Going from Words To Worse?


Way back in 1998, Ted Nicholas wrote a book called “Magic Words That Bring You Riches “. Ted was a copywriting and marketing legend and his book is extremely relevant not just for the serious entrepreneur and copywriter but for people from all walks of life.



The single most important aspect of your life is your ability to communicate. Unlimited success and wealth is as simple as using the right words to reveal herein. These magic words work as if by magic!



Everyday parlance may not value the weight and impact of these words and hence they are an endangered species, fast being relegated to a bottomless pit. Let’s list some of these magic words first and see why we seem to be missing the wood for the trees.




Excuse Me

Sorry | I am Sorry

Thank You

May I?

You are welcome


As you can see these words or phrases are not tongue twisters or heavy to articulate. Still they get the royal ignore. Is it because people have a sense of entitlement and thereby feel that they need not use them? Is it typical power dynamics and not wanting to consider themselves lower in the pecking order of hierarchy? Is it the absence of culture and appropriate upbringing that makes these words superfluous in their scheme of things?



Courtesy costs nothing, but buys everything.”- Hazrat Ali ibn Abu-Talib A.S



One difference between savagery and civilization is a little courtesy. You would have experienced these often as we trapeze through life’s rat race. You hold the door open for the person behind you and he walks past without even a hint of an acknowledgment, let alone a thank you. You are left feeling like a door knob. You set up a meeting for someone with a person of influence and she manages to get a big contract with that introduction. What do you get? Forget a finder’s fee(that was never the expectation), you are not on her contact list any more!! You are in a queue like a lot of others and this individual goes right up to the front and behaves as if he is the privileged special emissary of the Lord and the rest of us are less than ordinary mortals. Excuse me? And please don’t get me started on road rage!



Have you seen the snap of the finger at restaurants when the self appointed high and mighty calls out to the waiter? The least you feel like doing at that time is to distance his finger from it’s roots once and for all, but then seizures of  homicidal tendencies do not a civilization make.



So who | what is to blame for this kind of obnoxious behaviour? Upbringing, K-12 education, organisation culture, life’s rat race, the perennial mercenary quest??



That said, we can all make a start. Now. May I request you to do that? Thank you!





The Jury is Out: Burnout or Boreout?



Ideally neither. But, then it is not an ideal world.



Modern life comes in the way of rest and sleep. Contemporary society sets the benchmark for lesser mortals wherein if you are not Type A, then you are not good enough. The productivity narrative is overwhelming and concepts like FOMO only add fuel to the fire.



Unlike what the ecosystem would have you believe, burnout is NOT a badge of honour. The perennial quest to be invincible, Machiavelli or Herculeus is all encompassing. Burnout is when you are all the time overstimulated. Our culture glorifies burnout as a measure of success and self worth and that does not help in any way. The implicit message is that if we are not perpetually exhausted, we are not doing enough. As if the great things are reserved for those who bleed. For those who almost break.



As high achievers we are conditioned(conned?) to believe that the path to success is only through relentless work. And if you have to overachieve the only way is to overexert, overdo and overthink. Getting ahead doesn’t have to as hard as we make it out to be. There is a better way.



The best way to accelerate is to take the foot off the pedal.



If one were to attempt defining boreout, it would go something like this: Boreout is an informal term for a state of dissatisfaction and demotivation one may experience due to being bored at work. A state wherein repeatedly completing tasks you consider to be pointless or meaningless. When you can’t find value|meaning in your work, you feel understimulated. High levels of anxiety, depression and stress are frequently associated with boreout. If you frequently procrastinate — putting off important tasks in favor of other instantly-rewarding activities — it could be because of boreout.



The rise of ‘quiet quitting‘ is a fallout of boreout. Especially amongst the GenZ’s entering the workspace. Quiet quitting has nothing to do with quitting your job. Instead, you only do the work necessary to do your job successfully, often what’s listed in your job description.


The toll of long hours depends on how you feel about them. People are at elevated risk of depression, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol when they burn the midnight oil based on obsession- but not when they based on passion. There’s also evidence that obsession predicts greater conflict between work and and the rest of life: you struggle to disconnect from your work, which leads to burnout.



We are neither robots nor a manufacturing plant. Creativity isn’t produced..you run into it, you discover it. And that happens during moments of slack, not hard labour.



Take back the passion. And out with burnout and boreout!



Do You Think There Is a Problem with The Word ‘Library’?


To set the stage, let’s take a little journey back in time to the origins of libraries to trace how they came to be what they are today. Libraries, of course, are a result of the invention of writing. So far as we know, the Sumerians invented writing—cuneiform, which was wedge-shaped writing on clay tablets—about 3000 b.c. in the cradle of civilization, between the Tigris and Euphrates River, now present day Iraq.



I know English is a funny language and the tongue doesn’t have a bone. Which is why phonetics could convey something that we are not supposed to interpret but yet we will.



Breaking up the word library, in the phonetic sense of the word, it would begin with ‘lie‘ and then ‘brary‘. Truth be told, that is a lie. Nothing could be farther than the truth. A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. A library is like a salve, a retreat, a treasure trove precisely for what lies inside it. A heady mix of ‘dine in and take away‘.



So, I won’t lie. Would ‘ truthbrary ‘ be a better term for a library?  Let the rant continue. Read on..



Library is the place where our self life has a shelf life. The happy domicile at the intersection of the self taught and the shelf taught. Libraries are the great equalizers in combating the digital divide and the information divide. It is the last man standing amongst institutions that are part of the public good.



“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein



The perennial, uninterrupted, democratic access to information is the be all and end all. Which is what you find in a library. Books. That are weapons, of mass construction!



“At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians, and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams.” Barack Obama



A lot of us have taken libraries for granted. They have been integral to our education, to our life, and obviously, to our careers. Being in libraries and using books has been normal; libraries as places have been “like home” to us. I’ll bet most of you have had the same experience with libraries, be they school, public, university, medical, hospital—or whatever. Truth be told, libraries have been an integral part of our lives. Truthbrary!



I don’t think I’ll be able to help you find that.
No librarian, ever.




The Imperfection of Chasing Perfection !


Ask any movie expert, and they will point out that the first “Avengers” movie(the highest grossing Marvel movie back in 2012) had the most continuity (i.e., logical) mistakes in it.



Alludes to the point how imperfection is more profitable than perfection.



“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in”- Leonard Cohen



Sure you don’t want to be on an airplane with a pilot who announces that we have a 90% chance of landing and taking off perfectly. Nor be at the mercy of a heart surgeon doing your bypass saying that he was content with doing an adequate job. You would know the classic interview line when the interviewee is asked about a weakness and the response is “my greatest weakness is that I am too much of a perfectionist“.



Perfectionism is what prompts people to appear to be living their best lines online but hide their physical and emotional scars in shame. This malaise started well before the advent of social media(a generation before superbly air brushed images began to be posted on Instagram). In a hyper competitive world, the pressure on kids from their parents to be the best and to be the receiving end of harsh criticism when they were not, meant that kids began to judge their worth based on the absence of inadequacies. What an exacting standard to live up to!!



Let’s go back to another example from the movies. I read this in the mercurial Ben Settle‘s email newsletters. There is a fascinating book called the “Backstory 1”.



It’s the first of four volumes of interviews with screenwriters for Hollywood’s “golden” age. And the insights & lessons inside are not only extremely thought-provoking, but can be extremely profitable, too. Take, for example, an interview inside with screenwriter Richard Maibaum, where he dropped a zinger about a conversation he had with Alfred Hitchcock.



Here is what he said:



[Hitchcock] said to me, “Did you read what we’ve got?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “What did you think about it?” I replied, “It’s not very logical.” He grimaced and said, “Oh, dear boy, don’t be dull. I’m not interested in logic. I’m interested in effect. If the audience ever thinks about logic, it’s on their way home after the show, and by that time, you see, they’ve paid for their tickets.”



Too much logic sucks out the drama, rinses out the ‘effect‘.



The Japanese tea ceremony is indeed a ‘thing‘. Back in the 16th Century it underwent a seismic shift. Immaculate dishes were replaced with chipped bowls. People drank from pottery that was worn and weathered. The Japanese called this practice ‘wabi sabi‘. Wabi sabi is the art of honoring the beauty in imperfection. It’s not about creating intentional imperfections- it’s more about accepting that imperfections are inevitable and recognising that they don’t stop something from becoming sublime.



One of the all time great songs from Bollywood ‘Chingari Koi Badke‘, sung by Kishore Kumar and composed by the seminal R D Burman, orginated from a misplayed guitar chord. You may want to know more about it here https://youtu.be/0rMT-d1lAKY?si=snJPw_lF87T4nZxY



We grow by embracing our shortcomings, not by punishing them. Look no further. The wealthiest place on the planet is just down the road. It is the cemetery. No, I am dead serious. And it is a matter of grave concern. The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was far too obsessed with waiting for the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect partner, the perfect market…



There is a reason why it is coined ‘cause and effect‘, not ’cause and perfect’. Striving for social approval(read perfection) comes with a cost. Extrinsic factors like popularity and appearance rather than intrinsic factors like growth and connection exudes a case of lower well-being. Seeking validation is a bottomless pit.



Makes imperfect sense?







Are You People Pleasing? Please Don’t!



Hello there to most of us driftwoods in the ocean. Yes, that is an appropriate way to address most of us who in the quest to conform, comply, fit in, appease, not disappoint, give up (sacrifice is more like it I reckon) a part of the authentic us to please the other. Voluntarily short changing ourselves. And, in a lot of cases, not even being able to wallow in self pity about it (lest it displease the other side). The consequences of this on our state of health is immense. And there is nothing positive about it.



So, rather than be the driftwood in the ocean, the goal is to become a sailboat with a rudder that is influenced by the wind, but charts its own course. The willing allies of our inability to say no include anxiety, stress, depression, poor health and last but not the least sub optimal self worth.



A lot of us are in this boat. Where our middle name is ‘people pleaser‘.  Time to seek out the discomfort and have these hard conversations. Purposeful confrontations. And by hard conversations I actually mean radical candor where you are caring personally while challenging professionally. And this can be done without being aggressive or insincere. Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to.



For example, in work teams there are functional and dysfunctional staff. Several leaders intentionally scope the talent and temperaments and then “exploit the best, who carry the rest“. Excellent workers are often strategically groomed to burn out and those employees who “coast” simply watch and laugh.  Setting boundaries with an employer is critical.

We are so busy caring more about how to show up so as to be accepted. That we don’t show up at all. With our real self and with what we really want. Among other fallouts, add Fibromyalgia to the mix of diseases that can be caused by people pleasing. When your mouth can’t make your true state of being overwhelmed/exhausted be heard and your body starts with all the pain to protect yourself from the outside and forces you to hide within. Studies have shown that parts of the brain that register pain react differently if you have fibromyalgia. This means you feel pain when other people just feel uncomfortable or stiff. And the vicious cycle takes you back to what you think is right(which is actually wrong) i.e people pleasing!



You might like this single by Cat Burns( an artist who speaks about personality traits, mental health and interaction with others, so beautifully). You can listen to the song here https://youtu.be/uPkuTVQAIiM?si=WkZLYAUABUnB2vmC 



You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. There’s more rewards in leading the crowd, than pleasing it. Don’t burn yourself, to keep others warm. Don’t be afraid of losing people, but be afraid of losing yourself trying to make everyone happy.



So, please do as you please!





Are you in need of a culture sock?


By ‘sock‘ I don’t mean the sock you wear with shoes. Here ‘sock‘ means a hard blow, a lethal upper cut from heavyweight boxer. Well, I mean metaphorically.



We have moved on from the famous adage ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast’ to  ‘Culture eating Strategy for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between ‘to the more finite yet all encompassing ‘Culture is Strategy‘ .



A few years ago, we received an RFP( how I hate the term) from a leading University in the region asking us to pitch our branding, strategy & creative services and submit a quote. The deliverables were very much what we do for a living but what was most disconcerting was the frequent use of the word ‘vendor‘ every other line amidst the sea of largely unneeded legalese that such documents are ‘expected’ to have. Taking umbrage, I called the CEO then(himself from a large MNC technology company earlier) and requested that the word vendor in the RFP document be replaced with something more respectful and appropriate. I told him that if he expected our organisation ISD Global to bring in its experience, knowledge, insights, time, intellect, effort and emotional labour to this project, we better be perceived as far beyond being a ‘vendor‘. Though he got defensive at first saying that is the norm and the culture that prevailed at his organisation over a long time, he was gracious enough to make the change.



Don’t you feel sick and tired of the dreary ‘accounting department‘ or the ‘purchasing department‘ or the ‘finance department‘ or the ‘procurement department‘ or the ‘logistics department‘. Instead of thinking & functioning like cost centres and accumulators of ‘overheads’, what if you are adding value, creating intellectual capital and becoming cool and in the process becoming awesomely, fabulously exciting. WOW. That will be a sea change in the culture. And yes, that is the culture ideally we would like to see.

Designworks/USA is BMW‘s US design operation. The powers that be at BMW‘s HO in Munich decreed that 50% of the unit’s activities should be revenue producing stuff…more importantly it should be done for companies outside of BMW.



The idea goes like this: if you are creating fabulous chairs designed for a top notch brand like Steelcase, then that culture and creativity will find its way into the design of the interiors and seating for BMW‘s next model. And if you can’t make it in the ‘real world‘ with ‘outside clients‘, then you should not be in business. Wow. Balls, guts, gumption, all rolled into one!



So, some guard rails, if I may:-

Culture change is not ‘corporate

Culture change is not a ‘program

Culture change does not take ‘years

Culture change does not start ‘today

Culture change starts ‘right now

Culture change ‘lives in the moment

Culture change is ‘entirely in your own hands



The mantras to try with IMMEDIATE EFFECT:

We will do WOW work

We will seek out and work for pioneering clients

We will focus on the things that make us special and distinct

We will push to the hilt the things we are BIP(Best in Planet)

We will start now. Right this minute


From enterprise efficiency to enterprise transformation. From cubicle slaves to proud professionals. From performing tasks to creating WOW projects. From minimising expenses to maximising value added. From procedure-centric to client-centric. From minimising payroll and consultancy fees and hiring cheap to hiring superstars and valuing them by what you pay. From going through the motions to tolerating nothing less than excellence and coolness.



A lot to be accomplished, isn’t it? Let’s get started?



Won of a Kind!


I am unaware of the origin of this story and hence not able to offer appropriate attribution. That said, the story is uplfting and worth sharing. So, here goes.



This is the story of two neighbours, one very well off and with all the good things in life and the other not so well off and just about getting by. Often the less fortunate would be at her better off neighbour’s door and asking for things be it milk or oil etc. And all requests were met with grace and politeness. Once, in a reversal of trend, the wealthy neighbour went next door to ask for some salt. The son surprisingly looked at his mother because there was enough salt in the house and wondered what his mother was upto. On his mother returning from the neighbours house with a tumbler of salt, curiosity got the better of him and he asked what prompted her to ask the neighbour for salt when there was enough salt in the house. To which the mother responded, “I don’t want her to feel that she is the only one always needing us. I wanted to convey to her that we need her too so that she feels good about herself”.



Kindness can be shared in small doses. And one need not be well off to make that a character trait. Though it is said that if you want to be rich, then be kind. And when we’re enjoying our days of being kind, we’ve created a posture that spreads.



Being kind may seem like a moral imperative. And, surely in some ways it is.Kind interactions are significantly more productive. When we leave opportunities and pathways for others, they can move forward with less friction.



Kindness is wisdom elevated. In these days when we are so disconnected and afraid, the answer might be to showing up to do the difficult work of connection, of caring, of extending ourselves when it is least expected. Kindness, generosity and possibility are all cogs in the same wheel.





Prepared to look foolish is NOT being foolish!


In our quest to be the perfect version of ourselves, we over index on the idea of ‘ appearance ‘. To present & look good in front of others. And that default becomes a drag and devil as time wears on. The race for mastery in this ” Republic of Not Enough ” seems perennial.



Borrowing from George Leonard‘s masterpiece of a book ‘Mastery‘, imagine doing a very elemental task such as touching your forehead with your hand. Have you lost it? You may ask because it is so simple. Now, go back in time when you were a mere toddler and you tried doing the same simple act of touching your forehead with your hand and you had to indulge in all sorts of calisthenics to do that successfully. While coming to terms with different parts of your body and their points of reference which was a mere illusion in the tiny toddler head. At that time, it seems like a total non pianist trying to play a Beethoven sonata.


Back in the day, amongst the multiple aspirations I held, one was to become a musician. And I took the plunge to learn to play the Congo (image attached above for those might not have heard about it before, pardon the pun). The first few days I was a disaster and my prolific master was making it look like a walk in the park. Not just out of sync, I felt very out of place as well. Foolish is a better coinage for that. But I hung in there( lot of credit to my coach and my friends who were there too learning the guitar and the harmonium) till such time it began to strike a chord. As both hands and fingers began to rally around intent and tune.



To learn something new of any significance, you have to be willing to look foolish.



Imagine the best fielder on the national cricket team dropping a catch in front of thousands at the stadium and with millions watching! The willingness to go there and do it(or undo it) in front of your most precious audiences be it teacher, coach, teammates etc is an absolute must. If you’re always thinking about appearances, you can never attain the state of concentration that’s necessary for effective learning and top performance.



If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid. So stay hungry, foolish, stupid. Learning about learning begins there.






In a Professional defense of the Amateur!


Some dictionary meanings first:-

Amateur: a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.



Amateur: a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis.



To go with the above, there is a supporting cast of synonyms, antonyms, and words related to amateur, such as: abecedarian, apprentice, aspirant, beginner, dabbler, and dilettante.



It is obvious that there is no quest anywhere to crown the word amateur in glory. The world needs perfectionists and professionals, the ones who have been there done that.



The word amateur doesn’t get a lot of love these days. When we hear “amateur,” we think of a dabbler—someone unskilled and undisciplined who flutters from one hobby to another.



Now, let us take a look t the origin of the word amateur: it came from the Latin word ‘amare‘, which means to love. To do things for the love of it. And, there is(gratefully) an audience that is coaxing and encouraging us to love what you do, and do what you love. Follow your heart, without wanting to hang onto the coattails of outcomes. Small, consistent progress is what takes the amateur to professional status(if she so chooses to).



So, amateur is NOT a dirty word.

It comes with almost unabashed freedom. The best time in your life to create, take the plunge, begin a new chapter, following your heart without the rabid pressure of expectation. Don’t overlook or undervalue the gift of this time. And still we use amateur as if it’s a dirty word.



Being an amateur goes hand in hand with having a beginner’s mindset, when you are fanning your childlike curiosity, exploring, discovering and taking those small or big leaps of faith. Once we are established, we are governed more and more by outcomes and that comes with rigidity, close mindedness, the enemies of creation. So, hang onto that phase of your life where you edify your amateur self. Create, ship out. Rinse, repeat!



Never be afraid to try something new.“Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic”Dave Barry



Considered “a man of colossal genius” by George Bernard Shaw, G.K. Chesterton was a prolific writer— publishing 80 books, 200 short stories, and over 4,000 essays in his lifetime. And in those prolific writings, Chesterton gave special meaning to the amateur over the professional, to the generalist over the specialist.



In his AutobiographyChesterton writes of his father:



” To us (children) he appeared to be indeed The Man with the Golden Key, the magician opening the gates of goblin castles . . . but all this time he was known to the world, and even to the next door neighbors, as a very reliable and capable, though rather unambitious businessman. It was a very good lesson in what is also the last lesson in life: that in everything that matters, the inside is much larger than the outside. On the whole, I am glad that he was never a professional artist. It might have stood in his way of becoming an amateur. It might have spoilt his career—his private career.



Take the tech industry, for example. Google, Microsoft, Facebook—all of these big companies were started by amateurs. And then there’s Wikipedia, which, despite being run (almost) entirely by amateurs, has replaced the eminent and professional Encyclopaedia Brittanica.



The internet has shown us there are people willing to make things with no immediate benefit at all. And they do pretty damn good job of it.



The amateur is back.



Have you enrolled into the University of Curiosity?



Curiosity is that strange human trait that got us out of the cave, across the globe, and onto the moon. A trait that has led to communication and collaboration.“Why” has the X factor!


Albert Einstein quoted that a mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.
All research come to think of it is ‘ formalised curiosity ‘.
Doubt and inquiry are the two pillars of progress.. So, it makes sense to ‘ Start with Why? ‘
Scott Shigeoka is an advocate for the power of curiosity. Scott delves into the ABCs of our habitual thoughts – Assumptions, Biases, and Certainty – and how they shape our world views. In the age of digital information overload, he emphasizes the need to make room for new insights about ourselves and others.
If you are like me, we are all a failed by-product of our education system that does not encourage, respect or recognise individual curiosity. It is mostly about what there is and what has to be conformed to.
An interesting aside can be extracted from the movie ‘ Accepted ‘. After receiving his latest college rejection letter, senior Bartleby Gaines ( played by Justin Long) devises a novel way to fool everyone into thinking he is college-bound: Open his own university. Bartleby and his similarly stymied friends take over an abandoned building, create a fake Web site, hire a friend’s uncle to pose as the dean, and — presto — a school is born. However, they do their jobs too well, and soon many other rejects try to gain admittance to the nonexistent South Harmon Institute of Technology.
So these 1000 ‘ admitted students ‘ turn up at the supposedly non existent university on day one and there is Lewis Black, the Dean. And he asks, ‘ so, well , what should we teach them? Because he said he didn’t know but offers a solution- lets ask the students what they want to learn. The student reactions are truly telling because nobody has ever bothered to ask them what they are interested in. So, the Dean says, let’s take this students’ tuition and appropriate it towards something that she’s truly curious about. Could be a not so real and immediate possibility but can you imagine the first university that actually creates a pilot program to test this approach driven totally by curiosity? They will have students going to them in droves, needless to say.
Real curiosity is just truly open-hearted, open-mindedness. Like I’m here to just understand you and where you come from and to understand your experiences, to understand the person you are. We live in a society where people are flattened to their identities. You are Japanese or Indian. You are brown or white. You voted for the Democrats. But there’s so much more nuance and beauty and messiness and complication and contradiction. And the only way we can learn about those things is if we ask these really powerful questions and, you know, engage in a deeper form of curiosity.
If our cup of ABC( assumptions, biases & certainty) is full to the brim, often without us even noticing, leaving little room to absorb new information about ourselves and each other and the world around us. This gets in the way of deep curiosity. We live in a world which reinforces the biases that we have. And social media and the echo chambers that it wields the megaphone on, are not helping.
We need to enter this age where we reclaim our curiosity and really practice it every day, inspire others to do it knowing that it’s contagious.