Monthly Archives: Jul 2014

Everything Should Work – But Does It?

Everything works

This could easily be a post about ‘testing’. It isn’t.

It’s about expectations. Or even about how much we tend to take for granted.

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Alignment

Reflection in mirror

I gazed at my face in the mirror.

The graying hair no longer was limited to a few stray streaks, but stood out in harder to ignore strands. The skin was a little more pitted and wrinkled than before; it even sagged a wee bit.

Then I came to the eyes. And stopped. Stared for 10 full seconds.

Looking back at me steadily, the reflection was the same. Calm, warm and passionate. Just like it had always been.

Nothing had changed.

Nothing that really mattered.

Snippets of conversation from yesterday’s wedding reception popped into my mind.

“Why don’t you dye your hair black?”

“Isn’t she using too much make-up?”

“Do you like my wig? My hair’s falling out!”

And I thought about how, just like my face, my focus and attention had shifted to the trivial, the incidental, the peripheral.

The stuff that didn’t really matter.

If the “eyes are the windows to the soul”, then dreams are the windows to one’s goals!

And I had let them drift. From what was important to me, to what seemed important to others.

It’s time to work on alignment.

To put my dreams back on track.

The operative phrase is: MY dreams.

For you, it will be YOUR dreams.

It doesn’t matter if they are great dreams or small dreams, noble dreams or mundane dreams, profound dreams or silly dreams.

They are YOUR dreams.

That’s why they matter.

You can make them happen. No, scratch that… you can MUST make them happen.

Because the biggest tragedy would be to die with your music still in you, with your song unsung.

Bring it all into alignment. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. Join me.

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Epiphany

Imagine me lying on a couch, disappointed, in pain, face swollen like a balloon. A toothache (and surgery to fix it) left me reading a book at home, instead of being at a Seth Godin presentation at Hyderabad.

I was reading LINCHPIN… And had an epiphany.

I have always been hyper-competitive. A work-a-holic. Obsessively driven to be very good. Great. World-class. In just about everything I did.

That attitude has led to some interesting accomplishments over the years.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Maybe it was the sudden death of my colleague, or the heart surgery of my good friend, or just ‘growing up’. All of a sudden, things that once seemed all-important didn’t seem so much any more.

It opened my eyes. I saw I was on a treadmill, running ever faster to stay in the same place.

So, I hopped off!

That was a scary decision. And unsettling. For an over-achiever, not having things to do, or a map/plan to do it, always is.

I started afresh with a modest goal – to fund one child’s heart surgery, through an untested approach. I created and sold information products, using part of the profits (along with donations) to do it.

The first led to the second, then the fifth, and twentieth. Today, the non-profit Foundation I set up in 2003 has sponsored SEVENTY heart surgeries for under-privileged children born with congenital heart disease.

This year, in 2010, I am well on track to hit my target (as stated in my book, 47 Hearts) of performing 47 operations…

Yet the thrill from this is not a fraction of when I funded the first one!

Something is wrong.

The feelings of lassitude, restlessness, even frustration, had little to do with my toothache. They had been around for much longer. This was my chance to introspect about it.

Lately, I’ve been comparing myself against others, to my disadvantage. Like the guy who did a million dollar promotion. Or the other who builds his list by 400 new subscribers every day. Or the one whose blog gets 8 million visitors every year.

And the conversation in my head goes:

“Hey, look at what he’s doing. You can’t match that!”

“Oh, yeah? Sez who? Sure, I can.”

“Talk’s cheap. Show me.”

“Ok, I will!”

That’s my Type-A personality kicking in, struggling against the shackles to try and hop back onto the treadmill. Except the treadmill is now going faster than it did a few years ago. And the conscious part of my brain now realizes that however fast you run on a treadmill, you ain’t going nowhere!

That’s when a passage in LINCHPIN brought about the epiphany. Seth Godin writes about ‘art’ and ‘gifts’. He says:

“Art is the product of emotional labor. Art is a gift. The design of the iPhone is art. It changes the way some people feel. And there is a gift as well. People who see the iPhone but don’t buy one still receive the gift. An ugly iPhone would cost as much as the beautiful one. The beautiful part is the gift.

And in one of those magical moments of synchronicity, so many things snapped into place in an instant inside my mind.

I realized that the work I did (create and sell infoproducts to fund heart surgery in kids) is “emotional labor”.

And that the ‘gift’ is how this work inspires many others to reach out for their own dreams, and live them.

The flood of comments, emails, testimonials and feedback from hundreds of people has told me how they drew energy and encouragement from seeing my purpose-driven work.

It motivated them to keep going. It made them take heart in their own purpose. It gave them faith in an industry niche that isn’t all sunshine and roses.

Until now, I had ignored that, or hadn’t valued it highly enough. I had taken my eye off the ball, to try and focus on things that were more important – to someone else!

Sure, a multi-million dollar promotion sounds attractive – until I realize that I don’t need one.

To hit even my ambitious stretch goal of funding 500 heart operations every year, I need (500 x $2,250) = $1,125,000 – which is halved with a subsidy from our State Government, leaving me with a funding target of only $560,000.

But even if that never happens, just having come so far along the path to a crazily impossible goal, to touching 70 little lives (and hundreds of bigger ones) through my ‘art’, suddenly seems so much more fulfilling and satisfying.

Sometimes, a paradigm shifts when we attain new heights, explore new opportunities, pursue new goals.

At other times, it happens when we see better just exactly where we stand.

Thank you for helping me see better, Seth!

And Happy Birthday, too.

.

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Why I Enjoyed “The Social Network”

The Social Network poster

Had he paid to have The Social Network produced and marketed, Mark Zuckerberg could consider it a wise and fruitful investment.

In two hours, it altered my perception of a driven and greedy capitalist who stole a great idea while stiffing his best friend en route to billionaredom, and turned it into one of a smart, savvy businessman who trusted his instincts and leveraged his judgment about the inadequacy of his partners as hopeless dreamers, to create a behemoth social network… that has since touched and revolutionized the lives of hundreds of millions of people – in less than a decade!

And if that were all that the movie did, it would still be worth shooting. Except that it does a lot more.

So much more, that I consider “The Social Network” among one of the more enjoyable films I’ve watched this year.

Some favorite scenes.

FaceMash has just been coded, and the first few emails go out to friends. The hero’s dorm mates ask, “How many people are you going to tell?” and he replies:

“The really important question is: How many people will they tell?

That’s how Facebook grew, if you come to think about it. Friends telling friends, who in turn told their friends!

Another one.

They’re seated at a table, with lawyers of both sides trading barbs. The twins burst out, “You stole our idea!”

Deadpan, Jesse Eisenberg who plays the uber-rich plaintiff quips:

“If Facebook was your idea, you’d have built Facebook.”

The final scene is poignant, too. It has the battle-weary CEO endlessly refreshing his Facebook page, seeking confirmation of a ‘friend’ request he sends his ex-girlfriend.

And in that subtle way, the director makes another point… no matter how much money you have, in the end we all crave recognition and affection from THAT special person. Without it, the rest doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

There were portions of the movie that were special to me in a more personal sense.

Watching the role of the maniacally focused young Zuckerberg brought back to mind my own youth – as a teenager, preparing for my pre-medical exams. Where the nerd in the movie stays glued to his computer screen, churning out thousands of lines of code, I would have my nose stuck in my textbooks for as long as 16 hours in a day as I fought to beat out the ‘competition’ for 1,000 medical school seats.

The difference lies only in WHAT we focus on as youngsters. The similarity is in the raw ambition, fierce determination and vast dreams we had about our future.

Surely that part will resonate with you, and everyone who watches the movie.

And finally, “The Social Network” got me to dream again.

Big dreams. Bold dreams. Daring dreams.

Because the undertone throughout is this…

ANYTHING is possible.

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The Ten Year Rule

It takes ten years to become GREAT at something.

Anything.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist or writer, actor or doctor, lawyer or engineer, or whatever else. You’ll be great at what you do… in ten years’ time.

Yes, that’s AFTER you acquire the necessary skills and training.

And sure, there’s a variable called ‘talent’ that gets in the way, and speeds up (or slows down) things a little. But it is over-rated. So don’t place too much value on that one.

Just keep at it, until you’re great.

Today marks the 7th year anniversary of the day I started blogging regularly. You can see my very first post published here on June 15th, 2003.

A milestone. It’s special to me. Because, in just three years from now, I’ll be a GREAT blogger!

Oh wait, maybe not. Blogging is my hobby. One of many. And so it may well take longer than ten years before I’m great at it.

Does that scare you?

Don’t let it. It doesn’t me!

Just create your art. Get it out there. Keep doing it better each time.

As long as you love and enjoy what you’re doing, the time will pass quicker than you thought.

And then, you’ll be successful.

Yes, ‘success’ may take a different shape than what you expected it to – but in whichever form it arrives, it’ll taste just as sweet!

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