Maradona – God with a touch of the devil!

I became a TV sports fan during 1985-86. Those were glorious years.

1985 started off with a bang, with India winning the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup. The Indian team’s victory lap on Ravi Shastri’s Audi (the player of the Series) is a moment that I cherish to date. And this win was against Pakistan, making it all the more special.

But, 1985 was not done yet. Boris Becker, a 17-year-old unseeded German, managed to win the Wimbledon. With his summersaults, big serves, and attitude, he ushered in a youthful, colorful decade of tennis. Wimbledon had just birthed a new star to succeed Bjorn Borg and the mercurial McEnroe.

1986 began with a shocker. Requiring four runs off the last ball, Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a six to win the Sharjah tournament. India- Pakistan matches always have an edge to them, and this finish drew frenzied reactions across the globe.

A couple of months later, Kapil Dev put the smile back on our faces. He led India to a pristine win over England at Lords. This was India’s very first Test win at Cricket’s hallowed ground. Life was looking good again.

And these are just a few nuggets. The mid-eighties saw some fantastic sportsmen and women. Not only were they gifted, but they had an edge to their character, adding to the drama.

All said, though, the mid-80s belonged to Diego Maradona. Maradona had genius footballing skills. He would also do anything to win – as the infamous “hand of God” episode proved. He would score a masterly goal one minute and fake a fall (and request a penalty!) the very next minute. The world loved him. Here was a man with a God-given gift and a touch of the devil in him. We had a superstar in our midst!

He won Argentina the World Cup in 1986. 1986 also was the first year Indian fans could see the entire world cup live on TV. I suspect he added many, many millions of new football fans that season.

The Maradona saga continued in 1990. We love to root for a gifted, imperfect superstar – and if he’s the underdog, even better! Would Maradona pull out another World Cup win? We hoped so – and prayed too. He brought his team to the final with sheer will and energy. But, Argentina lost the finals – of all things to a late penalty. Maradona burst into tears; it was an emotional end to a marathon campaign. And yet, that campaign remains a favorite. It’s a testament to the magic that one man can affect on the sports field. It reminds us of why we watch Sports.

Post-1990, Maradona, the sportsman, faded away. News of an arrest or ill-health would appear sporadically. I’d be instantly transported back to the time when Maradona turned lay viewers like me into connoisseurs. That’s a rare gift. Imagine watching a Federer backhand or a Dhoni helicopter shot. Life turns into a party. Maradona did that every match.

Maradona taught millions like me to love sports. For that, I am eternally grateful. While he is no longer with us on earth, his stories will stay forever.

Musings on a rainy day

The cyclone is approaching. The winds are increasing, and the rain is thundering down. I barricade the doors, secure the windows. I remove objects that can fly off the balcony and hit pedestrians. It’s a couple of hours of hard work, and there will be a cup of filter coffee to cheer me at the finish. I muse on how much harder life must be for the volunteers working to keep the city safe.

A friend works for the Government. The state machinery is working very hard to relocate people and keep them safe from the storm. It’s hard work; he’s thankful his family is elsewhere. He feels it must be challenging for the people he’s helping as they relocate to the shelters.

A gentleman is relocating his family to a government shelter. He’s worried about what will happen to his home. And yet he says a prayer of gratitude to God – at least his family will survive the storm. What about his friends who weren’t as fortunate?

We tend to compare the quality of our lives with others.

Isn’t it curious that when faced with a life-changing event (a big storm or a life-threatening event or in the face of ruin), humans survive, comparing themselves favorably with people who suffer a worse fate? We tell ourselves a story that we will come strong. Nature has dealt us a better hand than our more affected brethren.

When we don’t get a good raise/ bonus or that promotion, we are aghast. We compare ourselves against those who seem to have got a better deal and feel sorry for ourselves.

In short, big things get us to act. It’s the little things that make us fret. I’m sure there’s a moral in there somewhere.

Hurrah, we have a 30-day-streak of daily journal posts!

Today marks the 30th installment in my 90-day series. I am one-third complete! Thanks to everyone who read, liked, and commented. I owe you one.

“Wait, but there are only 28 posts,” says the incorrigable math guy. Where did he spring up from?

“I also did a couple on LinkedIn, including one on launch day. So it adds up the magic number,” I reply and move on before he asks me anything else.

Every milestone is an opportunity for reflection. I learned a lot from thirty days of writing. If you plan to embark on a habit journal, these notes may come in handy.

Habit building works best when you make time for it. Slot an hour every day and start typing away. It doesn’t matter if you are inspired or not. This hour is “fingers on keyboard” time. Let Asimov and PGW be your beacons.

Ninety days is a long time. It only seems short if you are a CEO of a public company, with a market to please. It’s best to take it a day at a time. Don’t feel guilty if you drop a day or two (I hope that math guy is not around!). You are building a habit muscle, not looking to score in a compliance competition!

We all have a lot to share – but, we must take the time to reflect. Carve out fifteen minutes for reflection or use your shower or drive time.

The length of the posts doesn’t matter. The content should dictate how large a post should be. It takes time to perfect this art – it’s ok to get it wrong and iterate.

It’s best to write in simple, short sentences. But complex, long ones are easier to craft! Don’t let anyone fool you – simple is hard!

When you commit, something magical happens. You cannot buy more time, so you begin eliminating tasks to free up time. You are becoming a master of No. “No” is a life-skill – it will serve you well in every part of your life.

Daily posts require significant editing efforts. Having an automated writing assistant helps quash spelling errors. It even helps resurrect sentences. My go-to tool is Grammarly.

Your posts may feel unloved at first, but keep going, and the audience will come. Getting views, likes, and comments is a blessing that keeps you motivated. Thanks a ton, everybody – you are angels 🙂

Ok, now, let’s proceed to the second leg of the journey.

Say No and free up your time – and attention!

Getting good at anything takes time. And practice.

This weekend, my site went live. Subscribers started coming aboard, and readers shared wishes on social media. To thank well-wishes and welcome subscribers meant I needed to free-up a few hours. I ended up saying No to several asks. Saying No is always hard. Once done, the sense of relief is immense.

A gentleman desired discussion around crypto-currency on LinkedIn. I saved my (and his!) time by telling him that it wasn’t a priority. Later in the day, a friend wondered if I would be interested in supporting a few projects. We agreed to an X but not Y approach – he was free to share/ use the blogs for his project work. However, my time was off-limits. Then, there was a popular, high-value course offered at a considerable discount. Mouthwatering, but a lower-priority item (for now). I passed it up. And finally, I decided to go on a unfollow spree on Twitter. I unfollowed handles I respect but whose content was not on my priority list. I am genuinely amazed at how many I can unfollow – I am currently unfollowing ten every day.

When you say No a lot, you can say yes to more things that matter. I subscribed to a writing program. I also have joined a community exploring Digital models.

“No” is a potent tool. But, it’s a tool we are often hesitant to use. Do check out my post on how a master of No operates. There are some cool ideas. Or you could decide to say No to the post 🙂

A website launch, welcome feedback and bugs to squash!

What a fun week this has been! My website went live. And people continue to share good wishes on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thank you. I feel blessed.

We squashed a couple of bugs. These are defects that shouldn’t have been shipped out in the first place! But we learn! And the good thing is the feedback’s coming.

Where do we go from here? Well, we need to make this genuinely impactful for readers (who are also leaders!). We’ll post more essays on topical leadership. We will launch our newsletter next week. Maybe add more forums to connect with our community. Yes, there’s a lot to do. The most important thing, though, is to do it all with a goofy smile. Happy weekend everybody!

Decision making skills: Go Permission-less and ask for forgiveness later!

Whenever you attempt anything, the thing that slows us down is waiting for permission. And most of us have been taught that getting approval is a risk-free approach. Should hell break loose, you will not be held to blame!

Are you one of the folks who believe this?

Early in my career, I discovered one truth. That over 70% of our project decisions and innovation need no permission. And they are localized, so you are the best judge. When we ask our boss for approval, it’s probably a very low-priority item on her/ his plate. So there is a delay – simply because she’s got other higher priority things to do!

Another 25% will be in the bucket of “OK to ask but not necessary.” Sometimes, you are fishing for a compliment or simply need a quick validation. You have done your work, and you know the risks – and you are confident that they will not bring ruin in any case. In these cases, it’s best to simply go ahead and start executing. Should things not work as expected, you can ask for forgiveness; the damage isn’t extensive anyway. Over the long term, the scale of innovation rewards will prove you right.

There’s a last 5% that can cause significant damage should things not go as planned. For these, it’s always best to take feedback and permission before going ahead. The delay and due-diligence in approvals are worth it.

I remember reading about Jeff Bezos preferring reversible, small currency decisions being owned by the individual directly. It’s when huge non-reversible items come up that his management gets involved. He feels this unlocks more innovation at speed.

I agree with him, do you?

For authentic success, focus on what hasn’t changed!

This week, I spoke with friends from school after a long time.

We just picked off from where we had left years ago, and the usual laughter, random ideas, intense discussions peppered our conversation. As we talked, I realized something important. 

We often focus on change. We track what we learned, how we grew.

We however ignore what hasn’t changed. And yet, it is the latter that usually allows authentic friendships over long, sustained periods.  Pick a friend from your childhood, teens, or early workdays – there was likely resonance at a fundamental level. You can pick up the phone and have an unbelievably fun, stress-free conversation right now with no qualms.

What hasn’t changed is what defines you as a person. 

I look back at my notes from the Strengths Finders training – it says your traits remain the same since childhood, and so do your strengths. The priority of the strengths displayed may change, but not the strengths themselves.

Interestingly, Jeff Bezos has nailed this focus on things not changing in his approach to business – here’s him talking about this:

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

Givers and Networks

Today @valafshar tweeted a set of great principles. One of those was “Networking is about giving.” His tweet is a gift to us, showing he is a living example of his message – thanks, Mr.Afshar.

As I mull over the statement, I have come to believe there are four types of giving as it relates to networks:

1. People give to others, who can give them something back in return – the traditional networking play. The model was successful when hierarchies controlled access to information and power. Its utility is decreasing now. 

2. People share information and knowledge unconditionally using Digital networks with people they have never met – like the tweet that gave rise to this post. As a consumer, you are free to use it as you feel, with no obligation to the sender. But remember, there are many professionals who are consumers too. It’s the nature of Information to flow freely and create “network effects.” And Network effects deliver outstanding results for the sender – the very reason we find such high-value, virtuous networks on Social media.

3. People give their “quality” time to family and friends. They don’t expect anything in return. Interestingly, this behavior leads to remarkably high trust network access (and trust is the most revered currency in today’s world). Remember, the information is cascading across people who trust and value each other. 

A friend spends some of his time helping relatives with their investments and has helped several loved ones navigate some tough times. Unknown to him, his reputation as a trustworthy, dependable, and expert investment advisor was spreading outward. Last week, a leading equity firm approached him for a partnership – this network had trumped impressive LinkedIn resumes and thought leadership! 

4. People who give without leaving their footprint. These people are unique – it is their nature to give, and they do so without leaving a footprint. Nature favors these folks and rewards them multi-fold. Not that they care about that, though!

As I type up this post and try to quantify how much of a giver I am, I realize one thing. No matter how much I give, the Universe (family, friends, coworkers, bosses, peers, teams, neighbors, strangers, online community) provide me 100X more. We are all net receivers living in a giving world. That sure is humbling, but it’s also comforting.

The best networks don’t advertise. We get invited to participate when we turn givers. The rewards are multi-fold, and yes, they are an opportunity to share even more. 

As Mr.Afshar says, networking is about giving. Indeed, only “Giver” networks matter. Remember Giving Networks scale exponentially; traditional networks grow linearly at best.

How to succeed? Notes from a reading of #Essentialism.

Priority is singular, so pick your top-most goal and make it your priority (thanks for this Essentialism reminder, Greg McKeown). 

Write that priority down. 

Now, review your day:

1. You are what you think. What did you reflect upon today? 

2. You are what you consume. What did you read/ view/ listen to today? 

3. You are what you share. What did you share today – where and with whom?

4. You are what you do. What did you act on today?

Remember, you have only one priority. Did you spend at least an hour today thinking, consuming, sharing, and working on your priority? 

Congrats, you are all set for success – this formula/ daily practice works!

Friends and Genuine Humor make a super combo!

Our life is full when we have friends who can laugh with us and at us with no malice. Over the last week, WhatsApp (of all places) showed me this truth emphatically. Friends from my college group came up with entertaining quips, friendly leg-pulling, and sincere support – these are invaluable in today’s world.

Friends at work are a similar breed. I am lucky to have many, and the camaraderie and banter help move things along nicely. When leaders exhibit such behavior, teams follow. I bring this up to a friend at work, and he shares an interesting observation. When we start our careers, we all experience this malice-less and unconditional rapport. It is the passage of time (and pyramid climbing!) that have made this less common. Pyramid climbing, in particular, can give you agendas, which puts people on guard. That’s the watch out – people always have a funny bone; it’s the agendas that play spoilsport.

I see this play out on Social media too. There are genuinely fun handles – they have us laughing and at no one’s expense. There is also Satire; we need a true story-teller to make it enjoyable, though. Irony and Satire have their part to play – they get us to reflect on broader issues. It’s the others – masquerading malice in the form of humor that is a bore! Indeed, we have to resort to our friends, unfollow and mute, to safeguard ourselves against these!

I know appetites and mileage differ for each of us. What type of humor attracts you – as a creator and a reader?

The right Technology for the wrong use-case!

Yesterday, @sweetsudha1 shared this hilarious evolution of Deepavali wishes over the years. 

As I laughed, I realized she had shared something very profound. 

Over time, Technology has rendered full-service transactions into self-service transactions. We are good with this transition – it saves us time, effort, and costs. We had to visit Banks for withdrawals. ATMs made this more accessible as we just had to drive over to the nearest kiosk with our Card. Desktops allowed us to do our transactions from home – so we didn’t have the bother of going to the ATM now. And today, Mobile apps enable you to transact anywhere – and you don’t even need to type stuff, you can just talk, and the App will do your bidding. It’s hard to see where this evolution isn’t helpful. Lower costs, convenience – on any parameter, it comes out on tops. You can extend this to other areas – taxis (hail a cab from your Uber app instead of going to the taxi stand), shopping (amazon as opposed to the store), food (have it cooked and delivered to your taste as opposed to visiting the restaurants). All full services are becoming productized – and we are the beneficiary.

But in her tweet, there is a fascinating context. Deepavali is a festival, a period of leisure and friendship. Leisure demands our attention – that’s what makes it worthwhile. You stroll to the beach – for walking – there’s no other reason. If adventure travel is your thing  – you do it because you like it. If you take the effort and the personal touch out of the interaction, you render the experience sterile. It’s worth ensuring that we don’t end up killing the experience while attempting to productize a hobby!

Companies like IKEA use experience (drive to the big warehouse on the outskirts of town, choose and transport the furniture components to your home and then build the table yourself) as their differentiator for business too. The customer pays for the experience of building stuff – for the customer’s experience and sense of fulfillment.

I’ll leave you with that thought. I feel we should be careful about productizing “personal” experiences out of the equation. Doing so may risk robbing us of our identity – we come alive when we interact with people and celebrate – we are a social animal after all!

Would you agree?