Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship


It’s Monday, not Sunday! So what?

In recent times I have been infrequent in my posting on the blog. Its not that interesting things are not happening in life, but just that excuses seem to have taken greater control. Hence I decided that I will write from last Sunday (yesterday). But for some reason, I had enough excuses to not pick the computer and type those words. As I was reflecting over this, I told myself “Since you have decided to write every Sunday, let me start next Sunday.” But on closer objective viewing I soon realised that it has been the same excuse which has kept me from writing over the last few weeks / months.

So, I decided to fight over this excuse inside me. I told myself I will start today, even though it is Monday and not Sunday. I can always go back to Sunday from the coming weekend. At least I would have started and hopefully this will bring back the old discipline and routine to writing.

I see this in almost every individual I meet. Even the so called successful ones fight this problem almost every day. They win over their excuses and make things happen. And that seems to make the difference between those who do and the ones don’t. So, my urge to every entrepreneur and/or entrepreneurial individual I meet is – win over your excuses to doing. There will be a hundred forces which stop you along the way, but don’t be stopped. Just thrive. Just push that little bit. That is all it takes to be happy. The fact that you tried.

There is nothing greater than trying. The sports season is at its peak on the campus I stay – so in true sportsman spirit – lets play for playing is the only thing.

Lets not try to be perfect for there is no such thing in the world. Think about it. But more importantly start actioning your thoughts.

Lets start!


The elusive ‘Focus’

As a perpetual student and researcher (now doctoral scholar) I always look for ways to learn about focus. As a teacher I talk a lot about focus to my students. As an advisor / consultant, I try to help my clients bring focus to their initiatives.

‘Focus’ seems to be a magical tool to maximise output. But most often it is elusive and misses our grip. The price we pay for losing focus is large, especially over a lifetime. This is one thing I hear from every successful scholar I interact with. It is the same secret shared by every entrepreneur I meet. Today I want to share with you an excellent episode that I observed over the past week which is an example of what ‘focus’ means.

Background: Becoming a doctoral student has enabled me do what I love most – be with books and read them voraciously. I spend all the time I can in the wonderful library of my institute. With thousands of books, magazines, journals, handbooks, encyclopaedias, research reports, online databases, information banks, audio-visuals, etc., the collection humbles me every time I enter this temple.

Episode: Recently, there was a young boy who had joined one of the courses offered by the institute. He over the past few days routinely visited the library every evening after classes. He spent about two hours every day at the same place. He used to come in with his laptop, settle near the section containing CDs/DVDs (movies, talks, etc) and systematically download information on to his laptop. It almost became a ritual. Without any distraction from people moving around, he continued with his task. It seemed in about a week, he had accomplished copying all the data available on CD/DVD form in the library. He simply disappeared after that.

Learning: Develop ‘focus’ by developing: Goal + Ritual + Repetition.

1. Goal: Set a clear goal. (He wanted to copy only CD/DVD movies onto his laptop)

2. Ritual: Set a time everyday to do the activity. (He sat every day after class at the same time)

3. Repetition: Persevering till goal is reached. (He kept coming till the act was completed)

While the episode might seem funny to some, it clearly has lessons for life in it. If one can set clear goals, all other aspects / distractions can be easily / naturally ignored. Once a time slot is allocated for an action (however mundane), it enables progress. Because of clear goal and time allocation, perseverance is possible (measuring your way to completion).

Though the episode is not important, just try to apply the same to your most important task. While copying movies from CD/DVD was probably that young boy’s goal then, what is your’s now?

If you are a researcher / scholar – are you clear about what you should read and complete by when? are you sure when (every day) you are going to do just that and nothing else?  are you persevering to get back to the act everyday?

If you are an entrepreneur – are you clear about what your current experiment is? Are you sure about what actions you should engage in everyday (sales/product development)? Are you repeating the action every day at an appointed time? Are you measuring yourself against some set goal and persevering to reach it?

Developing focus is not easy. If it was, every one of us would have been manifesting our talent’s maximum. But sadly, focus differentiates the successful over the crowd. Being entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial academics is almost the same thing – both require focus – focus on what one wants to achieve in the immediate term, medium term and long term. Set a specific time every day to engage in the act. Measure and persevere to get back to the act at the appointed time.

I do not know who this boy is. I probably will not recognise him the next time I see him. But I thank him from the bottom of my heart for he clearly taught me through his actions, what focus meant, how it can be achieved and what to do when it is done. Just disappear from here to the next!

FORMULA: Goal + Ritual + Repetition = Focus 

Think about it!

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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!!


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”


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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