Friday, March 28, 2008

Rising to the Top - Azara Feroz Sayed

I saw that almost the entire 'Managing Oneself' article of Peter Drucker is available on google books. I have pasted the URL here. This is the first article in Classic Drucker book. I got hooked on to the book with this article. I hope you all will enjoy reading it as well. Thanks to Feroz for introducing me to one more good friend!

The comments, Successful careers are not planned. They develop when individuals are prepared for oppurtunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person-hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre-into an outstanding performer, made me change the title of the post from "Managing Oneself" - the PDF version

I have included excerpts from the article in the post below. A Movie trivia - Which movie comes to your mind as you read about the "mirror test" in opening of the section "What are my values?" in the article (page 10 of the book on google books or page 5 of the PDF on the site)

I was attending Feroz's guest lecturer class to Banglore University Distant Learning Students on "Ethics in Organization". He first of all started the session with a screening of the song 'kaata laga' and then 'yeh mera dil' the Helen song from Don. The 100+ students, in the big class, agreed that 'yeh mera dil' song, screened almost 20 yrs before, was more obscene. Feroz went on with the class to explain why it is so - because of increased awareness of ethics in society and so on.... To explain ethics, he drew the students attention to the dialog from Ghulam (Waterfront) - where Hari, the social worker talks to Siddharth(Terry) about having the courage to look in the mirror in the morning. I could feel the class getting glued on after that - it gets quiet and you know it ...I wish all professors could address to the varied knowlege capture mechanisms of students i.e. some learn by hearing, some learn by visuals, some by making a connection to the past. Peter Drucker's article too talks about how do we learn? If Peter Drucker is known for his phrase making, Feroz has all my adualtion, for his ability to make connection to the right phrase in his communications and win! I cannot stop bragging about my one in a million husband. Knowing Feroz, I know what he is thinking about this comment. Well, I have one husband, Feroz, and not million husbands! I feel he is God's special creation - a true one in a million creation - to have been blessed with so many skills, inteligence, creativeness, memory, artistic bend of mind. He is the singer, musician, painter, modellor, interior decorator, cook, plumber, carpenter, welder, electronics engineer, electrician....of the house - he uses these as oppurtunities for practising creativity - the ship model in the icon of the blog is Feroz's wood model - the photography is mine to explain not having the complete ship. I have to pray for 5+ times everyday to thank God for blessing me with him and to have him for the rest of my life!

Managing OneSelf

We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity: If you’ve got ambition and smarts, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession, regardless of where you started out.

But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their employees’ careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers. It’s up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years. To do those things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself—not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.

History’s great achievers—a NapolĂ©on, a da Vinci, a Mozart—have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so unusual both in their talents and their accomplishments as to be considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution. And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

What Are My Strengths? - Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.

Practiced consistently, this simple method will show you within a fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, where your strengths lie—and this is the most important thing to know. The method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly competent. And finally, it will show you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.

Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.

Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones.

Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people-especially people with great expertise in one area-are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. First-rate engineers, for instance, tend to take pride in not knowing anything about people. Taking pride in sich ignorance is self-defeating. Go to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to fully realize your strengths.

It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits-the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance. Such habits will quickly showup in the feedback.

At the same time, feedback will also reveal when the problem is due to lack of manners. Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction. This is true for human beings as it is for inanimate objects. Manners-simple things like saying "please" and "thank you" and knowing a person's name or asking after their family-enable two people to work together whether they like each other or not. Bright people, especially bright young people, often do not understand this. If analysis shows that someone's brilliant work fails again and again as soon as co-operation from others is required, it probably indicates a lack of courtesy-that is lack of manners.

Comparing your expectation with your results also indicates what not to do. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a person-and especially a knowledge worker-should not take on. One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mdiocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.

How do I Perform? - Like one's strength, how one performs in unique. It is a matter of personality. Whether personality be a matter of nature or nurture, it surely is formed long before a person goes to work. And how a person performs is a given, just as what a person is good at or not good at is a given. A person's way of performing can be slightly modified, but it is unlikely to be completely changed-and certainly not easily. Just as people achieve results by doing what they are good at, they also achieve results by working in ways that they best perform.

It is important to ask the below questions to manage yourself effectively and to use the knowledge that comes up in this exercise - to not to take on work you cannot perform or will perform poorly
- Am I a reader or listener
- How do I learn
- Do I work well with people-in what relationship or am I a loner
- Do I produce results as decision maker or as an adviser
- Do I perform well under stress
- Do I need highly structured and predictable environment
- Do I work best in big organization or a small one

What are my Values? - The mirror test is, What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning? To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one's own condemns a person both to frusteration and to non-performance

Where do I Belong? - Knowing answers to What are my strenghts? How do I perform? What are my values? define Where we belong?

What should I Contribute? - To answer this question we need to address three distinct elements
- What does the situation require
- Give my strengths, my way of performing, my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done
- What results have to be achieved to make a difference. A plan can usually cover no more thatn 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific. So the question should be whare and how can I achieve the results that will make a difference within the next one and a half year? The answer must balance several things. The results should require stretching but also should be within reach - the results should be meaningful, visible to make a difference

Responsibility for Relationships - Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. The first part is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. This means that they too have their strengths, they too have their ways of getting things done;they too have their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes and the values of your co-workers. Bosses are neither title on the organization chart nor a function. They are individuals and are entitled to do their work in way they do it best. It is incumbent on the people who work with them to observe them, to find out how they work, and to adapt themselves to what makes their bosses most effective. This, in fact, is the secret of "managing" the boss. The second part of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication. The most common complaint in an organization is lack of communication. People don't know what is going on in the organization. Peter Drucker mentions, the reason they do not know is that they have not asked and therefore have not been told. The failure to ask reflects human stupidity. Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust, The co-existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean people like each other. It means they understand one another. Taking responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. It is a duty whether one is a member of the organization, a consultant, supplier, customer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Directing Attention - Bono's PMI - Azara Feroz Sayed

As Bono says, outside highly technical matters, perception is the most important part of thinking. Perception is how we look at the world. What things we take into account. How we structure the world. Almost all errors of Thinking are perception errors and logical errors are rare. Yet we persist in believing that thinking ia all about avoiding logical errors. Perception works as a self organizing information system. This system allows the sequence in which information arrives to setup patterns. Our thinking then remains trapped in these patterns. We need some ways of broadening perception(exploring) and of changing perception(creativity). The biggest flaw in traditional thinking is to back up an opinion that has already been formed (by first impression, slight thinking, prejudice or tradition).

PMI (Plus - Minus - Interesting) is a 'attention directing' thinking tool by Edward De Bono used for deliberately directing attention in one direction after another without being trapped in the patterns or prejudices laid down by experience - perception. PMI is done in a very deliberate and disciplined manner of exploration over a period of 3 minutes or so. This is one of the first tool introduced to students in Bono's thinking courses.

The 'will' to look in one direction after another - when our prejudice has already decided what and how we should feel about an idea - is the key to this thinking tool. Once this is achieved, the natural challenge to intelligence is to find as many Plus(good points) or Minus(bad points) or I(Interesting - neither positive or negative) points. So there is a switch. Instead of intelligence being used to support a particular prejudice - it is used to explore the subject matter. It is also referred to as 'spectacle method' as it performs the function of spectacles in allowing us to see more clearly and more broadly.

A class was told 'what they thought about the idea of receiving $5 just for going to school every week'. Everyone agreed and they talked about the thinks that they would do with the extra money. The class was then introduced to PMI - first directing attention to the Plus points in the idea then towards the Minus points and finally towards the Intereting points. At this point several points came up
* The bigger boys would beat them up and take the money
* The school would raise its meal charges
* There would be quarrels about the money and strikes
* There would be less money to pay teachers
* Where would the money come from
and so on....
the class was asked at the end of the exercise the class was again asked if they liked the idea. 29 out the thirty now reversed their view and disliked the idea. A very simple scanning tool used by the youngsters themselves had brought the change. An expert is not needed to exercise this tool.

A PMI for 'all cars should be painted yellow'
* easier to see on the roads
* easier to see at night
* no problem in deciding which colour you wanted
* no waiting to get the color you wanted
* easier for the manufacturer
* the dealer would need less stock
* it might take the 'macho' element out of car ownersip
* cars would tend to become just transport items
* in minor collisions the paint rubbed off on to your car is the sam

* boring
* difficult to recognize your car
* very difficult to find your car in parking lot
* easier to steal cars
* the abundance of yellow light might tire the eyes
* car chases would be difficult for the police
* accident witnesses would have a harder time
* restriction to your freedom to choose
* some paint companies would go out of business

* interesting to see if different shades of yellow rose
* interesting to see if people appreciated the safety factor
* interesting to see if attitude towards car ownership changed
* interesting to see if this were enforcable
* interesting to see who would support the suggestion

The emotions, feelings, judgements are put on hold during the exploration process to avoid any blocking of exploration due to emotions and feelings. The judgements can be used later on for decision making, if required, but not during exploration.

It is natural to see that PMI would be used where there is a great deal of indecision. But it is not the main purpose of PMI. On the contrary, PMI should most especially be used when we have no doubt about the situation but have instantly made the decision. PMI forces us to explore where we would deem exploring un-necessary.

We can request someone to 'do a PMI' when that person as summarily dismissed our suggestion as valueless. We can request someone to 'do a PMI' when there seems to be a prejudged reaction to a situation. The PMI is useful because it is more oblique than direct disagreement or confrontation. In the PMI, you request the person to exhibit his or her great intelligence in a scan or exploration of the subject. This is totally different from asking a person to reverse an opinion. Normally the person is not afraid to do a PMI because he or she feels that this will only support the view that is already held. The results may be contrary! PMI turns fiercely emotional subject from prejudice towards consideration of the subject. Once perception is directed in a certain direction it cannot help but see, and once seen something cannot be unseen!

So instead of just reacting to the situation (based on perception) and then justifying the reaction, the thinker now goes thru a two-step process. The first step is to deliberately carry out the PMI operation. The second step is to observe and react to what has been turned up by the PMI Scan.

Doing a PMI is not really the same as listing the 'pros and cons' which tend to be more of a judegement exercise. The 'Interesting' direction allows for consideration of those ideas which would not fall under either pro or con.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Donate rice as you improve your vocab - Azara Feroz Sayed

I came across this site which provides you words with alternatives of its meaning. The complexity of the next word is based on the success of your earlier word. Everytime you get a correct word - few grains of Rice are donated to the UN program. Mark this URL in your favourites. We don't have any registration process which makes it even better. I usually use it when I have to take a break from looking hard at the screen. I keep clicking on the words till I hit the word I don't know the meaning. I stop at that and than use of the sites like and take a print of the page. Having it on my desk and on my bed later in the day - helps me to read the synonyms and antonyms for that word thru the day. This has become my personal word-of-the-day feed.

There are some simple techniques to increase retention of the new words that I read about, apart from relating the word and making the connection which would be always the best, like hearing the word (the freerice site does provides for that) and than repeating the word as you heard. Reading the spelling of the word in your mind without looking at the word and then reversing the spelling of the word in your mind without looking at the word.

The freerice stuff made me search for better techniques for increasing vocab. I am told "30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary" has some good techniques. I am waiting on the hold for this book from the library. Will blog on that once I get my hands on it.

We all know that reading is the best way to increase vocabulary. is an article about activities you can indulge in to increase your reading apart from your regular reading of newspaper, blogs, books.

Also has some tips for increasing your vocabulary. Playing word games like scrabble downloaded from Yahoo!Games with Mavern(computer partner) is one good way to observe usage of words that the computer uses that aren't familiar to you. This needs atleast an hour which would be difficult during weekdays and freerice is more convinient in that sense but would be good for kids, teenagers. is a very good article about motivating teenagers to focus on increasing their vocab so that they can intelligently communicate with friends on facebook offcourse this would be apart from increasing their SAT score is an interesting blog about a Mom's effort in creatively increasing the vocab of her toddler

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Exercising for Smartness - Azara Feroz Sayed

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead's words - "Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite and the purpose of human life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude"

The below are ideas from the book "Brain building - Excercising yourself smarter" by Marilyn vos Savant, the worlds smartest person. Marilyn is accredited by Guinness book of world record for highest recorded IQ.

As we all know and unfit mind is as unattractive as unfit body. Brain building is a program of exercise : mental exercise. As with any other exercise program, the secret for success, is repetition, repetition, repetition till it comes natural to us like breathing. By building brain power, we add to the ways in which we can think and reason, we add ways with which we can control and direct our own life.

Heraclitus words, "Learning does not teach a man to have intelligence".

We spend most of our life ging to school, reading, looking up facts, acquiring information and memorizing it. Although we will become more informed, in the end it won't make us any smarter exactly as a reference library isn't smart. The brain is an organ, pure and simple - the same kind of organ for just about everybody on planet. The mind is the mysterious thing that contains not only the intelligence and the learning but also the perceptions and emotions. It is our intellect - our intelligence - that gives us the capacity to reason, to ask questions.

The dictionary definition of intelligence is the capacity to know or apprehend. Intelligence is a potential, separate and distinct from learning. It is the potential to learn, to profit from experience, to deal with problems and solve them, to speculate on the unknown and to chart new worlds and explore new horizons. The curiosity, the speculative, "what if..." has changed the course of history in form of printing press, wheel etc

In this book, Marilyn starts with evaluating our current intellectual fitness i.e. whether our mind is awake or asleep i.e. evaluating Do we think for ourselves or have put our brain on "auto pilot", letting others do the thinking for us. Marilyn follows this by providing exercises for developing our intelligence. The exercises for vocabulary building, our ability to process information comming to us in form of words, teaches us to notice something new, how not to pass over the unknown without trying to know it. In this technique, Marliyn stresses on the availability of Dictionary for easy use. Feroz keeps his dictionary with him all the time and keeps refering and memorizing words as "a well developed vocabulary is the outward sign of a well-developed mind". Feroz will never tire himself of playing scrabble, we have played scrabble till early hours of morning. Marilyn provides exercises in mathematics and logic to prepare the mental ground for precise thinking. These are followed by exercises for building our inner spirit - by bulding and strengthening our - insight and intuition, orientation, attention span and senses, comprehension, perspective. These exercises help to stretch the mind - to increase intellectual power - to help us be smarter tomorrow than we are today - to apply those in our life to perform miracles for us.

Marilyn provides what are the categories in a standard IQ test and what part of our intelligence is being tested in those categories of questions
1. VOCABULARY - How well are you able to process sucessfully the wealth of information coming to you in form of words
2. OPPOSITE ANALOGIES - Beyond receiving information, are you able to use it e.g. A mirror is opaque, a window is _____
3. ARITHMETICAL REASONING - Are you able to use logic? Logic is the foundation for correct thinking - it is dispassionate and not tinged by emotions
4. INGENUITY - Are you able to create your own path in the jungle of the intellect? e.g. If you have three-pint container and a two pint container, how can you measure out one pint?
5. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ABSTRACT WORDS - Are you able to make distinctions between concepts? e.g. what is the difference between alone and lonely
6. PROVERBS - Are you able to generalize from the particular? e.g. if ain't broke, don't fix it - examine the consequences-what would happen if you change something that is working well
7. ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCES - Do you know how things get to be called opposite? e.g. what is difference between pleasure and pain
8. RECONCILLATION OF OPPOSITES - In order to understand why things are at opposing ends of the pole, you need to be able to identify the pole itself. Can you? e.g. How are short and tall alike?
9. ESSENTIAL SIMILARITIES - Are you able to see how different poles relate to one another e.g. what is the principal way in which fruits and vegetables are alike?
10. FINDING REASONS - Beyond knowing the way things are, are you capable of understanding why they are the way they are? e.g. Give three reasons why we should have a government?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Glycemic Index - Azara Feroz Sayed

Watching Glycemic Index(GI) in my food has helped me tremendously in managing my health. I have PCOD (sensitive to insulin) and inspite of that I don't have any complains. This is by just watching the GI in my food. I plan to exercise in the summer :)

With the increase in the heart conditions, diabetes, hormone imbalance for women(vicious cycle of weight gain and hormone imbalance) watching the GI in our food would be a good help. Offcourse, exercise remains the best form for perfect control, watching GI in our food, is the easiest way to reduce some of the risks associated with increased blood glucose levels.

Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrates by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to a reference food (Glucose considered as 100 GI).

Low (0 – 55), Moderate (56 – 69), High (70 or more).

While measuring GI subjects are given food portions with same amount of carbohydrates and the Area Under the Curve (AUC) is measured.

Lentils have GI of 30. The blood sugar levels rise lesser and drop slowly for Lentils. Notice the sharp shoot and drop down for Glucose. Low GI foods (GI 55 or less) lead to slower rise in blood glucose levels.
Spaghetti has GI of 41 - referred to as trickler as it does increases the digestion process

White Bread has GI of 70 - referred as Gusher as it accelerated the digestion process and hence shoots Blood Glucose Levels

Low GI Diet slows down digestion and maintains Glucose Level for long hours (3hrs). The Glucose level falls down in case of High GI diet in an hour and goes to negative, making us crave for more carbohydrates. High GI diet accelerates digestion

Benefits of Low GI Diet include
* Lower Blood Gluscose levels
* Higher HDL (good) cholesterol which removes the plaque in arteries
* Slows down digestion and the increased feeling of fullness after meals helps to reduce weight
* Sustained energy for longer duration due to the slow down in digestion
* Lower triglyceride (blood fat) levels
* Low GI Carbohydrates allow for larger portions, while regulating the Glucose Level while High GI Carbohydrates require smaller portions to regulate the Glucose Level.

Factors Influencing GI Ranking
* Starch Type - Food items containing Amylose (a type of starch) have lower GI. This starch absorbs less water. The molecules form tight clumps and has Slower rate of digestion. e.g. Kidney beans (28), Uncle Ben’s converted LG rice (50). Food items containing Amylopectin ( atype of starch) have higher GI. This starch absorbs more water. The molecules are more open and has a faster rate of digestion e.g. Russet potato (85), Glutinous rice (98)
* Physical Entrapment - Bran, the outer skin of the grain, acts as a physical barrier that slows down enzymatic activity on the internal starch layer. Bran based food products have low GI e.g. All Bran (38), Pumpernickel bread (50) compared to Bagel (72), Corn Flakes (92).
* Viscosity of Fiber - The Viscous, soluble fibers in food transform the intestinal contents into gel-like matter that slows down enzymatic activity on starch. Food items like Apple (40), Rolled oats (51) due to the fibre viscosity have low GI compared to Whole wheat bread (73), Cheerios (74)
* Sugar Content - Sugar is converted to an overall less GI so Frosted (sugar) Flakes (55) and Raisin (sugar) Bran (61) have lesser GI than Golden Grahams (71) and Rice Krispies (82)
sugar converted to -> sucrose(GI60) converted to -> glucose(GI100) + fructose(GI90)
starch converted to -> maltose(GI105) converted to -> glucose(GI100) + glucose(GI100)
* Fat & Protein Content - Fat and protein slow down gastric emptying, and thus, slows down digestion of starch so Peanut M&M’s (33), Potato chips (54), Special K (69) have lesser GI than Jelly beans (78), Baked potato (85), Corn Flakes (92)
* Acid Content - Acid slows down gastric emptying, and thus, slows down the digestion of starch. Yoghurt helps to reduce Gastric Content. Sourdough wheat bread (54) has lower GI than Wonder white bread (73)
* Food Processing - Highly processed foods require less digestive processing and hence these foods have higher GI e.g. Quick, 1-minute oats (66) compared to Old fashioned, rolled oats (51)
* Cooking - Cooking swells starch molecules and softens foods, which speeds up the rate of digestion. Al dente (boiled 10 to 15 minutes) spaghetti (44) has lower GI compared to Over-cooked (boiled 20 minutes) spaghetti (64)

A Low GI diet change would include
* High-fiber breakfast cereals (oats, bran, barley).
* Adding berries, nuts, flaxseed and cinnamon to High GI cereals to normalize the GI
* Choosing dense, whole grain and sourdough breads & crackers instead of white bread
* Adding various Beans, Lentils etc (heart-healthy proteins) to meal of high GI breads and crackers to reduce the meals GI Level
* Including Youghurt in your meal to reduce the GI Level
* Include 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day to reduce the overall meal GI Level
* Substitute nuts for snacks instead of Pretzels etc as snacks. Watch the serving size though!!
* Replace white potatoes with yams or sweet potatoes.
* Try canned new potatoes, or just eat smaller portion of high GI potatoes.

We need not focus exclusively on achieving a low Glycemic Load diet with all low GI food choices as this may result to high fat, low carbohydrate, low fiber and
calorically dense diet. We need to aim for a well-balanced diet that includes low glycemic index carbohydrates and to use glycemic load as a guide for controlling portions.

Low GI Food - Watch out for * in the list
GI < 15 - Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Green beans, Lettuce all varieties, Low-fat yogurt artificially sweetened, *Peanuts, Peppers, all varieties, Snow peas, Spinach, Young summer squash, Zucchini, Tomatoes

GI < 30 - Cherries(22), Peas dried(22), Plum(24), Grapefruit(25), Pearled barley (25), Peach (28), Canned peaches natural juice (30), Dried apricots (31)

GI < 40 - Soy milk (30), Frozen Baby lima beans (32), Fat-free milk (32), Fettuccine (32), *M&M's Chocolate Peanut Candies (32), Low-fat yogurt sugar sweetened (33), Apple (36), Pear (36), Whole wheat spaghetti (37), Tomato soup (38), Cooked Carrots (39)

GI <= 50 - *Mars Snickers Bar (40), Apple juice (41), Spaghetti (41), All-Bran Cereal(42), Canned chickpeas (42), Custard (43), Grapes (43), Orange (43), Canned lentil soup (44), Canned pinto beans (45), Macaroni (45), Pineapple juice (46), Banana bread (47), Long-grain rice (47), Parboiled rice (47), Bulgur (48), Canned baked beans (48), Grapefruit juice (48), Green peas (48), Oat bran bread (48), *Chocolate bar, 1.5 oz (49), Old-fashioned oatmeal (49), Cheese tortellini (50), *Low-fat ice cream (50)

High GI Food - These could be eaten with a Low GI item to balance the meal Glucose Load. These could be good source of instant energy
Golden Grahams (71), Bagel (72), Corn chips (72), Watermelon (72), Honey (73), Kaiser roll (73), Mashed potatoes (73), Bread stuffing mix (74), Cheerios (74), Instand Cream of Wheat (74), Graham crackers (74), Puffed wheat (74), Doughnuts (75), French fries (76), Frozen waffles (76), Total cereal (76), Vanilla wafers (77),
Grape-Nuts Flakes (80), Jelly beans (80), Pretzels (81), Rice cakes (82), Rice Krispies (82), Corn Chex (83), Instant Mashed potatoes (83), Cornflakes (84), Baked potato (85), Rice Chex (89), Instant Rice (91), French bread (95), Parsnips (97), Dates (103)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Overcoming Obstacles in Our Path - Azara Feroz Sayed

The quality time that me and Feroz spend is in listening, watching inspirational, knowledge based programs, movies. Feroz uses all these gyan in his classes. I have seen him make use of sections of movies too in his class, to bring out an idea and the students are stumped as they never watched the movie earlier with that perspective. Watching TV is Feroz's homework. I do attribute my lack of knowledge on the many things, to not watching TV enough. I might have increased my knowledge a wee bit by watching some of the programs with Feroz. These days I encourage everyone to watch TV, an oppurtunity to experience the wonders of God and Man's creation from your home on Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet. Feroz never tires himself of looking at the plane in the sky with the excitement of a toddler and commenting, Isn't man amazing, to make this big bird fly and I fall in love with him everytime he does that!!

We love listening to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. When we moved from India. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's CDs were the bulk of the CDs in our stack of CDs that we carried with us. Below are ideas from one of his CD. You would have to listen to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's discourse in his sweet voice to enjoy it. The words are here for the start. Recollect, the brick wall from "professor's last lecture", obstacles are there to make us realize how badly we need things. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also conveys the same idea, "An obstacle is always related to joy, happiness, success".


I saw a presentation on PeaceTV where Dr Zakir Naik and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar presented on the same platform and I could sense the peacefulneess, the tranquility in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's talk. I do respect Dr Zakir Naik's vast knowledge of all religions. It is just that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's calm voice, love in his talk touched me more. I know this is not the best time for Islam and we tend to get upset by the negative image created by the media about Islam. I can feel it in Dr Zakir Naik's tone. As mentioned in my earlier post, we need to package Islam well. We have the candy but need to present it well. Knowing that love is what is going to take us all through, makes me feel good about the moment.

Both in personal and social life we do face obstacles. There isn't anyone who has not faced any obstacle in thier life.

What are obstacles? Obstacle is something that doesn’t let the life energy flow easily and allows us to be in the expanded state of ourself. An obstacle is something that we want to get rid of it. An obstacle is always related to the joy or to happiness or success. We never say I have the obstacle to getting sick. And it is always related with time factor. There is a time factor to every obstacle. You can not have a single obstacle throughout the life. There is a gap. The gap makes you feel that obstacle. If someone has not been a millionaire throughtout his life, he never laments about it, there is nothing to complain about it. We complain when we don’t get the worst. Suppose we have the worst, how can we complain? Complaining is, we want to improve it, we don’t want the thing to be the way it is, it is not yet the worst, it is not yet the hopeless so we want it to be better. The wanting to be better brings out the complaint. If a baked potato is too hard, we will complain. We will never complain about a stone. We can’t say a stone is too hard, you take it. Stone is hard but baked potato cannot be that hard. When we face an obstacle, first of all we must know that it is not the worst. It is not hopeless. There is a hope that’s why we say it is an obstacle. Now, to overcome these obstacles, either we become hopeless. We know when we feel hopeless that is when a sincere prayer arises from us. A total hopelessness will bring forth two situations; one is either frustration or prayerfulness. When all doors are shut, we had done all that we could do to improve a situation and it is not happening, what do we do? We get frustrated? Want to jump into the ocean? Jump off the cliff? When situation is bothering us like that, frustration is at one hand and the other hand is a deep prayer, prayerfulness, giving the power over or recognising there is a bigger power. In fact, this word – “giving our power over” is really doesn’t mean anything. First of all you don’t have any power at all to give over the power. It’s the infinite divine consciousness which has the total organising capacity. Total organising is happening through a higher force, power. Regconising this aspect give rise a deep prayerfulness from within. So, obstacles do come, we can face it with a smile or with a frown.

There are different obstacles e.g. disease is one obstacle. We know how to take care of cough, cold, muscle pull etc these are part of life and when we violate the laws of nature, we fall sick e.g. we eat more, sleep more etc. Sleep helps us to relax but oversleeping makes us lazy, dull. One other obstacle is Laziness, it blocks our creativeness.

One obstacle is doubt about ourself, doubt about other people, doubt about happening of this moment.

This present moment is responsible for all the happening in this world, in this creation, doubt in existence of this moment, the spirit or God or something that is responsible for the all activity in this entire creation. Doubt in the existence of
this entity is common. If we overcome this doubt that this moment is perfect and it is running and it knows how to run things. There is no fear of whatsoever in life. We move with absolute confidence. Someone who knows swimming jumps into the water but someone who has not learnt swimming doesn't jumps into the water but keeps tip-toeing just like wanting to learn swiming before jumping into the water. Faith in the existence and it is running everything and it is full of love and it cares for us. This confidence makes working with obstacles easier.

Doubt in people around us. We cannot run anything with a doubtful mind. We always doubt about something that is positive. We doubt about honesty of other pepole, we never doubt about dishonesty. When someone says "I love you" we ask really", when they say "I hate you", we never ask them "really". We doubt our capabilites and never doubt incapabilities. So doubt is always about something good in life. We never doubt our depression. We doubt our hapiness. When we are happy, we are not sure. Am I really happy with my job? I am not sure. Is this what I want? I am not sure. But we are sure we are depressed. No one likes to be doubted but yet we doubt everyone else. When a shopkeeper looks at us with a doubtful eye, we hate it. Without trust, nothing in the world can run. We are sitting here with the trust that our cars would be there when we go out. We have a trust in the social structure that the car will be there when we go back.

In the doubt about self which also brings in lot of inferiority complex. Doubt in the self and self's connection with the totality of existence will lead us to sort of paranoia and we will come back to sickness. To overcome this doubt, we have to understand doubt. That doubt is about something good and about being alert. When life force in us is low that is the time we have doubts. By raising the life force, the vital energy in us, doubt vanishes.

Another obstacle is disintrestedness in anything we do. We like a job for few months than it loses its charm and we look for another job and than there too the same thing happens. We are, unable to find satisfaction in anything, is an obstacle by itself. These obstacles in a way help us to move ahead. Obstacles are not just impediments they are step towards progress. Like a stone in running water, water will flow over the stone. When we have the connection within us, with ourselves, the confidence that this existences loves us, god loves me, nature loves me than you will find no obstacle is our real obstacle, it just makes our life more beauiful.

If we look back and see events in our life 15yrs ago, 10yrs ago, 5 yrs ago past. There are times when we thought this is the end of the world. We can't take it any more. We are still existing. Those moments have passed. We don't know from where the strength came and somewhere we got the strength too. An Indian proverb, "Every animals tail is measured. Nature doesn't gives elephants tail to lion". Each one is given a measured tail. As much as he can carry and wag it. So our load is measured and blessed to us, so that we can carry it i.e. it is not a problem to carry the load. Mostly the problem is in our mind we think it is a big problem.

Another Obstacle is inability to enjoy anything. We always think of last year's vacation was better and next year we will regret last year was better. We keep switching channels without enjoying a single program. We keep thinking another channel has better program and so on. Same in Job, Marriage etc Where is the joy? It is in the the object or in situation. It is the change which brings joy. When we are doing something new, the change brings thrill. What happens during this change is, our mind has left one object and it has not got used to the second one and in between it experiences the gap and joy comes from within the gap and we think it is because of the second thing. We associate the joy to the that thing. But soon we don't find the joy there. Then we want to jump on another thing and another thing. Joy is nothing. Joy is "no thing". It is the "no thing" that we experience between things that brings us Joy. The experience of "no thing" is spirituality, meditation.

When we have obstalces and we sit with eyes closed and one hundred thoughts come, all unwanted images, all the past, all the future plans, they bombard our mind. Watching TV is much better as we are not there in the soap opera but not watch the same repeats in our mind, where we are not even watching, we are part of it. We need to rely on breath. When we can't attend to the mind directly, relying on breath makes it easier as breath is the link between mind and body. Another way is to do something that brings boredom. We resist boredom. Boredom is the key to love. One thing that is common between love and boredom, repeatation. When someone is in love, they keep saying, writing I love you, I love you...hundred times. Love is not satisfied by saying one time. Repetition is the nature of love and it is part of boredom too. If we live with boredom a little longer and deep dive into it, we reach the other end of boredom which is love. That is the secret of Rosary. We keep chanting the Rosary till we get so bored and then that boredom brings in or opens a flood of energy which makes us feel we are nothing but love, we are fountain of love, we are made of love and when there is love there is obstacle
whatsoever. Love is the sustaining power which talks us through all obstacles.

When we want a situation to change or someone to change, just look at it with Patience. First thing to overcome an obstacle is not to be shaken by the situation. The moment we get shaken by it, it takes longer for us to get back. Just stick on to whatever we want. Go deep within, meditate.

Know that finally we will say good-bye to all the stuff. Know that we will go eventually maybe we will not get a chance to say good-bye but we will go for sure. This knowledge gives us enormous strength. The feeling of divine, that which energizes our system also helps.

Inhibitions in the mind can be healed by our life force. Mind is energy and body is also energy and breathe is also energy which can be used to heal. We have sickness to make us aware of health. Opposites are there to make we aware of the other e.g. health and sickness, light and darkness, good and evil. They make sure we are aware of the other. Insteading of asking why they are there, we need to know how to deal with them. This is wisdom, using our freedom we can deal with the situation. Animals don't have a freedom, the nature runs their life. Knowledge that every moment runs by itself and we don't make it run. The choice comes into the mind between bad and worse, good and best. The choice is never between good and bad. The choice of wanting to always get more. It is good to have this "wanting more" till certain limits, beyond that, it becomes tension. Knowing that when we have a choice between good and best, the worst is anyway good makes it easier.

Self piety is bad and it is wrong to encourage self peity in others. When we are adamant about the way things we want and things should work. We become frusterated. If we slightly tweak ourselves, calm ourselves then things start resolving. Every obstacle can bring something great out of a person like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandel. When we sustain and go through obstacles, something big comes come out of it. This confidence and this faith brings the knowledge that obstacles are transitory.

We convey much through our presence than through our words. We need to cleanse our presence. Child has love in its presence. No good in talking about love it should be in our presence. Same is true for everything, our presence of angry, cleanliness
etc. As we grow old, we face more obstacles, the more we set goals and patterns in our life. As we become more intelligent we tend to lose innocense. And also innocense which is devoid of intelligence is also of no use. Life is a skill of combining intelligence at the sametime not losing innocence.

Obsession of pleasure can be obstacle. We close our eyes when we experience pleasure e.g. when we hear good music, when we smell. It indicates the joy is coming from somewhere within. We seldom look at the source. We look outside. When we are obssesed with a pleasure and it becomes a habit i.e. we no longer enjoy pleasure just like smoking doesn't gives pleasure or bliss but dropping the habit of smoking gives discomfort. Openness in mind and heart is essential for one to experience pleasure.

We can make anything an obstalce and we can attribute anything to the obstacle. Just being playful now will help us be playful when the moment arrives. Fear is the base of all obstacles. Fear is lack of love. There is no point in getting frusterated. When we are really composed, there is a possibility for a miracle!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Makes an Effective Executive - Azara Feroz Sayed

When me and Feroz were getting to know each other, I had asked Feroz what would be the Management Book that he would recommend me for reading. He mentioned Peter Drucker. For some reason, till now my knowledge was limited to Peter Druckers quotes, news about his death and couple of articles in the media around the time of his death. Classic Drucker is the book I am reading now. Below is a chapter from the book on Effective Executives available at

An Effective Executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Some of the best business and nonprofit CEOs I've worked with over a sixty-five-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

They asked, "What needs to be done?"
They asked, "What is right for the enterprise?"

They developed action plans.
They took responsibility for decisions.
They took responsibility for communicating.
They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.

They ran productive meetings.
They thought and said "we" rather than "I."

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.

Get the Knowledge You Need - Ask the first two questions.
Ask, What Needs to be Done? Note that the question is not "what do I want to do?". Failure to ask this question will render the ablest executive ineffectual. I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time. Hence, after asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them. After completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original list. He once again asks, "What must be done now". This results generally in new and different priorities.

Every five years, Jack Welch asked himself, "What needs to be done now?" And every time. he came up with a new and different priority. He asked himself which of the two or three tasks at the top of the list he himself was best suited to undertake. The others he delegated. Effective executives try to foucs on jobs that they do specially well. They know that enterprises perform if top management performs.

Ask, Is this the right thing for the enterprise? This does not gaurantee that the right decision will be made. Even the most brilliant executive is human and thus prone to mistakes and prejudice. But failure to ask this questions virtually guarantees a wrong decision.

Write an Action Plan - Execute are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to execute unless it has been translated to deeds. Executive needs to plan thier course and think about
* desired results - what contributions enterprise should expect from me over the next 18 months or 2 yrs? What results will I commit to?
* restraints - Is this course of action ethical? It is acceptable within the organization? Is it legal? Is it compatible within the mission, values and policies of the organization?
* Timelines for review and revisions

The Action Plan, is the basis for executive's time management. Without an action plan an executive becomes a prisoner of events. Napoleon planned every one of his battles more meticulously than any other general. Without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which one really matters and which are noist.

Act - When they translate plans into action, executives need to pay particular attention to decision making, communication, opportunities (as opposed to problems), and meetings.

Take responsibility for decisions - A decision has not been made until people know:
* The name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
* The deadline;
* The names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it — or at least not be strongly opposed to it
* The names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.

An extraordinary number of organizational decisions run into trouble because these bases aren't covered. One of my clients, thirty years ago, lost its leadership position in the fast-growing Japanese market because the company, after deciding to
enter into a joint venture with a new Japanese partner, never made clear who was to inform the purchasing agents that the partner defined its specifications in meters and kilograms rather than feet and pounds—and nobody ever did relay that information.

It's just as important to review decisions periodically — at a time that's been agreed on in advance — as it is to make them carefully in the first place. That way, a poor decision can be corrected before it does real damage. These reviews can cover anything from the results to the assumptions underlying the decision. Such a review is especially important for the most crucial and most difficult of all decisions, the ones about hiring or promoting people. Studies of decisions about people show that only one-third of such choices turn out to be truly successful. One-third are likely to be draws—neither successes nor outright failures. And one-third are failures, pure and simple. Effective executives know this and check up (six to nine months later) on the results of their people decisions. If they find that a decision has not had the desired results, they
don't conclude that the person has not performed. They conclude, instead, that they themselves made a mistake. In a well-managed enterprise, it is understood that people who fail in a new job, especially after a promotion, may not be the ones to blame. It's just as important to review decisions periodically as it is to make them carefully in the first place.

Executives also owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs. It may not be the employees' fault that they are underperforming, but even so, they have to be removed. People who have failed in a new job should be given the choice to go back to a job at their former level and salary. This option is rarely exercised; such people, as a rule, leave voluntarily, at least when their employers are U.S. firms. But the very existence of the option can have a powerful effect, encouraging people to leave safe, comfortable jobs and take risky new assignments. The organization's performance depends on employees' willingness to take such chances.
A systematic decision review can be a powerful tool for self-development, too. Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or
information. It shows them their biases. Very often it shows them that their decisions didn't produce results because they didn't put the right people on the job. Allocating the best people to the right positions is a crucial, tough job that many executives slight, in part because the best people are already too busy. Systematic decision review also shows executives their own weaknesses, particularly the areas in which they are simply incompetent. In these areas, smart executives don't make decisions or take actions. They delegate. Everyone has such areas; there's no such thing as a universal executive genius.
Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives' decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake. Decisions are made at every level of the organization, beginning with individual professional contributors and frontline supervisors. These apparently low-level decisions are extremely important in a knowledge-based organization. Knowledge workers are supposed to know more about their areas of specialization—for example, tax accounting—than anybody else, so their decisions are likely to have an impact throughout the company. Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level. It needs to be taught explicitly to everyone in organizations that are based on knowledge.

Take Responsibility for Communicating - Effective executives make sure that both their action plans and thier information needs are understood. Specifically, this means that their plans and ask for comments from all thier colleagues, superiors, subrdinates and peers. As the same time, they let each person know what information they will need to get thhe job done. The information flow from suboridnate to boss is what usually get the most attention. But executives need to pay equal attention to peer's and superior's information needs. Far too many executives behave as if information and its flow were the job of information specialist, the accountant. As a result, they get an enormous amount of data they do not need but liitle of the information they do need. The best way around this problem is for each executive to identify the information he needs, ask for it and keep pushing till he gets it.

Focus on Oppurtunities - Good executives focus on oppurtunities rather than problems. Problems have to be taken care of, of course; they must not be swept under the rug. But problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting oppurtunities produces results. Above all, effective executives treat change as an oppurtunity rather than a threat. Executies scan seven situations for oppurtunities
* unexpected success or failure in their own enterprise, in a competing enterprise, or in industry
* a gap between what is and what could be in a market process, process, product or service
* innovation in a process, product or service
* changes in industry structure and market structure
* demographics
* changes in mind-set, values, perception, mood or meaning
* new knowledge or new technology

Effective executives also make sure that problems do not overwhelm oppurtunities. In most companies, the first page of the monthly management report lists key problems. It is wiser to list oppurtunities on the first page and leave problems for the second page. Unless there is a true catastrophe, problems are not discussed in management meetings until oppurtunities have been analyzed and properly dealt with.

Staffing is another important aspect of being oppurtunity focused. Effective executives put their best people on oppurtunities rather than on problems. One way to staff for oppurtunities is to task each member of the management group to prepare two lists every six months - a list of oppurtunities for the entire enterprise and a list of the best performing people throughout the enterprise. These are discussed, then melded into two master lists, and the best people are matched to the best oppurtunities. This practice is one of the key strengths of Japanese business.

Make Meetings Productive - Every study of executive workday has found that even junior executives and professionals are in a meeting of some sort - more than half of every business day. Effective executives know that any given meeting is either productive or total waste of time. The key to running an effective meeting is to decide in advance what kind of meeting it will be and ensure approapriate preparation. Making a meeting productive takes lots of self-discipline. It requires that executive determine what kind of meeting is appropriate and then stick to that format. It is necessary to terminate the meeting as soon as its specific purpose is accomplished. Good follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself.

Alfred Sloan, the most effective business executive I have ever know. Sloan headed General Motors from 1920s until 1950s. Sloan announces the meeting purpose at the beginning of a meeting. He then listened. He never took notes and he rarely spoke except to clarify a confusing point. At the end he summed up, thanked the participants and left. Then he immediately wrote a short memo addressed to one attendee of the meeting. In that note, the summarized the discussion and its conclusions and spelled out any work assignment decided upon in the meeting. He specified the deadline and the executive responsible for the assignment. He sent a copy of the memo to everyone who'd been present at the meeting. It was through these memos - each a small masterpies - that Sloan made himself into an outstandingly effective executive.

Think and Say "We" - Effective executives know that they have ultimate responsibility which can be neither shared nor delegated. But they have authority only because they have the trust of the organization. This means they think of the need and the oppurtunities of the organization before they think of their own needs and oppurtunities. This one may sound simple but needs to be strictly observed.

The last practice, which should be elevated to the level of a rule : Listen First Speak Last.

Effective executives differ widely in their personalities, strengths, weakness, values and beliefs. All they have in common is that they get right things done. Some are born effective. Effectiveness is a discipline. And, like every discipline, effectiveness can be learned and must be earned

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Difficult Conversations - Azara Feroz Sayed

While we manage people, work with clients, vendors, care about family, friends, co-workers chances are good that one day we will need to hold a difficult conversation. These conversations are difficult because they involve issues and/or people who are important to us.

Difficult conversations happen when there is conflict, or anticipated conflict, between the ways two people perceive a given situation. For example, when we have to tell a coworker that she is not doing her part, or when someone has done something that has affected us negatively and we need to keep it from happening again.

In the book, "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most", authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Shiela Heen from the Harvard Negotiation Project examine ways that people interact in a range of difficult conversations. It is a very informative book on the subject with lots of examples explaining each technique for managing difficult converstations as we expereince them through our life. Daniel Goleman, Guru of Emotional Intelligence, says about this book, "Emotional Intelligence applied to life's tough moments". While reading the book, apart from its application to my life, I could visualize its application to Feroz's research area of "Emotional Intelligence and Customer Service". Managing Difficult Conversations is an important skill in Customer Service. I would recommend to have the book in the house so everyone in the family can pick it up and read it to acquire the skill of managing difficult conversations. I have included a few excerpts from the book below.

Refer for "indepth overview" notes of the book
Overview by one of the authors
Refer summary

This book builds on Dr Covey's fifth habit - "Seek first to understand then to be understood". The structure of a difficult conversation has three simultaneous conversations. We need to understand them and drive the conversation to a learning conversation, before we get into problem solving. As human beings, we tend to focus more on aspects that we want to believe and ignore others, the "Seek first to understand then to be understood" exercise part becomes essential in that respect.

* The “What Happened?” conversation is about the factual matters at hand
- Be curious and try to understand. Where does our issue come from? Is it based on information, past experiences, rules? Similarly try to empathize what is the other person's issue? where does the other person's issue comes from? Often we go through an entire conversation or indeed an entire relationship - without realizing that each of us is paying attention to different things, that our views are based on different pieces information. How we interpret what we see are based on two especially important factors, our past experiences and the implicit rules we have learned about how things should and should not be done. Whether we are aware of them or not, we all follow such rules. They tell us how the world works, how people should act or how things are supposed to be. e.g. rules about cleanliness, adventure etc For example in a team situation, when a team member regulalry arrives late for a meeting, the other team members consider it as unprofessional behaviour on the part of the team member arriving late. This distrubs them and affects their work while the person arriving late thinks that it is something trivial and the team should not focus on his late arrival but worry about the task at hand. Each of us has a different world view and we need to get into the other person's world view to understand difficult conversations. Read the example of watching football on TV at the bottom of the post.

- What is the impact of this issue on us? What are our intentions in this issue? Similarly try to empathize what is the impact of this issue on the other person? what are their intentions in this issue? While we care deeply about other people's intentions towards us, we don't actually know what their intentions are. We can't. Other people's intentions exist only in their hearts and minds. We make an attribution about another person's intentions based on the impact of their actions. We feel hurt so the intended to hurt us. We feel slighted so they intended to slight us. In the example at the end of the post, Lori feels hurt and so thinks Leo's intention is to hurt her. Our thinking is so automatic that we aren't even aware that our conclusion is only an assumption. What's ironic - and all too human - about our tendency to attribute bad intentions to others is how differently we treat ourselves. When husband forgets dry cleaning, he is irresponsible. When we forget to book airline tickets, we are over worked and stressed out. When we are the ones acting up, we know that much of the time we don't intend to annoy, offend or upstage others. We're are wrapped up in our own worries, and are often unaware that we are having any negative impact on others. When we are the ones acted upon, however, our story too easily slides into one about bad intentions and bad characters.

- What have each of us contributed to the issue? Moving from assigning blame to mapping the contributions of each party. Focusing on blame inhibits our ability to learn what's really causing the problem and to do anything meanigful to correct it. At heart, blame is about judging and looking backward while contribution is about understanding and looking forward to learn how the issue can be addressed. In his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, writes about a statement made by a Dutch Reverend in Africa, "The white man has a more difficult task than the black man in this country. Whenever there is a problem, we (white men) have to find a solution. But when you blacks have a problem you have a excuse. You can simpy say 'Ingabilungu'...Xhosa expression meaning 'the whites'. Mandela says, The Reverend's message was everyone should look within ourselves and become responsible for actions.

* The feelings conversation concerning how each of us feel about the issue - This is about interpreting the significance of what is said and what is not. In the Feelings Conversation the shift is from making judgements and characterations to sharing feelings. Reframe feelings back into the conversation. The two hardest and most important communication tasks in difficult conversations are expressing feelings and listening. When people have hard time listening, often it is not because they don't know how to listen well. It is pardoxically, because they don't know how to express well. Unexpressed feelings can block the ability to listen. Why? Because good listening requires and open and honest curiosity about the other person and the willingness and ability to keep the spotlight on the other person. Buried emotions draw the spotlight to us. Instead of wondering "How does what they are saying make sense?" and "let me try to learn more", we have a record playing on our mind "I'm so angry with him". It is hard to hear someone else when we are feeling unheard, even if the reason we feel unheard is that we have chosen not to share. Our listening ability increases remarkably once we have expressed our own strong feelings. When we fail to share what's most important to us, we detach ourselves from others and damage our relationships. The ferry tickets to the island os Martha's Vineyard, read like many transportation tickets. Perforated in the middle, the ticket carries a warning that it will be "void if detached".

* The identity conversation where we assert and redefine our identity. The shift is from defending “the hidden threat to our identity” toward understanding and owning the part of the conversation that reflects on what I am saying to myself about me. The biggest factor that contributes to a vulnerable identity is all-or-nothing thinking. I'm either competent or incompetent, good or evil, worthy of love or not. The primary peril of all-or-nothing is that it leaves our identity extremely unstable, making us hypersensitive to feedback. All-or-nothing identities are about as sturdy as a two legged stool. There are only two options either deny the feedback that is inconsistent with our self-image or exaggerate the feedback to a crippling degree. "I will never amount to anything, I am worthlesse" etc. Learning to regain your identity balance is the key. After observing O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, sparring with an accomplished fighter, a young student said "You never lose your balance what is your secret?". O Sensei replied "You are wrong, I am constantly losing my balance. My Skill lies in my ability to regain it". Ability to manage strong emotions in important in difficult conversation, remember people are just giving you information - it is your choice as to what you do with it (ie get angry, stressed). We have to spot ways our self-image affects the conversation, and ways the conversation affects your self image.

Some of the other technics are
* Based on the learning conversations, check our purpose and decide whether to raise the issue - What do we hope to accomplish by having this conversation? Is this the best way to address the issue and achieve our puposes?

* Describe the problem as the difference between our story and the other person's story. Include both viewpoints as a legitimate part of the discussion

* Invite them to join as a partner in sorting out the situation

* Listening to understand which includes reframing. From truth to perceptions, blame to contribution, accusation to intentions and impacts, judgements, characterization to feelings e.g. They Say "I'm right and there are no two ways about it" You Reframe : I want to make sure I understood your perspective. You obviously feel strongly about it. I'd also like to share my perspective on the situation. They Say "You hurt me on purpose". You Frame "I can see you are feeling really about what I did, which is upsetting me. It wasn't my intention. Can you say more about how you feel" They Say "This is all your fault" You Reframe "I'm sure I contributed to the problem; I think we both have. Rather than focus on what fault this is, I'd like just to look at how we got here - at what we each contributed to the situation". They Say "You are the nastiest person I've ever met". You Reframe "It sounds like you are feeling really bad".

* Problem Solving - Invent options that meet each side's most important concerns and interests. Look to standards on what should happen. Talk about how to keep communication as you go forward.

This is one common scene wherein the wife wants the husband to accompany her to see her sister's first child in the hospital. Husband asks her to proceed as he is watching fotball and promises to visit the sister next day. The wife feels,"Football is more important than the family" but this time she is curious to know her husband's world view to make this decision. Husband explains "For you it is watching a game on TV for me it is a matter of mental health. Throughout the week I work 10 hrs a day under extremely stressful conditions then come home and play with the kids, doing whatever they want, struggle to get them in bed. Then spend time with you talking about your day. This is the only time when I can truly relax. my stress levels go down, almost as if I am meditating and these three hours to myself have significant impact on my ability to take on the week ahead. Since your sister won't care if I visited her the next day - I chose football in favour of my mental health". Note how the story changes based on additional information!!

Another common example that of mis-understanding intent and impact in a conversation
Lori: I really resented it at the party, the way you treated me in front of your friends
Leo: The way I treated you? What are you talking about?
Lori: About the ice cream. You act like yo're my father or something. You have this need to control me or put me down.
Leo: I wasn't trying to hurt you. You said you were on a diet, and I'm just trying to help you stick to it. You're so defensive. You hear everything as an attack on you, even when I am trying to help
Lori : Help!? Humilating me in front of my friends is your idea of helping
Leo : You know, I just can't win with you. If I say something, you think I'm trying to humiliate you, and if I dom't, you ask me why I let you overeat. I am so sick of this. Sometimes I wonder whether you don't start these fights on purpose.
You know the end of this conversation.....both feel angry, hurt, misunderstood. Two key mistakes here one by Lori and one by Leo make this conversation difficult. Lori assumes Leo's intentions are. Leo assumes that once he clarifies his intentions Lori needn't be upset and does takes time to learn how Lori feels. Leo is defensive throughout and at the end when he says that he sometimes wonders if Lori "starts these fight on purpose", he actaully acuses Lori of bad intentions and thus begins
a cycle of accusations. Both Lori and Leo think that are victim of other's bad intentions and are acting only to defend themselves. This is how well intentioned people get themselves into trouble.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Who is one of your personal heroes - Azara Feroz Sayed

Below is Dr Covey's response to Who is one of your personal heroes?

Mahatma Gandhi's personal mission statement was :
Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
* I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
* I shall fear only God.
* I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
* I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
* I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

Dr Covey listened to Gandhi’s granddaughter, Arun Gandhi, talk about his life. Some of her thoughts below :
Ironically, if it hadn’t been for racism and prejudice, we may not have had a Gandhi. See, it was the challenge, the public need for the public victory that developed the private victory. He may have been just another successful lawyer who had made a lot of money. But, because of prejudice in South Africa, he was subjected to humiliation within a week of his arrival. He was thrown off a train because of the color of his skin. And it humiliated him so much that he sat on the platform of the station all night, wondering what he could do to gain justice. His first response was one of anger. He was so angry that he wanted eye for eye justice. He wanted to respond violently to the people that humiliated him. But he stopped himself, and said ‘that’s not right.’ It was not going to bring him justice. It might make him feel good for the moment, but it wasn’t going to get him any justice.
From that point onward, he developed the philosophy of non-violence and practiced it in his life, as well as in his search for justice in South Africa. He ended up staying in that country for 22 years. And then he went and led the movement of India. And that movement ended up with an independent country, something that no one would have ever envisioned.

Dr Covey's comments :
And just think on this, he held no formal authority. No position. Most people think that leadership is a position. It isn’t. Leadership is influence. The key to influence is what we’re talking about. You can have influence without position. So don’t be so dependent upon position or formal authority, but use your moral authority, what you know is right. Gandhi changed over three hundred million people using this. Today there are one billion people in India.

He’s one of my favorite heroes. He learned synergy within himself. He learned to create a third alternative: non-violent action. He was not going to run away, and he wasn’t going to fight. That’s what animals do. They fight and they flight. That’s what people often do, they fight or they flight, they run away. He worked it within himself until he won the private victory and learned the philosophy of his life. Non-violent action; a third alternative.

One of Gandhi's Quote - "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".

Tell us about one of your heroes!
My personal favourite at this point in life - the reason I say at this point in life is - before I met Feroz, My husband - it was my dad whom I admired for his simplicity, sincerity and integrity to life. By Hero, I am referring to a person whom I admire and devote - with whom I am learning everyday about achieving personal victories. Feroz pushes me towards proactiveness, to always work on being in a position of strong negotiation - by honing my knowledge, skills - to claim the good things in life. Always reminding me to be focused on the task at hand and not to be diverted. Something I see him practise all the time - while he is working on a task which needs to be completed by a dead line - he gives up on Internet, TV, talking to friends, sleep. He helps me know my time wasters by pointing out how I spend my time in unimportant stuff like cleaning, cooking when I have a important task to be completed. He would call me out as Type C (Covey's quadrant for not urgent and notimportant tasks) person at such times. I could go on and on.....I thank God for my hero who motivates me towards growing into a better person everyday in all spheres of my life - body, mind, heart and spirit. My personal trainer with whom I fall in love all the more everyday!!

In the context of Covey's Private and Public victory, it would be Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that I would consider as my favourite Hero. I am not sure if everyone is aware that - Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) is not worshipped by Muslims but is considered as a Hero. Muslims adore and follow his life and living. Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) received the words of God (Quran) from Gabriel Angel. He is responsible for giving the rich, beautiful body to Islam. The Holy Quran, words of God, is the soul of Islam. A person who reads the book about the Prophet's life and living - also referred to as Hadith - will know the goodness of Islam. When the word of God was given to the Prophet, and a new religion Islam (Submission to Allah and Allah only and not to anyone else) was formed, the people didn't know how to go about their life in the new religion - they relied on the Prophet's living style (provided in Hadith by his followers) to know how to go about their life in the new religion. The guidlines that the Prophet provided to the people, around 1500yrs ago, to seek and spread knowledge, Charity, Cleanliness are amazing. He like Gandhi didn't have position but influenced people to believe in the word of God and submit to God. He said 'Even a smile or a kind word is charity' or 'removing something harmful from the road is charity'.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Do it now - Azara Feroz Sayed

Came across this article by Steve Pavlina on Time Management. Steve's life is inspirational for anyone wanting to pursue Goals in Life. Steve went to jail for stealing and lost 2 years of his life. To makeup for lost time, his goal was to complete 4yrs of college in three semesters. Steve achieved his goal and even took a full time job in his final semester, which paved way to he owning Dexterity, a software gaming company.

The main goal of time management is to take your good life and transform it into an exceptional one. By getting clear about what you want and then developing a collection of habits that allow you to efficiently achieve your goals. Time management is not about self-sacrifice, self-denial, and doing more of what you dislike. It's about embracing more of what you already love.

Below are some techniques that worked for Steve. As Steve mentions in the article, we need to experiment with our strengths and weaknesses and develop time management techniques that will work well for us.

Read full article at

Clarity is key - The first step is to know exactly what you want. It's easy to spend a whole day at your desk and accomplish nothing of value. The key period I've found useful for defining and working on specific goals is ninety days. In that period of time, you can make dramatic and measurable changes if you set crystal clear goals. Take a moment to stop and write down a snapshot description of how you want your life to be ninety days from now. Just as an airplane on autopilot must make constant corrections to stay on course, you must periodically retarget your goals.

Be flexible - There's a key difference between knowing your destination (goal) and knowing the path (plan) you will take to get there. You cannot know the exact path to your goal in advance. Renowned author and business consultant Stephen Covey often uses the expression, "integrity in the moment of choice." What that means is that you should not follow your plans blindly without conscious awareness of your goals. Sometimes you can reach your goals faster by taking advantage of shortcuts that arise unexpectedly based on your new knowledge. Other times you should stick to your original plans and avoid minor distractions that would take you further from your goals. Be tight on your goals but flexible on your plans.

Use single handling - Use to Todo list and cross off items in the list. If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. I'd usually do large projects on weekends. I'd go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer. If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didn't matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in. A lot of time is lost in task switching because you have to re-load the context for each new task. Secondly, I believe this habit helped me remain relaxed and unstressed because my mind wasn't cluttered with so many to-do items. It was always just one thing at a time. I could forget about anything that was outside the current context.

Failure is your friend - Most people seem to have an innate fear of failure, but failure is really your best friend. People who succeed also fail a great deal because they make a lot of attempts. Sometimes the quickest way to find out if something will work is to jump right in and do it. You can always make adjustments along the way. It's the ready-fire-aim approach, and surprisingly, it works a lot better than the more common ready-aim-fire approach. The reason is that after you've "fired" once, you have some actual data with which to adjust your aim. Once you succeed, no one will remember your failures anyway. Microsoft wasn't Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's first business venture. Who remembers that their original Traf-o-Data business was a flop? We have electric light bulbs because Thomas Edison refused to give up even after 10,000 failed experiments. Letting go of the fear of failure will serve you well. If you're excited about achieving a particular goal, but you're afraid you might not be able to pull it off, jump on it and do it anyway. Even if you fail in your attempt, you'll learn something valuable and can make a better attempt next time.

Do it now! - W. Clement Stone, who built an insurance empire worth hundreds of millions dollars, would make all his employees recite the phrase, "Do it now!" again and again at the start of each workday. Whenever you feel the tendency towards laziness taking over and you remember something you should be doing, stop and say out loud, "Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!" I often set this text as my screen saver. There is a tremendous cost in putting things off because you will mentally revisit them again and again, which can add up to an enormous amount of wasted time. Thinking and planning are important, but action is far more important. You don't get paid for your thoughts and plans -- you only get paid for your results. When in doubt, act boldly, as if it were impossible to fail. I use a 60-second rule for almost every decision I have to make, no matter how big or important. Once I have all the data to make a decision, I start a timer and give myself only 60 seconds to make a firm decision. I'll even flip a coin if I have to. Usually delaying a decision will only have negative consequences, so even if you're faced with ambiguity, just bite the bullet and make a decision. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you'll know it soon enough. If you can speed up the pace of making decisions, you can spend the rest of your time on action. One study showed that the best managers in the world tend to have an extremely high tolerance for ambiguity. In other words, they are able to act boldly on partial and/or conflicting data. Many industries today have accelerated to such a rapid pace that by the time you have perfect data with which to make any decision, the opportunity is probably long gone. Where you have no data to fall back on, rely on your own personal experience and intuition.

Triage ruthlessly. - Get rid of everything that wastes your time. Use the trash can liberally. Apply the rule, "When in doubt, throw it out." Cancel useless magazine subscriptions. I once told a professor that I decided not to do one of his assigned computer science projects because I felt it wasn't a good use of my time. The project required about 10-20 hours of tedious gruntwork that wasn't going to teach me anything I didn't already know. Also, this project was only worth 10% of my grade in that class, and since I was previously acing the class anyway, the only real negative consequence would be that I'd end up with an A- in the course instead of an A. I told the professor I felt that was a fair trade-off and that I would accept the A-. So my official grade in the class was an A-, but I personally gave myself an A+ for putting those 10-20 hours to much better use. People spend years climbing ladders only to realize when they reach the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building. Remember that failure is your friend. So if a certain decision you've made in the past is no longer producing results that serve you, then be ruthless and dump it, so you can move onto something better. There is no honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you. This is another situation where you must practice integrity in the moment of choice. You must constantly re-assess your present situation to accurately decide what to do next. Whatever you've decided in the past is largely irrelevant if you would not renew that decision today.

Identify and recover wasted time - Instead of watching a one-hour TV show, tape it and watch it in 45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials. Don't spend a half hour typing a lengthy email when you could accomplish the same thing with a 10-minute phone call. Batch your errands together and do them all at once. Observe and develop habbits that help you save even few mintues. If you've taken the time to develop a sense of purpose that reaches deep into your soul, you'll be automatically motivated to put your time to better use. If you get the highest level of your life in order (purpose, meaning, spiritual beliefs), the lower levels will tend to self-optimize (habits, practices, actions). Apply the 80-20 rule. Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule states that 20% of a task's effort accounts for 80% of the value of that task. This also means that 80% of a task only yields 20% of the value of that task. In college I was ruthless in my application of this principle. Some weeks I ditched as many as 40% of my classes because sitting through a lecture was often not the most effective way for me to learn. And I already noted that I would simply refuse to do an assignment if I determined it was not worth my time. There was one math class that I only showed up to twice because I could learn from the text book much more quickly than from the lectures. I only showed up for the midterm and final. I would pop my head in at the beginning of each class to drop off my homework and then again at the end of each class to write down the next assignment. I actually got the highest grade in that class, but the teacher probably had no idea who I was. The other students were playing by the rules, not realizing they were free to make their own rules. Find out what parts of your life belong in the crucial 20%, and focus your efforts there. Be absolutely ruthless in refusing to spend time where it simply cannot give you optimal results. Invest your time where it has the potential to pay off big.

Guard thy time - To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. I've found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block. If necessary, warn others in advance not to interrupt you for a certain period of time. Threaten them with acts of violence if you must. Checking email or web surfing is not a break. When you take a break, close your eyes and do some deep breathing, listen to relaxing music and zone out for a while, take a 20-minute nap, or eat some fresh fruit. Rest until you feel capable of doing productive work again.
When you need rest, rest. When you should be working, work. Work with either 100% concentration, or don't work at all. It's perfectly fine to take as much down time as you want. Just don't allow your down time to creep into your work time.

Multitask - The amount of new knowledge in certain fields is increasing so rapidly that everything you know about your line of work is probably becoming obsolete. The only solution is to keep absorbing new knowledge as rapidly as possible. The best way I know to keep up is to multitask whenever possible by reading and listening to audio programs. When watching TV, read a computer magazine during commercials. Just grab a couple magazines, or print out some articles you wouldn't otherwise have time to read, and put them in your bathroom. Whenever you go out, carry at least one folded up article with you. If you ever have to wait in line, such as at the post office or the grocery store, pull out the article and read it. You will be amazed at how much extra knowledge you can absorb just by reading during other non-mental activities. Listen to educational audio programs whenever you can. When you drive your car, always be listening to an audio program. One of the best ways to save time is to learn directly from people who already have the skills you want to master. Audio programs often contain more practical material than what you would learn by taking classes at a university. Whereas people with degrees in marketing or business have been taught by college professors, you can learn about these subjects from millionaires and billionaires who've learned what works in the real world. You can probably find numerous opportunities for multitasking. Whenever you do something physical, such as driving, cooking, shopping, or walking, keep your mind going by listening to audio tapes or reading. The idea of multitasking may seem to contradict the previous piece of advice to work all the time you work. But whereas the previous tip refers to high intensity work where you must concentrate all your mental resources in order to do the best job you can, this tip addresses low intensity work where you have plenty of capacity to do other things at the same time, like standing in line, cooking dinner, flying on a plane, or walking from point A to point B.

Experiment - Everyone is different, so what works for you may well be different than what works for everyone else. You may work best in the morning or late at night. Take advantage of your own strengths, and find ways to compensate for your weaknesses. Whenever you come up with a wacky new idea for increasing your productivity, test it and see what effect it has. Don't dismiss any idea unless you've actually tried it. Partial successes are more common than complete failures, so each new experiment will help you refine your time management practices. Even the ongoing practice of conducting experiments will help condition you to be more productive.

Cultivate your enthusiasm - The word "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek entheos, which means literally, "the god within." I doubt it's possible to master the art of time management if you aren't gushingly enthusiastic about what you're going to do with your time. Go after what really inspires you. Remember that failure is your friend. Listen to that god within you, and switch to something that excites you once again. Your work should serve your life, not the other way around. I've always found that whenever I want to take my business to a new level, I must take my thoughts to a new level first. When your thinking changes, then your actions will change, and your results will follow.

Eat and exercise for optimal energy - What you eat can have a profound effect on your productivity. Animal products take significantly more time and energy to digest than plant foods, and when your body must divert extra energy to digestion, it means you have less energy available for productive mental work. Effectively your work will seem harder while you're digesting meals containing animal products, and you'll be more inclined to succumb to distractions. So if you find yourself having a hard time focusing on mentally intense work after lunch, your diet may very well be the culprit. Even Benjamin Franklin credited eating lightly at lunch time as being a significant factor in his productivity. Regular exercise is also necessary to maintain high energy and mental clarity. In college I would go running for 30 minutes first thing every morning before breakfast. And of course I'd be listening to motivational and educational tapes at the same time. If you want to master time management, it makes sense to hone your best time management tool of all -- your physical body. Through diet and exercise you can build your capacity for sustained concentrated effort, so even the most difficult work will seem easier.

Maintain balance - I don't think it's easy to sustain long-term productivity, health, and happiness if your life is totally unbalanced. To excel in one area, you can't let other areas lag behind and pull you down. While in college I made an effort to take off a full day each week to have a personal life.

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