How to tell a story


Have you ever spoken to someone, where you shared something interesting and they still lost interest – or you did! Have you ever wondered why some people are better than others when it comes to communication, influence and building trust/faith?

One of the major things these ‘better’ people do is to tell a story really well. Have you ever told a story?If yes , you can make it better and if no then you must try! This is one skill that can go a long  way with and for you to. Whether it is about landing your dream job or getting your dream partner – If you can tell a story well; you will have a better chance at being heard, being understood and being believed upon!

That is what my message was to the 1000 people present at TedxJUIT in the Solan Valley – November 2014. Here is my TED talk titled –

How to tell a story !

 

This talk was described on the Tedx website as follows :

“This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. The talk is woven around three short stories of a businessman, with each story having a moral of its own.

He describes how communication plays a chief role in depicting the thoughts while simultaneously conveying a message with a meaning. Telling stories are about questioning the question. The stories go around the world of four keywords – what, why, where and when.

Stories communicate emotions and not merely facts.He gives his mantra of telling amazing stories. This mantra constitutes the hook, the bait and the pull. Hook is about what you want the audience to be interested in. Bait is something that makes them believe that your statement is correct. Pull is about truth that drives the story.

Another point of focus was ‘Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana’. This vision of working without any dreams of bearing fruits is challenging the very basic idea of the existence and the way it is today thereby generating circumstances to create amazing stories.

Abhinandan Chatterjee is a storyteller. His forte lies in his ability to get people to learn through participation, thought and action! “Learning is not compulsory, neither is change, nor is survival”, is his idea to enable learning for grown-ups. He has been assisting learners for over nine years and comes with an excellent understanding of participant behavior and adult learning best-practices. He is also a people performance consultant and the managing partner at I Train.

In his current role he works with over a 175 organizations like McKinsey, PepsiCo, ILO, Philips, Google and many more around South Asia to help develop their culture, people and learning initiatives.

His education has been about business, psychology and human resources from institutions like the University of Stonebridge and IIM Calcutta.

When he is not with groups or individuals, assisting them in their professional development, he is often clicking pictures, eating or writing either for his blog at http://www.abhinandanchatterjee.com or books and articles. ”

 

Please do share what you think about this. Cheers – Abhi

Why fairy tales don’t inspire anymore!


Believe them!

Believe them!

Who does not like a little story? A good plot, some identifiable characters, a little background, a convincing story-teller sprinkled with some emotions

  •  Little Red Ridinhood didn’t listen to her mother.
  • Jasmine was in a live in relationship with Alladin.
  • Snow White alone lived wid 7 men.
  • Pinnochio was a liar.
  • Robin Hood was a thief.
  • Tarzan walked without clothes on.
  • A stranger kissed Sleeping beauty n she married him.
  • Cindrella lied, sneaking out at nite 2 attend a party..
  • These r d stories our parents raised us with n den they complain our generation is spoiled!!
  • Jasmine was in a live in relationship with Alladin.
  • Snow White alone lived wid 7 men.
  • Pinnochio was a liar.
  • Robin Hood was a thief.
  • Tarzan walked without clothes on.
  • A stranger kissed Sleeping beauty n she married him.
  • Cindrella lied, sneaking out at nite 2 attend a party..

These are the stories we grew up with and still the they complain our generation is spoiled!!

There is one thing that has continued to bother me though. How is it that as kids we looked at the good sides of these stories and loved them. What really changed by the time we grew up? Today, even when we hear a good story, lets say – a politician doing something good , we still think there is some sneaky self interest involved somewhere.

I mean , by all means, please be a pessimist if you will but then either stop telling children lies or start looking at the truth in them as a grown up!

What really has changed is a term coined by Motivation theorist Ashland –  UPR (Unconditional Positive Regard). In  simple terms when you meet someone for the first time , you think of them as good people who are there to help and help them if needed.  Today however, you reach someone who you don’t know and you are taken up as a disturbance if not a conman already.

What is this happening to the world around us? I asked around , many poeple, and what I got was ‘The world is not a safe place place any more?’ Where do you intend to go – I ask!

So here are three super simple things you can do the bring the UPR back :

1. Realism – Tell children (and adults) what is with the risks and the good sides.

2. Make a Opinion marker – For E.G. I tell myself that I will make an opinion about someone only after meeting thrice. This works, if i did’t do this, trust me I would not have been married yet!

3. Share – When people make you uneasy, say things that you disapprove, share your feeling without accusing other of being wright or wrong.

Do this and slowly and steadily UPR will return to your life. Once you give it, you will get it and then the fairy tales will inspire again!

 

Story Time: How Buddha learnt a lesson?


Gautam buddha was sitting underneath a banayan tree, meditating.On the other side of the tree two local musicians met and were discussing their work.

One of them wanted to learn the ‘ektara’, to increase his expertise.

The other musician, to express his expertise, started talking about the ektara.

He said ” The ektara is a beautiful instrument. If you want to learn how to play it , you must first learn how to tune the string. Make it too loose and it will not sound desirable, make it too tight and it will break.”

He concluded by repeating “not too tight, not too loose”

Buddha left his meditation and jumped up to stand. It was almost like someone had told him something unbelievable.

He had realized the secret to happiness or ‘moksha’.

Like the string for the ektara, too much or too little of anything is the reason for most sorrow.

Be it money, love, knowledge or even life. This philosophy gave birth to the idea of ‘madhyama marga‘ or the middle path.

How many such opportunities have we missed, is anybody’s guess.

Source: Public Domain - Abridged and rewritten from Upanishands (Compiled by Abhinandan Chatterjee)

The other side of business – The True Story of Ratan Tata


‘It is futile to mix business with emotions!’ A well established fact that fuels lay-offs, inhuman sell-off’s, stone hearted acquisitions and the ever diminishing regard for people in businesses driven by people.

There is story that presents the other side of this picture. To top it up, it happened right here in India.

Ratan Tata is the chairman of Indian Hotels who owns the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, which was the target of the terrorists on 26/11/08.

Hotel President a 5 star property also belongs to Indian Hotels.

Lets talk about what he did.

A. The Tata Gesture

1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casual were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed.

2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed

3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station, surroundings including the “Pav- Bha ji” vendor and the pan shop owners.

4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order.

5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help.

6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided.

7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility.

8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required.

9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected.

10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks.

11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they wanted him to do.

12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for the purpose of relief of employees.

13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.

14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her.

15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts.

16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the victims of the terror.

17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible.

18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees tranlates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents – anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their life.

d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount.

e. Counselor for life for each person

 

Epilogue

1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did?

2. The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs

3. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority

4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.

6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan – he said – do you think we are doing enough?

7. The whole approach was that the organization would spend several hundred crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees who gave their life?

It is funny why was this not repeatedly on the news?

Moreover, it drives attention to a rather undervalued aspect of business in this competitive era. That side is Kindness.

Source: Facebook Post with personal commentary.
 .

Story Time – The Right is Wrong


A physics professor was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score.

Who was right? The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter (The Judge) , and a learned man was selected.

He read the examination question:

” Q 12: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building using a barometer?”

The student had answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly!

On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.

The judge suggested that the student have another try. He also gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. arbiter asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one.

The judge  excused himself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.

In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, the judge  asked his colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit.

While leaving the colleague’s office, he recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem and asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

“Fine,” he  said, “and others?” “Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method.” “Of course.

If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, the judge asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

While there is no proven record, some say that this man CV Raman, Indian Nobel laureate. (Read updates below for clarity)

Food for thought:  There always are many answers to questions, ones wrong answer can be other persons right. This makes me question all the feedback I get and that is where the learning happens.

Are you open to the new? To think and to understand openly by introspection and listening are the two biggest missing pieces in the emotional evolution of humans.

This made me wonder about one current situation which I would dedicate this story to – The Indian Lokpal Fiasco – Apparently everybody has the same objective ( Eradicate corruption) but nobody open to understand each other. Who can be our arbiter?

Update 1: 8/02 7.23 PM IST – After a reader comment, another name who could have actually been in the heart of this story is Neils Bohr, Danish Nobel Laureate. Either ways, the LOKPAL team can learn from it!

Update 2: 9/02 6.12 AM IST – Another reader shared a link while appreciating the thought that puts more of this story into perspective. It wasn’t Raman, or Bohr it seems. It was more like a textbook problem. Read it for yourself: http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/barometer.asp

Source: Abridged from various sources including what my grandfather told me (by Abhinandan Chatterjee). Primary reference - Disha - ASJ magazine 2003

Story-time: No Try No Foul


This is a real incident.

Houdini was a master magician as well as a fabulous locksmith.

He boasted that he could escape from any jail cell in the world in less than an hour, provided he could go into the cell dressed in his street clothes. A small town in the British Isles built a new jail they were extremely proud of. They issued Houdini a challenge.

“Come give us a try,?” they said.

Houdini loved the publicity and the money, so he accepted.

By the time he arrived, excitement was at a fever pitch. He rode triumphantly into town and walked into the cell. Confidence oozed from him as the door was closed. Houdini took off his coat and went to work.

Secreted in his belt was a flexible, tough and durable ten Inch piece of steel which he used to work on the lock. He got it out and started his magic.

At the end of 30 minutes his confident expression had disappeared. At the end of an hour he was drenched in perspiration. After two hours, Houdini literally collapsed against the door. The door just opened.

In aw and shock Houdini almost had tears in his eyes. ‘What just happened? it opened itself!’ he exclaimed.

You see it had never been locked – except in his own mind –which meant it was as firmly locked as if a thousand locksmiths had put their best locks on it. One little push and Houdini could have easily opened the door but thanks to his perception he never tried that.

Many times a little extra push is all you need to open your opportunity door. You don’t get opportunities, you need to make them.

Learning: There is no harm in trial, there is only learning.

Source: Based on excerpts from a newspaper article. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee.

I am doing a bit of research about goals. Please answer this poll, will be grateful.

How badly do you want to grow?


This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.

He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.

Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.

Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.

Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.

Once he came out of water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.

On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.

This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behaviour. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!

Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’

Moral: It is important that you really want to learn, without that even joy is just a compulsion. When we want something badly and strive to get it with the whole of heart and mind – We do!

Let others speak first!


A sales rep, an administration clerk and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out in a puff of smoke.

The Genie says, “I usually only grant three wishes, so I’ll give each of you just one.”

“Me first! Me first!” says the admin clerk “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She’s gone.

In astonishment, “Me next! Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of pina coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He’s gone.

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Management Lesson: Always let your boss have the first say.

Source: Original source unknown, however you will find many versions of this story floating around over the WWW.

Find your own story


Read this story slowly, preferably while you are alone.

‘A man was once walking alone down a road that looked never-ending. He was walking to forget about the pain his heart-break had caused. All that love looked relentlessly over-rated. He felt for his loss but was happy that it was not as bad as it could have been, in case this was to happen. 2 more years into the relationship.

He had forgotten the joy of life and everything else because of her – she meant everything to him. He could almost see her smile and tease him. ‘Why?’ He asked himself, ‘What did I not do for her?’ He exhaled, and still.

He was wandering directionless like a toddler and yet he was 40. He was feeling lonely like an orphan but he had friends who cared. He was behaving as if he was homeless, although he had a house to live in, he looked at strangers as if he wanted to beg death out of them while he was healthy, wealthy and well to do.

What happened? I asked.

And he looked at me as if he was the judge and I was guilty. Anger on his face was evident but in no time it turned into resentment, then regret and finally fear. I asked again, since he looked quite disturbed but it almost looked like his words were stuck in the lump on his throat.

He came through and murmured slowly, ‘ It was Lucy, she died – She was only 6 months old, a beautiful bitch.’ No pun intended and no disrespect meant but think about all the different emotions you experienced in snippets while you read this story. Specially the restlessness to conclude at the end.

That is the power of a story. While words reach your mind and music reaches your heart; Stories seem to have the ability to reach into the soul.

This is what led me to believe that maybe there is an answer to the eternal question, ‘What is your purpose in life?‘. A lot of great people, religions and even books have answered this very question over and over again. There are tonnes of different explanations, suggestions and perspectives hidden in them but there is one thing common – Every answer is about you being able to find your story.

Let’s take look at Gita – A religious hindu text which quotes :

“Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani”

Meaning: Do your duty and be detached from its outcome, do not be driven by the end product, enjoy the process of getting there. – 2:47 SRIMAD BHAGVAD GITA.

Who knows if it actually ever happened, but surprisingly every religion encourages its followers to find their own cause for existence. Some do it blatantly and others are subtle, it is suggestive and at times even prescriptive. Some call it baptism and some call it moksha. Different means to the same end – Finding a story to live in.

Even the non-believer believes it, because the fact that he disagrees with the idea of religion was born after a thought entered his mind and altered his belief. That thought could have been an incident, could have been an emotion, could have been a discussion or even a tragedy, whatever it was, it would have been a story to tell.

Stories are everything but fiction.  They are a reflection of life, feelings and even freedom.  They are learning and wisdom. They grow and they breathe. They have vision and emotions. There is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hear one. Stories are life because life, is a story. And the funny bit is, stories are more human than humans will ever be. Coming back to the eternal question, ‘ What is your purpose in life? ‘ My answer is: ‘Finding my own story’ 

People do  it all the time but only a few realize it. When they attempt to change the way the look, the place they work or the thoughts they have, it just about becoming the right character. Different twists and turns and sometimes even the unexplained behavior is just the outcome of the way they see their story to be.

The only thing big enough  to summarize life, is a story because we are the stories we tell.  The only question is ‘How can you find your story?’ 

Here are some things I would do, they are yours to try, I am convinced to use it as a management concept and maybe to assist people in the long run too, I call it ‘Story-Boarding’

  • Choose your character:Who are you?
    • It’s not personality development, it’s about comfort. It is about being able to be in your skin with ease and away from the constant ruffle of trying to become like some one else.
    • Just like in a movie, the director can decide which elements would he want in a hero in what quantity, we too can choose what our character needs to be – You can be a creator, an enabler, a catalyst, a thinker, a dreamer and even a monk if you choose to (Don’t sell your Ferrari). It doesn’t even have to be all rosy and goody (We know that even Batman can be Jealous). The key word is real and the objective is to be comfortable.
  • Find your plot:What do you want to do?
    • Every great story has a great plot. It is important that you are inspired to do what you intend to. Inspiration is the only things that is not on sale. So, trying out different things until something appeals to you enough for you to spend your life with it, is a good idea.
    • Another was that may work out is looking back at your childhood and finding your happiest moment – see what were you doing at that precise instance and maybe that is a career option. You can even make a career in things that you don’t like to talk about much. Pun intended.
    • The only factor is, it should be something that drives you crazy enough to not give it up.
  • Set your climax:How will you reach fulfillment?
    • Draw a picture for how the climax of your story will look like. Pay attention to detail and explain the picture in words using crisp bullet points. See it everyday, twice, without fail. Once you achieve it, draw another one and move on. There is no time limit, age limit or any limit on possibility. It is just a story after all.
    • Arguably, your list of things to do can be endless and fulfillment hard to stay forever but thankfully life is not endless, and that is why the the journey is the story. The story is the purpose of life as all of what one can leave behind is a story to be shared and heard. Because there is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hear one.

Even if these steps can’t freeze your story, it will at least bring you a tad bit closer to realizing it. No story can be told the same way twice, your story is and will be your story, others can be similar but never the same. And if you can not find it yet, here is a little story that might help.

This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.

He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.

Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.

Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.

Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.

Once he came out of water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.

On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.

This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behavior. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!

Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’

Moral: When you really want to find your story – you will! Until then Keep looking.

– Abhinandan Chatterjee © 2012

Story Time: The Fisherman & the Consultant


A management consultant, on holiday by the beach in Thiruvananthapuram, watched a little fishing boat dock at the shore.

As usual he started calculating the ‘pro’s and con’s of the visible outcome’. Noting the quality of the fish, the consultant finally  asked the fisherman ‘How long did it take to catch them?’

“Not very long.” answered the fisherman.

“Then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the consultant.

The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The consultant asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have an afternoon’s rest under a coconut tree. In the evenings, I go into the community hall to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the Mridangam, and sing a few songs….. I have a full and happy life.” replied the fisherman.

The consultant ventured, “I have an MBA from IIM and I can help you…… ” He said.

And continued by enumerating the a series of events

  1. ‘You should start by fishing longer every day for extra fish.
  2. You can then sell the extra fish you catch.
  3. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
  4. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet.
  5. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants
  6. Depending on ROI and market conditions, Maybe even open your own plant.
  7. You can then leave this little village and move to a city or maybe even out of India.
  8. From there you can direct your huge enterprise.’
Quite a business plan it was, hearing which the fisherman asked, “How long would all that take?”

“Oh, ten, maybe twenty years.” replied the consultant.

“And after that?” asked the fisherman.

“After that? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the consultant, laughing, “When your business gets really big, you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” pressed the fisherman.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, move out to a small village by the sea, sleep in late every day, spend time with your family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a coconut tree, and spend relaxing evenings having drinks with friends… A beautiful life”

” That’s what I’m doing right now”, said the fisherman and went his way.

Moral: Wisdom is not free but patience is priceless and one does not work without the other.

End-note: I was reminded of this story because of something that happened at work today. As usual, I jumped the gun! That’s my biggest AOI now.

Source: Abridged version - Rewritten by : Abhinandan Chatterjee P.S. I have read and heard this story at a few places earlier; the original source is untraceable. A similar story is available on cite hr posted by vrajeev.

 


					

When Elephants Fall ! Failures to learn from.


Who does not fail? Either one who is out-worldly talented or one who is insanely lucky. Surprisingly, most people who the world swears by today have had their share of failures. Each one of their autobiographies will tell you how miserable their life was at a point in time yet its was only a matter of choice – To Outgrow or To Succumb.

We regular folks are on the other hand unhappy for the lesser heart burns and make it a purpose of life to mourn while they, in the very same daylights, decided to fly.

Here below is a compilation of how these elephants failed and fell, we all know how they got up and ran so I will leave it for another day. This information comes from multiple sources like websites (Wikipedia, knowledgebase-script, e zine articles, about.com etc.) autobiographies of various thought and business leaders and a couple of HBR and other management journals.

Great Failures

Bill Gates

Founder and chairman of Microsoft, has literally changed the work culture of the world in the 21st century, by simplifying the way computer is being used. He was the world’s richest man for more than one decade. However, in the 1970’s before starting out, he was a Harvard University dropout. The most ironic part is that, he started a software company (that was soon to become Microsoft) by purchasing the software technology from “someone” for only $US50 back then.

Abraham Lincoln

He received no more than 5 years of formal education throughout his lifetime. When he grew up, he joined politics and had 12 major failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.

Isaac Newton

Newton was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. His work on optics and gravitation made him one of the greatest scientists the world has even known. Many thought that Isaac was born a genius, but he wasn’t! When he was young, he did very poorly in grade school, so poor that his teachers became clueless in improving his grades. He even failed in mathematics, was thrown out of his fellowship and was home tutored to conclude.

Ludwig van Beethoven

A German composer of classical music, is widely regarded as one of history’s supreme composers. His reputation has inspired ? and in many cases intimidated ? composers, musicians and audiences who were to come after him. Before the start of his career, Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer, he is hopeless”. And during his career, he lost his hearing yet he managed to
produce great music ? a deaf man composing music, ironic isn’t!

Thomas Edison

He was the one who developed many devices that greatly influenced life in the 20th century. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 U.S patents to his name. When he was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. When he set out on his own, he tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.

Frank Winfield, The Woolworth Company

It was a retail company that was one of the original five-and-ten- cent stores. The first Woolworth’s store was founded in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth and soon grew to become one of the largest retail chains in the world in the 20th century. Before starting his own business, Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21. But his employer would not let him serve any customer because he
concluded that Frank “didn’t have enough common sense to serve the customers”.

Michael Jordon

By acclamation, Michael Jordon is the greatest basketball player of all time. A phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire. Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar. Before joining NBA, Jordan was just an ordinary person, so ordinary that was he was removed from the high school basketball team because of his “lack of skills’

Walter Disney

This man was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor and animator. One of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world, Disney founded a production company. The corporation, now known as The Walt Disney Company, makes average revenue of US $30 billion annually. Disney started his own business from his home garage and his very first cartoon production went bankrupt. During his first press conference, a newspaper editor ridiculed Walt Disney because he had no good ideas in film production.

Winston Churchill

He failed the 6th grade. However, that never stopped him to work harder! He strived and eventually became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in Britain and world history. In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2002 to identify the “100 Greatest Britons”, participants voted Churchill as the most important of all.

Steven Spielberg

He is an American film director. He has won 3 Academy Awards and ranks among the most successful filmmakers in history. Most of all, Steven was recognized as the financially most successful motion picture director of all time. During his childhood, Spielberg dropped out of junior high school. He was persuaded to come back and was placed in a learning-disabled class. He only lasted a month and then dropped out of school forever.

Albert Einstein

This man was a theoretical physicist widely regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and “for his services to Theoretical Physics”. However, when Einstein was young, his parents thought he was mentally retarded. His grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, “Einstein, you will never amount to anything!”

Marilyn Monroe

In 1947, one year into her contract, Marilyn Monroe was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because her producer thought she was unattractive and could not act. That didn’t deter her at all! She kept on going and eventually she was recognized by the public as the 20th century’s most famous movie star, sex symbol and pop icon.

John Grisham

John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses. He went on writing and writing until he became best known as a novelist and author for his works of modern legal drama. The media has coined him as one of the best novel authors even alive in the 21st century.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed. That did not stop him from incorporating Ford Motor Company and being the first to apply assembly line manufacturing to the production of affordable automobiles in the world. He not only revolutionized industrial production in the United States and Europe, but also had such influence over the 20th century economy and society. His combination of mass production, high wages and low prices to consumers has initiated a management school known as “Fordism”. He became one of the three most famous and richest men in the world during his time. To top it all, he never had a driving license.

Soichiro Honda

He was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation during a job interview as “engineer” after World War 2. He continued to be jobless until his neighbours starting buying his “home-made scooters”. Subsequently, he set out on his own to start his own company. Honda. Today, the Company has grown to become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer and one of the most profitable automakers – beating giant automaker such as GM and Chrysler. With a global network of 437 subsidiaries, Honda develops, manufactures and markets a wide variety of products ranging from small general-purpose engines and scooters to specialty sports cars.

Akio Morita

The founder of giant electric household products firm, Sony Corporation, had his first product as an electric rice cooker. They only sold 100 cookers (because it burned rice rather than cooking). Today, Sony generates US$66 billion in revenue and ranked as the world’s 6th largest electronic and electrical company.

I am certain that you have had your failures in life too. I am absolutely nobody to comment on it or say some thing as cheesy as ‘So What?’. It is you who needs to say ‘So What?’ and move on; because it is only a matter of choice – To Outgrow or To Succumb.

Source: As mentioned above. Disclaimer: I have only written the start and the end note of this article. It has been collated from open source and publicly available material as mentioned above. I case of any copyright objections, you can contact me directly at abhilearning@aol.com  

Story Time: What determines the strength of a wheel?


An ancient Chinese story, retold by Phil Jackson, coach of the phenomenally successful Chicago Bulls basketball team, makes this point rather more emphatically.

In the 3rd century BC, the Chinese emperor Liu Bang celebrated his consolidation of China with a banquet, where he sat surrounded by his nobles and military and political experts. Since Liu Bang was neither noble by birth nor an expert in military or political affairs, some of the guests asked one of the military experts, Chen Cen, why Liu Bang was the emperor. In a contemporary setting, the question would probably have been: “What added value does Liu Bang bring to the party?”

Chen Cen’s response was to ask the questioner a question in return:

“What determines the strength of a wheel?”

One guest suggested that the strength of the wheel was in its spokes, but Chen Cen countered that two sets of spokes of identical strength did not necessarily make wheels of identical strength. On the contrary, the strength was also affected by the spaces between the spokes, and determining the spaces was the true art of the wheelwright.

Thus, while the spokes represent the collective resources necessary to an organization’s success-and the resources that the leader lacks-the spaces represent the autonomy for followers to grow into leaders themselves.

In sum, holding together the diversity of talents necessary for organizational success is what distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one: Leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they do have to recognize that their own limitations will ultimately doom them to failure unless they rely upon their subordinate leaders and followers to fill in the gaps.

Source: Leadership Ltd: White Elephant to Wheelwright by Keith Grint | Ivey Business Journal, January/February 2005

Story Time: Why not should you judge?


A doctor entered the hospital in hurry after being called in for an urgent surgery. He answered the call ASAP, changed his clothes & went directly to the surgery block. He found the boy’s father pacing in the hall waiting for the doctor.

On seeing him, the dad yelled: “Why did you take all this time to come? Don’t you know that my son’s life is in danger? Don’t you have any sense of responsibility?”

The doctor smiled & said: “I am sorry, I wasn’t in the hospital & I came as fast as I could, after receiving the call…… And now, I wish you’d calm down so that I can do my work”

“Calm down?”!%$#@*&!

What if your son was in this room right now, would you calm down? If your own son dies now what will you do?” said the father angrily

The doctor smiled again & replied: “I will say most books of religion say “From dust we came & to dust we return, blessed be the name of God”. Doctors cannot prolong lives. Go & pray for your son, we will do our best , I can assure you that much”

“Giving advises when we’re not concerned is so easy” Murmured the father.

The surgery took some hours after which the doctor went out happy, “Thank goodness!, your son is saved!” And without waiting for the father’s reply he carried on his way running. “If you have any question, ask the nurse!!”

“Why is he so arrogant? He couldn’t wait some minutes so that I ask about my son’s state”

Commented the father when seeing the nurse minutes after the doctor left.

The nurse answered, tears coming down her face: “His son died yesterday in a road accident, he was at his funeral when we called him for your son’s surgery. And now that he saved your son’s life, he left running to finish his son’s funeral.”

Moral: Never judge anyone,because you never know how their life is & what they’re going through.

Judgement creates perception and it kills openness and acceptance. All of this leads to doubt and doubt creates deceit.

It starts a vicious cycle that works even while we sleep. A discerning smile and a patient ear is all it takes to counter this.

Be sure to know and to judge.

Source: Post on Facebook

Story Time: The Hare & The Tortoise – A new management approach


Part 1

Long time ago, there was a tortoise and a hare who had an argument about who the faster runner was. They finally decided to take on one another on a race.

As the race started, the hare sprinted ahead briskly for some time. Realizing that it will take some time for the tortoise to catch up with him, he decided to seek shelter from the sun under a tree before continuing the race. As he sat under the tree, he gradually fell asleep. The tortoise, crawling at a steady pace, eventually overtook him and won the race. The hare woke up and realized that his complacency cost him the trophy.

Moral: The determined, hardworking and steady paced people will eventually overtake the fast but complacent. We are all familiar with this story.

Part 2

The hare realized that he was over confident, complacent and took things too easily. He decided to have a re-match with the tortoise. The tortoise accepted his challenge.

This time, the hare ran with all his might and didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line.

Moral: Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady.

But the story doesn’t end here.

 Part 3

This time, it was the tortoise that did the soul searching and he realized that if the hare didn’t stop, there is no way he will beat him. He thought hard and decided on a different course and he challenged the hare to another re-match. The hare, of course, agreed.

With the lessons learnt from his previous failure in mind, the hare kept on running once the race started and didn’t stop until the route leads him to the bank of a river. He was taken by surprise and he did not know what to do, since he could not swim. There were no bridges in sight and no one to ask for directions. As he was cracking his head, thinking of ways to cross the river, the tortoise strolled slowly along, dived into the river, swam across it and ultimately, finished the race before the hare.

Moral: Know your strengths and take on your competitors in areas of your core competency.

The story still hasn’t ended.

Part 4

With the hare and the tortoise spending so much time together racing, they have become rather good friends, they have also developed mutual respect for one another as they realized that they are both different and they have different strengths. They decided to race again, but this time, as a team.

As the race started, the hare carried the tortoise and they sped to the river bank. There, they switched positions and the tortoise ferried the hare across the river. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they crossed the finishing line together. They completed the race in a record time that both of them can never achieve if they were to do it alone. They also felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.

Moral: It’s good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies but unless you’re able to work in a team and harness each other’s core competencies, you’ll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you’ll do poorly and someone else does well.

Note that neither the hare nor the tortoise gave up after failures. The hare decided to work harder and put in more effort after his failure. The tortoise changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could, but was not doing as well as he wished.

Imagine how long it will take the hare to learn how to swim! Or for the tortoise to learn to run fast. In this day and age when the environment changes at lightning speed, we have to learnt to work with people who have strengths in areas that we do not have.

It is the same in business, if we can collaborate with people who are experts in areas that we are not familiar with, we will realize that our market suddenly becomes bigger. Maybe that is what globalization is after all.

Source: Compiled from various sources. Author: Unknown.

End-note: Abhinandan Chatterjee

Story Time: The Sheep & The Consultant


A shepherd was tending his flock in a field, when a new sports car screeched to a stop on the road nearby in a cloud of dust. The driver, a young man in expensive designer clothes and sunglasses, leans out of the window and shouts over to the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have here, can I take one?”

The shepherd looks up slowly up at the young man, then looks at his peaceful flock, and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The young man steps out of his car holding a state-of-the-art palmtop pda, with which he proceeds to connects to a series of websites, first calling up satellite navigation system to pinpoint his location, then keying in the location to generate an ultra-high resolution picture of the field. After emailing the photo to an image processing facility, the processed data is returned, which he then feeds into an online database, and enters the parameters for a report. Within another few seconds a miniature printer in the car produces a full colour report containing several pages of analysis and results. The young man studies the data for a few more seconds and returns to the shepherd.

“You have exactly one-thousand five-hundred and eighty-six sheep, including three rams, and seven-hundred and twenty-two lambs.”

“That’s right,” says the shepherd, mildly impressed. “Well, I guess that means you get to take one of my sheep.”

The young man makes his choice and loads the animal onto the back seat of his car, at which the shepherd says, almost as an afterthought, “Hey there, if I can tell you what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?”

The young man, feeling confident, agrees.

“You’re a consultant,” says the shepherd.

“Wow, that’s right,” says the young man, taken aback, “How did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” answers the shepherd, “You showed up here even though nobody called you. You took a fee for giving me an answer that already know, to a question I never asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog.”

When I joined I Train as a Corporate Trainer, I did not now where will it lead to. Then I became a Sr.Trainer, then a consultant and now I am a Senior Consultant. I was told this story by a friend on the first day of my job as a consultant. I have always remembered this and laugh.

Just thought of sharing the fun !

Story Time: My dream or your dream ?


This is a true story. Some years ago the following exchange was broadcast on an Open University sociology TV programme.

An interviewer was talking to a female production-line worker in a biscuit factory. The dialogue went like this:

Interviewer: How long have you worked here?

Production Lady: Since I left school (probably about 15 years).

Interviewer: What do you do?

Production Lady: I take packets of biscuits off the conveyor belt and put them into cardboard boxes.

Interviewer: Have you always done the same job?

Production Lady: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you enjoy it?

Production Lady: Oooh Yes, it’s great, everyone is so nice and friendly, we have a good laugh.

Interviewer (with a hint of disbelief): Really? Don’t you find it a bit boring?

Production Lady: Oh no, sometimes they change the biscuits…

Thanks to Shirley Moon for this lovely story, who also points out the following lessons within it:

  • Do not impose your own needs and ambitions on to other people who may not share them.
  • Don’t assume that things that motivate you will motivate someone else.
  • Recognise that sources of happiness may vary widely between people.

Source: Businessballs.com

Story Time: Stress & A Glass of Water


This short and amusing illustration of how to manage stress really hits home for me. There’s nothing like a good story to help us get the point, so check out the Glass of Water theory of stress management here:

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.

“In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.

“So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can.

“Relax; pick them up later after you’ve rested. Life is short. Enjoy it!”

Story Time: Logic of the chicken


This is allegedly a true story. Engineers at a major aerospace company were instructed to test the effects of bird-strikes (notably geese) on the windshields of airliners and military jets. To simulate the effect of a goose colliding with an aircraft travelling at high speed, the test engineers built a powerful gun, with which they fired dead chickens at the windshields. The simulations using the gun and the dead chickens worked extremely effectively, happily proving the suitability of the windshields, and several articles about the project appeared in the testing industry press.

It so happened that another test laboratory in a different part of the world was involved in assessing bird-strikes – in this case on the windshields and drivers’ cabs of new very high speed trains. The train test engineers had read about the pioneering test developed by the aerospace team, and so they approached them to ask for specifications of the gun and the testing methods. The aerospace engineers duly gave them details, and the train engineers set about building their own simulation.

The simulated bird-strike tests on the train windshields and cabs produced shocking results. The supposed state-of-the-art shatter-proof high speed train windshields offered little resistance to the high-speed chickens; in fact every single windshield that was submitted for testing was smashed to pieces, along with a number of train cabs and much of the test booth itself.

The horrified train engineers were concerned that the new high speed trains required a safety technology that was beyond their experience, so they contacted the aerospace team for advice and suggestions, sending them an extensive report of the tests and failures.

The brief reply came back from the aero-engineers: “You need to defrost the chickens….”

Source: Random