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One More Kind of Social (Media) Distancing

Doesn’t it sound wonderful to be able to travel the whole wide world from the palm of our hand? In the trying times that we are living in, especially so! A lot of people would argue that the pandemic has been easier to deal with due to digital technology keeping us connected. And rightfully so. But at what point should we stop and start observing the damages it lays on our minds and bodies?

I recently watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix and felt inspired to write about the impacts social media has on our lives. Data harvesting, digital cloning, persuasive advertising – the list is long. We end up comparing ourselves to others, feel anxious when new notifications don’t pop up, and eventually depressed as a result of all factors combined.

However, I noticed that while there is a lot of education about how social media is impacting us, not a lot of people are talking how to get out of the comfort zone of social media and move towards finding a more fulfilled reality. How does one find the support to make that shift? How does one even begin? Finding a starting point is always the hardest.

Quitting social media cold turkey is not an option. However, reducing our reliance on these platforms might be a smarter approach for working towards rebuilding ourselves and leading more effective and purposeful lives.

First things first, understanding how your social media accounts make you feel will make a world of difference. If a news outlet is constantly putting out fear-inducing content, check in with yourself if it makes you anxious. If it does make you anxious, unfollow that page. You will always have the option of going back to them and having a quick peek without them cluttering your news feed with nerve-racking content. You can call it a spring clean, the Marie Kondo way, or maybe even the first step towards finding your Ikigai.

How about creating a strategy that works for you? Does setting time limits make you feel better about your social media usage? Or replacing social media time with other, more fulfilling activities is an approach you prefer? This step will require introspection. But performing the smallest action towards change will create a world of difference in the long run. This small action will induce fear, which I have spoken about in depth here.

When the need to be perfect in the eyes of others loses its hold on you, you automatically allow room for self-growth. Perfection often induces the feeling of being judged, which in the long run makes us anxious and fearful individuals, looking for approval because various reasons, comfort with the self was never a priority.

Some introspection and inward focus is definitely required to trigger a thought process of love, compassion and respect for the Self! These are areas that we have been conditioned to ignore. Finding a balance between staying connected with people through technology and using that technology to ‘sell yourself’ on social media will give you the room to explore the self.

A mindful approach towards using these platforms will bring happiness and keep your inner self at peace. By limiting your use of these platforms, you will finally have time to focus on personal growth and professional success.

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From Poison to Potion : Ditching the Comfort Zone for Success


“Before anything great is really achieved, your comfort zone must be disturbed.”- Ray Lewis


As we get used to living in a pandemic state of mind, we are continually enforcing restrictions on ourselves. These restrictions, while they seem physical, also end up playing a part on our psychological functioning. Because of these new changes, we often find ourselves seeking out our comfort zone and doing things that we like and enjoy. This is the upside of our comfort zone.


As with most things, comfort zones also have a downside. But before we get to that, what are comfort zones? And why do they exist? In simple words, comfort zone is exactly what it sounds like. A place of comfort, a place of familiarity where doing something doesn’t make you think twice. One may feel at ease in their comfort zone because they are in control of the environment without having to do tasks that create stress or anxiety.


However, when one is deeply rooted in their comfort zone, the only way to get rid of discomforting situations is avoidance. For example, you want to expand your network and build connections to grow your business. But initiating conversations is uncomfortable and you are fearful of their judgement. In order to avoid these fears, you would much rather avoid initiating conversations with strangers.


However, isn’t the goal in life to constantly challenge ourselves and evolve to be a better version of ourselves?  The truth is that settling into our comfort zone only immobilizes us and gets in the way of our aspirations. Fear has a big role to play here. As absurd as it may sound, the one true way to break out of the comfort zone is to feel the fear and recognize it to navigate & channel it in the correct direction.


When we are within our comfort zone, we often accept our fears and challenges even though we know they are not working for us. This always stops us from achieving what we want in life. Awareness and acceptance is imperative so that we can identify the beliefs that create the challenges and fears.  Most of us stop at this awareness and realization and do absolutely nothing about it. In fact, we keep talking about our challenges which reinforces the belief and keeps us in the same place.  It becomes an affirmation! Stepping out of our comfort zone would require a continuum of creating awareness and defining next steps.


At first, it may feel impossible to step out of comfort zones without having some sort of discomfort. We may even feel powerless. However, making that effort stepping out of comfort zones is imperative because it creates a sense of purpose which will be driven by  focus, productivity, creativity, and the drive to get things done. The drive comes from how and what we FEEL about the change. It’s the underlying emotion that motivates us to identify the purpose and find the intrinsic motivation to take action. Something as simple as switching the way we do a certain thing  and, agreeing to try something we would not usually do, and then moving on to confronting our fears and making plans to face them. Once we do this, stepping out of our comfort zones will become a habit. We will be able to build the confidence to go after our goals with vigour and not let anything hold us back.


The result of one little shift is truly transformational! The process leads to a revelation of our own inner power which I must say is way deeper than ‘confidence’. The energy of this inner power then acts as a catalyst to work of the fears and beliefs that hold us back. The levels of resilience, inspiration and optimism multiply as we discover our true selves, our true worth and our real value. Instead of just surviving within our comfort zones, we will thrive outside it!

Yes, it’s an on-going process, but every step in the transformation brings a renewed sense of purpose to write our own life story!! A story that speaks of self-love because we find the courage and compassion to act towards realizing our dreams. It certainly takes doing to manifest to believe in this miracle of empowerment.


Through working towards stepping out of our comfort zone, we will have finally removed the poison of comfort zones from our lives and made it the potion that lets us fly!!


What do you think about comfort zones? Would you like to break out of them? Need a little push? Write to me at with your thoughts. I am always looking forward to hearing from you!


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Working Though The Fog of Fear

Historically, fear is one of the things that has kept alive. Fear has helped human beings anticipate danger, recognize it, and respond to it to protect ourselves. In one way or another, it has helped us evolve.

But just like we have evolved, our fears have evolved too. While primitively, most of our fears were supplemented by external stimuli, we have now started recognizing how our fears are guided by our internal thought processes. Fear from being able to promote action, has now become an emotion that restricts action. The fear of making mistakes, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being scrutinized… Ultimately, they are all a manifestation of one kind: The fear of being evaluated.

This fear of evaluation usually stems from two places, one, our belief system and two, the way our society works. In my previous blog post, I wrote extensively about our belief systems and how change can be initiated by changing our beliefs. While that seems easier said than done, we must understand that our apprehensions about change also lie in the way society perceives us and responds to our own actions. Do our beliefs hold the key to our fears?

Since childhood, we are taught that our merit lies in how others perceive us. For example, one passes a subject or fails an exam based on the marks they score. As we grow up, we start recognizing the merit-based system in our professional lives. We work hard towards targets in order to receive a promotion. This system pushes us to want to perform or act in a certain way, and in that need to always prove our success to the world, we develop what can be called performance anxiety. This is the fear of failure, manifesting before we have even begun a task.

Our awareness and expectation of being judged continues to increase, as judgment pervades our lives. Implicit messages of comparison are experienced vicariously by viewers of talent shows in which competitors are judged for artistic, culinary, fitness, physical appearance, and social skills—Miss Universe, Masterchef, Dance Nation etc. We are overwhelmed with explicit judgments as we monitor the number of “likes,” “favorites,” “retweets,” positive emoticons, and the kind of comments on our online status updates.

We are unknowingly driven by the need to be perfect. Societal conditioning has forced our belief system with the need to be perfect all the time. This perfectionism lives and breeds within our fear of evaluation. When we are afraid of what might happen and the consequences of it, we do not often make the best choices. What do we do instead?

The pressure of perfectionism and the fear of evaluation manifests itself in many ways. We start procrastinating instead of doing the task at hand. We think and think and think about it. We lose ourselves to thought. We go into our shell. Our mind tricks us into thinking that if we don’t do the task, there will be no evaluation to follow it. We start indulging in defensive behaviors to protect ourselves from the way evaluation would make us feel.

These behaviors often weigh negatively on our minds and bodies. They exhaust us, suck out all our energies that we could have used to get things done. They make us limit our options so that there are fewer negative outcomes of our choices.

But hold on. This may seem like a vicious cycle of perfecting, evaluation, next task, perfection and evaluation again. Basically, most of us live in the Fog of Fear. What is this fear? Where does it come from? And can we do something about it?? I guess these are questions most of us have asked ourselves at various points in our lives without really being able to address the underlying fear.

But there is a way out. Rather than focusing your energies on performing, dedicate some time to introspection. Observe your thoughts, feelings and actions. Ask relevant questions – where is this fear coming from? Why does this fear exist within you? Listen to yourself. Introspect on the FOG of Fear – Feelings, Options and Goals – and use it to your advantage. Understand your motivation of being perfect. Is perfection leading you to intellectual arrogance? Are you then using this behavior to judge others, followed by words and actions that are not always encouraging when someone slips up?

Wanting to do the right thing is not always wrong. Perfectionism is not your enemy. But what motivates you to be this way can relieve a lot of stress this behavior can bring – not only on yourself but others around you too. When you understand your perfectionism, you stop using it as a benchmark to judge others. You end up creating calm and safe environments for yourself and people around you to flourish, grow and conquer. All by just listening to yourself.

Would you like to talk about your fear of evaluation? Want to understand how to grow from it into being successful individuals? Write to me at I am always looking forward to hearing from you.

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Who Holds the Key to Change?

Beliefs define the world for us. They are the colored glasses from which we see the world. This color is the filter through which we perceive everything in life – from people, to habits, to religion, to politics and everything else in between.

These beliefs over time help us make decisions in life. In his book Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling, Dr. James E. Alcock said, “Our thoughts and feelings, our actions and reactions, respond not to the world as it actually is—for we never know reality directly—but to the world as we believe it to be. Because of our beliefs, we brush our teeth or don’t bother; we eat certain foods and avoid others; we worship one deity or another or none at all, and we rely on scientific medicine or homeopathy to cure our ills.”

Now, there are three kinds of decisions we make in our life: emotional, spiritual and practical decisions.

Emotional decisions are often based on how you are feeling or want to feel when you make that decision. For example, calling your mother up and telling her about your day will make you feel good.

Spiritual decisions go a little deeper than that. They are a little more intuitive. You may call it “that little voice at the back of your mind”, or “your gut feeling”, or “the right feeling” etc. This decision process could also be your connection to God, or The Universe.

Practical decisions are steeped in logic. For these decisions, we often use rational tools and how much utility the decision will have in your life. These come as a result of thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and some degree of forecasting. For example, choosing to eat an apple over a cookie, due to sheer calorific difference and not how either of those make you feel.

What determines the choices and decisions we make? What makes people decide on the path they take? The variable factor is belief .All decisions and choices are driven by a belief.We do whatever we do because we believe and the beliefs we hold are the bedrock of our personality.

However, there is often another aspect that comes into play. When our beliefs seem true over and over again, they start becoming our biases. What we don’t often end up seeing are the circumstances that make our beliefs seem repeatedly true, and therefore, start believing our biases.

So then, how do we identify our biases? How do we overcome them internally to make better decisions outwardly? How do we do things differently to get different results?

While this is a large conversation to have over a blogpost, there are small changes we could start incorporating internally.

We could begin with identifying internal dialogue. Becoming aware and understanding a relationship with the self may be painful, but it is important to identify patterns. Sometimes, our weakness tends to become our identity. We internalize it to it being the only defining factor of ourselves. For example, a large woman thinks of herself as only fat – this is an adopted bias from the society she lives in. But she is a lot more than just that, right? She is also smart, has had perfect scores in college, and is a wonderful friend. By understanding that she is a lot more than just her appearance, she can make better, happier decisions in life.

In their book Prisoners of Belief, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning  said, “People are limited by their own negative restrictive beliefs about themselves and the world. They surround themselves with bars of conviction”. For change or transformation to happen these bars of belief need to be shifted.

Our thoughts create and reaffirm our beliefs. So, how about changing the way we think? Thoughts and emotions are based strongly within our beliefs and the biases we have formed over time. By making the effort to bring about minuscule changes in our thoughts, belief systems and behaviors, we can truly create the ability of changing our mindset. It certainly takes time and effort to work through beliefs that determine who we are and the complete shift would happen only when we are convinced that a limiting belief can be replaced with a belief that works for us !

While it is easier said than done, it’s definitely worth starting somewhere! Doing the same thing again and again, and expecting different results, doesn’t really work, does it?

Are you looking to work on your beliefs  and innovate to create better results? Write to me at today!

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Leading a team that works from home

Let us face it. We are living in strange times and stranger things are happening every day. Team and social dynamics have changed  resulting in a huge change in workplace processes. Above all, emotional and mental health are at a real and present risk!l Businesses have gone online, everyone is at home, schools have shut down and stress levels are at an all-time high.  And in such times, managing and leading a team that works remotely is everything but easy!

I am often asked when talking about this issue: How should the team stay engaged? Can we manage timelines as we used to? How can we make sure that it is a disciplined effort from all employees?  

I often answer this by first mentioning that social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. An aware and authentic leader can bring out the best in their team. By communicating openly and being accessible, it is possible to recreate an effective and efficient team when working from home. 

By enabling a shift in mindset for the team, the leader can create the readiness to change. 

Here are a few ways of how you can achieve that.

Be Empathetic.

Empathy is one of the few skills that forms the foundations of emotionally intelligent leaders. While it may sound like an easy skill to have, it requires nurturing and practicing to be good at empathising. It places emphasis on the whole person, rather than just the task at hand. Putting yourself in your team members’ shoes and deeply understanding their situation will therefore, not only help them with their tasks, but also help you understand how your team is performing. 

Asking questions about your employees’ well-being, listening without interrupting them, and leading from within are a few ways you can start being empathetic. Aim to truly understand their situation and their motivation that drives them, without interrupting with opinions or suggestions. 

Empathy is a valuable emotional capital that establishes trust and loyalty. It is the glue for interpersonal communications that help your employees feel understood. By understanding what is driving them will help drive a shift towards the new order of things.   

Be Organised.

Clearly setting out objectives and spelling out timelines often leads to having profound results. However, being organised does not mean being strict. Allowing flexibility for the team and everyone’s working hours not only helps productivity, but also allows the team some room to balance work and personal life.

Communicating regularly, managing expectations and working hours, keeping a track of your team’s efforts and pitfalls, and maintaining a team objective are essential when keeping the team focussed and spirited. These will also help a team stay present in virtual discussions, by creating a professional and formalised environment. 

Be Trustful.

Trust is one of the building blocks to an effective team, and applies to both, remote teams and those working in the same space. However, it is essential that this trust is a two-way street. A manager should be able to trust that their team is working to the best of their abilities. At the same time, a team must have faith that their leader is always looking out for their best interests.

Running trust-building exercises, checking in with your team on how you can help them do better, understanding their schedules, and letting go of some of the control can help a team learn trust better and in effect, it can all make you a better and more effective leader. 

It would be safe to say that re-establishing trust in a changed environment would involve stating your intent, demonstrating integrity to establish new team culture with increased emphasis on inclusion and engagement.

Be Appreciative.

At first, working from home can feel incredibly liberating for a team. But slowly, it gets lonesome. A team that is used to working in the same physical space can start missing their work buddies, their time away from home, and the ability to focus without interruptions.

Small rewards for your team often can reinforce that they are doing well and that their work matters. Calling up your team, thanking them for their work, and making an effort to go a step further is a good place to start.

It is always good to remember that appreciation breeds optimism. In over 20 years of research, optimism has been observed as one of the foundational stones for self-reliant and effective individuals. So by being appreciative, you are not only helping your team be optimistic, you are also helping with an increased productivity. 

Be Patient.

Give time. These are extremely unexpected times and situations. Allow room for your team to adjust to this new normal and help them find their footing. By being patient, you are also giving yourself some time to understand how your team works and behaves. This will give you perspective on the kind of management style that will work best for them in these tough times. 

While there is no single trick to learn patience, by allowing yourself to slow down a little will help your employees feel at ease and in a more optimistic frame of mind. Rather than following up on timelines everyday, following up on the progress of the task more regularly will ensure that your employees feel purposeful and accountable. 

While the tides continue to change, this is a new normal we will all have to accept. Working from home will now become a big shift in the corporate sector and leadership must be equipped to manage that change effectively. Developing skills that build trust will help increase motivation and optimism to foster innovation. By being all of the above, leaders will not only make the transition easier, but also help achieve results! 

Easier said than done, though! The change is global and some foundational skills for managing teams need to be implemented  along with setting direction and value creation for the team while being relevant to the current situation. It’s also imperative to establish accountability and a rhythm of doing business in a different and changing environment. For the leader to deal with these changes and manage his own emotional and physical well being is quite an arduous task.

 He would need to enhance  self-awareness, self-direction and more broadly, self-management, 

Leaders would need to  find answers for themselves and develop their own problem-solving skills. They could consider being coached at an individual or organizational level as coaching uses a process of inquiry so that  individuals can access their own energy or inner strength to reach their own level of awareness.

The process  builds accountability by providing a safe forum for people to honor the commitments they have made. These commitments advance personal and organizational growth.

Coaching is collaborative as well as interactive. It is like a dance rather than a premeditated or prescription process. The shared experiences, insights and solutions generated during meetings move the person forward, which also allows the manager as a coach to grow even more. The process also helps people become more observant so they can better respond to the events, problems or situations that arise.  The manager and leader would also be able to understand the relationship between feedback and coaching; when does one lead to the other?

If you’re a leader who is experiencing the challenges that come with the shifts in team & social dynamics please do get in touch with us for a free conversation at

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Anxiety to Conscious Choice

Are you feeling caught up in a spiral of thoughts that result in anxiety? Stressed out about the current situation at hand? Let me reassure you that you are not alone. The current pandemic has upended life as we know it for most of us. 

There seems to be a constant struggle to keep the boat of life afloat and along with that comes an array of emotions. It is a natural response to external stimuli and people all over the world are dealing with conditions that fuel anxiety. In fact, the complexity of the current global scenario has created a context for anxiety to thrive. It’s affecting millions of people in brutal ways. Research shows that anxiety and stress often have adverse effects on a person’s mental and physical health. It can lead to a lack of motivation towards work and can lead to us feeling unproductive.

Wouldn’t it be therefore prudent to work towards a mindset where we can get ‘smarter’ with how we grapple with this anxiety and it’s causes? One of the first things we can do is observe our stream of emotions and thoughts. What am I feeling? Asking oneself that question is often a good place in starting to understand what we are feeling. Am I feeling sad? Maybe frustrated? Am I angry, overwhelmed or anxious? Or what if I am feeling all of these? Identifying our emotions often is the first step in processing them.

The trick is to create a level of self awareness where we are able to identify exactly what we are feeling and thinking. The next step is to acknowledge and accept that thought and feeling which will give us a glimpse into our behaviour patterns in these uncertain times. 

So, how does self awareness and knowing yourself help? Do you have a mindset that allows you to change? And if you are able to look at changing perspectives then you may want to use this adversity as a springboard of opportunity. Anxiety is a response to something that comes to us from the outside. What if we find the inner power to begin the change within so that a change in the environment can be manifested? While looking at the bright side may feel easier said than done, one way to turn yourself from the overwhelming negative sensations is to find something to be grateful for. 

Gratitude has been a consistent catalyst for all round happiness. It’s been known to trigger a sense of abundance and positive, peaceful emotions and higher vibrational energy. Gratitude for the tangible and intangible results in connecting with something larger and higher than the self.  It could be gratitude for the smallest of things like the safety of your family and pets, or something more abstract like your access to things that can keep your mind occupied with positive things.

We are often unable to control and influence things around us. But controlling our mind and body, we can change our lives and make a positive difference to ourselves and those around us. This will not only make it easier to handle the coronavirus pandemic, but it will prepare us for any uncertainties we may face in the future.

Research has time and again proven that gratitude leads to optimism. Allow yourself to make gratitude a conscious choice. The gratitude and resulting optimism will help innovation during these stressful times!

Inviting you to explore our webinars to learn the art of loving life! EQ For Success

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SaPpHire was conceived as a program for women, by women and of women. 3 of our coaches felt International Women’s Day 2020 would be a great day to begin.


The purpose of SaPpHire is FOR women to achieve their chosen place in society and at work. It is designed to be respectful of your environment, and of the choices you make. It is for this reason that we sought the inputs of women around the world to speak from the heart about what they want to improve in their lives. That’s fundamental – because the program is BY women. With SaPpHire, we aspire to create new and exciting success stories that can define the achievements OF women.

The Beginning

On International Women’s Day, we rolled out a survey to ask women the world over about their lives. The response has been outstanding. We received responses from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The things you have told us will go a long way in creating valuable engagements in the days ahead. Data collection is still going on as of 23 March, and if you know somebody who would like to add to our collective knowledge, ask them to Take the Survey.

Program Structure

SaPpHire will be structured to ensure you can participate at your convenience. We do not intend to pull you out of your home for any length of time unless you want to. Consequently, we will build both online and in-person programs, and depending on what you choose, will try to bring the available solution to you.

It will be based on four basic constructs, and will be customized to your desired outcome. It will then guide you through breaking the outcome into manageable activities that you can keep track of, and a model using which you can maintain the discipline of following through.

SaPpHire fully understands you have busy schedules. Our objective is to create a routine such that you take on just one or two things per week. The belief is that if you are able to identify the right things, and pursue the 80:20 rule, then you should achieve your goals over time.

Of course, some goals will be complex, involving other people. Our experienced and qualified Life Coaches are great resources to resolve those dilemmas with. They’re all women, and they are good at what they do!

What Next?

If you haven’t taken the survey, please do so HERE. If you want more information

Call : +91-9810482226, or

eMail :, or

If you want us to contact you, please fill the following Form


Thank you for your interest in SaPpHire. We are sure that if we work on our aspirations together, we can create the stories the world needs to see – of successes, of achievements and of us taking the place we choose for ourselves in society and at work!

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Are you struggling with the meaning of success?

I originally wrote this more than a year ago on Rajiv Srivastava’s blog. This is a word for word reproduction.

If this question isn’t haunting you, then you don’t want to read beyond this sentence. This will be more interesting to people like me who aren’t that sure.

For the first several years of my professional life, being successful was never a problem. I did well at almost everything, every employer I left wanted to retain me and I never had to look for a job because head hunters or old contacts came calling.

Then something changed. I didn’t try to switch my job so there’s no question of my employer trying to retain me, and head hunters did call, and for all purposes, though not as fast as before, my career did move forward. But I just didn’t feel great any more. And then the doubting started…

At first, I refused to believe something was changing. I had an inkling that the change was that I wasn’t enjoying what I did as much as I did earlier. But I was in my early 40s with another 20 years or more of productive life before me. How could I accept that I was bored of what I had done till now? And I had no answer to what I would do over the next 20 years. No, this wasn’t acceptable. I would get over this tomorrow…but tomorrow never comes.

Several months later, I did accept that I wasn’t enjoying myself. No, I didn’t do a Harsha Bhogle. My experience is not the story you would publish in a magazine, but it did help me put a better perspective on what I meant by success. And after all that I have done, I feel a lot happier, and a lot more successful. I thought I’d share it with people who may be going through the same challenge.

The first thing I said to myself is that I would be brutally honest with myself. Many of the things I didn’t accept about myself in the past were because they were not hip and happening, and they were designed for acceptability in circles that mattered to the world I had submitted myself to. The only circle that should have mattered, and that didn’t, was me. The first of these was the narrow definition I had given to success. All it meant to me was which company I worked for, what my designation and level were and whether I was getting ahead in my career or not. Just how much of my success I had placed in the hands of people and dynamics that were driven by organizational politics, flavors of the day, and other such things that had little to do with how well I did and more to do with how the coin dropped at the toss.

I decided to change all that. But I couldn’t get around to relegating my career to the back burner. It still matters a lot to me, probably as much as it ever did. So I decided to keep it as a very high priority. But not the only one. I asked myself hard questions about what really mattered to me. Like all good, educated middle-class men, family came first. It’s a different story just how true it turned out to be but that’s another discussion and I will come to it at the right time. I did, by the way, include family. I eventually identified 7-8 aspects of my life which I had never bothered about earlier. There was my profession, my finances, my spiritual self, my physical self, how I wanted to be perceived by the world,  my emotional self and what challenges I wanted to throw at myself. Then I started putting down things that fit into these categories. I struggled quite a bit because there were overlaps. But eventually I worked out where I wanted to go with each of these aspects. So I set specific tasks – nothing very complex – but realistic tasks that I could achieve in 6 months and 12 months time. For example, in the physical self section, I set myself a goal of achieving a golf handicap of 14 (down from 18) in 6 months time. And I did.

So was I successful or not? Sure. And my handicap had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with anyone else. I felt in control, and I felt a sense of achievement and satisfaction. I’m your average corporate party animal. It seemed a bit incongruous for someone like me to have a spiritual goal. No, I don’t intend going into the Himalayas and meditating till there’s an anthill growing all over me. But nothing stopped me from setting a goal of reciting a specific mantra 1,00,000 times. I did. Not one, but two of them. Now I’m not sure it sounds like an achievement to you, but it did to me, and that’s the other big change that came over the way I was looking at success. Yes, what you think no longer matters, mate. Because in areas other than my profession, it is I who will judge achievement, not anyone else.

So is this the approach of a loser? I thought about that too, because I’m essentially competitive, and my last 20 years in a professional career in IT, mostly in American MNC’s, has ensured that line of thinking. Anyway, I tried to fight the thought away. But every day, I would think about my new “successes” and the way I was measuring them, and wondered if I was fooling myself into believing that I was achieving something meaningful. So I set about another exercise. I created a Word document titled “Me”, and I wrote down everything I have done that I’m proud of since I can remember, things that meant a lot to me when I did them. Some of those things are completing the Raid-de-Himalaya motor rally in 2007, took a hat-trick in a cricket match (all bowled) when in school, made a blemishless 10 minute speech on Clive Lloyd at age 8 before 200 people and so on. Can’t think of too many people who can say all of those things. And they were successes in things that had meaning for me. So that helped me understand that if I consider myself the center of the universe, then things that matter to me are more important than things that matter to others. And if I’m being successful at achieving those things, then where’s the question of whether those things are meaningful or not; of course they are!

There’s actually 20 odd things I wrote down. I already know the 21st. I’m going to make a list of 100 things I want to do before I die; if I do 50, I’ll die a happy man, more importantly, a successful man!

Go take your success into your own hands. I’m not advocating you give up or slow down on what you do. But try not to make only what the world sees as success as your benchmark. Its a good idea to create your own definition of success and then achieve it. This is not a new idea. It’s just my experience of living through it.

Golden question. Do I consider myself a success now? Not completely, but I have many more open roads to success now than the solitary one I saw a year ago, and that one had a menacing roadblock along the way.
I am sure this will help some people form their own thoughts and routes to how they want to view success.

Here’s wishing them success!
best wishes

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Are you struggling with the meaning of success? – Answers to some questions

Last week, I was blitzkrieged by the number of responses to the post sharing my experiences on the meaning of success. Thanks everybody who took the time to read and comment (24), “liked” (18) and forwarded (3) it. I tried to respond to each one individually, but then thought it is better to just go and write a sequel. I’m hoping this will be the only one J

I realize every individual has to deal with a unique situation, and therefore the uniqueness of the questions. Each one is important. For brevity, I’m highlighting two that came in early, and encapsulate quite a few things.

Renu Dhar “Great Sanjiv. You have put your thoughts nicely together. One thought i have do we have to wait till we are in 40’s can’t we balance it or do we have to leave one part of life to achieve the other part I am sure you must have gone through this phase do share your experiences.”

Ashish Uchil “Awesome Sir, my view goes a step further to your last line and a bit contrary ” good idea to create your own definition of success and then achieve it “….by doing this, you would love the path to success, and if you love what you do. higher chances of achieving success, The moment you hit high strike rates, you are perceived to be successful, however – whoever looks at it! Makes sense?”

Before I write any more, I do want to clarify that I have permission from both Ashish and Renu to reproduce their comments in this post. I’m footnoting this because of my experience with Microsoft and exposure to its Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) team which has instilled this discipline. If you’re reading this and you’re from LCA, you’re winning! Naru hinted this should be titled “getting away from the rat race”, but I’m just keeping the title because it’s a sequel.

So Renu’s ponderings (not verbatim) are…

  • Is there a time or age when you start building the balance and defining success for yourself?
  • Is it necessary to sacrifice some part of what we do to be able to achieve the other part?

…and Ashish believes this needs a strong closure, namely

  • …by doing this, you would love the path to success, and if you love what you do, there are higher chances of achieving success any which way you look at it.

Honestly, I never thought about whether there’s a good time/age to start. Let me tell you when I started. It may give you some idea. There were two distinct periods. I wasn’t very strong academically, and I have wondered since my school days whether I’m being successful or not. It continued well into my professional life. In the early part, I became really good at what I did. That built up a lot of self-belief. The obvious success meant I put everything into my job since I believed it was helping me out of the insecurity. But that may have been when things started working against me, without my realizing it.

I know that’s a contradiction, but it was the point where I created the one and only dimension of success in my mind – my job – and that stayed with me till several years later. As I dropped much of what I enjoyed and directed my energies in the sole pursuit of professional success, I laid the foundation for a mind that was kidnapped by its alter-ego, my other self. I believe my alter-ego had been fed on the uni-dimensional mantra of success – that which is achieved professionally and is represented by wealth, power, fame etc. Essentially, that’s when I lost the balance. Two things I want to make clear here – first, I’m not looking for the enemy without; and second that there’s nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth, power and fame. My alter-ego is mine to use the way I choose. It was being consumed by the “sole” pursuit and that’s what corrupted it.

Not all of us have that problem. The ones who do should reflect where they are if their issues are similar. That could be a great time and place to start working on rebuilding the balance.

On the point of having to sacrifice one for the other, I’ll go back to my heyday in professional life. I never felt the need for the balance. Everything was great. There was recognition, growth, wealth, some fame and power in a limited context. It’s just that at some point I realized that I had already sacrificed my balance. I needed to bring it back. My reason for making the change was that I was up to my ears with the way I was feeling about myself, and I wanted to do something about it urgently. That thought, or event, didn’t give me the freedom to leave what I was doing. Most of the time, old and painful things don’t go away. But to not let them consume us by creating new things that matter is important to keep the older things in their place and not let them consume us. I don’t view that as a sacrifice, but as an investment, and I don’t believe it’s one over the other.

Has it had a positive impact – well, yes because I feel much better about myself. For example, I’ve relegated the “mine is bigger than yours” syndrome – I’m referring to house, car, bank balance, designation, team, company, alumnus, salary etc. – to one of the things I care about, not the only thing. That’s a big one. As a result of doing this, I have gotten rid of a property investment which I had made because it had the right social profile; I already have lesser debt; the worry of a Grade B house coming up opposite my balcony doesn’t trouble me as much, and so on. Instead, I’m making decisions better suited to my profile, and am less influenced by anybody else’s view. We all KNOW this, but it is different to ACT on it. So many people I know kid themselves about what importance the symbols of success have for them. For most of them, these symbols mean EVERYTHING, whatever be their public position. Let me reiterate, there’s nothing wrong to desire for symbols of success. It doesn’t even matter what they are. But making these the sole pursuit of our lives, or not understanding when that happens, can spell trouble. You can avoid this by adding things that really matter to you amongst your list of high priorities, and you could keep your successes in much better perspective more easily.

There are some things I’m not so sure about yet, because regaining the balance did mean doing some fundamental things very differently; it’s too early for me to say what the impact will be. It’s also evident that I will have to keep finding the balance, so there’s more work to do. But at least I realize that what was incredibly important to me 10 years ago is less important than some other things now, and I must tilt the balance if I want to have a free spirit, and not a mind abducted by my alter-ego.

Which brings me to Ashish’s comment.

It’s a very simple and powerful point. I can say without a doubt that everything I have been successful at has been something I enjoyed doing. I read more, I worked longer, I learnt more, I fought harder, I believed in myself, and it just mattered so much more. I can still tell detailed stories from 10-15 years ago about things I enjoyed doing because the memories are so good, and because, surprisingly, so many of them ended in success. I’m glad I took the initiative to try and create more such stories for myself. My environment was no longer giving me those opportunities, so I decided to create my own. In business literature, authors extol the virtues of being passionate about what you do. Much of the literature has a use by date from the time of unpacking. I wish there was more about how to re-ignite that passion. I am on the lookout for creative new things to be passionate about, and to push use by dates into the future.

There’s some good reading on related subjects from an author called Marcus Buckingham. I’ve heard him once, and read some stuff he’s written. It’s inspiring. And if you haven’t already read it, try The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Renu presented me a copy; I still read it off and on.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. See you again.

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Winning back my life by reading two great books

After I decided to quit my job just over a year ago, I struggled for some time with regaining control over my life. For most of my work life, I have been dragged about by the whirlwind of the corporate work-style. Everything is urgent, and that pretty much leaves no time for the important. The urgency gave me the warm and fuzzy feeling of being busy. Yet, at the end of every day, I really hadn’t worked on the important, because the important requires time to think and the urgent takes away all of that time.

This was really about being in control of what I was doing with my time. And being in control is about saying what you will do, and doing what you have said. So I turned to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I don’t need to say much about the book except if you have read it, apply the learning, and if you haven’t read it, then get a copy or attend a 7 Habits program in the neighborhood.

The models in the book helped me with practical structures to sift out the important from the urgent, and all that was neither. It brought focus and discipline, and soon, at the end of a day, I felt fulfilled if I had done what I set out to do. The real challenge was in differentiating the urgent from the important.

That’s when I read another fab book titled Quiet Leadership. It’s by David Rock who founded and still runs a company called Results Coaching Systems. The best results would have been if I had someone to take me through the processes in the book, but I managed quite well just by myself.

Done well, the models seriously challenge your thinking. You brainstorm and whiteboard whatever is top of mind for you. Then you force yourself to pick 3 of the dozens of things that are absolutely killing you. Usually it’s hard to do that. But it works if you club common things or sub-points, and simply eliminate some stuff. But don’t pick even one more than 3. Make sure these are things you will be proud of if you achieve them, as in stuff you will talk about and people will go WOW! It works if you create statements with a clear, measurable outcome at the end of a defined period. For example, I want to move X to Y by the end of March. You got your causes! Do a check again. If any of the statements you created results in a Ho Hum response, redo them!

The next step is to identify the 2-3 things you need to do to make each of those causes happen. You could look at these as lead indicators. For example, if your smashing goal is to run a 5 minute mile 1 year from now, your lead indicators could be getting into 3 days of weight training a week, running 3 miles a day and appointing a running coach. Then your everyday goal would have the daily breakdown of these things in the 7 Habits framework.

At the end of the exercise, you will get over the dilemma of differentiating between the urgent and the important. And as you practice this day after day, for goal after goal, watch the control you get over yourself. Watch the most difficult thing in life happen – a change in your habits to achieve what you really want to do. The stress caused by the whirlwind will go out of the window, and you will work only on things that are important. And at the end of each day, you will be satisfied about saying what you will do, and doing what you have said.

Posted by Sanjiv Mathur at 06:52