Monday, 18 May 2015

Should-be Syndrome

In both work and social spheres I regularly encounter people who spend much of their time trying to reconcile life to their expectations. Often you find that their expectations are based on a long list of should-be scenarios. For example:

By 21 I should have my university degree.
By 25 I should be making an X amount of money.
I’m smarter/prettier than her. No way should she be picked over me.
People say it’s very difficult to marry when you’re older, so I should be married before I turn 30.
My friend summited Mount Kilimanjaro in six days, so I should take no longer than that.
It took Facebook eight years since inception to list on a public stock exchange, so my company should aim for something similar.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Attention Span, Concentration and Age

Traditionally older people were the ones we fingered as the forgetful or "slow" among us. I have found this to be a generalization though, because I have worked with people in their fifties and sixties who had impeccable memory. Yes, natural aging and reduced brain cell count are inevitable as time passes, but their adverse effects are overrated and I firmly believe our modern lifestyle featuring information overload and multitasking is far more detrimental than any natural process like aging.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Wake up Happy

You're probably familiar with the phenomenon: you're laying motionless in bed deep asleep. Unexpectedly your morning alarm clock sounds (surely it can't be time to wake up already) and then the sluice gate opens: All the meetings, reviews, errands and responsibilities of the day flood your conscious mind and break your bubble of sleep. Your body is still at rest and your eyes are trying to open, but the mind is already awake devising tactics, plans of action and all manner of mitigating measures to negotiate the day ahead.

During the transition from sleep to wakefulness, your psyche is in no mood to contemplate the realities of the day: it wants to recoil, continue sleeping and avoid any challenges and demands that lay ahead. (That's why you press the 'Snooze' button and consider calling in sick at work.) Yet you still think of them and you know you have to wake up. With such a mixture of  thoughts and conflicting emotions, waking up feels awful. Your mind is laden with what's to come for the entire day and you haven't even reached the bathroom as yet. Talk about a rude awakening.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Implementing your Learnings

It's impossible to not stumble across numerous nuggets of sound advice, insightful viewpoints and eccentric musings if you read enough non-fiction. The difficulty though lays in remembering what you read and implementing the learning points into your daily life. If I rely purely on memory for instance, I am able to recall a maximum of five salient points from any self-help title I've read...and in most cases it's two.

Taking notes while reading can turn your experience into a chore and resembles studying too closely for my liking. So you shouldn't take notes while you read: it will interrupt the flow and enjoyment of your book and turns it into an academic exercise. Rather store to memory the resonant points and at the end of each reading session note them down. And right at the end of the book it's a good idea to preserve your notes by transferring them into an electronic document.

Practice some restraint when taking notes though. Limit the words you write after each reading session to a single sheet of note paper. You don't want to create an abridged edition of the book, because if you do that you will spend an unduly long period of time on one book. Notes are merely there to serve as cues that jog your memory and remind you of what you read; they are not meant to reproduce the entire book. When you look at the points you wrote weeks or even years later, you will be astonished at how a simple, summarized sentence will bring back a plethora of accompanying words and associated facts.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Progress before Perfection

In keeping with a society that reveres decisiveness and frowns on hesitancy, you find people frequently taking an uncompromising stance on their judgments and decisions. We view choices as a package deal where it's all or nothing: An option is picked only if it can resolve a problem perfectly or wholly meet a target.

For instance, if you have regular electricity cuts that interrupt your business, then a small backup generator could provide relief by allowing your computers and other essential machinery to run during an outage. Even if some items remain switched off you can continue to operate, albeit at a slower pace. With a generator running you can still fulfil some orders and a smaller backlog of work will await once electricity supply is fully restored.

If you argue that a generator doesn't help because it still won't allow the airconditioners and printers to run, then you will opt to wait for a perfect solution which would entail either:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Creating the Story

With a high definition, Dolby-enhanced digital world available in many lounges, people invariably devote more time to their favorite sitcom or movie genre than they do to reading. Television is easier to engage: switch it on and the story plays out before you in full motion, audio and color, imprinting an unambiguous plot in the mind. Little interpretation and inference is required by the brain as the story is fed to you: a precise and detailed image of the protagonists and their environments leaves no room for uncertainty or interpretation.

Most books don't even have illustrations, let alone motion or audio. And words are not as attention-grabbing as a densely pixelated, crisp picture. When you read, people, environments, dialog and the tone of the dialog are all portrayed by humble, monochromatic words. The the main divergence between a book and television though occurs in the way the story gets processed. While TV leaves little room for interpretation, each person that reads a book will have a different vocabulary, word connotations and powers of imagination. Therefore no two individuals who read a book will have an identical recollection of the environment or impression of the characters. The salient points of the plot may be commonly accepted across readers, but due to the lack of visuals and audio much of the story has to be imagined...and we all imagine differently. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Consultancy Jobs: The Flip Side

Before joining a Big Four audit company, I read a Corporate Research Foundation survey that rated them one of the best companies to work for in the world.  I remember mention by this survey of  the "rapid mobility" afforded to employees of this firm as a plus.

Professional services companies deploy staff to various client locations around the country they operate in. As a consultant (an auditor in my case) you need to be at the client to understand, analyze and improve their systems and controls, report on their financial statements, or rectify a system problem they may have hired you to fix. Working from your company's office is the exception rather than the rule, reserved for times when you are concluding your findings into a report or when you're not assigned to a client.

Those words "rapid mobility" have a glamorous ring to them, but there are details and realities of working for a consultancy that many people don't consider:

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Empathize, don't Sympathize

It's fine to feel sorry for a friend or colleague when they go through a rough patch, but openly expressing sympathy in their presence will probably leave them feeling even more downtrodden than they were before they met you. Sympathy has a way of making a situation feel worse than it really is: it reinforces the bad with the underlying message being that the friend or colleague in question lacks the aptitude to prevail. If they could rectify their situation they wouldn't need sympathy, so weakness is being insinuated when you "feel sorry" for them. This is why feeling pity for a person makes them appear and feel more hopeless.

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