When To Stop.

Sometimes we overdo things. Intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes even with the best interests in our hearts, it is important to realize when to stop. Some of the things that (according to me and NOT in that order) fall under this category:

1) When you are giving advice.

2) Giving detailed instructions.

3) Lying about something.

4) Gossipping.

5) Crying.

6) Being in that place in your life when it seems you have no control over it and all you do is either bitch about it or feel depressed.

7) When it is not fun anymore.

8) When you have tried enough and it is still not working.

9) Talking about mindless things.

10) Talking on one topic for too long.

11) Fighting.

12) When you are caught up in the ‘overs’  – Over-thinking, Over-protecting, over-doing, over-eating, over-indulging, over-estimating, over-planning. You get the drift.

13) Wasting time and life.

14) Punishing.

15) Procrastinating.

16) Underestimating.

17) Abusing or getting abused.

18) Fearing.

19) Regretting.

20) Keeping silent esp over things important to you.

If you find yourself stuck in such patterns, take a break. Pull your mind away from it and analyze. Some things are trivial and some are life-changing. In either case, learn to stop yourself from doing what you are doing and take some time to think. Once you stop, you can decide whether you want to pick it back again or change your course or take some action. But it is important that you stop!


To Believe It Or Not?

[Random Ramblings]

Do you always see the truth? How do you know that whatever you are believing in is really true? How do you know that the facts and beliefs you have based certain things of your life on are true? Does that make the concept of truth subjective?

Sometimes truths and lies no longer remain absolutes. They become a matter of choice. A choice whether to consider something as true or false. Sometimes this choice doesn’t stem from a careful consideration of facts, logical deductions or contemplations. It boils down to what makes you comfortable or makes it easier to live. There could be many things in play when you treat it as a matter of choice. Trust, denial, hope, emotions, convenience, ignorance, blind faith and maybe many more. We make truth a choice because deep inside we know that it has the potential to hurt us or harm us.  Put us through pain. And we are not strong enough to take it. That is when we start choosing what we want to believe in and convince ourselves that we picked the right thing.  Almost proving that “ignorance is bliss”. But this bliss is temporary and shallow. It just tricks us into thinking that we are happy.  It might be pricking somewhere deep inside, raising a tiny voice. But we choose to ignore it. We try to put a band-aid on it and pretend everything is good and pleasant.

It takes courage to see the reality and acknowledge it. It requires us to overcome the fear of losing whatever it is at stake because of this truth and sometimes it is one of the hardest things to do in life. We need to remember that truth is not an opinion. It is not something that demands convincing. It is just there. Whether we see it or not. In my opinion, it is better to be unhappy knowing the truth than to be experiencing happiness derived from a lie. Yes, this is definitely easier said than done.

But in the end, it is still a choice that we all have to make once in a while. And there is no escape.

How Prayers Change

I pray. Seldom. But I do. Today, my prayers caught my attention and left me wondering, what was I praying for a year ago from now? Five years ago? Ten years ago? What was my first prayer?

I could see how dramatically my prayers have changed over the years. I have seen them of various lengths and even more varied in what I was asking for. Wide elaborate list of things that I “want” to just simple Thank You’s to one-liners to even anger or resignation at times to pure silence. I have seen them changing in the meaning they hold for me. Prayers could totally reflect the growth of the person, the situations he/she is in and the way he/she is handling them. I wonder what is it that people ask for from the superior power and with what expectation? I think the baseline is happiness in some form but the way it is wanted is unique for each person. Are prayers the first step or the last? Do you pray when you have tried everything else and are just left with the option of prayers? Or do you begin with prayers hoping everything will go smoothly? Do you pray only when you are in a mess or do you pray all the time irrespective of the situation? How many times have you asked for something for someone else without any of your personal gain, sometimes even if it means you will lose? Do such prayers exist? Do prayers signify strength or weakness?

Sometimes, prayers are soothing. I believe, not because a divine power just showered a river of calmness upon you, but because you could focus on your inner self and realize what it is that you want or feel. And that inner-connection, even if for couple of minutes, brings a sense of warmth and peace. I feel prayers could be a way to understand your own self. After all, they are your own reflections. It could almost be like meditation, but instead of staying still in thoughts, you are focussing on your thoughts. An opportunity for introspection, connections and to be just yourself and talk to your own self through a medium we may call God or Divine Power. I agree that there are other ways to achieve the same end. Prayers could be one of them if they are used as a bridge from you to back to you.

Coming back to the changes, I wonder what will I be praying for ten years from now? Would I be praying at all? Lets see how it goes!

[I hope it is understood by now that by prayers I do not mean religious offerings and elaborate procedures. I just mean words. Words between you and anything/anyone you believe in. Or maybe there doesn’t have to be a receiver at the other end!]





The Pleasure of Morning Breakfast

A peaceful, healthy and tasty breakfast – one of the simple pleasures of  life. Imagine not being in a rush to get to anywhere/anything and having a substantial amount of time in the morning to savor that toast, sipping that tea while enjoying the flavor, digging your fork into a nicely done egg and connecting with your loved ones.

In my opinion, this is a fabulous start to the day! And I believe that a perfect start goes a long way. It’s the first step for a more productive, more calmer and a happier you. It is amazing to see how life’s simplest of things provide the most deepest of feelings and meanings. It is like going back to the basics of existence.

And yet, we seem to be so far away from them. We would have millions of reasons and excuses for not being able to enjoy life. Enjoy in the true sense. Not with meaningless parties, not with chatter that does not matter (that rhymed!), not with watching (absolutely-detestable) reality TV shows. But actually connecting back with your self and the simplest of things you once had time for. Stepping on a crunchy leaf, smell of the wet ground, reading a book over a cup of hot coffee, spending quality time with the closest of your friends and family, watching sunrise and sunset, making out animal shapes in the clouds, staring at the night sky, listening to the waves at the beach, smelling flowers on your way, breathing in the fresh morning air and feeling like you are here to really LIVE.

Do we forget how to enjoy these things as we get more and more engrossed with “life” ? It feels like these things had never existed in our realm. They seem to be like a distant memory and an almost disconnected feeling. It just remains as something-I-would-like-to-do-again but never gets its chance.  It is usually too late when people discover what did they miss while trying to live a life. Ironically, its life itself!

Little bit of time management can work wonders in bringing life back to life. Just pick one simple pleasure per day to really feel and enjoy, the one that brings back the child in you and you would never feel that your life went by a jiffy.

Of course, everyone can define and have their own meaning of life and their own set of things that actually give them pleasure. It is just about rediscovering and reconnecting. Before it is too late!

Work Place Lessons.

These lessons are drawn from personal experiences while working in the software industry. They can be extrapolated to other fields and team settings as well. There are some very obvious lessons that people learn while working. I am skipping some of those and including the ones that were more recent and struck to me like a hammer on a nail. 

1) Learn to shut up – In the age when experts cannot stress less on being more communicative and to speak up one’s mind, I have realized it is equally important to know when to stop talking. Many a times, we tend to repeat the same information over and over again, albeit in different words and sentences without adding much value to the conversation. We also tend to jibber jabber a lot, give out more information than required and might not even realize that it was kind of stupid when weighed by the standards of an intellectual conversation, if at all it was one.  This quality is much more important to cultivate in a professional setting. It is important to attach weight to every word you speak and make sure it adds to the quality of the conversation. If it doesn’t then I think it is better not to speak. And if the person(s) involved are also not bringing out any qualitative discussion, refrain from such conversations. That is just a waste of time and mental bandwidth. This may sound very harsh and too strict, but this is also one of the difficult habits to cultivate which definitely contributes positively in the long run. Being able to keep a check on oneself during conversations and on the type of conversations you are indulging in are essential in shaping your mental faculty as well as personality. Every person will have their own individual definitions for a quality conversation. It is time to find yours and then to stick with it and of course improve upon it over the time. 

2) OK you nailed it! Now move on!– We all have our Eureka moments and its definitely encouraging and gives a moment of adrenaline rush. Okay, sometimes it lasts for more than a moment. But now, don’t feel smug just because one thing that you predicted/proposed came true or worked well. Just learn from it, improve and move on! I don’t mean that don’t feel proud of yourselves. But don’t roll in it for too long and shift you focus back on what you were doing without losing too much time. Leave all the laudatory comments for others to make for you. 

3) You don’t need to explain it- Many a times, we are caught in situations where we find ourselves explaining our actions, thoughts and/or words. Sometimes those explanations might work wonders and solve the problem in hand. But not always! Your explanations will work better when the other person understands your premises and is willing to open-mindedly analyze what you are saying instead of beginning with a prejudiced mind. You need to decide whether you really want to explain yourself. For your rational actions and thoughts, rational people won’t need explanations and irrational people won’t understand it anyway. So make your choice and save your time.

4) Be Specific – As important as it is to know when to shut up, it is equally helpful being specific in conversations, presentations, emails and any such correspondence. Especially while presenting results, proposals, estimates even for a very basic idea, coming up with some numbers and specifics always bolsters up your idea or opinion. That also shows that you are thorough and clear in your thinking and you are taking the idea seriously. You can judge for yourself that which of the following samples would you prefer when you have to make a decision or to get interested in a discussion:
  • a) The above listed idea is likely to improve the team’s efficiency a lot and if implemented can save us many man-hours. It is easy to implement and is cost-effective. 
  • b) The above listed idea has a potential to save 10% time of each team member resulting in a saving of 4*5(Assuming 5 is the team size) 20 man-hours per week. The idea can be implemented using Python language for which we already have expertise in our team and hence it won’t be incurring any additional costs.

5) Sphere of influence –  So you are on the junior side of team membership. Its the beginning of your career and you think that maybe you should first listen to your seniors, learn the work and then proceed from there. But believe you me, that “beginner” phase could last for a while if you don’t step up! There is definitely something to learn all the time. But you also need to work on expanding your “sphere of influence” around yourself. Thats right, its called Sphere of Influence. Have you really thought about what impact is your work generating in terms of say revenue, cost-cutting, improving efficiency, contributing to new products, design, team-work and so on. You get to work every morning, finish the assignments, maybe even work on a couple of your own ideas. But how is your work perceived? How is it affecting your team? More importantly, how MUCH is it affecting and who all is it affecting? That is the sphere of influence. I totally agree that each role could have almost a defined sphere of influence. But that is what you need to work on expanding. Suppose you are a developer working closely with other developers and the product team to develop a new product. Your work impacts your development team, your product manager, your QA team (if there is one) and probably your customers too.  But have you tried to interact with the marketing team or the sales team or directly with the customers to understand what exactly do they need? What if you could bring on that “something extra” to the table and are able to benefit a larger audience? Sometimes this could mean taking up on additional work. But that will definitely help you in the long run by adding new skills, demonstrating your initiative taking ability and leadership qualities and improving the present skills as well as relations. Who wouldn’t want such a player in their company who can always bring that”something extra”! But again, don’t push too much and leave people alone if they don’t really need your services!  

6) Effective Communication – Sometimes we have some bright ideas or there is a question burning within us during a meeting or a presentation. But we hesitate to speak up. Its a very common problem that many people face and they prefer to remain quiet and let the curiosity fade away. Never stop yourself from asking questions, good or bad, or to express something that you feel is relevant and worthy to think about. But the problem here is, we don’t think that our questions are good enough to be asked or our idea is good enough to be thought about! We feel scared of being judged. We take the quote too seriously-” Rather remain silent and be stupid than to open you mouth and remove any doubt” Who cares whether someone thinks you are stupid or not? Would you put more emphasis on what others think about you or fueling your curious mind and give yourself an opportunity to learn, think and improve? 

7) Always have a demand for yourself –  Given the state of the economy, this one becomes a pretty important lesson. Constantly working on your skills and adding new ones will keep you “in demand”. Finding another job if you have to, shouldn’t require you to take a Navy-Seals training program just to prepare for the interviews. You should be on-the-go. This remains true no matter where you are in your career. Whether it is to get that promotion or to make a big leap into that dream job of yours in your dream company or to find a job that you love or just to quickly find another one in case of a layoff. Being in demand helps every situation. 

8) Work on your own projects –  This point could act as a follow up with the previous point. Working on your own projects could be a hands-on way to learn something new and also to improve upon what you already have. Keep reading those technical blogs, contribute to non-profit groups in your field, contribute on forums or maybe just help friends with their projects. These activities usually lead to a win-win situations for everybody. So if you haven’t started yet, then wait no more. Start small and spiral it upwards. Begin with reading blogs and forums and slowly start contributing by asking questions or answering some. Think of a new idea and think on how you could develop on it. It could be a new business or a new app, a new side project at your work or maybe even your new blog! Just keep it coming.

9) Work Life balance – Another one of the toughies! The domain of the zen! But in reality, its NOT. Its more to do with your mental makeup than actually being unable to bring the balance. As they say, once you conquer your mind, you can conquer anything. So how many times have you come back from work thinking you would finally read that book or hit out to the gym or cook a healthy meal or spend some real quality time with your friends and family but instead ended up thinking -” Oh I am too tired. Lets do it some other time” and heated some frozen food, watched some mindless sitcom and went to bed? Sounds too much like your routine? Well, it IS a routine. And before you realize, you would have spent most of your evenings this way for years together! All you need to break the rut is to tell yourself that as your mornings are devoted to your career and work, your evenings are devoted to work on your own self and you should never be too tired for that! You work on your self could be defined by you. But if you hear yourself giving this excuse of being tired from work way too many times in a week, its time to take notice and analyze if you really are that tired. Its a clear sign of lack of motivation and you need to work on it asap! Also another reason creating this imbalance is your habit of bringing work home. You have eight hours in the morning to do it. Once in a while, it is okay in the face of a crucial deadline, but if its a habit, you might want to look into your time management skills and efficiency. 

10 ) Being Aggressive –  In a good way and not in physically pushing your colleague if he/she doesn’t agree with you! A certain level of aggression helps in all spheres of life and pushes you in achieving goals faster. Making things happen is a much desired quality rather than waiting for them to happen or let them happen while you sit and watch. Transforming into a sloth is much easier than to be the hare who hops around all day. But these days, the hare is also the one that wins the race, assuming it didn’t go to sleep in the middle. Aggression could relate to taking the initiative, grabbing those opportunities that come across your way, shooting that email without procrastinating, asking that question instead of pondering for half a day whether you should ask or not and many more situations big and small.

There is lot more to learn and continuously being aware of your environment and looking at it as a feedback loop can enhance your thinking and personality to remarkable extents. Equally important is being introspective and take some time to analyze your own self both in terms of your professional as well as personal life. We anyway spend one-third of our time at our work. With that significant chunk of our time going there, better make sure its worth it.