Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship


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Is passion and desperation same?

Both seem to be a dire thirst for something. Both seem to drive people to go beyond their known boundaries. Both well up passionextra energies from inside to give that extra push.

Then where’s the difference?

Desperation is satiated when fed. Passion gets more hungry when fed.
Desperation: A man who is hungry for three days sees food – he acts out of desperation. Goes to any extent to get that piece of bread. His hunger is satiated. His desperation disappears.

 
Passion: A man is hungry for writing his first book – he acts out of passion.  He writes his first book. His hunger is whet. His passion swells.

Do you see the difference???

Its not just BIG, its HUGE!!


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Over Talented But Under Satisfied

Every one of us is good at many things. Infact with every passing generation the number of things we are good at is just 500px-Sad_panda_svgincreasing. What somebody used to study with difficulty at the graduate level, is now being easily understood and cracked at higher secondary level. But is that not how evolution should proceed?

With every one of us becoming more talented – and most often over talented – why is it that majority of us remain dissatisfied over our achievements? Why is it that most of us still seek tools for prioritization, take self-assessment tests to figure out areas of focus, read self help books and tools to remain motivated?

Why is the over talented 21st century human being is not even as happy as his 19th century pre-industrial era counterpart?

Over the last two weeks, during many of my mentoring sessions, I observed this interesting pattern amongst my mentees. They are all talented, high performers. They are all extremely successful by many standards. When they come to meet me we discuss how they can be better. The one thing that gets asked is ‘ How can i get more done in a work week? Do i need time management? Prioritization? Motivation? Or is there something else? I just don’t seem to be doing enough of the right thing…”

The dissatisfaction seems to be stemming from the fact that the effort is not coherent and coordinated in a particular direction. While a lot of actions is being done, lots of things are being achieved and that too with great efficiency, the question of satisfaction and resultant happiness keeps cropping up at regular intervals.

I am beginning to think that the solution rests in just two simple steps. First. understanding the areas that we are good at but don’t enjoy doing. Second, just dropping them.  Dropping them at the cost of efficiency, dropping them at cost of returns and results.

I leave the above as a trigger for your thoughts. Would be glad to receive your inputs on this too…


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Strategy – The first step to success

“Strategy” – its formulation, articulation, dissemination, alignment, measurement and review can add value especially to a high growth business. Since most people running small businesses are not necessarily managerial experts – they are very often given to understand that strategy is only for a big business. And questions that we come across even from high growth seeking small business owners are:

  • Why should we do a strategy exercise when we know that all we need is more customers?
  • Do you think I can with my limited resources conduct a competition analysis?
  • What will be the benefit for me to create a strategy document which many in my company will not understand?
  • Why should I take time of my senior management which is involved in execution for a strategy formulation work – am I not losing out on revenue?
  • Can I bring in a HR consultant to solve my retention problem rather than create a strategy?
  • Instead of creating a strategy, can you tell me how I can reach out to customers better?
  • And many more…

While many of the questions seem right by themselves, there is one fundamental issue. Since there is no single story / dream / vision that is shared amongst all members of the organization, there is very little buy-in! To become a medium / big organization, we need to create a bigger picture of what is in the mind of the CEO / Founder / Entrepreneur, have it colored and then imprint it in the minds of everyone in the organization.  Without an alignment towards a common goal – real progress will remain elusive.

A strategy when created builds confidence in the senior management, when communicated builds trust, when aligned brings buy-in, when measured increases seriousness and commitment, and when singularly focused on, brings achievement!


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Vedantic Wednesday: The Desire for Punya

Doing is a part of our nature. Constantly involved ourselves, in some activity or other is almost involuntary. But the central premise behind every action is the expectation of a desired result.  Whether it is studying for an exam, going to work,  writing a book, making a music album or even doing charity. Whatever be the nature of activity human beings are today unable to go through an activity or do an action without result in mind.  Infact many times you would see schools and colleges training people to be result oriented.  Through this article I am not trying to find fault with being result oriented. But if being result-oriented is the best approach – then why are most people who achieve results not happy?

When I went through the talks of sages I found a reference to a word called ‘Punya’ – I immediately thought it referred to some religious methods/practices, which can help us reach god.  But I was in for some surprise.  The ‘Paramacharya’ interprets ‘Punya’ as “Virtuous Action”, that is actions done without any desire for the fruits thereof.

It might even sound unreasonable in today’s circumstances to involve or act without any result in mind. But the perspective that emerged which could be useful for daily use  is the difference between expected results and expectations. Very often what we think of is desired results, which are in reality expectations.   Expectations are very closely related to emotions, hence mismatch between outcome and expectation cause unhappiness

Every action will have a result and in most cases it will be predictable and hence can be expected. If actions are done with this perspective in mind, unhappiness or sorrow cannot occur.  Hence the possible approach to achieve lasting happiness through action is to understand the idea of “Virtuous Action”


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Vedantic Wednesday: Irony of Life!

When you face difficulty it is natural for any rational, emotional being to feel sad and letdown. Nothing surprising! But the irony arises because if the universal law of attraction is to be believed this sad and disillusioned mind is bound to attract more of the things / situations that lead to more sadness and disillusionment.
 
If the power of the mind is to be accepted as the greatest force at hand then the only way this difficulty-faced individual can turn the tide is to be positive and happy in that situation.

It sounds terribly blasé and ironical to suggest the only remedy to sadness is to feel happy!! An almost near impossible remedy.

But the solution again comes from Vedantic wisdom – being positively focused on your goal and not recognizing the intermediate battles in the ensuing war, is the catamaran that will help us in riding the waves. In such a case wins don’t make you overjoyed and losses don’t make you overtly sad. And when one remains composed through the journey the joy of achievement becomes replaced eventually by the fully awakened experience of one’s journey. Feeling happy or sad is based on external influencers – someone ridiculing us; someone responding to us; someone ignoring us. By focusing on the goal we become inwardly conscious in our efforts – everything else is given the same treatment of an experience that is to be had – just a part of the journey.

It sounds quite tough – but then is it?


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Book Review: “Full Steam Ahead” – Powered to the hilt!!

Book : Full Steam Ahead!  Authors:  Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner

There is so much spoken and written about ‘vision’ for a business. It is almost as-if a war would break out (intellectually) about what the words ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ mean and which is bigger?
 
This little book titled “Full Steam Ahead” is actually a book about ‘vision’ – I never thought it would be when I looked at the title. But once I started reading it, I realized that this is another little gem that Ken Blanchard and team have given us. There is a philosophical bent to the ideas presented apart from the absolutely logical build-up of the concepts. This combination along with the slight emotional connect through story-telling that the authors have achieved, has made the book un-put-down-able! You will not be able to stop once you start, till you race to the end. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised even if this beats some of the real blockbuster movies hands-down in storyline!
 
If not anything else, the price of the book is more than worth for just the following pages: Purpose (39), Values (63), Picture of the Future (78), Vision (80), Test of a compelling vision (82) and For Vision to become Reality (120). These six pages captures in essence the message of the book. But reading just these pages is not a substitute to reading the book!
 
According to the authors, vision is made up of three components (Purpose, Values and a Picture of the Future) and putting these together and implementing it in the present is what makes the difference! I strongly recommend this little book to every person even if they are just toying with the idea of creating a meaningful life – while for every entrepreneur it should be mandatory reading!


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Lesson for all Seasons

Seasons change! Yes they have, they do and they always will. Nature doesn’t seem to have any issues with it. As seasons change, nature goes through its cycle. Look at plants, they lose their lustre in one season, glow in another and they don’t seem to worry or bother about it too much. Animals take a step further, they have their good times, move to secure locations when they are frightened and re-appear when either a need arises or they feel safer.

Incoming seasons create benefits for some and spoil the party for some. It is important for the benefactors to realize that seasons change! If they don’t, they will be in for some surprise when tides change. When stated it seems like a paranoid opinion – but look around and you will find numerous examples of the latter.

Seasons change; people benefit – bask in glory and let it ride to their heads, as though the season is here to stay.  So many businesses hailed as the trend-setter, awarded and recognised as best businesses slink into non-existence in matter of just few years.  Wins are as ephemeral as failures – they are neither  the end of your journey nor your sustainable differentiator!  Only when you realise this; would you give yourself a pat, award yourself a smile – but pick up your chisel to drive through the mountain to reach your goal!

No wonder our wise people of the past said “Don’t overdo success and don’t overdo failure – because nothing is permanent.” Hope rationality prevails!


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Did voting defeat competition?

It is rather surprising that I spent an evening watching the ‘Grand Finale’ of this popular reality show on Vijay TV called “Airtel Super Singer”. After waiting for almost three hours and listening to soulful singing from emerging stars – the prize distribution ceremony was not enjoyable! Surprised! Please read on…

This program has been on for over a year. Young adults have been fighting for this title and awards through this period. And if any of what these people tell during interviews is to be believed, each of them have spent much of the year or two just aiming for this. A competition in the true spirit!

With many stalwarts of music as judges and number of celebrated artists evaluating the contestants at every stage – only the very best make it to the next level at every stage. So when we reached the pre-final stage only two contestants were short-listed for the finals. Both truly deserving and a class apart from the rest!

Then something strange was introduced – public choice of finalists. Yes, even I was intrigued by what was happening. The public could vote on the performances of the contestants and two people would be allowed to move into the finals as a ‘wild card entry’. They would be allowed to compete for the title again (after being eliminated by the judges). Yes! Luck sometimes showers itself on some people, but it must have stopped with that.

In the final as the contestants were rendering their performances, it was constantly being announced that the winner would be decided based on votes polled by the public. With a number of stalwarts and experts sitting in front of the podium – no one was asked for evaluation, choice, comments, etc All that would decide the winner was “number of votes” – by the viewers!

So it was natural that the winner need not be the person who put in the effort and remained consistent over the entire period. It could be the person who can garner the maximum votes, rather than render the absolutely right ragas, talas, or the technicalities of the music.

After having had an entire season of near stiff evaluation by top class judges and strong elimination criteria, people are allowed to come back into the game after having lost and then again been awarded a prize for receiving the largest votes – rather than been selected or evaluated by judges.

It was sad to see the two contestants who sang (rather fought) their way to the finals rank three and four and the two wild card entrants be decided as first and second.

It seemed a little unfair to me. I have never heard of a competition where a person who loses in the quaterfinal / semifinal game be given a chance to come directly to the final and then be honored as winner by polling the audience.

It was definitely a let down to an event which provided such a fantastic platform to showcase talent spread across India and the world, a program that consistently ensured only the best and consistent singers progressed to the next level, with judges who were truly objective in their evaluation – suddenly change into a gambling ring. I definitely think we need to re-think the way we create standards for competitions in India and especially in these reality shows.

“Voting” is enough of an issue with politics – let it not spoil the healthy competition that encourages young minds to develop and hone their talents and turn it into a vote-buying game. Let a game of singing be judged by experts and let fair play decide who the winner should be – not number of votes from the audience who in all probability as actor Dhanush rightly pointed out at the function – may not know the intricacies involved in making soulful music.

I hope this opinion of mine will be taken in the right spirits! I believe that competition is good, but the competition should be healthy in the best interests of society. I hope such programs continue and create platforms for the immense talent that is across our lovely country and our beautiful world to be identified, showcased and create livelihoods for number of young artists to come, and not turn into mere game of chance and luck!


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Milestone Fascination

Crossed 15,000 kms in my new Car! Crossed 500 friends on FB! Sending the 100th tweet on twitter! Ticked of all items in my to-do list for the day!

Milestones are important to us. They give us something for aspiring to achieve and something to feel proud; acknowledging and celebrating. The moment we realize we have crossed a milestone, a special feeling comes from inside us; a surge of adrenaline rush follows making us ready as we set upon the next set of milestones.

Even though sometimes milestones can be seen as limitation of sight; reduces foresight by making you concentrate on task at hand; increases stress of needing to complete – but their positive effects simply cannot be removed or sidelined.

If it is so, then why can’t we use this tool to make life more meaningful? Why can’t we set ourselves new milestones and turn them into everyday to-do items which when done will enable us and give us the confidence to take on the next set of challenges?

If you can define, detail, act and achieve milestones, your confidence and self esteem soars and makes you do more. Sounds absolutely simple – so just do it!


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A Gift to my Children by Jim Rogers

Book Cover

Lessons from Dad

Ask many children / teenagers (especially youth) and they will tell you how they detest advice. Repeat the same exercise when they reach past 50 years of age and they will reverse their statement!

Jim Rogers has some advice for his son through his book “A Gift to my Children”. And one special passage he has written stuck me hard. I quote it verbatim:

“While I was driving around the word with your mother, my father’s cancer deteriorated and he eventually passed away. But I did not stop our journey to return to my father’s side. That might sound selfish or coldhearted. And so I want you to know why I made this choice. For me to go on a round-the-world trip was my father’s dream as well as mine. He insisted that I not cut the trip short for his sake. When his condition worsened, it was important to me to tell him how proud of him I was and how much I loved him. I phoned dad frequently and wrote him numerous letters. But I did not return to the United states. I still cry about it when I remember those days and his wishes.

I want you to fulfill your dreams. That is my dream too. As your father, I wish for you a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment. I want you to pursue, without pause, whatever it is that stirs your passion. Keep working toward your dream, not someone else’s and not mine, either. A lot of people try to live for others-their children, their spouses, their parents, their friends-and in doing so twist themselves into knots attempting to meet their often outsized and/or unrealistic expectations. That leaves little space for personal growth and progress, and creates resentment for lost opportunities.”

What a wonderful advice to Entrepreneurs and all those driven by a dream but torn by the self-imposed chains of expectation! How often have we stood at the cross roads – guilt ridden, looking back with remorse at the balance between expectation, reality and aspiration. The above advice is probably the most difficult to practice – but then can there be any other way for someone who is consumed by a dream?

Reading “A Gift to my children” made me feel nostalgic about some of my conversations with my dad during my early years. Of late our (me & dad) periodicity of conversations / discussions have come down, but intensity and depth have increased. I feel today I need to increase the periodicity too! Past experience when superimposed on current challenges has immense take-a-ways!

The aspects covered in Roger’s book can be split into 3 buckets namely: advice on investing, advice on living, and advice on growing. Advice on living is similar to what most other parents wish for their children with some additional nuggets from Roger’s additional exposure. Advice on investing had some cool stuff, especially for long term investors. Advice on growing that too the professional side of it, was in my purview the real value.

Some of these actually triggered my thinking and here are some of the thoughts that I have been able to derive for self:

  • Learn the art of recognizing trends
  • Read extensively especially history, philosophy & economics
  • Learn languages especially Mandarin
  • When you have nothing to do, dust the shelves
  • When everyone is thinking the same thing, someone is not thinking – Patton
  • Future is going to be driven by the BRIC nations
  • Learn to be a global or world citizen
  • Truth is usually the first casualty of war, so stay away from war / enmity
  • Train yourself to think both ways: induction (by observation) & deduction (by logic)
  • Accept mistakes gracefully for only this can take you higher
  • Re-read, understand and apply the basic theory of demand-supply – No one defied this and survived!
  • Acknowledge that women are more active in society Understand and learn to work along with them

He also offers some futuristic guesses that only time can validate:

  • 21st century is that of China; don’t ignore!
  • In 100 years there will be more than 300 -400 soveriegn nations in the world!

Interesting!!!!

I am sure some of you are wondering if this is a book review. I am not sure if this can be classified as one as I have not touched many of the aspects that one would touch in a book review, and definitely that was not the intent either when I sat down to write these thoughts.

Reading this book had an impact on me as an Entrepreneur  – psychologically and business wise. It got me thinking, got me curious and as always I am here sharing it with you!!

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