There is a school of thought that encourages you to play hard-to-get whenever and wherever possible.

Playing hard-to-get has been shown to increase leverage in business dealings, contract negotiations, and even relationships. There are some obvious benefits – negotiate harder on your next job’s payment and you’ll have squeezed a few thousand extra dollars. Or, play distant in your relationships and you will have increased your desirability.

I tend to do the opposite.

Instead of negotiating harder, I try to minimize any possible negotiation. Instead of playing hard-to-get, I err on the side of letting people know how much they mean to me and how much I’d love to spend time with them. And, instead of operating with low trust, I choose to trust.

All of this is predicated on picking the right people – people who won’t screw you over if you didn’t negotiate and people who’d love you more for being upfront with them. Sure, it means making a few mistakes along the way and being burnt a few times.

But, overall, I’ve found this to be a happier path. I’m not saying it will work for everyone. But, I definitely think it is a path worth considering before you think about your next optimization.

It is my belief that, in the long run, we all get paid our dues. And, I’ve found that to be true in my limited experience.

Downstream consequences

A few years ago, after a string of bad decisions involving spending money, I decided to cut back by eating less food. I was clearly a stupid 19 year old who felt invincible – at least as far as my health was concerned.

6 months in, I achieved my short term finance goals but ended up with a long term health consequence. I had severe Gastritis and faced a brutal month. The doctor warned me that I needed to eat both regularly and better. She also said I’d done a fair amount of damage over the preceding 6 months and that I’d likely have to be careful for the rest of my life.

She was right. My stomach is comparatively much more sensitive and I experience discomfort if I go through an extended phase with irregular meals. In essence, I am reminded of my stupidity once every 12-18 months. This is one of those periods – I was working on a massive project these past 2 weeks and my meals were all over the place. Cue: stomach issues.

So, today, I found myself kicking off my reflection week by remembering my dumb decision to eat less food 6 years ago that had all sorts of downstream consequences. It made me ask myself two groups of questions –

  1. What other dumb downstream health decisions am I making now? For instance, am I making sure my posture is ergonomic so I avoid back issues when I’m older? Am I exercising enough so I keep my muscles and joints active?
  2. Every decision we make has downstream consequences. Am I considering those consequences as I make these decisions?

Tough questions.

Good questions.

We live and we learn.

I am enough

There is no end to the number of things people around us might want of us.

At any given moment, they could want us to be more patient, caring, confident, assertive, energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, analytical or entrepreneurial.

And, yes, we could get better at being some of those things too.

But, peace, happiness and real change come when we stop ourselves on this endless road and say – “I am enough.”

The difference between the ones who have a strong sense of love and belonging and ones who don’t is simply that the former believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

We can try to be many things. The changes that stay are those that are aligned with who we are. For that to happen, we must first be who we are.

And, that begins with saying – “I am enough.”

Hat tip – Brene Brown

What got you here won’t get you there – MBA Learnings

I’d started a collection of content subscription projects via this blog between 2009 and 2013 – “good morning quotes” on week days, “book learnings” on Sundays, “Monday learnings” on Mondays (this was one I actively participated in vs. initiated) and “Real Leader interviews” every fortnight. All this worked just fine for a few years. They taught me a lot. But, I couldn’t possibly keep doing these forever. As I thought about 2014 during the Christmas-New Year break 21 months or so ago, I decided I needed to embrace change and simplify. So, over the next 6 months, I shut every one of these projects down and integrated every content project into this blog. Effectively, this led to the “200 words project” on Sundays and various categories of posts.

Simpler. Better.

This was my first experience with “what got you here won’t get you there.” All of these content projects played a huge role in who I am today. They helped me build up my discipline muscle, helped me believe in my ability to keep commitments, and also enabled me to connect with some incredible folks around the world. But, for the next step, I needed to change things.

So, as I prepared for my first year in business school last summer, I spent time thinking about the systems I needed to develop. What got me to business school wouldn’t help me at business school. The game had changed. I needed to change too. But, until a month or so in, I didn’t know the answers. All I knew was to ask myself the following questions –
1. What is important here? (priorities)
2. How should I approach this experience? (process goals)
3. Who are people who can help me in my journey? (people)

My recent post on “Digging into my first year process” was a culmination of the approach gleaned from those questions. When you know what you are looking for, the universe often throws in a clue here and a clue there. I had a couple of pivotal conversations in my first month at school that helped me piece together an approach for my first year.

But, as I look forward to a week’s break before the start of my 2nd year, I feel it is time to revisit these questions again. Moving into my 2nd year is like taking on a new promotion at work. A lot of what was important in my first year isn’t as critical this year. I feel comfortable operating the way I operate and could easily do so for another year. But, I can almost hear that voice in my gut screaming as I contemplate the thought of not changing anything. As is the case when you lead change within yourself, the emotions on the surface seem to lobby against it. It generally feels easier to keep the status quo and continue cruising.

But, I’ve learnt to dig deeper and listen to my gut. And, both that voice and the evidence unquestionably point to the fact that the game has changed. I should, too.

What got me here won’t get me there.

The social media scavenger hunt – The 200 words project

Early in 2010, Kaaren Hanson, VP of Design Innovation at Intuit, designed a team-based scavenger hunt with Intuit’s top 15 executives to help them explore the future of mobile opportunities. The executives were still tied to Blackberries (sacred devices at that time) and had trouble visualizing the opportunity with more modern smartphones. Hanson gave out new iPhones and Android devices to each of the teams, along with a list of different activities they had to accomplish before returning back to their base.

This challenge included diverse tasks such as checking in on Foursquare, finding something using a new GPS app, translating a clue given in a foreign language, and scanning a label to see where it came from.

Now that the executives experienced the depth of power and possibility of the new smartphone devices, mobile was no longer some far-off trend . Within the next six months, Intuit’s CEO Brad Smith was making bold statements about Intuit’s commitment to invest in mobile and cloud-based services.

So, when in doubt, consider a war-game!

Even if you’re not ready for a full-fledged immersive environment, your starter fuel for innovation could be as small as inviting new people to your next offsite, starting an important meeting with a personal story, intentionally framing questions in a new or provocative way, or by simply banning the usual materials like PowerPoint. – Lisa Kay Thompson

Source and thanks to: 99u.com

Power to the people

20 years ago, if a journalist wrote a bad review about your restaurant, you were looking at a few dark months.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times wrote a now-famous piece on Amazon’s tough company culture. Amazon’s employees didn’t like it and took to LinkedIn publishing and wrote at least a 100 critiques. For the next 10 days or so, post and counter post dominated the narrative. (My observation is that the biggest winner from that saga was LinkedIn publishing!)

So, if a journalist writes a bad review about a restaurant today, it doesn’t matter as much. Tripadvisor and Yelp matter a lot more than a single review. That’s the right thing. Today, power on the internet is not bestowed. It is largely earned. Thanks to technology, this generation has intuitively understood the wisdom of the crowds.

There’s a lot of talk about how changes in technology are leading us to a world where machines take over. However, the way I see it, we seem to be building technology that is increasingly letting humanity shine through.

And, that’s amazing to see.

The man in the arena

Every once in a while, I find myself thinking about the famous excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” titled ‘Man in the arena.’

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

It reminds me of 2 things –
1. There is very little value I add as a critic. If I really care about something, I should just take ownership and fix it. And, if I don’t, then move on and focus energies on what I am working on. 9/10ths of education is encouragement.
2. It is okay to fail. But, if you do, fail while daring greatly. And, fail by being authentic.

It never fails to inspire me.

Letting go

I am reminded of a popular Buddhist parable – Two monks were about to cross a river when a girl asked a monk to please help carry her across. The monk did.

The two monks kept walking in silence. And, after a few hours, the other monk burst out – “How could you do that?” He went on to explain that this was against all rules around contact with the opposite gender.

To this, the other monk replied – “I dropped her off at the shore. It seems you are still carrying her.”


Counter intuitive

The harder you work, the more you need to let go.

The more you know, the more you need to shut up and listen.

The more you care, the more you need to let people be.

The more you feel like working, the more you need to take a break.

The more you feel like running around in different directions, the more you need to pause and enjoy the moment.

It is always interesting to me that the best decisions we ought to make in a given moment seem counter intuitive.

The interesting part is that, once we train ourselves to listen to our intuition, we realize that our intuitions tell us this as well.

Perhaps they are not counter intuitive after all?