India is a country with several thousands of communities based on language, religion and native region. In the modern Indian workplace, it is difficult to tell one community from another. However, pick a few sample individuals and visit their homes. The lifestyle they live at home says a lot about the community they hail from. Given the same level of household income, some communities treat themselves like royalty, while others intentionally deprive themselves, calling it frugality. They only loosen up when guests visit them. Continue reading Be your own guest
In this book, the author Hal Elrod talks about how waking up early in the morning and then following 6 simple practices transformed his life. The author abbreviates the 6 things in his morning routine as SAVERS. In his 1-hour routine, he goes through 6 activities that give him the perspective he needs for the day. Continue reading Book summary: Miracle Morning
In today’s world, we have an acronym called TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). The basis for this acronym is that people who put in difficult hours at work during the weekdays do not have to do so during the weekend. Instead they ‘get to do’ something leisurely and things they really love. TGIF suggests that you are slogging through your week and doing what’s not important to you. It says that you have given up control of your life to someone else who isn’t allowing you to do what you please. It says that you are a slave. It says that your life as you want it only happens during the weekends. TGIF is a depressing acronym.
With a career I love and with my each day being an opportunity to learn more and work on things I care about, the concept of TGIF is lost on me. But, I agree with one aspect TGIF suggests. Do something different from your daily routine at least once a week. Here is why. Continue reading Why to break your routine for one day?
You know the feeling when you stand at popular ice-cream outlets such as Gelato, Baskin Robbins or Natural’s. There are more than a hundred choices. If you’ve had a difficult day at work, you are tempted to walk out as your brain feels the fatigue of taking one more decision from a staggering number of choices. “Let’s just go eat the falooda from the road side vendor”, you say as you walk out. What should you do when you are overwhelmed with choices? Continue reading What to do when choices overwhelm you… everyday!
Mise-en-place is a French term that means that there is a place for everything and everything must be in its place. The use of French is because the term originated in culinary circles in France where chefs emphasise the importance of a clean and organised kitchen counter to do things efficiently and ensure high food quality. As a result, just like everything culinary, saute and hors d’ouvre, words from the romantic language stuck around in English too.
Having worked with leading chefs in the United States, the author Dan Charnas talks about how to plan, organise and clean up so that you get the best out of your activities. Throughout the book he illustrates stories and scenes from the America’s top restaurants that exhibit thorough planning, organisation, cleanliness, minimalism and maximum utilisation. Charnas extends the knowledge gained from cooking into his personal and professional lives. In this book, he teaches us how to do so. Continue reading Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas
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You are making a delicious recipe which calls for chilly powder. You reach for the magic red stuff, when you realise to your horror that the jar is … empty!!! How could you have missed it? Damn it! You have to do without chilly. Or you have to stop cooking and go shopping. If you are like what I was a couple of months ago, you have been caught in this position several times. Delaying replenishing your supplies until you run out of them and then either making do without them or making a dash for it to get fresh supplies.
While some of you may be good at re-stocking the kitchen, you probably run out of talk time in the middle of a call with your spouse, who is half-way around the globe on a project. Only when your laptop pings about the hard disk being full after copying 7.7 GB out of an 8 GB Blue Ray HD movie do you realise that you should have paid attention to the free space.
How can you be more pro-active about replenishing things on time? What is a good time for a refill? There is no universal good rule, but you have to be consistent with one or two rules that make you act in a surefire way every time you begin running out of stuff. In this post, I introduce you to the 50% rule or the half-filled glass rule. Then we will see another variation of the rule.
The rule is exactly what it says. You start planning action as soon as something depletes to 50%. It doesn’t mean that you rush out to shop right now. 50% is significantly less than full, but it still is sufficient enough to last until your next regular trip for restocking. I suggest that you use the trigger to put some things into your system. Set some reminders to remind you that a refill is needed. E.g. if the salt in your jar is down 50%, it is time to update your shopping list to buy fresh salt during your next weekly or monthly grocery shopping. At 50%, it is time to renew your phone talk time sometime within this week. So schedule a time for it on your calendar on a day free from other work, like a Saturday or a Sunday. Your digital wallet needs a recharge from your bank account, so set a standing instruction for the money transfer if such as facility exists.
Also don’t obsess with the number 50% to the dot. Do not tense up if things go down to 45%. Let’s say your talk-time was at 75% when you started a call. After the call, you see that it’s only 48%. You need not rush to recharge right now. Treat it just like the 50% rule. Let’s rephrase the rule: “When the level was above 50% and after another usage it dips to or below 50%, then it’s time to set a trigger, that will lead to action just in time, so that you don’t run out”. You can read about nudges and triggers in the post Grow awareness, but nudge yourself. The idea is to give yourself a reminder now, so that you will follow up before you run out of stuff.
Why not refill when the level is 80%?
A valid question. But be warned that you don’t want to replenish too soon. You will caught in a loop of quick refills. Imagine you want to refill a jar of tea as soon as it goes down to 80% after 20% of it is used. Refill packets do not come in such small sizes. So you will end up buying too much and hoarding. Why renew things at 80% when 50% works quite well?
Frequent refilling also causes stress. Your attitude will change to one that fears scarcity. Even when you possess 80% of something, you will feel like you possess too less and start refilling. It’s only a matter of time before your hoarding gets out of control.
The 50% with other conditions
What about a large 10 kg sack of wheat, a 10 terabyte hard disk or ₹ 10,000 cash in your wallet? With the 50% rule, at 5 kg of wheat, 5 TB of space and at ₹ 5,000 cash, you are still weeks, sometimes even months away from running out of stuff. Isn’t the 50% rule wasteful here?
First, I don’t recommend hoarding so much. 10 kg of wheat is too heavy to handle. You may hardly ever use 10 TB of space. It is unsafe to carry ₹ 10,000 in your wallet. But I get it. You expect guests and you need a lot of wheat over the next month. You are hoping to collect a lot of movies, videos and animation over the next 3 months or you are going to use your computer as a server machine. After 4 withdrawals a month, the bank starts charging you for any more withdrawals. So it makes sense to withdraw a large amount of cash in one go.
Let’s vary our 50% some more, so you get more rules to guide you. First consider you how much you already have. Secondly, consider the rate at which you use it. 10 kg of wheat is a lot if you use only 200 – 300 grams per day. But if you have a lot of members in your house and you end up using a kilo every two days, then 10 kg will run out in 2 weeks. A 10 TB hard disk is an ocean if all you work on are Word documents, but not when you work with 3-D animation. If the shops in your area take cards or digital money then keeping ₹ 10,000 in cash is an overkill. But in a small town with cash economy, that cash may be depleted within a week.
I suggest you look at past usage and estimate how many days something will last. If you haven’t been recording past usage, maybe you should start now. With that estimate in hand, here are three rules that work well.
- If you keep running out of stuff every 2 – 3 days, you should consider increasing the capacity to start with. Refilling too frequently is stressful and distracting.
E.g. if you eat 4 slices of bread everyday, then a loaf of 12 slices of bread will keep running out every 3 days. I suggest that you start buying a loaf of 20 slices. That way, bread can be purchased along with your weekly shopping.
- Sometimes, increasing capacity is not desirable. Some vegetables start dehydrating or rotting beyond day 2. Your smartphone’s battery is going to run out every day and you cannot just fit a higher capacity battery into it. A routine of replenishing every day or every two days is then inevitable. But you can at least look for delegation or automation instead of having to do it yourself. It helps if the local dairy drops fresh milk to your doorstep every day. You can link your digital wallet with your bank account such that if the balance goes below a certain value, then a certain amount is refilled automatically (e.g., this is possible with PayTM). The latest versions of Android can be set up to back up photos to Google Photos and automatically delete photos which are backed up. This saves previous space on your phone’s SD card.
- The ideal situation is if you are at 50% and your stuff will last more than 3 days and upto two weeks. You can schedule your refills / maintenance for a day which focuses on re-stocking, e.g. a day dedicated to shopping, a day dedicated to taking backup. E.g. During your holidays, if you take 20 pictures on a DLSR camera everyday in RAW format, you would consume 400 MB per day. After 5 days of photography, you’d consume 2 GB. That would be 50% of a 4 GB card. You would still have 5 days of photography left. So a 4 GB card can last for 10 days. This is great if you have a weekly backup routine. A 4 GB card is a sweet spot for your rate of photography.
- If you are at 50% and your stuff will last several weeks to months, then stop using the 50% rule! It is time to apply the 10% rule for those items, i.e. act only when 10% remains. E.g. A sack of 5 kg or 10 kg sack of wheat for a family of two.
Where not to use the 50% rule at all
50% rule is not panacea, nor is it a good idea to apply everywhere. Here are two cases where you shouldn’t use the 50% rule.
- Charging electronic devices should not follow the 50% rule. Electronic batteries containing Lithium Ion composition are sensitive. Their lives are affected by the pattern in which they are charged.
Ideally you should not start charging a battery until only 20% of its charge remains. Nor should you disconnect the charger before it has charged upto 80%. The second rule is not easy to follow if you need to leave and take your electronics with you.
- If you have finished eating 50% of the food on your plate, you shouldn’t go for a second serving already. You should finish whatever’s on your plate and if you still have the appetite, go for a second serving.
If you are a busy bachelor not able to stay on top of your rations or a busy mom with too many things to do, the 50% rule hopefully provides you with an easy framework to replenish your supplies on time.
In the post In Praise of Effort, Priya talks about the effectiveness of being consistent with your efforts as a habit. She shows how an overnight success is often glorified and untrue, when in truth those success stories ran several days, months or years in the making. In fact, more than your talent, it is your ability to show up and put in the work everyday that defines your success or failure. Martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee summed it up as, “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but the one who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” Continue reading Let’s fall in love with routine
Live events have a mystery about them. They appeal to your attraction for the unknown. They give you the high of watching something unfold in front of you. You have a sense of being the first to know before others do. An elite group. On the flip side, missing a live event can induce FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. You feel terrible that others got to know something that you don’t. And that you’d be the last to know.
Personally, I feel that the importance of live events is overrated. Knowing things as they happen is irrelevant. Unless you are a day stock trader, war strategist, natural calamity rescue operator or someone from the weather bureau watching the progress of a devastating cyclone or a tsunami, you don’t really need live information. That’s why I have stopped watching live events. And perhaps you should too. I have also talked against live events in a previous post, The magic of planning for the next day. Continue reading Breaking news: Live events defer your life!
Though raised in Mumbai, I am Tamil. People from Tamil Nadu have a huge affinity for their top actor of all time, Rajinikanth. Internet memes have been created in his honour. At every movie theatre in Tamil Nadu, be in Chennai or Kanyakumari, when a Rajini movie is aired, fanatic Tamils stand up and cheer his every punch dialogue. It can be comical, entertaining, bewildering or exasperating, depending on whether you like him or not. I am not a big Rajini fan, nor do I call him a superstar, nor think he is a particularly good actor. But even I cannot deny that his so-called ‘punch dialogues‘ are packed with lessons for life, especially in the virtues of productivity, discipline and humility. Add to that the music scores that accompany his every punch line and the words seem profound and immortal!
In an acting career spanning more than 40 years, the total count of Rajini punch dialogues goes well into three figures, perhaps even four. But I have picked my favourite 8, especially those that I think have the most valuable lessons. All the dialogues are in Tamil. For the benefit of my non-Tamil friends, who are in fact the majority, I am translating the movie names and the meaning of each dialogue into English. So, get ready for the best lessons in life…. Rajini style….. Mind it, I say!!!
Movie: Padhinaru Vayadhinile (At the age of sixteen)
Dialogue: Idhu eppidi irukku?! (How about that?!)
Scene after scene, villain Rajinikanth picks on a hapless and lame Kamal Hassan, teasing him, insulting him or playing pranks that lead to injury. More insinuating is the fact that Rajnikanth turns to his other bully buddies and asks them the titled question. To which, they guffaw and whistle, leaving a hurt Kamal Hassan very humiliated.
Although used antagonistically and sarcastically in the movie, it shows the idea of constant feedback. Feedback is necessary to improve yourself and make changes. It makes you grow as a person. When you build something you care about, when you want to be better for someone you care about, it may be worthwhile to pause a while and ask, “idhu eppidi irukku?”.
Movie: Padayappa (name of the lead character in the movie)
Dialogue: En vazhi… thani vazhi! (My way …. is a different way!)
FMCG in India is a potpourri of copy cat products. Stride into the familiar aisles of a shopping mall and you see those familiar names…. Surf, Ariel, Tide and so on. I have now forgotten which one is made by Unilever, which one by P&G and so on. Because they all look and feel the same. Ditto for cold drinks from Pepsi and Coca Cola. Drink either and you don’t see the difference. Biscuits from Britannia aren’t different from those of Parle. You can pick any product from the shelf and you’ll probably forget the brand five seconds later as the product goes deep into your shopping cart.
Not with Patanjali. The company makes closer to nature products, using less preservatives and less processing. A really strong point has been their ultra-cheap pricing and their distribution network. Sometimes they book their own shelves at malls. And they even have their exclusive retail Patanjali outlets.
Leonardo da Vinci was different for his time. So was Pablo Picasso. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos. All of them challenged the status quo and found their unique way that seperated them from the crowd. Maybe they seem eccentric to the contemporaries. Maybe they are geniuses. But surely they can say, “En vazhi…. thani vazhi”!
Movie: Baba (as in a spiritual leader, this word means the same in several Indian languages)
Dialogue: Naan yosikkaama pesamaatten. Pesina piragu yosikkamaaten
(I don’t talk without thinking. And I don’t think after having talked).
Whenever he takes a tough decision, a spiritually active Baba character played by Rajinikanth is asked several times by his peers whether he has thought it through. And every time, Baba unleashes this punch dialogue to the accompaniment of a rock music number (B to the A rap by Blaze) in the background.
This rhyme-laced dialogue is one of the two dialogues in this post that endorses the power of commitment. Before you commit to anything, you need to think it through. If you do not feel like committing, back out. If after much thinking, you realise that the commitment is for you, then go ahead. After committing, you are not encouraged to have second thoughts. You should have thought it through in the first place.
Movie: Annamalai (name of the lead character in the movie)
Dialogue: Naan sollarathayum seiven, sollaadhadhayum seiven (I do what I promise… and I do what I don’t promise)
A famous customer care mantra says, “Underpromise and overdeliver” or “Promise less and do more”. This lowers customer expectations and surprises them when you give them more.
Saying NO to your customer for something you can’t meet shows your honesty and understanding customers will adjust. On the other hand, if your promise them and then can’t keep it later, it reflects badly and the customer feels cheated. However, if you feel that a certain promise falls in the grey area and you are unsure about whether to commit it, then it is better not to do so. But in the end, if you are able to deliver it, then you should do so. The customer will be very happy.
We have seen car service companies, bakeries and electronics companies who throw in a few free goodies every time we go there. A crooked car door fixed for free, a set of free candles when the baker knows that you are buying a cake for a birthday or a complementary talk-time recharge from your mobile phone vendor make you want to do business with them again and again.
Movie: Baashha (the call-sign of the kingpin in the movie)
Dialogue: Naan oru tharava sonna, nooru dharava sonna maadhiri
(If I have said it once, it’s like I have said it a hundred times)
In this movie, while initially shown as an auto driver, the main character is revealed to be a dangerous kingpin with several connections to murder. However, like Robinhood, his bloodshed is limited to keeping other malicious kingpins in check.
This dialogue endorses commitment. The character says that he is ready to say the same thing hundred times without any change to his words. The commitment is long-standing.
Dialogue: Kadham, Kadham! Mudinjadhu mudinju pochchu
(It’s over, it’s over! Let bygones be bygones)
‘Kadham’ is a Tamil adjustment of the Hindi word, “Khatm”, due to inadequacy of letters and other grammatical rules. The word means over or finished. Several times in the movie, Baba cuts his ties with the past with a sweep of hand and this dialogue. The sweep of hand is accompanied by a blade-like sound in the background, signifying the character’s severance with his past.
Indeed, there are times in your life where your past shouldn’t be a baggage for today. If you wrecked your car in an accident in the past, it doesn’t mean that you cannot drive thousands of kilometres around your country today. At the same time, the glory of your ancestors shouldn’t get to you. Just because your ancestors were good artists doesn’t mean that you are genetically predisposed to be good with oil paint and canvas. You need to learn that yourself.
Movie: Muthu (name of the character in the movie)
Dialogue: Naan eppo varuven, eppidi varuven nu yarukkum theriyaadhu. Aana varavendiya nerathula correct-a varuven
(Doesn’t matter how I come, but I will show up on time where I need to be)
Punctuality is one of my favourite traits. I am reasonably good at it, though not 100%. No wonder then that this dialogue gets my soft corner. Muthu, the horse chariot rider, has a habit of being nowhere to be seen, but popping up at places right on time, whether it is for his master’s temple prayers or to rescue someone from an evil antagonist. This dialogue is repeated twice or thrice in the movie, everytime when Muthu unexpectedly crawls out of the woodwork to save the day.
Two things to learn from this dialogue are:
1. Be on time
2. Always show up. Don’t be absent when you are needed there.
Both actions exude reliability. It makes everyone trust you and depend safely on you. First, they’ll know that you won’t miss and that you will show up. And then, that you will show up on time.
There is just one thing about Muthu that I don’t agree with. For theatrical effect, he pops up at the last minute. I like to be where I need to be with plenty of time to spare. Reaching the airport 90 minutes before the flight when the rules call for 45. Waking up at 4:15 am and getting my laptop, phone and charger ready and plugged and booted up so that I start typing on my keyboard at 4:30 am. Last-gasp punctuality will eventually run out of luck. A wonderful article about ‘doing something’ and ‘managing to just do something’ was written by Priya, my wife, a few months ago.
Dialogue: Kashta padaama edhuvum kadaikathu. Kashta padaama kidaichchadhu ennikkume nelaikkadhu
(Nothing is attained without struggle. That which is attained without struggle doesn’t last)
Famous performers like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson succumbed to the temptation of drugs to enhance their performance on stage. Later, the abuse got to them and they lost their lives. Taking drugs to enhance performance is a short-cut. The body is made to burn harder and extract more performance from the muscles. Such performance is not sustainable and the body eventually responds with a seizure or a heart attack. We have seen these during high-stakes sports events like Tour de France and the Olympics. The glory is often short-lived before the athletes are found out and shamed.
And then there are people like Usain Bolt, who worked their way to the top with sheer struggle and practice. It’s the same case for Michael Jordan.
We see these shortcuts in every field. Falsification of reports, fudging of account books and flouting taxes to show a higher profit to shareholders as against working on the sales pitch and the quality of products to sustainably and honestly find more customers to book real profits. Slipping towards the easy way. But the easy way is often an unethical, illegal and unhealthy way.
Rajinikanth’s Padayappa character reminds us not to fall into the trap of the easy way out. That which is attained through a lifetime of struggle stays with us. And that which is attained via shortcuts slips away.
Rajnikanth still acts in movies and continues to unleash punch dialogues. But with this article, I urge you to analyse those dialogues as lessons for life rather than as one-line entertainers. You will be surprised at what you learn.
Recently, Maharashtra banned the use of plastic bags. Shops stopped handing out polythene bags overnight and people found themselves carrying things in their hands or going back home to set out with a cloth bag. It caused some confusion and friction for a week. Then everything felt okay. Carrying a cloth bag seems like second nature as Maharashtra has accepted and fully integrated the ‘no plastic’ rule.
Why wouldn’t people bring their bags before the ban? Why did it take a ban to spur them into action? And how could people change so quickly?
People already knew that use of plastic is questionable and that cloth bags are environment friendly. There were thousands of awareness programs about the ‘evils’ of plastic. But the systems were in favour of plastic. With polythene bags costing a fraction of a Rupee, shops would give you polythene bags free of cost. People didn’t need to carry bags with them and would set out empty-handed. Not anymore. With cloth bags being costlier, vendors stock up only paper bags. But paper is unsuitable for wet (curd) or really heavy (watermelon) grocery. People had to take stock of their behaviour and alter it. They needed a nudge.
And nudge, we too did. The featured image of this post shows our home’s front door, with a cloth shopping bag attached to the hook. It is nearly impossible for us to forget our bag behind. In this post, I want to emphasise the importance of nudges and triggers. I want to say why mere awareness is not enough and why you should have a system of triggers to make you really do something you plan. Continue reading Grow awareness, but nudge yourself