Strategic thinking skills

Do you have it? if so, what is your strategy for everything you do in life?

Every game played with some goal in mind, strategy in place, would have better outcome than going with the flow, is it not? The strategy game that always comes to my mind is Chess. Growing up, I played several times with my brother only to lose 95% of the time. My goal of playing the game was to protect my king and his was to strategically place pawns to attack my king from all possible ways.  I drew the game more towards withdrawing than actually played up. I thought, I was never going to be good at and so gave up all together. I thought, I did not have any strategic thinking skills which are so required to play that game. Thought, those are inherent and cannot be learned.

As I started listening to this audio book on strategic thinking skills, they spoke about several sports, wars, political agendas on how certain teams wins over the others despite both of the team goals were to win. The audio books and myself does not really work well together, the moment a thought is shared by the author, my mind wanders back to my life experiences and how I have reacted or would react in such situations? The chess was part of the same thought process. The author said – strategic thinking can be cultivated and it is a learned trait. And this led me to a discussion about how I felt about me when it came to chess game.

The points that came out of the discussion were:

a. Chess like any game requires practice, the more you practice, the better your brain learns about all possible moves and you tend to calculate in your head, eventually learn to play with a plan.

b. There is some emotional aspect to the game, if you lose game several times in a row, especially when you are starting out, it is easy to lose focus and interest, feel let down and that impairs your moves or strategy.

The very fact that it was computerized, it is the possible permutations and combinations that were fed to be played mechanically. It is hard to beat a computer but it isn’t possible. Computer here is a collective intelligence, learns when it loses and the more you play and win against it, the probability of winning for computer only increases.

Switching back to the topic at hand, the author emphasizes the fact that- one should have a goal, and should work towards them. Spending just 5 minutes a day towards your long term goal is more than enough to feel rooted instead of wandering. Checking the progress weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly will tell you how far you have invested should be measured with some parameters that are helping towards your goal.

The satisfaction you get by achieving what you tend to is equally gratifying. It is totally possible that you may or may not achieve your goal, but that you have given all you could makes a lot of difference in your mental health. This thought also brought back me to my growing up days of praying. Praying as a kid for me was to think about what I want everyday and work towards it. It was that simple.

Most of the times, i think life is short to get to do so many things that i want to do in life. The list is endless. And other times, I feel, I lack something in life, something that I miss. I have everything a person(?) wishes for and yet there is something amiss, and it is very hard to figure out what I want in life. Heard of Maslows hierarchy? I cannot even say such statement, there is this side in everyone that I met. Every single person. If you touch them enough, there is this side of it. In quest of “who I am and what am I here for?”  do you think, we need a strategy to get to bottom of this? Buddha or Dalai Lama or Vivekananda or Aristotle or not-so-famous person-that-I-do-not-know-of-yet and many more.. their philosophies which I have not heard or read yet, might give me some insights ? May be, may be not. We shall see.

Wonder, how i drifted from having some goal about something to another? Happens. It sure feels bit heavy. I am sure, you are entertained by these thoughts by our amazing brains as well- is it not? what’s your take on this?

 

One of those days

I am the epitome of executing Murphy ’s Law this morning. I woke up early to get to have an early start at work.  Food was prepared yesterday for dinner and today’s lunch, packed, dishes cleaned. All I have to do was make chapathi’s for two this morning before heading out to work. I skipped making chai, hurried to make chapathi’s – all of it took from waking up to stepping out – exactly 1 hr 10 minutes. I could not believe myself taking so much time. Every minute counted and every step evaluated to the T the day before and yet I am so late. Then, I rushed to get to the bus, and it was so full that it did not stop, so I hauled my way in the windy cold weather to the train station. There I come, with no trips left in my train card, morning rush with long lines to get the train card re-filled took forever, to top it my numerous attempts to fill it failed with access denied. I had to switch to another card to re-fill it, and in the process I missed the train. The next train I caught, was full with barely any space to stand comfortably, luckily I got a seat and I felt slightly better given that nothing worked out as I wanted until then.

Every minute delayed, only got added to my target arrival time at work. I had some paper work to finish and that required printing and scanning, the sad story that at this unfortunate time, I was out of ink in my home printer – so this planning was important as the documents needs to be scanned almost urgently and sent out to the parties involved.

As soon as I came, I just had 4 minutes to fill out some paper work, print, scan and send – this took me good 20 minutes. I delayed by 18 minutes than promised time frame. I planned everything so well and thought I gave so much buffer time for myself, alas, it wasn’t.

That surely is interesting start of the day – I hope, there are not many anomalies in my TODAY.

Do you have such days? How do you deal with it?

Feedback incident

If a feedback is given, good or bad, how would you take it?

We have annual performance reviews coming up and I usually do peer reviews in a constructive format. Even, if I have something negative about the person, I try my best to project in a different format which sounds like, ah – that is true and I must improve versus I have been criticized about it. I must admit, that I get the proof reading who is good at such things and I have been learning to improve.

This work on hand takes me back to my college days where everyone in the class were asked to give feedback about our teachers although it was required to fill out our names, we were told that our information would be kept anonymous when they share the feed back with respective teachers.  Without further ado, I gave outright honest feedback of how I felt. Not that I was a good judge, nor a bright student and I thought how much would they even consider looking into 100 other students forms about the same subject that particular teacher was teaching.

Next day, in the class, I was singled out and picked on to answer particular questions of the subject. For not-so-bright or talented student I was, I could not answer. I was given hard time in front of all other students. Surprisingly, I got least marks, i am not bright, but definitely I am better than average in the class room. Everyone, could figure out that it was the result of the feedback and I am sure they must have thanked themselves for giving only positive reviews unlike me. (Call it “presence of mind” and I clearly lacked that trait.) I cried. After the class, I stepped out requested for more reasoning with that teary eye about why certain answers were marked as incorrect even though they are correct -or so I remember. She said, “you could have given me that feedback directly instead of writing it down and have other teachers handing it over to her” . But, she never asked for it in the class. Ever. I begged, i pleaded her for her forgiveness and she said – “OK”, gave me my deserved marks for the test and we both pretended we are happy with each other. I had a tendency to cry if some one raised voice or singled me out in the class.  And this goes without being said that my lab work and 20% of my final outcome did get impacted and I am sure her friends who knew about this also gave me hard time. As a result, I got the least percentage ever compared to my previous semesters. Thank goodness it was not “Autonomous” back then, I would have been screwed up royally.

Ever since that episode, some where, deep down, I am still afraid of being brutally honest about anything. I try to frame my sentences in a politically correct way. Which is not very helpful in certain cases. Also, my recent conversation with my boss for asking him (yes, very politely, not in a accusatory manner at all) about certain decisions he took that has impacted me & some of my other colleagues as well. He was very upset, sounded very irritated and fired back at me – “Are you questioning management decisions?” I was taken back, is it not right to ask questions? for that – the meeting was all about – “How can I help you?” and don’t people like being questioned? especially bosses? I maintained my stand and said, “hey – It is OK that you or I disagree on certain things, but I need an explanation and that it impacted me, that it bothers me to continue working at peace here”. I was told that it is purely their mistake and they are set to work on improving the process to be fair to all employees.  This whole thing, did left me with a bad taste. It feels like, no one seemed to have questioned him in the past by his sub-ordinates? or was he annoyed that it was my first meeting with him that had me something where his decision making skills were questioned?

Dear you – how would you take your feedback, if that is not in your favor ? Or how would you communicate something that is bothersome to your co-worker or to your boss in reviews? If you are a boss, how do you deal with any such feedback?

Rick Rescorla & Neerja

Most of you must have heard about Neerja Bhanot by now. The movie Neerja has the true account of how brave she was in saving 359 lives during Pan Am Hijacking in Karachi, Pakistan en-route to New York in 1986 .  I did not watch the movie yet, but was digging more information about it, during that process, I got interested in watching the crash of World Trade Center towers. I never had much courage to stay still and watch or read through the story of 9/11 in entirety. I pass by this memorial site every day and yet till now, I could not get myself to be able to go visit the 9/11 memorial museum. It is too much for my weak heart to take it.

I was not even in the USA when this happened, but we were glued to TV watching with utter shock. I had never paid attention to much details of it back then and until now. Call it ignorance, rather, I had so much aversion to anything that comes under the category of news. Those worldly affairs never interested me, not in the least bit. As, I see the flights crashing those two buildings with 18 minutes apart and collapsing there after was hard to believe. Most of you probably know, there is another conspiracy theory which speaks about controlled demolition from within. Flights alone are not the prime reason. They were just timed right to collapse. Do you believe that point of view?

While I scour the world wide web for more information about 9/11 survivors, I came across this great hero Rick Rescorla who saved lives of 2,687 employees of Morgan Stanley , 250 visitors and atleast 1000 other’s from World trade center building. The foresight he has saved the lives of many, otherwise, the count of dead would not have been 3000 but 6000 plus if he hadn’t been there, with such preparation.

He was a director of security at the firm, and his foresight about WTC  prone to terrorist attack through air eventually came true. He mandated frequent fire drills un-unexpectedly, regularly until it became second nature to them, despite higher executives being annoyed. The goal was to get people safe out side the building in case of actual emergency. It did finally came true during 9/11. He took actions immediately, stayed calm, sang songs and made sure each of 38 floors occupied by Morgan Stanley employees were out of the building as planned. Only 13 employees including him were dead that day. He wanted to make sure not one person was left behind the building – yes, just not alone employees of the firm he was working for, he knew all other security personals in the building as well.

Every time, I read about him or watched a story or a statement about his got me tears. What a great personality? I am touched beyond and wonder what a great convictions he has. He is one of the few heroes. The aspect that he predicted that this will happen almost a decade ago and the fire drills were conducted so regularly until it became second nature. He took his job very seriously and strongly believed in it. It also leaves us with a knowledge that – be prepared and the opportunity shall arise.

Neerja or Rick – they had same convictions, righteousness and most importantly bravery to put people first over their lives.

DIY’s and me

I could have just googled what DIY means, I have heard the term a lot without knowing the full form of it. If you are in the same boat as I am – it is “Do It Yourself”. So, I have been scouring through internet for something or the other all the time. My interests on green living, making my own food,  lately, my spare time is usually spent on chemical free living – not entirely, but I am still exploring and slacking at the same time. My current interests have been in making my own home cleaning products, essentials rather for our regular use – laundry detergent, body lotions, shampoos, body wash, deodorant, tooth paste and all-purpose cleaners.

It just sounds so easy to just purchase ready-made considering the time I have in my hands with a full time job that has been demanding so much more than usual 9-5 lately. I still have evenings and weekends, but as you know, winters and energy levels do not go well together.  I just want to wrap myself up in a cozy comforter and watch some movie or read a book.

I digress, so DIY’s, I have used soap nuts to wash my hair once, do the laundry – thrice so far, and washed dishes few times with it. It requires me to prepare the soap nut liquid every week and not to forget using it. My DIY body butter – lasted for about a month or so and I am very satisfied with the results.  I have used lemons & baking soda to clean the rest room twice. I got vinegar to use it for all purpose cleaning needs, which I never got around to it. Repeating the same process until it gets incorporated into lifestyle routine is just not easy, for the un-organized me, it sounds like more work than just purchasing it. But, I feel good when I do such things.

The other thing probably bothers me is – I did not make notes on the natural recipes that I found online and it is time consuming and painful to repeat the search process again. This time around, I am planning to make notes and keep that one or two recipes that worked best for my needs and do it once or twice a month.

For the food, after writing it about here and the suggestions I got, and some changes that I made now made my cooking homemade food therapeutic. I have been enjoying making my meals. Or perhaps, I prioritized what is important to me at the moment and just focusing on it.

How about your DIY projects?

All about oats

Lately, I have incorporated oats into my breakfast regime in an on and off basis.  One cup (156 g) of oats contain – 103 g of carbs, 26g of protein and 17g of fiber.  All, I have heard was that oats is rich in fiber and no one really spoke about how much carbs it contains and the calories -676, these statistics blew my mind. I compared this to one cup of basmati rice and the carbs were 45 g, mere 0.6g of fiber and accounts for 206 calories. Now, I am not sure which one is better, especially when you want to get maximum nutrition and yet maintain or lose weight. The fiber seems to be of importance in many aspects of health. This website seems to give some level of accuracy on how much daily intake of fiber is required and how to account for it here.  And here is another website that lists top 10 sources of fiber.

So much for that, I decided to use up steel cut oats that were sitting in my fridge for ever. I quickly grind a cup of oats, add veggies to it and let it sit for few minutes and there you go.

Recipe1:

1 cup oats – powdered.

1/4 of medium sized cabbage – thinly sliced

Green chillies, bit of cilantro/coriander(optional) leaves and salt per your taste

Nuts of your choice – shredded. (optional)

Recipe2

1 cup oats – powdered

Spinach  or parsley or tomatoes – grind it along with oats or separately and mix them together

green chillies, bit of cilantro (optional), salt – as per your taste buds.

Nuts of your choice – shredded. (optional)

How to: Mix them together, pour water enough to be able to make pan cakes. Let it sit for 10 minutes, turn on the stove with your pan and start making spicy fiber rich quick meal breakfast pancakes.

If you would like to add eggs to above recipes – you can – they turn out great too. Similarly, you can add any combination of vegetables, nuts and they turn out super delicious.

Serve warm with – any kind of green chutney or coconut chutney or peanut chutney or even hummus – it tastes great. Or you could just have them as is without anything on the side.

If I find myself with some time in the mornings, I will quickly make them and have it.

Of course, you can even make sweeter version with banana’s and berries as well – I am sure it tastes as good. I just prefer spicy aspect of it. Nuts gives that extra added crunch while eating. I just fell in love with this quick and easy recipe.

Any nutritionist out there? or make conscious food choices for nurturing your bodies, what measures do you take to include healthy diet without surviving much on vitamin supplements?

 

Hectic days

I do not know how and why I have over committed at work. It has been crazy the past few weeks. I have been working week nights as well as weekends. I have so many things that are pressing that needs to be addressed but I decide to just focus on work and get done with it. It is January 26th already, wonder how time flew by this fast.  I crave for that relaxed vacation without the thought of hosting anyone, daily chores, meeting friends or family or attending any events and just have that time to take a step back and give my body and mind much needed rest from all the rat race. Is that a reality? Life is what we make out of it – isn’t? But, that seems like a distant future for me at the moment.

Time and again, I end up focusing on things that does not let me progress in the direction I want to. At the same time, life happens. Time management is an art that can be acquired with due diligence. My brain wanders a lot and has the smallest attention span possible. It loses the interest and obviously momentum.  The best example is – when you are in meeting rooms, I get lost in my own world and suddenly someone calling my name brings me back to my senses, and by the time I respond, the question that was targeted towards me has never reached my brain in the first place.  Does it happen to you?

People at my work leave around 4, well, they come in at 7, and it is fair that they leave at that time. On the other hand, I have been over working from past few days and I am so tempted to leave early and I have to swallow that temptation and divert my attention to get the work done.  I guess today, I will make that exception – come what may, I will get that much needed rest this evening. Rest can be handled tomorrow. Well, I am not a life-saving doctor and my work is not a critically-ill patient😉. I am tired and I need some rest to be productive tomorrow.

How do you deal with tight deadlines and hectic work schedules?

Books – this year

On an average, I read something or the other all the time. Be it a blog, online newsletter or random articles as my regular routine. Once in a while, I enjoy reading books, preferably fictional. Every time I read a book, my style of writing, vocabulary usage swings in that direction. I tend to frame my sentences better and I like my posts better. It has been such a long gap that I finally had a chance to lay my hands upon a simpler fictional book that I could finish it fairly quickly. I have been lately exposed to chinese or japanese -american authors and their stories as an immigrants to america. Their life, their belief, their struggles, perception, slightly deeper insights into their life style is something that sounds interesting to me at the moment. I read Shangai Girls by Lisa see (based out on chinese immigrants) or Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden (the life of a geisha in Japan) and this year I ended up reading “The Women Warrior” by “Maxine Hong Kingston”.

One resolution I took as part of this year is to read at least a book every month. I have many unfinished books from past few years and I cannot get my mind to go back to start all over again. It takes me few days to few weeks to few months to read a book depending on number of pages, type, time availability and so on. Yes, I can list numerous reasons to avoid. But, when I set this goal out this year and finished reading this book, I felt accomplished. I read this book as a de-stresser which surprised me even further. The workload this year has been seeping into my weekends, week nights as well. This book came at my rescue to divert my mind from routine things.

Reading books, takes me to a world that is new to me and although it is a fiction, there is always something to learn, observe and contemplate upon. Some of them are heavy reads, some light, some thought provocative and some books tends to give introductions to new subject lines. Overall, a goal that is totally attainable, reasonable to take it up.

How about you? I know, many of you are avid readers out there, how would you choose your next book to read? what interests you more? any recommendations for fictions that are cross cultural?

 

Micro fiber cloths vs paper towels

Ever since I came to america, I was relieved to use paper towels for anything and everything. Growing up, we have used just cloth based for everything, one thing that was very handy when stepping out was “Handkerchiefs”, cotton clothes were used for all other necessities.  Fast forward to last decade, we use paper tissues for facial, bath room, cleaning kitchen, floor cleaning, spot cleaning, numerous paper towels were used while cooking/cleaning home. I use a lot. Ever since I started looking at reducing trash, minimalism or becoming responsible for our environment, I have been paying attention to the amount of  paper I consume in my day-to-day life and have conscious decision to reduce the usage and replace it with clothes.

So, in an attempt to reduce my current usage to even further, not only have I started using my old cotton clothes, but also ended up ordering color coded micro-fiber clothes to further aid my decision in cleaning and reinforce re-usability and reduce paper waste. The whole process feels like – been there,done that and conscious decision to go back to my roots with the knowledge gained. Back then, there was no option, now there is a choice and I am choosing more environment friendly option.

I am sure, going back to inconveniences is not something fun, but I am trying to reduce, recycle and reuse things. That way, hopefully some day, I will have minimum amount of things to maintain and deal with. Also, I do not foresee forgoing paper usage, instead, I will research and buy compost able paper towels. Any suggestions here?

I am still discovering all the areas where I could use micro fibers for it’s efficiency. Your suggestions are valuable.

Embracing green living continues… stay tuned as I take steps in those directions.

Home made food – is it a tiresome chore?

The other day, I hung out with a friend of mine and mentioned that she hired a cook who cooks once every week. That has been a great relief for her and how she managed to stay out as she thinks that as chore that she does not enjoy. Since, I complained about how stressful cooking everyday has been and suggested that I hire the same person too.

It got me into thinking – is cooking really that stressful for me or am I bothered by something else?

  1. Grocery shopping – I do not have a car and walk 3 miles every single day to work. So, I just pick up few vegetables every single day through out the week. This has been bothering me, especially stopping by a grocery store every single evening, picking groceries, carrying them home, organizing them in the refrigerator is chore that I really burdensome.
  2. Then cooking 2 different dishes every single day – for simple reason, I love variety and always rack up my brain and browse various websites for recipes.
  3. The most difficult part – cleaning dishes – I create too many dishes to be cleaned, I cook, and on the side I clean, by the time I am done with preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, three different) for two, It took away at-least 2 hours of my time leaving me beyond exhausted.

Then, why do I prefer home made cooking?

  1. I shop consciously, very rarely do I get processed canned food home for all the health benefits they speak about.
  2. I love to create out-of-my-comfort food dishes apart from my regular one’s. I also use less to no oil and try to not over cook veggies. I am vegetarian by choice and I try to cook with almost every veggie that I can lay my hands on. Sometimes good, at times bad, but overall they are mostly edible.
  3. I compost – have been composting so religiously, the results are yet to come.

How can I save myself from being exhausted?

  1. I recently switched to weekly for fresh-grocery shopping (includes fruits and veggies) and monthly for other required groceries, just like my parents who did on budget. There are always exception, when we have guests, or if I want to make something interesting in between or if we run out. I am still analyzing the needs. – I would save myself from adhoc shopping and strain to carry them home. I just feel relieved with this plan in place. Hopefully, it helps me to get-away-from-plastic bags pretty soon.
  2. Meal planner – I just downloaded a free meal planner where I would be making a list of what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week. It helps me with prep work too and hopefully saves time. I made it this week and I hope to improve my efficiency better.
  3. Washing dishes – there is no short cut yet, unfortunately, I do not have a dish washer and have to clean right then and there and some how need to learn to minimize the usage.

If nothing works, well, I plan to hire the cook on a need basis. It is always nice to treat myself by giving myself a nice break. I should at-least try once and see how it goes.

Overall, I do feel stressful at times and often wonder if I could make so much money where i could hire someone to come in and help me. But, at the same time, it also gives me satisfaction to some extent that I can indeed cook and feed myself. Eating out everyday is not my cup of tea even though I have done it for months in the past. I am slowly but steadily getting into the groove.

How about you folks? how do you do your meal planning? do you enjoy ? if yes – why and if not- why not? What is your ideal cooking/eating strategy?