Friday, May 30, 2008

Helping Others in Finding their Voice - Azara Feroz Sayed

I came across the below post from Steven Covey at

Isn't this similar to Peter Drucker's article 'Managing Oneself' (refer post 'Rising to the Top' on this blog or read Peter's article at

I have referred to this article from Peter more than once on this blog. I could relate to Peter's article very well and hence feel the need that I should take this to as many people as I can!

Steve talks about getting the self-feedback by asking questions about what is good for a person's heart, mind, body and spirit (the important aspects of life that is part of Steve's work - refer 7 Habits). I did find that my anwers to the Qs in How do you define “voice”? did overlap.

The interesting part in this post compared to Peter's article is, the Q about helping other's find their voice and is not covered in Peter's article. Do read the Q 'How can we help someone find his or her voice?' from Steve's blog in the post below. Now you know the reason for the title of this post, as this Q really got me interested in the article.

As Randy in his 'Last Lecture' (it is in a book form now - refer 'Professor's Last Lecture' post on this blog), talked, "Enabling the dreams of others is even more fun and being a professor helped it". Feroz too enjoys the mentoring aspect of teaching. His mentoring has helped me re-discover myself. Like me, his guidance, I am sure has been helpful to many of his students too. His ex-students stay in touch with him, looking for his guidance while taking on a new assignment.

Leading teams also provides us this oppurtunity to help people 'Find their Voice', as we work closely with people, providing them feedback to help them know their strengths.

The 4 Steps to Finding Your Voice
One word expresses the pathway to greatness: voice. Those on this path find their voice and inspire others to find theirs. The rest never do.

Key Message
The power to discover your voice lies in the potential that was bequeathed you at birth. Latent and undeveloped, the seeds of greatness were planted. You were given magnificent “birth-gifts”-talents, capacities, privileges, intelligences, opportunities-that would remain largely unopened except through your own decision and effort. Open these gifts. Learn what taps your talents and fuels your passion-that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet-therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.

Q: How do you define “voice”?
A: Voice is the overlapping of the four parts of our nature: our body, our mind, our heart, and our spirit. These also represent the four intelligences: our IQ for the mind, our EQ for the heart, our SQ for the spirit, and our PQ for the body.

To help you find this, answer these 4 question.
What are you good at? That’s your mind.
What do you love doing? That’s your heart.
What need can you serve? That’s the body.
And finally, what is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you feel like you should be doing? In short, what is your conscience directing you to do? That is your spirit.
People are internally motivated by their own four needs: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy. When they overlap, you have voice-your calling, your soul’s code.

Q: Is finding your voice an evolving process, or can it happen all at once like a light bulb going on in your head?
A: I think that it can happen all at once, but more so, I think it is an evolving process. As people grow up, they are exposed to different fields of knowledge and different experiences. They don’t yet know what they’re good at or even what they will like doing. Once they have this exposure and education and they start getting involved, they start to find satisfaction, and that leads to success as it begins to give them a sense of their voice or what they really love doing that they do well. For some people, it does comes like a flash of light, but it is usually preceded by someone who really deeply believes in them-sees their strengths and affirms them when they don’t see their own potential themselves. This creates an opportunity for that voice to be developed and expressed. This happened with me.

Q: Is the process of finding your voice the same for an individual as it is for an organization that is trying to find its voice?
A: That’s a very interesting question and I think in a very real sense, it is the same. But because an organization is made up of many different individuals who have different voices and a different sense of what gives them meaning and their life purpose, it takes communication processes where people are genuine and authentic with each other in expressing what they really care about. However, people gradually get a sense of what the organization stands for, what it loves doing and does well, and what it feels like it should be doing. So, there is kind of a collective form of the four intelligences that overlaps and develops in an evolutionary way.

Q: How can we help someone find his or her voice?
A: I think if you care about people genuinely, you listen to them and observe them; because this is more than just hearing them speak, it is observing them-observing where their excitement is, where their enthusiasm is; observing where you sense they have potential. Sometimes it is very powerful just to say to them in sincerity, “I believe you have great potential in this area. I see real strengths in you that you may not see in yourself, and I would like to create an opportunity for you to use those strengths and to develop this potential. Would you be interested in that?” Most people are so flattered by someone who sincerely cares for them and affirms their work and potential that they are moved and inspired by that kind of input. It’s very powerful and it can make all of the difference, particularly with people who grow up with a confused lifestyle, bad modeling, and basic education. Often they have no clue as to what life is about or what they are about until someone becomes a teacher to them-a mentor, a confirmer, and a coach. This kind of mentoring is becoming increasingly important in education, in relationships, and in work environments. It can make all of the difference as to whether a person takes a higher road to his or her own voice or a lower road to where he or she is swallowed up by the priorities and voices of others.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Understanding Learning Styles - Azara Feroz Sayed

Me and Feroz religiously read Marc Krammer's weekly article in our local newspaper.

His article this week about 'Understanding Learning Styles' made me think about the importance of making everyone in the team aware of the 'Learning Styles' of the team members especially in the 'Networking Model of Team Behavior' (refer post on 'Knowledge Worker's contribution Teams are made up of peers, equals that function as equals. The manager is most often outside, giving occasional direction from above and clearing away administrative and procedural obstacles. On the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in their areas of strength. The structure of a team is a network, not a hierarchy.)

I would be highly annoyed at some of my team members not taking the pains to read documentation, project related email and requesting for team learning sessions to understand new techniques. Marc's article helped me relive those moments and agree with Marc's comments 'Maybe I could have made my companies and employees more successful if I had asked my employees how they like to learn.'

Isn't it sad that schools are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody!

I am able to relate this to the different mediums (his talk (listeners), visuals (readers), discussions (observing and participation) that Feroz uses during his class

The below is from Marc's article from

What is a learning style? Basically there are five ways people learn.
Reading: I prefer reading because I love the written word. I like content that is written in short, concise sentences with ample use of bullets and numbers to outline information that I need to read. I like words that the reader wants me to focus on bolded or underlined.

Listening: Some people hate to read and find the written word confusing. They don't like to take notes and prefer to hear words. When I am riding my bike, I like listening to books on tape or interviews on the radio.

Graphical: Business schools are big at conveying ideas through graphs, shapes and flowcharts.

Observing: A friend of mine only had to watch someone to learn how to do something and he had it down pat. He hates reading and isn't crazy about just listening. My mind wanders when I am watching, so that doesn't work for me.

Participating: My partner learns best by participating. He likes to take things apart. He wants to know how things work. For me, I just care that they work. I don't want that level of detail.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rumi - Azara Feroz Sayed

I read some of Rumi's work in 'The Life and Work of Jalaluddin Rumi' by Afzal Iqbal and 'The Illustrated Rumi'. I have pasted one of his known poem below. You might find references to this poem, in forums on meditation, about inviting and watching thoughts and yes, "each of them is a guide from beyond".

The Guest House
-- Jelalludin Rumi, from On Being a Lover, in The Essential Rumi, Harper San Francisco, 1995.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

A quick search on the internet will bring up lot of stuff about Rumi who is one of the most widely read poets in the west. has a poem on each one of the aspects of life that he wrote about.

'The life and work of Jalaluddin Rumi' talks about the conditions existing in 13th century in Persia and then about Rumi's life - how a bookish sober scholar was transformed to an impassioned seeker of the truth and love, by the friendship of the wondering, wild, holy man Shams-i-Tabriz. If it was not for the association of Shams-i-Tabriz, Rumi wouldn't have been the one of the greatest mystical poets of all times. Shams-i-Tabriz's friendship transformed Rumi into a poet. To ensure Shams-i-Tabriz is remembered alongside him, Rumi had his collection of poems named after him, also he wrote under the pen-name of 'Shams'. The separation from Shams-i-Tabriz caused Rumi to fall into a deep state of grief and gradually out of that pain outpoured nearly 70,000 verses of poetry. These thousands of poems, which include about 2000 in quatrains, are collected in two epic books named, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi and Massnavi (Mathnawi).

I couldn't help thinking about the transformational relationship between me and Feroz - the intellectual and spiritual harmony between two different people - one a realist(Feroz) and the other a dreamer(me). Feroz possess a realistic temperament, placing high value on reason, clarity and has pragmatic approach to life with no idealistic expectations. I rely more on intuitive perception, imagination, philosophy. Our values and logical thought on integrity, fairness and consideration in our interaction with others, easy listner in each other, admiration for dreamer in me (vice versa for the realist in Feroz) binds us together and stimulates our enthusiasm and creative energy - changing both of us deeply as we grow in our relationship. Pray God continues blessing our relatinship into a fulfilling one!
One of Feroz's favourite poet's poem was posted on the Poem Of the Week blog recently. Had to refer to to understand bark, heighth etc I am taking baby steps on poetry and will get there in appreciating poetry without a guide and surprise Feroz!

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his heighth be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Everytime these thoughts come to my mind about our relationship, of a realist and dreamer (theorist), the words of Swami Vivekananda on the confluence of Vedantism and Islam come up, “without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind.”
Here Swami Vivekananda is not refering to brute force of Islam but the fresh approach and message of equality in Islam.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Self Deception - Azara Feroz Sayed

The name of the book is 'Leadership and Self Deception' as this material was an outcome of consulting assignment by ARBINGER for a client that had been languishing in its performance. As is mentioned in the last chapter (chapter 24 in book, not incorporated in the online version), A family, a company - both are organizations of people. The thing that divides fathers from sons, husbands from wives, neighbours from neighbours - the same thing divides co-workers from co-workers as well. Companies fail for the same reason families do. I found the material is not limited to leadership.

The book is Phase-I of ARBINGER's Three Phase Results System - would have to find more on the other phases too.

Refer for the online version of the book. The URLs on the right open up below the image of the book i.e. you would have to scroll down.

I found the ideas in the book interesting about the “box”, our state of mind, where we cease to really view other humans as humans with needs as legitimate and important as ours but instead we see them as objects. Objects worthy of blame. Objects that cause problems for us. When we are in the box, our view about reality is distorted - we see neither ourselves nor others clearly. We are blind to the truth about ourselves and others. We are blind to our own motivations. We are self-decieved. And that creates all kinds of trouble for people around us

The small, engaging book follows the style of 'One Minute Manager' where a new manager is introduced to the miracle (and most common) of self deception (or self betrayal) to help focus on results. How self deception is the root of all interpersonal problems. When we are in self deception mode, we are "in-the-box" and not "out-of-the-box". Staying "out-of-the-box" is the key to a producing results.

When we fail to do something for other person, that we know we should do, we betray ourselves and begin to resist the other person; to justify that resistance, we begin to blame. When we blame, we begin to see others in a way to justify that blame, and then we are "in the box.". When "in the box," we cease to see reality (we deceive ourselves) and instead create negative interactions with others, shifting focus from attaining mutually beneficial results to blaming one another for failing to achieve results.

"Self-betrayal" - The below ideas are explained with examples in the book

1. An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of "self-betrayal."
2. When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.
3. When I see a self-justifying world, my view of reality becomes distorted.
4. So—when I betray myself, I enter the box.
5. Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me.
6. By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box.
7. In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reason to stay in the box.

Some of the problems associated with being in-the-box
1. Lack of commitment, engagement, motivation
2. Troublemaking
3. Conflict
4. Stress
5. Poor Teamwork
6. Back bitting/ bad attitudes
7. Misalignment
8. Lack of trust
9. Lack of accountability
10. Communication problems

What doesn't work while we are in-the-box
1. Trying to change others
2. Doing our best to "cope" with others
3. Leaving - we carry our box, our problems with us
4. Communicating
5. Implementing new skills or techniques
6. Changing our behaviour

The only way "out-of-the-box", is to see and honor the "otherness" in people - to stop resisting the other person - to do the things we believe we should do for that person. As blaming doesn't helps the other person to improve. It doesn't helps to correct whatever fault we perceive. On the contrary it will encourage the exact behavior we find deplorable.

Being out-of-box, “sharpens vision, reduces feelings of conflict, enlivens the desire for teamwork, redoubles accountability, magnifiies the capcity to achieve results, and deepens satisfaction and happiness.”

The examples in the book are easy to relate and can be applied at home and work. I hope you will find them interesting too!

Apart from having the diagrams in the book handy, to recaptuale the ideas over a period of time, my notes captured while reading the book
- Let people know by our actions that we are interested in them and not in their opinion about us (Leon and Gabe example)
- Our level of interest (treating them as object) in a person is revealed through our voice, gaze, posture, hugs, kisses etc. The hypocrisy of practised active listening etc will be always detected adding to the resentment. (Nancy and Bud's apology)
- People skills are never primary - they can help reduce misunderstandings and clumisness (Lou passing on Bud's assignment to someone else). No matter, what we are doing on the outside, people respond primarily to how we're feeling about them on the inside. How we feel about them depends on whether we are "in" or "out" of the box concerning them.
- When in-the-box, we experience ourselves as a person among objects. When out-of-the- box, we experience ourselves as a person among people (Bud occupying the next seat on the flight)
- The success of Zagrun is a culture where people are invited to see others as people. The importance of smart, skilled people in the company or working long and hard hours or other things are not minimized. It is just that smart become smarter, skilled people get more skillful, hard working people work harder when they are treated as people and not objects
- We can engage in "hard" (correcting people) or "soft" behaviour, what is important is the way we do it i.e. treating the other person as a person and not an object
- We can be "hard" and invite productivity and commitment or we can be hard and invite resistance and ill-will. The choice is not to be hard or not. The choice is to be in the box or not
- We are still sometimes in-the-box and probably always will be to some extent, our success comes because of the times and ways we have been out-of-the-box. The point is not to be perfect. To get better in systematic concrete ways that improves the company's bottomline.
- When we are in-the-box, we do things not to help other people in their situations but because they are making it difficult for us - we need an object to blame (making them feel blame worthy) for our situation, which adds to the problem. When we are in-the-box, we need people to cause trouble for us to justify our blame on them for our difficult situation - we need problems to push the blame on. We help create problems we blame the other for. It is like I will mistreat you so that you can blame your bad behaviour on me and if you mistreat me I will blame mt bad behaviour on you. Provide each other with perfect mutual provocation and justification - two or more people in the box towards each other - mutually betraying themselves - Collusion. (Bryan and Kate over staying late).
- Out-of-the-box we get no mileage whatsoever in being run over. In-the-box, we get our justification. We get our proof that the person running over me is just as bad as I have been accusing him or her of being
- In-the-box we are focussed on ourselves. When we are out-of-the-box we are focussed on results. Those in-the-box may seem to be focussed on results but they would be valuing the results primarily for the purpose of creating or sustaining their own stellar reputations. This is because it is easy to see that they don't feel other's results as importaant as thier own results. They are not as happy when other people in the organization succeed. They will run over people trying to get their own results.
- In-the-box, we withhold information which gives others reason to do the same. We try to control others, which provokes the very resistance, that we feel the need to control all the more. We blame others for dragging their feet and in so doing give them reason to feel justified in dragging their feet all the more. We are blamming others not to improve them but to use their short commings to justify my failure to improve
- One person in an organization, by being in the box and failing to focus on results, provokes coworkers to fail to focus on results as well. Collusopn spreads far and wide and the end result is coworkers against coworkers, workgroups against workgroups, department against department. People who came to help an organization succeed actually end up delighting in each other's failures and resenting each other's successes. The people who carry the germs are not aware that they are carrying it.
- All the disparate problems we call "people problems" have the same cause "self betrayal"
- A leader who felt he was so "enlightened" that he needed to see workers negatively in order to prove his enlightment, a leader so driven to be the best that he made sure no one else could be as good as he was - with that provoking collusions with everyone in the organization - a walking excuse factory - anyone who needed justification for their self betrayals would use him. (lou before he went to Arizona)
- When in collusion, the more responsibilities we take for team's performance, the more mistrusted the team feels. The team will resist by giving up creativity etc which provides all the more reason to be convinced about incomptence in the organization and we implement more careful instructions, policies and procedures. The team takes this as further more disrespect for them and resist all the more - round and round. Collusion is everywhere. Each of them providing each other with mutual justification for staying there. One person carries the disease and blames everyone else for the infection.
- The desire to be out-of-box gets you out-of-box. The desire to honor people for their 'otherness' we get out-of-the-box. The moment we see a person with needs, hopes, worries as real as our - we are out-of-the-box.
- When we are out-of-the-box, honor the feeling of being out-of-box rather than betraying the feeling, is the key to staying out-of-box
- We are not in-the-box to solve other's problems
- The box itself is deeper than behavior, it is the state of mind, so getting out of the box is not about merely changing behaviour
- It is critical that we honor what our out-of-box sensibility tells us we should do for people. However - this doesn't necessarily mean we end up doing everything we feel would be ideal. For we have out own responsibilities and needs that require attention, and it maybe that we can't help others as much or as soon as we wish we could. But we do the best we can under the circumstances. We feel far more over-whelmed, over-obligated, over-burdened when we are in-the-box than when we are out-of-the-box
- Recognizing other's boxes and not blaming them for being in-the-box is a out-of-the-box behaviour. We can ease rather than exacerbate the situation
- People are coerced (force, threat) to follow a in-the-box-leader while people choose to follow a out-of-the-box leader

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fun tips to keep your thinking sharpened - Azara Feroz Sayed

Tips I came accross at|1012555764

1. Catch some ZZZs
The task: Get a good night’s sleep. If having trouble falling asleep, make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark, learn some deep relaxation techniques, and avoid alcohol and caffeine after noon.
The reason: Scientists believe that our brains consolidate learning and memories during sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t sleep enough have more trouble learning new information — while sleeping well after learning something new helps the brain effectively put that information into long-term memory.

2. Do a jigsaw puzzle
The task: Put together a jigsaw puzzle that will be challenging for you — no fewer than 500 pieces.
The reason: Mundane as they may seem, jigsaw puzzles can provide real help for your brain. Completing one requires fine visual judgments about where pieces belong. It entails mentally “rotating” the pieces, manipulating them in your hands and shifting your attention from the small piece to the “big picture.” To top it off, it’s rewarding to find the right pieces.

3. Eat Fish
The task: Add fish -- especially fatty fish like salmon -- to your diet.
The reason: Studies suggest that a diet rich in fish is associated with better cognitive function. Some scientists believe that the benefit comes from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, which can reduce inflammation. Salmon, sardines, anchovies, lake trout, herring and mackerel are all relatively high in omega-3 fatty acids

4. Exercise your peripheral vision
The task: Sit in a place outside your house, such as on a park bench or in a café. Stare straight ahead and don’t move your eyes. Concentrate on everything you can see without moving your eyes, including in your peripheral vision. When you have finished, write a list of everything you saw. Then try again and see if you can add to your list.
The reason: Scientists have shown that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is crucial to focus and memory, falls off with memory loss and is almost absent in Alzheimer’s patients. This activity should help you reinvigorate the controlled release of acetylcholine in your brain through a useful visual memory task

5. Get Exercise
The task: Brain health is another reason to get on your bicycle, to the swimming pool or to wherever else you like to exercise your body.
The reason: New research indicates that exercise has positive benefits for the hippocampus, a brain structure that's important for learning and memory. Some studies even suggest that regular exercise is related to a delay in the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

6. Learn to play a new instrument
The task: If you’ve ever thought about learning to play an instrument or take up an old one, now is a great time!
The reason: Playing an instrument helps you exercise many interrelated dimensions of brain function, including listening, control of refined movements and translation of written notes (sight) to music (movement and sound).

7. Learn to user your "other" hand
The task: If you're right-handed, use your left hand for daily activities (or vice versa). Start with brushing your teeth left-handed, and practice until you have perfected it. Then try to build your way up to more complex tasks such as eating.
The reason: This is an exercise in which you know what you're supposed to achieve but must do it in a new and demanding learning context. Doing such an activity can drive your brain to make positive changes. Think of millions of neurons learning new tricks as you finally establish better control of that other hand!

8. Memorize a song
The task: Choose a song with lyrics you enjoy but don’t have memorized. Listen to the song as many times as necessary to write down all the lyrics. Then learn to sing along. Once you’ve mastered one song, move on to another!
The reason: Developing better habits of careful listening will help you in your understanding, thinking and remembering. Reconstructing the song requires close attentional focus and an active memory. When you focus, you release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a brain chemical that enables plasticity and vivifies memory.

9. Reacquaint yourself with the ball
The task: Practice throwing and catching a ball up in the air. If you're good at it, take up juggling.
The reason: People who master these kinds of sensory-guided movement activities can hone their brains' visual, tactile and hand-eye coordination responses -- which leads to widespread positive impacts for the brain

10. Step it up a notch
The task: Find an activity you like to do by yourself — such as completing a crossword puzzle or knitting — and take it to the next level. By concentrating and giving more effort to the activity, see if you can succeed better or more quickly.
The reason: There is limited value in working at a game or exercise that you can perform without paying close attention. It is important to always strive to take it up a notch to a higher and more demanding level in which you re-engage the brain’s learning machinery

11. The Crossword Myth
Many people believe that doing crossword puzzles can keep the brain sharp and even prevent Alzheimer's disease. But the evidence doesn't support them.
Crosswords may help with a brain function called fluency, or word finding. Fluency is a type of process based in the speech and language centers of the brain. Although fluency is an important brain function and many people with cognitive impairment complain about problems with word finding, it's just one of many. It seems unlikely that the skills learned in mastering crossword puzzles "generalize" to improve brain function overall.
So, while there's no reason to give up on crosswords, don't rely on them for too much, either

12. Turn down your television volume
The task: Set your TV volume down a little from where you normally have it set. Concentrate and see if you can follow along just as successfully as when the volume was higher. As soon as that setting gets easy, turn it down another notch!
The reason: Think of this: You can’t get rid of radio static by turning up the volume. Many people raise the volume because their listening has become ‘detuned’ — a little fuzzy. Matching TV volume to a conversational level can help you catch every word when talking with others

13. Visit a Museum
The task: Go on a guided tour of a museum or another site of interest. Pay careful attention to what the guide says. When you get home, try to reconstruct the tour by writing an outline that includes everything you remember.
The reason: Research into brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to change at any age) indicates that memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation — receiving, remembering and thinking — help to improve the function (and hinder the rate of decline) of the brain

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gitanjali - Azara Feroz Sayed

While surfing I had come across some beautiful quotations on Rumi, the Sufi Saint. As we know from the earlier post on 'Exercising for Smartness', bulding our inner spirit - building and strengthening our intuition 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 - so this thought by Rumi was interesting

Love is the ark appointed for the righteous,
Which annuls the danger and provides a way of escape.
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment intuition

While browsing for books in the Asian Poetry section of the library, looking for a book on Rumi (one more of my bold step to approach Poetry), I saw a small book titled 'Gitanjali'. For some reason, I had this in my mind over the years that Gitanjali, for which Tagore, the first non-westerner, was awarded the Nobel has to be voluminious, serious and difficult to understand.

Isn't it sad that such unquestioned thoughts have kept me from enjoying life fully ('Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit' - words from poem below). The innocent mind of Mini, the daughter in Kabuliwala, had her share of fantasy with her thoughts of the sturdy Kabuliwala carrying children in his sack or an elephant - my thoughts on some of the things kept me away from so many pleasures e.g. the notion of spending time on watching TV is waste, which over the years with Feroz has changed to, an oppurtunity to catch on the wonderful world of God's creation and the wonder of God's most loved creation - man!

I couldn't help myself from ascertaining if Gitanjali was only 100 odd short poems. Quickly browsed thru the book to make sure the book was not an excerpt from Gitanjali. I couldn't believe I would be able to read a work that won Nobel prize for literature. I couldn't sleep till I completed reading the short, devotional poems that we all can relate to so well. I am sure listening to these in sweet Bengali songs would be such a delight to those who understand Bengali.

Add to your favourite and enjoy the short poems when looking for a break. I have pasted one poem below
Mind Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action---
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Experiencing works of Tagore were limited to Jana Gana Mana, The Kabuliwala as part of our school curiculum and to the more recent Choker Bali. I am wondering why we didn't have peoms of Tagore in school.

Till the news of the Buddas in Bamyan being taken down, for me reference to Afghanistan always brought to mind a mountainous country rich in dry fruits - Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (frontier Gandhi) and his Khudai Khidmatghar - the sturdy Kabuliwala with his sack of dry fruits from Tagore's story. With that said, were the Taliban looking for being heard, by indulging in this act, if something was preserved in an Islamic country for so many years.

Thinking about Kabuliwala, I was wondering about the importance of the written word to us during our school days due to limited or no access to TV, Internet. Unfortunately, thanks to media, the kids of today will only conjure a Taliban dominated, war ridden Afghanistan.

I read Kabuliwala once again, empathized all the more with the father separated from his daughter than I would have in my school days. How beautifully social writers such as Tagore helped us to appreciate the wonders of life! Enjoy reading it yourself or to your child.

Looking for the story, I came to know there was a Balraj Sahani movie by the same name. Refer for the review. The review has these beautiful words, 'Pyar mohabbat mein ehsaan nahin hota, sirf pyar mohabbat hota hain' [One does not do favours in love, just gives unconditionally]. These words touched me all the more as I remember hurting Feroz by telling him, "I left Wipro for him", during the difficult change management period for me, from Wipro to the new company. I thank Feroz for his patience with me as I grow and mature in his love!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Being a Mother - Azara Feroz Sayed

Me and Feroz spend hours talking about our mothers - how they disciplined us with their kat-kat and whatever sucess in life we have today is thanks to their determination of giving us good education and upbringing!

Some thoughts on Motherhood
Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you've had a baby... that somebody doesn't know that once you're a mother, "normal" is history.

Somebody said you learn how to be a mother by instinct... that somebody never took a three-year-old shopping.

Somebody said being a mother is boring... that somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver's permit.

Somebody said if you're a "good" mother, your child will "turn out good"... that somebody thinks a child comes with directions and a guarantee.

Somebody said "good" mothers never raise their voices... that somebody never came out the back door just in time to see her child hit a golf ball through the neighbor's kitchen window.

Somebody said you don't need an education to be a mother... that somebody never helped a fourth grader with his math.

Somebody said you can't love the fifth child as much as you love the first... that somebody doesn't have five children.

Somebody said a mother can find all the answers to her child-rearing questions in the books... that somebody never had a child stuff beans up his nose or in his ears.

Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery... that somebody never watched her "baby" get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten... or on a plane headed for military "boot camp."

Somebody said a mother can do her job with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back... that somebody never organized seven giggling Brownies to sell cookies.

Somebody said a mother can stop worrying after her child gets married... that somebody doesn't know that marriage adds a new son or daughter-in-law to a mother's heartstrings.

Somebody said a mother's job is done when her last child leaves home... that somebody never had grandchildren.

Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don't need to tell her... that somebody isn't a mother.

Till the time we have our bachhoo (I love to hear these words from Feroz - I am scared of Lizards and at my Mom's place - not a single would be spared if one gets into our home - with Feroz, it is a Lizard's peelloo he would tell me - making me feel miserable about it being killed - Feroz loves spending time with peelloos - I love to watch him do that - An elephant started after him in Nagarhole Forest after Feroz started teasing its peelloo), to read this poem out, I will read this poem for Feroz with 'Mother' replaced by 'Wife' - so easy with find-and-replace in the text - In real life, there are no replacements, there are additions - so it would be 'Being a Mother' along with 'Being a Wife'.

Being Your Mother
Poem by Barbara Cage

Being your mother means that I have had the opportunity
to experience loving someone more than I love myself.
I have learned what it's like to experience joy and pain through someone else's life.

It has brought me pride and joy;
your accomplishments touch me and thrill me like no one else's can.
It has brought me a few tears and heartaches at times,
but it has taught me hope and patience.
It has shown me the depth, strength, and power of love.

Being your mother hasn't always been easy,
and I'm sure I've said or done things that have hurt or confused you.
But no one has ever made me as satisfied as you do just by being happy.
No one has made me as proud as you do just by living up to your responsibilities.

No one's smile has ever warmed my heart like yours does;
no one's laughter fills my heart with delight as quickly as yours can.
No one's hugs feel as sweet, and no one's dreams mean as much to me as yours do.

No other memories of bad times have miraculously turned into important lessons or humorous stories;
the good times have become precious treasures to relive again and again.

You are a part of me, and no matter what happened in the past
or what the future holds,
you are someone I will always appreciate, adore, and love unconditionally.

Being your mother means that I've been given one of life's greatest gifts: you.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ask - Azara Feroz Sayed

"I made less money than I was worth, laughed at jokes I didn't understand and never raised my hand in class. I accepted too many things without questioning authority"

"I had settled for less than the best of everything - mediocre seats at plays and drafty seats at restaurants. Cold or badly prepared food was never sent back. I settled for substandard rooms in hotels. I accepted shoddy workmanship and poor performance. I was afraid to return or exchange. I rarely, if ever, asked a sales clerk to help me find something I was looking for"

All I had to was Ask!

These are the words from the book "The Aladdin Factor" by Jack Canfield and Mark Vicor Hansen. The Chicken Soup for the Soul guys. For some reason I am not a fan of the Chicken Soup Series. Came accross this book as a must read book and took the dip and it was worth it!

Isn't Asking so much important to take our life where we want. The 'more than needed' examples in the book drive the importance of 'Asking'

Who to Ask
- Ask a higher power for help, guidance, mentoring. This could be someone more knowledgeable or for that matter of fact God. Mother Theresa asked God for help in fulfilling her dream to build a orphanage with three pennies! Don't our religious books say in many forms something similar to, 'Ask and you shall receive'
- Ask yourself questions that can change yourself. Aren't we making choices (gap between stimulus and response) all the time. Asking questions will help us make better choices, make improvements to our mission statement, goals.
- Ask the people in the world for Friendship, Discounts, Interest Rate, Knowledge, Love, Help for improving our living in form of clean cities, more secured place to stay. The book talks about this and I can vouch for it - ask a librarian. I am told we can call the library for any help that we need like what time it would be in London now etc It is part of the public service that most library provide. I wasn't aware about interlibrary loan till I asked a librarian for ordering a book. I feel so much valued when I receive a book from far distant places. The 'Peopleware' book was brought for me from a library in Louisiana.
- Ask at work. Ask for oppurtunities to succeed, for excellence, for feedback, for raise, for referrals, for appreciation
- Ask at home. Ask for hugs, tenderness, intimacy, help, acknowledgement, appreciation

Below is the summary of the book from
The author says growing from indenpendence to inter-dependence is not possible without asking!

What inhibits us from Asking?

  1. Ignorance
    • We don't know what is available and possible
    • We don't know how to ask

  2. Limiting and Inaccurate Beliefs
    • Programming
      • We are programmed by our parents
      • We are programmed at school
      • We are programmed by the media
      • We are conditioned by religious training
      • We are programmed by "experts"

    • Limiting Beliefs
      • If you really loved me, I wouldn't have to ask
      • The world is not a responsive place
      • My success will deprive someone else
      • If I get what I want, it will make me unhappy

  3. Fear
      • Fear of Rejection
      • Fear of Looking Stupid
      • Fear of Being Powerless
      • Fear of Humiliation
      • Fear of Punishment
      • Fear of Abandonment
      • Fear of Endless Obligation

  4. Low Self-Esteem
    • Happy to be wanted by anybody
    • A feeling of unworthiness
    • My needs are not important
    • I am not worth it
    • The fear that rejection will confirm some deep-seated core belief about myself.

  5. Pride
    • I'm afraid to appear less weak and needy.
    • Fear that people will judge me for not already having it.
    • We are programmed in pride.
    • We are supposed to be able to figure it out by ourselves

7 Characteristics of Askers
  1. They know what they want.
  2. They believe they are worthy of receiving it.
  3. They believe they can get it.
  4. They are passionate about it.
  5. They take action in the face of fear.
  6. They learn from their experience.
  7. They are persistent.

How to know what to ask for?
  1. Make a list of 101 wishes
  2. Clarify your vision
  3. Complete the perfect day fantasy
  4. Complete the "I Want" process
  5. Stretch Your Imagination
  6. Visualize your dream
  7. Create your dream

How To Ask?
  • Ask as if you expect to get it.
    • Ask with a positive expectation
    • See it the way you want it to be
    • Ask with conviction
    • Assume you can

  • Ask someone who can give it to you
    • Realize that some people aren't capable of delivering
    • Ask someone whose business it is to know
    • Ask people who are qualified and motivated to help
    • Ask the experts
    • Reconsider who is an expert
    • Get the person's full attention

  • Be clear and specific
    • Be specific in your requests
    • Be careful what you ask for
    • Ask for what you want, not for what you don't want
    • It is possible to be too specific

  • Ask from your heart
    • Ask with passion
    • Ask with urgency and passion
    • Ask with eye contact
    • Ask in a kind voice
    • Ask politely
    • Ask with respect and admiration

  • Ask with humour and creativity
    • Ask with humour
    • Ask creatively

  • Give in order to get
    • Give something to get something
    • You have to give to get
    • Give a gift
    • Give compliments or praise
    • Explain what's in it for them
    • Tell your partner how it beneifts him or her

  • Ask repeatedly
    • Just say NEXT!
    • Look forward to the no's
    • Ask the same people again and again
    • Be tenacious, persevere, never give up

  • How to deal with resistance
    • Don't lose your cool
    • Don't create resistance
    • Ask with authority and be prepared for a no
    • A no may be a blessing in disguise
    • Be gracious in accepting a no

    • Don't burn your bridges.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Knowledge Worker's Contribution - Azara Feroz Sayed

Peopleware is a twenty year old book on the myths in software development. It is a good read for software developers progressing to managers without knowing what managing people and teams is all about and the pitfalls in project execution due to this. Also how an approach of compromising product quality, treating people as components to meet the immediate cost objectives, impacts teams morale. I could easily identify myself with the book having been a developer myself moving onto people management. This short book would be a good read for all knowledgeworkers not necessarily in software.

Refer for summary of the book

Black Team is a chapter of interest to me on how to build legendary teams out of ordianary people - building a elite team working on something special. While the summary of the book has a reference to the Black Team, enjoy the legend of the Black Team at IBM here

Also Network model of Team Behavior is something I always worked towards building.
Managers are usually not part of the teams they manage. Teams are made up of peers, equals that function as equals. The manager is most often outside, giving occasional direction from above and clearing away administrative and procedural obstacles. On the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in their areas of strength. The structure of a team is a network, not a hierarchy.

The last chapter in the second edition, The Making of community, is what this post is about.

Today, workplace is the best chance of finding a proper community – if it is there to be found

You're on your deathbed at the grand old age of, let's say, a hundred and one. You're in no discomfort only old. At this age, your thoughts are all in the past. You're taking stock. You ask yourself the question, What really mattered in my life and what didn't? It's no great surprise that many of the concerns that utterly obssessed you all those year's ago (e.g. getting version 27 build to stabilize) don't figure very prominently in your deathbed assessment. No, you're much more likely to think about warm family relations, kids and grankids. Any contributions from your work? Yes, your contributions to creating a real community within the company, something that people loved and respected and gave thier allegiance to. That was an accomplishment that will figure out in your sense of what you have done with your life.

Isn't this the 'Second Half of Your Life' that Peter Drucket talks about in 'Managing Oneself'. It is a must read article for all. I talked about the performance management aspect part of it in my earlier post 'Reaching the top'. 'Managing Oneself' is the first chapter in the book Classic Drucker and has made a mark on me - thanks to Feroz for introducing me to the book.

Refer for the complete article.

There is one prerequisite for managing the second half of your life: You must begin long before you enter it.

When it first became clear 30 years ago that working-life expectancies were lengthening very fast, many observers (including myself) believed that retired people would increasingly become volun-teers for non-profit institutions. That has not happened. If one does not begin to volunteer before one is 40 or so, one will not volunteer once past 60.

Similarly, all the social entrepreneurs I know began to work in their chosen second enterprise long before they reached their peak in their original business.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Speed Reading - Azara Feroz Sayed

Feroz's comments on my slow reading made me aware of an area of import to all knowledge workers - speed reading! Increasingly, we are blasted with info in form of emails, policies and procedures, technology updates and yes too much info on the internet on any topic that you focus on - an ability to read fast would certainly give us some of our valuable time back!

Motimer J Adler in the classic book "How to Read a Book" talks about the level of readings that we perform would determine the effort that we need to put into reading.
- Elementary reading or basic reading that we are taught in school is the reading for information, entertainment. Sometimes information, facts also lead to greater level of understanding. Difficulties at this level are mechanical and some of them can be tracked back to early instructions in reading like vocalization, regression, fixation. Speed Reading courses concentrate on this level. Most of our reading falls in this category and we have the advantage of correcting these flaws and benefit from the additional time that we will get back by improving in this area.
- Inspectional or Skimming Systematically is characterised by causal or random browsing the book with the aim to examine the surface of the book (structure or content of the book), to learn what the surface alone can teach us. While the focus in elementary reading would be "what does the sentence say?", the focus in Inspectional reading would be "what is the book about?". This is useful when we need to read in a time frame without having to "study" a book. Urgency of reading i.e. reading in a particular time frame would be the focus here. We would be using our skills for Elementary Reading in addition to the skills of Inspectional Reading to accomplish the reading in a limited time. - This article refers to inspectional reading as "gutting the book"
- Analytical Reading is thorough reading - the complete reading. If inspectional reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible in a given limited time then analytical reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible given unlimited time. Analytical reading is for the sake of understanding and its goal is not simply for information or entertainment, taking the reader from a condition of understanding less to one of understanding more. On this level of reading, the reader grasps a book and works at it until the book becomes his own. Speed Reading is not applicable to Analytical Reading. provides rules for Analytical Reading.
- Synoptical Reading is the highest form of reading where-in the reader reads many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Synoptical Reading makes heavy demands on the reader and is the most active and effortful kind of reading. - this article provides an example for each of these type of reading from the perspective of a home schooling Mom.

This article from Alder's archive is on "Learning by Instruction v/s Learning by Discovery" an interesting topic that he talks about in his book.
Getting more information and coming to understand what you did not understand before are two different kinds of learning. To be informed is to know, simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about: why it is the case, what its connections are with other facts, in what respects it is the same, in what respects it is different, and so forth. This distinction is familiar in terms of the differences between able to remember something and being able to explain it. I envy Feroz here as he gets an oppurtunity to do this in his class everday i.e. explain what he has understood to his students. But whether it is a fact about the book or a fact about the world that you have learned, you have gained nothing but information if you have exercised only your memory. You have not been enlightened. Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it. i.e. you should be able to remember what the author said as well as know what he meant. Being informed is prerequisite to being enlightened. The point, however, is not to stop at being informed.

Speed Reading is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds and to know when the different speeds are appropriate.
We all know that we read with our mind and our eyes act as sensors sending signals to our brain exactly as the blind use fingers as sensors to send signals to the brain. Fixation and Span(using your eyes for effective reading) , Vocalization (minimizing the use of vocal organs and internal reading) and Regression(minimizing re-reading) are the three important areas that one would have to improve on to see immediate benefit of speed reading. The focus on speed reading builds concentration leading to improved comprehension and retention i.e. speed reading, comprehension and retention are related. is an article from Adler's book on how to improve Fixation. Time yourself and you will see for yourself how Fixations causes to lag our reading.

Refer for tips on improving fixation and regression.

"How to read better and faster" by Norman Lewis - yes the author of the classic Powerful Vocabulary book - is a very good book that talks about techniques for improving fixation, minimizing vocatlization and regression. This book has lot of exercises to measure the improvement in reading speed as you understand the importance of each technique as it is introduced.

The exercise at the start of Lewis's book rated me as average 250WPM (not a bad reader!) I have still not completed the book so 700WPM is not far!!

Their are lot of tools in this area - will explore and post if I come across any technique other that those mentioned by Norman Lewis.

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