Are you really helping?

My son loves to play with his Lego sets. He builds, dismantles, and builds again effortlessly and with complete & dedicated focus. Every once in a while, though, he needs help. Separating those tiny pieces from each other is not an easy task. You not only need the required skills, but also patience, and most importantly, the right length of nails.

As I see him struggling at times, I want to reach out and help. But I don’t. I ask him if he needs help, and when he says, “No papa”, and continues working on separating the pieces, I can’t help but feel good, even proud. While I want to be there to help him, I also want to ensure that he is able to handle his own ‘problems’, and only reach out after trying his best.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post ‘The adamant snail’ – about a snail who refused my help (matter of perspective…the snail was possibly thinking of survival). As much as I wanted to help the snail, what was important for me was to let it decide it’s course of action (may not be applicable for a snail that was in the middle of a walking path early in the morning).

We all want to help and protect our children, even team members, but we need to ensure that we are giving them enough time and space to help themselves first. Like in the classic story of the person who tries to help the butterfly by prematurely opening its cocoon, we don’t want to incapacitate others’ ability to handle their own problems.

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Don’t just believe!

Ping! I checked my phone, and there was a WhatsApp message – “Raghuram Rajan, former RBI Governor has been selected as head of Bank of England.” I googled, and discovered that there were speculations about his candidature, but Raghuram himself confirmed that he does not intend to apply for the job (as of 17 May, 2018).

This wasn’t the first fake news/post I had received. From a spate of harmless economic, business and wellness posts, to more serious rumors which trigger unwarranted action, we have all received, read and in some cases even forwarded such messages.

What’s interesting (or should I strange) is how easily people fall for it. And then how we, in some way, become perpetrators ourselves, by forwarding false information to many others.

In his book ‘Thinking, Fast & Slow’, Daniel Kahneman talks about the two systems that drive our thinking – System 1 which is fast, intuitive & emotional and System 2 which is slower, deliberative & logical. In one of the chapters, Daniel talks about how it is System 1 that is responsible for us believing something immediately. Unbelieving is an operation of System 2, which because it is slower, takes time & effort.

Seems logical if you think of the time you felt scared watching a horror movie, and sometimes even afterwards when you were alone in your room. Your system 1 makes you believe in whatever you saw in the movie. You then have to consciously remind yourself (system 2) that it was only a piece of fiction. Many sales men put this to good use by telling you that you need to make a decision immediately, because the sale/offer/deal ends in a few hours/days. They want you to decide basis inputs from your system 1.

Coming back to the point I started this post with – fake posts. We end up believing a lot of them (unless they are way too far-fetched) instinctively because of our System 1. What is important is to activate our system 2 to think about it logically, and then decide if it is worth believing. The sheer act of Googling (which also requires System 2) ‘news’ you receive, will also help validate. And then you will be in a better position to decide if the post needs to be forwarded or deleted or more importantly – acted upon.

PS: I hope you will do your own research on what I have mentioned here in this post, rather than simply believe it! 😊

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Isn’t it obvious?

Last week I gave my wife a surprise. I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say, she was surprised. Later we talked about how I had been planning this for weeks, and that at times I did some obvious things, which if she had noticed, would have given the surprise away. “It wasn’t so obvious,” my wife countered.

Her response got me thinking about a concept I read about in the book ‘Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die’ by Chip & Dan Heath – The curse of knowledge.

The curse of knowledge is defined as a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand#.

Let me explain – A few weeks ago when I noticed a few scratches on my favorite play-station game CD, I almost scolded my son for mishandling it. Fortunately, I remembered in time that I have never educated him on the right way to handle the CD, so no point scolding him for not doing so. It seemed an obvious thing initially – handling the CD a certain way, because I have been handling those games for years now, but to him, it obviously wasn’t so obvious.

We have such situations at home, and at work. We assume that the other person would, or worse, should have the same background to a situation as we do. That they should look at things from the same lens that we do. But that’s rarely the case.

Our lenses are unique to us. They are created by our many experiences, our personality, the knowledge we have garnered, and the beliefs we hold. And so what’s obvious to us, may not be to others.  It is hence a good idea to check the level of knowledge others come with, and adjust the level of information you provide and the method accordingly.

And obviously – don’t assume it’s obvious!

#Source: Kennedy, Jane (1995). “Debiasing the Curse of Knowledge in Audit Judgment”. The Accounting Review.



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Discovering India: Scuba diving in Murdeshwar

“I am going Scuba diving!”

Every time I mentioned this to someone, they would ask – “Where? Andamans? (or some other exotic location?)”

When I told them Netrani Island near Murdeshwar, I wasn’t surprised that no one had heard of this place. I had not until a few months back. So, I took it on me to let as many people as I can know of this amazing place & the wonderful experience it offers.

Netrani Island is in the Arabian Sea, a little over an hour’s boat ride from Murdeshwar. Murdeshwar, is a 3 hours’ drive (160 kms) from Mangalore or about 9 hours (512 kms) from Bangalore.

Travel tip: Few airlines offer direct flights from major cities to Mangalore, while many others have connecting flights.

The planning started a couple of months back, when I decided to strike out another item on my bucket list – scuba diving. Did my research, spoke to friends, made the bookings and we (my brother and I) were ready to go.

We took an early morning flight (Spicejet – 7.05AM) from Hyderabad to Mangalore, and spent the first half of the day getting to and walking around the (surprisingly) pristine Panambur beach. As the day grew warmer, we stopped wandering around and decided to head to the train station. Shortly after we were on our way to Murdeshwar on Matsyaganda Express, that departs from Mangalore Central at 2.35 PM.

Travel tip: There are 4 trains from Mangalore to Murdeshwar. You also have the option of taking a bus from Mangalore to Bhatkal, from where you can take an auto or cab to Murdeshwar (20 minutes’ drive).

Murdeshwar is a temple town, known mostly for the second tallest statue of Lord Shiva. Frequented mostly by devotees, the temple & statue are right next to the beach, ensuring travelers are not just spiritually satisfied, but also visually. The small town has many hotels, with per night costs as low as 400, to a few thousands. We stayed at Dhenu Atithya, which was a 5-minutes walk from the beach and temple. It was a decent hotel, with comfortable rooms (though my brother was disappointed that it didn’t have a swimming pool).

Post checking into the hotel, we headed to the beach, and spent the evening there, enjoying the evening sea breeze.

Next morning, we were back at the beach by 8, as instructed by our contact at ‘West Coast Adventures’. West coast offers various packages for scuba enthusiast, depending on how much you want to learn. My brother and I were the only ones there for DSD (Discover scuba diving), while 15 others were there for an Open water diver certification, which spans over 2-days.

After helping get all the equipment on the boat, we were on our way to Netrani island. During the boat ride, we did the crash course on scuba 101 – Signals to use underwater, breathing through our mouth using the equipment, equalizing the ear pressure, and pumping water out from our goggles, without taking them off. The instructions did make us feel a tad bit nervous, but we sure were excited as well.

After dropping off the ‘experienced’ divers, my brother and I suited up, and got the final set of instructions. We then jumped into the water, and did a dry (not really) run of all the instructions given earlier. And then we dove.

Both of us were accompanied by an instructor each, and they helped us navigate through the water (it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know swimming, since the instructor will be holding on to you all along). We were lucky that it was a bright day, and the water was crystal clear. As we went lower, we were treated to amazing visuals – fishes of different sizes, colors and even shapes. We must have seen a few thousand in the 40 minutes that we were down there!

The corals were beautiful, and the marine life amazing. The breathing took some getting used to, and we had to be conscious about breathing in and out (it’s interesting how we take breathing for granted otherwise). We went to a depth of around 11-12 meters (36-39 feet) and almost touched the bottom of the sea. Keith, my instructor, made sure I was comfortable as we kept going lower, and helped create memories to take back by shooting videos and photographs on his GoPro.

40 minutes later when we came back to the surface, we felt satiated, and amazed – Satiated with the experience, and amazed that it’s the “Same planet…different world” (tag line of West Coast Adventures)

We were soon on our way back, and at around 4 PM we were back in Murdeshwar. West coast took good care of us by offering snacks and (non-alcoholic) beverages en route. The instructors and crew were highly professional and courteous. Had a great experience with them!

Travel tip: Visit or call them on +91 705 706 6669 and book your slots early.

The return journey the next day took us a tad bit longer – got to Bhatkal, took a KSRTC bus to Mangalore, and then flew back to Hyderabad (Indigo this time!)

In the movie ‘Zindagi nah milegi doobara’, Laila, the character played by Katrina Kaif, talks about how scuba diving is like meditation for her. I couldn’t agree more! Being conscious of your breathing, being in the moment and at peace…it’s as close to meditation as I have been.

So, if you are planning to experience scuba diving, and can’t afford a trip to Andamans (or some other exotic location) …actually, even if you can, you must give this place a shot. You will  come back with memories you will cherish a lifetime.

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A better you!

“How’s this papa?”, asked Rishaan, my 6-year old son, showing me his drawing of a toy train. It was ‘decent’. Not to discourage the attempt, I said, “Good work Rish.” He next went to his mother, who looked at the drawing and said, “Good attempt. I like how you have drawn a smiling train.” She paused, then added, “How about you make a bigger train? Maybe you could look at the Thomas train  you have and draw it again?”

The result is what you see.

When Rishaan showed me the second, much better drawing, I thought about how my wife and I had handled the situation differently. I reflected on how in the name of ‘not discouraging’, I had not challenged my son to do better. And then I thought about all the times that I had done the same with my colleagues at work, and worse still – with me myself.

A leader I used to work with, often told me this, “Always work towards ensuring that the version you are today is better than who you were yesterday.”

What do/will you do to ensure that the 2018 you, is better than the 2017 version?

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The truth about lies

After returning home from office one evening, I asked my 5-year old son if he had gone to the playground to play with his friends. He answered “No!” When asked why not, he answered, “Just like that papa!” When I insisted that he tell me the truth, telling him that ‘just like that’ was not good enough a reason, he added, “I had a tummy ache.” I knew he was lying about the tummy ache. What made it worse was that I made him lie.

In parenting, as in managing people, we often times are responsible for putting others in a position, where they believe the best way out is to lie. Be it with reasons for wanting to work from home, taking time off, communicating a missed deadline or the reason behind a mistake they made; sometimes the reason may not sound right, but that doesn’t mean it is not the truth.

And every time we insist that the team member, or the child, tell us the truth, when they already are doing so, we implicitly communicate to them that the truth is not good enough. And thus follows a lie. And then lies!

And that’s the truth about lies.

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Procrastinating the unpleasant

Decades ago, on my mother’s insistence, I visited an optometrist. Not to my surprise, I was told that I needed to wear specs, because I was myopic. It wasn’t a surprise to me because I had been aware of the ‘issue’ for a few months now, but had chosen to do nothing about it. Wearing spectacles wasn’t something desirable and so I kept procrastinating it until the headaches got too bad to go on with.

Fast forward to a few months ago. While attending a training program on ‘Personal productivity’, the trainer asked us if we put aside emails that were from difficult people or on difficult topics, responding to them only after a few days or sometimes after an escalation? I was yet again not surprised to see that I wasn’t the only one raising my hand.

It is human nature to procrastinate the undesirable to the extent possible. It can be attributed to our inherent need to minimize or even completely avoid (perceived or potential) threat. It could be meeting a difficult client, having that crucial feedback conversation, or confronting your friend/partner on a sensitive matter.

And yet, just like with my eye sight, things rarely get better unless we address them. Procrastinating addressing the issue, however unpleasant, does little to make them go away or even minimise the unpleasantness. It only prolongs it, and causes stress.

Brain Tracy in his book ‘Eat that frog’ suggests that we should first identify the frog – the most difficult and undesirable task on our list or in the mailbox, the one we are most likely to procrastinate, and then ‘eat’ it. That will give us energy & momentum for the rest of the day, and not stress us out by playing on our mind.

What’s the frog on your list today?

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