Stop Procrastinating and Get Started in just 10 Minutes

Procrastinating is really all about being afraid to begin. Follow these quick exercises to work out why you are scared and how to move through it.

Via Pixabay

Procrastination isn’t a sign of laziness, it is a sign of fear. It isn’t about not wanting to do the work, it is about being too overwhelmed to start.

There is a lot of pressure around the start of a project. It feels like a commitment, we are deciding to work on one thing and not another, and so there are doubts around that decision and the stress of taking a decision at all. We also often overestimate the importance of the work done at the beginning, as though it will determine the outcome of the project. That isn’t true. You can do basically anything at the beginning of a project, it should be the most fun part, the part which involves throwing ideas around, the part where you are the least hemmed in. And yet instead it is the part which we fill with the most apprehension. The work you do at the beginning isn’t like the foundations of a house, it doesn't have to be perfect or else the entire edifice will collapse. The work you do at the beginning is the warm-up. It is a training session. It can be totally invisible in the final product.

The important thing at the beginning is not to get off to the perfect start, it is just to take action, any form of action, and chase away the fears that are making you procrastinate.

In just ten minutes, you can conquer those fears.

Spend two minutes identifying what is driving your fear.

There are four main reasons you might be afraid to get started:

  • You have too many ideas and are afraid to commit to one
  • Your mind is suddenly blank and you have no inspiration at all
  • You feel like you’re going to make a mess of things and are putting a lot of pressure on yourself
  • You have no idea where to start

Examine your emotions, write down on a piece of paper the things that worry you about the project you are about to get started on and see which category they fit into the best.

Spend eight minutes doing the corresponding exercise

  • Too many ideas?

This can mean having too many ideas of projects and not being able to get started on any single one, or it can mean having too many ideas about how to tackle your particular project and not being sure which to pick.

Begin by making a list of all the angles or projects that are trotting around your brain. Reread it. See which stand out, which your instinct tells you is right. That is your shortlist.

In the case of choosing a project, ask yourself if any of them are time-sensitive — for instance, an article linked to a certain upcoming event. If so, start with that project. If not, sometimes it is best just to let the universe decide. Draw one idea out of a hat. Schedule the others for the coming days or weeks.

If you are choosing an angle on a piece of work you are already sure of, begin by seeing if any of them can be joined together. Maybe one angle could really just be a paragraph in a piece with a different focus. If not, open a word document, type out all the different ideas. Those will be the things you follow up on, do more research until your instinct tells you which to follow. And if that never happens, pick one angle out of a hat.

The next step: conduct research into each of the ideas left on your shortlist.

  • Lack of inspiration?

Put a timer on for eight minutes, and write down every thought that comes into your mind. Even if they have nothing to do with the project. Just let the words flow. Analyse every element of the topic — what exactly is the brief? What does that mean? This “brain drop” will give your imagination free space to roam. Ideally, you should do this in a place without any distractions, a place where your imagination generally feels stimulated. For me, it works best in a park or anywhere outdoors, but you might prefer home, in a warm bath or in a café.

Next step: do something boring, like washing up or ironing or walking around the block. Don’t take a phone, don’t listen to music. Ideas will continue to pop into your mind.

  • Fear of failure?

This fear can be harder to identify, because it often just makes you feel nervous or blank. The problem is usually a lack of self-confidence, or the fact that you are putting too much pressure on yourself, thinking of this project as the make-or-break event of your career. The problem here isn’t in the work at all, but in your mind.

Take a sheet of paper and answer three questions:

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • How could I bounce back from that?
  • What past projects have made me proud, what have they taught me about my own abilities?

If you are into rituals and hippiedom, like me, you can make a ritual out of this. Light a candle or some incense. Put on some relaxing music and put yourself in an environment which makes you relax. Breath deeply.

Once you have finished, keep this list visible on your desk or working space and reread it whenever you feel scared or lost.

Next step: write a to-do list broken down into small, non-threatening steps (see below).

  • No idea where to start?

Take a sheet of paper and separate it into categories according to the different kinds of activities go into doing a project. For writing, I usually make the categories Contact, Research and Write. In Contact I write the names or professions of anyone I would like to talk to, Research can be books to read or facts and figures to pull up, and in Write I jot down any sections I know I will write, or any ideas concerning the final piece. Do a six-minute brain drop where you write down any task that comes to mind in the corresponding section. Then reread what you have done, highlight priorities and order your tasks into a to-do list. For big tasks, break them down into sections. You should end up with a list of small, clearly defined steps.

Next step: just do number one on the list!

Whatever category you are in, it is important to stick to the ten minutes. Your mind needs to know, going in, that it will just be working for ten minutes, and then it can stop. Then take a break. If you are on a short deadline, make it a short break and then start work again for half an hour to an hour.

I do these short exercises whenever I catch myself procrastinating. I hope they can be useful for you, too, and if you have your own tricks and tips I would love to hear about them in the comments section!

Why you should always choose the most difficult projects at work?

Why you should always choose the most difficult projects at work?

In college/university, there are strict deadlines, and there is GPA. There is a balance between taking classes that teach you the most, and avoiding classes that could significantly decrease your GPA. Sometimes, there is a desire to avoid the most difficult classes, if the negative effect on grades might be too strong.

At work, “grading” is different. You can rest assured that in the better companies, your performance on a difficult assignment will not be compared to your co-worker’s performance on an easy assignment.

At work, deadlines are often flexible, as much as bosses and clients sometimes argue otherwise. The reason is logical and can be examined with the idea of fairness. Fairness at work is about delivering a project or product according to agreed upon expectations and being paid an agreed upon amount for it. A one or two day delay, or even a one week delay is often a superior outcome to delivering a subpar product or project on time. Fairness from the point of view of a project is between the client and the company. In contrast, fairness at college rests on giving everyone in class the same amount of time to complete a project, and see who does it best. It would be unfair to give one student an extra day when the rest of the class turned the assignment in on time and could have benefited from the extra day. Hence, it’s logical for universities to be strict on deadlines. Fairness in university is about equality of opportunity, it is between all of the students within a particular class, and even between students who took the class in past or future semesters. The lower the number of separate entities involved in an explicit or implicit contract, the higher the number of permutations in solutions possible to deliver fairness, and the lower the fragility of fairness to deviations from the original plan.

I like to use game theory for the matrix of choices of projects at work

I haven’t defined what an easy project is or what a difficult project is. For the purposes of my argument, let’s assume that an easy project is one where the company has done multiple times before, where solutions pre-exist, and where most people can cruise through the project without encountering serious difficulty. A difficult project is one where likely no one at the company, can immediately solve the problem without at least a little bit of trial and error, or a bit of extra research.

I am defining projects here at the micro level rather than the macro level. Often, a project given from a client will have a set of different subprojects which vary from effortless to gargantuan.

Taking too many difficult projects to the point of not having a decent work life balance is detrimental but I do encourage taking as many difficult projects as possible that your work life balance allows.

Difficult projects allow you to gain better insight into the different roles of the company. When there is a difficult client or a particular project that appears to be difficult to solve, upper management is often involved. Hence, involvement in these projects allows you to prepare yourself for roles in upper management in the future. In addition, going outside your comfort zone and the possibility of failing boosts creativity and allows you to enhance your mental faculty. Solving a difficult project also makes you a pioneer within the company. Being the subject matter expert of a particular sub-domain no matter how small, will both enhance your reputation as well as encourage you to problem solve and be at the cutting edge side of innovation rather than reliant on pre-existing solutions.

I would also argue that there should be a balance. You should let your co-workers also take on difficult projects so they to have an opportunity to shine. Competing too aggressively for difficult but desirable projects will make you less likable and merely demonstrates poor interpersonal skills. Instead, look at the projects that are neglected, the sweet spot between projects that are undesired and projects that can bring you closer to hero status if you succeed in them.

I conclude that I encourage the pursuit of difficult projects. This is the surest way to advance your career quickly.

One Game Dad 17: Looking Back to Future Regrets


The Picasso Parable

and the problem with work-life “balance”

Since he was a little boy, the young man wanted to be an artist. Even the walls of his childhood room were covered in abstract crayon.

“He’s the next Picasso” his mom would say as she hung each crayon crusted paper on the fridge.

A bit of dedication and a lot of his parent’s money earned him a Master of Fine Arts. He would close his eyes picture himself signing his famous work with extra letters — this would prove his success was earned.

The reality was, the young man was broke and had no experience selling his own art. He quickly realized none of the managers around town cared that his whole life others told him he was a natural artist. They weren’t impressed by his dreams. They asked for his plans. Reluctantly, he put painting aside and took a job at the coffee shop on the corner.

Time kept moving forward. One day, he decided to paint the shop's mugs with bright abstract colors. They were a hit. Every day a line formed around the block, full of people asking to buy the famous mugs.

“The mugs at this coffee shop look like Picasso art” they’d say. He’d cringe hearing them, knowing they took no notice that he was the artist behind the shop's fame.

He’d show up each day in a state of defeat, reminding himself it didn’t matter that people loved his work if they didn’t know his name. He waited for the time of day when he could leave work and get home to what really mattered — making art for his own art studio — and one day, recognition for his own name.

Time kept moving forward. Every night in his studio his paintings looked more and more like the coffee shop’s mugs. Furious that he could not separate his work and his art, he quit the coffee shop on the corner. He said painting mugs were not a proper way to use his talent. He needed to focus his time on his own art.

Today, his gallery full of art sits empty.

Often he’ll tell people he was once the artist behind the famous coffee shop’s Picasso painted mugs.

COMMENTARY

The concept of work-life balance is largely misunderstood. We’re encouraged to compartmentalize our work and our lives. I have to remind myself I am not failing when these lines cross. This is especially intense for creative folk, who wish they had more time in their lives for their art. But imagine a world where we brought our whole selves with us everywhere and didn’t hang our “lives” on the coat-rack when we walk in the office. I think we’d have more powerful work and more of a chance to authentically succeed — and we’d be awfully more content.

Product Managers need to tell compelling stories

A product manager is like the coach of a football team. Only he also has the additional responsibility of making them aware of what tournament they are playing in and what the rules of the game are.

Just like a football coach doesn’t actually play in the game, the product manager doesn’t either. He doesn’t write code, he doesn’t design prototypes, and he doesn’t build data science models. Yet, when the team is underperforming and not delivering on expectations, like the football coach, the product manager is the first to take the responsibility and the blame. And when the team is doing great, then again like in football, it is the team that is at the forefront and not the product manager.

Having to work in such a scenario, one of the key skills a product manager needs to have is the ability to influence and motivate people — to get the team to buy into his vision, to get them to understand his philosophy and to execute on it without errors. And one of the key aspects of influencing people is the ability to tell compelling stories.

Outside of being a Product Manager, I write blog posts daily, I write fiction (I’ve published one book and am working on another), and I do stand-up comedy. All of these teach how to influence people. If I have to be good at any of these, I have to be good at telling compelling stories. And the better I get at these, the better stories I can tell my product team to influence them to work on my vision.

Here are seven things that I have learnt about telling compelling stories from writing and doing comedy, that I can translate directly to my work in product management:

1. Understand the audience

While writing, I have to pick metaphors that my audience understand and get. If I start using metaphors from 18th century England, even though that makes for excellent English literature, it doesn’t help me get across my point. And when I don’t, the audience leaves and I’ve lost them forever.

While doing stand-up comedy, I need to tell jokes about situations and scenarios that the audience I’m performing in front of understand and get. If I’m telling a joke about how southern Italians think northerners are not Italians at a pub in Bangalore, I won’t evoke any laughter as nobody will get the context. Instead, if I talk about start-ups and the traffic, I have a much higher probability of doing well.

The foremost thing to do as a Product Manager is to have a good sense of what the people I work with are influenced by, and I have to work with a lot of people — engineers, designers, data scientists, other product managers, CEOs, sales people, etc).

People come from a variety of backgrounds, hold varying world views, and are motivated by different things. Just like a football coach can’t hope to motivate the 18-year old youngster and the 32-year old veteran in the same way, the Product Manager needs to learn to put his point across in a way that every member of the team gets it.

2. Have a core reason for why they should care

While understanding the audience is the first part, what it really helps with is identifying and formulating that core reason as to why the audience should care about what I have to say.

Once the motivations of the audience is understood, the story they are told needs to address a core reason that will get them on board. If I have an engineer that cares the most about working on the latest technology, and I’m harping on with a story of how impactful the changes we make could be to the users, I won’t get him on board. It will be the equivalent of writing about the arc of a hero to a tech audience. They simply won’t care.

The story I tell needs to address the core reason of every person of the team.

Sometimes, it is hard to stitch together a story that addresses the core reason of every person on the team. And when that is the case, that team is too disjointed to succeed and it is better to structure the team in a different way.

3. Have strong credibility

If I’m writing about how to evaluate startups for investments, or if I’m telling jokes from the vantage point of a north Indian, even if I say all the right things, they won’t resonate with the audience. Because I have given them no reason to believe me or take me seriously. I must make my claims sound credible and the only way to do that is to actually gain the credibility.

If I’m working on a technical product, the engineers know way more about it than I do. And I take a back seat and let them run the show on most decisions and guide them in the right direction when it comes to identifying core user needs and taking the product to market.

While at the same time, I will invest my time in getting to know the technology better and in a deeper way, so that I can make meaningful contributions to the architecture and design discussions.

If I’m unable to do this, I will be like a football manager who never played the game professionally talking about how to deal with the situation of being two goals down at half time in front of the home crowd.

In order to influence, I need to be perceived as having credibility on the things I’m saying.

4. Have strong content

If I get all three things right, that’s only setting up the platform for being taken seriously. The real test comes with what I have to actually say. With the story I have to tell.

If I do all three, but write trivial things on my blog, nobody will read it. If I do all three, but tell lame jokes, nobody will laugh.

Strong content and compelling stories always introduce a perspective that hasn’t crossed the audience’s mind before. It is something that will make them think. Jerry Seinfeld can talk about answering machines and still be funny because he notices something that the audience hasn’t already. He brings in a new perspective.

Without that, the credibility that I have will soon erode and turn into pixie dust. I need to constantly show up with strong content in order to influence the people I work with.

5. Be humble

If I write about how great I am and how everyone should treat me as a role model and follow my ideas, nobody will read it. People don’t like a**holes. Instead, if I talk about my vulnerabilities and show that I’m going through the same troubles and issues that my audience is facing, but am trying my best to overcome it, then people can relate to it and are more likely to pay attention to it.

As a Product Manager, if I go out and act like it is my opinion that should count above everyone else’s, then I’d fall out of favour faster than Rahul Gandhi did.

It is vital to be humble and to hear everyone’s perspective. It is all the more essential as the Product Manager has the responsibility to influence, but not the authority.

Ironically, it is humbleness that brings authority.

6. Show you’ve got the audience’s back

If I’m picking on someone in the crowd and making fun of them (which is easier said than done), I should ask for a free drink to be given to them, to show that it is all in good spirit (pun intended). When I’m writing, I always offer to continue the discussion offline with someone who is interested.

Rather than just saying something and walking away, I need to understand their perspective and be willing to see things through with them.

If I’ve sold my team on a vision and then am not doing enough to get them the support they need in terms of time and resources, then the story will seem superficial and fail to be compelling. Showing them I’ve got their back is walking the talk.

I have to do everything in my power to help them execute on the ideas I’m laying out.

7. Show examples from your past

The ace up the sleeve when it comes to influencing people is to show real examples from my past. Once credibility has been established, and all the other points above are taken care of, examples from the past will drive home the point.

When I write, I always pick examples from my own life to help corroborate the point I’m trying to make. And when I’m doing comedy, I’m very often the butt of my jokes.

And when telling the team a story, when laying out a vision, if I can back it up by saying, ‘This is something I’ve tried in the past and this is how it turned out, and hence I recommend we do this’, it is a lot more effective than simply laying out what needs to be done.

Conclusion

It is vital for product managers to tell compelling stories in order to succeed in their jobs. And telling stories is an art. I’ve deconstructed this into the seven steps above from my own experience.

Let me know if you have a different way of going about it.

– Show examples from your past — when I write, I always link a personal example from my own life. This adds credibility as well as makes the others think ‘if he can do it, we can do it’

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Working from home : Hidden problems that no one discusses

The future of work is from home but It’s changing the way we work, especially in the tech sphere. And while it may not be for everybody, employers may find they can save money and increase productivity for some workers. And for some employees, work-from-home benefits may be the difference between an enjoyable and stressful work life.

Here are some problems for WFH and here is how to resolve them:-

1) Lack of Motivation — Being at home has its own distractions as it brings in a whole new set of temptations. Distractions like household chores, kids, and easy access to a TV can prevent at-home workers from accomplishing as much as they want or need to.

The Solid Solution — Break up your work into intervals: Do consistent work for an hour, then take 10 minutes to relax. Whether it’s walking outside, treating yourself to an HOT COFFEE in the kitchen with a news, reward your work with a small break.

2) Work and home become synonymous — When you work from office, we all have a good motivation to rush to home and relax, but working from home is something becomes boring working alone with same desk and environment.

Here is a fix — Create your own office area, find a designated space in your home to be your workspace, preferably a separate room with a door. Once you make comfortable with that space, your personal life won’t overtake you at all. You can also print out your schedule and put it on the office-room door or even the refrigerator, that way roommates or loved ones know when you are occupied.

3) Communication Issues — Communication is very important specially when you are working from home; however, you can’t go poke your head in a coworker’s office to get a quick question answered anymore. Set regulations for how you will communicate with coworkers and keep yourself accountable. A good way to also keep supervisors in the loop is to send in plate checks. At the start of the day, send your boss a game plan with what you are working on. Send another one at the end of the day, explaining what you completed. This both keeps you on your boss’ radar, while keeping yourself responsible.

4) Don’t loosen up on Camaraderie — Being isolated and missing out those friday happy hours and after office parties are one of the disadvantages for WFH. You can still be present without being physically present. Skype into meetings! Instead of having meetings with coworkers over the phone, suggest Skype. Meeting face-to-face creates a better connection than just hearing someone’s voice. Make sure to speak to colleagues via video calls as it keeps the human touch alive.

The Secret to Doing Great Work: Heirarchical vs. Territorial Work

“In the animal kingdom, individuals define themselves in one of two ways — by their rank with hierarchy (a hen in a pecking order, a wolf pack) or by their connection to a territory (a home base, a hunting ground, a turf). This is how individuals — humans as well as animals — achieve psychological security. They know where they stand. The world makes sense.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art

I spent this past week in Paris. While I was technically helping my wife show her handbags (Shameless Plug #1) for the first time in the City of Light, I was excited to have some time to release my mind and body from everyday life. Nowadays it takes work to unwind and just be. Life is so hectic, connected, and filled with noise that most of us expend all our energy just trying to keep up, and I for one don’t always remember how to take it easy. So this week I made an effort to do just that.

I slept late. I ate lots of baguettes, along with truffle camembert and foie gras with figs. I explored Paris by foot, and I read. One of the books I dove into deeply was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I can’t think of a better book to read in Paris. It is a monumental work — a must read for so many reasons. It makes you reassess your decisions, evaluate your processes, and it inspires you to greater action.

One of the key concepts in the book is the idea of working hierarchically vs. territorially. It deeply resonated with me — so much so that I am going to go ahead and attempt to share the cliff notes with all y’all.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been organizing themselves in hierarchies. This is the default setting for organizing tribes and aligns perfectly with our commercially-oriented materialist society. A hierarchy is built on difference — someone has more and someone has less, whether it be power, money, or status.

For example, in a traditional corporation, a C-level executive has more power and influence than a vice president or director. Due to the expectations that come with these titles, each individual usually settles into their role in the organization and inside work relationships . When and if that role changes, or one receives a promotion or demotion, the person’s self-worth and happiness adjust accordingly. The same applies to high school, politics, religions, and the majority of social structures in our world.

Defining yourself hierarchically, while widely accepted, can be catastrophic to many — not least creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs. Why? Well, when you define yourself hierarchically…

  1. You will evaluate your self-worth and experience a level of fulfillment directly related to where you stand within the hierarchy.
  2. You will constantly be competing and comparing to those above and below you within the hierarchy.
  3. You will act toward others based on your place within the hierarchy.
  4. Finally, you will take actions based on how it affects your place within the hierarchy, as opposed to what will lead to your highest levels of fulfillment and best work.

For those of you that have read my book (Shameless Plus #2), or my sermons, you know that the hierarchical orientation is focused externally and that sustainable fulfillment can only come from an internal orientation. It can only come from within. Looking to external sources for your self-worth produces a life and work that is contrived, and any positive feelings you experience are generally fleeting.

The alternative to working hierarchically is working territorially. This style of work has an internal orientation and is defined in the following manner:

  1. Your sustenance comes from the act. A runner knows they will feel great after they put in their miles. A photographer will feel wonderful after they take their pictures. And an entrepreneur will feel fulfilled after nudging their idea one step closer to reality. When working territorially, the energy to do more work comes solely from the work — from continuing to follow your path. It is self-sustaining.
  2. When working territorially, no external input is required. Here’s a question to ask yourself: If you were the last person on earth, would you still do the work? According to Steven Pressfield, “If you are alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation makes no sense. There’s no one to impress. So, if you’d still pursue that activity, congratulations, you are doing it territorially…. We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
  3. Your territory can only be claimed when you put in the work. You are not a writer unless you write. You are not a runner unless you run. You are not an entrepreneur unless you start a business. When working territorially, you get back what you put in.

When you are working hierarchically, your sustenance and security come from external energies, such as approval, power, or material wealth. But when you are working territorially, your sustenance and security come solely from within, generated by “the act itself, not the impression it makes on others.”

This is why it is so crucial for artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs to work territorially. You are in control of your fulfillment and not subject to the constantly varying input of external sources.

While I have always loved living in the United States, our current cultural climate feels oriented far more hierarchically than territorially. We are constantly looking at what other people are doing on platforms like Instagram and comparing ourselves to other countries like China. This focus on status and difference is a danger to our continued cultivation of innovation and thought leadership. One of the striking things about Paris is its embrace of homegrown cultural individuality. The French seem to have cultivated a more territorial orientation. Paris is one of the few places I have been recently that’s more concerned with its own heritage and distinct ideas than with adopting globalization like everywhere else in the world. Our country would benefit from spending a little less time worrying about the global pecking order and instead focusing on what we do best — creating the future.

Click here for more like this or to get our new book, The Age of Ideas

HALF-A-LIFE: 3 reasons people do things in HALF MEASURES; and 1 simple way to CHANGE that

Picture for editorial comment

Many years ago, I happened to read a book by Sir V.S Naipul. I remember struggling with it; perhaps my sensibilities were not mature enough at that time to enjoy an effortless read. But, being a student of literature, I felt duty-bound to not leave a Naipul book incomplete. Predictably, I do not remember the plot anymore. But I do remember, the title.

Infact, for some reason it has stuck to my mind.

Half a life.

That phrase, I found, was not only written on the cover on Sir Naipaul’s book, but on the cover story of how so many people conduct their lives and work.

I see it all around..

I see it when a ground staff of an airline looks at you with some salaried compulsion to greet, but finds it too cumbersome to carry through the act.

I see it when a teacher can write an extra line of suggestion in the notebook to help the child, but finally settles for just the tick, cross and smiley.

I see it when a manager discusses all the details of the project with the subordinate, but finds it too taxing to find out why he looked dejected during the meeting.

I see it when an employee does only what he is asked to do, and vehemently stays away from what is necessary to be done.

I see it when a friend sends a whatsapp message to wish on an important moment, but finds picking up the phone, for just a minute, an earth-shattering effort.

I see it when a parent is mindlessly fiddling with the phone, while the child wants to just be present with him.

It appears that so often we are dragging our feet into our workplaces, homes and relationships..

It appears that we are

trying to live life..

trying to work..

trying to love..

trying to be..

To my mind there are 3 reason why we try to everywhere, but are nowhere completely.

#1- We lack the COMMITMENT: The lack of excellence and drive that we see at workplaces or even relationships is often a result of inadequate commitment. A person who is committed to achieving something will find ways of doing it. Others will wait for things to go wrong, and use it as an excuse.

We TRY to do things, but do not REALLY DO it… we do not bother to commit ourselves fully to anything.

#2- We lack the COURAGE: Another reason people drag their feet to some place is, if they feel stuck in a situation they do not wish to be in. Yet, they lack the courage to take a decision to exit that job or relationship or place. They fear the consequences, the trade-offs, the others in the situation, the popular opinions.

We TRY to do things, which we DO NOT WANT to do… we do not try to summon the courage to take a call.

#3- We lack the CLARITY: Often we are doing things in an auto-pilot mode. We never pause to think why we are doing it. We simply “tag along”. People follow the same routine without any thought on the question of why. We are in jobs because someone said that is good for us. We are in relationships because that is the social norm.

We TRY to do things, which we HAVE NO CLUE WHY we are doing… we do not spend time seeking clarity within ourselves.

The cumulative outcome of all this half-measured trying in every nano moment of our lives, is in the end..

A life half lived.

And make no mistake. This impacts business revenue as well.

I will anyday choose fewer employees who are fully there, than an army of employees only half-present. (Managers — don’t confuse this with longer work hours. It is about employees who are fully present mind, body and soul. They could even work fewer hours, but bring themselves to work 100%.)

I know, I have been guilty of writing about purpose of life, often.

But I am saying today — chuck purpose of life (for now).

Here is 1 simple way to live life fully.

And that way is — to make a choice, and take accountability for what you choose.

But for God’s sake, or atleast your own, don’t just “hang around”.

Choose which job you want to be at.

Choose whether you want to be a father, mother, sister, brother, friend, husband, wife, daughter, son.

And then give yourself fully to it.

Umm, did I hear you say — “but what if I have no choice?”

Keep morals aside. There is always a choice.

You feel like running away from a job?

Either commit yourself fully to running away OR immerse yourself into the job, if you make the choice to stay.

Same with a relationship.

Please spare yourself and others the MISERY of TRYING to do the job or being in the relationship, and CRIBBING about it.

As Yoda, the Jedi master of Star Wars says:

Try not. DO or DO NOT. There is no try.

Birth is NOT our choice.

Neither is death.

Everything else in between IS.

And every passing second, is the choice to live..

Just half-of-the-life we can…

OR..

Live it fully..

Give it everything we have..

Be everything we can be, in that moment..

That is the choice we have to make.

And, I hope we all choose well.

What more can I say, except..

May the force be with you.

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(Disclaimer: No part of this blog maybe copied or reproduced or reused or republished in any way, except using the share feature of LinkedIn. Any other form of reuse, must be only after explicit written consent of the author.)

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Swati Jena is a writer and entrepreneur. She is among the LinkedIn Top Voices 2017.

Twitter: @swatcat_sj

While Swati writes on a wide variety of subjects, her favorite topics are leadership, life & purpose, artificial intelligence and education.

She is the author of a unique book on entrepreneurship, called:

The Entrepreneur’s Soulbook — Is it your cup of tea? Link to the book

Swati is the founder of GhostWritersWorld (LinkedIn Page)/(website)

Her other articles include the following. You can find them here.

Technology & product

  1. “If Robots will do everything, what will humans do”: Why AI Rhetoric deeply worries me
  2. “Justice delayed is justice denied”: Could AI and Data Science be the answer to India’s judicial backlog?
  3. Flirt with your product ideas, don’t fall in love
  4. LOL … driverless cars for India??: When AI meets Cows, Rajinikanth and Ganpati
  5. Love in the time of Artificial Intelligence: Valentine’s Day 2030
  6. “Who pays the price?”: Why PRODUCT INNOVATION without SERVICE EXCELLENCE hurts customers — the ETHICS of product innovation

Leadership and Organization

  1. “If you are nothing without the suit, you don’t deserve it”: 3 cardinal tests for anyone who calls himself leader
  2. 3 unforgettable lessons I learnt from an Indian Ed Tech Leader
  3. “Oh! You are sensitive”: Why sensitive is a TABOO word — and LEADERS should consciously HIRE such people in teams
  4. “I love solving problems”: The BIG problem with problem solving
  5. “So why are you leaving?”: Don’t treat retention discussions like a ONE TIME date
  6. Sophisticated-fear-based-management: 3 unmistakable signs
  7. Interns or cheap labor? Making internship count
  8. “Travis may be Uber, but Uber cannot be Travis: The curious case of Charismatic leaders”

Diversity and Inclusion

  1. “Women can’t code because of Biology: 3 reasons it was a BIG MISTAKE for google to fire James Damore (perspectives of a feminist)
  2. 3 taboo questions Millennials are asking, leaving hiring managers shocked
  3. Why the ‘Corporate-style Women’s Day Celebrations’ gives me the creeps
  4. The OOUCH of maternity leaves: Why managers secretly dread it
  5. Man or Woman? Who should lead gender diversity? Why we are simply asking the WRONG question.
  6. “She has good figure”: Why creating a safe place to work takes much more than just sexual harrassment policy

Life & purpose

1.”But I have bills to pay..”: Why the PREMISE we build our life on, DECIDES how far we will go..

2. “How is life? Well, going on.”: Why you should NOT quit your job, but GRADUATE from it

3.The Monkey Catcher’s Lesson: Why we get stuck in our jobs, situations, emotions..

4. “Anger is remembered pain”: 3 steps to healing from difficult experiences at workplace

5. “How is life? Well, going on..”: Why you should NOT quit your job, but GRADUATE from it

6. A “50-over-50” list: Pressures of adults “growing up” in a world of over-achieving youngsters

7. The (difficult) art of doing nothing and why it matters in a world proud of “busy”

8. 500 Uber rides without driver talking on the phone: My personal starfish story

9. “Here is a muffin that will make you successful”: The unspoken truth about success

10. 5 reasons we should “stop fighting” for a cause

11. “You are hiding something”: 4 reasons we find it difficult to trust those we love

12. “Pick your battles”: Fine, but how?

Education

  1. The Yin and Yang of Ed-Tech: Will schools even survive the next 10 years?
  2. Why we “grown-ups” are the biggest reason the education system must change urgently
  3. “No chair for teacher”: Is it time we do away with this regressive and myopic policies

Lessons in persistence from a rescue cat

Over and over again we hear that persistence is the key to success in life.

Go after your goals and don’t let anything get in your way.

There are many inspirational examples of people whose determination eventually led them to success, but I look to a different role model.

My cat.

He fit in the palm of my hand at first.

Last May, my roommates took in a kitten they found on the street near our apartment.

He was tiny, scared, and malnourished when they found him, but Leonard has grown a strong spirit over the past few months.

He’s kind of a weird cat, and he has one persistent habit that annoys us every day: he will find and steal your food no matter what.

It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, where you are, or when he last ate.

I’ve even seen him grab a whole meatball out of someone’s pasta and run across the house with it.

His hunger is so great that he will go to any length just to get a taste of whatever’s nearby.

He’ll jump anywhere he has to and brave any danger. Any time an obstacle gets in his way, he eventually finds a way around it(usually after fifty or so tries.)

I think it’s because he’s in permanent survival mode after his time on the street.

Maybe he’s just naturally determined, though.

Whatever the reason, the second you turn your back on a plate of food Leonard will try to steal a bite or two.

Sometimes our backs don’t even have to be turned.

He’ll walk right up, look you in the eye, and take what he wants.

I’ve tried everything to get him to be stop.

No matter how many times I push him off the table, shut him away from where we eat, scold him, try to reason with him, or pray for deliverance, he keeps coming back to eat my food.

No obstacle ever deters him.

I know its kind of silly to project complex personality traits on to a cat, but I see the same sort of primal drive in him that seems to pull many entrepreneurs toward their goals.

Now that he’s getting bigger and healthier, he’s taking his drive to whole new levels.

Look how much he’s grown!

Even though he’s made the simple act of eating lunch an ordeal, I still admire Leonard’s determined spirit.

He has a clearly defined goal — get food — and he will work to fulfill that goal every day no matter what happens.

If I applied that same persistence to everything I do I would probably be more successful.

The ability to go for your goals regardless of how many past failures you may have had is useful for anyone.

We can all probably learn from Leonard.


Thanks for reading! Clap if you’ve got an inspirational animal friend in your life.

As always, you can find me on twitter @JeremyCummings3 or on instagram @so.tall.im.in.space.

I’ll be going live with a website soon, so look out for that!

Things you should know: how to overcome gaslighting

The all African-American women human computer team, helmed by Dorothy Vaughan in biopic Hidden Figures

Jenny Schwartz is a partner at world-class employment law firm, Outten & Golden. She has litigated against major U.S. tech companies and many other types of employers handled retaliation claims, and helped people of different race, age and gender reclaim their power at work.

Simone: Jenny, something we’ve heard (and seen firsthand) is that gaslighting in the workplace is a real thing. (For people unfamiliar: gaslighting is when a person is psychologically manipulated to question their own sanity.) When a company wants someone out, they’ll start to purposefully poke holes in someone’s work, whether it’s warranted or not.

This can be incredibly demoralizing. Do you see this happen with many of your clients? And how do you help them overcome this?

Jenny Schwartz: I do. Unfortunately people often to go to a place of self-flagellation when they’ve experienced discrimination. They’ll ask themselves, “What did I do wrong?” or “I must have done something wrong to warrant this level of criticism or conflict.” Oftentimes, seeds of self-doubt will come before an employee questions the behavior of the company or its agents.

Of course I do see people who objectively have real performance issues and that needs to be considered, but even perceived low performance does not necessarily impact, as a legal matter, a claim of discrimination or hostile work environment. Overwhelmingly, I see people very willing to criticize and question themselves, even under circumstances that are blatantly discriminatory.

This is especially common among older women, who grew up in an era of “keep your head down and do your job.” Many women who were socialized in a certain way, feel like they should just plow forward, keep their mouths shut, and hope that doing a good job will save the day.

It’s important early on for folks to give themselves the mental space to thoroughly evaluate what’s really going on — as well as connect with the right person or community to validate their concerns.

Unfortunately people often to go to a place of self-flagellation when it comes to discrimination. Oftentimes, these seeds of self-doubt will come before an employee questions the behavior of the company or its agents.

Simone: It’s especially difficult when you’re working every day with the same people, and may not have the clarity or space from the company or work environment to make an independent analysis.

To that point: can you tell us about a time when you saw the “light bulb” go off for someone? When they realized the reality of what was happening to them?

JS: That’s my whole practice! People frequently come to me with uncertainty. They are aren’t really sure of what the rules are, or what the applicable law is. And often, when I explain the law regarding their situation, I do see a light bulb flick on. This happens most frequently in gender discrimination cases when I explain that even nuanced actions on the part of employers can constitute discrimination. Actions such as failure to promote, marginalization in a “boys club” environment, failure to fairly evaluate, “tap on the shoulder” promotional practices and so forth.

Simone: Let’s talk about older workers and their rights. As baby boomers enter their 60s and 70s, can you share a bit about what kinds of problems they’re facing at work? Would you say that age discrimination is one of the more insidious forms of discrimination?

JS: Absolutely. Our society is infected with this idea that younger is better. And companies have become much more subtle about pushing older people out of the workplace: not hiring them, not promoting them, or laying them off.

As a lawyer, I don’t feel that as much. In my industry, experience is highly regarded. People actually look up to me and think: “She’s got gravitas and experience.” But with so many other professions, folks don’t see their experience and wisdom afforded the same kind of respect. They feel a difference in treatment as they age. Technology has become so integral to the way we work — and technological aptitude is most often associated with younger people.

You asked about women in their 50s and 60s. Women who were raised at a time when it wasn’t quite as normal to assert themselves. They just want to make things okay, so they’ll tend to be super-critical of themselves, in an effort to resolve conflict and just continue marching ahead.

Oftentimes these women won’t come to me until much later in the process, usually after they’ve been terminated. But I think it’s important to keep educating people to look for coded language signifying a preference for youth — such as “fresh”, “innovative”, “energetic”, “vibrant”, “digital savvy” — and other warning signs before it’s too late.

Our society is infected with this idea that younger is better.

Simone: So say that someone does recognize a form of discrimination, and they report it to HR. The company then takes some sort of adverse action — whether that’s termination, or a more subtle form of retaliation, like purposefully leaving someone out of a meeting. What do you do?

JS: There’s so much nuance nowadays, as employers and managers become more savvy and more sensitive to the most egregious kinds of behavior. Managers often resort to the “slow burn” — whether that’s not including people in meetings or leaving people out of social events.

At the same time, people are really scared about going to HR officially to file a complaint; they think they might get fired. What they don’t know is if their company fires them for registering a complaint, the company has committed an illegal act and is liable for it.

There’s so much nuance nowadays, as employers and managers become more savvy and more sensitive to the most egregious kinds of behavior.

It’s best to get advice from an attorney immediately once you realize something is amiss — and try to get legal advice even before you go to HR. Many attorneys will offer you a free consultation or a contingency rate and even for attorneys that charge you, the benefits are likely going to be worth the cost.

As to retaliation, I frequently have great retaliation cases even where the discrimination might be difficult to prove, because in fact, discrimination can be incredibly hard to prove. If you have a written complaint to HR that specifically states what you believe to be discriminatory, any company with any decent level of HR is going to realize that it would be a problem to retaliate by demoting or firing you. Any failure to keep you in a comparable position is considered to be retaliation. And that’s illegal.

What they don’t know is if their company fires them for registering a complaint, the company has committed an illegal act and is liable for it.

Simone: Right. And most people don’t know that retaliation is illegal. What about for people who are concerned about quitting or floating a concern because of other reasons, like an impending bonus or financial incentive?

JS: A lot of employees get equity at start-ups and that can be quite complicated. In a past class-action in which I was involved, a lot of the plaintiffs felt like they were putting up with behavior that they wouldn’t have put up with otherwise because they were handcuffed by their equity.

If you’re a woman, and you’re getting hit on by other guys — or you feel like you’re not getting referrals compared to what your male colleagues are getting — are you really going to make a big stink to HR if you have a ton of equity on the line? Or are you just going to silently work and wait for that pay-day? Many will wait it out.

The reality is that you don’t need to wait for that pay day if you are enduring conditions of discrimination or harassment. You might be able to negotiate a resolution that could include acceleration or buyback of your equity and extricate yourself from the environment.

The reality is that you don’t need to wait for that pay day if you are enduring conditions of discrimination or harassment.

Simone: Right, but conflict with your employer isn’t easy to approach — especially because the employer holds so much of the power. We’re told not to burn bridges. This is especially acute for women, who, as we know, are taught to be perfect or not to rock the boat.

What are other forms of conflict resolution?

JS: Mediation is worthwhile conflict resolution tactic — but you need to have an attorney manage that mediation.

I’m not going to agree to mediate unless both sides exchange mediation statements, so I can get information about what the employer’s position is. Then both parties have to agree upon a mediator.

While arbitration is sometimes appropriate, forced arbitration basically takes away an employee’s right to a trial before a jury. That takes away a big threat that one would otherwise have against an employer. It’s really damaging to fair workplaces and the rights of employees.

It’s best to get advice from an attorney immediately once you realize something is amiss — and try to get legal advice even before you go to HR.

Simone: Yes, it’s a good thing that people are hearing those words and what they mean, the more awareness the better. Speaking of bringing awareness about thinking down the road, what else do you see that could help people considering new roles?

JS: Oh yes! I do deal with a lot of folks who have lower salaries and more equity. As I mentioned earlier, equity can come with its own set of challenges, but employees at early stage start-ups often don’t know much about the type of equity included in their offer. I’m always surprised at the basic lack of knowledge people have about equity and how it works. The two rules I tell people to follow when they are considering an offer are 1) consider trying negotiate terms of employment and 2) understand the compensation package, especially if it’s equity-heavy.

I’m always surprised at the basic lack of knowledge people have about equity and how it works.

We often don’t think in terms of what could happen in the future, but it’s really important to understand how your equity shares or options work in the case of a voluntary termination, or if the company is bought or there’s a change in control. You don’t want to be stuck with nothing in the event of those scenarios, because you weren’t aware of tax consequences or the amount of capital you would need to buy your equity options.

And if you want help, call an employment attorney!

Simone: That’s very helpful advice, thank you Jenny.

We could go on… but if you’ve read this far, good for you for caring about your work health.

Have questions for Jenny? Scenarios we missed? Ask Simone.

Simone brings you expertise from certified professionals who have helped people navigate workplace discrimination, harassment, or culture problems. We want you to be armed with resources to exercise your rights — and to move on, should you choose that path.