, do my exercise and go to work or sleep 8 hours and go to work. And I made an informed choice. And of course, I’m willing to bet the day has been far more productive and happier than the alternative would have been.

What is also cool is that each person has their own ‘drives’. I know friends who don’t value sleep as much as I do and others who don’t value work (;)).

What are your energy drivers? 

On Acceptance and Gravity

This week’s ‘book learning’ draws inspiration from ‘Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield.

Sheila was upset with her job. It paid well but she didn’t enjoy it. And yet, she needed the money. So, a change was out of question for the moment.

And hence, it was normal for her friends and family to hear her constantly complain about her unhappiness at her predicament. During one such complaint session, her dad took her aside –

‘Why don’t you complain about gravity?’
‘What do you mean?’ – she retorted
‘In many ways, gravity is a bit of a pain right. If it wasn’t for gravity, we could fly.. But the fact that it exists causes more inconvenience that we can imagine.’
‘But we can’t change that!’ – she responded exasperated.
‘Can you change the fact that you need to keep your job?’
‘No..’
‘Why don’t you think of it like gravity? Accept it for what it is. And move on.’

Often, the big reason for complaints and unhappiness is because we are stuck in a situation we don’t accept. Maybe thinking of these situations like we think of gravity would help ease the pain.
Besides, complaining is a bit like vomiting.. It makes us feel better but everyone else feel worse.

Here’s to thinking of gravity every time we have trouble accepting a tough situation this week!

A simple idea.. but potentially very powerful!

Life – The Dirty Yucky Messy Chaotic Process

I had this conversation with a friend where he was talking about a comic he had read ages ago that described life as a naturally dirty (yucky, chaotic) process.

When a baby is born, the baby emerges bloody, dirty.. and it is the human reaction to clean it, bathe it, clothe it etc.

That got me thinking about all natural human ‘things’.

Sex is characteristically dirty, yucky, chaotic.

Love and relationships are, for sure, extremely chaotic.

Food is a characteristically dirty process. The making of food and the cleaning up are both very messy. Oh, and the consumption can potentially be very messy as well!

Play is naturally very dirty. Even those who escape ‘play’ in the normal sense of the word and head to the gym have sweat to deal with.

If companies are an essential part of human life these days, leading a corporation is incredibly messy as well. You are likely to be keeping board members and shareholders at bay while solving a plethora of people issues within your company and of course, dealing with dozens of personal crises at the same time.

Parenting is incredibly messy and chaotic as well, of course. Just ask your mom.

Thanks to rigid education systems, we are often tempted to ask for, and expect the same level of structure and predictability when we start living ‘real’ life. The reality, however, couldn’t be farther away. We are ‘made’ by our ability to deal with the chaos that life brings with it. The ones who make a difference are not those hanging around waiting for ‘structure’, they are the ones who are out there finding structure for themselves within the chaos.

That’s because they probably understand that structure and cleanliness is a personal need – it is a need that serves our desire to believe that things are ‘under control’, when they really never are.

Contrary to popular thought, I argue, it actually takes a lot of courage to embrace chaos. And then, of course, do what it takes to make us feel comfortable in the dirty, messy, yucky and chaotic process that is this wonderful life.

What’s Your Favorite Email Closing Line?

Source: Lifehacker
Lifehacker has an interesting article on email closing lines. I found the graphic very interesting. Given the amount of email use these days, I personally could do with some additional emailing tips and tricks every once in a while. (Don’t blame me.. I was only taught letter writing in school! :)) 
The graphic was very interesting. My preference for closing lines are as follows –
Official
Unknown: Best Regards/ Thanks and Best Regards
Known and Higher Up: Thanks and Best Regards
Known well: Warm Regards/Best Wishes
Known very well: Best
Personal
Unknown: Best
Known: Cheers/Warm Wishes/Warmest
Known very well: Hugs/Love and Hugs
I have wondered how these make people feel. I notice that I personally don’t like emails with no salutation (as I feel they are a touch too transaction-like). 
What are your favorite closing lines? And how do the above lines make you feel?

The Passport Story

I walked into the Indian embassy passport services room last Friday to collect my passport. One step into the room and I could literally feel poison in the air and negative emotions in the general. Characteristic of Indian embassies all over, they were running 30 minutes late and people were upset.

There had been some delay on the part of the embassy and now that they were finally ready, they were announcing the passports slowly – 1 at a time. And he was going through a bad run – the guy announced 4 consecutive names that weren’t present, he repeated their names 3-4 times just to make sure. This only increased the muttering and annoyance.

And around then, one guy decided it was okay to hold the entire crowd up as he had a mistake on his passport.

9 times out of 10, I am sure this would have led to me withdrawing into my own shell, trying to keep myself busy and not let the negative environment affect me. That was not to be though.

Friday was a day that was very positive. And I wasn’t going to let the passport embassy ruin it. So, it was time to be proactive and take some action. I began by requesting the guy who was insensitively holding everyone up because there was an error on his passport to do so after everyone finished. (He refused and said he would let the counter guy decide! Luckily the counter guy caught on and told him so as well)

And then, every time someone wasn’t present, I let out a loud ‘Absent!’ like we used to do in our schools (in India atleast) every morning when our teacher marked attendance. A few loud ‘absents’ and ‘presents’ later, every one’s mood lightened. Within minutes, there were some jokes and very soon, smiles began breaking out. And then, a couple of others began crying out ‘Absent’.

Satisfied, I sat down and got down to typing out a blogpost (not this one, funnily enough) on my phone.

A few minutes late, my name was called out. And of course, I marked my own attendance with a loud ‘Present’ and as I walked up, I had the whole crowd give a cheer.. as more jokes and smiles ran out.

All well. Went home. Felt good.

Life is a game really. We can choose to play it and have some fun..or not. How often do we choose to play?

Install Disqus on your blog – Please

I first saw Disqus on a friend’s blog and was pretty impressed by it’s easy of use. I wasn’t convinced enough to change purely thanks to inertia. Over time, I started following Mark Suster and Fred Wilson (both of whose names should be familiar to readers in this community ) and both strongly recommend Disqus as the best tool to build a community.

Given they are leading investors in technology AND leading bloggers, I guess it is okay to assume that they would know this space.
So, please go ahead and install Disqus on your blog – NOW. Make it easier for readers to comment on your blog and make it easier for them to feel part of the community your blog is (unintentionally or intentionally) building.
The AVC community has me very inspired. It’s nice to go back there every single day, comment and read comments from others in the community on the latest little nugget that Fred posts. It’s active, focused on learning and very inspiring, especially as a blogger, for that is exactly what I envision on ALearningaDay in the years ahead – dozens of active community members sharing their own learnings, thoughts on posts and inspiring each other. A true learning movement – built by us.
The encouraging part is that Fred has built it one post a day over 8 years now. That’s great as well.. for ALearningaDay in here for the long haul. Given we are 3 years old now, we still have 5 years to go.

I am hopeful we will get there together. J

Hour of Power

My Hour of Power is (roughly) one hour spent after fighting the biggest battle of them all – waking up @ 6:30 in the morning.

It’s a fantastic hour spent exercising and listening to a book. I call it the ‘Hour of Power’ because it achieves many things at once – makes me feel good about myself (exercise unfailingly delivers), gives me tons of energy to start the day and of course, gets me started with a book that generally gives me some food for thought and/or a new perspective on things.

This is the 3rd week in a row with 3-4 days of the ‘Hour of Power’. I hope to re-commit to it every single day.

The challenge every morning is the initial inertia to get out of bed. I’ve resorted to calling a close friend every morning at 6:30am so I give myself that additional boost.

Shouldn’t I be excited to wake up and do something that is both good for me and that greatly adds to my happiness? Apparently it takes a little more than that.

Human Nature. Go Figure..

Be Someone’s Hero

Spend time with those who are a few years younger in age and experience and take an interest in them.

Try and be a ‘Hero’. Be there for them when they need you. Care for them. Set a great example.

Be a mentor such that when they think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.

Make that difference. It is the people we touch that counts.

And if the time comes when you receive a simple ‘thank you’ from them for making a difference, ask them to pay it forward. And then do the same with somebody else.

Our horizons would be very narrow if we had no mentors and no people to look up to.

There is only so much we can learn from our peers and immediate friends. Our ‘big picture’ view could often do with more perspective.

Build your own Board of Directors. And help others build theirs. Maybe you will be on their board someday.

In your first attempt, it may not change or impact them as much as you might expect.

But it sure as hell will change you in more ways than you can even imagine.

Worth a shot.