Category : Self Development

If I Had Only 5 Minutes…

To Tell My Daughter The Secret of Success

What Matters - What's Worthy, And What's a Waste

If I had just five minutes to tell my daughter what I believe to be the secret of living happily, this is what it would be…

Have a dream. It may be lofty or small – but it should be yours. And it must do two things. It should make you happy. And it should be of value to others.

Live your dream with passion. Passion is the energy that fires the spark of your desire, fans it into a glorious flame, and shows off your radiant brilliance.

Pursue your dream with determination. Believe with all your heart that it will come true, no matter how remote or difficult or impossible it may seem at the moment.

Dare to be different. Throw off the shackles of what is ‘regular’ or ‘conventional’ or ‘accepted’ – and follow your heart. Yes, it is often scary, unnerving and terrifying to give up the familiar and the secure to follow your dreams. It takes a lot of courage. Find it.

Feel gratitude. Wake up every morning feeling thankful for all the things you have – even the ones that, until now, you’ve taken for granted. Think about those who do not have those things.

Also, be a little crazy. Have a little fun. Let that little child within you come out and enjoy itself every now and then.

Have a personal philosophy that directs all that you do. Mine is a simple four-word mantra…

Be Kind. Help Others.

And in the end, have no regrets. We are all human, and therefore imperfect. We will always make mistakes. And that’s ok. Yes, things could have been better. But they also could have been worse.

The only question you must ask yourself is this: “Did I do my best?”

I hope your answer will be: “Yes, I did.”

That’s all that matters.

(This was first published on, a fantastic collection of stories, anecdotes and quotes by my dear friend Gail Lynn Goodwin – check it out here)


What Really Matters


Lessons From The Death Of A Year – And The Birth Of A New One

What Matters - What's Worthy, And What's a Waste

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
– Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech
It’s December.

A time of the year when my thoughts turn to death.

Maybe it’s because the year’s dying. Or because it reminds me of when my father died. Or something else.

It’s also a time when I ponder that uncomfortable reality of my own death – and what I’ll leave behind when I’m gone.

My legacy (if you like words that sound pompous and self-important!).

Or my lessons learned in life.

I read a post by my friend Derek Sivers. This one. It’s another stark reminder of how frail our existence really is. About how limited is our time on earth. About what’s worthy and what’s a waste.

Shouldn’t we use what little time is ours to DO something – instead of frivolously frittering it away?

Last night, I watched “UP”. A story where our hero, Mr.Fredricksen, puts off his childhood dream for “later” – and almost misses going after it… forever. He finally dares to try.

I face the same dilemma. With so many things to do, work on, complete, enjoy – which one(s) should take priority?

These December musings always help re-focus on the right things.

This year (as the last), my writing takes top spot – after heart surgery for kids, of course.

There’s a book I started writing TEN YEARS ago. That matters. So I’ve almost finished it this year, and will shortly be ready to publish it.

There’s a blog I first published 8 years back. That matters. So I’ve revived it, seeded it from my archived posts, and will grow it with new content.

There’s a project I began working on recently. That matters. It will help raise funds for my non-profit heart kids project. It gets my attention.

And for the dozen other “important” things, I’ll find some time – after the ones that really matter are done.

The hundreds of “urgent, though not important” ones will just have to wait. For a “later” that may never come.

That’s ok. Because if my time runs out any day, I’ll have been doing what truly mattersnot obsessing over trivia.

Another year is almost dead.

But a new one will soon be born.

Like life itself, every new year offers an opportunity.

An opportunity to change, be better, different.

To focus again on what’s really important.

On what matters.


When YOUR Name’s On It…

Your Name Is On It


It Reflects YOU – Not What You Were Paid For It!

I recently outsourced some Web content on a low-priced freelance site. On our evening walk, I was discussing the ridiculous quality of some submissions with my daughter.

She said, “For the low rate you offer, how can they afford to do good work?!”

I replied.

“When your name is on it, it must be the best work you can do.”

“But that’s not cost-effective for the writer.”

Maybe not. That’s a choice you have when you take on any task. If it doesn’t compensate you adequately, you may choose not to do the job.

But once you decide to do it, you should give it your best. Always.

Anachronistic advise, perhaps, in a setting where most strive to do “just enough” to get by. Yet I’ve followed it over the years, and it has enriched my life in many different ways.

When giving your best becomes a habit, all kinds of magical things start happening?—?such as being paid a high rate for doing things, or having people ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ over its quality.

Consider the flip side.

What if we were all to work only to the extent we’re paid to.

Doctors, especially those in public/government service, would leave most treatments half-done, poorly done?—?or undone.

Teachers don’t even think about salaries and value-per-hour when they fire up the minds and imaginations of their little charges.

Politicians, if only paid in proportion to the results or impact they create, would mostly end up paupers by the end of their terms.

Nobody whose name you remember, cherish or respect ever did work that reflected pecuniary compensation alone.

They did it because it reflected THEM.

You, too, should consider this…

When it goes out in YOUR name, it reflects YOU. Not what you were paid for it.


Are You Worth Paying?

…And Do You Add Enough Value For The Dollars You
(Think That You) Deserve

Are you worth paying?

Shortly after I finished medical school, I had the “opportunity of a lifetime”to work in a cardiac surgery unit.

Dad’s friend was a consultant surgeon. A phone call asking for the favor landed my dream position. And as luck might have it, the day after I joined, the only other surgeon who had been assisting him had to rush back home for a family emergency – and wouldn’t be back for weeks.

There I was alone, barely out of medical school, helping run a busy heart surgery practice. (Even if it was only for 2 months, until I began my surgical residency program)

I loved it!

It was hard work. Long hours. My day started at 9 a.m. with ward rounds to examine the 20 or so in-patients. Surgery began around 10’o’clock and went on for four, five, or even eight hours. Then a short break for a quick lunch, followed by out-patient clinics, evening ward rounds and routine work.

From time to time, I’d pop in to the 4-bed ICU (which had post-surgical patients on a ventilator) to see if everything was okay. At night, I was the duty doctor who “slept” in the ICU annexe and served as ‘first responder’ to be on the spot and handle dire emergencies until the senior consultants came in.

When the anesthesiologist arrived next morning, I’d rush home for a quick shower and breakfast, then hurry back for morning rounds.

All said, I spent 22 hours each day in hospital – around 14 of them working.

And learning.

It was one of the richest learning experiences of my medical career.

We had surgery every day. I’d assist at heart valve repairs and replacements; repairs for congenital heart defects like ASD, VSD, PDA; surgery for esophageal tumors and strictures; lung resections; and more.

Some were rare and exciting disorders: a giant leiomyoma of the foodpipe, an adult pulmonary atresia, or twin sisters who both had the same congenital heart disease.

I saw some brilliant operative skills. And watched near disasters salvaged with calm, methodical handwork.

Lives saved. Hearts healed. Miracles enacted.

Within a few weeks, I had an experience most surgical residents would only get after a year or two in a cardiac program. It would serve me well during my own residency training in general surgery for the next 3 years, and my formal induction into the exclusive heart surgery fraternity that followed.

A month after I joined the team, the ICU nurse handed me a sealed envelope.

“The chief wanted you to have this. It’s your pay.”

I accepted the cover with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was thrilled that my services were considered worthy of being paid for. On the other, I was troubled by my thoughts.

* Had I expected to be paid for doing this?
* Wasn’t what I’m learning worth far more?
* Is what I’m doing worth paying for?

Off and on, all through the night, I thought about it. I even recall discussing it with dad.

The next morning, I walked up to the senior surgeon, handed him the sealed envelope, and said: “Sir, I don’t want to be paid for this.”

He was surprised. But he respected my choice.

To this day, I don’t know (though I’ve sometimes wondered!) if the envelope contained 500 rupees (which was what medical interns were paid each month at the time) or 5,000.

It didn’t matter.

Thinking back, however, I realize that even then, at an early stage of my professional career, a mindset had evolved:

I didn’t want to be paid for my time – but for the value I added.

And before getting paid, I had to learn how to add more value.

Even if it meant spending 22 hours a day in hospital, working hard and long hours… without earning a penny for it.

That’s why I cringe today when freshly graduated engineers in my family debate the choice between working at either of two companies, on the basis of which one will pay them more.

“You shouldn’t even be getting paid more than a base salary,” I think to myself (though saying it out loud might get me ostracized by irate relatives).

But think about it.

We don’t get paid to go to school. Or college.

We get paid for the value we add – AFTER that.

Isn’t that how things should be? Or am I just crazy?

When do YOU think you became “worth paying”?


How’s Your End Game?

Because, Let’s Face It, The Rest Doesn’t Really Matter So Much

A friend of mine plays chess. Very well. In fact, back in the day when they were both members of the same chess club, he would defeat now-reigning world champion Vishy Anand.

We were playing a ‘friendly’ game last weekend. I lasted nearly fifteen minutes, before being check-mated.

Then, I told him two things.

1. In heart surgery, we prepare the patient for surgery by cleaning and draping the chest, then making an incision to access the heart. Next, we support the circulation by hooking up the patient to a heart-and-lung machine. Finally comes the actual repair.

Anyone can handle the first stage, even a trainee medical student. The next phase isn’t too complicated, and most residents can manage it comfortably with three months of training. The repair is what takes a few decades to master.

2. launched in 1995. That was the year I first started an online business. By 2000, the retail giant was reporting a LOSS of millions of dollars a year, when my activities were pulling in $20,000 or more.

Fast forward a decade, and one company is doing BILLIONS of dollars in sales while the other is still close to where it used to be (no prizes for guessing which is which!)

My point?

The beginning and middle games are easier. Faster. Almost anyone can learn them, even master them.

A full-time heart surgeon can play chess well enough to hold someone with an ELO rating of 2000+ for 20 moves, or temporarily out-perform an online business behemoth in profitability. And even a trainee can put a heart patient on bypass.

The end game isn’t quite as easy.

That’s why it really matters.

The rest of the game? Not so much!

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