Tuesday, May 28, 2013

60 Easy Ways to be Happier

  1. Sip water.
  2. Drink green tea.
  3. Smell fragrance.
  4. Listen to music.
  5. See photos/videos of happy times.
  6. Eat Less. Eat healthy. Eat well.  
  7. Play with a child.
  8. Read stories to kids in family.
  9. Teach kids in the colony.
  10. Stretch.
  11. Mind your posture.
  12. Take bath.
  13. Go to parlor.
  14. Sleep adequately.
  15. Switch off Mobile Data.
  16. Automate your bills.
  17. Socialize.
  18. Decide on your values & purpose.
  19. Count your blessings.
  20. Observe silence for an hour.
  21. Smile. Laugh.
  22. Pray & Meditate.
  23. Talk to God in peace.
  24. Read a book you love to.
  25. Celebrate birthday of your servant’s child.
  26. Observe television fast.
  27. Cry on the shoulders of your loved one.
  28. Go river rafting/mountaineering. Avail vacations.
  29. Host dinner to your friend in the city.
  30. Share a chocolate with your spouse.
  31. Start a blog/write an article.
  32. Start a Vblog on youtube/ upload your own video.
  33. Relish your favorite fruit (for me it is watermelon).
  34. Cook your favorite dish.
  35. Organize your room.
  36. Paste a poster on the wall of your house.
  37. Make a dream wall.
  38. Set goals. Write them down.
  39. Offer toasts. Praise.
  40. Give gifts to far friends.
  41. Appreciate. 30% people go to sleep hungry for food, rest 70% hungry for appreciation.
  42. Dance.
  43. Say thank you. Say sorry.
  44. Write email to your school teacher.
  45. Feed birds.
  46.  Walk on the woods.
  47. Visit green farms / maintained garden
  48. Click pictures of nature.
  49. Watch your favorite movie, again.
  50. Watch a comedy serial, go break-free.
  51. Spend time with your grandparents.
  52. Hug your spouse.
  53. Do a firm handshake with colleagues.
  54. Wake up early.
  55. Join Toastmasters. Deliver a speech.
  56. Go to public place and observe people.
  57. Be on time. Respect your word.
  58. Share power jokes.
  59. Sing while taking bath.
  60. Finish what you start. 
If you have more ideas, please add to the list through comments.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Upgrade Your Life - Join Toastmasters

Dale Carnegie's extensive research proved, ‘One’s financial success depends on two types of skills – technical skills & people skills. The share of technical skills is just 15 percent and the rest 85 percent is contributed by human skills.’ He further said, ‘two most important people skills are - communication & leadership. These are the mother skills of all other.’ Still, how many days or hours do we spend on developing these two skills in our jobs or Businesses?

We all will vouch, from beginning to end Steve Jobs was not the best technology guy at No#1 Fortune 500 company – Apple Computers.

Steve Wozniak was the engineering brain behind Apple’s success in initial years and then there were 100s of other people who were smarter than Steve Jobs in technology & engineering.

It was Steve Jobs’ leadership & communication skills (ability to see a vision & being able to communicate the same) which made all the difference. Just think of any great personality s/he was a great leader & communicator for sure. Let me remind you of blind, deaf & dumb Helen Keller who said, ‘the most pathetic person in the world is the one who has sight but no vision’. What a powerful communication!! Just imagine people with eyes, ears and voice get a feedback from their manager that they are not good at communication. Even worse, they keep on hearing this year after year, every appraisal cycle.

It is not only the performance rating at work which suffers but lack of good communication skills also impacts our personal lives adversely. I did a secondary research and found that miscommunication or poor communication or communication gap is the biggest contributor to getting fired from jobs, getting poor ratings and poor increments which lead to dissatisfaction, frustration and many other negative emotions. Deserving people do not get their right of getting promoted and end up being underemployed.

Weakness in communication skills also leads to disasters in personal life. It may lead to fights between spouses, friends and family.  At times it may even lead to divorce between a sweet, lovely, made in heaven couples. And we say, ‘najar lag gayi inke pyaar ko’ (their love has attracted some bad omen) or the other very famous excuse which is popularized by the movie Raaz-3, ‘someone has applied black magic on their relationship’.
 ‘Na toh kisi ki nazar lagti hai aur na hi ye koi kaala jaadu hai’ (neither it attracts bad omen nor anyone applies a black magic).
Most of the times, it is - lack of proper communication.
The good news here is, with preparation and practice; we can perform exceptionally well in these two areas – communication & leadership.

On behalf of my employer organization I underwent one classroom training on ‘Communications Skills for Operational Excellence’. At the end of the training, I went to the trainer and said; ‘Mam, you have been an excellent trainer throughout the day. However irrespective of the greatness of the trainer or trainee one day’s training is not enough to improve communications skills. Tell me what shall I do to further enhance and improve in this area on consistent basis?’
Her answer was, ‘Mukesh, if you are really interested in improving your communication – join Toastmasters’. That was the first day I heard about Toastmasters. She was absolutely right.
I am a proud alumnus of an Indian Institute of Management.  Some of the professors there; were really world class. Especially the ones who taught us communication were truly Sachin Tendulkars of their field. But the fact is; no amount of teaching can help us when it comes to communication & leadership. These skills are like bicycling or swimming which we learn only by doing.  
George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘If you teach a man anything, he will never learn. Learning is an active process. We learn by doing.’

Toastmasters is an incredible organization (spread across 15000 clubs in 116 countries) and provides superb platform where you learn ‘Communication & Leadership’ by practicing in a healthy, happy and motivating environment. Here we truly, learn by doing.
Toastmasters International helps people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking – vital skills that promote self-actualization, enhance leadership potential, foster human understanding, and contribute to the betterment of mankind.
These meetings happen in the form of clubs where a group of people (Toastmasters) get together and conduct the meetings in a predefined protocol.
Some clubs meet on a weekly basis, some meet biweekly and a few others meet once a month. The meetings usually go on for 90 minutes.
A Toastmasters club, essentially consists of a very supportive and encouraging group of people who get together to help one another improve in the areas of public speaking and leadership. 
Generally, the meetings have following three sections:
  1. There is a host for each meeting who is called the Toastmaster of the week. The host runs the show for the entire duration of the meeting.
  2. As the meetings begin, usually Toastmasters clubs have three speakers scheduled to deliver a 5 to 7 minutes of prepared speech. As they complete the speech, they receive constructive feedback from the members on their performance at the end of the meeting.
  3. After the prepared speech section, impromptu speaking section begins. Usually this section is called, “Table Topics” and the person who conducts this by giving topics to members is known as Topic Master. In this section, previously not known topics are given to volunteers to speak. The talk is of 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. At the end of the Table Topics section, there comes the evaluation section where all the other role holders of the meeting such as the timer, the grammarian, the ah-counter and the designated evaluators provide their feedback.
  5. In the end, there is a networking opportunity and then everyone leaves excited to meet next time.
Toastmasters Education Programs
Attending a Toastmasters club meeting doesn't cost anything. You can attend a club meeting as a guest as long as you desire. Toastmasters clubs love to have guests and have them participate in their meetings.
However, the Toastmasters International does provide a facility where anybody can choose to become a member of the club. Members can participate in the Toastmasters International’s educational programs and get certified as below.
The certification programs are usually on two tracks:
  1. Leadership Track where you get certified based on how many different roles you play during the meetings over a period of time.
  2. Communication track where you are certified based on how many speeches you delivered as per the curriculum of Toastmasters International.

DTM stands for Distinguished Toastmaster and is the highest award Toastmasters can confer. This means you have completed all the Communication and Leadership projects; you are truly distinguished in public speaking and leading groups positively.
My Toastmasters experience has helped me know the fundamentals of public speaking. It has helped me immensely in becoming effective in front of any audience. I am VP Education of my club and this role has taught me many things about leading a group.
As you begin your personal development journey, you can benefit from Toastmasters in following areas of your life: 
   1. Reduce fear of public speaking.  
   2. Increase self-confidence.  
   3. Make some new friends. 
   4. Network with other leaders from various industries.  
   5. Become better speaker / trainer / teacher / manager. 
   6. Learn the power of discipline and intentional listening 
   7. Improve your existing leadership skills and learn a few new skills.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, manager, a marketer, a life coach, sales coach, seminar leader – Toastmasters is a great platform to help you hone your skills. Other than this, if you want to become a better husband, wife, mother, father, friend – Toastmasters is the place.
How to find a Toastmasters Club & Join?
You may have a club in your area. You just need to look for it from the Toastmasters International’s website (www.toastmasters.org), and pay them a visit. They will love to have you and you will have a lot of fun.
You don’t have to join any club to merely attend the meetings. So, my sincere suggestion is you visit a few club meetings, get to know the members, ask questions until you feel comfortable before you make a decision to join.

Friday, May 17, 2013

If I were the Principal of a school

The story unfolded when India was under the British regime. Colonial masters reshaped the education system of India. The objective was to create more clerks for the smooth functioning of British Empire and hence significant twists were done such as replacing Sanskrit & Persian with English and disallowing study of epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana which taught great leadership lessons and righteousness of character. The concept of mindless competition was borne out of this system which almost buried the spirit of cooperation; there was a blind pursuit amongst Indians to become submissive clerks and lead a relaxed life without having to suffer  British exploitation. The most unfortunate aspect was that this education inculcated self-derogatory thinking patterns in many Indians who considered themselves a breed apart, took pride in being subservient to their masters while natives faced hardships under colonial rule. The ancient system of learning had communication as its integral part. The goal was to be very good at communicating with society while today; the focus is only to become clever at dealings with the employee/boss/client. The downfall is evident – in former days, one aimed to reach out to society and was concerned with its welfare while today one speaks to market oneself, to garner more dough and to do his/her own good.
Let us pause - Twenty years of academic exercise which fails to equip students with courage and humility to face the vicissitudes of life, which does not bring out strength of character and a spirit of philanthropy – is it worth the name?
I have been a victim of this half-baked learning system like billions of other people. However, I tried not to let my sour academic experiences interfere with true education. The focus has always been to read and understand the lives and works of people who changed the world, who believed in their dreams, who held a purpose larger than life and lived by that.Not limiting themselves to find solace in the jugglery to pay EMIs of a roof over 3 bedrooms for 20 most prime years of life! A human life is more valuable than just contented to fulfill mundane needs.
If I were a Principal and had the autonomy to change the system even a bit, I would like to make the following changes:
1.    Concentration: ‘To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind and not collecting of facts’, said Swami Vivekananda. He further emphasized that if he had to do his education all over again he would not collect mere facts and would rather focus on developing powers of concentration and detachment. Truly, concentration is one of the greatest differences between humans and animals; it is also the difference between a focused and wavering mind. Today, television and mobile phones are affecting attention span but  neither parents nor schools are bracing up to develop the  power of concentration. I would have built meditation rooms and organized special workshops on teaching techniques to enhance concentration.

2.    Art & Sports: I agree that every child can’t become Sachin Tendulkar or MF Hussain but he can’t become Dr Kalam as well. Then, why this unfair bias against sports and other creative works? Sports inculcate greatness traits like discipline, goals setting, leadership, perseverance & team work. It is on the playground that the feelings of brotherhood and mutual concern are created. These traits are more important than the theoretical knowledge of history or Sanskrit. Unfortunately most of the schools today don’t ponder over these issues and are in the mad race of amassing more money. The sports grounds have disappeared from schools. Let us not convert the land for sports grounds into concrete structures to garner money by offering admissions to more students!  

3.    Gita, Bible & Kuran: Swami Vivekananda mentioned in the World Religion Parliament in 1893,”I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. We must not only tolerate other religions but positively embrace each other and know that the truth is basis of all the religions.” All the three major religious scripture must be a part of curriculum from class VI to X. Let the future minds of the nation know that all the religions are one and the same; these are just different paths to reach the same destination of human glory which is reached only by brotherhood and neither by riots nor by belittling others’ belief. Let India be truly secular and socialist democratic country.  

4.    Communication & Leadership: If we truly commit to become better communicators; half the inefficiencies in our systems, most of the quarrels in our families and sorrows in our lives will disappear the way fog vanishes when the Sun rises. Speaking without caring for the listener and writing without caring for the reader are the banes of communication which are unfortunately widespread in employment-seekers. We must understand that relationships are the foundation of all business and communication is in turn, the foundation of all relationships. We must accept that ‘anger may change the immediate action of a person but communication changes the thinking of the person.’  Study of leadership which is the vital ingredient for building an economically developed and happy nation is also untouched in the whole curriculum. Just imagine, if a kid is not able to lead his own life to fulfillment; how can we expect him to lead the nation towards prosperity and happiness? Maybe it is time to take the Toastmasters Clubs to schools as curriculum and Mahabharata epic as a multi-credit subject.  

5.    Reading beyond syllabus: Reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body; almost any luxury should be sacrificed for books. As a Principal, I would have a first rate library in my school and encourage students to read, analyze and assimilate the works of great authors & thinkers. I will help them to not only learn from the people they get in touch with, but also from the men and women of wisdom and mettle, who graced the planet before. Let them know the testimony to the belief, ‘whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ Let them shatter the limiting beliefs of centuries and develop empowering beliefs to tap the hidden potential in them. 

6.    Thinking as a subject: Lord Buddha said, ‘we become what we think’. This poised, powerful and pregnant quote was backed by umpteen testimonies in the history of human kind which includes lives of Krishna, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad, Helen Keller, Lincoln, Gandhi, Emerson, Picasso, Henry Ford, Teresa and many others. In today’s time, thinking is the highest paid job. People who can think big enough and communicate their ideas clearly are the ones who rule. However, not even a single lecture out of few thousands is spent on learning or teaching this art from KG to PG. If good thoughts convert into good actions, which culminate into good results, the fate of bad thoughts can easily be predicted. Thinking should be treated as a compulsory subject, for at least three years of schooling. Let us not underestimate the fact that thinkers have the power to shape the future. Children should be taught to think systematically.   

7.    Value of Values: If you do not stand for something, you may fall for anything. In today’s times, when human beings suppress their conscience, when people do not hesitate in gulping money even at the cost of belittling the respect of their motherland, when rape, robbery and ruthlessness are rampant as weeds in jungle – values are vital to survival as the air to breath or water to drink. The way Gandhi is synonym to truth and nonviolence, Teresa to love, Mandela to equality and Lincoln to perseverance, Einstein to imagination; we all must have guiding principles for our life to make it great. Teachers have the responsibility to lead by example and teach the value of values to their students.

8.    Help realizing the power of dreams, words, habits and clarity of purpose: For me, a life without dreams is like a balloon without air – though not defective, yet useless! The tragedy of our education system is – as the logical understanding goes to a new high and resources increase, dreams die down. Kids should be taught the power of dreams, words, thought patterns and be helped in becoming clearer on the purpose of their life. Only then they can hold the dreams long enough and develop supporting habits to turn them into reality.     
9.    Partnering with parents: In 1987, my parents handed Rs 2 to one of our neighbors to get me enrolled in a government school. That used to be our village school fees for one year. 21 years passed by and my parents met with my teachers in 2008 for the first time, on the day of convocation at Indian Institute of Management Lucknow! That is not how education of a child should take place in modern times. Parents have to be actively engaged in the education of a child. Though public schools are starting to involve parents however, the teachers talk to parents just for status update on kids’ classwork. If I were the Principal, I would provide thorough training to parents every quarter on how to be of great value in holistic development of their ward.     

In nutshell, the schools should mould the minds for better citizenship by equipping their students’ minds with winning attitude, healthy habits, sense of purpose, sound values and mandatory skills which cut across fields e.g. communication, leadership, concentration / focus, thought process and team spirit.

These can help us reaching to a level where Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore pointed, when he wrote,
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee to ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.’