Reinvention. Again?

5 Steps to Reinvention

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Simply put, many of us look to do some reinvention. Whether it is for New Year’s or before annual performance reviews, we reinvent in order to stay ahead and grow in our chosen professions.

Regardless of what the reasons you have may be, you do have reasons. Therefore, act like you have them. Look at the process like you would a fresh start or, if you prefer, a clean slate. It allows you to approach a scenario as if seeing it for the first time.

So, let’s start at the start –

Step 1. Where do I want to go? Right now.

Not so easy, is it? Just think about what it is that you want. In detail.

A generalized goal isn’t really a goal. Your ambition should have some precision and focus. You can and will adjust along the way, but you should aim as best as you can beforehand.

Step 2. Why do you want this? Your reasons need to be understood fully. It helps both as a motivational tool and as an actual purpose. Having a sense of purpose is a prime mover, and it often makes the difference between success and “never gonna happen.”

Step 3. Where am I right now? At this moment.

Make an honest assessment of yourself. No coulda, shoulda, woulda. After all, reinvention is about you. If you want to understand and achieve Step 1, you need a (real) start point. Do a full 360 degrees assessment. So… your mental mirror shows you as what?

Step 4. What do I need to do now?

In order to get there, you need to know what’s next. Are you going to wing it? Are you going to plot out your course and get alignment along with those around you who can help make this happen?

This can be either the easiest or the most difficult part of the reinvention. Planning comes easy for some. It is like brain surgery for others. For most of us, however, it usually comes down to asking ourselves the right questions

Start with the question of need. What needs must be satisfied (and for whom) in order for this to work? If you can address this well, you’ll know what tools you’ll need for success. The rest will follow.

Step 5. Do it. I mean now!1

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Man Plans. God Laughs.

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I had planned on posting these things as much as twice a week. Lately, it looks more like every other month. Well, it comes as it comes. As in most things, priorities come to fore. Obligations need to be addressed. And, obligations are just that – obligations. So, in the bigger picture, dear readers, this endeavor took a back seat to the more pressing matters on hand.

I try not to think in work terms over a weekend. Weeeell, not too much anyway. This is my bear in hibernation time. I’m in my castle with the drawbridge up. Now, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I often blur the line between the work space and my private time. I would guess that this is not an uncommon thing. It is also fair to say that my default programing has no issues here. However, timelines I agreed to are agreements I work to keep. So, where does this fit in the greater sceme of things?

Well, there the rationalization process, of course. I could come up with a thousand or more “reasons” for not doing something. That is the easy part. Knowing why I didn’t do something usually comes down to the following: I chose not to do it. Full stop. Granted, it is oftentimes in order for me to do something else, even when that something else is squat. Zero. Zilch. Ungatz. Rien. Nil. Niente. Nada. Kuch nahin. Nothing.

This keeps me firmly in line with the thought that not deciding on something is a decision in itself. “If I don’t think about it, it doesn’t really exist.” Someone not being able to choose is, in fact, a choice. And, not doing anything is, by default, doing something. In military terminology, the appropriate question here would be – “What is the maximum effective range of an excuse?”

So, the truth be told, I had other things I decided to attend to. Since much of it was writing, this endeavor took a rational back seat. So, the moral of the story here is that one must prioritize his mission and take ownership of same. Good or bad, that’s all there is.

Oh, and one more thing – get over yourself.

Por qué Pig

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Ah-shtay

I’ve noted that there is a tendency out there (for some people) to not admit they do not know the answer to something. No surprises there. Much worse, however, is the tendency of some poor sods who “feel” they have the right tonic for all that ails you. They’re certain, in fact. You didn’t give them all the symptoms, but they still know.

It must be such a burden.

In my wayward youth, I’ve slept amongst that ilk. I took great pride in knowing things. Lots of things. Even when I didn’t. I took the bit that I found appealing and became a convert to that “truth.” You simply cannot pour water into a glass that’s full. Alas, youth trumps wisdom in many circles. I was missing out on the most delicious of things.

But, just as there is no guarantee of a tomorrow, wisdom isn’t a free byproduct of age. You have to work for it. One of the tools in the wisdom box is, you guessed it, the query. Then there is skeptical query, which is a specialized tool. The caveat is, they don’t work themselves.

The question then becomes – “Do questions make us looks ignorant, or engaged?”

Asking question to stimulate free thought can be a tremendous benefit. It provokes. It lays the groundwork for abstract and innovative thinking. Many times, the question is more important than the answer. Don’t focus on the answers by themselves. The conclusion can change, depending of the flux of the environment. Ask better questions should be the mantra of the day.

I’m not getting all Don Quixote on the query quest, but I do believe that answers are sorta boring. Like finding the band-aid package when you cut your finger. Small problem. Small solutions. Reinvention by query is much more challenging and rewarding.

I often find the most intriguing avenues of thought are provoked by something quite unrelated to the task at hand. Think of the items you’ve misplaced in the past. You gave up trying to remember where you put things and went on to something else, only to recall its location while ordering a mango shake at some shop 4 hours later.

There are certainly a lot of reasons why queries are not being made. There is sometimes a cultural, hierarchal or timing component involved. I must insist that not knowing isn’t a bad thing. Not finding out is another thing entirely.

Embrace not knowing. You’ll never be lonely.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Irrelevant

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david-and-goliath-cartoon

I’ve been absent for several weeks now. I’ve been suffering from a severe disorder – a case of analysis paralysis. Trying to do too many things and accomplishing too little. I got ugatz for my efforts. A multitude of obstructions appeared in my path. In this particular retelling of the tale, Goliath stomped on David.

Just another day, right?

I could claim that this stems from having a lot on my plate. I could claim a lot of things. This bout of busyness, in itself, is absolutely great. I love being busy. That is (caveat follows) as long as I get my alone time at the end of the week. That is the time that I take to recharge my battery. Without that, I am a wreck. I have time. We all do. It is how we manage that time that makes the difference.

During the workaday week, I train, facilitate, write (and work in other media). I enjoy delivering programs. I create. I also love sharing the story and making people think. I take great care/pains with editing. It is a slow, painful, but ultimately, rewarding process.  Then, that particular bit it is over and it is pushed aside while I embrace “Project Next.”

However, when I lose my rhythm, I’m rubbish.

“Hello everyone. My name is Rick and I am a unitasker.”

So, is it a matter of time, organization or proper planning? Or could it be focus, prioritizing or follow through?

Yes.

In my case, it is all of that. They all affect each other. Try removing a wheel from your car and see how far you get. There is one characteristic I have, if it gnaws at me, I’m like a dog with a bone. (Seriously, how many metaphors can I fit in a single post?) I know I can get rather fixated sometimes. However, refusing to give up can certainly be a virtue in certain circumstances.

Sometimes, admittedly, you have to hit the reset button. Reboot.

There are times when we all get caught like a deer in the headlights. Just for that moment, we are stuck firmly in place. Then what? You have to focus and make a decision, In this case, I took a deep breath, picked up my slingshot and told Goliath I was gonna kick his ass.

We’ll see. He is a pretty big bastard.

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At Crossed Borders, not Purposes

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At Crossed Borders, not Purposes

“Don’t you love your own county/”
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that very question. Much to my surprise, it is usually done with a straight face. Hey. Can’t please everybody.
Well, here’s the thing – you will never feel more “named nationality” than when you leave. I am more American now than ever. Being out of that comfort zone has made me so aware of the what, where and why I come from. Being away from my default norms makes me that much more aware of them. Their very absence makes them even more real.
“People who don’t travel cannot have a global view, all they see is what’s in front of them. Those people cannot accept new things because all they know is where they live.” -Martin Yan
I have lived under several other flags and have enjoyed those stays immensely. There, I had time for reflection on what makes an American an “American.” Those reflections are for another time, but noting them down in a vis-a-vis fashion helped me both adjust and cope with new surroundings. It helped me tailor my Do’s and Don’ts. It also helped me realize and acknowledge that one size does not fit all. American model/solutions will not work everywhere.
The joke is – many do not work there either. But, I had to distance myself in order to see.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”- Lin Yutang
When I live in the US, it isn’t boredom that gets me. I am rarely bored. The problem is that I get complacent. I am always interested in what’s over the next hill. What if you’ve already been over that hill? Then what? Re-runs of Mad Men? Great program, but I can’t remain in that wondrously comfy chair forever.
The thing is, at least in my mind, nationality isn’t about real estate. It isn’t about where you live. It is more the How. Do you have core values ingrained below the surface? Of course, you do. They help you refine and take in whatever your environment is. Then you add the necessary context required, depending on locality and its culture.
Do not get me wrong, I love going home to visit. And I eat. And eat.
Now, travel does open your eyes, you don’t necessarily need to leave the national boundaries or region. I’ve been to 45 out of 50 US states and more than half the provinces of Canada. I’ve made it a point to do so. There are a multitude of cultures to be explored in North America. There are plenty of mind-blowing natural wonders to be experienced. Life is simply not a beach.
I suggest to people that they’ll become whatever their template says, PLUS when they experience other places and things. It is just another tool in your box. The only thing to lose are your blinders. So, get a passport. Buy an airline ticket. Get in your car. Just go.
In the process of discovering some place new, you’ll learn about who and where you are from. Warts and all.
p.s. I am booking tickets for a vacation at home. I can already taste the pizza and cannoli.

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And Now for Something Completely Different

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And Now for Something Completely Different

I commute, like many of my contemporaries, via auto-rickshaw. It takes roughly half-an-hour, 70 rupees and a small chunk of my soul. My fellow commuters know of which chunk I speak.
Anyway, I expect the worst and settle for the occasionally intolerable. Then, there is that rare jewel – the rickshaw ride that puts a smile on your face and a skip to your step. Literary flourish aside, I had that with my early Friday evening commute home.
Now drivers often pull up past you, in order to make you come to them. No issue. Then you tell them where and they decide if they want your money. Sometime they shake their heads, make a face like their dog just died and mumble something inaudible.
This time was a bit different:
Me: Cooketown.
Driver: ITC factory?
Me: Uhhgn.
I get in and he flips the meter switch. Good start, I thought.
Driver: Where you from, Sir?
Me: US.
Driver: Ah. Amehr-eeca. How long you stay?
Me: I live here.
Driver: How many days.
Me; On and off for 12 years.
Driver: How many days?
Me: No. I live here. You Kannadiga?
Driver: Uhhgn.
Me: Bangalore itself?
Driver: Uhhgn. Your work?
Me: I work for an Indian company. We help outside companies work here and Indian companies work outside. (more or less. kinda sorta.)
Driver: How much salary?
Me: (———-)
Driver: (unfazed) Uhhgn. How many childrens?
Me: Illah. No kids.
Driver: No childrens!? Why? Where is your wife?
Me: Divorced.
Driver: She is in US?
Me: No wife. Wife is over. Divorced.
Driver: She’s no here?
Me: No wife.
Driver: You stay only one?
Me: Yes. Just me.
Driver: How much rent?
Me: (suppressing laughter) About (———-)
Driver: You need Indian girl. Good wife.
Me: You’re probably right.
Driver: Your good name?
Me: Rick. Your good name?
Driver: (unfamiliar huddled vowel sounds) You stay only one?
Me; Uhhgn.
Driver: Life should live, no? (makes fist pump) Is good (continues)
Me: Agreed. Life is good. Chalta Hai.
Driver: (Rattles off some Hindi)
Me: Nahi Hindi. Swalpa Kannada.
Driver: You like. I have number. Ah. Life is good, no? (again, the fist pump – sorta Jersey Shore meets Kovalam Beach)
Me: Thank you. I have.
Now close to my flat, it gets quiet. Then, as we pull over, we do an exchange of head nods, smile and I give him meter and a half, chuckling my way to my weekend.

The Garden

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Daisy: What kind of a garden do you come from?

Alice: Oh, I don’t come from any garden.

Daisy: Do you suppose she’s a wildflower?

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I live in an environment I did not grow up in. In many ways, it is quite contrary to my default settings. I must admit that this is not so new to me anymore. I’ve been living in a variety of new environments the majority of my adult life.

But, India “is like that only.”

So, how do I make it work?

My current environment has lots and lots of labeling. Which country/community/language group/caste/color/religion/school/profession do you belong to? Much of who you are is inferred from your affiliations.

My default setting also has labels, but is somewhat different. My default tells me that I have many labels to choose from. They are, in many a case, interchangeable. Here, you tend to be born into your most important labels. This leaves me a fierce individualist living inside an equally fierce conglomeration of communities.

Is it possible that “never the twain shall meet?”

Not at all. Just because you may be wired one way does not preclude adaptation. In fact, we are all wired for adaptation. It is often stated that each thing contains its own opposite – the notion of the duality of nature. I have no problem keeping this in mind. In fact, it is one of the joys of being here. My separateness is the adhesive which binds me to my “communities” here. My coming from outside and choosing to live here becomes a bonding agent.

I can love where I am and enjoy what it offers without being “from” there. I can be a taxpayer and resident. I can learn some local language and enjoy the assorted food and entertainment to be had. Just like a local, I live in an area flat and commute by auto-rickshaw. I use my neighborhood shops. I took the time t join clubs and organizations.

However, I accept that I will always be that “other.” By working on comprehending regional context, I can adapt. I can adjust. My enthusiasm to learn and adapt is also perceived as showing respect for my host, which can never be a bad thing I can still be accepted locally because welcome goes both ways.

Anyway, who doesn’t like wildflowers?

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At a Loss for Words

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At a Loss for Words

I recently suffered a great loss. It saddened me a great deal, and I shall feel this loss for some time to come. I shall pine for all of those late nights spent together, dreaming of greater horizons and glorious things past. There was no warning given. There was no hint of imminent departure. I arose one morning to find there was no life to be had. The spark was gone.
Meine maschine ist kaputt. My beloved ASUS has passed on.
And I had not backed up my files in some time. ~SIGH~
Thus, my reserve of posts entered the ether. Hence, an unplanned absence from these pages.
The lesson learned is that no matter how much you may prepare and plan, you can still expect the unexpected. As it has been said – Man plans. God laughs.
So, suck it up and start again. This time, don’t forget to back it up!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make an Edible Astringent

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Boring. That is what I used to think of business. Just plain boring. It just wasn’t creative enough for the “artist” in me.

What do you want? I was 20 years old. I knew everything there was to know. Don’t most think so at that age?

 Well, the day of awakening finally arrived and in a fairly predictable fashion – I found myself out of a job.

I was in my late twenties, newly-married, and had moved to the state of Colorado in the American Rocky Mountains. I had been happily employed with a job in construction. I was wearing the tool belt and swinging a rigging axe. Then, I was suddenly and unceremoniously let go – last to hire/first to fire – during the winter slowdown. Well, with my ego and wallet both diminished, I headed off to the state employment office only to find that I had not the experience, nor the skill-sets that were then in demand. After two weeks of hearing “what’s the alternative,” I knew I had to do something.

There was plenty of work that needed to be done. It was all around me. I just needed to tune my imagination to said environment. I figured that if I could bid on miscellaneous projects that needed crews, I could find the labor to fit the work from the employment office.

Et voila! I founded The Alternative. I first found construction cleaning job sites and bid on the work. I paid more than the minimum wage and had plenty of people available to fit the crew.

I knew I had found something both pleasurable and meaningful. I had created something where there was once nothing. It was clever. It gave me more money than I had been earning. Mostly, it gave me great creative satisfaction.

But, I wasn’t done. I also realized that I hate running a business. That was not my sweet spot. Creating a business was sheer joy. THAT was something that appealed to my inner-artiste. The general business management – not so much.

(Ego firmly intact – check)

I did this for a few months and got bored yet again. I took some cash for my concept and moved on to something else. A seed was planted. The lesson learned? Business and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Not by a long shot.

Where in the World is Alice?

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Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked.

“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

One of the funniest thing about growing up is deciding what you want to be when you get there. There is often a “where” attached to it as well.

“I want to be an astronaut.”

“I want to run a coffee plantation.”

“I want to be an actor in (H/B)ollywood.”

“I want to play first base for the New York Yankees.”

My plan was simple – “Got no clue.” As a result, I’ve been so many things. But, we are not just one thing, are we? We are so many things. Many of those things may even run contrary to the other.

Having four older brothers, in many ways,  made it even more difficult. But, I remember sitting one day with my father. I was about 13 years old. He asked me what I wanted to become when I “grew up.”

I had no answer.

Then he asked me what was it that I loved. Apart from “you and Mom,” I had no answer.

He told me that was the question I had to figure out as I got older. That is what I needed to chase after. That is what would define my success.”If you do what you love,” he said, “you’ll be so good at it that you’ll do it happily. You’ll do it because you want to do it. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Not as easy as it sounds. It took me my entire life. That is because life is not static. Things change. I’ve had to shift, adjust and reconsider based on the dynamic around me. But, that too, was part of the answer.

But, there is a very first step you must take. And, it is mandatory. I keep on asking myself over and over. I’ve needed clarification in things both big and small. But, what if I get it wrong? What do I do then? Well, I did not get a warranty with my choices. There is no “money back guarantee.” But, in order to get there, I need to know what I wanted as a result before I set off.

So, I needed to ask myself the Cheshire cat’s question – “Where do you want to go?”