Let’s fall in love with routine

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

Breaking news: Live events defer your life!

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!

How Rajinikanth teaches you productivity, discipline and humility

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.

Movie: Baba
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.

Movie: Padayappa
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.

Conclusion

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.

Grow awareness, but nudge yourself

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

Book summary: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Book title: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Author: David Allen
ISBN-10: 0142000280
ISBN-13: 978-0142000281
Buy on Amazon.in | Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intro

The biggest problem in our modern life is that we overload ourselves with information and objects, but don’t have a good system to organise them. As a result, everything is a tangled mess, where we can hardly find what we need. Be it our houses or our email inboxes, we always face two problems.

  • We search all over the place and don’t find what we need immediately. This wastes a lot of time, which could have been put to productive use.
  • Eventually we give up our search and get copies of the same thing. This adds to our clutter and the size of the proverbial haystack, making it more difficult to find things the next time.

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen attacks the problem with a 5-pronged plan that you can start applying right now. Continue reading Book summary: Getting Things Done by David Allen


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The magic of planning for the next day

Let’s rewind to your morning today. Did you wake up with purpose, knowing exactly what to do for the next six hours? Or did you open your eyes with your brain all clouded, knowing that you have zillions of things to do, but with no idea about where and how to start? In this confused state, it is very easy to pick activities that need very little effort. For instance, snooze the alarm & stay back in bed. It is very easy to cling to activities that make your brain feel busy, but you aren’t doing anything productive. For instance, reading the newspaper all morning, browsing your email or watching TV. Continue reading The magic of planning for the next day

Why have a reading plan

Reading is an activity fraught with choices and distractions. You know how it is when you walk to a book shelf at a library or a book store. Too many books call out to you and you are paralysed. Reading online is more difficult. Apart from millions of articles on a single topic, articles often have a rabbit-hole of hyperlinks leading to other articles or even other topics. In the post, Get more out of your reading, we explained how to avoid distractions and focus on what you are reading. We even suggested that you discard all content that isn’t relevant to your life. We gave you some good habits to follow to keep your reading fun.

What if you can fine-tune your reading even more, so that you get the best results from your sessions? What if you walk into a library and know exactly where to start and how to proceed in your next few visits? What if you set reading goals for your upcoming year? What if you set seasonal topics that you will stick to? What if you are more proactive with your reading, using techniques like note-taking and deliberately practising the skills introduced by your books. This post takes your reading experience to a new level where you will start mastering a few skills that you have always wanted to learn. Continue reading Why have a reading plan

Why thrifty saving is not the same as investing

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ is an adage you will hear so often that its sheer repetition will make you believe it to be true. But is it really true? Sure, money not spent right now is sitting to be spent on something else later. Economics defines this as opportunity cost. But in this article, I am going to argue against ‘thrifty saving’ as a way to ‘grow your money’ or to ‘get and live rich’. Continue reading Why thrifty saving is not the same as investing

Book summary: Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass SunsteinBook title: Nudge
Author: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
ISBN-10: 0141040017
ISBN-13: 978-0141040011
Buy on Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Nudge is a book written by American behavioural economist and nobel prize (Economics) winner Richard Thaler and lawyer Cass Sunstein, who takes deep interest in behavioural economics and ethics in law-making and government policies.

The premise of the book is that one can highly influences choices and decisions that people make by subtly modifying the way that choices are presented. In doing so, they describe a role named ‘choice architect’, whose responsibility is to carefully design choices so that choice-makers can be protected from bad choices and led to good choices. Continue reading Book summary: Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein


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The magic of a manifesto

Let’s start with a cliché. Our protagonist, Asha, is usually untidy, leaving her backpack on her bed and throwing her shoes in the middle of the hall after she comes back from work. Usually one of her socks finds its way under the furniture. A few pens spill out of the half open zipper of her backpack and fall on the bed. Asha has a hard time clearing out her bed every night she wants to sleep and an even harder time finding a matching pair of socks when she is in a hurry to leave for work. She is irritable and often harasses her mom to find her things for her.

Bunty wants to shed that extra fat from his tummy. He has enrolled for the gym and goes occasionally. But most of the time, life happens and Bunty either finds himself overeating while celebrating with friends or not going to the gym because he has something else to do. Even at the gym, he ambled around from machine to machine, getting a few reps, but doing anything effective.

On new year’s eve, both Asha and Bunty set resolutions. They vow to get tidy and get trim respectively. For the first week, everything works great. But, just after a week, things are back to what they were. Asha’s shoes are in the hall and Bunty is binging on extra large pizza, not having gone to the gym for two days.

How can we help Asha and Bunty stick to their resolutions? There are many solutions, but some of them work better than the others. My favourite is a method that political parties, engineering standards organisations and committees follow religiously. Writing and referring to a manifesto.

Continue reading The magic of a manifesto