At today’s deAsra Foundations’ Entrepreneur Excellence awards, Sonali and Anand Deshpande shared 5 ingredients that they believe were instrumental in Persistents’ remarkable success. They are dream and dream big; create your team, you must know you can’t do it alone; focus; be ethical and lastly persist. These are certainly great ingredients for me to take back with me from the event, especially that last bit.
I’ve written about perseverance in the past. I believe it’s the most necessary ingredient of the five. There’s always more to write about it as there are several miles to go before I’ve made it.
I do work with people who care about their work deeply. The upside is that when they’re charged up, it’s inspiring to watch them go at it. The downside is that when things aren’t going to plan, frustrations and tempers can tend to get in the way. I also know of colleagues who can be both passionate about their work and calm, composed all the time. I admire that quality, I don’t have it and if you know you don’t perhaps my experiences will help.
The temptation to simply give up due to change always lurks around the corner. It isn’t easy for all you entrepreneurs, innovators and even the smallest of revolutionaries out there. If you’re selling a product- perhaps the market’s changed, or if you’re leading a company- your backers believe you’re CTO material and not CEO (i), or there’s just been something unprecedented. Or imagine for a moment, you’re in the middle of that umpteenth pitch to a customer for a partnership you want, and it goes south in the exact same way that all the others went in the past. As you walk away disappointed, that recognizable thought crosses your mind “I think I’d like to just walk away from all this” (ii).
A similar sequence of events regularly triggers the urge of giving up from inside me. In the first of my many encounters, I’d cave in, respond aggressively by taking none of the responsibility for working on the root cause. Over time I realized that my response was working against me. If I wanted to thrive I’d have to figure out a way to beat that. While I’m now better at staying in the game, the cue still leaves me dispirited and it takes a day to recover momentum. I’ll need to make more progress to beat that response as well.
I’ve read about and applied a simple habit reversal training (iii). I’ve seen how it can help adapt and change responses to everyday situations. But can it work with the more complex and infrequent triggers?
The way it works is to help you in unraveling the instinctive activation of the response you want to change. A good intervention should allow your higher decision-making capability to step in and take control over instinct. Simply put, you then decide if you wish to respond differently.
The first step is to observe and list triggers that lead up to the behavior. Next, you’re required to notice and write a post-it or card for every instance you believe triggered the habitual response even if you went through with your habitual response. An x on the card can help indicate if you successfully sidestepped the cue, or a check mark if you gave in. At the end of the day, you count your cards and start over the next day. Repeated enough times, the act of writing “did not give in” notes on cue ought to replace the expected reward you’d otherwise get by giving in. If you stopped writing the “give in” notes altogether you shouldn’t even have that thought cross your mind (iv).
I’m optimistic that anyone can work on changing themselves and I’d like to give it a shot and share what I’ve learned here.
(i) I just couldn’t help that quip :-).
(ii) I’ve been there and it still takes me a while to bounce back from such an event even if I’m not going to give into it. Realising that you’re not going to give in also sheds light on what you really want from the situation.
(iii) Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg.
(iv) I wouldn’t say they never cross your mind as learned habits don’t really disappear but become dormant.
Mathieu Ricard’s notes on perseverance at meditation encouraged me to write about the examples of people around me transforming enthusiasm into perseverance.
At work, I have a colleague who’s now completed more than 2 decades as a founder, CEO of the same company. I had the good fortune of spending an entire day watching him work. His pitch about his company may have changed over all these years, but when the occasion calls for it – he puts in a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm behind that pitch. I’ll bet that intensity of energy has only grown over the years. I once asked him how he manages to continue to stay interested in what he does? “There’s always something new to pursue” he answered.
At home, my better half balances responsibilities at our home and a full-time job. She’s now completed 8 years as a professional and she has a sense pride in how everything comes together. Cheekily I’m always looking for opportunities to remind her how awesome our home looks now that we’ve finally been able to finish it and about so many other things that would not have been possible without her. Nevertheless, there are times when the balance goes out of whack and it becomes imperative to put out the flames of discouragement.
There are many such examples of perseverance in the people around me that I can uncover. I welcome the enthusiasm that I’ll experience in the night before I’ll go running the next day. Or the energy I’ll feel when someone new joins the team at work.
I eagerly work towards moments when users spontaneously respond to an application that I’ve been working on. Rare and special, these discoveries send a eureka-like electricity through the mind. From the users perspective, this is appropriately labelled the A-ha moment. It’s a well-designed application that’ll deliver this milestone consistently. If a user’s hit that milestone, they’re more likely to come back to use the application, refer it to others and to use the application towards their next moment. So now you know why in consumer software you’re a user!
It’s difficult to see how perseverance pays off in the near term but it’s important and I think just like the A-ha moment it’s also the secret behind every big story. Like financial interest, it does compound and the right efforts do pay off in bigger ways the longer you’ll stay at it. It’s evidence of such experiences that impel me to keep going and to work through the sticky stuff that the longer journeys tend to throw at you. At the end of the day if you can spend a few moments to call up some subtle enthusiasm for the challenges of the next- I believe that’ll hold you in good stead.
For the few who’re keen on learning about my continuing meditation practice.
Through 2016 I was not very serious about my meditation practice. I’ve recovered lost momentum since the beginning of this year.
I was reintroduced to practice right after I met a friend of my brother. Let’s call him Steve. Steve stays in Bangalore and meditates regularly. He also frequents retreats (I believe they’re related to the practice of Vipassana). Right after the day we met, Steve was also nice enough to put together a Telegram group of his friends who practice. That was enough to spark some fresh enthusiasm in me for this habit.
I try my best not to regard myself by any means as more than anything but a beginner. Writing about it is merely a means of self-encouragement. Do keep that in mind when going over what’s ahead.
I believe my practice is deeper now than when I began. I stick to a lean method of working on concentrating on the breath and then later the more quicker pulse. If a thought comes in the way, I gradually find my way back to tracking the pulse. Occasionally I’ll think I’m tracking my pulse, but I’m not. Other times I’ll recognize that I’m feeling sleepy, as I haven’t had sufficient sleep.
With respect to the benefits of meditation, it does have a very subtle effect on the degree of clarity I carry with me throughout the day.
I haven’t yet experienced any serious downsides. Just like any other habit that you do and discontinue, there are unnecessary feelings of guilt that’ll recur when you’re going through a lean patch.
To share what I learned, it’s hard to justify the practice of meditation with anything other than the thought that I believe that somewhere in the middle of the practice there’s a long-term question that’s being answered.
Another observation is that every time your life takes a new turn, say there’s a new job, or a new house, new relationship – those are the least likely times when meditation as a practice will stick/continue to stick. New events tend to steal your enthusiasm for a regular and mundane practice such as meditation.
On the flip side, it’s a good practice to have when anxiety, stress, or fear are overwhelming. It’s in these times that near-term effects of meditation are the most needed and apparent. If you’ve been meditating regularly, keep this in mind and I think it’ll help you keep at it.
“You don’t learn the basics of navigation in the thick of a storm; you learn them in good weather on a calm sea. In the same way, it is best in the beginning to meditate in a quiet place where there is space for the mind to develop clarity and stability.” – Mathieu Ricard, ‘The Art of Meditation’.
Demonitisation day #5.
Doubts about the thoughtfulness and preparation behind the move have been widely cited. The system is beginning to appear stretched. FirstPost and Mint present a fairly balanced view of the repercussions of demonitisation.
Given the logistical nightmare, and the 100 percent chance that this will result in sheer chaos, anarchy and anger his vote base (since traders will be the worst hit) why did Modi commit political suicide?
If the PM took such a risk, it shows his supreme confidence and a quid pro quo of deep trust between Modi and his electorate. He, as Swapan Dasgupta writes in his column for The Times of India, would have calculated that the electorate, though being made to go through utter inconvenience and hardship, will “appreciate forthrightness and loftiness of purpose.”
But he would be hurting. No matter how strong the conviction and unshakable the trust, Modi isn’t blind to the factors at play — the market slipping into a recession, daily lives suspended in a surreal act of faith and common man getting increasingly restive as the days tick by and the system near a total collapse. – Sreemoy Talukdar, FirstPost.
I don’t have any reason to doubt the sincerity behind the move. That much more reason to believe that Narendra Modi has turned out to be a special Prime Minister.
I know that I can’t completely gauge the problems people are facing from this move. An acquaintance had to default on his rent, footfalls at restaurants have fallen, and for sure those that rely on daily wages have been hit. Life continues to be orderly. I’m encouraged by the few conversations I had when standing in line at a bank on Sunday. I believe that the desire to stay the course is still present. Let’s just hope that we can reboot the system before this spirals out of our control.
8th November ended like any other day. I’d just gotten home from work. My father called me. Excitedly he told me that our PM, Narendra Modi had recalled 500 and 1,000 denomination notes. I responded that it’s probably a hoax and switched to youtube to check just in case. It was true. A number of my colleagues who I discussed this with echoed my initial disbelief on having first heard of demonetisation. Living through a full day after demonetisation has been that much more unreal.
I can’t imagine that an extreme step such as this would ever be taken. As my Dad explained, the last time this was done was in 1978 under similar circumstances. India needed this. Edelweiss Securities predicts that the crackdown will unearth 3 trillion rupees ($45 billion). Perhaps I believed our politicians didn’t have it in them. But Modi ji’s turned out to be a politician like no other. He’s allowed his determination to lead him into the unknown. If this move fails to deliver impact, it’ll hound him. If it works, at least temporarily black money will entirely cease to exist in India. Fake money will be invalidated. Indeed, the nexus between terrorism, corruption and tax-avoidance will receive a blow.
And that’s significant.
As the dust of today’s discussions, evaluations, analysis and experiences settle, it’s becoming clear that although this was a much-needed reset of our entire system, it just might be that the entire potential of what is possible was missed.
First, a little background. A little before tax-season the government announced an amnesty scheme under which tax defaulters could come clean for a penalty and avoid criminal prosecution. Although the scheme was widely availed, it came nowhere near the goals our PM had set. Perhaps he have felt that some thing more would have to be done. I’d resigned myself to “yet another unfulfilled campaign promise”. It would continue to be business as usual.
India (and Bharat) is a clear, desperate large-scale use-case to go-digital. In our cash-led economy, an INR 10 denomination note has an average lifespan of less than 10 months.
Our PM himself appreciates technology for the transparency and accountability that technology brings with itself. He’s also cited the parallel economy being a key driver of forces that are destroying us from within.
Since the early years of 2000 – 2012, digital entrepreneurs have been tracking the Internet in India. We’ve achieved big changes at a snail’s pace. First came broadband, then smartphones, mobile internet, finally e-commerce. This is over a 12+ year time period. If we think forward, will it take us another decade for us to go cashless?
And therefore skepticism. We need to be there desperately, but the inertia won’t allow. Just the other day I was asked by a potential hire, “Do you really believe you’ll sell digital payments to a group that believes in dealing in cash”? I’ve always had a ready answer, but it’s a tough argument to fight. Even now, my son’s private school conveyance hesitated to share his bank account details. We simply didn’t have the cash on hand to pay him.
If one sets out to change India to stop having to rely on cash, until last night this felt a little like an impossible task. I only know now that I felt like this. I’m simultaneously embarrassed and impressed on the boldness and on how our PM’s decision has turned out.
So just maybe, I need not have to wait a decade for this change. Let’s take a fresh look at what was possible.
We’ve just spent an entire day where 500 and 1,000 notes are not legal tender. Throughout the nation Banks and ATM’s were shut. There was some chaos as people scrambled, but systems haven’t entirely failed or stopped. If you’re a daily wage earner and if you were paid in 500’s on Tuesday, you’d have a difficult time. In the coming days there will be more pressure on the system to change those 500’s into new 500’s or 100 denomination notes. On Thursday 11th, ATM’s will be back online, but if you don’t have a bank account, you won’t have access to more than INR 4,000 in the new currency right away. For sure that won’t cover the month’s rent and groceries.
Over the last 2 years, we’ve introduced Aadhaar – a biometric based system capable of identifying citizens, we’ve linked the Aadhaar system to bank accounts, and have recently introduced Unified Payment Interface, a simple account-to-account cash transaction system suitable for smartphones. If we’d made it possible to pay with UPI almost everywhere, there wouldn’t be as much pressure on the system for availability of 100’s and smaller denomination notes. Even in a hybrid system those who need cash to bridge expenses could have had them on priority while the others must pay digitally. Universal acceptance is key.
Let’s look at some of the counter-arguments I’ve got. Not everyone has a bank account, but they may have instances where they’d have to pay large sums (school fees comes to mind).
On the acceptance front, skepticism has prevented retailers and common utility providers from adopting digital. That could have been eliminated.
But just this one day, I believe that we could have prepared ourselves to digitise and made a leap. Even if it is only my limited view-point, on this one day we all accepted to be inconvenienced for the greater good. A nation that can be organised to give up their money and recognise the larger picture, they’re certainly ready to let go of their other fears. This opportunity, this reset might not arise again.
We’re getting quicker at transforming our ageing private / public systems and protocols. Reliance Jio’s doing it in telecom (they’re India’s only 100% VoLTE operator), railway tickets, our cooking gas subsidy system and many other examples come to mind. This pace of change is exciting.
There’s no doubt in my mind that 8 November is historic and a big leap forward. It has strengthened my faith in our version of democracy and in our leader. It’ll strengthen the common man by merging the parallel economy and forcing cash out into the open. It has encouraged me to think about what’s possible, what our future ought to look like and what we’ll need to do in order to get there. Thank you Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi for growing our picture by that much. Thank you for surprising me.
A little and a lot, both can be said about business networking. To write about the little is to summarise all the many little things I’ve learned over the last 9 years. Its quite simple that every business conversation starts with give and take. As a novice I’ve found learning this simple protocol to be long and confusing. A short article can help accelerate that process.
The one word that I’d use to capture this idea is Reciprocity*.
The take: Knowledge of what you need right now is distilled from your priorities in that day, week and even quarter. You get the idea. Articulate what you want and suggest ways you can be helped. You can help me with <…> just fill out the blanks.
If you end a conversation without speaking about what you require, you’re missing out. Business relationships work both ways.
The give: This the part that I’m good at. I tend to offer more than I have to in the hope of getting things started off on the right foot.
Nevermind the generosity. What I figure works best is to understand who you’re speaking to and what their priorities are. Remember how you’re priorities helped you out earlier? That’ll work here as well.
Not all give an take has money on one side. They can also be sophisticated barters. Welcome creativity!
Once you’ve established some common ground, its time to apply the idea to the many types of people you will meet.
Investors are not different beasts as is commonly misunderstood. They too want things to be done. Maybe they’re priority on that day is to identify that interesting deal which will make his year. You’re deck or elevator pitch may not necessarily be sufficient if you get where this is going.
In that same picture, always ask based on your priorities. It need not always be an investment. It maybe something the Investor will know (an Analyst’s report perhaps), or maybe someone he knows (an Investee company?).
Moving on, time-based engagements (consulting) also follow this principle. This applies to people who are supremely busy, or have something you want desperately.
Sounds simple, right? I’m glad I’ve had good mentors to help me figure out this idea in its entirety. The biggest temptation being to avoid leaving the take to the context. Doing things this way leaves little room for grudges, disappointment, or entangling yourself in confusing priorities.
I enjoy meeting new people as a part of my work and I hope that by doing business with them it’ll lead to larger things down the road.
* The Key to Getting Meetings with Insanely Busy People, Fast Company.
I do enjoy pondering on the attributes of the thinking mind. What is the thinking mind? What’s the purpose of the thinking mind? What is the nature of thought? If we wanted to understand the biological content that makes thoughts possible, where should one look for it? Questions go on endlessly.
One fundamental question I toyed with in today’s meditation is does the thinking mind closer to a mirror or a whiteboard?
If one goes by a fundamental that the thinking mind is not separate from the larger body of consciousness, then the thinking mind is better explained as a smaller reflection of the larger set of events. Of course, you can decide to override what you’re thinking, but that’s still an in and out process.
Another fundamental that the ‘thinking mind as a mirror’ is based on is that of consciousness. Consciousness isn’t directly experienced in its entirety. At least that’s how I see it today. It’s the larger idea that drives every little thing we think of as ‘out of direct control’. There are so many instances of physiological functions. If I threw a ball at your face, you’ll blink and dodge even before you ‘know’ that the ball is headed at you.
Consciousness is not simply limited to instinct. What about digestion? Nail growth? Muscle growth? Or solving a problem in deep thought? It all seems to happen without me determining whether it should stop or start.
Depending on what philosophy you read, consciousness can also be explained as the fabric that binds everything, not limited by your bodily limits.
At the tip of this very large idea is what we directly experience and finally what we directly control. So I like to explain thought in this way – when you can feel a spontaneous thought cross your mind, that’s experiencing a reflection of the many, many events simply blended together.