Banner Inner

Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Three Monkeys On A Tree

Small acts, simple gestures can sometimes remind us of powerful lessons. Like it happened with me last month.

We had got back home after a week-long celebration of a wedding in the family. We reached late in the night and as you might expect, we were tired. When we woke up — rather late — next morning, we were delighted to find that a kind old friend had sent us a nice, hot breakfast! The maid wasn’t back at work, the refrigerator was bare, and we weren’t really up to making our own breakfast. So, you can understand our sense of delight and gratitude at this wonderful gesture from a friend. She made our day.

And she set me thinking. How come we miss out on opportunities to create delight for other people in our lives? It was a lovely gesture from a friend. And I wished I had done that more often for others too. I am sure if the friend had called and asked if we needed help (like many of us thoughtfully do), we would have said, “No, thanks”. But she didn’t ask. She just sent it over. And that made all the difference.

I thought of the many times I might have offered to help a friend — and how each time they had politely declined. I thought of how we routinely make an offer to help — but don’t really do anything because very few people actually respond with a specific request for help. As a result, we miss a trick. We ask other people, ‘How can I help?’ when, in fact, we should be asking that question to ourselves — and then, doing something about it. It is ever so rare that we proactively do something to help! Maybe we all should.

The friend’s gesture reminded me of an old quiz question:

There are three little monkeys sitting on a tree, above a pond. One of those monkeys decides to jump into the pond. How many monkeys left on the tree? Come on, take a guess.

Two, did you say? Or was your response ‘zero’ since you figured that if one monkey jumps, the others would follow too? Or did you say three?

If your answer was three, congratulations. You are right. The monkey only decided to jump. It didn’t actually jump. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

We plan. We decide. We think. But we don’t take action. Have you decided to lose weight? Yes? And you are probably wondering why you haven’t lost weight although you decided three months ago. Success in life comes not from deciding to do things — but from doing them. Results are born out of action, not intent.

The Nike guys were right. ‘Just do it’ they said. We could all benefit by building a strong bias for action. Become someone who doesn’t just think about it or talk about it —but does it.

So, the next time you want to help friends who have come back after a long and tiring trip, don’t ask if you can help. If you have been thinking of calling that old aunt you haven’t spoken to in years, stop thinking about it. If you have been meaning to help that friend who is desperately looking for a job, do something about it. Today.

Take that first step. Don’t just think about it. Do it. Now!

Get An Alteration Tailor For Yourself

Looking good never goes out of fashion. Just the other day I was reading a style guru talk about her ‘Five tips to help people look their very best’. One tip on that list caught my attention. It was this: Get yourself an alteration tailor. Rather unusual advice, I thought. And it made me wonder. How many of us have an alteration tailor? Do you have one?

The logic as she explained it was simple. You can buy expensive new clothes. You can fill your wardrobe with trendy fashion statements. But for them to look really good on you, you often need to make minor alterations. Like adjusting that length a bit. Or loosening it up a little near the waist. Teeny-weeny changes that can make a big difference.

As I thought about what an alteration tailor does, it struck me that this is great advice not just for style, but for our lives too. An alteration tailor can help us not just look good — but be the best we can be. What we all need in our lives is an alteration tailor. A friend, partner, mentor or coach — just someone who can point out those little adjustments that we need to make to get better. Because at the end of the day looking good is not about having fancy brands or large wardrobes. It’s about having comfortable, well-fitting clothes that show off our strengths and make us feel good. An alteration tailor can be a powerful ally in your personal leadership journey. Here’s how:

An alteration tailor prepares you for change. We change, our worlds change. What worked yesterday may not work today — and the alteration tailor ensures you are not force-fitting outdated models. The reassuring presence of an alteration tailor on your side can help you embrace change.

The alteration tailor also tells us the value of paying attention to little details, and making sure you get it just right. That’s a terrific leadership trait. You might have a well-fitting blazer, but if one of those buttons on the cuff is missing, it just won’t feel right wearing it. It’s not about whether anyone else will even notice the missing button. You will. An alteration tailor can help fix that.

We all have new unused clothes in our wardrobes. Something that once caught your fancy and you picked up in a moment of temptation, only to discover that it doesn’t quite fit too well. Instead of just letting it lie there, and instead of constantly adding to your wardrobe, the alteration tailor helps you to make the most of what you already have. It’s probably a good metaphor for our lives. We’ve got all it takes to succeed. What we need is someone who can tweak it a little bit, who can tell us where we might be going wrong and help us get it right.

Rather than worry about acquiring new skills, we would all do well to put our core strengths — our real assets — to better, fuller use. We don’t really need one more qualification. Or one more Ivy League training programme. What we really need is someone who points to our short temper and helps fix it. Or nudges us to let go of our diffidence and become more assertive. Or reminds us to look for and appreciate the good in other people — and helps us become better team players. Small alterations that can potentially lead to big impact.

Alteration tailors can also help us discover the keys to happier, more enduring relationships. A difference of opinion does not have to mean the end of a friendship. A temporary performance issue at work does not mean you need to change jobs. An alteration tailor helps ensure you don’t throw away a trouser just because a button has gone missing. Minor hiccups can be — and must be — fixed.

Many of us complain that there are no alteration tailors. We seldom hear about them. Truth is, they exist. They are just a bit harder to find. Look for one, and you are certain to find one. Usually, very close to you. You only need to look.

What’s true for alteration tailors is true for life. Seek, and you shall find. Go find yourself an alteration tailor today. And become the best you can be.

The Leader In The Queue

Long queues at the airport security check can be frustrating. But as I discovered at Bengaluru airport the other day, sometimes the queue can throw up interesting lessons too.

The airport was crowded, so despite several X-ray machines being operational, there were multiple queues out there. I picked a queue and as it invariably happens, it seemed to be the one moving slowest. As we neared the X-ray machine, I noticed there were very few trays left for people to deposit their laptops into – while the adjacent machine had a huge pile of trays.

I did a quick count of the trays lying in front and there were seven. And then, instinctively, I counted the number of people ahead of me and was delighted to discover that there were exactly six people in front. Seven trays. And I was the seventh guy. Lucky me, I said to myself even as a smile escaped my lips. I knew it was no big deal, but who wants to get to the front and then have to wait, and shout out to the security guy and request him for trays, and wait till someone comes along and piles them up again.

And yes, I couldn’t help but look at the man behind me in the queue. The unlucky guy. The man who would have to wait for a tray!

Each of the folks in front picked up a tray and I watched intently as they put their laptops and their phones and wallets away. And when my turn came, there it was. The last tray! I picked it up with a sense of triumph, and put my laptop onto it and pushed it on the conveyor. And then I turned for one last look at what the man behind me might be feeling.

And guess what he did?

The man behind me – that unlucky guy – quietly walked across to pick up a tray from the large pile of trays at the adjacent X-ray machine. And with both hands, he picked up not one – but about a dozen trays – and brought them to where our queue was! He was sorted. As were several of the people behind him.

What a guy, I thought to myself. I knew I had just seen a demonstration of true leadership in action. In that instant, I got a masterclass in what great leaders are really all about. Their instinctive focus is not on themselves and their own needs, but on other people and what they might need. They have a desire to care for – and help – the people around them.

As I cleared security, I couldn’t help think how we tend to get too caught up in ourselves. We want to get ahead in the queue. We want that last tray. We don’t want to be left behind.

Maybe we should all pause and take a leaf out of that young man’s book. Focus on others. Help other people. Care.

Long queues at airports can be boring. But as I discovered, sometimes they can teach us lessons that will stay with us forever.

And yes, if you were the man behind me in the queue that day, thank you stranger for the lesson in what leadership is really all about.

Leadership is not about me. It’s about them. Always was. Always will be.

Want to hear from us?
Please subscribe to our newsletter