On Destination Postcards

This week’s book learning draws inspiration from ‘Switch‘ by Dan and Chip Heath-

Crystal Jones joined ‘Teach for America‘ in 2003. She was assigned to the 1st grade of an Elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia.

This school had no kindergarten. So, most kids couldn’t read or write and some couldn’t even hold their pencils. This had to change. But, how do you show a room full of 1st graders where you want to go? And that it’s going to be worth it? In language they can understand?

So, Crystal devised a clear Destination Postcard ‘By the end of the school year, you will be 3rd graders ‘.

This postcard was carefully chosen. Firstly, she believed this could be done. And secondly, this was very inspiring.
Do you know the feeling you get when you admire the grace and power of an Olympic athlete? That’s the feeling 1st graders get about 3rd graders. They are bigger, smarter and cooler.

Next, she called her student’s scholars to have a culture of learning and have them behave like scholars. They gradually began taking their scholar very seriously. By springtime, the kids test scores had reached 2nd grade levels. So, Crystal conducted a graduation ceremony before spring break and they now began calling themselves 2nd graders.

And by the end of the year, they had reached 3rd grade level. All thanks to a clear and inspiring Destination Postcard.

We can call it ‘clear vision’, ‘begin with the end in mind’ , ‘Destination Postcard’ or anything else we may please. It’s importance can’t be underestimated. Let’s just make it a habit to use them starting now.. :)

Here’s to using Destination Postcards in our lives this week!

You are not your Past

I heard this yesterday on Tony Robbins’ TED talk.

And it got me thinking.

How much of it do we truly believe on a day to day basis?

When I thought of it for myself – while I do think about the possibilities in the future, I find myself often wondering about my past and looking at the future based on that past.

It’s immensely empowering to think that we can script a future that takes a very different trajectory from our past. But, it can only be empowering if we truly believe.

And I ask myself, do I?

It’s so easy to be caught up in the past, wondering about things that could have been done differently. This often results in a whole bunch of negative of emotions – most typically jealousy and envy. Because I find that I look at my past primarily when I fall into the zone of comparing myself with people I know who I perceive to have done some things better than I did. And these are typically accompanied by a whole host of negative emotions as they never work their effect on us in isolation. And then they tend to heighten/amplify our existing insecurities.

Anger, fear, pain and suffering – the dark side, they are
(for the Yoda lovers :))

I remember having this discussion on insecurities with a wiser friend. We all have insecurities, he said. We have all been made to feel inadequate in some sphere or the other. And that naturally leads to these insecurities. Then, of course, as we grow up, this is a function of environments we are in. We noted that some of the most prestigious, high performing environments are actually places where these insecurities thrive, and are heightened.. leading to the common term ‘insecure overachievers.’ 
These insecurities lead us to constantly need to prove ourselves in word. (We always have to do so in action.. but that’s more for ourselves, I find. Excellence is a habit..) And we find ourselves craving acceptance. And when we don’t find acceptance, we start comparisons again. And the vicious cycle takes over.

I realize this can also flip itself around i.e. instead of focusing on past failures, we can also find ourselves stuck in past glories and find ourselves repeating the same stories over and over again. ‘Stuck’ is probably the common factor here.

I’ve felt these emotions many a time – very often at some stages. It’s been a while since I’ve felt myself caught in a negative cycle and this blog has played a significant role in ensuring that. I don’t think they are every productive or happy. We all have pasts. And they are not always pretty. We all have screwed up. It’s just that when we think of these pasts, we often remember these screw ups and then try and pretend they never existed. But, hey, who are we kidding? We all have elephantine memories when it comes to our own failings.
I am reminded of a scene in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ when John Nash asks Martin Hansen to consider him for a teaching post at Princeton. Hansen responds with concern about Nash’s hallucinations. 
To which Nash says “They are my past. Everyone is haunted by their past.”

Hansen then wonders if he still sees them (the imaginary people in his hallucinations). And Nash acknowledges they are still there and says

“I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and our nightmares, Martin, we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

I look at our past and future’s similarly. Looking at the negative seems to be hard wired into us. And it’s also the easy thing to do as it comes more naturally. Looking at our dreams, however, means looking at the future, at possibilities. It means shoving all these insecurities aside habitually.

We’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive. 

Incredible deep, that is.

Because possess us, our past or our future will.
Define us, one of them will.
Decide which one to feed, we must.

Choice, we always will have.
Our pasts, we are not.

Our future, we can be.
Remind ourselves that, we must.

Part with you for now, on that note I will
Signing off now, I am.
Roda, the name is. :) 

Easy vs Tough

Criticize somebody’s idea
Make fun of somebody’s idea
Laugh at somebody’s idea
Laugh at somebody
Criticize somebody
Hurt feelings
Make somebody feel small
Make somebody feel stupid
Suck happiness out of a discussion
Consistently think of all the things that will go wrong
Assume people are screwed up
Blow up
Take your anger and frustration out on people around you
Don’t keep in touch
Watch out for yourself
Be negative
Suck hope
Kill enthusiasm
Laugh at passion
Don’t tell people how much they mean to you
Show up disinterested
Be a back bencher
Act childish

Encourage ideas and people
Encourage ideas
Encourage people
Show up
Stay positive
Work on yourself
Laugh at yourself
Work on relationships
Stay in touch
Be there
Look for opportunities
Focus on the upside
Focus on strengths
Keep balance
Be child like
Be involved
Express love
Keep poise
Maintain class
Show enthusiasm
Keep energy
Stay happy

We always have choice.

Reaction and Response

This one was from today’s domain experience. A few of you might have been redirected to an advertisement page if you tried getting here in the morning. 

The simple reason for that was that I had no idea my domain subscription had expired yesterday. I did get many emails from my hosting subscriber but I also have 3 other domains and all of the others are on auto-renew so these emails tend to come and go without me paying much attention. It was this morning that I finally noticed that the domain had expired. 
I came back post football to find myself looking at my ad page. 
And I was pissed.
Why did this happen? How did this happen? Why didn’t the folks at Usonyx warn me? Why wasn’t the domain on auto renew? What can I do?
I sent a support ticket (two, actually) asking them to help. And even tried calling them. But, they don’t work weekends. So, well, I was stuck. 
I had 2 skype calls scheduled and I shortened the first one and took some time to have my reaction. I recall being decidedly restless for the 2nd one but this was a catch up call vs a ‘get-things-done’ call so I went ahead. 
And while we were catching up, I felt my head clear. I’d had my reaction. 
I went into my ‘control panel’ where I have an overview of my hosting plan and the domains I own. And then again found myself having a mini reaction at how un-intuitive the whole interface was.
After the 2nd reaction, I decided it was time to respond. Speaking with the friend had calmed me down as I’d vented for a couple of minutes and done some cursing. And within a couple of minutes, I’d cleared the payment that needed to be made. And ten minutes later, I got an email saying the payment had been received.
And soon we were back online.
I learnt a couple of things here – 
1. Don’t try to suppress the reaction. Allow the ‘victim’ play. If it has to come, it will. Be conscious of over reaction though. Giving yourself a set amount of time to vent helps.
2. Then respond. Actually focus on what you can do.
Often, we tend to assume that the problems we faced can’t be solved because we don’t have enough resources.
But, as Anthony Robbins put it, 
‘In life, it’s not always about the resources as much as it’s about resourcefulness. ‘


Boyce Avenue

I stumbled onto Boyce Avenue some time during my university years. As was the case, it was a YouTube link that was sent over Google Talk. Since that was the default way new music was discovered, it was normal to stumble onto something really cool.

And Boyce Avenue was just that. Really cool. They were essentially 3 brothers who began postive covers of popular songs on YouTube. And these ended up becoming very very popular. And that’s how I fell in love with Boyce Avenue’s music as well. And I was particularly impressed with their lead singer – Alejandro who was extremely versatile. Great voice, comfortable on the guitar and the piano – all very impressive.

So, when I noticed Boyce Avenue were coming to town on their YouTube page, I promptly booked tickets.

And I had a wonderful evening. The first half hour was another YouTube star from Colorado called Tyler Ward. Turned out it was Tyler’s biggest audience ever (2,000) and he spoke of growing up singing in the basement of his parents’ house. It felt genuine and authentic. He sounded very unspoilt.. And it felt nice to be there listening to him. He had fantastic stage presence. Ward combined with Boyce Avenue for Fix You. Check out their video on YouTube. It moved me.

And following Tyler’s cameo, of course, came the main event. Boyce Avenue were brilliant. 60% of their music was covers and 40% was their own. They mixed it up nicely with acoustic guitar pieces, piano and drum pieces and full band pieces. It was a lovely evening with an extremely talented live band. My kind of fun..

Here’s a video of them playing Viva La Vida live. The last 30 or seconds was the highlight for me.

All the entertainment aside, there was one moment that defined the experience for me. After Boyce Avenue came in and took the mic, Alejandro posed a question – “How many of you heard of Boyce Avenue through YouTube?”

2,000 hands went up.

“Isn’t that amazing? God bless YouTube.”

Now, I’ve dedicated many posts speaking of the way technology has changed our lives and empowered people more than ever before. But, here we had a band fly half way around the world thanks to a website that’s changed the way we live.

That moment was worth a 1000 such posts.

Stepping Off The Gas

Of late, I’m finding it very useful to consciously step off the gas every once in a while and keep the number of frenetic days in a week to 3-4.

What this essentially means is that I’m trying to consciously prevent myself from overdoing things. And that’s something I’m always in danger of.

This morning was one such example. I decided to sleep in and skip exercise. The day resulted to be slightly lower in energy as compared to the first 3 days this week but I see that as essential in sustaining the exercise habit. Setting up simple container systems are helping. For example, I have negative consequences on my daily points system (minor, but still..) if I miss 2 days of exercise in a row. However, I’m also trying to make sure I don’t do 3 days of exercise in a row. I’m building slack into the system, intentionally.

And this is a big evolution in my thinking. Previously, I used to go where my energy took me. So, if this was the week of exercise, I would do it 7 days a week, if necessary and often at the expense of something else. And if the energy stars are not aligned next week, too bad.

Essentially, I was doing great starting things but the follow up was questionable. Over time, the realization that it’s not a battle, but a war began to sink in. And, as a result, I’m trying to be conscious of when to take breaks – even if things seem to be coasting in a particular week. Some weeks are, of course, better than others. But, taking my foot off the gas occasionally seems to keep the bar higher on average while continuing to allow for the spikes.

When you least feel like taking a break is probably when you most need one | David Allen

Oh, and besides, taking feet off the gas naturally means the proverbial smelling of the roses.
And that’s always really cool. As our friend here would testify.. 

Why aren’t there more Urinals in homes?

This probably constitutes more of a question than a learning at this point but I’m hoping somebody would help clarify.

For the ladies, I am referring to these..

(I picked a stylish one to keep up with the natural style and panache of this blog and of course, the blogger… And no, ladies. We don’t have it so good in public restrooms!)

Firstly, I must apologize if this makes you squeamish by any chance. Not intended to. It’s just a bit of a practical problem.

Ask any guy how uncomfortable it is to walk into a friend’s house with a sparkling clean bathroom and then work extremely hard.. vs just peeing in a public urinal.

I actually searched this topic out online. It turns out that the primary reason urinals aren’t installed in homes is because they look ungainly. So, people are working hard to make them look better. A few creative designs are shown here. Other smaller reasons are custom plumbing, fear of wasting water if you choose to have water running through it 24*7 (why would you?) etc.

Let’s rule the additional water problem out. The custom plumbing is likely to cost a little more. So, what? A bit of extra cash to be comfortable and clean for a long time? I think the long term value would be much more valuable.

Sure, it may look a  tad ungainly but if you have males in the house, don’t you think it would make sense? From both a comfort (for the men) and a hygiene (for the women) standpoint?

We do need to pee – many times at that. We might as well do it right, no? Or am I over thinking this?

Maybe this should be my next venture.

Change the world, it will. One restroom at a time.

PS: I’m experimenting with a change in font. Is this easier on the eye?

A Spring in My Step

I had a moment this morning.

I was getting off the tube in the morning. Mornings are generally pretty full. Up at 615. Off for exercise with book reading, blogging, personal inbox clearing and then traveling to work. And the journey to work since last week has been getting back to book writing on my phone. Ever since solving the real problem, that’s been in place.

And, for a few moments, as I stepped out of the train, I remember feeling very tired.

It was only 3 hours into the day but you know how these things go. Sometimes, you just feel.. tired. Now, this was a bit of a bummer because I feel it’s very important to walk into our place of work smiling and energized. I had 10 minutes to turn this around.

And I promptly pulled out my phone, switched on some music and the song was a recent favorite from Venga Boys.

And 2 lines woke me up – ‘Happiness is round the corner’ and ‘So if you like to party, get on and move your body.’

I did.

Happiness was indeed round the corner.

There was a spring in my step.

And the smile and energy came rushing back. What a wonderful world..

Gifts Differing

Very rarely do I feature a book on this blog. That’s precisely why my book reviews blog exists. But, this book, in many ways, is an exception. Not because it is extremely well written or because it’s a commercial superstar, but simply because of the depth of insight that it has.

I have been on a quest for some self-knowledge for the past many months. And, in many ways, the insights in this book have contributed greatly to a major jump in understanding.

Gifts Differing is written by Isabel Briggs Myers, the woman behind the world famous Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Typically these types are assigned to us based on our answers to various tests and it is recommended that we have this discussion with an MBTI certified coach.

There are numerous tests available online but I’m inclined not to put in any of the links here because every test practically gave me a different answer. And that’s why I went about trying to find the book and then read it. The basic structure of the types are as follows:

Extraversion vs Introversion (i.e. where do you get your energy from? People or yourself?)
Sensing vs Intuition (i.e. How do you process information? By taking in all facts or looking for possibilities?)
Thinking vs Feeling (i.e. How do you make decisions? Using impersonal logic or feelings?)
Judging vs Perceiving (i.e. How do you live your life? Are you regimented or open?)

Now, typically, you are assigned a combination of these letters. And the book will, of course, explain what this means, what are the typical strengths of somebody of this personality type, challenges if you are married to someone of an opposite type, how type takes formation in kids etc.

What I’ve realized is that we always have a clear dominant characteristic and a clear auxilary characteristic. The rest, really depends because, these dominant characters get set when we are kids and over time, we learn  the benefits of the others and they gradually become a part of us.

I’ll be happy to explain my understanding of this from my own example – My end type, based on my self test, was E/I N F J.

I couldn’t conclude between E vs I because I answer the basic question (i.e. where do you get your energy?) as an introvert. However, when put in a social situation, I am extravert all over. So, I concluded I’m 50%.

N or intuition was a clear win. I am a poor observer and live in a world of possibilities. The split here was probably 80-20 and I’m paying attention more to sensing, especially over the last year, thanks to analysis.

F or feeling was also a clear winner. Probably 70-30. My decisions are definitely based on my own value system, and not on impersonal logic.

J or Judging. By nature, I am very self regimented but over time, my perception has improved and I guess I find that most in my views becoming more tolerant. This is probably 60-40 split.

The key concept here is that we need most of these processes. E vs I is less relevant because this is just how we get our energy. It’s almost an understanding on how to deal with ourselves. I have a set goal of not having more than 2 social nights in the week (self regimentation on display :)) because I end up becoming very tired after there. And I do love my weekends in solitude.

We need sensing because sensing helps in our observation capabilities, in us collecting all the facts, paying attention to the details.

We need intuition because intuition helps connect these observations together and seeks out possibilities.

We need thinking because we need impersonal logic to arrive at the ‘right’ decision.

We need feeling because we need to be able to understand how this could impact the people involved.

(eg: The right decision after a presentation may be to give honest feedback on what you thought about the concept. But it’s important that it’s done in a way that makes it easier for the person to accept the feedback. That process involves both T and F)

We need judging to make decisions.

We need perception to explore possibilities.

And it seems that the natural process is that we end up developing our dominant process very well. In my case, based on whether I am in ‘E’ i.e. with people or ‘I’ i.e. with myself, the dominant process is ‘F’ or ‘N’. And once we develop this dominant process, we can go on and work on our auxiliary ones because they ensure balance to our personality.

There was also a piece of advice that I got that helped me in this journey. (Courtesy: a wise friend)

‘It feels to me like you have gone a great distance in better understanding your preferences, and for me, that what these instruments measure – preferences. I do not place “OR” between them. For example, I do not see myself as either E or I, rather, I tend to show up most often, in most aspects of my life, as I… and, in many situations I am E all over the place. I find many of the definitions that these practitioners use end up being interpreted as formulaic… and I do not believe life is formulaic.’

For me, these assessments are of “self”, and as such, must come from within. In my experience of observing people go through these things, I notice that many of us “want the answer to be such and such”, so we are not always honest with ourselves. I also believe that it is important to pick the one that feels best, fits right… like a suit… not the one that the sales person says looks great on you… even though they may be right.


Could you love yourself exactly as you are? Could you take your new learnings into life and see how your internal theory measures up against real situations, especially those at the extremes?

This wise friend was also an MBTI practitioner. And I found his advice VERY useful as I was going through the journey, especially the sales person and suit analogy.

Now, I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of my preferences. And armed with this understanding, I actually feel far more comfortable dealing with the world because I am beginning to realize which process of mine dictates which reaction and whether it is applicable or whether another process works better.

Probably the biggest impact is the increased understanding of people around me that I interact with from time to time. As with all cases, how we behave is a reflection of who we are. And when we understand ourselves, we do understand the world a bit better.

And it definitely reinforces a principle I believe in – we are all gifted, in different ways. We just have to find our place in the world, use our gifts and make a difference.

A great book, in short. I learnt a lot  from it. I thought I’d quote Aristotle before wishing you a great day.

Let the man who will move the world first move himself.

And I daresay he did know a thing or two about what he was talking about as well. :) 
Have a great day. Let’s hatch some eggs. ;-)

Hatch Those Eggs!

Let’s examine the relationship between a farmer and his hen. Let’s call them Jim and Carry.

Carry, the hen, is given a lot of freedom by the farmer to do what she likes but she knows that what he really wants from her is eggs. That is the purpose of her existence after all.

Jim loves Carry dearly. He’s taken care of her since she was a baby hen and the time has now come for her to start hatching eggs as well. Return on investment, if you will.

But, Carry isn’t hatching eggs. And Jim can’t tell why. She seems to be playing around with the other hens, doing all the things a normal hen would do and even eating as much as the other hens. And then, one day, Carry does actually lay some eggs but in all her zeal to make sure they survive, she doesn’t let them out of her grasp. She can’t fail this time after all! What would the other hens think?

She practically sits on them till they suffocate and die. This happens  few times and finally, an exasperated Jim stops expecting eggs from Carry and a now exasperated Carry stops expecting chickens from herself.

All this pent up anger results in her getting annoyed with the other hens that are hatching eggs and living a normal life. She always has a mean word or two to say. Over time, she finds company in a couple of other hens as well who have gotten too used to a life of entitlement. And in time, Carry died as well. But, there was really no hen or person who cared.. Why would anybody care? What did she give the world?

Now, let’s for a moment replace Carry with ourselves, Jim with the world and the other hens as other people. It is likely we have been invested a lot in as well. And it is likely we have many ideas on what we can do as well. But, initially, we don’t act upon them. All we see from ourselves are excuses. 

Now, many excuses later, we almost can’t deny some great ideas we have energy for. These ideas would likely require us to do  more – to volunteer at that not-for-profit after work or to start our own company doing e-commerce after our day job or offer a service online for free just because we look doing or to blog or to study further or to learn a language. Very exciting ideas waiting to be executed. But, no, we sit on the with more excuses and obstinacy. We don’t give them the space they require to grow. We don’t try anything because we feel it will only increase our chances of failure.

And finally, they die.

Over time, we get used to the idea that ‘some’ people can do more and we just can’t. And life goes on, as we know it. We are likely to be bitter about not doing it.. but hey, that’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it?


Hatch those eggs! Give them a chance to survive. Put some effort into nurturing them. Fail. Laugh. Do again. Pay attention only to those who encourage. Do. As JLM put it, most people are not be impressed by what they did in 1 year, but very impressed about what they did in 5. Put in the effort. There are many eggs within you waiting to be hatched. Make them count.

To know and not to do is not to know.

Hatch those eggs!