Offering condolences and support

A few thoughts on offering condolences to friends who are either going through a difficult time or have lost someone important in their lives.

1. Speak to them as soon as you hear. If you live in the same place, go see them. If you don’t, call. And do so immediately.

A common excuse when I suggest this is the feeling that the friend might be uncomfortable speaking to you if you aren’t close. I think that this sort of reason is the excuse we give ourselves for not summoning up the courage to call or to be there. The person in grief has no time to worry about being uncomfortable – they are uncomfortable and may need your support. So, go offer your support.

2. Once you meet them, plan your support. Some people cope with a situation just fine. That’s great. Make sure you’re there for them if they need you and see if you can stay in touch for a short while.

For ones who have been harder hit, one idea I would suggest is to set up a daily call with them at a particular time. If you live close by, be there regularly. The one thing that helps in such a time is structure as one day melts into the next with no reprieve. And your call/meeting may be the start of the process of getting structure back into their lives.

If there is a case for financial support, then you can take it upon yourself to see if you can help muster up some funds from friends.

Finally, don’t worry about what to say. Even if it’s silence when you speak to them, it’s not a bad outcome. It’s the feeling of support that you remember. Be yourself when you meet them and do your best to help. Years after my dad’s passing away, I still remember my two hilarious neighbours who spent long periods with me during that time and just made laugh. They always made me laugh and they didn’t let a difficult time stop them. Meeting them was something I really looked forward to as laughing made me believe all would indeed be okay.

Difficult times are times to just show up and be there. So, show up and be there.

The laptop purchase checklist

We recently bought a laptop and I ran through the following check list before buying it. I hope it helps you with your next purchase. This assumes that you’ll be looking for a Windows machine – I know that isn’t all that safe an assumption to make. I happen to be a Windows and Office fan and love (yes, love) laptops running Windows.

First recommendation – if possible, go to a store to buy the laptop. Next, make sure you know what you’ll use it for. If you are using it for multimedia, a big screen helps. If you plan to travel a lot, lighter laptops help.

Once you know (roughly) what you want, I’d recommending checking the following –

1. Keyboard: Please try the keyboard. We’re going to spend a lot of time typing and a bad keyboard does more harm than good in the long term.
A backlit keyboard is a plus and helps if you have the habit of working late at night.

2. Trackpad: A decent trackpad helps. This is generally mitigated with a good mouse but still useful as we use the trackpad often.

3. Tech specifications should be okay: Almost all laptops will have decent RAM and processor. It is worth isolating your 3 preferred options and checking amongst your 3 options if one has significantly better specs.

4. HDMI + Projector slots. Needless to say, but small laptops often omit one or the other. Make sure you know what you’re getting into.

5. USB 3.0 slots. Good to have

6. SD card slot, sim card slot – Very good to have. Sim card slots help with internet connectivity wherever you travel as you can just get hold of a 3G sim card.

7. Windows + Office. The package makes life easier. We’ve had a good experience with Windows  And, aside from Excel, PowerPoint, I’d also recommend Microsoft OneNote and Outlook.

8. Warranty. 90 days is definitely not enough. I would say 1 to 2 years is good. And if you have to pay a bit for an additional year of warranty, I’d recommend it.

9. Small things worth checking – good sound system and good inbuilt camera. Most laptops have these – so this is more of a quick check.

Once you have all these checked, I’d quickly run your favorite model by a Google search for reviews on CNET/similar websites. Check for –
10. Long term battery life
11. Tech support responsiveness and ease of finding places for repairs
12. Durability.

Once you do all of this, I think you’re set. I hope I haven’t missed anything important out. If I have, do add to the list in the comments.

I hope it helps!

There are always reasons

At any given time, there are always reasons to be unhappy. There is always something in our life that’s not ideal. Some of these problems are long term while some others are short term. In an absence of long term issues, the short term problems can have us reason that, after this period, we’ll be 100% happy and positive. Why not sulk and play victim for just a bit?

You don’t need me to say it doesn’t work like that. Perhaps you need me to remind you (and if you don’t, I certainly do. :)) that being a source of positivity is a giver’s action. So, if you’d like to be a giver, give. Give by being your best – despite everything that’s going on. There are many others with tougher problems who could do with a bit of happiness in their day and who need a reminder that things get worse before they get better. Why can’t that come from you?

It can. The tough part about giving your best is not making the commitment. It’s the daily act of re-commitment.

Influences and copying

We’re amidst an exciting period at Help2Grow. As we’re waiting for some legal formalities to be done to do our first field work, we are also in the midst of thinking about how to structure and build a 100+ year initiative. As pre-work for an upcoming call, I had sent a Bezos-esque narrative/4 page memo with my thoughts. The team has been sending their replies via memos detailing their thoughts. I expect to combine all of this into a final pre-read memo for us to read either before the call or in the first few minutes.

In one of the responses, a friend remarked – “Our narratives seem to closely follow what we read recently. Real leaders project’s about page contains strong references to ‘so good they can’t ignore you’. 200words project and Help2grow to Jeff Bezos. It will be interesting to collect these trends and look at the underlying basics someday”

He’s right. I’m amidst reading “The Everything Store” by Jeff Bezos and have been adopting his approach of writing memos/narratives as a way of preparing for meetings. He is also right that a lot of what we do often closely follows what we are reading. This flows from my belief in influences.

First, I think influences make or break us. Most of our thoughts are influenced by people we meet or books we read. We are very often the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. This is where books are critical – while it isn’t really easy to change our environment and company at the snap of a finger, it is easy to read a great book. We just need to be open to influence.

Second, great organizations and people are shameless about copying best practices. Sam Walton said that every great Wal-Mart idea had it’s origins elsewhere. The principle behind this is that there are always others who have solved the problem you are facing. For example, the problem I had faced was “how to make meetings more productive?” Thanks to Bezos, I have a solution that works at Amazon. Cue: Copy.

Third, In the process of copying, we inevitably tailor the process/approach to our style. We aren’t great copy cats. So, as we try something new a few times, we make more changes and reach a point where only the principles of the original approach remain. I am not wedded to the idea of narratives before meetings. I do think it’s a great thing to try, however. We’ll know a few months in if it is really adding value. If it is, great. If it is not, we’ll change.

Here, I am inspired by another Jeff-ism that people who are right a lot are wrong a lot. They are willing to change their mind and constantly improve their thesis.

So, we’ll keep experimenting as we build Help2Grow and, in the process, we’ll also make sure we are open to other influences. I said this before and I’ll say again – our influences make or break us.

P.S.: Being open to influence means you will likely experience a mix of both good and bad influence. The good stays and the bad becomes a training in improving your judgment a.k.a. life experience.

Powerless and Powerful

Broadly, I think there are 2 sorts of days – days where we wake up in the morning feeling powerless and days when we wake up feeling powerful.

Powerless days involve stretches of time when we wake up unsure of the day’s prospects. These are the days when the resistance eats at us. These sorts of days most happen when we’ve just made it past a failure or when we are losing hope as we wait for something. Powerful days are the exact opposite. We’re on a roll and believe most things are within our influence.

I’ve realized that the way to move forward on such days is to either relinquish or accept responsibility. On powerful days, we ought to accept as much responsibility as possible  and take it upon ourselves to drive big changes and take big swings. A lot could depend on the actions we take. On powerless days however, I find that it’s best to relinquish responsibility. Don’t worry about the world. Just take care of yourself. Let the focus be wholly on building momentum gradually because momentum is the difference between the 2 states of mind. The more momentum we have on our side, the more we believe in our ability to do things, change things.

And, if you’re unable to build momentum, then go slow, wrap the day up quickly and catch sleep. Some days we’re the pigeon and some days we’re the statue. Start the next day early. Even this will pass away.

Let people finish

During interesting exchanges, I have the annoying habit of showing impatience on my face. This is especially pronounced if I feel I know what the person is about to say.

There are 2 issues with this –
1. I assume I know exactly what they’re going to say. Alarm bells.
2. I assume there isn’t benefit in allowing them to finish. I often clear my thinking while saying it aloud. It would be hypocritical to think others don’t do the same.

So, my exercise for the day – let people finish.

The Radiologist report photo – The 200 words project

Here’s the idea from week 3 of the 200 words project from “To Sell is Human” by Dan Pink.

The skill of a radiologist lies in finding abnormalities that the patient and physician aren’t looking for, such as unexpected cysts.

A group of radiologists were provided with reports including the patient’s photographs for 3 months in a row. They were then randomly asked to screen some of the reports from the previous 3 months, this time with no photographs. Radiologists screen a few 100 reports a day and would find it very hard, if not impossible, to remember which reports had already been screened.

The results showed that they were far less meticulous and less accurate without photos on the report. A reminder of the fact that the person on the report is a human being made a big difference to their accuracy.

This practice has been adopted in top laboratories since and is why our photographs are taken when our blood samples are analyzed. Reminding ourselves that our customers/clients/human are human goes a long way in improving the quality of our work.

‘Make it personal – A great radiologist said that he trained himself to look at every scan as if he was looking at his father’s.’ | Dan Pink

All it takes is for one to work out

I recently spoke to a close friend of mine who is in the middle of a job search. He’d just received 12 rejection letters the previous day and was experiencing that sinking feeling.

That sucks. Waiting is hard. Rejection is harder. But, as I was reminded a couple of days ago – all it takes is for one thing to work out.

When that one thing works out, all those past disappointments don’t matter. It just takes one person to take that leap of faith and give you a shot – give you an interview, sign a check, or give you a job.

So, to all those who are waiting amidst disappointments and rejections, keep at it. Work hard and be good to yourself. All it takes is for one to work out. Good luck.. and most importantly, good skill.