I have never spoken to you..

A realization hit me a couple of days back when I had a breakdown in my communication with a friend. I realized that I had never personally spoken to anyone in my life; I have only spoken to the perception that I have (of them) in my mind of.

I have an opinion about my colleague, lets call him R. In my mind I have a perception of R that gives me my opinions about him, his work, his communication, his skills, his spoken language etc. Everytime I want to speak to him about something, I can now notice myself organizing the thoughts, creating sentences, adjusting my tone and body language based on the perception I have of R. And all this happens even before I come face to face with him.

The same thing happens when I meet someone new. Everytime I meet someone new I almost immediately remember someone that looks like the person I just met, or has body language/voice/accent similar. So; that person I remember creates my perception for the new person I just met.

The racket here is that I want to be right about my perception of people. So it doesnt matter if I have to modify my conversation with them, or prove them wrong, or ignore them or lose self-expression; but it is big payoff for me to say – “I can figure people out”. To a large extent, I feel sad to admit that I have been manipulating my conversations with people to feed my perception of them.

I am not sure if I can ever stop creating/using perceptions of people. But from now on I will surely try to distinguish perception from real and choose to use either of them freely and take responsibility for it.

“I cant do xyz” – is a racket

I have often heard myself saying “I cant do this, I cant do that”. For example

  • I cant stick to an exercise routine or diet
  • I cant deal with government office officials
  • I cant keep my wardrobe organized
  • I cant manage to find the right people for my team
  • I cant control my temper

It goes on, but I just wanted to list out only the less embarrassing ones. Over the past few days I realized “I CANT” is a racket.

And what is a “racket”, you might ask. It is a fixed way of being and a persistent complaint. It is a front-end behavior (the persistent complaint) to cover up a inner flaw. All rackets have a common structure. By running rackets we get some payoffs at the cost of love, affinity, well being, freedom and self-expression. The most common payoff is “being right and making someone wrong”. Other payoffs are “to dominate and avoid domination, to justify oneself and invalidate others, to win and cause the other person(s) to lose”.

Now coming back to the I CANT racket. Looking at my complaints list dispassionately I can safely say that most of my I cants are either “I choose not to” or “I am just too lazy to”. It is not that I cant, it is just that I am coming up with enough reasons to not do the task in question.

Let me explain how the I CANT racket manifests and establishes itself. Take for example the “I cant stick to an exercise routine” racket. What happened is – I started with an exercise routine, I did it for a little while and then for some reason or the other I stopped. This cycle repeated a bunch of times (gym, jogging, yoga and swimming). And then I made up this story – “I don’t stick to an exercise routine”. That’s where the “I CANT” racket began. One of the most powerful payoffs we get by running a racket is the ability to ‘be right and make others wrong’. So the next time my wife/father/brother/friends enrolled me to yet another exercise routine I somehow have to come up with a way to quit because I have to be right about I don’t stick to my exercise routine. If I somehow stick to the exercise routine then I don’t get to be right about my story. No matter how many times I tried to change this behavior, it never worked. The thing about change, as they say in the Landmark Forum, the more we try to change something, the more it persists.

Working on the other items in my I CANT list, I figured that I have made up a story about all of them. And then I started running rackets to ensure that I am right about my stories.

  • “I cant keep my wardrobe organized” – Every time I clean it up, I have to mess it up again. Because I have to be right about this.
  • “I cant control my temper” – If I do control, it somehow goes against my understanding of my temper. So I have to fire off. I have to be right about “I am an angry young man!”

There are so many people (friends, relatives etc…) that I am no longer in touch with because I have made a story about them. For example I am not in good touch with most of my friends from college. After we all got into our jobs it became difficult to keep in touch. I tried speaking to my friends over phone a couple of times but they were either unable to take the call or speak freely, due to whatever reasons. Then I made a story – “my friends don’t want to keep in touch with me”. That’s when the racket started. From then on I had to create situations that kept feeding my story and making me right about it. I would (unknowingly) call them at all the wrong hours. When they don’t pick up the call, I strengthen my story and hence the racket. When they do call or answer my call I run the racket with them again by speaking sarcastically or not appearing interested etc. Eventually they stop calling me and/or taking my calls. And when that happens I tell – “see, did I not tell ya.. my friends don’t want to keep in touch with me.”

The above examples are rather small and simple. I have applied this on a few more personal issues and figured my rackets there. Once the rackets are distinguished, I can clearly weigh the payoffs vs costs and then stop running them anymore. It has really resulted in freedom and self-expression.

Downloading Qt SDKs..

With every new release, the size of Qt SDK is increasing. Given the slow and often unreliable BSNL Internet connection @ work (and home), it is not a good idea to download new releases using a browser or an FTP client. Recently we bought a Mac at work and I have been trying hard for the past few days to download the 440 MB Qt/Mac SDK. Everytime I download like 100 MB or so, the net connection goes down and I have to restart the download from scratch.

Girish (ex-Troll) told me that I could use wget to download as much as possible in the first try and then use –continue option to continue the download from where it stopped. This suggestion has turned out to be very useful. I am blogging about this because this tip might help other people too..

If you want to download the huge Qt/Mac package for example you can..

wget http://get.qt.nokia.com/qtsdk/qt-sdk-mac-opensource-2009.04.dmg

If the connection breaks down in the middle, you can continue the download by

wget –continue http://get.qt.nokia.com/qtsdk/qt-sdk-mac-opensource-2009.04.dmg

Update: Finally after 5 hours, the Qt/Mac SDK was fully downloaded on to my notebook 🙂

“The Problem is Choice” – Neo – The Matrix Reloaded

Yesterday evening we had a wonderful session on “Living Life at Choice”. I know the title seems to have obvious grammar mistakes, but when we get the meaning of “choice” it all makes sense.

After yesterday’s session I realized that for all my life I have been only making decisions. To decide is to select an option based on a bunch of considerations or reasons. The problem with decision is that the power and authority of selection rests with the consideration or reason, not with me (the person who made that selection).

To choose is to select freely after consideration (of the reasons, facts etc). The catch here is the ‘after’ part. What does it mean to select after consideration. It means that once the selection is made, the considerations dont matter. What matters is that ‘I’ made the selection. The power and authority of the selection rests with me, not the reasons that helped make the selection.

Choosing becomes easy when we have options to consider, but it becomes difficult when we have only one option to consider. The session leader went on to tell that the key to living a powerful and happy life is to choose everything we currently have. Choose my past, choose my present, choose my father, choose my mother and so on. Because there are several aspects of life where we don’t have options to consider, but we still have to select the only option available. The best way to deal with such situations is to “choose” the only option available. Because “If I choose what I have, I will have what I choose and I am left empowered and happy. On the other hand if I don’t choose what I have, I will still have it and that leads to resentment, frustration, stress and unhappiness.

Once I ‘got’ the choice distinction, what I realized was that – choice not only gives us the power and authority over the selection; but also the responsibility of having made the selection. Once I make a choice, I can no longer run away from the effects of the choice and not give reasons for dealing with the highs and lows of the choice.

I have not chosen so many things about myself, my past, my work, my life to the point that I blame the reasons and considerations for their ill-effects on me. By blaming I am only becoming a victim of those reasons and considerations and I dont take the responsibility.

For example – over the years I have recruited quite a few people to my organization (some of whom have left the organization and went to other jobs), but never really created breakthrough results with them. Why? Because I “decided” their recruitment into the company; but never really “choose” them once they were in. I know that I decided, because I conducted a written test, programming test and everything. But then the written/programming test became the reasons and considerations for their existence in the team. Choice is about selecting after the consideration. Had I said – “I choose to recruit xyz because I choose to recruit xyz” instead of saying “I choose to recruit xyz because xyz cleared the written/programming test”, I would have felt more empowered in my choice. Whenever xyz was not performing well I started telling myself – “well he cleared the test. That’s why I took him in. Now he is not performing. Is deliberately under performing? Why are they not delivering results? Why does this happen to me? When will I be able to recruit the right people? Where are the right people? You just dont get good people these days. Is there something wrong with the tests? Maybe he has just become incompetent. Maybe he just doesnt have what it takes….” These dis-empowering thoughts come because the responsibility of the selection was with the “written/programming test” not with me (the person who actually made the selection). So I never took any action to actually figure out what went wrong and how do I go about dealing with the situation. Maybe he needed some coaching, maybe he has some personal issues at that time. Maybe he is not feeling any growth in the company.

The main shift that is happening in me, now that I started choosing, is that I now accept responsibility for my selections. I now fully acknowledge that the reasons/considerations did not make the selection – but I did.

That’s exactly what my Orkut/GTalk tag line says – “You can have anything you want in life, provided you want everything you have”.

Like Neo says in “The Matrix Reloaded” – THE PROBLEM IS CHOICE.


The Landmark Forum

In the month of July this year, I attended the Landmark Forum. The promise of Landmark Education is “Living life powerfully and living a life you love” and I got to tell you; they deliver on that.

The venue was Sathya Sai Sadan, right next to Fourum Mall Koramanagala. A total of 330 people were present for the program. Among the crowd were students, software engineers, project managers, doctors, vice presidents of various companies, lawyers, accountants, housewives, and even celebrities (well one celebrity actually: Rahul Dravid).

The Landmark Forum was led by Mahesh Nambiar, a Forum leader who has been with Landmark Education and conducting such programs for the past 15 years.

I was introduced to the Landmark Forum by Mr. Taranath of G. T. Enterprices who is my ex-boss’s friend. But even before that Prof. Lingaraju, who was my Computer Graphics teacher at JNNCE, was persuading me to join the Landmark Forum. He had completed the “Cirriculum for Living” (which is basically Landmark Forum, The Advanced Course and SELP) a couple of years back. Ever since then he was persuading me to do the course. I was, however, not very keen on taking up the course, for whatever reason.

Anyways, I finally decided to take the course in July. I got to say the Forum itself, though good, was not extraordinary. Many people that attended the program along with me went on and on and on about how wonderful and spectacular the experience was and how they created extraordinary results for themselves. Their feedback was so superlative; that I began to wonder if they were faking their experiences and results.

About a month or so after that, my wife attended the Landmark Forum. She felt just the same: the seminar is good but no extraordinary results.

As a part of the Landmark Forum program, participants can choose to attend the “Landmark Forum in Action Seminar” series, which is basically 10 evening sessions. Every Monday evening between 7 and 10, we have one session. These sessions are being led by Venkat, who is a Seminar Series leader. In each session Venkat revisits one distinction from the Landmark Forum and helps us put them into action. The first and second session were just ok, but from the third session onwards I have been noticing extraordinary results myself.

Two distinctions taught in the landmark forum have impacted me a lot
1. The Distinction Racket
2. The Distinction Identity

Racket, they distinguish, is a fixed way of being and a persistent complaint. It is a front-end behavior (the persistent complaint) to cover up a inner flaw. All rackets have a common structure. By running rackets we get some payoffs at the cost of love, affinity, well being, freedom and self-expression.

In the seminar series they deepen this distinction and help us identify our own rackets. I have always had complaints about “how I cant delegate effectively”, “how I cant find the right people for my team” and so on. On the face of it, these complaints really dont have much to do with me, or so I thought. Venkat encouraged us to consider that these complaints are Rackets. Upon taking on that consideration and understanding the structure of my rackets I realized that I was indeed running a racket. At some point in my life something happened and from then on I made decision that I will for ever be one-up with my peers. Over time I had forgotten about the incident and also forgot that I made the “being one-up decision”; but the behavior and attitude remained. I had to ensure that I delegate tasks in a way that made it difficult (if not impossible) for people to deliver good results. That way I could continue to be “one-up”. The Landmark Forum helped me identify this inner flaw and move beyond it, by declaring a new possibility of being without the “delegation racket”.

Identity, they distinguish, is a set of three strong suits. A strong suit is something we use repeatedly to deliver results and become/be successful. While strong suits are wonderful tools to deliver results, it is also highly limiting. For example my strong suit is “being self-sufficient”. While that strong suit helps me in being independent and proactive, it doesnt really help me when I have to depend on others for creating results. That explains more of my delegation racket. The Identity conversation helped me get why I am the way I am, and why I am not the way I am not. After the session on Identity, I declared new possibilities of being not my strong suits or rackets.

The Landmark Forum in Action (LFIA) Seminar series is still going on. I am thoroughly enjoying the journey of inner discovery that the LFIA is causing. In the coming few blogs I am going share the results that I have been generating and the new insights gotten out of my participation in LFIA.