Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Fork In The Road

When watching television, our brains process many millions of images, and sequence them in a format that makes sense to us. It is hard for me to recall in vivid clarity most of these endless images that have passed through my consciousness, except perhaps one that has stayed with me over the years. Picture someone with a snorkel mask swimming laps for hours in a small pool, and making notes with an underwater pen and pad. I was watching a television documentary on a prolific Japanese inventor who happened to get his most profound ideas during this monotonous routine of swimming laps. Rather than get out of water and put his ideas on paper, he would write them down with his underwater pen on his waterproof writing pad. When asked about the secret of his creativity, he had a rather simple answer. He said that whenever he was faced with a choice of taking the easy way or the hard way, he always embraced the more difficult road. He felt that the experiences gained from choosing the harder way helped him turn his creative genius into practical reality. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Failure is the stepping stone to success: What my first three steps taught me

As you approach any endeavor, there are three likely outcomes. One, you are successful; two, you achieve partial success; three, you are unsuccessful. The outcome is not as important as what you learn from your experience. You don’t learn as much from your success as you do from failures. Success and failure, however both have their benefits. Success gives you the fruits of your efforts and failure gives you the seeds that you can then later transform into success in another form. If you look at success and failure in this manner, one can ask, which is more valuable, a seed or a fruit? A fruit once eaten is done and gone. A seed on the other hand has the potential for turning into a tree that can bear countless fruits.

When I look back on my life over the course of the last decade or so, just as the average person out there, I have had my share of successes and failures. Based on lessons learnt from past failures, I came up with seeds for my future success. These seed are universally applicable to anyone, anywhere. Here are the three stepping stones that helped me find the seeds of success.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thinking outside the box

In medieval times, some thought the world was flat and others correctly subscribed to the idea of a spherical world. At that time, there was perhaps a lot of speculation about what lay beyond the vast seas. Discovering the new world involved thinking outside the box. The modern world as we know it today would not exist if Christopher Columbus did not think outside the box. Since that time, man has not only discovered and accounted for every square inch of land on earth, but also has landed robotic rovers on the surface of our neighbouring planet, Mars. Every innovation that has translated into the everyday conveniences of modern life, such as cellphones and microwaves, that we take for granted, is the result of someone thinking outside the box. A lot of people have great ideas, but only a few actually take the leap of faith to turn an idea into something that is tangible and useful. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Work-life balance

Tim woke up to a gentle morning breeze. The weather was perfect and the early morning air drafting in through the large bay windows facing the Pacific Ocean felt like a cool mist in his face. As he moved towards the curtains flapping in the breeze, the first hint of the rising sun just over the eastern horizon glinted off the azure blue waters given it an ethereal golden sheen. The only sign of a restless wind was a couple of whitecaps out in the distance. As he watched sailboats slowly move across the waters, Tim’s work life was a distant memory although he had just arrived on this Pacific island paradise. Watching the waves gently lap the picturesque and nearly deserted sandy beach, his mind was similarly tranquil. The only sounds were those of seagulls and other avian life that made this particular beach home. He was snapped out of his early morning reverie by the humming sound of a motor in the distance. A tractor with a large net was clearing the beach sand of sea weed that was brought in by the ocean current overnight. As the sound got louder and louder, Tim was startled to find himself in his cubicle, one among several hundred similarly sized cubicles spread across an endless expanse of floor space. The only hint of the sun in his windowless cubicle was an old frayed piece of paper with a rough rendering of the sun above a couple of mountain peaks drawn by his young daughter in her art class a couple of years ago. The janitor slowly sweeping across the aisle with his industrial vacuum cleaner just before the 8 AM influx of hundreds of office staff, reminded Tim that was already three hours into his 16 hour work day. One would think that as he was taking a long anticipated and much needed vacation two weeks hence, he was at his desk very early to get all his work done. However, with the ever increasing demands of his high pressured job, not the least of which was his boss snapping at his heels and barking orders every time he passed through Tim’s section of the office floor made Tim an office rat glued to his seat. A relaxing vacation was a distant dream. Needless to say, Tim had no work-life balance.