Problems need solutions, not complaints or endless analyses.
We need solutions, not tedious explanations.
In all the years that I have been advising companies about achieving remarkable results, especially family businesses, one thing is very clear. Top management’s unwillingness or inability to take tough calls is the single, most destructive factor that blocks their success. When leaders are weak, the whole enterprise suffers. The kindest cut is with a sharp knife. When surgery becomes necessary, it must be done to save the life. Not permitting a child to enter a business because he or she is not capable of running it, is a tough decision. Often it is not taken and everyone suffers as a result.
The same logic applies to self-development. The hardest thing is to accept that you are the one who needs to change. The maxim, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’, applies to all situations of personal development. Development starts with accepting the need for it. And that means accepting that one has been wrong all along.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) named the 5 stages that the dying (and those who receive news of terminal illness) go through. “Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance”. Many others have taken the same stages and compared them to people’s reactions to traumatic news of any kind, like divorce, bereavement, loss of employment, catastrophic loss of any kind and so on.
A convenient acronym is ‘SARAH’: which stands for:
S Shock: at hearing or realizing the loss in the first instance
A Anger: that this is happening to me
R Resistance: refusal to believe that this is happening/happened
A Acceptance: coming to terms with the loss or situation
H Hope/help: hope in a future after the loss and seeking help in it
Let us discuss this in a little more detail and look at two other concurrent processes that happen while SARAH is manifesting which are not covered in this model.
Research tells us that when people are going through times of disruptive change they feel:
n Disorientation: Drifting at sea, buffeted by waves of hatred and disapproval.
n Depression: Intimidated, attacked, lost, wanting to hide but nowhere to do it.
n Loss of purpose: Lack of leadership, looking everywhere for direction.
n Fear of elimination: Fearful about personal safety, looking over the shoulder.
There are two keys to survival in such times of disastrous and disruptive change:
- Face the brutal facts without losing hope
- Make sense of what is happening and create a roadmap out of the mess
Extensive research with inmates of concentration camps shows that those who eventually survived and escaped were those who faced the brutal facts of their situation without any attempt at painting them in a ‘rosy’ hue or indulging in hope bordering on fantasy. They did not tell themselves that rescue was around the corner nor did they wait for a messiah to come to save them. They did not imagine that their captors would suddenly see the error of their ways or would become inclined towards them. In short, the survivors did not fool themselves. They said to themselves in so many words, “We are in deep shit and it stinks. These are the reasons we are here. These are the things that can happen to us including our elimination.” They did not spend time complaining or blaming their captors or in abusing themselves or wallowing in self-pity. They objectively took stock of their situation and had the courage to look it full in the face and to recognize it for what it was; very grave and potentially lethal.
Yet these people also did not lose hope in their eventual success. They had faith and took the help of their ideology and belief and strongly believed that eventually they would survive and would outlast their captors. They believed that they had the capability to resist and absorb any punishment that was dished out to them; as in the Arabic saying: The blow that does not break your back only strengthens you.
Two apparently paradoxical attitudes: looking at the brutal facts yet not losing hope in eventual success, no matter how impossible it may seem at that moment. This was the key to the success of people interned in some of the most brutal concentration camps in the world. And history tells us that they did survive.
That is the open secret about all change; personal or collective. It is the ability to stop fooling yourself and to take tough decisions that enables you to survive and win.
Good intentions are not a substitute for systematic action.
Neither is enthusiasm a substitute for discipline.
Noise is different from music
We all have the same 24 hours and no, tomorrow won’t have more. All tomorrows have only 24 hours. ‘Tomorrow I’ll have more time,’ is the biggest self- deception line of all time. The key to managing time is to prioritize. Assess all prospective actions in terms of their impact on your overall goal and then decide what to do and when. Yes you have to first have an overall goal. The sooner you write one – yes, you have to actually write it down – the bigger your advantage. There is something in the nature of written down goals which invokes action. Then you devise a strategy to achieve your goal. That will involve creating steps which consist of individual actions and the time to take each one. Then you act.
Key ingredient: Discipline. Discipline is the key to life and to dieting: The big secret of dieting is to realize that my mouth is my property. Nobody can put anything in it that I don’t want them to. Discipline is where the rubber meets the road. It is walking your talk; to do what you claim you want to accomplish. It is to get up early in the morning so that you have more time in which to reach your goal. Discipline is to wake up every morning and work to make your dream can come true. Because a dream is not what you see in your sleep.
A dream is that which does not let you sleep.
An extremely useful tool to manage time is the humble ‘Checklist’. It is a wonderful tool to minimize mistakes and ensure that all the critical things get done. Managing time is about discipline and execution. Actually doing what you set out to do. It sounds simple but is not so easy for some people. But once you get used to this very useful ‘regimentation’ you will realize its value. There is nothing cute about freedom that results in waste of resources. Time is a resource – a non-renewable one to boot.
Add value first.
Entitlement will follow.
Entitlement goes with the territory.
Contribution defines the territory
Because entitlement is directly proportional to contribution. Entitlement is the result of contribution. If you want more ‘entitlement’, contribute more. Only those who contribute greatly are entitled to great rewards. What do I mean?
We live in a world of cause and effect. If you want to change an effect, you must address its cause. For example, obesity is an effect. Its cause is sugar intake which we do by means of the sugar-laced drinks, fizzy or otherwise, that most of us are addicted to. So, if you want to lose weight and start exercising but do nothing about your addiction to Coke or Pepsi, exercise will only make you thirstier and increase your problem instead of curing it.
The same thing is true of every effect we see in our lives. You want to change it, address the cause. Peace is an effect. Justice is its cause. But today those who have no concern for justice want peace. Those selling weapons and have their economies based on them, want peace. That is like a drug lord who wants an addiction free society.
Until justice is established, peace can never be established. There will always be those who fight injustice. And to them others who do nothing but talk of the need for peace, owe a debt of gratitude. If they didn’t stand up to fight injustice, corruption would spread in the land.
In the world of cause and effect:
If you want to be loved, be compassionate to others
If you want to be respected, show courage and stand up to defend the truth
If you want to empower others, share knowledge and build trust
If you want to help others, share your wealth, knowledge and influence
If you want to promote growth and development, promote entrepreneurship
If you want peace, establish.
Until then every peace is only a recess between wars.
Ideals are important because a life that is lived without seeking to achieve an ideal is the life of an animal. To eat, drink, sleep, procreate and die. Cows do that, sheep do that, cockroaches and mice do that. It is not worthy of human endeavor. Be idealistic.
We all start in the same place as idealists. But some of us allow life to dampen our idealism, to suppress it in the name of being ‘realistic’. Gradually we move down the slide all the way to being cynical and indifferent. But guess what? The original flame of idealism that we started out with can be dampened but it can never be extinguished. A spark always remains.
That is why when we are idealistic people discourage us and some even get angry. It is because in our eyes they see the picture of what they used to be. But if we refuse to give up our ideals then they slowly come around and the small glowing ember that is in their hearts, leaps into flame and lights the way ahead for them and us.
So never lose your idealism. I call myself a ‘shameless idealist’. I am not apologetic about this. I am proud of it. No matter that some of my ideals may not be realized in totality. I know of no other way to live than to live idealistically because in this way of living is deep satisfaction irrespective of the results.
It is ideals that make us human and it is striving towards them that makes life worthwhile.
Invest in people, not things
Right people add value. Possessions add cost, not value and always depreciate
Surround yourself with great people and value them. Tell them, show them, and do it often. Valuing is not simply patting backs or giving blue ribbons or bonus cheques. Valuing is to push them to do their best, refusing to accept poor work, asking questions that lead them to expand their own limits; pushing them to be the best that they can be.
Valuing is to be there for them when they need you, to do all this without any concern or thought about the returns because the effort is its own reward. As for other rewards, well do it and see.
Remember that your cell phone does not define you. Neither does your credit card, nor the seat you sit in the airplane. Your shirt, tie, underwear, handbag, shoes, or the car you drive (or are driven in) are all your possessions. You own them. You can give them away or throw them on the garbage heap. They are things, to be used for your convenience. They are not a ‘statement’ of who you are. Our commercial world is insane. Don’t fall into its trap.
Your character, manners, attitude, the smile on your face, the warmth of your handshake, the tears in your eyes, your knowledge and willingness to apply it to help others, your virtue, your wisdom, your piety, and the compassion you have for others – these are what define you.
You can’t buy these. You can’t sell these. These are not things to be used for your convenience. These are the things that make memories. They imprint themselves in the hearts of people in terms of how you used them and how they benefited those people.
They are what you will be remembered for; long after your car, cell phone, clothes, and possessions have all passed on either into the hands of your heirs or onto the garbage heap.
So remember, we define ourselves as we wish.
Disclaimer: The title is not mine but is a saying that I have always tried to live by.
Forget sacrifice, think investment
All sacrifice ends, but investment yields forever
Invest in yourself, in your learning. Knowledge is the key to success. But only if applied.
Knowledge applied thoughtfully yields wisdom. The two are not the same. So focus on your investment; track it, measure the yield, and do it often. Write your own Learning Appraisal every quarter. Every week is even better.
Ask yourself, ‘What did I learn in the last period and how can I apply it?’ Remember that all learning is for the sake of application.
The one who wins the bout is not the one who knows about Judo but the one who knows Judo. The two are not the same.
My mentor who taught me Judo and self-defence among many other life lessons
– Nawab Nazir Yar Jung
There’s a wonderful story about a Judo master and his student. The student was a young boy and very dedicated. But one day he had an accident and lost his right arm. After he recovered he went to see his master. The master told him to return to the dojo and resume training. The student was surprised but did as he was told.
The master taught him one throw and told him to practice it. The boy practiced that throw over and over and over. Weeks and months passed. Three years passed. Every time the boy asked the master if he wouldn’t teach him something else, the master refused and told the boy to keep practicing the same throw.
Then one day there was an International Judo competition with champions from all over the world. The master took the boy to the competition and entered him in it. The boy won the first match easily as it was with someone his own size. The master then entered him in the next higher weight. The organizers wondered at the wisdom of this. But to everyone’s surprise, the boy won that match also.
The master then entered the boy in the final, heavy weight competition. The organizers protested. They said, ‘The champion will kill the boy. The boy has only one arm. He is handicapped.’ The master smiled and said, ‘I take responsibility. Enter him in the match.’ Very reluctantly they did. The match was announced. The competitors came into the ring. You could hear the crowd draw in a breath of astonishment. There was total silence. The champion attacked. The boy retaliated and the champion fell flat on his back. There was total pandemonium in the arena. The referee declared the boy, World Champion.
As the master and his student returned home, the boy asked his master, ‘Master, please tell me did this happen? How did I beat the world champion? I have only one arm. I have no right arm. How did I defeat every competitor? How is this possible?’
The master replied, ‘Very simple. The throw that I taught you and insisted that you practice all these years has only one counter. That is to grab your right arm. And you have no right arm. So, nobody can beat you as long as you live.’
That is the meaning of learning, of wisdom, of investment. That is the meaning of applying knowledge. Knowledge unapplied is worm-food; it sits in books and worms eat it. So learn and apply. Add to the learning. Change what you learned. Customize it to suit your situation.
To begin with, ask yourself, ‘What do I know?’ Then write down all that you know.
Then ask, ‘What do I need to know?’
That will guide you to seeking the knowledge that you need to succeed.
Then look for places to apply it. Actually look to see who you can help with what you know. Cherish such people, appreciate them, become the floor on which they walk. The wise understand that knowledge is what comes after someone has lived it. And that can only be transmitted from person to person.
Learning – real learning – is not a virtual experience.
Sadly, we live in a world today that can’t differentiate between technicians and scholars. Between scholars and practitioners. For in the end it is only the practitioner that can teach you how to practice. So seek a mentor. It is for you. Not for him. It is for you, if you value your life. It’s your call.
Not only will you find places to apply your knowledge, but it will also open doors for you in places you would not have imagined.
That is the state of grace that comes from investment.
Money measures nothing except greed.
When money becomes the objective, misery is the return.
Service is the goal, the result of which is prosperity.
Money is an effect, a result. What do I mean? Well, you see, we live in a world of cause and effect. The fundamental rule here is, ‘If you want an effect, work on the cause.’ For example, peace is an effect; it is the result of justice. So if you want peace, then seek to ensure justice for all. If injustice prevails, peace can never come about because people will fight against injustice as indeed they should and peace will be disturbed.
Similarly, money is the result of intelligent effort. The effort can be dishonorable or honorable. Both kinds yield money. One yields money coupled with anxiety, fear, disgrace, hatred, shame, and the ill will of people. The other kind yields money with respect, honor, goodwill, love, gratitude and the prayers of people. Your call which kind you want. Remember, the second kind is actually easier. And you will sleep better too.
Remember also that money is a measure of nothing except greed. It is what you do with money which counts, not how much you have. So seek to do something with money that has a lasting positive effect. That is what gives meaning to money and makes it a source of benefit to you and others and gives you an opportunity to leave behind a legacy of honor.
As the lyrics of the famous song by Abba go:
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world
Money, money, money
In the rich man’s world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It’s a rich man’s world
The biggest killer globally today is not war but poverty. And that is not the result of lack of resources but lack of compassion and concern. The fact that we have created a world in which 62 of the richest people own more than 50% of the global population, is not simply astonishing and shameful but very encouraging. Because what we created, we can change. That we must change it, is not something that needs emphasis. A world (or country) with a huge income and wealth disparity is less prosperous, less peaceful and less happy than a country where the income/wealth disparity is not so marked. It is in the interest of everyone, including the wealthy, that wealth is shared. That increases disposable income and buying power which translates into a stronger economy and more prosperity. Strangely the powers that be, who are supposed to be intelligent, don’t seem to understand this and insist on cornering resources at the cost of the vast majority.