How do you perceive your problems?

A couple of months back, my password-protected door lock started giving issues. When I closed the door, the electronic mechanism just beeped and said “it’s intercepted” instead of the comforting “It’s locked”.

The best I could do to fix this problem was to change the batteries. But no luck. I assumed this complex mechanism has some deep issues pertaining to its software, circuitry, or mechanical linkages that rotate the lever with the help of battery power.

Nevertheless, the door lock remained functional. We could use the key to enter instead of the password. We got used to the “it’s intercepted” voice every time we latched the door.

All this while I dismissed my wife’s request to get the door fixed by calling the support. I began to procrastinate on the repair. In my mind, the problem was too big. First, it will need an expert. Two, the diagnostics will certainly demand a replacement and three the costs for doing this will be prohibitive. Who will explain the issue to the house owner who resides in New York? will he even agree to replace the lock? or do I have to bear the whole expenses?

On the other hand, security was paramount. We live in a safe gated society but the other day we were shocked to realize that our maid could simply walk into the house. Since the doorbell was off, she tried knocking on the door and finally just pressed the door lever and walked in.

We were no longer safe. “It’s intercepted” meant the door lock wasn’t doing its job.

It was an alarm to wake up and ask for support. A few more days passed. We longer relied on the locking system. We simply used the manual door latch.

Today we finally called the support. We raised a ticket and a technician was sent to us. I explained the problem. He quickly checked the batteries and pointed out that one of the batteries had leaked after getting fully discharged. The chemicals have entered the circuit and caused issues. He quickly dismantled the lock, sat down on the floor, sprayed some liquid, thoroughly cleaned the parts, and assembled them. This was done in 5 mins.

He told me, “If it works, you are lucky”.

He closed the door and I heard the comforting “it’s locked” after a long time.

He just advised me to change the batteries frequently and don’t let them drain.

I did not pay a penny, the ticket was closed, and he left.

I learned a big lesson. The bigger the problem in your head, the greater will be your tendency to procrastinate.

Most of the problems in your life need one small action step. A call, booking an appointment, writing an email, raising a ticket. Just take that step.

Mind Sweep

If you are really feeling overwhelmed at this very moment, just do two things.

1. Take a notepad and write down what is occupying your mind space.

2. Next to it just write down what you are going to do about it, just write an action step that you wish to take 

It will just take 2 mins, try it out. You will feel a little better. Incomplete tasks trouble us because they occupy a lot of mind-space. Once you know what you are going to do about it, some steam is released. You might change your action item later, but for time being just do it.

Simple tactics often work but we are quick to dismiss them.

Source: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Freedom comes at a price

There is a price attached to every form of freedom.

Ukraine is fighting tooth and nail against Russia. Someone is paying the price to be free.

Last year Afghanistan fell within weeks. No one was ready to pay the price.

We are free in this country owing to the sacrifice made by freedom fighters, youth, scientists, the army, industrialists, and other revolutionists. They paid the price. Someone is still paying the price.

Applies to individuals as well. Wish to be free? are you willing to pay the price?

Want to quit your job? have you already done the hard work to save enough?

Don’t wish to plan? pay premium

Let me explain. We usually have a breakfast routine on all 7 days of the week. When I say usually, there is always that odd day when we really don’t have a plan or raw material or will or combination of all three to fix a healthy breakfast.

When this happens, we are left with three options:

-Skip breakfast, just have tea/coffee 

-Fix something quick and not so healthy (toast, butter, jam, Nutella)

-Order or go out 

The first two options impacted us later in the day. I get hungry during work, lack of focus followed by a craving to munch snacks till I have a satiating lunch. 

The second option cost us 3-4 times more money. Drive all the way to the breakfast joint, eat something tasty, consume junk calories, and head back home.

All options are easy choices but cost us a premium. Additional decision making, more money, junk calories, and a big compromise on something healthy. 

Lack of planning demands a premium.

New city, new place? You have not planned where to eat? You might end up at a substandard random eatery that might serve bad food or simply charge you more. 

Booking a flight on a whim? Pay 3 times more.

Forgot to renew your passport? Need it urgently now that you have to travel? Pay a premium

The more unplanned life you live, the more premium it will demand from you.

Living life on a whim is what rich people do because they pay a high premium to get rid of planning and decision-making.

Most of us can’t afford that. 

Lending Your Ears

In one of the peer coaching sessions, my coachee took a notepad and started scribbling her thoughts on a notepad. 

It was a Zoom call. As time passed I became a little impatient.

I am supposed to ask questions as a coach.

I started wondering what is my role here?

Why I am even here if the coachee is taking so much time to think and arrive at answers on her own.

After 10 minutes, I started getting a little concerned.

I just waited like a curious parent observing his kid drawing a horse. Holding back his assumptions and thoughts around the five-legged horse that is slowly appearing on the canvas.

The silence was getting louder.

Alok, why don’t you interrupt? What value are you even adding here?

As we passed 15 min mark, she got some clarity and action items.

I asked what was the new realization?

She pointed out a couple of things that she needs to address before moving on to the next steps.

Sometimes you might feel you have nothing to offer in a conversation.

You are wrong, you can always offer your presence. 

It could be any conversation with your friends or close ones. Just offer your presence. Show intent, curiosity, and patience to listen.

If you lend your ear to someone, that is a service too 🙂 

Your expectations are your own creations

Most of the expectations that you live up to are your own creations.

You have a choice to be easy on yourself or stretch when the situation demands.

People only witness the outcome, they don’t have an access to the expectations that you keep in your mind.

You get in trouble when you label your own creations (expectations) as “what people expect from you”.

You eventually take your own freedom. Build a cage and lock yourself in that.

People in general, don’t expect anything from you. You may fail, succeed, get lazy, quit, make money, lose weight no one really cares. 

So get a little creative around your expectations, set them right. Whatever suits you. This concept applies to careers as well.

DIY and the death of Jobs

I recently bought a Wi-Fi booster. It is a simple device that you plug in and extends the range of your main Wi-Fi. As simple it might sound, it does need some very basic skills to set it up. 

First, go to YouTube.

Second, find a short video that gives step-by-step guidelines in a language that you understand.

Three, follow the steps.

Viola!

There was one more approach.

First, scan the QR code on the box.

Second, download an App on your mobile.

Third, follow the steps to set up the Wi-fi booster.

Easy and neat. It took me around 10-15 minutes to get this done.

Had it not been for the guidelines, it was someone’s job to guide me through a customer support call. Youtube and the QR code eliminated that job. 

The same goes for creating your websites. WordPress has the ecosystem and community that enables you to set up a website in minutes.

I can assemble an Ikea chair with their instruction guide. That eliminates few wage hours that economy could offer to a person in need.

Do it yourself or DIY seems to be a bigger threat to jobs than automation.

Why is DIY possible?

A community that is ready to help for free (YouTube)

Technology (QR code)

And most importantly, you are ready to help yourself.

Isn’t that Atmanirbhar? 

Leave your thoughts!

The death of a bread toaster: A life lesson

We love toasted breads and we need around 16 toasts (8 each) two days a week. Tuesdays and Saturdays to be precise. I love toasts with omelettes. Sometimes peanut butter but mostly omelettes. 

Our beloved toaster gave up on us last Tuesday. All these years we operated it on the cancel button to pop the toasts manually. About many many years back the automatic pop-up function of my toaster stopped working. I don’t even remember when that happened. I simply lost track of time. One of us had to be always cautious around pressing the cancel button just in time. 

This bread toaster I am talking about would have completed 8 years this year in August 2022. It was ancient especially in an economy where such devices are designed around planned obsolescence. Three years max, give or take one.

Last Tuesday we could feel the absence of a toaster. We tried warming the bread slices on a frying pan, but it was no fun. 

The output of 16 toasts needed some degree of co-ordination between us. One person had to keep a watch. There were days when we had our share of toasts turned charcoal black. Then the blame game begun. 

The breakfast prep, especially on the days we prepare omelettes is quite hectic. There is boiling tea on one stove, frying omelette on a big pan and then the output of 8 toasts has to be managed on the side. We need this output just in time. A little delay and the omelette would go cold. A little early and the toast would go cold.

All these years, even once it did not occur to us that we might need a new toaster. If something is working, why dispose it?

That’s the trap we all fall into. 

Functionality and intended functionality are two different things. 

The automatic pop-up function of a toaster can be a huge relief. Most of the things in life are like that. We learn to live with them but should we? 

Every small change can make your life better. If it makes your life better do that change.

Getting your cavities filled. Upgrading your spectacles. Changing your sports shoes. Changing the old battery of your laptop. Servicing your air conditioner.

We waited for years to change our toaster. It was a trivial thing but it mattered. A good toast contributed to our joy twice a week. But the good news is we have placed an order for a new toaster, 4 slots, steel, many automatic features and it is arriving today. 🙂

Personality Vs Behaviour (Don’t hate someone for their personality)

There is always that one person at your workplace who just gets on your nerves. Sometimes that person might not even be part of your team.

She could be part of a different team altogether. But when you see her or hear her speaking, you just can’t accept her. You get annoyed and start hating that person. Not only at workplace, but in general you might find that one odd person who irritates you to the core. Restaurants, pubs, bus station, the person sitting next to you at a clinic.

What’s happening?

You are not able to come in terms with their personality. Somehow their personality is not in harmony with your worldview. You think why this person even exists?

What’s wrong?

Actually it has nothing to do with their personality, it has more to do with your thinking and perception. Personalities are formed over number of years, the upbringing, environment, deep personal traumas, the good experiences and bad experiences.

Then what is behaviour?

Behaviour is WHAT we do, personality is how we THINK, FEEL and WHY we tend to behave in a certain way. 

Behaviour is nothing but a response. 

Your boss shouts at you for not following a procedure, that is a behaviour.

It is his response for your action.

Is it justifiable? Absolutely not.

Did you boss have an option to respond in a different manner? Perhaps give you a feedback? Of course!

But instead, he chose to shout at you at that instant.

This is completely unacceptable.

Does this have something to do with his personality? Could be, but it doesn’t give him the right to shout and behave in that manner.

Now you can’t address the personality which could be neurotic, shot-tempered because of genetic or physiological reasons. Your boss tends to overreact at slightest provocations but that overreaction affects people around him in a negative way.

You could definitely do something about shaping the behaviour. You could tell him that this approach is unacceptable or simply go to the HR hoping that they would take some corrective action.

The bottomline is, hating someone for their personality, the way they carry themselves is not correct. They have the right to have a personality, if it doesn’t fit into your worldview, it is your problem.

But don’t go kind on nasty behaviour. You have all the right to respond appropriately if the behaviour of other person affects your well being.

Where to begin your career? Start with a tool

Just after I graduated,  I got a call for interview from Funskool, a toy manufacturer. 

I went for the interview and the interviewer asked me, do you know AutoCAD? 

I said I do know the basics but I can learn. This was a textbook interview answer. I was not very confident around it, the interviewer could sense it.

The interviewer told me you should know this design tool, it is very important. 

I never heard back from them again.

I was not taught all this at the engineering school. Maybe a workshop or two focussed on the use of various tools. The 4 year rigorous course was more about advanced mechanics, dynamics of machinery, thermodynamics etc. All the high end things that I never ended-up applying. After I graduated, I struggled for a job. 

A few years later, I was studying business. B-schools are all about jargons and frameworks. In the two years I never studied any tool as such. Yes, business is an acumen. You learn the language and skills and all the knowledge that enables you to become a generalist. But you never learn a tool except excel and powerpoint. 

Without a tool, the odds are against you. In the interviews you show your knowledge and personality. Thankfully MBA is more personality than actual skills. It is more about interpersonal skills and influencing and knowledge. I used all this and ended-up getting a job.

But years later I realised you are just going to depend on your personality then you will be always vulnerable. Sometimes the situations around you will not enable you to be yourself. 

In that case, you need a tool or a framework that you master.

If you master a tool, you will be objectively better than your competition. Later on you can use personality to grow in your career but start with a tool.