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.

Monday, 28 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.

Wednesday, 16 April 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:
Sunday, 9 March 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. 

Monday, 24 February 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, 18 January 2014

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.
Saturday, 28 December 2013

Lead Yourself


Pent up dissatisfaction can be vented by citizens at the most unexpected of times. At Nelson Mandela's memorial service earlier this month, South Africans at the FNB Stadium heckled their president Jacob Zuma virtually every time the camera focused on him. Barack Obama on the other hand received a deafening roar from the same crowd whenever he appeared on the Jumbotron.  During those few seconds of euphoria one could easily forget Obama's approval ratings back home in the US. The contrast was most pronounced when the stadium soundtrack instantly changed from boos to cheers, as the image on the Jumbotron changed from that of Jacob Zuma to Barack Obama.

It's difficult to find a political leader that's popular with their countrymen. Deeply entrenched stereotypes of corrupt and incompetent politicians means that those in congress or parliament are viewed with skepticism before they can even introduce themselves. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Finding Sanity in Confusion


Confusion most commonly arises when a person is faced with one of two scenarios: 
1. The information they're working with is disorganized.
2. The volume of information is overwhelming.

It's information clutter and high workload that flummox most people, rather than insufficient qualifications or lack of experience.  

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

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