Saturday 15 June 2024

Keeping the inner critic's voice in check

To keep the inner critic's voice in check, it's essential to recognize when it's operating on high power. Here are five signs that your inner critic might be overactive:

  1. Encourages Catastrophic Thinking: The inner critic often makes you envision the worst possible outcomes.
  2. Induces Guilt: It points out past decisions where you failed, making you feel guilty.
  3. Uses Extreme Generalizations: It makes broad, sweeping statements that are rarely true.
  4. Draws a Hard Line Between Success and Failure: It sees everything in black and white, with no middle ground.
  5. Predicts the Future with Finality: It insists that the future is set in stone, often with a negative outlook.

To manage your inner critic, acknowledge these signs and counter them with more balanced and compassionate self-talk. When you feel that the inner critic is operating in high power, remember not to trust everything your mind says. Talk to yourself instead

Friday 14 June 2024

Inner joy helps elevate life's peaks

The happiness you experience when you reach the mountain top is the happiness you bring with you. 

This perspective highlights an important truth: if your mind is calm, the world around you will seem calm as well. Achievements and experiences can bring happiness, but this external joy is deeply dependent on the internal happiness we cultivate. What we feel during significant moments is a reflection of our inner state.

If you are unhappy internally, no achievement will bring you lasting happiness or even the high you were expecting in that moment.

Thursday 13 June 2024

SERIES: Potentially Contrarian Ideas – 1. Create Products and Create Markets

Most business students learn the timeless advice from Theodore Levitt about “Sell the hole, not the drill.” In his article in the Harvard Business Review in the 1960s, he urged businesses to move away from a narrow focus on their products and services and to broaden their understanding of market needs. Customers are not looking for a drill, but rather for the hole they want to create using the drill.

This concept was further elevated into an innovation management philosophy by Clayton Christensen in the famous 'Jobs-to-be-done' framework. The fundamental premise here is that customers hire products or services to help them accomplish a job. In the previous example, we hire a drill to fulfill the job of making a hole in the wall for a nail, where we want to display a picture.

This makes sense and is sound management advice. I would summarize this as "Creating Products for Markets."

But the wonderful world of ideas and technology we live in has also shown that products can create markets, generating a need that did not previously exist. This usually happens when significant technological advancements push us out of the status quo. For example, with advancements in smaller speakers and more efficient battery technology came the Sony Walkman, which created a market for portable music. There is debate over whether it met a latent demand for portable music, but we can all agree that, as recently as 50 years before the Walkman, the technology for recording and replaying audio, let alone for portable use, did not exist. So, it is fair to assume that there was very little latent demand.

Side note: I have a hypothesis, based on anecdotal evidence, that such technology-push market creation usually begins in entertainment fields where the needs are not clearly manifested.

In a recent conversation with Stanford Graduate School, Jensen Huang, the trailblazing CEO of Nvidia, made some fascinating observations that lead me to believe we are truly in an era of products creating markets. Jensen talked about how Nvidia’s early success depended on partnering with Electronic Arts, also a fledgling company at the time, to create a graphics computer that spurred demand for the computer games industry, which was very nascent. The key phrase that caught my attention is that Nvidia and Electronic Arts created a product and a market. That was their clear strategy.

Following that initial success, Nvidia’s strategy, Jensen says, has become one of creating products AND the markets for those products. I strongly believe that this slightly contrarian approach is one of the reasons for their recent wild success. While others have been following the norm of creating products for existing markets, Nvidia is creating markets AND products.

References

  1. Timeless Wisdom from Theodore Levitt: Selling Value Over Features
  2. What Does It Take to Create a Market?
  3. Jensen Huang on Creating Products and Markets
  4. Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”

 

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Cultivate burstiness

One of the traits of people pleasers is to ask incessantly for advice and try to delegate decisions. They believe that asking and following advice will absolve them of some of the blame if the decision turns out to be wrong. It is a way to protect themselves. Why is this a people-pleasing behavior? Because those who do it believe that they can keep the peace with others by doing so. It is a survival mechanism, borne out of a lack of self-confidence and putting other people’s needs ahead of their own.

One way to start breaking out of this is to cultivate ‘burstiness’.

As children, most of us naturally have this characteristic. We are curious about what could happen, and we learn through experimenting. Children don’t seek permission; they act and then learn what works and what does not.

As we grow older, we are taught to become more circumspect, which is necessary for being a functioning adult. But the systematic curbing of our ‘burstiness’ can leave some of us always wanting validation.

To reconnect with our ‘burstiness,’ we must practice making decisions by ourselves and start getting comfortable with how that feels. This way, we start taking back ownership and stop micromanaging how others view or experience us.


Tuesday 11 June 2024

Problems can be opportunities in disguise. Choose an abundance mindset

Choosing an abundance mindset over a scarcity mindset allows us to be more resilient. Pessimism is nothing but a failure of imagination. A scarcity mindset is a manifestation of pessimism that makes us closed to opportunities because we view them as problems.

Some manifestations of a scarcity mindset and how it affects our lives are as follows:

  • When we believe there is not enough for everyone, including ourselves.
  • When we think we must “be right” in any given situation.
  • When we think asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • When we feel victimized by the actions of others, sometimes even by inanimate things.
  • When we feel that nothing can help improve a situation, and it’s better to give up.

To break from a scarcity mindset and adopt an abundant mindset, we must reprogram two key aspects:

  • Our attention – what we choose to focus on
  • Our intention – what we want to feel in the moment

We must redirect our attention to celebrate what is working well, instead of obsessing over what is not. Similarly, we must reorient our intention to learn, instead of being right. All this must be done and experienced, instead of just being thought about. Abundance can be visualized as something that is flowing, instead of being stagnant. Action or movement is an inherent characteristic of abundance. 

Scarcity, on the other hand, is like an addiction. It prefers the status quo and cannot be overcome purely by thinking our way out of it.

So, how do we take small actions to help us beat the addiction to scarcity? Let us see the actions a person who wants to reprogram their attention and intention will take when confronted with situations of a scarcity mindset:

Scarcity trigger

Reprogramming Action

Abundance mindset

There is not enough for me, let alone others

Give something of value without expecting anything in return

I have more than enough, and I can share

I must be ‘right’

Ask a question with the phrase “What do I not know that can be better?”

I must learn. Being ‘right’ is limiting

I cannot ask for help because I will become weak

Offer help to someone who needs it on a related or unrelated topic.

I have something to offer others and others have something to offer me

I am being victimized by the actions or existence of…

Write down five things you are grateful for in your day. Even include a reason you are grateful to the person or actions that are victimizing you

Reaffirm the belief that there is some force in the world that is on my side

Nothing can help improve this situation. I should give up…

Do the very next task, however inconsequential it is. Then ask for help from someone, even if they think it’s a problem too.

 

Take an unimportant decision and flip a coin to decide which way to do it. Follow the coin toss, irrespective of your inclinations.

Motivation comes from action. Solutions are found when we see progress, however incremental.

Finally, a non-obvious way to reinforce abundance mindset is to celebrate one’s quirks and uniqueness. Play is critical to help elevate our energy levels, which can in turn put us in an optimistic and more open mindset. Play with those who have abundant mindsets, and you will be on a path to cure your addiction to scarcity.


Monday 10 June 2024

Energy and enthusiasm are often better than expertise alone

Show up with the right attitude to increase your chances of succeeding in any situation. Many aspects of life, such as the rules we follow in society, lie beyond our control. Some rules are straightforward, like traffic signals, while others are complex, such as tax regulations. However, you need not become a prisoner to these uncontrollable factors. You can control the attitude you bring to most situations.

If you show up with a high-energy attitude, optimism, and agency, you set yourself up for success. Although the degree of success may vary, it will likely lead to more positive outcomes.

Nietzsche referred to this idea when he said, 

"If you have a strong why, you can bear almost any how."

A strong why need not be an esoteric purpose; it can also be action oriented.

  • It can be the clear, rational optimism you hold.
  • It can be the unrushed and focused energy you bring, and
  • It can be the consistent, yet not inflexible schedule you adapt.

Your attitude is like a horse that either needs to be reined in or needs to be prodded.

It is better to have the former.



Sunday 9 June 2024

Don't try to solve every problem

Don't try to solve every problem. Make a deal with yourself to live with the challenges that arise from small issues. Accept them and be okay with it. The Stoics have a saying: "Pay the taxes of life willingly and accept them" (Ryan Holiday). This mindset is similar.

Instead of trying to eliminate all challenges, whether big or small, it might be better for our overall happiness to live with the minor challenges that small issues present. Attempting to remove every small issue can actually lead to continuous discontent.

Dan Harris, in his podcast "20% Happier," discusses the idea of not trying to solve every problem, suggesting that we can find greater peace by accepting small challenges rather than constantly fighting against them.

If we accept and live with these small challenges, rather than constantly trying to solve them, we might find ourselves happier. They cease to be problems. 

And, when only big problems remain, it's easier to focus on and address them, rather than treating everything, big or small, as a problem. This prevents our attention and capacity from being overwhelmed.

Choose which problems are worth your attention and simply accept the rest. 

Saturday 8 June 2024

Stop chasing grand designs or perfect clarity in life

Expecting grand designs or perfect clarity in life is futile. This mindset leads to problems. The root of this kind of thinking comes from misplaced expectations. The more we understand that there are no grand designs, only incremental steps, the more we free ourselves from the trap of chasing after something that is never reachable. Expecting everything to make perfect sense and fall into place is a sure way to feel miserable because life is often messy. The only time life might fall into place in some grand scheme is probably when there isn't much of it left.

Friday 7 June 2024

Being present is the antidote to burnout

"If you don’t declare a finish line, then your body will declare it for you." – Carey Nieuwhof

There are many reasons why one might experience burnout, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is living a rushed, frantic life. We often justify our stressed lives with various reasons like:

  • "This is just a busy season, and I have to get a lot done."
  • "This busyness and stress are the price I have to pay for success."
  • "If I had more time, I could get everything done."
  • "I'll borrow time from tomorrow, even if it means I don’t get to rest today."
  • "I can multitask to accomplish more in less time."

This mindset traps us in what is known as the stress spiral. It begins with overcommitting to things we don't want to do, leading to overwork, and ultimately overwhelming us when everything becomes too much to handle.

The antidote to this isn't time management. It's energy and attention management. We need to learn to be present in what we are doing. We need to recognize that being frantic and constantly switching tasks will not lead to lasting success. It may provide short-term benefits like a dopamine fix, but it is unsustainable in the long run. Soon, one will be addicted to those dopamine hits, leading to burnout.

The true antidote is the ability to be fully present in whatever you are doing.

Thursday 6 June 2024

Dominance is not casting a shadow, but shining a light

Here is an interesting observation. If you are an introvert and seek to avoid the spotlight, you might try to avoid contact. But in doing so, you might inadvertently invite attention.

Let's imagine this situation:

You walk into a meeting a few minutes late. This makes you feel awkward, so you try to slip in quietly and take a seat. You think nobody has noticed you, but in fact, others have. By either acknowledging or ignoring you, they are, in some way, putting the spotlight on you. They expect you to understand this subtly.

Instead of trying to blend in, if you make a statement like, "Hey, sorry I'm late, but here I am. What did I miss?", the onus is now on others to respond. The spotlight shifts to them instead of you.

A dominant person is one that puts the spotlight on others, not one that keeps the spotlight on oneself.