Listen Clearly.

There’s this quaint little restaurant that has become a favorite with me. The food is great, the ambience blends in smoothly with the food they serve; the washrooms are below average and the waiters are so-so. It’s close to work, so every chance we get, we end up there.

The fact that the washrooms could be better doesn’t deter me or my troupe from going there. We barely have any conversation with the waiters and some of them are less than attentive. But even that doesn’t deter us from showing up.

What’s really great is the food- it’s soulful, nutritious and fulfilling; and it leads to great conversations. So these peripheral issues- the washrooms, the waiters and so on don’t really deserve notice.

In organizations too, a similar logic is at play.

When you are meaningfully engaged at work, are surrounded by diversity in thoughts and challenged by customers and resources, under the guidance of a good manager, the fact that the cafeteria food could be better or that the washrooms cleaner or the parking lot closer doesn’t become a talking point at the coffee unit.

Agreed that the two situations aren’t similar in their impact, but if your employees or team members are talking a lot about the hot water, the washrooms and the parking lot; high time you look within the organization for the solutions.


What doesn’t break you makes you stronger

If before and after you’ve struggled, you remain the same person; you haven’t struggled enough.- Shams of Tabriz, “The Forty Rules of Love”.

When people react to you, it’s not a reaction to you but rather a reflection of what they have learnt from their struggles. These struggles are varied in nature; overt and covert, of the heart and the mind, of the body and the soul, of the money and the means and so on. But struggles nonetheless.

The   stages of struggles-

  1. Disbelief– when you can’t believe that this is actually happening to you. It’s not something that you had ever anticipated

  2. Grudging Realization– you know now that this is happening or happened to you. you start feeling powerless in the face of it

  3. Growing Acceptance– you start to find the silver lining in other things; easier to distract yourself when hell’s breaking loose

  4. Pause– you know this won’t stop till you take the bull by the horns. You start rationalizing. This is probably the stage where you want to start talking about it. The more fortunate of us have people to talk to

  5. Game Plan– now that you hold the bull’s horns, you need to figure out what to do with them. You tentatively start forming a plan; ready to balk at the first sign of disaster

  6. Baby Steps– you gingerly put one step in front of the other in the direction of a plausible solution

  7. The 1st Milestone– when you’ve probably gone the whole day without feeling that this is the only thing that will define your life

  8. Life Really Does Go On.

Throughout these stages, your interaction with people and situations doesn’t cease. Life goes on for them; but a massive change is unfolding within you and this is manifested in the way that you react to them. Right from snapping at people to being extremely accommodating of their opinions and viewpoints; you dance to the whole song.

Why do you need to know this?

So that you are compassionate & mindful- you don’t know what kind of struggle somebody is going through and the least that it deserves is that you are mindful and compassionate. In other words “Be Nice”.

Giving away a few smiles, a hug or a pat on the back or maybe a coffee session doesn’t really seem as demanding.

What if you can’t help?

Happens to the best of us; times when we are incapable of helping even ourselves.

Let’s not sugar coat this! Depression or a feeling of abject despondency needs clinical intervention or at the very least it needs to get you talking to a life coach. Facilitate this conversation; don’t write it off.

All these leave scars on your soul, on your mind. Wear them with pride; flaunt them if you are comfortable and be un-apologetically you. Only you know what and how much you’ve gotten through to be you.

Powerful Lessons of a Quirky coach


You decide; is my coach’s most favourite thing to say to me. If I go to him when in doubt or maybe at the brink of a screw up, he just says, “you decide”.

Also he’s not given to diplomacy; doesn’t tell me things like “this isn’t powerful enough” or “maybe this is a better idea”, just tells me “to my mind, this is weak”.

It took me time to get used to it. In hindsight, this is perfect!

You Decide.

This brings me to “what do I think”. And if I am deciding, I don’t have the luxury of saying “I don’t know”. But my coach knows this is the best way to nudge me towards what I actually think or am afraid to stand up for. I listen to myself talk through it and somewhere in this chat; I know what I want to do and more importantly the why of it.

It’s a powerful technique. More often than not, this phrase has changed what I would have normally done. It makes me look at the situation in terms of “if I and only I were answerable for this, what would I have done”. 7 out of 10 times it ends well; for the remaining 3, I know what not to do the next time.

To my mind, this is weak.

Wow! It’s like a punch in the guts. I spend a weekend doing something up and this is what I get to hear. Or this is better; coach says “I don’t know”. It means he doesn’t care much for what I scrambled to put together.

Yeah! Scrambled. Like I didn’t give it much thought. And it means that I could do a better job.

This statement has taught me to think backwards. I have learnt to ask the right questions-

  1. Who is the target audience
  2. What is their level of understanding
  3. What is the end objective of this exercise
  4. What should the audience feel at the end of this exercise
  5. What thought do I leave the audience with

Well, it makes my attempt more meaningful. I am compelled to ensure that each thread is connected to the larger story and the larger story has a far reaching purpose for whoever it’s meant for.

How is this relevant to you?

Listening is a taxing skill; all the more when you have to listen to yourself.

The next time you want to bounce your ideas off your coach, bounce them in your head perhaps.

  • Force fit the “you decide” methodology
  • Do a fair amount of detailing (don’t shoot for perfection; be aware of obvious loopholes)
  • Just to make it harder- Try the “this is weak” piece after that work (it’s the best way to figure out why your current solution is the best bet; else you need to rethink)

Listening to others is mighty serious. Have you tried “not saying anything and just listening”?

The next time you want to shoot out your opinion or tell someone exactly how something is to be done, tell them to decide. If you want to inspire a more thorough outcome, tell them to shoot holes through their own strategy (another way of saying- “to my mind, it is weak”).

Yes it’s going to take longer to get to the desired solution and yes sometimes the wheel will be reinvented.

But hey! Isn’t innovation a fancy way of saying “learning to reinvent the wheel”?