Smile More and Judge Less


Stress comes from not doing what we know we should be doing. ~ Rubén Gonzalez

Marshall Goldsmith conducts a unique exercise in his workshops. He did this activity with us in the 2-day workshop at ISB Hyderabad in January this year. We were asked to identify 1-2 minor changes in our behaviors that would have a major positive impact on our lives. We had the latitude to choose any area of life namely health, fitness, relationship, leadership etc.

Once we wrote two things on our notepads, Marshall asked us to frame one sentence to encapsulate those behavioral changes in 6 words. This was a tough task! It really made me focus and shave all unimportant words in my sentence. I took around 10 minutes to meditate on my words and finally settled with the sentence ‘Smile more and judge less’. This line acts as a constant reminder for me to find joy in life and to be aware of the fact that perceptions create realities (my two behavioral changes).

It’s been 90 days since I wrote this line and the message still rings in my ears once in a while to focus on new behaviors. I also have this posted on my message board at work!

Since then I have tried this exercise in 1:1 coaching and group workshops. Let me list a few lines people wrote in my workshops. I really love the way this activity piques people’s creativity.

Eat less and be healthy

Relax and Embrace Life

Enjoy more and complain less

Breathe deep and speak with a smile

Listen better and ask questions

Run and have more fun

Be happy

Let go and enjoy the inevitable

Talk less and accept more

Enjoy doing what needs to be done

How about you? When you do this exercise – what two things would you write? What would be your one-line slogan to remember? Go ahead and do this exercise. I appreciate if you can add your one-liners as comments on this blog. Before I sign off, let me reiterate mine – ‘Smile more and judge less’.

The Secret of Benjamin Franklin’s Success

Ben Franklin

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ~ Benjamin Franklin

In his autobiography, Benjamin talks about how he changed his personality and became a man of unrivaled virtues. Benjamin was short-tempered and had a sharp tongue. He was keen to develop his character and become a better human being. At age 20, Benjamin listed the following 13 virtues he wanted to inculcate and master during his lifetime. He also wrote a short description for each virtue on his list.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates

His method is ingenious; he would take one virtue at a time and follow it for a week and leave all others their ordinary chance. He would consciously practice that virtue in his behaviors. After a week, he would move on to the next one on the list. This process would continue for 13 weeks to complete one cycle. In a year, Benjamin completed 4 cycles. Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and he fell short of them many times. He believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness.

To me this is a phenomenal framework for character development. Practicable plan for improving our behaviors and leadership attributes. I humbly borrowed items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11 from his and have attempted to inculcate them in my life. The process has been rewarding so far!

In his autobiography Franklin wrote these words, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit”.

If you have read this article so far, please do yourself a favor and try this idea for a week at least and see how this benefits you!

Rehashing Our Stories


We are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by our opinion of the things that happen. ~ Epictetus

Our actions are guided by our perceptions and feelings. Interpersonal conflicts are primarily due to differences in perceptions and emotional attachment to our perceived reality of the situation! There are many books written on tools to challenge our perceptions. One of the best tools I have read is in the book ‘Crucial Conversations’ called ‘Path to Action’. The path to action has 4 steps and it’s a brilliant way to succinctly articulate our behavior patterns.

  1. See and Observe
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Feel
  4. Act

Let’s say a manager is passing by the pantry and his team members are laughing their hearts out. Seeing the manager enter the pantry, they all try to muffle their laughter and slowly stop. The moment he is out, they burst into laughter again. The manager observes this and tells a story in his mind. One story may be the team was talking about him and making fun of his leadership style. If this is the story narrated by the manager, certainly he will feel hostile towards the team and specifically towards the person who was leading the laughter club. How do you think the manager will behave with his team members? Definitely his feelings of hostility will influence his behavior and the way he treats his team.

When we know that we are not natural and influenced by negative feelings in behavior, we can use this tool to elevate our awareness. We just have to rehash the story, look for facts and go backwards!

Once the manager becomes aware of his biased action, he can ask the following questions to validate his story.

What feelings are influencing my action now? (Anger, hostility, frustration etc)

What story am I telling myself to induce these feelings? (Revisit the story, in this case the story of his team laughing at him)

What facts did I see or observe to validate this story? (Did he hear them take his name? What other facts did he consider to arrive at his conclusion?)

The above questions really help us validating out stories and understand the role of perceptions. Instead of driven by feelings, now rational thinking will be in driver’s seat. When dealing with interpersonal conflicts, remember each person has their own story, perception and feeling! Actions are fruits of perceptions!