Thursday, October 25, 2012

I feel today

I feel sad staying away from my family
I feel sad when I read news
I feel sad when I think politics
I feel sad when someone passes away

I feel happy when I am productive
I feel happy when I read technology
I feel happy when I am on stage
I feel happy when I think innovation

I feel alien in a foreign land
I feel alien now in my own land
I feel alien with changing feelings
I feel alien in a crowd

I am wild on blank canvas
I am wild in my thoughts
I am wild on a track and lost in the wild
I am wild without focus

I feel scared about darkness
I feel scared without answers
I feel scared about speed
I feel scared about unconscious

I feel empowered with freedom
I feel empowered with technology
I feel empowered with decision
I feel empowered with people

I want to be a kid
I want to go back
I want to be small
I want to be new
I want to be brave

Friday, June 01, 2012

Finishing That Run Was Tough, Emotional, Challenging and Motivating

In the last post, I wrote about preparing for Glass City Half Marathon and in this post I would like to update on how it went for me.  Quick answer: It was awesome.  When I was training for it I wasn't sure whether I will be able to do it or not, so I didn't registered for Half Marathon.  I wanted to see whether I could meet my training goals or not and then register.  Well I waited too long to register so Half Marathon was closed for registration and I had to settle for a 5K for Toledo.  But on the same day I registered for Capital City Half Marathon which was held in Columbus, Ohio on May 5th, 2012.

When I started training it was winter and very cold outside so I was running on a treadmill and always kept running on a it until 5k.  But there are no treadmills when you go outside so nothing can match training on ground.  The 5k acted just like a training battle ground for my half.  Which is what everyone does but I figured it out later.  I found that I was running faster on ground than I was running on a treadmill.  Also I found that I could have forced myself little bit more while training.  Anyways 5K went very nice as expected.  My take is even if you are trained for half the distance of your race, I think you can finish the race by the number of people running with you on race day and people cheering for you. Note: Not applicable for mile run greater than 13.1 and please do appropriate training for that.

After 4 months of training finally the big day came and I was there standing among some 13,000 people in red and some white T-shirts all excited.  It was a no-excuse weather for a half marathon and one couldn't have asked for any better than that.  There were about 18 to 19 DJs and some local bands performing along the course of  13.1 mile to keep you on track motivated.  Now something about the race.  I started slower than I usually run and there were lots of people walking so I didn't mind slowing down.  Initially you would think how can one finish 13.1 mile walking but it turns out that you can do it just in time if you walk at an average speed of 3.6 to 4.0 mph.

I want to tell you before you make any assumptions that I am a very slow runner and I never wanted to break the record.  I just wanted to finish the race that day.  Until mile 6 everything was fine and great, I was happy and full of enthusiasm but in the middle of mile 6 a slow pain started in my left leg knee.  And it only got worse from there.  And from 6.0 to 13.1 it was just PAIN.  So why pain? No I am not getting older.  Aah! I remember why.  Earlier in my life about in year 1999, I had an accident in which I broke my fibia and tibula bones of my left leg.  Who knew those years were called teenage years for a reason.  So my amazing orthopedic doctor decided to fix it with a steel rod and leave it there for 2 years so that those lonely bones could heal on their own except two years later I would broke them again.  The steel rod ran from knee making its way to the ankle.  The doctor finally got it out after 3 years or so.  Thanks Doc. Anyways that incident still bothers me and I can tell you that things down there are not the same any more.

At mile 9, I was in sheer pain and the irony was that it was paining so much that I could run but not walk and it would pain more walking then running.  Yes men do cry.  I don't know why but I was getting emotional having mixed feelings of my pain, my run, training I had done before, the people around me and lots of things (lets not get into those).  Anyways I felt terrible about the feeling of quitting even before I started the race so after this pain thingy I am reassessing my situation from my legs' point of view.  But anyways I decided to give it a shot and go all the way through.  The pain went bad at mile 10.5 and I stopped running and started to walk.  And then slowly but I was able to finish the race with mixed feelings.  Some people who were walking were able to finish faster than me and at the end I don't care about it.

But if you want to experience something in life then give it a shot.  Try running a 5k and then 13.1 mile.  Don't focus on speed, just focus on finishing it first and then go for consistency and then speed.  Can you beat that sound speed?  I am just kidding. You will see some best motivating people on the way whom you don't know.  Especially kids carrying posters and cheering you.  And in this quest you will make some good friends and learn a thing or two about yourself and people around you.  I know one thing that if I can finish it with pain then you can surely do it.  Give it a try!!.

My key takeaways are as follows:

  1. All of a sudden don't start running a half marathon.  Start training well in advance like 10 to 14 weeks before.
  2. Wear proper clothes while training and during the run.
  3. Buy the best shoes you can afford and try them out before you buy.  And until you run with them you won't easily come to know whether they are good or not.  At least for me it is true.
  4. Start training with a friend. It will be a lot easier.  You can join one of the training groups in your area if you don't find a friend easily.
  5. Stay hydrated during the race and while training.  Especially while training because if you are going out you have to carry something to drink.  
  6. Doing training and during the race it is important to finish it without hurting yourself.  If you feel something is bad or unusual, then please consult a doctor.  The only thing I am concerned about is hurting myself.  
  7. Eat and be careful about what you eat before the race. It matters even what you ate last night.  If you ate something not so nice but nice but not nice like Pizza then good luck with running early morning.  When I eat pizza then it lives in my stomach for like two days without paying rent.  So don't eat heavy food late nights.  
  8. Be careful of the weather.  This guy can give you unexpected trouble and can surprise you when you least expected it.  If you are not able to figure out a bad weather then in the race look for signs like people falling down.  That's clear sign of: "You need to drink more water or quit the race."  Take care of yourself.
  9. Do it because you want to and you will enjoy it. Don't do it because of some motivational ego bursts going on within you.  
  10. Don't try to break that record after reading this or seeing someone update their status on Facebook.  Think about long term and do it consistently.  
Best of luck if you are running one.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Preparing for Toledo Glass City Half Marathon

New Year resolutions are tough but absolutely worth it.  Although this has been on many resolutions but now I have started taking care of my health since second week of January of 2012. It was not like I was not taking care of my health before but now I have a goal to reach. Earlier my goals didn’t materialize; this time I have something which I am shooting towards. Early in January I made a goal to run Toledo glass city half marathon which is going to be held on April 22nd 2012.  I didn’t knew how much was a half marathon but after searching on the internet I found out that it would take good 10 weeks to get trained for it.  Eventually I realized that it was 13 miles run.  So I made a goal and started running.  Every day since then I made a point to wake up early in the morning and go to gym.  Even if I was late I made a point to go to the gym.  No matter whatever happened.

Initially I was not able to even run 5mins @ 3.5 mph.  I felt pathetic at that time.  Before starting the training period I had to get up to speed running for at least 30mins straight.  I started incrementing my daily running time.  I increased to 10mins then 12mins and so on kept increasing my pace at 3.5mph.  On seeing people running next to me, I was little bit ashamed of my speed.  People running next to me were running at 5mph, 6mph and even 7mph.  Some highly ambitious would run at 9mph.  Are you kidding me man?  I read somewhere that running a marathon is all about endurance and not pace (important but we will see that later).  You just need to keep increasing the length of your run every day and you will get there.  I stuck to it and now (3/3/2012) I am able to run for 1hour 27mins for 6miles @ 4.2mph speed.  It was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging for me.  My incremental progress gave me little bits of motivation every day.  Keeping track of your progress is very crucial when you are shooting for the sky.  I learned few things which are very important about tracking your progress.  I will write about it in a different post.  If you don’t track then you will give up easily.  For example, if you didn’t recorded your run last time, this time even if you aren’t tired your body will force you to think that you have ran more than the last time and it’s ok to give up this time.

I tracked my speed, miles, sometimes calories I burnt and time it took to run.  After I finished it I noted down on a whiteboard (picture below) and on my phone and gave a rating besides each run.  If I met my daily target it would get a “good” or “ok” rating.  If I broke my previous record or I achieve something different then I would give an “Awesome” rating.   And if for some reason I wasn’t able to run or missed a day, I would be so angry and furious that I would give a bad or poor rating.  I kept this whiteboard within my sight.  I would see it every day and it motivated me to do better each time.  The joy it gave me of writing it down on the board was more than the joy of completing a run that day.  Hence I made a point that in order to write I have to run.   I still have a mountain to climb before I can run 13 miles.  I have to improve on many aspects.  Eating the right food at the right time is also important.  Sleeping and taking enough rest is crucial to your health in these goals.  

I will update and write a post on how I did running my first ever Half marathon.  I read a quote and every day while running when I felt like giving up I remembered this quote and just kept running.  Here it goes.
"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."

    - George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Life is challenging and without shoot for the moon goals life is not fun.  If you have a personal goal this year share with me and together we will learn a thing or two about how to make it happen.  If you are running a half marathon this year then drop a comment below.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Know Your Food And Do the Right Thing

Eating healthy is expensive, stupid, foolish, and makes no sense to a person barely making enough money to meet the ends.  Yes, eating healthy and maintaining healthy habits has a cost associated with it.  It only depends on when you want to pay for the cost and in what form.  Food that is cheap and easily available is the most tempting one.  It has hidden cost associated with it in the long run.  It also requires time and effort to learn about the food you eat.  The more you are aware the better choices you will make.  A non-organic milk gallon will cost little under $3 depending upon where you buy.  And an organic milk gallon will cost you more than $6.  It requires guts and a conscious effort to make the right choice.  It might even look stupid to make such a choice when you are shopping with your friend(s).  Eating healthy and making healthy choices don't come easy.  A  person who is trying to save will definitely go for the non-organic milk.

The more you are exposed to different cultures around the world the more you will know how food system should really work.  The capitalist food chain has been surviving by feeding us more at a lower cost.  If you visit a local restaurant then the amount of food they serve in one order is too much for a normal person to eat in one sitting.  That is not healthy.  It is up to us whether we want to eat all that is given to us. We all love food but then why we try to eat all at once and skip meals because we just ate too much.  If we really love food then we should eat less more during the day and not the other way around.  The kind of food and the way we eat it is how we become.  Since past few months I have become very conscious of what I eat and how I eat.  I am trying to get my food system in order.  There are few very good documentaries on food which I think everyone should see. and King Corn are the ones you should see without fail.  There are more here.  Nobody can tell you what to do because the decision maker is you.

Don't stop doing what you are doing with your food because somebody told you or somebody else is doing it. I am just saying that be aware of what you eat and how you eat it.  Know better about your food and tell others too.  And its ok to eat less.  Don't be embarrassed to leave food on plate if you can't eat it.  And that Steve Jobs quote just meant that, "Stay hungry, stay foolish".  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Key Networking Feature: Sharing

Networking is about creating best friends forever who will advocate for you.  Let’s revisit some aspects of your friendship and see why that works great for both.   Let’s assume you have a fictitious best friend named Chris.  Now you receive a gold medal in 400 meters running race and call Chris immediately “to share your happiest moment”.  You just shared a part of your life and made Chris a part of your life.  Chris now feels important.  You are not feeling well and you need help and you call Chris.  Chris shows up and helps you out.  In return you always stand by him whenever he needs you.  You are always connected with Chris through email, phone, and home address and hang out together.  Whenever you are happy, sad, enlightened, or whatever you feel like sharing with Chris. 

Now hold that thought for a second and ask this question to yourself, have you ever felt this way with some of your professional friends?  Have you shared anything with them that you felt was great? Do you happen to keep everything personal because you believe that personal and professional lives should not cross lines?  Or have you met a person who does that?  If you don’t share then you might feel isolated from your professional network and also feel that you don’t get the most out of your network.  Sharing does not always have to be something very personal but how about sharing some nice article with them which you liked?  How about sharing a nice job posting you saw and thought that this might be helpful to somebody?  Why not share a business opportunity with your network?   We underestimate the power of sharing.  Imagine how the world would be where nobody talked to each other and nobody shared information with anybody.  Scary right! The more you share the more better you will be in making better networked friends.  And the better the network we will be more informed and the world will be a better place to live. 

In sharing there is one factor that you have to consider is the kind of information you are share on the kind of the network.  It is about knowing the nature of your network, communities, and friends.  Different communities and networks behave differently online and differently offline.  Communities on Google+ are different than Facebook.  People participating on Reddit and other forums will be different.  Obviously nothing can match one and one personal communications.  Sharing gradually builds your identity over a time.  Even if you don’t get a single “Like” or a single comment on your shared item, people notice what you share.  I did a review for a paper I had to write and in that I had to collect responses about me from people close to me other than relatives.  I was amazed by what people told me about me.  One interesting comment I got was that I was too guarded and was secretive. I was surprised.  People do notice what you share and do not share offline and online.  And they form opinions about it.   It is important that you keep doing what you like and what reflects you because that will stay with you for longer time. 

If you are on a job market then ask for help from your entire network. Now when you get a job then inform them that you have got the job. Building a strong network is very tough.  And I am not good at it but learning.  Don’t share because others are doing and you have to.  Share because it’s natural to you and you want to.  Don't stop because you don't get feedback on it.  Share because many people will see still if not bother to comment.  There are hundreds of stories we see online and on how many of those do we comment.  It is just like that.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Success Factor: Showing Up

In most successful people's case it was just a matter of showing up on time.  Just show up.  Some of the famous bloggers and blogs are successful because they always showed up.  They kept shipping.  Even when they sucked at it.  I have blogged before on shipping read this "Born to ship".  If you suck at whatever you do and if you keep doing it then eventually you will realize how much you suck at it and you will try to find ways to improve.  After writing so many articles and posts when I look back at older posts, I realize how bad I was at writing.  Some posts don't make any sense right now but they had to go out.  Facebook believes in, "Done is better than perfect" philosophy.  If you can recall the first generation Kindle device you will say it sucked big time compared to what it is now.  Amazon is relentless in pursuing their ideas.  They are not going back or stop.  New versions of Kindles which are better, faster and lighter will show up during the holiday season with more content and more choice.  So just show up.  Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn is often quoted saying,

  "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Make Sure List For Every Meeting To Stay On Track

Some projects last for a long period of time and lots of meetings are conducted to get the project done.  During those meetings lots of things are discussed.  Lots of decisions are being made and responsibilities being assigned.  At the same time not everything that was important gets accomplished.  It is because other priorities took over and that one thing which was important never got done.  And nobody bothered to revisit it.

I think these things should be addressed before a meeting is even scheduled and agenda being formed.  This is a checklist of things that need to be done for past, present and future meetings.   This will make sure that we are in the control of the project.  I see past, present and future meetings’ to-do lists as color coded items.  It helps me in realizing the importance of each of them.  Please make sure about the following things for every meeting we schedule.

Previous meetings (Green)
Run through a checklist from last meeting about things that need to be reviewed like check if assigned tasks were done or not, goals met or not, any pending activities or updates on progress etc.  Someone who is new should get a fair amount of idea about previous meetings. Green color symbolizes that the past is gone and mostly all of the things should be done.

Present meetings (Red)
Our most important time is not past or future it is present and it is very crucial so it is color coded as red.  You cannot afford to waste it and certainly not make less use of it.  Include things that can be discussed and decisions to be made in current meetings.  Check if the person responsible for decision making available today? If no then don’t schedule the meeting just because it is a recurring activity on your calendar.  In this meeting, everyone should contribute with their inputs on things that need to be discussed otherwise don’t include that person in a meeting.  Read this Google philosophy here.

Future meetings (Yellow)
Just like a traffic signal this is signaling you that you need to be prepared for the future to-do lists.  This will help us in preparing for the current meeting.  How?  By looking at the future to-do lists we can adjust our agenda to include more or fewer things.  And if we are far behind the schedule then we can decide whether we need to adjust or not.

All of the above points should not bog you down into too much specifics.  If these points are coming in the way of effectively conducting meetings then ignore them but make sure that you are meeting the goals and are on track.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Being More Appreciative

Have you ever written a testimonial for someone?  Or Have you ever Endorsed someone on LinkedIn?  If you have then it is very nice of you and I want to thank you for doing so for whomever you did.  I realized that in our daily lives we do a poor job appreciating people whom we meet everyday.  I don't blame anybody but try to write few paragraphs about somebody.  And it will not be so easy unless you are doing on a daily basis.  Now try same thing with some other person and some another person.  It is really hard to come up with different expressive words every time reflecting a person's identity.  If you want to experiment then try to ask somebody to tell a few words about some person X.  See how long it takes before they stop.  Ask same thing about person Y.

As a leader it is very important to know key strengths and weaknesses of your team.  And knowing is also not enough, expressing is also crucial.  It boosts morale of the whole team.  If you are meeting a team or someone who is walking in the lobby then just imagine some keywords floating above their head (just like Tom-Jerry Cartoon).  And you realize how much valuable they are and you will become more appreciative.  Just to tell somebody that "You are doing an amazing job" is just a blow-away kinda feeling for the receiver.

This takes a good understanding about people.  You have to be genuinely interested in people around you.  As human beings we do things that are visually compelling and obvious to us.  We will take action on things we see.  Try to imagine some "?" marks over people's head whom you don't know.  And try to know more about them by eliminating those "?" marks with keywords specific to them.  Know as much as you can and be interested by asking counter questions.

If you have to lead a team then you will have to spend a lot of time building morale.  You might have to rally for them.  Fight for them.  Motivate them.  This could be done by being more appreciative in our daily lives.  Try to come up with at least 5 "smile bringing" key words for every person on your team.  Even if you don't do anything these words will come up in your conversations with other people.  Best feelings are those which are passed on by someone else.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Will Miss You Steve!!

As we all know that Steve Jobs, the legendary innovator has passed away and left many people in tears around the world.  I was in a shock on Wednesday when I heard the news after I was done with my Art class.  It felt like a close family member had passed away.  I cannot do justice by writing about a person whom I have never met.  And lots of intelligent and smart people around the world have written about Steve Jobs.  Take a look at this Techcrunch article on Steve Jobs which aggregated some famous stories on Steve Jobs.  So me writing on Steve would be like a just another fan writing on Steve.  But I couldn’t help it as every other fan so I am just writing what I am feeling.  Just a coincidence, today is 14th October 2011,  the day iPhone 4S goes on sale and Apple has kept a celebration to remember Steve Jobs.  What a day to give a tribute to a legend. 

I have been reading lots of articles on Steve and also eagerly waiting for his Biography written by Sir Walter Issacson who wrote Biography of Einstein.  According to this video conversation feature on Charlie Rose on Bloomberg website, Steve Jobs wanted his Biography to be written by the person who wrote Einstein’s Biography.  Amazing!  And for those who don’t know it is coming this October 24.  I was long ago waiting for Steve’s Biography to come out as a I have read lots of his stories before he passed away.  I knew the biography was going to come in March next year.  Then I found out that it was due in November this year.  So I pre-ordered it on the same day Steve died in the afternoon before I heard the news about his death.  So in the evening when I heard the news I was devastated and in tears.  ‘How could that happen?” – I told my wife and we both were sad to hear the news.  People who met Steve Jobs at some point in their life must have felt the same way (Fast Company article on people who met Steve).

We realize the true value of a person when the person is away from us.  I realized this long ago when I came to United States leaving my family back in India.  Steve Jobs was the person who realized what the true value of life was.  He lived life to its fullest. 
I had been posting Steve Jobs’s quotes n my Facebook wall for a while and I want to re-post them here which I believe are life changing.  I often remember these quotes whenever I am struggling with some problem.  Here they are.

The only thing that kept me going was I truly loved what I did.”  - Steve Jobs.

“It's your heart running around outside your body." -- Steve Jobs quote on children and family as told by Eric Schmidt on BW.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” - Steve Jobs

"Apple was a very bottom-up company when it came to a lot of its great ideas. We hired truly great people and gave them the room to do great work. A lot of companies — I know it sounds crazy — but a lot of companies don't do that. They hire people to tell them what to do. We hire people to tell us what to do. We figure we're paying them all this money; their job is to figure out what to do and tell us. That led to a very different corporate culture, and one that's really much more collegial than hierarchical." -- Steve Jobs 1996 Interview with Terry Gross as seen on NPR.ORG

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”  - Steve Jobs at Stanford Commencement speech in 2005.

He will always be at the top of my mentors list.  I never met him but he influenced me the most.  Here is one more classy statement from Naval on Twitter,

I never met my greatest mentor. I wanted so much to be like him.  But, his message was the opposite.  Be yourself, with passionate intensity.” – Naval

Steve Jobs was different from any of us in the world and there can be only one Steve Jobs in the world.  Steve cared deeply about what he did and that reflected in all Apple products.  And through all his products we will miss him.

Steve you will be missed…!!  And for all Steve Jobs fans I have one thing to say yet, "The best of Steve Jobs is yet to come."

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meeting Management: IPAD

In my earlier post on meeting management I wrote on how to keep meetings shorter and frequent to get the most out of meetings.  Shorter meetings bring a sense of urgency.  Remember people will work their butts off to ship a product on time.  In this post I want to talk on other aspects of how to get the most out of a meeting.  There are many issues related to it but I will just focus on three of them and they are very simple to remember.  

The principle is known as IPAD principle.  Ok.  Very simple just remember IPAD.  It is very simple.  IPAD means I will come to the meeting Prepared with an Agenda and leave with a Deliverable (read outcome).  These three aspects of meeting (Preparation, Agenda, and Deliverable) are very important if you want to get something productive out of a meeting.  So what do I stand for?  It stands for Responsibility.  It means I will be held responsible for not having these things done.  That is why I have written it as an Oath.  I feel that if these aspects of business meeting are not met then it is not business meeting, it is just a hangout. 

When someone comes to the meeting unprepared without having any clue as to what is going on is such a frustrating experience.  It wastes everyone’s time and energy.  If everyone comes prepared to a meeting then conducting a meeting goes effortless.  Sometimes you might even get solutions to problems even before you have a meeting.  Your team mate might even email you the solution.  Everyone contributes to a higher level if they are prepared. 

Walking into a meeting without an Agenda is like wandering in a Jungle where you don’t have a clue where are you going.  Having a fixed agenda which has definite outcomes at the end of the meeting is very important.  A good agenda should have definite outcomes also known as deliverables assigned to specific individuals.  Sometimes meetings go on forever and they seem to achieve nothing.  Another thing to include in an Agenda is a quick overview of last meetings deliverables being met or not.  If your team doesn’t have agenda then volunteer to create one and send email to everyone requesting inputs and review them.  Send agenda in advance. 

As mentioned above Deliverable or outcome is a must after you have conducted meeting.  A deliverable will give a to-do-list to your team to work on.  Each deliverable should be assigned to a team member with a deadline.  Otherwise people would land up with sentence, “Oh, nobody told me”, “I don’t know what we were supposed to do”.  Be relentless in your approach to reach to a definite outcome of a meeting.  

Always remember the IPAD principle for meeting management and PDF principle for general management.