Monthly Archives: Jan 2015

Discomfort of Influence

Discomfort of Influence

Having influence is NOT always a bed of roses!

Along with influence comes a certain unavoidable degree of visibility, where you start living in a kind of fishbowl and are held up to a level of keen observation, and even criticism, that you probably weren’t used to before.


Cause – Or Accident?

Connections? Linkage? Who can tell?

This happened years ago.

I posted a tweet. Jeanette saw it. Acted. Went to Haiti. Met Elaine. Now, they’re great friends.

Connections happened.

Jeanette Joy posted about it.

But how much of it was causal?

What if I hadn’t tweeted about Frank’s Caring House project?
What if Jeanette and I weren’t connected on Twitter?
What if she hadn’t seen my tweet (she has over 100k followers)?


What if she hadn’t taken action on it?
What if she hadn’t gone to Haiti?
What if the circumstances that brought Elaine there hadn’t happened?

And finally…

What if they both were different kinds of people?

Would this connection have developed anyway?

I’ve asked myself this kind of question for years, mostly in context of my work as a heart surgeon for children.

How much of what we do is causal in determining outcomes?

How much is sheer accident?

How much is part of an intricately woven, enormously complex whole?


Inner Conversations

Play Blitz Chess

I enjoy playing blitz chess, where each player gets a total of 3 minutes.  It’s fast-paced, demands total concentration and delivers a quick result.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m undisturbed while playing, I win around half of my games.  But when there’s even a slight distraction, I lose most of the matches.

On analyzing this, I realize that it’s because of inner conversations.

As I make my moves, I’m constantly talking to myself.

  • Silently voicing my attack plan.
  • Remarking on the other person’s moves.
  • Even egging myself on when I see a weakness to exploit in the position or structure of my opponent’s pieces.

When someone talks to me in the middle of the game, that inner conversation is disrupted.

Once broken, it’s hard to find the thread again – and that leads to defeat.

The same kind of inner conversations happen at other times.

Like while I’m browsing Facebook. I’ve suddenly become conscious of how my thoughts flow.

Sometimes, I’m commenting to myself about the awesomeness (or stupidity) of someone on my network.

Other times, I’m drawing inferences based on stuff they share or post.

And from time to time, I catch myself unintentionally comparing my life to their’s.

These inner conversations leave an impact.

When I return to whatever I was doing, energized and inspired, I realize it’s partly because of the conversations that just went on inside my head.

And when I feel apathic, tired and weary about my work, that’s also a consequence of the latest inner conversation – with myself.

They’re insidious little things, those pesky ‘silent chats’.

They often have dramatic, even deadly effect.

They need to be controlled and dominated for greatness and accomplishment.

Gaining control – and domination – over your inner conversations is probably the single most important thing to drive you forward to your goals.

It’s also a lot harder than it appears.

It takes focus, concentration and dedication.

I’m going to work harder at it… starting right now, with my next game of blitz chess!



Uncertainty is a part of growing up.

Everyone is uncertain about the future. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Next month? Next year? Will it be good? Or bad?

There are only questions – never answers.

While it may not be so obvious, everyone is also uncertain about the past. Not so much about whether something happened, but about whether (or not) it was good, bad or neutral.

The only thing that is NOT uncertain is the present.

Right now.

You know what’s happening. You have the power to choose. You have time and opportunity to act on that decision.

Is that why they call it “present”? Because it’s a gift?

Taking action in the face of uncertainty – of outcome, or intent, or usefulness – is an act of courage, optimism and determination.

It signifies your intent to make things happen.

It’s your puny effort to become Fate’s rudder, turning the ship of your life in the direction you want to set sail.

Lending it power and impact are your dreams.

Dreams span a wide spectrum. There are two poles.

At one end are the “How nice it would be if…” kind of dreams.

How nice it would be if

  • I won the Powerball lottery
  • I had been the one who founded Facebook
  • I went to Stanford business school
  • I married Bill Gates’ son!

Y’know, the ones where you sit and wonder how life would be if you met or knew X, got or won Y, went to or entered or arrived at Z.

The dreams which you don’t (or can’t) do much aboutbut look forward to with all your heart.

Day dreams, really. Fond hopes. Wishes.

You need a fairy Godmother to make them come true!

At the other end of the spectrum are the “I’ll get it done, or die trying…” dreams.

These are fired by passion from your heart. They are driven by a deep-seated purpose, stuff that characterizes you existentially. Fierce motivation that’s inspiring, empowering and self-defining.

  • I work with families where parents (and grandparents) commit to giving their all to help little children with life-threatening birth defects survive – and thrive.
  • I work with small business owners who try, and fail. Get beaten down, and get back up. Who keep on trying – and eventually succeed.

These dreams need action. They involve making choices. Require extreme discipline and persistence.

And they are guided by optimism that flies in the face of pervading uncertainty.

Many dreams fall somewhere between these two extremes.

But you’ll always sense them as being closer to one or the other.

And you’ll adjust your attitude, action and affect towards making them come true.

Your passionate dreams will always be different from anyone else’s – and so they’ll matter more deeply to you than to others.

Even dreams powered by fiery passion don’t always last forever. The constant uncertainty sometimes takes a toll on them.

But remember this.

No meaningful achievement was made with absolute certainty. Great inventors, scientists, physicians, entrepreneurs, leaders – all of them faced the same uncertainty that you do today.

The difference between those who succeeded, and the others who did not, is their ability to stick onto pursue their dreams despite their uncertainty about ever making them come true!


Always Negotiate


I negotiate a lot. With a lot of people. Even with Death.

But most of all, I negotiate with myself.

Some of these negotiations are torturous, agonizing, and their outcome is uncertain till the very end.

Towards the end of last year, I had to do it a lot. I found myself up at ungodly hours, wide awake, mind racing with uncomfortable questions about my career and professional future.

These words from Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address on June 12, 2005 kept haunting me…

“… for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Dissatisfaction with my situation reared its unfriendly head.

At times, fear and uncertainty took firm hold of my thoughts.

I even Googled it to see if I was in the throes of a “mid-life crisis” – and wondered if I should look up prices on the red Ferrari I’d dreamed of owning as a teenager!

And the alternative seemed seductive, appealing. The lure of the familiar and comfortable was strong. The case in favor of seeking it was good, almost convincing.

But there was something lacking in that option.

The thrill. The challenge. The spark of passion. That was missing.

And so I negotiated. With myself. Bought me some time before I’d have to decide.

It was quite a relief when I won that argument! 🙂

That’s when the magic happened.

It was almost as if my Universe and Lady Luck had been waiting with bated breath to see which side would win.

Over the last week, I’ve had some remarkable coincidences happen.

  • A friend from Japan called to invite me to discuss some plans that relate to an alternative career path I’d been considering – one he’s involved in, has contacts in, and might even like me to collaborate on.
  • A cousin who is working on (what I believe is) the most fascinating project in the world showed me areas where his work might overlap with the new plan which will be my focus through 2015 – and could throw up amazing synergies.
  • Another friend called on New Year’s day to talk about how life really was “on the inside” of the safe alternative I’d been considering – and explained how miserable he was, thinking about when he could escape from the trap!

And it all happened only AFTER I had negotiated – and won.

Too often, we refuse to negotiate.

With employers, employees and stakeholders.

With friends, family and colleagues.

With life… and with our own self.

Y’know what? Maybe we should.

Maybe it’s worth putting in the time and effort to make a clear case in support of what your heart seeks.

Maybe it takes that attempt at clarity and conviction before your mind says “Ok, go for it!”

And then, you get to follow your passion, chase your dreams, listen to your heart and intuition.

Do what you love and enjoy the most.

When you don’t negotiate, the “other side” wins.

And that’s a shame, isn’t it?

P.S. – There’s a flip side. You’ve got to do your part, give what you agreed upon during the negotiation. I promised myself to give it my best shot – and that’s what my year ahead will be about.