Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | October 7, 2014

An Ode to Creativity…

Written on a bench in a public park: ‘To become a creative person, you must lose your fear of being wrong’.

Listed below are a few ideas on creativity. These ideas are derived from people of significance. My gratitude to the originators of this inspiration: John Maxwell, Jim & Nancy Dornan, Basil & Leonie Harris, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Parmahansa Yogananda, Eckhart Tolle, Skip Ross, and many more…

Creativity is…

  • Achievable by all
  • A willingness to look foolish or silly
  • Being able to see what everybody has seen, and think what nobody else has thought, so you can do what nobody else has done
  • The joy of not knowing it all
  • Teachability
  • Curiosity
  • Invention (breaking new ground)
  • Innovation (doing old things in a new way)
  • Largely a matter of asking the right questions (why must it be done this way, what are the other possible solutions, who has a different perspective on this, etc)
  • Being willing to risk failure

Creative people…

  • Spend so much time outside the box, they don’t have a box anymore
  • Continually engage in new experiences – surfing, climbing mountains, playing a musical instrument, reading an abstract subject, talking to strangers, new food, etc
  • Believe in people and play before profit
  • Have a limitless reservoir of ideas
  • Find other creative people to spend time with
  • Distance themselves from negative attitudes and negative people
  • Are incompatible with the status quo
  • Challenge boundaries and continually ask ‘why?’ .. they also ask ‘why not?’
  • Exude passion
  • Use picture, photos, inspirational objects, toys, music and games to promote creative thought
  • Are happy or at least work at keeping themselves happy

Creative people ask these questions, often…

  • How can I help here?
  • Who can help me with this challenge?
  • How can I make this work?
  • How can I make this possible?
  • How can I add value now?
  • What brilliance is hidden within me?
  • Where can I find the solution?
  • How would child solve this?
  • How would an intelligent person solve this?
  • What is a different way of doing this?
  • Why do I like this idea?
  • What are the underlying issues involved here?
  • What does this remind me of?
  • What is the opposite of this?
  • What metaphor or symbol can I attach to this?
  • What is the value of this idea?
  • What’s the hardest or most expensive way to carry this out? (then ask the opposite)
  • Who has a different perspective on this?
  • What happens if I don’t do it at all?
  • In my wildest dreams, what can this idea lead to?

Creativity – A Holistic Perspective…

Creative people:

  • Sit in silence (for some time) at least once day
  • Observe their thoughts (as it were a movie)
  • Consciously enhance the quality of their thoughts
  • Read or listen to philosophy and quantum physics
  • Feel the present moment – the here and now – as often as they can
  • Give unconditional love to others – and look for ways to add value
  • Believe in Abundance
  • Consciously and regularly express boundless gratitude to circumstances, people and the divine
  • Commune with nature (walk on grass, dip in the ocean, climb a hill, look intently at flowers, feel the breeze, watch a baby with awe)

(Arjun Aiyar is a Corporate trainer, Holistic Success Coach and Motivational speaker based in Dubai. His organization caters to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioral areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | February 27, 2014

The Brain Gym – Youth Division

Deepak Chopra’s fabulous work – ‘Ageless Body, Timeless Mind’, alludes to our innate ability to conquer the ageing process. In such eloquent terms, he highlights the power of our mind and the undeniable influence of our intention, attitude and beliefs.

Conceptually speaking, a ‘neuro – plastic’ brain serves and supports a young and healthy body. Here, ‘neuro’ means brain and ‘plasticity’ is flexibility or the ability to change. The brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons. These cells are interconnected to each other by ‘neural pathways’. In scientific terms, the plasticity of our brain is the speed with which it creates new neural pathways and severs old ones. These pathways (or highways) are actual physical connections that exist inside our brains. Each pathway represents a habit, an attitude or a belief system. Inevitably, our habits (or pathways) determine our decisions and therefore our destiny. Brains that are continually engaged in this process of neural construction and deconstruction are active and thus produce healthy levels of endorphin, dopamine and oxytocin. These hormones facilitate wholesome cell renewal and healing, which then aids in maintaining a youthful body and a vigorous mind.

Each of our brains has the same ability to be neuro – plastic. What distinguishes us however, is our willingness to engage and activate this process i.e. regularly visit the ‘Brain Gym’.

The Brain Gym is a place to build new pathways and break the old ones. Both these activities are necessary for optimum plasticity. It is the construction and deconstruction zone. A place of revival, renewal and replenishment.

Here are some C’s on how to use YOUR Brain Gym.

Conquer a new language. Studies show that the learning of a new language, preferably one that is markedly different from your own, activates dormant areas of your brain. Practicing grammar, vocabulary and sentence formation in a new tongue helps to build new neural highways which are akin to building new brain muscles. The overall capacity and dynamism of the brain in enhanced. The feeling of confidence and accomplishment during and after the learning process feeds the body with endorphins, rejuvenates cells and fosters youth.

Make Change a habit. Do something that feels different, unusual or atypical to you. Give yourself an experience far different from anything that you’ve done before. Wear different clothes, eat a new kind of food, alter your hair style, change or move your furniture around, park your car in a different spot, try a new route to work, wear your watch in the opposite hand, brush your teeth or shave in a new way, bungee jump, scuba dive, paint a picture, participate in a debate, dance on the street, visit a museum, do things without a plan, laugh out loud for no apparent reason, etc. Notice how you feel resistant to some of these suggestions! In ancient China, the Tao Te Ching proclaimed, ‘Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow, whatever is rigid will wither and die’. Charles Darwin said that the survival of a species is not dependent on its physical strength, nor on its intelligence, but instead, on its ability to adapt to change. My wise mentor Basil Harris has often suggested, ‘the greatest ability you can develop is your adapt – ability’. Use some of these ideas to become resilient to change. Free yourself from ‘conditioned responses’. Might I suggest that the ideas you resist are the ones that challenge your neural pathways the most – and thus offer the best Brain Gym exercise – i.e. your ticket to youthfulness.

Converse with someone who is very different from you – culturally, philosophically, economically or idealogically. Ask questions, express interest and listen. Do this for at least an hour. Observe how they behave and believe. Relinquish your desire to judge, compare or adjudicate. Give up the need to conclude or rationalize. Just be an observer of this unique expression. Thought leader and best selling author Wayne Dyer suggests that we ‘let go’ of the need to give meaning and structure to everything. He suggests that we accept paradoxes, anomalies and incongruities as they are. Allow impressions to remain afloat in your mind without assigning them to a box! This is like doing yoga in your Brain Gym – flexing, relaxing and allowing… and staying young.

Communicate with a child, preferably one that is 1 to 3 years old. Notice the innocence, flexibility, resilience, dynamism …and truth. Children are impressionable and highly nuero – plastic. Re discover your own mould -ability through this interaction. Seek similarity between the child and you. Withdraw from the need to behave as an adult. Permit emotions to surface as they do. Encourage your natural expression to take effect. Allow any realization to enlighten you. Re visit old neural pathways in your own brain… ones that have been dormant since you were a child and Re build these pathways in your Brain Gym. Welcome again to the field of youth.

Curiosity & Creativity. Children are creative because they are curious. They are also creative because they are not afraid to fail and not embarrassed to be proven wrong. The best expression of curiosity is asking questions. Kids tend to ask questions relentlessly. Sometimes they don’t even care what the response is. It’s almost as if the question is merely an expression of who they really are rather than a definitive desire to seek clarity. In his book, ‘How Successful People Think’, leadership guru John Maxwell encourages question based thinking to stimulate creativity.  He suggests questions like:  Why must it be done this way? What is the root problem? What are the underlying issues? What does this remind me of? What is the opposite of this? What metaphor or symbol helps explain it? Why is it important? What’s the hardest and most expensive way to do it? Who has a different perspective on this? What happens if we don’t do it at all? And here’s a final question to you: Are you afraid that you won’t find the answer, or are you afraid that you will? Dare to ask and you are now engaged in a kaleidoscope of activity in your Brain Gym – building new pathways, demolishing old ones and bathing in the fountain of youth.

Curves, colors and chimes. Straight lines represent structure and rigidity – the antithesis of plasticity. World renowned popular psychology author, Tony Buzan espouses the use of ‘Mind Maps’ for any thinking or problem scenario. He asserts that neural pathways are curvy and rounded & thus encourages us to change from linear to random ideation. When reading or writing, resist the need to follow a structure or a sequence. Our unconscious mind is perfectly equipped to absorb the haphazard and indiscriminate. Notice again your resistance to this idea – aha a heavy bench press in your Brain Gym! Your opposition to abandon this pattern is almost an addiction to stringency, isn’t it? Leadership trainer and entrepreneur Susan Castle suggests that we insert curvy objects into our environment, as this activates the full capacity of our unconscious mind. Furniture, curios, paintings, etc – look for ones with curves and twists.

Extend the same principle to colors. Study the effect of color on your mood. Psychologist Kendra Cherry advocates the power of color in therapy. She outlines how different colors stimulate different emotions and thus the production of different neuro chemicals that stimulate healing, recovery and youth. Best selling spiritual author Deepak Chopra suggests that for optimal health, we regularly eat foods from all the colours of the rainbow. For best neural plasticity, consider multi colored curtains, walls, furniture, paintings, etc – and then consider changing the colors intermittently. Afraid of what others might think? A.k.a. ‘Nerual Resistance’. Overcome it and acquire youth!

Experiment with chimes. The internet is inundated with pleasing sound bytes and jingles. Play with diversity until you find sounds that please your mind. Change tunes at a whim and allow yourself to be immersed whenever you so desire. You may find that you spontaneously break into ‘moves and motions’ with certain sounds. That can be your piece of physical exercise. And of course, new neural pathways are formed, old ones demolished – Brain Gym and youth for you!

Calm and quiet. Study after study shows the positive effects of meditation on the human brain. Researchers at UCLA took MRI scans of 100 people — half meditators and half non-meditators. They were fascinated to find that long-time meditators showed higher levels of gyrification (a folding of the cerebral cortex that may be associated with faster information processing). In a study published in ‘Frontiers in Human Neuroscience’ in February of 2012, they shared that, the more years a person had been meditating, the more gyrification their MRIs revealed. Other studies show that regular meditators tend to exhibit a biological age that is 10 to 20 years less than their chronological age. Meditation can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you are a first timer, just try to sit quietly for 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10, then 20… and so on. Some days are better than others. On occasion, you may be inspired to meditate for a whole hour and at other times, you can barely get by with one minute. Let yourself take as much time as you need to develop the habit. Author and speaker Eckhart Tolle espouses a great way to meditate as bringing your attention the present moment – what you’re seeing, hearing and feeling in the now. Gently and consistently bring your mind away from the past and the future into the present. Avoid a mental tussle. Lead your mind into the present with tenderness and caress. Mediation is akin to a complete circuit Brain Gym workout – and probably the closest thing to an elixir for ageing.

Conclusion.

Rhonda Byrne, best – selling author of the book ‘The Secret’, said, ‘What you think about and thank about, you bring about’. Develop a Culture of Gratitude. Gratitude promotes feelings of enjoyment and optimism. In this state, the pituitary gland in our brain releases happy hormones that restore, rebuild and repair cells and tissues – reflecting energy and youth.

Michael Pritchard is an acclaimed keynote speaker praised by the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Time Magazine. He said, ‘You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing’. So Chuckle more, and chuckle more often.

Cast away your disempowering beliefs. The ancient Indian philosopher Adi Shankara said ‘People grow old and die because they see other people grow old and die’. We are conditioned by our environment to abide by norms such as ’65 is the retirement age’ or ‘it is normal for cholesterol to increase as we age’. In the words of Norma Cousins (a political journalist and world peace advocate), ‘Belief creates Biology’. Break free of unsupportive beliefs and welcome youth.

Standup comedian Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones said, ‘Five years from now you will be a product of the books you read and the Company you keep’. Surround yourself with gossip mongers, nay sayers and scandal peddlers – and literally watch your skin sag with the burden of old age! Hang around with optimists, and you will enjoy a dependable source of youth.

Feel a sense of Connectedness with at least one person. Have a friend who you can talk to –someone who listens. Intermittently indulge in acts of social connectedness. Talk, play, eat and pray with another. The more you open up your heart to others, the less your heart suffers! A fairly recent adage says, ‘ it is healthier to drink beer with a friend, than it is to eat salad alone’.

Larry Scherwitz, a University of California psychologist says about Compassion, ‘Listen with regard when others talk. Give your time and energy to others; let others have their way; do things for reasons other than furthering your own needs.’ Chopra suggests that empathy and kindness contributes to our sense of purpose and well being which in turn has a quantifiable effect on both our biological and psychological age. By nurturing your ‘inner life’, you defeat ageing at its source.

In the book of proverbs, the Bible says, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he’. Your thinking shapes your destiny. So, control your thinking, and control your life.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. His organization caters to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioral areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

 

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | February 16, 2014

Trending Towards…

Renowned author and leadership guru, John Maxwell said, ‘People don’t care if you know, until they know that you care’. More now than ever before, customers are able to discern customer service folks that care, against those that just want a piece of their wallet.

It is heartening to observe a greater awareness in today’s customer. This awareness goes beyond a mere astute alertness, it is more akin to an insightful perceptiveness. People at large are awakening to a conscious recognition of an organizations intent versus just its content. As a society, we are now responding to business initiatives that espouse a soul based approach.

With this in mind, allow me to make three predictions about state of business and economics in the times to come:

(1) The Intuitive Customer: At a recent learning forum, a delegate shared instances of how care consistently triumphed over craft. He specifically alluded to a heart – felt, compassionate approach and the results therein. While his past attempts at using aptitude, technique and adroit selling skills had mixed results, an effortless application of innate compassion predictably delivered for him – in terms of sales, service and referrals. The buyer today intuitively connects with, and responds to soul based customer service. With the passage of time, and the prevalence of discernment, the virtue of conscientiousness will become a pre requisite for business success.

(2) The Awakened Leader: Candid conversations with business leaders and followers alike, highlight the growing significance of ‘internal customer satisfaction’ as the route to external customer delight. Staff that are treated well and embraced within the corporate family tend to experience a sense of values alignment. An entity that provides environments supportive to truth and ideals taps into infinite intrinsic motivation within their personnel. The economic outcome of this application in nothing short of remarkable. A ‘people before profits’ approach will soon become the antecedent of assured monetary returns. Clearly, the onus of good (internal) customer service, is less on the customer facing staff, and more on empowered corporate leaders. When soul based leadership becomes a Cause, the Effect is – happy staff. And happy staff actualize happy customers, who in turn attract more happy customers. Increasingly, company heads will find it perilous to evade this code. This transcendence to even-handedness seems almost preordained and I dare say – imminent.

(3) The Enlightened Organization: This forecast is an encapsulation of years of dialogue with evolved individuals and communities from around the world. Herein is a reality that will transform the very basis of our economic methods. Of the three trends, this might just be the most difficult to accept. Regardless, I will assert this prophesy with a sense of certainty and faith. I will also respect the extent of your acceptance of this view. Albeit still under the radar, companies that have imbibed an unswerving commitment to honesty find themselves on solid ground, fortified and upward bound. Without strain, they occupy positions of permanence, assuredness and strength. Revenue and profits are forthcoming and costs remain contained. Their success happens more through serendipitous synchronicities than through strategic maneuvering. The shift is not merely from competition to collaboration… it is instead from competition to contribution. The enlightened enterprise follows an exception-less edict of integrity in all their public communications and private activities alike. They tend to distinguish themselves through candor rather than competence; transparency rather than tenacity, authenticity rather than ardor. Customers gravitate towards genuineness and substance, more now than ever before. At an increasing rate, enterprises that violate public trust are crumbling or at least receding into insignificance. Disingenuous marketing, advertising or PR tends to repel the intuitive customer and disillusion awakened employees. Deceitful methods lead to a purge of both trade and talent. My wise mentor, Basil Harris, has often expounded that ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’. The soul based organization, through the application of sincerity, honors its patrons, and attracts avalanches of abiding abundance.

Revered motivational speaker and author, Zig Ziglar regularly affirmed, ‘You can have anything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want’.

A relinquishment of our habitual patterns will pave the way from turmoil to triumph. Participation in this trend of truth begets fortunes. The path ahead is ripe for the picking. Faith opens the doorway to unprecedented victory – for you – in the here and now.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. His organization caters to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioral areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | September 1, 2013

Time Chime! Improve your R.O.T.I. – Return on Time Investment…

Try These Things:

1. Turn off the beep or chime on your phone & computer – when receiving text messages / emails. (a) When added up, a substantial amount of time is wasted in reading messages that may be irrelevant. (b) The sound interrupts your rhythm causing you to lose focus from your primary task. (c) Your energy is also depleted faster – akin to draining the battery of a car when starting and switching off the engine every 3 minutes!

2. Think strategically: Can you program the chime to ring only when you receive messages from (i) your boss (ii) a few key clients (iii) spouse or partner (iv) any other key stakeholders on that day?

3. Caution: Limit the number of people on this ‘privilege list’ to 7, maybe even 5. Resist getting carried away to include more people than absolutely necessary.  Remember, if it’s important, they will find a way to reach you.

4. Power Tip: Check your email / phone messages no more than 2 to 3 times a day. Let these times be fixed in advance and discipline yourself to adhere to this structure. Over time, you will find that you clients (and often your boss) actually align to your construct and schedule. You will also earn their respect and gain a reputation as a solid professional. Try it before you deny it!

5. Relax: After work hours, you can loosen or terminate these ‘rules’ if you wish. Now is the time to let go of regime and allow for indulgences. Be yourself, let go. Switch on or switch off – as you wish.

Think on These Things:

1. Are your habits a product of inspiration or desperation? Are you operating out of ambition or out of fear?

2. Do you think more about what you may lose, or do you ponder on what you could gain?

3. What really holds you back from letting go of the familiar?

4. Who affects your time allocation decisions? What makes you say that?

5. Of these, who are the top two influencers? Should these two be given the power to shape your day? Why?…

(Arjun Aiyar is an entrepreneur, corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | June 3, 2013

A Leader Beyond Ego

The idea herein is a product of interaction with scores of leaders.

Much has been said about a leader’s role in helping their team to achieve its goals. The deliberation is often around the subject of – how much help is appropriate. When does ‘help’ transmute to ‘hinder’ in leadership and motivation? To what extend must a leader aid and support their team?

In his book, Conversations with God – Part 2, Neale Donald Walsh highlights the distinction between the words ‘empowering’ and ‘disempowering’.

When a leaders help is offered in manner that fosters dependence, the inevitable outcome is disempowerment. Considerate and kind though the acts may be, the underlying emotion behind such action is compulsion and not compassion! Regrettably, the leader is duped into feeding his egotistical need (compulsion) for self gratification and recognition.

Compulsion cultivates weakness – in the follower and also within the team. The leader is gratified and simultaneously deluded. His gratification comes from a sense of fulfillment – of having helped another. The delusion is that this act of assistance adds long term value to the recipient. Over time, the gratification predictably morphs into frustration – leaving the leader with a highly dependent and inadequate team.

It takes wisdom and a sense of astute discernment to ensure that the primary objective of benevolence is to create independence. To give people what they need rather than what they want. This is the essence of empowerment. Self assuredness, poise and humility are virtues of a leader who is willing to let go. Loyalty and allegiance is the natural consequence. Teams that are built on this foundation don’t just survive – they thrive.

A test of whether you are helping or hurting: Are your team mates enlarged or reduced as a result of your help? Have you made them bigger or smaller? More able or less able?

The goal is to help the weak grow strong – not dependent. An ancient adage says ‘Give a man a fish, and he will eat for the day; Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime’.

(Arjun Aiyar is an entrepreneur, corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | July 17, 2010

Quote… Unquote – Wisdom from Thailand!

I was privy to a seminar conducted by a group of ‘Compassionate Capitalists’ in Thailand – July 1 to 3, 2010. This event was attended by over 3000 people from across the globe.

Each of these speakers is a self made millionaire (or more) and has made their wealth by adding value to countless other lives. They are a true testimony to wisdom, balance and ‘holistic success’.

Over the past few decades, each of these individuals has contributed greatly to the personal, professional and financial development of people in over 60 countries.

Here – I share with you excerpts from the colloquium.

Basil Harris (my mentor)

A chartered accountant by qualification. Basil and his wife Leoni live in Sydney, Australia. They immigrated from South Africa in the mid ‘80’s in order to escape the oppressive apartheid regime. Today, as grandparents, life coaches and entrepreneurs they share timeless principles with anyone who will care to listen. They have business interests in over 25 countries. However, their true wealth is the wonderful relationship that they have with each other and with their children. Basil and Leoni have been happily married for 41 years!

  • John Maxwell proposed the ‘101 principle’ for working with difficult people. Find the 1 thing that is good about that person and focus 100% on that.
  • If you are not happy with your progress – accelerate… and don’t analyze.
  • The best mantra to chant when you are facing any persistent challenge is – ‘this too shall pass’.
  • Success is nothing but little increments multiplied over time. So get good at measuring the little things.
  • You don’t get stuck, you just stopped.
  • The backbone will do more for you than the wishbone.
  • Most businesses (including your business / work) are logical. However, people are illogical. Or, put another way, business is not complicated, people are.
  • Either you get humble or you will be humbled.
  • You can’t teach what you haven’t done.
  • Nothing works – you have to work it.
  • In sales or when setting up your own business or when proposing any idea, respect the ‘SW SW SW’ principle.
    • Some Will
    • Some Wont
    • So What?!
  • People like to follow happy people – so be happy!
  • Don’t try and be somebody else, just the best you that you can be.
  • Work harder on yourself than anything else.
  • To manage your life – first manage your thinking.
  • Recommended movie: Invictus.
  • Recommended book: The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute.

Robert Angkasa

Coming from a middle class Indonesian family, Robert’s father barely had enough money to fund his son’s education in Australia. Robert worked hard to make ends meet. He worked as a garbage collector – clearing trash from sports stadiums. Then he was as a taxi driver who often toiled round the clock – just to be able to pay the bills. Finally, he returned home to Jakarta – to find himself working for the prestigious Citibank. Robert quickly ascended to the post of Vice President and at one time led a team of over 300 people. His dream however, was to be his own boss and spend quality time with his loved ones. Over the last 15 years, Robert has built one of the biggest distribution businesses in Indonesia. He is speaker in great demand and shares his success ideas with people in the US, Australia, Europe, the Far East and many other places.

  • If you know that success is a journey, you will enjoy yourself.
  • A decision needs to have a date – only then is it a real decision.
  • Ask yourself everyday – ‘Is what I’m doing going to put me closer or further from my goal’
  • The one thing required for success – Make, emotionalize and achieve short term goals.
  • Set goals during low times.
  • Did you know that only 3% of the world’s population sets goals? That 3% controls majority of the wealth.
  • Find someone who you are accountable to.
  • Nobody but you controls your success.
  • There’s no such thing as a stable business. Either it’s going up or it’s going down.
  • Deliberately get out of your comfort zone, that’s the only way to grow.

RD Saunders

Chief Significance Officer at ‘Network of Caring’.

Network of Caring is a significance movement that was the brain child of Jim and Nancy Dornan. Every year, through the efforts of Saunders and huge contributions from the Dornan’s – Network of Caring channels millions of dollars to support poor and underprivileged children across the globe. You can read more about this movement at www.networkofcaring.org

RD spoke about the organization, its mission and its purpose.

The one thing that he mentioned that really got my attention was this —

  • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Go ahead and give freely to others.

I urge you to learn more about this movement and consider contributing – just as I have.

Dinesh & Dipika Shringarpure

A genuine, warm, down to earth couple from Mumbai, India. Dinesh is an Engineer by qualification and comes from a business family. Dipika is a bio chemist. Over the last one decade, they have achieved true significance by influencing lives and helping hundreds of people realize their full potential. As wealthy entrepreneurs, they have compassion in their hearts and believe that anyone can achieve the distinction that they have acquired.

The one big learning from Dinesh and Dipika is –

  • When you follow your passion, you achieve greatness.

 Jim Dornan (Basil’s mentor)

Philanthropist, global entrepreneur, speaker, author, educator, leader and influencer – Jim Dornan has affected millions of lives across the globe. It is not uncommon for football stadiums to fill up when he speaks – on relationships, attitudes and life principles. As a true example of a balanced, family oriented individual, Jim passionately plants the seeds of optimism on every continent. His book ‘Piano on the Beach’ is a classic piece on leadership wisdom. He has also co authored ‘Becoming a Person of Significance’ with world renowned leadership guru – John Maxwell.

  • Four things we need for success –
    • A bigger vision
    • More belief in ourselves
    • A balance of information and inspiration
    • Partnerships
  • Two philosophies for success –
    • Work hard
    • Serve others
  • Be a leader & a follower; a teacher and a student; have confidence & humility.
  • Every business rises and falls on leadership.
  • Leading followers is not very difficult, but it’s also not very rewarding.
  • Decisions make everything specific.
  • Get committed to (a) simplicity and (b) unity.
  • A big misconception: Negative thinking is a sign of intelligence.
  • We tend to follow people more for their character than for their competence. So, in order to be a good leader, work more on your character than anything else.
  • Sometimes, it’s less important to learn than it is to discover.
  • Everybody has problems – few people learn to deal with their problems.
  • All great leaders have (a) people skills, (b) compassion for people and (c) FOCUS.
  • Make values and culture your foundation.
  • Be grateful not proud.

Mitch & Diedre Sala

An amazing example of the power of personal growth. Mitch and Diedre were an average couple with an above average dream. Starting out from their little home in Sydney, today, they have a business that spans the globe. They exemplify hard work, diligence and a never say die attitude. Their loyalty to their mentors (Jim and Nancy) is unparalleled. Along with their three kids, they travel the world preaching the message that anyone with a dream and desire can achieve great success.

  • Over a period of time, 20,000 people who had won a million dollars or more in the lottery were surveyed. In 5 years, 76% of these winners were financially worse off than before! When money is given to you without the experiences, inevitably you tend to squander it.
  • Ask yourself, what do you want your life to look like in the year 2020? That’s just 114 months away!
  • We all start exactly the same way.
  • Your biggest obstacle is – the opinions of other people.
  • Are you SNIOP (Susceptible to the Negative Influence of Other People)?
  • Know what you want… and know what you don’t want.
  • If you follow footprints on the beach, you will end up where that person is. Whose foot prints are you following?
  • Skills are very important. Keeping your skills up to date are even more important.

Suphat

His mother sold noodles on the streets of Bangkok to be able to support her children. Suphat knew of no other formula than hard work and determination. Recognized as among the wealthiest people in Thailand today, Suphat is a bundle of passion and humility. He personifies integrity, dignity and honor.

  • Be humble. The more you grow, the greater should be your humility. Build every level of success on a foundation of humility.
  • Call your mentor regularly – stay connected to him.
  • It’s ok to fail at achieving your goals but don’t fail to reset your goals!

Angie Somers

Raised in a conservative (and challenging) household, Angie had little confidence while growing up. She worked as a secretary for a number of years until she met with a group of people who infused her with dreams and self belief. With the guidance of her mentor, she ascended to incredible success in business. Starting out from Sydney, Australia, Angie has expanded her enterprise to Europe, India, China and many parts of the Far East. Today, she and her husband Karl travel the world and inspire people to step over their circumstances – and fulfill their dreams and passions.

  • We all have a past; but… your past is not your future
  • With people, be kind; with circumstances, be patient.
  • Say the words ‘I love you’ with emotion to the people whom you love. Say it quickly, say it today. Don’t have regrets later on.
  • Be grateful for what is. We all have lots of things to be grateful for. More than a billion people go to bed hungry every day – at least you had food to eat! So, be grateful every single day.
  • You get what you focus on – good or bad.
  • Everything can change with time.
  • From Nelson Mandella – we learn forgiveness.
    • Forgive others
    • Ask for forgiveness from others
    • Forgive yourself

Nancy Dornan

As a mother, grandmother, businesswoman & leader – Nancy is renowned for her compassion and kindness. Along with her husband Jim, she tirelessly invests her time, her humor and her heart towards the well being of others. Those who have met Nancy never forget her…and Nancy Dornan never forgets them.  Nancy and Jim provide emotional and financial support to an untold number of organizations and individuals. As a couple, they truly are people of significance and influence.

  • In the ‘people arena’, you never stop learning. You cannot live long enough to know everything about people.
  • When it comes to encouragement – you can never overdo it.
  • Don’t live your life with regret.
  • Five years from now, which would question you rather ask? –
    • I’m glad I did OR
    • I wish I had…
  • When faced with argumentative situations – do you want to be right or do you want to be rich?
  • You don’t have to win every argument. Allow others to win arguments. You may lose the battle, but you will win the war. This is true wisdom.
  • Disown helplessness!
  • Reject helplessness!
  • Worrying never fixed anything in the past. Why should it be different now?
  • Everything is difficult before it becomes easy.
  • Everything plateaus – you’ve got to recognize and bust through those plateaus.
  • Self talk is Soul talk – what are you telling yourself? What is the talk that goes on in your mind?
  • Anger is often a response to fear.
  • Block out thoughts that don’t add to you.
  • I’d rather live with forgiveness that with regret.
  • Ask – if I walk down this road, where will it lead me in the long term?
  • Believe in what you cannot see. You have to believe it before you see it!
  • Indifference is not the right substitute for cruelty!
  • An experiment was done to test people’s tolerance to pain. Two groups of people – had to keep their bare feet in ice cold water. One group was left by themselves. The second group had people encouraging them. On average, the second group lasted twice as long as the first.
  • Encourage and add value to everyone all the time.
  • Praise changes people. Criticism also changes people!
  • Be careful that your brilliance is not insulting to others. Humble yourself.
  • Love people and use things. Don’t use people and love things!
  • Recommended book: Three Seconds by Les Perot.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com or read his other articles on his personal blog www.trainingindubai.wordpress.com )

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | April 27, 2010

To Train or Not to Train – The Soft Skills Dilemma!

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Abraham Lincoln shared a short narrative about two wood cutters who decided to compete on who could chop down more trees in a day. The first man started out furiously and decided to chop away without taking any breaks. The second man chopped for a while and then stopped, to sharpen his axe. All through the day, the first cutter did not stop whereas the second contestant regularly took ‘time out’ every couple of hours to hone his axe. Interestingly enough, at the end of the day, the second cutter had achieved twice as much and was half as tired as the first!

Evidently the first man exerted more, made more noise, appeared to be busier – and yet achieved far less, because after a while, he was hacking away with a blunt instrument.

We see the same chronicle repeated in our work lives frequently. In this ever changing and dynamic environment, success has less to do with quantity and more to do with quality inputs. In these days of enhanced competition and budgetary constraints, our biggest challenges are stress, conflict (with internal and external customers) and a kind of revolutionary change.

Albert Einstein rightly said, ‘We cannot solve the problems of today with the same thinking that we used to create them’.

Not surprisingly, we observe an unprecedented interest in the personal growth or self development industry. A casual visit to your nearest book shop will highlight the huge quantum of material that is now being produced in the areas of people skills, leadership, communication skills, stress management, customer service, selling skills, presentation skills, business etiquette, time management, networking, attitude, teambuilding, etc. Books, videos and other tools on these and like subjects are now so pervasively visible across our realm.

Fresh Perspectives

As I enter my 12th year in the soft skills and corporate training business, it has been fascinating to observe the gradual change in mindsets, in a multitude of countries around the world. It is now becoming harder and harder for corporates to deny the importance (or rather significance) of enhancing individual skill levels not just in technical subjects but also in the softer areas as mentioned above. Renowned quality management guru, Suresh Lulla, recently said to me ‘Soft skills is the future’.  This is a man who has spent the better part of his professional life researching and teaching the subject of quality management. He has also been featured in numerous reputed business publications as an icon of success in the field of quality.

More now than ever before, companies and individuals alike are looking upon training and soft skill development as an investment rather than an expense. Human Resource professionals acknowledge that soft skills training results in the development of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and thus significantly appreciates the value of the organizations ‘human assets’. Among professionals today, there is a gradual realization that while IQ (Intelligence Quotient) gets you a job, EQ (Emotional Quotient) gets you fired or promoted. In his book, Winning with People, New York Times best selling author John Maxwell says, ‘In life, the skills you use and the people you choose, will make or break you’. Maxwell is considered one of the foremost authorities on leadership and has written numerous works on this subject. He contends that when one learns to control their emotions and build good relationships with other people, there is very little that can keep them away from success.

Maxwell’s assertion so well elucidates the two primary components of soft skills i.e. self development and relationship enhancement.

Trepidations

(1)   A common opposition (and a protest of sorts) to soft skill training programs is – ‘What if I train my employees and they leave to join another organization? Wouldn’t that be a waste of precious resources and time?’

 Self made multi millionaire and entrepreneur, Jim Dornan, responds to this objection thus – ‘What if you don’t train your employees and they stay in your organization? How would you like to have the burden of large numbers of unskilled, ill equipped or poorly motivated people?’

 So, while the argument to not train your people may have some weight, the alternative is far from pleasant.  Retaining a group of untutored, unprepared or apathetic staff is one of the greatest drags on any organization. Following this latest recession, very few companies can claim that their people continue to stay motivated without any deliberate intervention.

 (2)   Another point of contention is when an organization abstains from training because they believe that they are already hiring skilled (or experienced) personnel. While this argument holds ground at the time of recruitment, it loses its sheen with the passage of time. As is with any discipline, people tend to ‘get out of shape’ if they don’t consciously and continually work at honing their skills.

 Thought leader, author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy says, ‘Knowledge in most fields doubles every 3 to 4 years. Thus, an individual who is not deliberate about developing or growing himself / herself, will fall behind.’ Tracy goes on to explain that ‘doing nothing’ or even ‘doing little’ to sharpen your axe will inevitably build the odds against you. Needless to say, your competition will gain significant advantages over you just by further developing their skilled employees.

 Delhi based certified coach and Master NLP practitioner, Shalini Verma (founder of The Skyscrapers Academy) says, ‘Skilled personnel are the best candidates for training and coaching. These people already have a base aptitude and thus have a great foundation for developing leadership skills. History has shown that any enterprise will rise and fall on leadership. The quality of its leaders will determine the size and sustenance of the business.’ She goes on to explain that when the head is strong and stable, the tail automatically aligns. So, the skilled workforce, are actually the best candidates for continual soft skill development.

 (3)   And here’s the great grand daddy of all protests – ‘Training & motivation doesn’t last! My people get motivated after the training BUT things just fizzle out over a period of time.’

My mentor Basil Harris is a very wise man. As an entrepreneur and coach, I have seen him guide a number of people towards the accomplishment of their dreams and goals. He says, ‘That’s right, training & motivation doesn’t last!….. Neither does bathing; and that’s why we repeat it!’

 Our logical minds can easily accept that the food in our stomach does not last – we need to repeat it every few hours, the air in our tyres needs regular replenishment, and yes – if we are to lose weight or get fit – just one visit to the gym isn’t going to cut it. It is not uncommon today, to see doctors, lawyers, engineers, tax consultants, etc taking time out to upgrade or just update themselves. So, why should training or any kind of soft skills development be any different?

Gratification

My good friend and business partner, Swati Pradhan (an entrepreneur and executive coach, based in the UK) says, ‘When soft skill development is driven and encouraged by the organizations senior leadership – trainings are taken seriously and a culture of continual improvement gets automatically imbibed. Inevitably, such a company earns the reputation of being a preferred employer – and predictably, this enterprise now attracts some of the best talent in the industry’.

Maslow and numerous other authorities in the field of psychology endorse that ‘personal growth and self development’ is a strong human need and thus – when an institution starts to fulfill this need – good quality people are attracted to it as fly’s are to honey.

Over time, companies that are consistent with soft skill trainings see –

(a) Growth in turnover

(b) Higher profits & reduced costs

(c) Innovation & higher levels of staff motivation and

(d) Enhanced loyalty

All of the above represents extraordinary levels of Return on Investment.

We live in a world of microwave ovens, instant noodles and crash diets. So, our psyche tends to expect instant gratification from everything. The few that comprehend the concept of delayed gratification acknowledge that soft skills training is not a quick fix. While it’s true that one or two training programs produce little results, it is also true that a regular and methodical application produces enormous tangible and intangible gain.

The moment we can regard soft skills trainings as a long term fitness program, rather than as a one time purchase of machinery, we have taken the most important step towards organizational and personal success.

The Price of Success

The second wood cutter made less noise, spent less effort (and time) and yet accomplished greater results – all because he took the time to sharpen his axe.

In order to ‘go up’, we first need to ‘grow up’ i.e. develop ourselves. And in order to grow up, we need to ‘give up’ i.e. our inhibitions towards self development, relationship enhancement and change.

Soft skills development requires the element of discipline – nothing more and nothing less. Rest assured, the price of discipline is far less that the price of regret.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com)

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | January 7, 2010

Human Magnetism!

A recent article on msn.com highlighted a revolutionary discovery that unearths a powerful, yet lesser known concept. Due credit to Gregg Braden, who is a New York Times best selling author, and internationally renowned as a pioneer in bridging science and spirituality.

The first significant incident that catapulted this idea to the limelight was the attacks on the world trade centre in New York on September 11, 2001. Scientists found that our satellites in space recorded unusual changes in the earth’s magnetic field while the sentiment of 9/11 precipitated through different nations. In the last few years, scholars have documented similar findings – around local or global events that have been characteristically sensational or sentimental in nature. Admittedly, the New York attacks registered as most significant on the scale. Experiment and findings bear the conclusion that ‘large scale emotions’ of any nature inexplicably alter the earth’s magnetic field. It is noteworthy that this magnetic field is largely responsible for regulating our weather. It affects our ice caps, sea levels, temperatures and winds.

Studies also show that when we as human beings conceive emotions of any kind, a magnetic field is actually generated inside our bodies and this ‘micro field’ interacts with the ‘macro field’ of the planet. Thus, in some small way, our emotions exert its influence on the bigger domain.

While this article may not delve into the deeper science behind these astonishing revelations, it may serve us well to recognize this phenomenon and discuss a few methods to contribute positively for the greater good.

I would express a word of gratitude to my mentor, Basil Harris, who has considerably influenced the conception of these ideas and notions. I will also assign tribute to various other personalities as these views unfurl. Each of these nuggets is an effort towards creating ‘positive magnetic energy’ – such that it aligns beautifully with the field of our planet. You might discover that a diligent and consistent application of these concepts brings about greater benefits than what is apparent.

While these thoughts may not be exhaustive, they certainly are a good foundation – based on which you are able to build a strong and prosperous life.

Let’s call these concepts the ‘FIVE What’s’!

  1. What you think. In her now world famous book and video, ‘The Secret’, bestselling author Rhonda Byrne says, ‘What you think about, you bring about’. Rhonda and numerous other stalwarts in the field of science and human medicine draw a direct correlation between the quality of our thoughts and the quantum of our happiness. While few may claim the ability to completely control their thoughts, the ones that endeavor to consistently ‘think well’ are on the receiving end of numerous material and intangible benefits. Our thoughts are like the big screen of a cinema hall. Since we would not go back and watch a movie that displeased us, it bears to reason that we should abstain from playing such negative movies in the screen of our mind.
    Action: Thoughts about personal success, bringing joy to others and beautiful win – win solutions (to our challenges) empower us with good health, a state of bliss and quality friends. These ‘thought practices’ will undoubtedly align you with ‘positive magnetic energy’ and draw more good into your life. As I had mentioned in one of my previous articles – try it before you deny it!
  2. What you say to others. Author, Hal Urban has written a 200+ page book titled ‘Positive Words, Powerful Results’. In it, he beautifully elucidates how our choice of words can affect not only those around us but also ourselves. When we think back at the moments that have shaped our lives, more often than not, they have been ‘words’ said to us or about us. Perhaps the kind and encouraging words of a teacher at school or the harsh admonishment of a relative. While in many cases, we may not remember the exact words, we can almost always dwell on the emotion that the words produced. In most instances, these emotions are astoundingly strong and have often shaped our lives. If words can evoke such emotion in us – imagine what our words do to others. Urban’s book highlights that the most magnificent thing about words is that it is a choice – our choice.
    Action: Through consistent words of sincere praise, kindness and thanks, we affect the magnetic field of the people around us. Compliment at least two people every day for seven days in a row – and then feel the energy flowing through you and them alike. You will be pleasantly surprised! Another powerful instrument in this context is the act of apology. Self made multi- millionaire and global entrepreneur, Peter Cox, says, ‘apologize when you are wrong’. Then he goes on to say, ‘apologize even if you are right!’ Wise words from one who has influenced thousands of lives and in the process developed his own. The lesson – humility is a powerful tool to invoke positive human magnetism. Use humble words.
  3. What you do for others. Every religious text advocates the notion of ‘doing good unto others’. It might be prudent to highlight that the words are NOT ‘do good only to those, who do good to you!’ My dear friend and award winning ventriloquist, Lindi Jane, has a mantra for life. She says that her greatest weapon is ‘kindness’. It is fascinating to observe how Lindi consciously refrains from judgmental thoughts and is able to see beyond an individual’s outbursts or flare ups.  It’s easy to feel kindness towards one who is kind to you. It’s wise to feel it towards one who is not. Lindi Jane is the personification of this principle. As you apply this standard with a multitude of people, you will find yourself experiencing a sense of inner peace – and a feeling that can best be described as ‘bliss’. Gregg Braden refers to this idea as ‘heart based living’. Mother Teresa said ‘Let no one come to you without leaving happier and better’.
    Action: As a strategy, deliberately allow yourself to indulge in random acts of kindness, warm smiles, friendly nods of acknowledgment, respectful bows and deeds that will add value to others without any gain to you. You will feel powerful energy and positive magnetism.
  4. What you do for yourself. Shalini Verma is a reputed executive coach based in New Delhi. As an entrepreneur, counselor and guide, she has transcended from success to significance by inspiring numerous business and corporate leaders to realize their full potential. Through her company, ‘The Sky Scrapers Academy’, Shalini Verma has coached people in a number of countries and continues to enhance lives through her coactive coaching. Shalini suggests that, while we engage ourselves in good for others (words and deeds), let us not ignore ourselves. Sacrifice does not imply that one needs to forfeit happiness for self. Over a period of time, ignoring your needs will only lead to bitterness, frustration and dissent. Author, motivational speaker and thought leader, Wayne Dyer, proposes that we desist from experiencing guilt whenever we indulge ourselves. He says that it is healthy and important for us to do things that give us joy.
    Action: Here is a simple idea – ‘De –regiment’ your life. Every now so often, break out of a structure or schedule. Do different things. Do things that you have not done before. Do things that feel unusual. Do things at a whim. Be spontaneous. Feel the freedom of acting in the moment and without a plan. This will liberate you to no end. It could be something as ordinary as watching a movie, eating a new kind of food or visiting a museum. It could even be something as abstract as painting a picture, participating in a debate or trying a completely new profession (part time or full time). You may want to try and learn words from another language, test drive a Rolls Royce, wear a new kind of outfit, burst into song, dance on the streets, buy yourself a gift, go for an opera, etc. Don’t worry about what others will think of you. At worst, they will be surprised and at best, they will admire your courage. Most importantly, you will feel good and that is great for your magnetic energy and that of others.
  5. What you write. The power of the written word applies itself in areas as diverse as religion and law. In contracts, agreements and even global treaties – the act of writing something is indicative of emphasis or reinforcement. If the spoken word is expression, then the written word is acceptance and concurrence. Also, while the spoken word can be retracted with reasonable ease, the written word is more difficult to refute or contest. You and I engage in writing using media like letters, emails, sms’, etc. This article is also an example of ‘what you write’ or more precisely ‘what I write’. That we impact others through our written word is an inexorable fact. If you are reading this article, you most certainly use email. And, you surely communicate with a wide array of folks on an assortment of topics.
    Action: Deliberate courteous inclusions in our written notes would be interpreted as an act of nobility. Gracious people use gracious words. A few suggestions – (a) always use ‘Dear’ or ‘Hi’ as appropriate (b) start with a kind greeting or query them on their well being (c) if you have to state something difficult or harsh – do so with finesse (d) ask for their assistance in resolving the challenge – if there is one (e) close with good wishes and / or kind regards. Make this a habit and the positive magnetic energy will reverberate in you and in your readers.

Therefore: What you think, what you say, what you do for others, what you do for yourself and what you write will have a direct bearing on –

  1. What you acquire
  2. What you become and
  3. What you feel!

In closing, D.L. Moody advised people to….

do all the good you can,

to all the people you can,

in all the ways you can,

as long as ever you can…

Use the power of human magnetism to flood your life with unbounded happiness and joy!

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com)

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | January 6, 2010

Spiritual Capitalism!

On a recent visit to Mumbai, I sat excitedly with a group of friends relishing a fine ‘biryani’ in a popular establishment. The moment of truth finally arrived when it was time to order our dessert. The unequivocal response is by now almost predictable. Invariably, at every gourmet gathering, there are those that swear they will not have anything sweet, and will still succumb. This is the time when the air becomes saturated with quotes, statistics and gags on the merits or demerits of indulgence in ‘sugar therapy’. A humorous debate seems an almost necessity – such that due justification can be found to summon forth a dish of delight. Sigmund Freud would certainly find stimulation in studying this ‘love – hate’ relationship between man and his temptations. He would relish the analysis of the emotions that cause one to flip 180 degrees from an absolute No to a loud and resounding Yes. Indisputably, man would be accused of being a creature of controversies and conflict. Alternatively, a kinder verdict might even credit us with the ability to balance opposites and differing viewpoints.

The item of choice was a generous scoop of ice cream placed on top of a square chocolate brownie which in turn rested on a hot metal plate. At the time of serving, a small jug of chocolate sauce was carefully poured onto the ice cream – and the sauce was allowed to drip over the brownie onto the hot plate releasing a sizzling sound and an intoxicating chocolate aroma. The dish is thus an inundation of a brownie, hot chocolate sauce and ice cream. Once settled, this ‘hot – cold’ combination serves as a lure to the bravest of hearts.

Since time immemorial, a mix of opposites has never failed to gain human attention. From food & beverages to clothes, we humans take great delight in experimenting with contradictions. In recent years, oxymorons like ‘love – hate’, ‘hot – cold’ or ‘true – lies’ have created sizeable profits for the movie and advertising industry. The phrase ‘Opposites attract’ is now almost a cliché and continues to extend itself liberally to conversations and prophecies across the globe.

Pragmatists might however argue that while these oxymoron’s and contradictions serve well for fashion, dialogue or allegory, its business and economic applications are fraught with turmoil. The idea being that – in business, opposites may be apt for illustration, but not ideal for application.

In most minds, the term ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ conjures up a similar emotion. Spirituality and Capitalism are perceived as being on opposite ends of the spectrum and thus ‘never the twain shall meet’. Like the night and day – if one exists then the other cannot. Our modern society coupled with recent economic events has further polarized the two words, hence categorizing them as distinct and markedly divergent.

As a resident of Dubai, and thus a member of an international community, I have been witness to the disconcerting outcomes of the current global recession. Job losses and business shut downs have certainly been felt in menacing proportions. From bloom to doom, the last few months have adversely altered the reality of innumerable families and individuals. Any socialist could now delight in berating this system of extreme capitalism which has seemingly blown over like an overheated engine – now lying in pieces with steam still bellowing from its under belly.

As we pick up the pieces and gradually recover from this bolt out of the blue, it is interesting to observe how people across the globe are now suddenly engaged in deep contemplation. Questions like – what happened? Why did it happen? and Why did it happen to me? seem to dominate the mental landscape of the multitudes.

 The wise however have taken a slightly different path – a path that starts with asking slightly different questions.

An expression of gratitude to my mentor, Basil Harris, is in order here. In this instance, it is his wisdom that I humbly share with you. Basil teaches that one would gain by asking questions like – What did I learn? How can I recover? and What precautions must I take henceforth? It’s almost fascinating to observe how feelings can transmute from fear to cheer just by consciously and repeatedly posing these questions to oneself. Basil suggests that an exercise in actually writing down the responses to these queries will be far from futile. In fact, this act of writing will lay the blue print for your new success plan. If in doubt, here’s a piece of advice from one who has already ventured onto this path – ‘try it before you deny it’!

Thought leaders and icons from across the globe have shared some fascinating insights on managing yourself and your career in these trying times. Interestingly, much of their counsel correlates so distinctly with the scriptures of any religious text. This realization prompted the inception of this article on ‘Spiritual Capitalism’.

If we regard the words ‘Spiritual’ and ‘Capitalism’ as being on opposite sides of the ‘philosophy spectrum’, then placing them together would create an oxymoron. Interestingly, we are learning today that when we move just one step across the border of this pre defined spectrum, we find ourselves at its opposite end! That’s right – one step across and you arrive at the opposite side! Thus, what seems to be opposite or disconnected is in fact deeply entwined or entangled. Allow me to further elucidate this by listing some suggestions from the great gurus of our time. When reading these ideas – rather than looking for proof, endeavor to truly imbibe these philosophies and the results will be forthcoming. Jim Dornan says, ‘Don’t let the unexplainable keep you away from the undeniable’.

 1. Move from isolation to integration: Work with people not against them. Treat human beings as a resource rather than as a tool. Genuinely seek benefit for others and others will work to benefit you! People are more sensitive today than ever before, so satisfy their ‘need to belong’. Internationally acclaimed leadership author and speaker, John Maxwell said, ‘People don’t care if you know, until they know that you care’.

2. Imbibe a spirit of collaboration instead of competition: The new environment presents abundant opportunities for partnerships and alliances. Many others are in the same situation as you and looking to fill the gaps. They would be excited to discover your keenness to collaborate with them. Make the effort and attract like – minded people into your life. Ray Keller said, ‘We are each angels with just one wing and therefore we can only fly when we embrace one another’. Should you fear the concept of joint ventures, here’s a thought for you – I don’t deny that many partnerships fail but you can’t deny that many succeed!

 3. Have an attitude of gratitude: A fun exercise to do is to compare your challenges and situation to others who are worse off than you. Aren’t we grateful that we have food to eat, a roof over our heads and a few people who still love us? Even if you are challenged with these, remember, history is full of stories of people who navigated through much harsher conditions. In most cases, the solution to depression is – perspective. Recently, I was fortunate to be reminded by Shalini Verma – an accomplished executive, life and leadership coach, that many people would kill to be in my shoes! Think about it, don’t you have so much more going for you than millions of others out there? Get the joy back into your life. Be happy again and you will attract happy people and fruitful opportunities to you. In the words to the prolific author Wayne Dyer – ‘There is no way to happiness…..happiness is the way’.

4. Ideate, innovate and initiate: Every great business or corporation was once an intangible idea. Consciously put yourself in environments that foster creativity. Whether it is music, a walk in the park or just staring at the ceiling, do what works for you and deliberately ideate. A GREAT way to generate ideas is to pray or meditate. Prayer is nothing but focused thought or a higher state of mind. Taken to a deeper level, it may represent thoughtlessness or an empty mind. Whichever concept you subscribe to, scientists today have proven that focused thought actually has an effect on matter! They have also discovered a realm of consciousness that supersedes the subconscious mind – it is called the ‘super conscious mind’. Leading authors like Brian Tracy talk and write about this super conscious state as being one of the best tools for goal accomplishment. In a manner of speaking, super conscious thinking connects you with the infinite (more commonly referred to as God), thus allowing you access to the sea of boundless wisdom. Whatever your ideas, the final key is to initiate or act. I recently heard entrepreneur Prem Pillay say ‘There are two types of failures in the world– those who thought but didn’t do and those who did but did not think’. Let’s endeavor to be in neither category. Robin Sharma puts it another way. He says ‘Ideation without execution is mere delusion’. And so, in conclusion, you don’t have to be great to start but you have to start in order to be great.

With great change comes great opportunity. If history is any guide, inevitably the recession will recede and a new era will dawn upon us. Economic cycles are not vastly dissimilar to the weather. A storm or a flood arrives, wreaks its share of havoc and finally settles back to serenity. Norman Leonard said, ‘the bend in the road is not the end in the road, unless you fail to make the turn’! And so, there is great merit in now imbibing the philosophy of great minds i.e. the philosophy of ‘Spiritual Capitalism’. 

Spirituality endorses the view that we humans are all interconnected. In fact, it goes one step further and advocates that all matter is interconnected. Using the newly established field of quantum physics, scientists use the term ‘entanglement’ to scientifically establish this very notion. Supporters of the ‘Big Bang’ theory elucidate ‘entanglement’ by stating that at a sub atomic level, all of the universe is connected. Whereas science and religion (spirituality) were considered ‘oxymoronal’ in nature, the converse is being corroborated more and more today. Fascinatingly enough, today, both science and religion are advocating the same if not a similar philosophies.

In light of these revelations and in keeping with the success principles listed earlier, the phrase ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ is a tautology (i.e. the opposite of oxymoron) rather than an oxymoron. Over the years, ‘money’ and ‘people with money’ have earned a poor reputation and ‘spirituality’ and ‘spiritual people’ have been revered and respected. There is little paucity of individuals who have abused their powers, particularly the power that money brings. However, as my mentor so rightly points out – Money by itself is not good or bad; it’s what we do with the money that is good or bad. Time and again, it has been seen that capitalists that have sustained are the ones who have grown by consistently benefiting others.

World renowned author, coach and speaker Zig Ziglar says, ‘You can have anything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want’. This quote best personifies ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ – as being capitalism endowed with the character of compassion.

A recognition and application of this dogma can open the doorway to boundless treasures – material or otherwise.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com)

Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | June 5, 2009

Neuroplasticity!

On a journey of discovery into the fascinating world of coaching, I chanced upon the term ‘Neuroplasticity’.

The word itself is intriguing and some amount of research gave me an incredible perspective on the functioning of the human mind and its capacity for change. It reveals how much power we have – if only we choose to embrace it. I would like to give credit to Shalini Verma, an accomplished coach who is based in Delhi. A brief interaction with her and some time spent reviewing her personal blog has inspired me to write on this subject.

Simply put, ‘Neuro’ means brain and ‘plasticity’ is flexibility or the ability to change. The brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons. These cells are interconnected to each other by ‘neural pathways’. These are actual physical connections that exist inside our brains. Each pathway represents a habit, an attitude or a belief system. It has been said that we are creatures of habit. What this means is that, we as human beings get acclimatized to performing certain tasks (work or otherwise) in a particular style. For eg. we are used to taking a certain route from home to the office. When there is a change in the route either on account of a new office location or road works, we experience a sense of discomfort that borders on anxiety. This is because the brain is being forced to create a new pathway (habit), one that did not exist before.  It was earlier believed that the brain was characteristically static which means it could not change past a certain age. The adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, clearly reflects a long held belief about the nature of the brain. Expressions like “He is hardwired to function in that way”, further propagated the idea that many people are unable to make changes especially when they are habituated to a pattern or past a certain age.

In the 1980’s, the chief scientist at the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dr. Edward Taub, through a series of validated experiments and studies observed that the brain was capable of creating new connections on a massive scale- at will, and at any stage in life. The new connections are formed whenever we start doing something that we have never done before. For e.g. learning to play a musical instrument, speaking a new language or relocating to a new country. Therefore, the brain is not static but it is characteristically plastic i.e. adaptable and able to mould itself to suit a new situation or environment. Experts in the field today have gone one step further still. It has been proven that the brain does not only form new pathways to acquire new skills but is continually in the process of building these connections, on a daily basis in response to the smallest of changes that happen around us.

Everything we think and do affects the brain’s neural pathways.  Ideas, thoughts, habits, etc are constantly refining these neural highways. Evidently, we human beings have an immense ability to change and continually develop new connections and maps. The challenge therefore is to move from ‘ability’ to ‘willingness’ and then transmuting that willingness into deliberate action.

At a seminar conducted in the US recently, the speaker asked the audience ‘Can you speak Japanese?’.  As you can well imagine, very hands went up. The speaker repeated the question and of course the response was exactly the same. The speaker then explained that if millions of 4, 5 and 6 year olds in Japan can speak Japanese, then, every adult in the audience could also do the same. It’s just that they hadn’t taken the effort to learn the language. So, we call can speak Japanese – its just that we currently don’t! Now, that’s a classic example of Neuroplasticity. Most of us are guilty of denying ourselves of new or different experiences – for one reason and one reason only – we have never done it before. In other words, we are just ‘uncomfortable’ to do something that we haven’t done before OR more simply put – the neural pathways for that new activity don’t exist, and we believe that it can’t exist.

Logic (and experience) has taught us that when a muscle is not used – it tends to shrink and becomes weak. If your hand of leg has ever been in a cast, you know the feeling. It then takes effort to regain your strength through consistent exercise.

Similarly, exercising the brain is nothing but creating new pathways i.e. doing new and different things i.e. having plastic experiences – daily! A resilient and strong mind (brain) is therefore one that consciously and regularly creates new pathways and maps.

Go ahead and allow this principle to positively impact every area of your life!

 (Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com)

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