Fidelity vs. Volume……..

Bigger! Faster! Better! The focus on amplification seems to be ingrained in us these days. Everywhere we go, we see an effort to increase throughput and voice the thought aloud; recently, linear increases are considered inadequate, we want exponential increases! Look around you – and chances are you’ll stare in the face a company touting itself as earning the most revenue, having the largest workforce, manufacturing the widest range of products, equipped with the most features….and recently even the most “quantified quality” is much talked about (now how does that work?)!

The bug seems to have caught the individuals’ fancy (not just the corporates’) as well – how often do we find ourselves talking about the number of certifications we own, the volume of experience we bring in, the cash we saved for our clients…..

Nothing wrong in all of this of course – but we do have to turn up the volume more and more in order to make ourselves heard. You need differentiators, purple cows and audacious stunts to be noticed – and often sensationalism and hyperbole are business as usual.

Volume

A thought – isn’t all the above only a means to an end and not the end in itself? We made the most cars because we wanted the biggest money bag right? And we didn’t make the most cars to satisfy any one customer, we wanted to satisfy our target segment. When we work toward a larger goal and are serving a statistic (and not a person!), turning up the volume is indeed the way to go.

Fidelity

Think of a rose garden now. When you step in from the main street and the huge noise therein, you suddenly are greeted with a scene of green and the scent of rose – nice on the eyes but kinda boring. And then slowly, as the inner noise within you subsides, you start noticing the stillness outside and the placid landscape metamorphoses into a throbbing eco-system – nature comes alive. You begin to notice the different hues of the roses & leaves and the squirrel squirreling away in a corner. The grass beneath your feet demands attention and a worm worms itself away oblivious to everything around it. On closer look, the blades reveal intricacies – in colour, age, thickness and height – that have you in raptures and you are enthralled by their dancing response to the cool breeze. The birds are on song and their feathers and plummuge are pigmented with exotic colors. Sounds, scenes, nature – everything moves you profoundly. This is the “fidelity” option. When we are entranced in our work, in a book that has us riveted or when we are in tune with nature, our quality of attention is intensified and the world seems a pretty happy place.

So which should we choose – to turn up the volume or to tune into an experience? And how do they effect us?

In the volume game, we are always competing against the man with the loudest speaker, in the fidelity experience – there is no competition – just a wonderful experience.

In the volume game, we are always aiming toward a better tomorrow ( i’ll sell the most cars, get a whole lotta cash, retire to the Bahamas and then be happy). Today just doesn’t matter – it serves to help us reach the tomorrow of our dreams. In the fidelity game, there is no tomorrow – only the present. The focus is not on some futuristic goal but on happiness now. We move therefore from a desired goal to a inspired state right now…

So have the big goals and create the noise and capture the eyeballs. It brings home the bread (at least for now!). But also take a few moments everyday (or week) doing what you like – a transactionless activity done just because it makes you happy and leaves you inspired. Body, mind and intellect will all react positively with lowered stress, a serene mind and a clearer intellect. Better still capture the eyeballs with a different attitude, work will turn out to be a painting you’d leave an indelible signature on (remember Gibran’s definition of work – work is love made visible).

Are there preconditions for adopting a high fidelity approach? Stillness is a perquisite – so you should either get out of the loud environment or be able to tune out the noise and tune in into a delightful
experience (enjoy the pristine stroke play in a cricket game attended by 30000 other boisterous folks). Come to think of it, maybe you could even tune into the noise without reaching for the loudspeaker – wouldn’t that be like the lotus flower blooming unaffected amidst a sludge?

Decoding Success

Delivered  a 40 mt talk on decoding success at the Knowledge Community, Chennai. Focussed on three major themes:

1.  Accepting the world is interconnected – and illustrated this with a railway ticket booking example!

2. Being mindful of the world around us is paramount to our success. Watch out for externalities (including 100 USD burgers!) and technology disruptions (like skype) which may render your job unsustainable/ obselete

3. Focus on the whole thing – like the buddha advices us to see the miracle in the flower blossom

Along the way, touched upon some insights from leaders, how designis driving success today and so on.

Do take a look at; http://chennaistream.com/kcc/ and click on Decoding Success (28th edition). There are quite a few other videos too and KCC videos are awesome – so do have some fun watching…

Some links you may like to follow through on:

The $100 burger (and there’s a more enlightening one on the $200 burger too!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13764242

http://www.5min.com/Video/Raj-Patel-on-Why-a-Hamburger-Should-Cost-200-516906298

Bill Gates in the gates Foundation Annual Letter

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/2011/Pages/introduction.aspx

On Christian fabre (the saint and the fashion ceo!)  –

http://www.christianfabre.com/who-we-are.html

http://www.hindu.com/mp/2008/06/07/stories/2008060751691200.htm

and finally – a wonderful non-traditional commentary to the Heart Sutra (with several read in between the lines stuff!) reviewed at amazon and on this very site..

http://www.amazon.com/Arrow-Heart-Commentary-Sutra/dp/1425133770/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312831669&sr=1-2

https://angulam.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/buddha-pournima-celebrating-the-day-of-the-buddha/

Satsang – the art of keeping the right company

No we aren’t talking about sitting. Nor about singing for that matter. The word simply means the company of the highest truth (or good company).

While all spiritual masters have recommended keeping the right company (do check out shankaracharya’s bhajagobindam where he teaches us that satsang (good company) is the starting point for liberation itself), upon reflection it seems to me to be the essence of success in all endeavors.

Here’s a quick list I have accumulated over a decade of experience in the IT sector on traits we should watch out for in ourselves and our teams – they can cause untold damage to our pursuits (business, social or spiritual!) if we let unchecked.

”Yes men” for sure are to be avoided. They add zero value to a situation, but can make your ego grow big time – encouraging us to make mistakes we wouldn’t have otherwise committed. They usually only abound when the going’s good (and disappear during tough times!), so when things are good is when we need to watch out for them the most. And if we are ”yes men” ourselves, god help our teams and everyone around us!

The ”non-conformist” guys – these folks openly encourage flouting the spirit of rules (though they may adhere to the letter), principles and the lot – quoting ”ends justify the means”. They are usually very good at getting things done but relying on them can very easily pitch us into a culture of ”anything goes for success”. Invariably this makes the going stressful for their teams; and in the long run, work stops being fun. The good news is that these guys are committed – and so if you can get them to agree on what the ”rules of engagement” are, they can very quickly turn into ”stars”.If you adopt their methods of course, it’s many steps backward buddy!

The ”goody goody guys with a personal agenda”. These are guys who look very harmless, and are often considered very nice guys. The thing is ”the goodness often arises out of a weakness and not a strength”. So you might find him/ her strongly ”advocating empowerment” ( a very positive attitude) but on closer view you’ll find it translates to less accountability for him – or because she has a demanding personal interest (or another job!) leaving her less time (and focus) for your business goals! These guys are toughest to spot because of their percieved ”niceness” – but can cause maximum damage to the culture of the group itself. If such behavior is left unchecked, their attitude is likely to be adopted by their teams and slowly the entire team gets ineffectual. Weeding them out may require battling with feelings of guilt and other negative emotions (as they are loathe to discuss hard facts as a rule and prefer emotions instead); the sooner its done, the better though! And if we find ourselves to be the ”nice guy with an agenda”, it’s best to take some personal ”me time”, do some soul searching and find ourselves an ambition or value that inspires us to give our everything for. A second reading of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead will also help (but we need make sure we follow Howard Roark and not Peter Keating!)

So who are the guys of truth?

Those folks you know exactly for what they are – would be the ideal ”truth guys”. They don’t have to agree with you necessarily – but should have the maturity to be able to “agree to disagree”. They also dont have to be folks with skyscraper IQs or experiences. They should however be as invested in the success of the organization and be willing to embrace the cause as much as you are. They should be able to point out any errors (to their supervisors, friends, colleagues and their teams) and be open to receiving feedback as well – so a more open and transparent culture gets formed. It is these guys who rock when times are tough or when a transformation is underway. You need these guys. And if you are ”one such individual” yourself, time to pat yourself on the back – you are well on your way to being part of a very positive movement…

This make sense? Am I missing another patterns?…

Buddha Pournima – celebrating the day of The Buddha

Today is a special day. It’s Buddha pournima – the night of prince Siddhartha’s metamorphosis into the Buddha (the awakened one). It’s a day of celebration – for a man who graduated with honours on a decidedly singular path and became a trailblazer for the millions who followed him.

Note that the Buddha Pournima is considered by many as the day of his enlightenment (today of course  its celebrated by many as “the day of the Buddha” which represents his birth, enlightenment and death all together \). How many people do we know are honoured for a happening in their lives?  I can only think of Christ, whose day of crucification is honoured as the day of deliverence around the world.

Celebrating an event in the life of a human being thousands of years later is indeed special.  If this is replicated on the material plane (as opposed to the spiritual plane)  –we would perhaps have an apple day (the day the mac was released), a burger day (the day the golden arches flipped their first burger) and a mass-motor day (when Ford released those black cars?)

Back to the holy Buddha pournima day – the moon saw an individual flower into something akin God this day 2500 years or so ago – and while I cannot present her an encore today –  I thought I’d share a few notes on a couple of books that honour the phenomenon called the Buddha, albeit in very non-traditional ways.

The first is the Buddha Manga in 8 volumes by Ozamu Tezuka. A Manga is a Japanese Comic book populated by whimsical characters. Ozamu notes the Wikipedia (running out of breath as it spells out the amazingly gifted man’s repertoire) was a Japanese cartoonist, manga artist, animator, producer, activist and medical doctor( although he never practiced medicine). And his Buddha has won multiple Eisner Awards (which are apparently the equivalent of the Comic Oscar awards).

The book is irreverent, hard-hitting and yet true to the story of this awesome man. And it’s edgy and fun. And the characters sport great hairstyles too. Take a look at some of the pictures – if you want fun and englightenment – (ok at least the fun, for now) – please take a look at this site and pick up a copy.

The second is an awesome interpretation of the “Heart Sutra” in a book titled “The Arrow to the Heart”. The Hearth Sutra is revered as one of Buddhism’s most authoritative titles. In fact, the spiritual essence of the Buddha’s Dhammapada  is available in all its glory in the miniature “Heart Sutra” (only …lines) per many Buddhists.

Ken McLeod’s interpretation (he calls it experiential) is very cool – you have poetry, prose and wisdom extraordinarily packaged. You’ll find inspirations from a very wide set of srouces – ranging from Buddhist monks, Lewis carrol (from her Alice in wonderland) and even rocker, Bob Dylan! The format leads you to some “ah” moments – and this says Ken is what he set out to do. There’s a kindle version (the one I purchased) available – so take a look and may be you will flower into a Buddha in time for the moon’s visit next year.

I’ll leave you with a very inspirational piece of writing from Sadhguru jaggi Vasudev on Buddha’s experience on that momentous full-moon night thousads of years ago where the world witnessed the awakening of the Buddha.

Cherish the friend with the alarm clock

I remember hearing this story:

A zen master had a neighbour who always critiqued everything the master did. While this got on the disciples’ nerves, the master himself smiled on hearing the criticism, contemplated it awhile and went on his way. One day, the neighbour died and much to their surprise, the master began crying. ”who will criticize me and make me look for improvement areas?” lamented he..

Why this story now?

Earlier in the week, a very close buddy (and colleague to boot) sent me a quick message. ”beware, I think you are getting into the fast culture too!”.

This was received when I was ”busy” making some plans for the future growth, analysing some of our losses and typically acting out the successful IT exec role.

This message though – it was a wake up call. Let me explain.

I have always thought ”crazy” (or if you are a Puritan ”big”). Switched roles that were considered relatively low on spotlight value, adapted practices from other industries and another time, learnt to pick up greatness tips from giants all over the world. But you’ll notice, he wasn’t talking about this. He was talking about ”fast”. ”Crazy” was ok – actually fun, ”fast” was a no-no.

Fast as in – rushing to work, rushing work, rushing life itself and then impatiently waiting for the harvest – usually some vague, large USD figure and a label of being a winner. And when the harvest came (if it did) you couldn’t enjoy it because you were ”busy” playing ”fast” somewhere else. This fast I had always abhorred – or so I thought, until my friend’s message arrived. I thought and thought some more – and he had been right – that had been a pretty ”fast” day:
– I had rushed from home, hadn’t said too many endearing byes,
– hadn’t enjoyed watching our very entertaining traffic on the drive to work, had actually got a bit frustrated
– the number of smiles that day was way below average, the number of frowns and raised brows was up
– most of my discussions ranged around those business numbers – why had they not resulted or why they had. Essentially was trying to put a logic around uncontrollables!
– not a single call to a friend with no objective but to crack a few jokes and make his or her day….
– very few appreciation emails sent
– transactional dealings and raised voices
– pulling a title (thank god, I drew the line here!)

Which led me to think about the ladder of fallso eloquently called out in lord Krishna’s opus ”the Bhagavad gita”. The idea is broadly this( a touch embellished, hey but I am not a scholar!):
– first we get a desire – either our own or one we acquire from seeing others (eg. Colleague got a 40% hike – so should work to get that too!)
– the desire makes us undertake actions and think thoughts that we wouldn’t have done otherwise (get angry on the team, eat into somebody’s else’s share, pull management strings!)
– if we don’t get the result we want, delusion sets in (man, this life sucks, are the bars open yet?!)
– delusion leads to anger – expressed (shoot the boss down man!) or repressed (so where did you say those beers were – got a load on my head!)
– these give rise to more negative emotions and over time make us forget the person we are and do something truly bizarre, stuff we’ll wish we hadn’t done (and i dont mean counting how much you can drink when really, really angry!).

The interesting thing is that over time bizarre becomes the new normal. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how the truly painful characters at work are at home. Don’t be surprised if they are very nice people indeed – when not at work. The thing is – the mad rush is on, and everybody at work is running at 500 miles an hour, so you can’t stop to smell the flowers.

We tell folks we’d run a while and then rest – but at 500 miles, you can’t stop and even if you do, you are too exhausted to bother about the flowers.

The buddha therefore advocated ”mindfulness” so you could catch yourself before fast became normal and go back to the land of ”cool” before it was too late. But most of us are not buddha’s (we are more like buddhus which is the opposite of the buddha nature!). And therefore you need a friend who plays alarm clock when you are going out of tune. And you can play the same thing for her too. But you need to be open to them, for they are few in the world and will pass you by if you are not attentive.

So does this mean, we shouldn’t set aggressive goals? How could krishna, a very successful king (and a damn good friend) not espouse greatness? Truth be told, he does. He makes a clear distinction between being fast (called desire-motivated-action by that Puritan again!) and being great at what you do – and maybe we should park that discussion for another day…