Is there a measure to EXCELLENCE?

Excellence is the
Result of Caring more than others think is Wise,
Risking more than others think is Safe,
Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and
Expecting more than others think is Possible.

BY Ronnie Oldham

Everyone I know proudly recalls moments during their school years when their school work was graded as “Excellent!”. OR their parents said “Excellent!” for any of their efforts and creations or their coaches / mentors praised their efforts and outputs as “Excellent!”. Simply because that was the BEST POSSIBLE GRADING one could ever receive. And who does not like to receive the BEST?

As you grow older, you get to hear less of the “Excellent!” – Be it at home or outside.. Simply because as you grow, expectations increase and more importantly, it is probably hard to be the BEST in the eyes of everyone around you! Adding to this is the fact that many people don’t pause to appreciate and express the EXCELLENCE around them…

So, I’ve been thinking..
Is there really a measure to EXCELLENCE?
How does anyone qualify EXCELLENCE?
Is everyone qualified to judge EXCELLENCE?

And here’s what I realized…
In any sphere of work or life
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a DREAM

EXCELLENCE is RELATIVE to your experience
EXCELLENCE is SUBJECTIVE to your ideas and views
EXCELLENCE is INFLUENCED by your emotions
EXCELLENCE is BOUND TO CHANGE.. with time.. with life

So that’s my view..
What do you think? Is there a MEASURE to EXCELLENCE? Leave a comment to let me know


Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with PREETI SHENOY

Preeti Shenoy,  named among one of the top five authors in India by CNN-IBN, weaves magic with her words and pictures.  An extremely talented and versatile individual, her Twitter bio reads: “Best-selling Author, Artist specializing in pencil portraits, Poet, Yoga-Buff, Ex-basketball player, Blogger, Dobe-owner, Nature lover, Ted speaker and a Mother.
Her interests are as multifarious and diverse as her several academic degrees which include an internationally recognised qualification from UK in portraiture. DNA has described her as a ‘Keenly observant mind’ and Times of India describes her writing as ‘Excellent story telling skills’.  There is simplicity in her writing that appeals to the inherent good in all and her positivity and ‘Live life to the fullest’ philosophy finds a large number of takers, who follow her very popular blog.
Her second book ‘Life is what you make it’ was among the top selling books of 2011 in India and her third book ‘Tea for two and a piece of cake’ which was released in February 2012, continues to be on all the best-seller lists, having sold more than 25,000 copies within two months of its release.
Her pencil-portraits are life like which strike you with a realism that take you aback. She is also an avid card-maker and a poet.  She has written for publications like Times of India, Readers Digest and many more. She has worked with under-privileged children teaching them English and Math. She has worked with several schools conducting workshops on thinking skills and creative crafts.
She says  “Life is short. Follow your heart and chase your dreams. And yes, they will come true.”

And if you’ve read her earlier books, here’s some good news. Her fourth book titled “The Secret Wishlist” is due to for release shortly. You can pre-order this book by clicking here. Not only do you have a chance to get a personally signed copy of the book from Preeti, but also a 30% discount. You can also follow the FaceBook updates for the book here.

A couple of weeks back, during a random online browsing activity, I accidentally came across Preeti Shenoy’s book titled “Life is what you make it” – Something about the title compelled me to buy the book. I finished reading it in one night. Then I read her other 2 books “34 Bubblegums and Candies” and “Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake” all of which are National Bestsellers in India. After I finished reading all the three, I learnt that she also blogs, so naturally I visited her blogs. I liked her writings (both books and blogs) simply because they were simple, easy to read and written straight from the heart!

So I sent her a request for the Rendezvous and she immediately replied with a “YES”!

In this rendezvous, we discussed about Preeti’s journey into the world of writing and some nuggets about life which she strongly believes in.

Nischala: Hi Preeti. Firstly, Thanks for your time. It’s great to connect with you!
Preeti: Hi Nischala. Thanks for this

Nischala: So Preeti – Firstly, Congrats on the success as a writer. From what I read, all your books are national bestsellers and are doing very well!
Preeti: Yes! Thank You. They are all indeed doing well. Touch wood!

Nischala: So let me start this rendezvous with how your writing journey started?
Preeti: I have always been a writer. From childhood, I have written several short stories and poems – Many of which have won laurels and have been published in journals / magazines, etc.

But looking back, I think the big push for writing came only after I lost my father. In order to deal with this loss I started writing – Writing primarily for myself and more as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. Writing kept me busy and almost was therapeutic to help me deal with a difficult and vulnerable phase in my life. So I started posting my writings on a blog anonymously and I was happy to see that my posts were very well received. The big boost came when a radio show in the US picked up a post of mine for the “Perfect Post” Award. The traffic and reader base increased significantly after that.

I then started writing more seriously and in more respected publications like Reader’s Digest, Chicken Soup Series, Times of India, etc. One of the main reasons that I took up writing seriously was because it kept me busy and helped me deal with the loss of my father. So I wrote about things which I believed in or which I was passionate about – like life, relationships, animals, bikes, dance, art, etc. I think there are more than 60 articles of mine published in various publications.

And at the same time I received a lot of comments and suggestions urging me to explore writing a book. And that’s how my first book “34 Bubblegums and Candies” was born.  It’s really a compilation of little stories from my life and some of these were already published on my blog.

Nischala: That’s an interesting journey. So looking back, what was your happiest and proudest moment as a writer?
Preeti : As a writer, my happiest moment was when my first book came out. Also when my second book was named among the ‘top books of 2011’. And honestly I write because I enjoy it; and so it has been a happy journey all along.

Nischala: Wow! Congrats. I guess there is something special about the “firsts” of anything in life – Especially your first book . I also see that you write regularly on your blog and also have been able to publish 3 books in the past few years. From my understanding, they are two different worlds. So, what is the key difference between a blog and book?
Preeti: That’s correct. I started blogging in 2006 and since then I try to blog regularly.
Blogs and Books are two different worlds simply because in a book you need to have a storyline, characters, a setting, dialogue, etc. And more importantly there has to be a central theme to your book. While in a blog, you can write about anything you want and publish it! And every blog post can be a separate theme.

Nischala: That’s interesting! So moving on, you have also given a TEDx Talk very recently. How did that happen? And what was the key message? How was the experience?
Preeti: I have given two Ted X talks –one at Symbiosis Institute for Technology and management Pune, where I spoke on creativity in daily life and another at Ted X Sona, where I spoke on ‘5 lessons for growth’.  Both talks were very well received. The experience was great.

Nischala: Preeti  -This is the first time I am talking to you. But in this brief interaction, you sound so positive about everything. So how do you manage to stay so positive?
Preeti: Hmm… Well that’s something which a lot of people say to me. See I think I am generally a happy and contented person in life and it manifests in my interactions with others. I believe that for everything in life you do the best you can in whatever situation you are in. And if things don’t work out the way you wanted, deal with it and move on.

Nischala: That’s a great attitude for life. So what do you think anyone can do on a daily basis to feel positive, happy and alive!
Preeti: Well, there are no universal answers. But here’s what I do and it helps me a great deal.

Do something you love everyday – It can be reading or art or listening to music or meeting friends or watching a TV program – Whatever it is, set some time every day to do what you love. You will be surprised at how much difference it can make in your life.

Laugh – Do something fun that makes you laugh – It can be that you read a joke or watch a cartoon or just fake a laugh. But laughing regularly definitely has a positive effect on your overall well-being

Nischala:  Thanks for sharing these practical tips. I am sure that if anyone did the above regularly, it will have a positive impact on their lives. So, as we conclude any message that you’d like to conclude with?
Preeti: Live life today, Follow your heart and Live everyday
There is joy in little things that you can do every day. Most of us rush from morning to night in doing a zillion things, and we don’t stop to appreciate the beauty and the magic of the world around us like smell the flowers, enjoy our meals, spend time with people we love and care for, etc.  At the end of the day, life should be about what makes you happy and contented. And if you figure this out and know how to get there, then you will end up happy and contented every day of your life.

I truly believe that life is short and so very unpredictable. I am saying this because I have experienced up close of personal what it means to deal with the demise of those who mean the world to you.

And what I learnt from all these experiences is that it is important to focus on living well and being happy today. Finally when you go, you don’t take anything with you – especially not money. And what you leave is memories for others and how you impacted their lives.

I was not like this 5 – 7 years back. But as of today, this is something I believe in and execute every single day this way. So I live life to the fullest today, enjoy every single day and am happy and content at the end of the day. That’s what really matters.

Nischala: Thank you so much for this rendezvous.
Preeti: Pleasure is all mine. Have a great day!

How did you like this rendezvous? Leave a comment to let us know..

5 Little Secrets to Improve Work Performance

Performance at the workplace is one of the key dimensions for professional success and growth. Usually these expectations revolve around quality of the output, consistency in quality & improved productivity over a period of time and last but not least, to bring additional value to the table – for customers, partners, colleagues and the organization itself.

In this blog, I am listing 5 LITTLE SECRETS which I have applied successfully to improve my own work performance and I have observed these in several high performing individuals as well.

Sharing them with the intent that they may help you in more than one way

We all have a zillion things which need to be done at work. But they are all not important enough to be done today. Listing down the 5 most important tasks for the day will give you phenomenal clarity and enable you to focus on what needs to be done first and what can wait. Most of us are guilty of spending the most productive hours of the day (usually as soon as we start work) in doing tasks which can wait until tomorrow. And then we rush to do the important things (when we are not the productive best) and never seem to get them done! From experience, I can vouch for the fact that adopting this one practice will make an ocean of difference in your work performance

Again, sounds like common sense. But most of us tend to start working on tasks as soon as they are assigned to us. While this may be purely due to our enthusiasm and eagerness to finish the work assigned to us, it may not necessarily be the best approach. Personally, I am able to complete work effectively if I spend time mulling over the best, most effective and optimal way to finish it. Usually, most tasks which have been assigned to you have already been done by someone somewhere before (either in your own organization or the world at large). So it helps to understand “How did others do it?“,”What were the mistakes they made? And hence how can I avoid them?“, “Can I replicate some of their best practices?” and then define a personalized workable approach for the task. Not only does this help you think through possible challenges, but it also helps you define a practical approach to complete your work. Generally if you think through at the outset, you will also be able to unearth possible gray areas and get them clarified at the start (Trust me! This minimizes re-work significantly). And if you are unsure about the overall approach itself, you can easily get someone to review your approach or ask them for guidance on how to go about the task at hand.

One of the key deterrents to work performance is the “intended and unintended” breaks that are an integral part of our working life. Intended breaks (For e.g.:Coffee, Walking, Chatting, Reading, Lunch, FaceBook, Twitter, Meditation, Power-Naps,etc.) are good because they re-energize you. But in several instances the intended breaks extend way beyond your intentions [For e.g.: So you start with promising yourself that you’ll log in to Twitter for 10 mins and before you know 30 mins has elapsed 😦 ]. Unintended breaks are those you don’t plan or intend, but they just happen (For e.g.: You get a call from a good friend when you are in the middle of an important task and you pick up the call. You feel happy about this break, but the conversation goes on for a good 15 mins and once you disconnect – You need to switch context to re-focus on your work. Usually this takes a few minutes; and overall you could have lost about 30 mins of precious working time. So the key take-away is to Time-Box non-productive activities. Within limit, they do enhance work performance. But when they cross the limit, they become serious inhibitors to work performance. To start with, be cognizant of these of try to limit them during your working hours.

Another important aspect to improve work performance is to Ask if you don’t know or understand something. While it is great to discover answers to questions by yourself, it is also OK to re-use the lessons from the experienced. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel always. Be judicious here lest you be branded as someone who never asks for help or someone who always asks for help! But if do ask when you need to – Your work performance is significantly improved!

Firstly, Eat healthy and right, i.e.,Well balanced meals at regular intervals. From my own experience I can say that if you eat right you are more efficient, productive and creative at work – All of which are positive indicators of work performance. High fat and calorie rich food teases and pleases you, but makes you sluggish at work. It’s OK once in a way to indulge, but if you make it a habit it will definitely impact your work performance.
Secondly, sleep well and ensure you get adequate rest regularly. And this may not be feasible everyday (depends on your personal and professional context), but if you don’t catch up on sleep over a period of time it is bound to impact your work in more ways than one (For e.g.: Slow performance, More errors, Unable to collaborate, etc.)
Thirdly, Take the time to laugh everyday. In fact, I recommend a laughing break everyday when you read a joke, listen to something funny, watch a hilarious video or talk to someone who makes you laugh. Laughing everyday is a golden mantra for feeling good and positive
Last but not the least, do something you love for a few minutes everyday – Reading, Writing, Listening to Music, FaceBook, Twitter, Walking, Running, Cooking or spending time with those you love.

These are my SECRETS! Would love to listen to yours. Leave a comment to let me know…

What is the most IMPORTANT QUESTION?

We’ve all learnt way back in primary school that asking the right questions is important to elicit holistic understanding on any subject.. The key questions one typically asks are:
• What?
• How?
• When?
• Where?
• By Whom?
• Why?

I’ve often wondered which is the most important question? And honestly, my response has varied over the years..
Initially, I thought the most important question is WHAT? – “Discovering what something is?” was exciting and it helped me understand the world around me better..

Then, I thought the most important question is HOW? – “Discovering how anything works?” was like solving a mystery and when you figure the answers you feel thrilled about your learning

And then I thought the most important question is BY WHOM? – “Discovering who makes decisions, does things.. makes the world go round”.. and it again helped me understand the importance of people in the little day-to-day things of life, and of course in the larger aspects of the universe..

As I grow older and wiser, I now think the most important question is the BIG WHY? “Why do people behave the way they do?”, “Why are we born?”, “Why does the sun rise everyday?”, “Why does a baby feel happy to cuddle with her / his mother?”, “Why has FaceBoook become such a phenomenon?”, “Why does one lose track of time of Twitter?”, “Why do people love to play Angry Birds?”, “Why do the most serious people cry at the movies?”, “Why do people fall in love?”, “Why do we love to go to mummy’s home always?”, “Why is mummy’s food always the very BEST?”, “Why does time seem to stand still when you want something real quick?”.. – These are the questions which keep me awake at night..
And hence today, I believe the most important question is WHY?
And that many change 5 years from now.. But for now.. this is what it is!

In your view, what is the most important QUESTION? Leave a comment to let me know..

How frequently should you blog?

There’s a lot of global debate and discussion around “How frequently should you blog?” – Be it a personal blog or a professional blog.. And also a lot of answers, advice and best practices ranging from “You should blog every day”  TO “You should blog 2-3 times per week”  TO “You should blog once a week”  TO “You should blog once a month“… With so many diverse opinions it becomes hard for any blogger to figure out the right answer..

From my personal experience I can definitely say that there is NO RIGHT ANSWER.. It all depends on the big WHY? Why are you blogging and what do you want to achieve from your blogs? So the frequency of your blogs should be governed by your own personal blogging objectives..

Having said that, I can also say from personal experience that blogging in the long run requires creativity in terms of
– Blog topics and the way you articulate,
– Discipline in the blogging process and
– Time and effort to keep the blog active over a long period of time (say years)..

All three parameters are equally important. So if you have a lot of ideas, but are not disciplined and don’t take the time to publish a blog you will not have an active blog!

Also, most of the globally reputed blogs publish atleast 1 article per week, some of them 2. But they do ensure that the blogs are updated regularly at a pre-determined frequency (including days of the week and times of the day). Having been a blogger for several years now, I can definitely say that the recommended frequency for any serious blogger (no matter what the objective) is 1 – 2 blogs / week. It can be your own blogs or a guest blog, but there absolutely has to be an update every week.

From the reader’s perspective it helps to know when one can find an update on your blog and hence they can look forward to your posts regularly.

For the blogger’s perspective, enforcing a frequency ensures that you read regularly, you think constantly and you also write on a regular basis so that you have an active blog. And if you look at the larger canvas of life, reading, thinking and writing are 3 key foundational pillars for anyone to learn, grow and evolve in the journey of life.. So why will anyone not do them?