Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Triumph in Bombay - Vaibhav Vats

India won the World Cup in 2011. Vaibhav Vats travelled to most of the venues and matches as a journalist and covered the same travelling to 12 of the 14 venues on his own time. This book is about his travels and impressions of the World Cup and its his first book at that. A hard cover contract with Penguin Books is something one cannot take lightly, more so when it is a sport one likes, and even more so when it is gifted by someone who chose this book carefully. Thanks Chitra and Krishna for the book.
Penguin, 240 p, Rs.399

Vaibhav Vats starts his travels in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he witnesses the Cup opener and traverses India, Sri Lanka over the period of the Cup. His impressions of the places, the people he interacts with, the life of a travelling sports journalist, the people he met on the tour are described. The matches are described as well and parts of the interactions with the players. The most interesting character I found was Sami Hasan the ICC PR man. Others like C in Sri Lanka as well as the cricketer who turned coach crop us. Vaibhav did spend time meeting some interesting people like Jagmohan Dalmiya, former first class cricketer and now writer V. Ramnarayan, Ramchandra Guha, writer Aditya Sudarshan and others.

But despite the huge stage and the wonderful canvas there's nothing much to take away in terms of travel writing or cricket writing from the book. Vaibhav should have stuck to one perhaps cricket or travel, but having straddled both, ends up somewhere in the middle. On cricket writing there's little to analyse now since its 2013 now and the Cup was done and dusted in 2011, analysed a million times over. Even there, it might have worked if he chose the view point well - I'd have chosen the one of a cricket fan - which is more relatable to the audience. Now that's something Harsha Bhogle did very well in his initial years and even now sometimes as a commentator and writer - sticks to his limitations and plays within them like any good batsman.

To write convincingly, confidently and credibly about the game would need far more experience and exposure to the game and its practitioners and even today I find that several senior journalists struggle to express themselves confidently. The more mature and sensible ones stick to what they know and express what they feel. But many younger ones, and I am not referring to young Vats here, get too technical about a game that they do not understand, and in doing so, showcase their need to find approval for their insights. The transfer of weight, the stillness of the head, the position of the right leg and this shoulder, how the ball gripped the surface, is all fine and subjective - it means nothing at all because ten guys write about it, there will be ten opinions on that. But what the best writers did was in describing the effect of all what happened. What happened when the ball hit the bat, how the batsman was set up, what magic transpired on the arena when the best practitioners played is what they wrote about best. It was wonderful watching it through their eyes, watching the magic being enhanced. It cannot be enhanced by writing about technique - for the simple reason that it's highly subjective and more importantly not what the reader wants to read.

A debut book is always something that deserves a pat on the back so Vaibhav, well done. But one cannot ignore the fact that there's room for improvement especially when someone has both the gift and the opportunity. Somehow the book sailed through without touching me in any way - I was only fleetingly drawn into it - which indicates that the content could have been richer, explored deeper and the basic premise of the book, the why this book was written, held on stronger. There's promise, but there are also many questions left at the end. Why did they release this book in 2013 is one? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Manuscript Found In Accra - Paulo Coelho

One of the first things about the "Manuscript Found in Accra" is the striking similarity to "The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran. In this book also there is a Prophet kind of a character, Copt the Greek, and there is some story about him and the manuscript which did not interest me. I was more interested in knowing if Copt had anything interesting to say to the frightened multitudes seeking wisdom and solace. As in the Prophet, the people ask questions about various aspects of life that have been puzzling them and the Greek answers. I tried to get down the gist of the answers that I liked.

I liked the part about what to seek and what to avoid. Seek those he says, who believe in what they are doing, who decide on the spur of the moment, who respect your freedom, who are with you in happy times, those who are unafraid to be vulnerable, who accept mistakes, who grow you, who are happy, who sing, who tell stories, who enjoy life, whose eyes sparkle with happiness.

Harper Collins, Rs. 194, 299 p
What about defeat? The Greek replies - Only he who gives up is defeated.

And as for the Defeated Ones, he says - Those are the ones who never fail! (Much to learn for the perfectionists from this.)

On Solitude, he says - Without it, love will not stay by your side.

On feelings of being useless, he says - One is never useless, and one must live the life one wants to live.

On Change, he says - It must be done NOW.

On Beauty, he says - The brightest light comes from within.

On Direction, he says - Look to your childhood, go to what filled you with enthusiasm, God's plan.

On Love, he says - Allow it to approach.

On going back in time, he says - Go forward, live with innocence.

On Sex, he says - It's about give and take, about harmony.

On Surviving, he says - Be clear about what to seek and what to avoid.

On elegance he says - The elegant make no effort to look elegant and simple.

On Work he says - It's an offering for money, for love. Through your offering you are allowing others to love you.

On Luck he says - It is the fruit of the seed you have lovingly planted.

On Miracles he says - Look at each day as one.

And on Anxiety (keep it), on the Future, on Loyalty, on Weapons and on Enemies, the Greek speaks wisely.

The part of what to seek was brilliant and much of what else he says too. But it does appear stale since it has this strong resemblance to the Prophet. But even taking that comparison out of the context, the presentation is not as sharp as it could have been. Each idea is conveyed rather convolutedly and stuff that could have been left out or refined comes up and blocks the sharp and arrow like message that marks each word written in the Prophet. It's not bad, but the promise and the endeavor of the idea did not reach the potential it could have. One read is not a bad idea certainly, but that's about it.

Goal Setting and Preparation - Workshop for Teenagers October 27, 2013

Went off well. I figured there need to be 3 levels to this.

At level 1 of this workshop, there appears some clarity.
At level 2, the goals are refined and work monitored.
At Level 3, we launch a serious assault on the goal.

I think it frees the youngsters a bit from the burden of too many goals, too many expectations and gives some direction and clarity.

Some feedback
1) Got clearer with my goals. Got to know how to elaborate that one goal. Note each step properly and how to do it in a specific time span. - Arzoo

2) Came to know a lot about goal setting an how to plan to achieve the goal I have set. - Anushka

3) Came to realize a lot of things I was not aware about and cleared all my confusion. Now I'm clear and set on what I have to do and how /what I have to do to achieve it. - Tarini

4) I came to know how to keep a goal. I learnt so many things and got some confidence. - Tagore

5) It was a very good experience that taught me how to plan out my future with certain goals to which I look forward. definitely after going back home I would find myself little planned and have a clarity of what I am doing. Thank You!! - Nikitha

Am happy with the outcome. See you all on November 27, 2013.

Uyyala Jampala - Trailer of New Telugu Movie

'Uyyala Jampala' is my brother Ram Mohan's new movie under Sunshine Cinema's production, which is due to be released shortly. Following the earlier two movies produced by him, 'Ashta Chamma' and 'Golconda High School', 'Uyyala Jampala' carries on the tradition of giving promising new comers a break, promoting clean and wholesome entertainment and creating a space for small, sensible and entertaining movies that have a big heart.

Directed by debutant Virinchi Varma who brings a rare sensibility to the medium, the film stars two wonderfully talented newcomers, the irrepressible and highly energetic Anandi a.k.a. Avika Gor and the highly creative, intense and dynamic Raj Tarun.

You can watch the trailer of the movie at the link below.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtKxPLsFH-I

Think Like A Champion - Rudi V. Webster

I was drawn to this book the first time I saw it. I hesitated then, but I picked it up the second time. Rudi Webster is a cricketer and thinker, a student of the game and human psychology, a doctor and a diplomat, and someone who has seen the rise of the formidable West Indian side under Clive Lloyd, first hand. He has had a hand in many a sportsperson's success as a sports psychologist and his wisdom I thought would be nice to partake of.
Harper Sport, 360 p, Rs. 450

Rudi splits up the premise right in the beginning - the game he says consists of four aspects - fitness, technique, strategy and mental skill. He also quickly puts the impact of mental skill on performance to about 70% or 80%, a fact that many successful sportsmen also corroborate. Interviews with M.S. Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman,  Clive Lloyd, Dennis Lillee, Wasim Akram, Jacques Kallis, Sir Garfield Sobers, Ian and  Greg Chappell add credibility and meat to the book.

The book is divided into five parts - Performance, Leadership and team work, Self Confidence, Concentration  and Pressure.

Under Performance Rudi focusses on 3 basic questions to be answered by anyone looking to better their performance
- what do you want to achieve and why
- what do you stand for and believe in
- what's your action plan
The importance of basics and preparation are stressed.

Rudi talks of the Mind and the Inner Game which consists of the self-image, self-belief and self-talk. There is an interesting story he cites of a Red Indian Chief who tells his son that there are two wolves fighting inside him - one good and one bad. The youngster asks, who is winning. The Chief replies, the one whom I feed. If you feed good thoughts the good wolf wins and if you feed negative thoughts the bad wolf wins. Rudi dwells on motivation and goal setting. Execution he says is all about the Planning-Briefing-Execution-Debriefing-Plan for Next game-retain high standards formula. He talks of the importance of visualization techniques - the practice of seeing and feeling what you want to achieve and become. One of the interesting visualizations among the many he explained was the twin self visualization where you have the perfect twin self guiding you.

Under Leadership and Teamwork Rudi focusses on self-leadership which comes with three items on the agenda. They are - an agenda for change, a cohesive network of competent and motivated people and the eradication of excuses, bad habits and outmoded traditions. The Rudi Webster New Leadership model is this Self mastery + Team synergy + Continuous learning +Sustainable development. Rudi feels that leaders must be dealers in hope.

Under Self Confidence Rudi quotes an interesting Jack Canfield study on how the world is constantly eroding our self confidence - in one day the study showed that a child receives 460 negative or critical messages as against 75 positive and supportive messages! No wonder our self confidence is so badly dented. Rudi talks of how by empowering fringe players the overall performance soars and I firmly believe in that. To convert low self confidence into a better state, Rudi stresses the importance of self talk. He also encourages one to be present, to prepare well, to engage in smart self talk, reduce anxiety, correct perceptual distortion, focus on areas you can control, lower one's expectations. work on basics and be patient. These could boost confidence also - hypnosis, eye movement technique and focussed breathing technique.

On Concentration Rudi dwells on what to concentrate on - the task at hand. Don't fall under the information overload syndrome he says and warns against distractions. He says that meditation can help concentration. I can see what he is saying - let's say a batsmen meditates on the aspect of scoring a hundred and follows the ball in his mind for let us say a hundred and fifty balls, his concentration will surely improve.

On Pressure Rudi differentiates between good and bad pressure. He elucidates reacions to stress which if we understand, we can be aware and do something about it. The manifestations of stress he lists are - racing heart, shallow breath, muscle tension, tightness, impatience, over alertness, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, crying, nervous fear, smiling and pain. the effects of stress are loss of objectivity, negative thinking, loss of concentration and loss of patience. To manage pressure one can adopt the fight or flight method or merely go back and prepare for the unexpected. Pre-game pressure can be dealt with giving players a realistic perception of the game, confidence boosters, by calming players, by identifying priorities and get players to think, mentally rehearse and visualize.

Rudi also talks of flooding technique, using sense of humour, exercise and anger, and a support network as ways to relase pressure. To relax he suggests breathing techniques, relaxing muscles, self talk and meditiating so you be present in the moment.

For one with so much experience and knowledge and who has such great content and reach to superstars, Rudi Webster's book which could have been a gamechanger for cricketers, is strangely presented. There are too many interviews saying the same  thing and repeating themselves, too many points repeated in one form or another and the book is just too long. Where it is 360 it could have been 250 perhaps. Don't doubt the content - there is a lot of wonderful content there - but the delivery mechanism is poor and the message is sprayed all around. I sometimes think that people who have access to the superstars are forced into a corner (like directors with super heroes) because they have to present the heroes views and while presenting their own views. When the authors views get lost, the book dips. If Rudi had stuck to his viewpoints, his case studies and kept his interviews to a bare minimum or none at all, the book would have been far more productive. But with everyone walking in and out, saying this and that and rambling on at times, the book loses its steam and you are left trying to pick up the messages from the pile. What were the editors doing with so much promise and so much content? Or was everyone taking the easy route and relying on the superstar names to sell the book? Whatever it is and whoever is responsible, the book promises much and falls way below the potential it has considering the author's experience and knowledge and the resources he had access to. Sad. But the content is there if you want to go and figure it out.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thought For the Day - Can We Motivate Anyone Really?

I always find this topic rather interesting. In fact many say that motivating sessions are demotivating really because they somehow tend to make you feel smaller. That danger always exists if one cannot connect all the pieces well and bring the story together.

Beyond motivation
How to sustain it?
But to come back to the original question - can we motivate anyone really? I mean once the session is over, the enthusiasm fades off and people go back to their old habits and lives. As long as we talk and share stuff of the highly energetic, everyone loves being part of it. But after that, reality sinks in. Motivation is hard by ourselves. Even the motivators know that - they need motivation themselves many times.

Motivation - Opening New Avenues By Showing How and Why
Personally I feel that the idea of motivation is misunderstood. People seem to think that motivators come with a wonder drug and inject the audience with the same for a full, instant and final changeover. How can a single session change a person who has firm beliefs and habits built over decades? Not possible really. It may work if motivation is constant perhaps, but as a one off, it might not.

What I think motivation is really about is this. Motivation is all about expansion right? If I can show you one process of expanding your thought, or an idea that could expand your mind, the mind awakens. Where the mind can go, action is sure to follow. If the idea sticks and if one is convinced that it's a process worth committing to, action may begin. That will start the process of expansion.

I feel that this method of trying to deal with the 'how' of thinking and provoking the action has a greater connect simply because it is something that comes out of personal experience, out of fear and doubt and hope and desire, out of failures and successes. The field is smaller, more immediate and thereby relatable. Showing the success of someone else (the superheroes) will work but only to some extent, because one really does not know what went on in that person's mind or life. In fact  think it makes the disconnect bigger. So snazzy audio visuals have limited effect in the longer term.

So making a connect at the audience level, understanding their fears and doubts, addressing ways of going forward despite the fears and doubts, and certainly sharing the benefits of expanding one's spheres should open up new vistas in their minds. To know why one should aim to be better and how, could certainly help motivate the individual better in the longer run. If one gets a 10% improvement, its a huge ask and a job well done.

Motivation then is to bring in individual thought, to go beyond known limits by themselves. If the gust of wind catches them, they rise and fly into the skies.

The First Great Train Robbery - Movie review

A 1979 adventure film loosely based on a real train robbery, 'the First Great Train Robbery' failed to impress despite its star cast and the star writer and director, Michael Crichton. The premise - a load of gold ingots that is being taken by train every month to pay English soldiers fighting the Crimean war has to be robbed while the train is in motion. Considered daring then because it had not been done before (the movie is set in the late 1880s) it never picked up speed despite all the delightful promise. I'd lay all blame on Crichton for that as writer and director.

It somehow meanders and I wonder how Crichton managed that. One would think a great train robbery would be all about edge-of-the-seat action and with Sean Connery, Sutherland, Leslie Anne Downe you need little else. But it never took off. To get the four different keys from four different sources the chief character Edward (Connery) comes up with some rather awkward, implausible and convoluted schemes where it could have been done much more simply and more ingeniously. Anyway the four keys in place, the guard compromised should have everything tied up but even then, they somehow miss some small details and get caught. But to me that was only to be expected what with his planning. Of course he gets away too in a fairy tale fashion.

I found the life story of Michael Crichton more fascinating than the movie. He went to Harvard, wrote many novels but also screenplays and even directed movies, some big hits too (Coma). But he got way off the mark in this one. I'd skip it.

The Grapes of Wrath - Movie Review

The book was deeply impactful. A superb piece of writing by John Steinbeck in the 1930s. The movie was made in 1940 and is as stark and as full of human misery, hope and courage as the book was. It follows the same story - Tom Joad returns from prison to find his parents evicted form their lands in Oklahoma. The lands have been taken over thanks to the gradual mechanisation. With no lands and no source of livelihood, the miserable people leave for California based on handbills they see with promises of jobs and a good life. Little do they know that many such are moving westward.

A little into the movie and you are seized by a hopelessness that is difficult to shake away. Tom Joad and his strong willed mother, who carries on as if nothing happened with her mother's dead body in her lap (to avoid trouble at the borders), a despairingly optimistic father, and many more members of the family get into an old jalopy that carries their life belongings. They are joined by Casy, an ex-preacher, who has nothing else to do. The grandfather dies, the grandma dies, some members go away, some desert them,but the family moves on discovering reality of unemployment, deceit, mob fury and the downsides of capitalism in camps that are a terrible advertisement for life. But you cannot keep the high spirited Tom out of action and he stands up for what's right and gets into more trouble. Casy becomes a communist leader and is killed and Tom stands up for that. In the end Tom finds his cause and purpose, of standing up for injustice in this world that the peasants do not really understand. It ends on a note hope because Tom is not someone you can ignore, someone you can pushover.

The relation between Tom and his mother stands out so specially, the strong confidantes looking out for the rest of the flock. Tom's character is beautifully developed as he starts on a slightly negative note and blossoms into a hero. Scenes in the bakery where Father Joad buys his loaf and no more because he wants to save his money for the rest of the trip kill you because they are full of human kindness and consideration for the other human being. The shop owner lets him half his loaf  at a lower price saying that its yesterday's bread and the saleswoman lies about the price of  candy so the two little children can eat that and not make a hole in the old man's pocket. And to top it all the truckers who notice this entire episode leave her a big tip. Its wonderful, that scene because it shows just how we can live if we share and care and understand, something only the people down below seem to have the capacity to. (And if anything can make one cry its a kind act or word really.) I loved that scene and can watch it again and again. Tom Joad telling his mother that he will take up the fight and will be where there is any injustice committed and so on is wonderful to watch just as the old mother's steely affirmation that their spirit can never be crushed because they will keep on coming. They are the people. They are honest, hard working proud and kind. They will give more than they will take. They will never give up.

The book left a deep mark on me and the movie did too. Henry Fonda as Tom Joad stands out.If you've read the book, watch the movie too. I cannot get over the fact that stories were told so simply, so impactfully those days with the little technology they had. Now there's all technology and no creativity really.

Just Like a Woman - Movie Review

Take an Egyptian woman married to a traditional Egyptian man with a domineering mother. Put them in the USA where they run a store. Make the couple not have a child and the mother be on the case of the daughter-in-law all the time. Add a free spirited American woman who is married to a philandering, lazy husband, who is also interested in belly dancing. Make them meet at the store.

Ignite the situation with the death of the mother-in-law due to an accidental overdose administered by the Egyptian girl. And make the American woman lose her job and find her husband cheating on her. Get the two woman together, give them a car, an endless terrain in the USA and belly dancing opportunities at night clubs. The girls do what they can do well, belly dance, get by, face some problems and kind of grow to a stage when they are both fond of one another and strong enough to stand independently. The Egyptian girl goes back to a possible jail term but now she is not scared anymore, the American cuts off ties with her boyfriend and starts afresh.

It is about new beginnings finally, the subtle abuse that women across the world suffer. But it has hope and shows that one can get by. There will be some glitches but you can handle them. And most importantly feel the taste of freedom, the wind in your hair. Go fly woman. Sienna Miller and Golshifteh Farahani, the Iranian actress, give convincing performances and the movie somehow holds together possibly because it is an honest effort.

Friday, October 25, 2013

10 Heroes Who Impacted Me

These are 10 celebrities who impacted me from my childhood.

1) Amitabh Bachchan, for his larger than life presence that totally took over and twisted our lives into knots - from bell bottoms to brooding faces, long hair to dancing.

2) Socrates, the Brazilian football player, for his brooding presence, his stylish play.

3) Sunil Gavaskar, for bringing a sense of excellence, a sense of wanting to beyond, a sense of defiance and keeping up with the best.

4) Kapil Dev, for being himself and expressing himself and impacting the world with all that he did.

5) M.L. Jaisimha, for sheer style that none can match ever.

6) M.K. Gandhi, for his amazing life and conviction of thought.

7) David Gower, for being all class.

8) Wodehouse, for being able to write like that.

9) Bruce Lee, for infusing life, courage, power, speed and aggression into us.

10) Sean Connery, for playing James Bond so well.



Those Old Hyderabadi Bus Routes

Saw a 45 today evening and remembered the bus routes of the school days. Let me put down what I remember of those days of double deckers and trailer buses. man, they had imagination then and certainly style.

190 - Sanatnagar to RTC X Roads
Most memorable ride? Taking it to watch a movie at Liberty.

188 - Sanatnagar to Nampally
The trailer bus that got us back from school to home was lovely. We'd walk from All Saints to Nampally to catch that.

184 or 185 - Sanatnagar to Koti (before the 9 series came in)
I'm not sure of this number. But most memorable instance was definitely dropping my new pair of cricket shoes from the running bus at Lakdi-ka-pul and running back all the way from Nizam Club to  luckily find them intact.

136 - Arts College to Koti
Abhijit Dutta, my good friend always took this to go home at Nallakunta. Once he invited me home for lunch and scared the day lights out of me by telling me that his people only ate with knives and forks.

33 - Secunderabad station to Sanatnagar
All movies at Sangeet. But the one movie that comes to mind is Abba the movie at Tivoli.

1 - Koti to Secunderabad station
Only saw the majestic double decker going up and down with that majestic number.

3 - Tarnaka to Koti
Again, merely saw.

193 - Mehdipatnam to Sanatnagar
Was this the right number? Never took it in my life.

18 - Secunderabad to Tarnaka
Never took this bus.

Know what? I could be way off but somehow these are the numbers that come up. Someone could help. Of course these were times before the 9, 10, 45 series came in later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creative Visualization - Shakti Gawain

I read this book three or four times now. I must confess that I am perhaps getting the full import of it only now. But its essential reading really as it can make life as simple as imagining and creating it the way you want it.

Creative visualization is the method of visualizing the future the way you want it by using your thoughts creatively. It is like seeing a movie in advance, and by doing so, creating the reality to follow. Obviously it is a highly empowering tool and can override many debilitating doubts and fears and negative thought patterns that prevent us from creating what we want.

Creative visualization primarily works on the fundamental idea that our thoughts are creative and that the mind responds best to creative thought by means of mental imagery. So by creating the visual images in detail and being in the creative space, you end up creating what you want, or better.

As I understand it, you must get a clear picture of you, as if the future has already come to you. You must find the same feeling you get when you actually get the real thing. If you can thus summon the future to you via a clear visual that you see, smell, hear, feel etc, you have a good chance of making it come true. Repeat that clear visual many times during the day and it will come alive. As simple as that.

Shakti Gawain says that it is important to be in a totally relaxed state of mind before you visualize. Just count down from ten and relax your body head to toe. The four main steps in the creative visualization process are a clear goal, a clear picture, regular focus on the picture and positive energy surrounding that mental picture. It works if you get it right. It works only for your good (not for wishing bad for others).

Shakti also brings up the concept of affirmations, which is a way are a form of creative visualization - only in words. But the thought that to affirm is to make 'firm' is one I liked. A firm decision normally sets the ball rolling.

Of course, apart from merely using it like a toy, Shakti Gawain says that the tool can be made a part of life where we create the world we wish to see. She explains that life need not be difficult - it is never in the - Do (work), have (possessions) and be (happy) sequence. In fact it is the reverse - be (happy in the state of possessions via visualization), have (get the possession) and do (whatever gives you pleasure with it). In fact this is what the 'Secret' also emphasizes.

The three key elements to making the process successful are - desire, belief and acceptance. Shakti Gawain says that the process works best when we are connected to the higher self, are flowing with life and not trying too hard, accepting our own good, are outflowing and in a healing space.

Shakti Gawain provides many different methods to relax including meditations, affirmations etc. Meditations such as meeting your guide, the pink bubble, healing meditations, opening of energy centers, creating a private sanctuary can be powerful tools.

Some fine tools she gives to practice the visualization process are creative visualization notebooks, clearing work, affirmations, goal setting techniques, ideal scene images, treasure maps etc. In goal setting she stresses that creation may require no effort at all, could be short and long term. She cautions us to make attainable things first and then move on to bigger things.

While setting goals one can set goals for personal growth, education, work, career, relationships, expression, money, lifestyle, leisure and travel. She asks us to create the ideal scene we can visualize and filter out the important goals in our lives. She also encourages us to set 1 year and 5 year goals. The short term ones should be simple and realistic  and the longer term ones more expansive.

Shakti Gawain encourages each of us to live in a state of creative consciousness, to be in tune with our higher purpose and to treat life as a work of art. In many ways, if we do consider our life to be an illusion, perhaps it is best we see the illusion we want, create the illusion we want. It is as difficult as imagining it.

Recommended read. It can change your life.

The Gods Must be Crazy - Movie Review

Watched this delightful movie once again and am amazed at how nicely it had been conceived and made. The stark contrast between the life of a bushman who lives in the Kalahari desert and has nothing, not even water to drink, and the modern man and his greed and his own peculiar set of problems are brilliantly brought out in this funny and introspective movie. These are things you never grasp when you are a youngster - then it was all about the Coke bottle and the laughter the antics raised. But now you realise how dreadful the contrast looks and how far we are from our true selves.

So we begin with a good look at the simple life of a bushman and his community with their minimum belongings, needs and wants. Not much in terms of clothes, possessions, food and even water, but the bushman and his community are happy and content and fine until one day a passing plane drops an empty bottle near the hero. He takes it to the community and they are all curious to find that the gods have given them something as beautiful as this. They find a million ways to use it. However its immense popularity breeds jealously, greed and violence, and prompts the hero to take it away and throw it off at the end of the world. Of course in his quest to find the end of the world he meets some regular (and some not so regular) humans and helps them along too, preventing a major military catastrophe as well, before he finds the end of the earth and gets rid of the evil bottle. Alls well and that ends well.

Superb stuff and one movie that probably is timeless because the contrast is good enough to show forever - modern man versus man in his true essence, a part of nature. Am I glad I saw it again.

The Fleaffair - Hyderabad's Own Flea Market

A flea market in Hyderabad! That sounded interesting. Shobha's friend Niveditha (www.theyellow banyan.com) had a stall at the market and had invited Shobhs. So Shobhs, Anjali and I went to Sawa Caffe on the Road No 9, Banjara Hills, in the lane opposite Meridian school and next to Fab India.The Fleaffair was located in the lawns.
View of the Fleaffair from The Yellow Banyan

It looked like a miniature Goa flea market of about 15-20 stalls Not so much in terms of stalls and people but in terms of atmosphere. There was some lovely music (being played by a youngster names Aradhya and he was singing beautifully). Stuff on offer was all sorts - from pastries to clothes, French food to window shades to chappals etc.

Niveditha at the Yellow Banyan stall
Niveditha's stall was right up front and she was managing it with her husband Indrajit. Right next to her stall was G Twins, a stall operated by Sharath, a freelance designer and also younger brother of my student Sushil from HCU, and his friend Kundan, the GTwins design store - nice t shirts et al.

Sharath and Kundan at the G Twins stall




I met Supreeta, one of the brains behind the show and asked her what prompted this idea. She said that she and her friends wanted to create a space for creative entrepreneurs in the city. Other cities like Pune and Bangalore have it, so why not here?

 They sourced some of the creative entrepreneurs they knew, who had great ideas and the willingness to grow, and conducted the first Fleaffair a month ago at La Makaan. Drew about 7-10 stalls. And now this one, in the second month, with almost twice the number of stalls.

Supreeta and friends are part of the 'Tree Huggers Club', (so named because of the eco-friendly moorings of the group) which comprises of Supreeta, Harish Vasavan, Faizal and Rohini. Their fb page advertises the Fleaffair as one with Live Music, Art, Unlimited Love and Pure Passion - all there. Stalls ranged from knick knacks, snacks, jewellery, clothes, graphic t shorts, organic hand made soaps, graffiti merchandise. 
Supreeta talking in foreground (partly hidden), Aradhya singing

Niveditha's stall, theyellowbanyan was right up front. It's a space that aspires to explore many possibilities through art. Niveditha also conducts art classes and the shop sold intention boards and some other interesting stuff. Anjali picked up one on wisdom and knowledge and it sits in her room - her intention spelt out clearly. Right next to her stall was the G Twins - managed by Kundan and Sharath and they had several G Twins T shirts and stuff for sale. I also met one entrepreneur selling creative window shades, saw one selling French pastries, one stall called Vintage Love, clothes, more yummy looking pastries, some jewellery. I loved the music young Aradhya played and all in all I enjoyed the experience. The atmosphere was vibrant and fun and I think its not a bad idea to have a stall there - it costs Rs. 1000 only to get your space. I could sell my books to workshops and if nothing else chat with some interesting people.
The Yellow Banyan

Fleaffair is a lovely initiative and must be supported by one and all. The culture and atmosphere of the space is nice and open, there are interesting people around, good music, great products and more than anything else the feeling of being in a flea market. It must catch on in a big way in my opinion - once a month seems perfect for now (but not longer because out of sight for two months will go out of the mind). As it picks up it could be a fortnightly affair and well, who knows what's in store for the Tree Huggers and the young entrepreneurs. More avenues, more possibilities.

The Fleaffair
I could not resist asking Supreeta if they hug trees once in a while symbolically. She smiled and said they do not. Might not be a bad idea - I'd like to hug a tree. Know what Supreeta, there is a business opportunity there - you could have a stall that gives people the experience of hugging a tree and listening to it. And I am not joking. I am sure many would sign up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Human Nature - Security chap at the airport etc

Incident of the security personnel
At Chennai I saw something that was most intriguing. As we were entering the airport there was a long queue of some 15 people trying to show their ids to one solitary security personnel. Obviously it was taking a long time. I was wondering what this was - normally there are more than one. Then I spotted another security personnel standing five feet away, sporting a sullen look.

He merely looked on at the steadily increasing crowd, showing taking no indication of help out. Maybe he was of another shift I thought. Even the solitary man did not indicate that we could go to him.

And then another security personnel, junior to these guys, came rushing up. He told us at the back to go to the other guy. We were surprised. Why were he and his colleague quiet about this? We walked up to him and he nonchalantly started to check our stuff.

You see those automatic doors that open up when you walk up? Something like that. And then, quiet again.

The passengers
'If you are not reading that magazine, may I read it?' asked the young man from behind.
The gentlemen whom he had asked said 'No'.
He was not looking at the magazines. He did not even know there were magazines there.

After 15 minutes, he decided to be kind.
'Okay, you can read,' he said and passed it on.

Both gentlemen read. After 10 minutes, the gentleman in the front decided enough was enough. He thrust his half read magazine away and held out his hand.
'Give me my magazine,' he demanded.
'Last two pages,' said the other guy coolly.
This chap was very offended and fretted and fumed. But that was all he could do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Power Within Us to Change Our Lives - Finding The Super Hero Within

This is a gist of the talk that I'd given on the same topic - very relevant I thought for a group of young achievers at the Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance Company, looking to achieve more. Credit for thinking up the topic must go to the young and passionate VP Salil Bhatnagar whose views on HR are very humane, and stuff that I totally endorse.

The challenge I now take up is to make the super power within each of us sit next to us by the time we end this.



The Power Within Us to Change Our Lives
or

(How I will Conjure Up Your Superpower and Make it Sit Next  To You in Two Hours)

Good morning,
Today's theme is 'The Power Within Us To Change Our Lives'. You have heard this many times before.

What exactly is this power and where is it?
When someone asks us if we have a power within us we say yes. Really? But the questions we need to ask are these:
-What is its name? How does this power look like? Where does it live so I can find it?
- Is it good for me? Is it bad for me?
- Why does it not come to me when I need it? Why does it not show up in my life? Is the prerogative of only a few?

When I was young I initially thought I was the blessed one. That I had a power that would bring anything to me like the magical genie. But as I grew older I started to wonder about this power. Where was it?

Can't find the power in us!
I looked in the mirror and found no trace of the power. The superheroes looked so different from me. How could I be them? I really believed that something was wrong with me. That others had this power and I had not. There was a part missing in me.
Now, I know everyone feels the same.

So I thought

- I was flawed
- I cannot be super hero while others can be
- It happens to me only at some special times when the stars are in alignment

My experiments with the power
I think I am standing here before you because I experimented with this superpower a bit. In cricket, writing, work and at life.
I analyzed best performances, best states and have written about the same. Small experiments with winning matches. Or reaching targets. Or achieving small targets.

A pattern emerged.

My findings
My findings are that
- anyone can access the power
- it can be accessed anytime (like the genie)
- once it comes, it will change your lives

Should we then attempt to find this elusive power within us? Should we risk the irreversible changes it will bring? I need your permission to go ahead.

Short term and Long term success
Look at it this way. You are all young achievers. You feel at the top of the world. But we all know that success can be short term  or long term. Short term success is short lived. You could get it by fluke. You don't know how you got it. You do not know the process, do not know what it brings, do not know how to sustain it. Some of us have achieved success this way.
But what we should aspire for is long term success. This is borne out of a process, of understanding, of learning and growing. It will keep you on the path and you will achieve long and lasting success in the long run.

In this circumstance I advise you to go for it. Risk finding this power. Let's find a name and address, a face to it as a beginning.

Finding a name, address and face for our superpower
I invite you then to listen to the story of my first  novel. It is the dream of every HR person I'd guess.

A team of young school boys who have no interest and no skill and who have not won a single match for at least 20 years are now required to win a tough cricket tournament to save their school grounds.

If you were the coach how would you do that? Remember that an improvement of 20-30- 40% does not help. One needs 200% commitment. How can you get that spirit and that result into them?

The answer is ownership.

It is the first key. Ownership is when the feeling of 'I' creeps in. I will do this. It is a subtle shift of power, a delicate handing over of the baton to the players on the field. Okay gentlemen, these are your grounds? How will you save your grounds?

Even in circumstances when the objective is clear and the responsibility seemingly rests with the leader (the Principal, Coach, Captain in this case), ownership is that small individual thought within each of us that says - I will do this one way or another. It is worthy of me.

Once the boys own the challenge the transfer is made and effort zooms. All it needs then is support and guidance. (I know its not as simple as that but it does require a completely secure manager to do that, one who is sympathetic, patient, process oriented and one who truly loves the players and their dreams.)

The Name of the Super power
What then does one call such a phenomenon?
Super power, excellence. Super hero. Full potential. 100% you. Ownership.

These all all the names of your super hero, that super power.

The Face of the Super Power
And now, how does he look like? Hritik Roshan? Tom Cruise? Priyanka Chopra? Who were the heroes when the boys won? The boys right?

The face then, of your super power, is You. It looks like you.

Am I the superpower? No!
Am I saying then that you have achieved the state of Tendulkar? Not really. None of us can believe that we are superheroes. That is because we are still work in progress. Tendulkar, Hritik and co have put in their work. So don’t compete with him.

How to identify him?
Let us start at the beginning. First understand and acknowledge that the super hero exists within you, behind that face somewhere. I know we cannot see it even now. But Sachin did that many moons ago and has worked closely with that super power.
How many times have you looked at your super hero and acknowledged him or her?

The 0-100 Continuum
Look at it like this.If you look at yourself as a continuum ranging from mediocrity to the best you can be, this power, this genie falls at the right extreme. Sometimes we are at zero, sometimes at 50, mostly 70-80, sometimes at 100. It is not fixed - we are constantly travelling between 0-100.
 
Imagine a 100 of you standing next to one another, shoulder to shoulder. One 100 You's. On the left most corner is you at zero capacity - Mr. Zero. At the other extreme is the Super Hero at 100. Shining bright like we know super heroes do.
As of now let's say you are 50% stage.Or whatever number you choose to give yourself.

Let us first accept that this hero is siting there, idle, at the end of the line. Can you recognise, acknowledge and make friends with him? Or do you want to continue ignoring him and look outside for help?

Between you and him there are 40-50 states you need to cross. to cross each one, you must push the boundaries constantly and reach past old limits. Push it to that first 100% within each state. That new boundary is excellence - for that stage.
When you go to next level, recognize it. Nurture it. Develop it. Challenge your limits every day. It sorts you out – the basics, the strengths, the weaknesses. You get so much clarity you don’t need anyone to tell you about it. As you cross one barrier after another you see yourself dealing with bigger and better competition.

Anyway we now have his name and address. Shall we call him out now? The super power?

But you cannot meet super heroes so easy - even if they are your own.

3 conditions to fulfill to meet the Superpower
To meet your superpower you must fulfill three conditions  – (1) take 100% responsibility (2) process -orientation and (3) 100% commitment.

If you commit to these three conditions, your super hero will appear beside you.

Responsibility, Process-orientation and Commitment are the keys to success, to excellence, to full potential. But what do they mean? We will explore that path a bit.

(1) 100% Responsibility - The Master Key
Responsibility means taking 100% responsibility. Not 10%, 20%, 30% or 70% responsibility. The entire 100% including the luck factor!

When you take 10% responsibility, you are only walking 10% on your feet and 90% on crutches. These crutches are otherwise called excuses, blame etc. When you throw away the crutches you will find the strength of your own two feet.

100% responsibility is 100% ownership. There are no excuses. Whatever happens you will deliver. "Whatever happens I will do this." In your own mind you must fix your target, of what you are capable of. Then it is possible.

Taking 100% responsibility is the master key that will open up the entire process. Process orientation will follow as does commitment. Goal clarity, honesty, love, efficiency, resilience, strength, courage, conviction - everything falls into place once you take full responsibility.

100% responsibility means that you go beyond the call of duty. Do whatever it takes.

These are the questions you must ask yourself:.
What do I take responsibility for? - Goal (what is this goal that has been conceived by your own mind?)
How much? – 100% (zero excuses)
Why do I need to take this responsibility? – Motive (why are you taking 100% responsibility?)

If you want to grow, you have to take more responsibility. You cannot have power without responsibility, freedom without responsibility.

Exercise: Take any area of your life? Set any target. Ask yourself if you are taking 100% responsibility. How much are you taking? If not, what are the things you are blaming, finding an excuse in? Eliminate that of blame, excuse. Push it to 100%.

Exercise: For what at your work are you willing to take 100% responsibility? Get that number.

Visualise: Yourself at 100% responsibility, at 100% potential. What comes to your mind? See the picture inside out. Feel it. How does your world look like when you have taken 100% responsibility for whatever you have taken up?

"I will do this whatever happens."

Why we don't take 100% responsibility?
We know that when we take 100% responsibility great things are done. 100% effort will certainly get you more.
But why don't we do it?

We want results without effort. We want results without responsibility. No wonder we don’t get what we want.

We fear failing. What if we give our 100% and it does not get the results? What if we fail?

Or more relevantly, what if we succeed? Success is the unknown animal here. We know failure but we don't know success. Many people have chosen to fail because of the fear of success. Be aware.

Is it high risk to push boundaries to get something? No. It is high risk not to push for my 100%.

First give it your all. Your 100%. Don’t bargain all the time because when you hold back it will make you smaller. You will start slipping down the ladder.
Seize all opportunities that allow growth. Take full ownership for yourself, your team. You have? Yes?


Your superpower is 75% closer to you now.


(2) Process orientation

I think I never learned from anything as much as I did from this match. Osmania University vs VST, a league match we played in 1987. I wanted the outcome and it came.

This story happened when I was in college. I was a first class cricketer, and rather proud of that fact. Our team Osmania University was playing a tough team VST. I was the premier fast bowler for our team. In a two day game VST batted one whole day and scored a massive 350.
I was furious.
I had given away 128 runs and got 2 wickets. The VST team had got the biggest score that anyone had scored against us till then. I was upset. I wanted to win. I told my skipper I want to open the batting. I told him I will get the 128 runs back.

I went straight home. Visualized. Rehearsed mentally. Planned in great detail. Came back next day and finished the job. I got 158, got out in over 66 and at a total of 266 for 4.
It’s unbelievable when I think of it now. A number 8 batsman opening the batting and getting 158 runs. How?
I got happy, celebrated and clean forgot about it.
Until I started writing my first novel and this incident came up. I wondered why I never used that formula before.
We do that often. We forget to thank our Super hero and assign it to luck, to chance, to the gods. Super hero goes back to his corner, forgotten.

Let me run you through the process, which holds good for any.

Decision - Decide to take 100% responsibility and do it whatever happens.
Goal clarity - See the goal clearly with clear and sharp numbers, visuals and other senses.  If you can see your goal with clarity,it becomes easier.
Planning - The devil is in the details. All detail that makes you uncomfortable and want to skip it is where the detail lies - do not leave it alone.  Get more information and address it until your discomfort is addressed.
Implementation - This is about action.  Disciplined, purposeful, strong action that pushes all limits physically.
Monitoring - Cross check with original plan so it does not stray off. Take corrective measures.
Belief - It will throw up problems when you least expect them.  Hold your belief in those times.
Achieve - Goal accomplished.

If I can do it once, why cannot I do it again? What stops us?


No one cares about these little stories. My bigger cricket story is that I was part of the Ranji team that won the Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad in 1986-87. I did nothing there of significance. But this match - for me it is only one of the few examples I remember where I have been at my 100%. Where I have summoned the power within and achieved what I want.
You know, now I feel I can do anything that I want to. When I think of those, I still feel that same power.

Exercise: Write down one experience of yours where you had set your goal and achieved it. Run through the steps. Use the same formula everywhere.

Visualization: Know your strengths. Your weak areas. Plan the entire thing in your mind. See yourself working the way you are best at. See yourself achieving it.

I know how to do this

You know the process? Yes?

Your superpower is at the door ringing the bell.


(3) Commitment
Commitment is taking time out of the equation. Whatever happens, however long it takes, I will get this job done. even if I have to work at it all my life I will get it done.
Once you commit, you get clarity. It knocks time and excuses out of the way. Once the mind realises there is no escape, it stops producing excuses.Then you can work with clarity.

Commitment is the third key. Sometimes 100% responsibility and process orientation may not give you results instantly. You may not be ready for the results. The superpower waits until you are fully prepared to take the responsibility.
So keep at it. Slow down but don't stop. You will find what you set out for, or something better. 
 
When I quit my job to write I had decided I will write for life. But it was a vague commitment. Two years ago someone asked me – are you saying you will write books for the rest of your life. That gave me more clarity. Yes. I thought. If I live another 25 years, I will write one book a year or more. I decided I will write 30 books. I will get them published.
If not, I’ll die trying. There will be 30 manuscripts certainly.

I wrote my first novel in 1998. It never got published. I must have approached 100s of publishers in the world. Then I wrote a collection of children's stories. Then I wrote a cricket story. Then I wrote a romance. In 2007 the cricket story got published. In 2010 the love story got published. In 2009 a contribution to an anthology. 2 books and a half in 8 years.
But they cannot keep me out forever. Where will I be in another 5 or 6? 15 or 16?
Winston Churchill – I will be at it however long, however hard.
Gandhi did the same - Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

Commitment for life, teaches you the way to do things. When time is out of the equation, love flows in.

If you can fulfill these three conditions – take 100% responsibility for whatever you wish to achieve, bring in process orientation and commit to achieving it however long and hard it may be the power is with you. You will achieve what you want, or more.
Knowing the process is one thing and committing to it is quite another. When we commit to achieving it we prepare for the battle we know we will have to fight someday. When you see the goal, the difficulty of the goal sitting in front of you, when you know you want it, you can only prepare in a purposeful manner.

You will commit even if it takes forever? Yes?
 
The superpower is sitting next to you!
Hold on to it tight. Don't let go of him now. When you relax any of the three conditions, the superpower  will slip away from you. Tighten up and he/ she will come back.

Now you have the power, use it. Use it often and grow.

The process of preparation
Let me tell you how we pick players in cricket selections. We look for expertise in skill (for all basics in place, a good work ethic etc), we look for physical fitness (on measurable parameters) and we look for mental preparation (80%). The third is what they say constitutes 80% of high performance.

The Mental Aspect
What is this mental part that makes them match winners? It is that part that takes total responsibility, that gives those big performances when the team needs, that puts the team ahead of oneself, that rises to the occasion each time and performs consistently. To do all that one needs to have prepared well and hard for many years.

What exactly is the mental aspect then? The power to see the entire picture. See where you are. Where you want to get. Find the best way to get there. Find out your strengths and weaknesses. Find out a method to constantly keep you on the job. To improve slowly but surely. To handle pressure by putting yourself through those situations in real or simulated situations. To find ways of bettering yourself. People use many methods to get ahead, stay afloat.
I don’t need to go into that.

Let’s start at the basics. How can you prepare for higher performances in sales and career advancement?
Are you the expert at the basics? Do you know all you need to know about the products, company, industry, customers? Do you believe you are there to give the customer the best value? Sales as I know of it is a part of the marketing function which in two words talks of ‘need satisfaction’.
Are you prepared to commit? Have you answered the mental aspect questions for yourself?  What is the outcome you are looking at?

It appears hard. Is it the only way? How about short cuts?
There are no short cuts to sustained success. What I can guarantee is that hard work becomes enjoyable. You need long and hard work. But as Churchill said commitment is ‘however long, however hard’. Work cannot be escaped. You can make it interesting if you have the imagination. 

Commit to the growth mindset
Understand these two mindsets as explained by Carol Dwycke in her book 'Mindset - A New Psychology to Success'.. Fixed and growth mindsets. Talent vs Hard work.

The best condition to success  is high talent combined with growth oriented work. The second best is low talent but high effort (growth oriented work). The last is low talent with no effort (growth oriented work).

The key is that most of us have both mindsets - we need to focus on one - the growth one.
-        Hard working people go on effort. They commit to learn. Growth-oriented learning is likely to take you to full potential than relying on mere 'talent' with no work.
-          Maintain high standards. Focus on preparation and effort. Create a motivating atmosphere.
-      Growth is about hard work, process orientation and the right tools to handle the process. Give process feedback, growth framework to the learners.
-          Ask for help when you are stuck, do small acts that change things, work on beliefs, mindsets and getting process orientation. One has to get over the-world-owes-me and denial (as in my-life-is-perfect syndrome).
-          Champs work the hardest and constantly challenge themselves.
-          Learn and help learn.
-          High effort and high risk. Low effort has no chance
-     Fixed Mindset suffers from - desire to look smart, avoid challenges, give up easily, get defensive, effort as fruitless, ignore negative feedback, feel threatened by others successes and as a result of all this, they plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.
-          Growth mindset encompasses - desire to learn, embrace challenges, persist in the face of setback, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, find lessons and inspiration from others success and reach even higher levels of achievement as a result. The growth mindset takes you closer to your potential.
-          Success is learning, not about proving that you are smart. It is about stretching, about self-esteem, learning, preparation and effort.

Growth is a constant climbing of the hill. Boring. Hard. But that’s the only way. The view from Mount Everest cannot be enjoyed without the climb. Once you enjoy it, you start appreciating the joy of climbing too. But that's another story.

How competition gets filtered?
1st filter knocks out people who take less responsibility. (I’ll do it)
2nd filter knocks out people who do not know the process – (I know how to do it.)
3rd filter knocks out hose who give up (Will get it done even if I die)

Do you believe the power to change your life is within you now?

Let me recap.
The power is within you. Recognize it. Make it your friend. Awaken it.
It comes with expectations. It comes with responsibility. You must take it.
It comes with growth and process orientation. It has to make a difference and achieve. Do it.
It comes with commitment. Commit for life.

You know you can handle anything. Your superpower will take care of everything.
Wishing you well.