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!

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Goldsmith’s guaranteed way to change behaviors

Behavior Change

“People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”

― Marshall Goldsmith

I am coaching a person who works as a manager in a multi-national organization with a few direct reports. I am a fan of Marshal Goldsmith’s principles and process of executive coaching. I leverage his guaranteed and measurable framework for leadership development. A leader needs humility, courage and discipline to go through Marshall’s process of leadership improvement. To keep the anonymity of my client – I will use the word ‘Leader’ in the ensuing paragraphs to refer to this person.

360 degree feedback (anonymous) is the first step in Marshall’s process to know the perceptions of team members about their leader. In this case we had 10 people participating in 360 degree feedback and providing their viewpoints on the leader’s behaviors. The report was very insightful and the leader was shocked to see the team’s perceptions and observations.

One common behavioral flaw emerged in most participants’ feedback.

  1. The leader doesn’t listen and interrupts others all the time

I really admire the courage of this leader who is willing to admit his flaws and willing to change & grow. Instead of justifying his style he is focused on ‘what behaviors are causing this perception in his team?’, which is the quality great of a leader!

During our coaching session this evening, he asked some tips to become a better listener. His natural style is to interrupt people within a few seconds. So we played this game that Marshall recommends in his coaching framework. We agreed that during our conversation, every time the leader interrupts me he would pay me INR 100/-. He laughed instantly and agreed to play this game – as it was a paltry amount for him 🙂

After this I went on sharing how this idea helped my other clients, he interrupted me in the middle of my first sentence 🙂 I stopped and said ‘100 rupees now’ ! He pulled out a 100-rupee note and handed it over to me. In that hour he interrupted me 5 times within the first 30 minutes and he lost 500 rupees 🙂 He started feeling the pinch!

In the next half hour, suddenly his awareness elevated and whenever he was about to interrupt me – he stopped midway and started smiling at me! This was amazingly powerful! I believe his drive to save money and win over me both increased his conscious awareness to change his behavior.

He was so excited about this change and the efficacy of this simple process. Tomorrow he is announcing to his team about this game. Every time they catch him not listening and interrupting others – he will pay them 100 rupees on the spot!

No wonder Marshall is a genius and the most populate executive coach on this planet with 150+ CEOs as his clients. Simple, effective and pragmatic ideas make his framework rock!

Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?

GoodThingBadThing

Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.

~ Epictetus

There was once a farmer who owned a horse and had a son. One day, his horse ran away. The neighbors came to express their concern: “Oh, that’s too bad. How are you going to work the fields now?” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

In a few days, his horse came back and brought another horse with her. Now, the neighbors were glad: “Oh, how lucky! Now you can do twice as much work as before!” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son fell off the new horse and broke his leg. The neighbors were concerned again: “Now that he is incapacitated, he can’t help you around, that is too bad.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

Soon, the news came that a war broke out, and all the young men were required to join the army. The villagers were sad because they knew that many of the young men will not come back. The farmer’s son could not be drafted because of his broken leg. His neighbors were envious: “How lucky! You get to keep your only son.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

That very summer….and the story continues…

The above Sufi story is quoted by many authors to illustrate how our perceptions color our life experiences.

Dr.Sri Kumar Rao in his best-selling book ‘Are you ready to succeed?’ recommends an exercise based on the above story.

Think of a past moment in your life where you perceived the event as bad then, but now when you look back that was indeed a useful fork in your life. All of us can recall several such forks in our lives – choosing a college to study, accepting a ‘not-so-attractive’ job offer, a personal setback or decisions that we took because of lack of choices and so on. Those events opened up new avenues and pathways of opportunities in the ensuing days!

Let’s look at our life today and review the things that are bothering us right now and crying for our attention. These events that seem bad may indeed be great turning points in our life when we connect the dots looking backwards at a future date! Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence J

This is a fabulous tool for centering ourselves and face daily challenges. When we find ourselves in a web of internal chatter labeling a life event as negative –let’s remember to say to ourselves, Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?

The Power of a Checklist

checklist

The basic challenge faced by managers is not understanding the practice of leadership – it is practicing their understanding of leadership. ~ Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith’s proven leadership growth process centers on consciously choosing new behaviors and committing to adopt new behaviors on a daily basis. To ensure that we measure our progress he stresses on frequent follow-up meetings with stakeholders. I attended his 2-day program at ISB Hyderabad last week on Executive Coaching. It was fascinating to see him take the same analogy and apply it for our personal behavioral changes.

Marshall narrated his personal example to illustrate the point. He has a checklist with a few questions listed on it. Three of his questions are below (I may not be using the exact words he uses).

  • Did I do some physical exercise today?
  • Did I say or do something nice to my wife today?
  • Did I say or do something nice to my son and daughter today?

He goes through this checklist every day before signing off the day. What inspired me was the fact that he has been reviewing his checklist daily for several years (may be decades). Now, he has hired a lady to call him every day and ask the questions on this list and hear out his answers J Wow! Now this needs courage, humility and discipline! Hats off to you Marshall!!!

Marshall

After we heard this, the entire class was silent for a while and we started making our checklist questions. Marshall said with a saintly smile, most of you will stop this process within 2 weeks – not because this checklist doesn’t work; because this will work.

He also recommended us to reach the book “The Checklist Manifesto” authored by Atul Gawande to know more about this topic of checklist and how this simple and yet profound idea can change our behaviors for better.

Inspired by his personal story, I wrote the following questions on my checklist to consciously do or stop certain behaviors.

  • Did I interrupt anyone while they were speaking ?
  • Did I mindlessly eat junk or unhealthy food?
  • Did I engage myself in some physical exercise?
  • Did I procrastinate on any important matter?
  • Did I make destructive or negative comments about others?

Marshall was right, I reviewed this checklist for 5 days and forgot to review the checklist after that J Within those 5 days I really felt great when I consciously focused on these behaviors. I was a better human being, a caring father & son and a loving husband 🙂 I wrote this article to reaffirm my commitment to review this checklist daily!!! This reminds me of Marshall’s quote – we don’t become better by knowing, we become better by doing

Blood donation camp on 17th Januray 2015 (Saturday)

Blood1

On 17th January 2015 (Saturday), we (my family & some of my friends) have organized a blood donation camp. I request you to participate in this drive and make more blood relatives. One unit of your blood can be administered to 3 needy patients. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve, help and make more blood relatives!

You can also contribute as a volunteer and oversee the operations.

Location: Respro Academy [Veta English Training Center]

Bannerghatta Main Road, Bangalore – 560083

Land Mark: Opposite IIM-Bangalore Main gate

Start Time: 10AM

End Time   : 4PM

Our goal is collect 50 units on that day. So if you have read this post so far, please ensure you book your slot now!

For better execution and logistics planning, we request you to RSVP and not plan to walk in on 17th Jan 2015.

Our goal is to make your donation experience pleasant and fulfilling.

For more information and questions, please feel free send an e-mail to pramoda.vyasarao@gmail.com or call me at 98806 32291.

We also plan to create an event on Facebook to share this with a wider audience.

To know more about benefits of donating blood, please read the below article

https://pramodavyasarao.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/my-23rd-donation/

Blood2

Here’s how my mother found Mojo at work for 33 years…

Mojo

“Mojo” is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside. ~ Marshall Goldsmith

As an executive coach and leadership facilitator, I meet several talented individuals who are not finding Mojo at work. In other words, they are experiencing ‘Nojo’. They may have impressive titles, attractive remuneration and cozy offices; they are missing meaning and happiness in what they do. One thing is sure, no job will promise you meaning and happiness on the offer letter. Most people find acres of diamonds in their own backyard if only they take time and search for answers. Instead of chasing the mirage of ‘dream job’, people need to take a step back and ponder about finding Mojo in their current jobs. In my personal view, happiness is inside us. If we aren’t happy with our jobs now; mostly this will continue even when switch to a new job!

Our attitude towards what we do is as important as what we do!

That’s why seasoned interviewers ask questions on candidates’ previous jobs to know their passion and contribution. How a person describes his or her current job reveals a lot!

My role model for finding meaning at work is none other than my mother. My mom worked in a bank for 33 years. During her tenure, she didn’t eye on any promotions as that involved relocating to other cities. As a result she settled with various prosaic roles in clerical and accounting departments. I remember her title as ‘Special Assistant’ for several years, without any promotion. Despite this fact that job was ‘special’ to her (she made it special). My mother was very well respected by all her colleagues and managers for her positive spirit, her desire to help others and her cheerful personality. Needless to say she found meaning and happiness in what she was doing as a special assistant. I remember once quizzing her on how she found pride and meaning in her seemingly mundane and routine role as a clerk. She said she focused on two simple things at her work place.

  • Improve processes to provide better customer experience
  • Contribute and help her colleagues become more effective

When she was focused on these two things, she aimed at something beyond her own interests. And that’s the secret of her Mojo at work. Even today she has countless colleagues (still working) who admire her help and mentorship during the early years of their careers. It’s fun to join her when she visits her home-branch once a year to produce life certificate. The warmth, respect and care expressed by her colleagues even now are a reflection of her contribution and Mojo.

My mother found Mojo at work by following the below philosophy.

Find your strengths, indulge in activities that leverage your strengths and find ways of helping others from your strengths on a daily basis

Her story has certainly influenced my attitude and approach towards work. I wish this article inspires all readers to find Mojo in what they are doing!

PS : I acknowledge the graphic from the net.

Relationship is a mirror

Mirror

All relationship is a mirror in which the mind can discover its own operations. Relationship is between oneself and other human beings, between oneself and things or property, between oneself and ideas, and between oneself and nature. ~ J Krishnamurti

Last month I attended a weekend study retreat hosted by Krishnamurti Foundation India. In this article, I have attempted to highlight one important aspect I picked from the retreat and implemented in my life. The phrase ‘relation is a mirror’ is a brilliant metaphor that paints a new picture in our brains. This phrase moves our attention from others to self in relationships. In essence, we can see ourselves in a mirror of relationships with other people.

If we pause and see our images in this mirror, it reveals everything about ourselves. These images clearly show who we are and what we do. Our beliefs, values, prejudices, biases, fears, hidden motives and choices emerge and become clear when we start seeing ourselves in the mirror of relationships.

Let me illustrate this further with a personal story. This incident happened on my way to this retreat on Thursday evening (6th November). While driving towards KFI center on Kanakapura road at 7PM, the night was dark and the road was deserted. A couple standing the roadside bus stop waved their hands to hop into my car. Since I was in a hurry, I didn’t pay much attention to drove past them.

Honestly, I didn’t think about that incident until Friday morning. When the topic of relationship mirrors surfaced, this movie instantly started running on the screen of my mind. I asked myself, why did I ignore their request and didn’t offer help? I pondered over various potential reasons.

Is it because I was afraid to put myself in a vulnerable situation? Was I uncomfortable talking to them on my way for the next 5 kilometers (my destination)? Was I uncomfortable in stopping and saying NO? Was it because no one so far has asked for a ride on a deserted road? And so on…

Probably it’s difficult to put my finger on the exact reason (there may be combinations); however I loved the process of introspection and seeing my reflections in this mirror. The mirror was a great tool to examine my own behavior. What’s important is the fruit of this self-examination. This morning another couple asked the same help and I stopped with a smile, offered to help and dropped them to the nearest bus stop on my way! Here is the best part, I felt awesome after I did this 🙂

I apologize for taking a mundane example to illustrate my experience in self-examination and behavior change. I hope that doesn’t dilute the profundity of this message from Krishnamurti.

It has been a month now after my encounter with mirrors of relationships, the excitement of self-reflection continues. Every day I learn new things about myself through all my relationships with people (at home & work), ideas, nature and things in my life!

PS : I acknowledge the picture from the net.