The Hidden Reason of Poverty – Ted Talk by Gary Haugen

An eye-opening talk by Gary Haugen on the hidden reason of poverty. In this talk, Gary Haugen, explains very clearly that without stopping violence against poor people, poverty cannot be reduced in the world. After listening to this talk, I am now able to see how true the connection between poverty and violence is. Here is the link to the Ted Talk, do check it out.

At the end this talk, there was a reference made to Gary’s book and so, I went onto Amazon.com to check out the book. Seems like the book released today. I have downloaded the audio book and plan to listen to it soon. Here is the link to the book on Amazon.com

I found this infographic on Amazon which gives some jaw-dropping statistics regarding violence and poverty.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Spiritual But Not Religious – is this group here to stay? – part 3

truth surrounded by lies

In part 1 of this series of posts, I mentioned that there is a growing phenomenon called SBNR; Spiritual But Not Religious and this group could be here to stay. Before getting into the specifics, I wanted to come to a common understanding that almost all religions change from where they started. So, in part 2, I took an example of a made-up religion called “Roundism” and walked through 5 of the 7 stages of transformation that are typical to most religions. In this post I am continuing with the remaining 2 stages and then making a connection with the topic at hand of Spiritual but Not religious group.

As mentioned in the earlier post, the 5 stages are:

Stage 1: Broken Social Order

Stage 2: Arrival of a visionary leader

Stage 3: A new social order

Stage 4: An underground movement

Stage 5: Standardization of Corruption

Stage 6: The namesake religion

The general public had fallen in love with the idea of Roundism even though they had not fully realized the benefits of Roundism like flying on an airplane, going to the moon etc., (In today’s reality, the discovery that earth is round eventually led to many discoveries which in turn helped people build airplanes and rockets. I am using this as a benefit). Incidentally, the general public had bought into the idea of how Roundism is a better truth than Flatism. So, there was no going back fully to Flatism. The closeted Flatists were smart enough to understand that. So, they kept the name of Roundism but transformed the Roundists’ way of life by slowly modifying the rituals to suit their Flatists leniency and also to keep the power to themselves. In short, a web of lies was woven whereby the absolute truth got hidden somewhere in this web and the general public lost the benefits of Roundism.

Stage 7: Full Circle: The Broken Social Order

The broken social order comes back full circle with the general public not deriving any benefits due to the false beliefs masquerading as truth. Barring a new innovative tool to prove these beliefs as false, the general public did not have the wherewithal to dissect these tools to remove the corruption in them. Also, the general public was kept busy with old rites/rituals. So, as long as the standardization of the corruption continued, the lies perpetuated, the status quo remained.

If anyone questioned any of these lies then these questioners were deemed heretics and sent away. Also, some adjustments were made using propaganda so that the answers to these questions can be found within the context of the aforementioned lies. In other words, more lies were told to cover the existing lies. On top of that, questioning any of the rites/rituals was made to look like a very bad thing.

As time passed, the general public slowly liked these lies because everyone around them believed the same. There were good people too who knew nothing better than to believe and propagate these lies. If someone had even a slight bit of doubt then well-intentioned but misinformed folks including family members, would give answers that perpetuated the lies. So, the broken social order continued for generations.

After the 7 Stages 

With this made-up religion and these 7 stages, I think I tried to simplify the process that most religions go through from truth to falsehood. There are multiple assumptions and simplifications in the above stages but if you look at the history of religions, other than your own, then you will immediately see some, if not all, of these stages that some of these religions have gone through.

Over the ages many folks have analyzed and questioned the underlying assumptions, beliefs, and rituals of many religions but this analysis could not get to the masses easily. As there was no easy way of discerning the truth, the general public stayed ignorant for hundreds or thousands of years. All that has changed now.

With the internet and easy access to information, the silos that earlier generations faced in terms of knowledge-sharing have evaporated giving rise to a sudden boom in global wisdom.

As we all know, what wisdom does is, it gives you the criteria/toolset to sift out truth from falsehood.

To Be Continued…..

In my next post, I will discuss how the rise of global wisdom has contributed to a greater understanding of truth and has caused more folks to become spiritual.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Spiritual But Not Religious – is this group here to stay? – part 2

truth-vs-lies

In part 1 of this series of posts, I mentioned that there is a growing phenomenon called SBNR; Spiritual But Not Religious and this group could be here to stay. Before getting into the specifics, I wanted to come to a common understanding that almost all religions change from where they started. In this post, I would like to take an example of a made-up religion to walk through the 7 stages of transformation that are typical to most religions.

Stage 1: Broken Social Order

Let’s say there was a religion called “Flatism” whose core tenet of faith was a flat earth. It required its followers, “Flatists” to believe that the earth was flat and follow some rites and rituals that aligned with this belief. These rites and rituals prop up a social order that is somehow broken. Maybe this social order restricts people to not venture out of their village and puts a fear in their minds that they will fall off the edge of the earth if they venture out. It maybe one or many such fears that cause a small group of folks to hold sway over a large majority and in some ways even to oppress the majority. This is a broken social order.

Stage 2: Arrival of a visionary leader

A visionary leader arrives at the scene who figures out the falsehood in the current belief system. The leader also has a magical tool that shows the falsity of the current belief. Initially, not many people follow the leader but after a few years, the leader has enough followers and establishes a new way of life based. The new way of life is now called “Roundism” based on a universal truth that the earth is round.

Stage 3: A new social order

The magical tool/s that the leader utilizes help Roundism establish some universal truths. The old social order is replaced by a new way of life. Folks see the intrinsic advantages of Roundism and join it in droves. While Roundism is gaining supporters, Flatism goes underground.

Stage 4: An underground movement

Even though Flatism is overthrown, a small group of Flatists who greatly benefited from Flatism, become Roundists but stay Flatists at heart. Their hypocritical approach is not that uncommon. (Remember the character from the movie Matrix who gets back into the matrix because of his love for a good steak). So, an underground movement comes to life with an objective of bringing back the rites and rituals from Flatism but under the garb of Roundism.

Stage 5: Standardization of Corruption

As long as the tool/s of truth are well maintained by the leader and the immediate disciples, the truth is easily understandable. After the leader and the disciples are gone, the control and maintenance of the tools is taken over by the hypocritical Flatists.  These tools slowly get corrupted to such an extent that they start proving that the earth is flat. This does not go well with the truthful Roundists and so there is a struggle for dominance. Since the underground Flatists are wily and cunning, their machinations are no match for the truth-loving Roundists who eventually get eliminated. To avoid any future flare-ups, the corrupted tools are standardized so that the truth can be kept hidden.

To be continued……

In my next post, I will walk through the remaining two stages and connect these stages with the growing phenomenon called SBNR.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Spiritual But Not Religious – is this group here to stay? – part 1

Spiritual But Not Religious Image

There is a growing phenomenon in western societies that is called SBNR; Spiritual But Not Religious. I once watched a TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, who asked the audience how many thought they were more spiritual vs religious and it looked like the majority were spiritual. It is understandable that the typical audience of a Ted Talk in North America can be more SBNR but research is showing that it is a growing phenomenon and could be here to stay. Before I get into the specifics of what this new phenomenon is, let me first talk about how most of the religions have changed and how these changes are causing many folks take the path of SBNR.

It is a well-known fact that almost all religions have changed from how they were in the beginning, maybe not the religion that you are born into or converted into. However, barring your current religion, you can still agree that most religions have changed, for better or for worse, from their beginnings.

The basic premise of any religion, when it starts out, is that it has the absolute truth. It may be true. I am not denying that. All I am saying is that, knowledge of the truth is the basic premise. As the religion gets older it changes, for better or for worse, and the truth sometimes is lost (except for your particular religion or the sect in your religion that you belong to).

If I have to make a general statement as to how truth is lost then most likely the truth is lost because people tell lies knowingly and propagate these lies again, knowingly, for their personal benefit. This is as general a statement, as it can be. The specifics may be different for different religions but in most cases, religions lose the knowledge of the truth, as time passes, because of lies.

The general statement that I made above is not very original. Lots of folks have said the same thing. But here is the interesting thing about this statement. You can agree with this statement if you look at other religions. Not your own religion though, if you are a good follower of your religion, but with other religions you can see the truth in the above statement. In you study these other religions, you may see some iota of truth at the beginning which was then lost.

However, if you are having trouble seeing even an iota of truth in other religions then you can at least see the false premises on which these other religions are based upon. You probably see a house of cards. Pull one card and the entire edifice will come tumbling down. If that one basic premise is false then everything else is automatically false.

If it is so easy for you to see then why is it not that easy for the followers of the religion to see what you see in their own religion?. For that we need to understand why lies get introduced into a religion, in the first place. I will explain this further in my next post by taking an example of a made-up religion that does not resemble any of the current religions.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Change in mindset needed to protect women

Yesterday, my wife showed me two well-made videos on mindset change that is needed to protect women in India. These videos made a great impression on me and so I am sharing these videos here.

In my recent visit to India, while hanging out with my well-educated mature Indian friends, I broached the topic of the recent case of rape by a Uber driver. I was curious to know their opinions. I was very surprised when the topic shifted to how women are dressing these days. I think there is a big cultural problem and two things need to happen.

In the short term the law needs to be made stronger and strictly enforced. In the long term, the mindset has to change. A man cannot think/assume that if a woman is dressed scantily (relative term), it means that she has given an open invitation to touch her or abuse her, physically or mentally.

I heard this argument too when I was in India, that a goat has to be careful otherwise a lion will attack her. There are folks who think the best protection for a woman is to locking her inside the home and making her live in fear. To make their point they use this idiotic goat-lion analogy.

If you have to compare then you have to compare animals of the same species. Compare a lion with a lioness and not a lion with a goat. The more your mind makes this goat-lion analogy meaningful, the more your mind gets set with gender inequality. Let’s drop these unequal analogies and focus on changing the mindset so there is true gender equality.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Telluride – breathtakingly beautiful place

The Drive

We went to Telluride, a mountain resort in Colorado, for this year’s spring break. It was a 6.5 hours drive from Denver to Telluride. While going to Telluride, we took 70 West to Grand Junction and then 50 E. While coming back, we took 50 E to 285 N. Both routes were very scenic and took almost the same amount of time. If I were to drive in winter then will definitely take the I-70, both ways. Since the weather was sunny and clear skies, the drive was enjoyable and when it became dark, there was a full moon to light up the mountains.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Madeline Hotel in the Mountain Village town. We planned to have our dinner in the restaurant in the hotel but it was closed early that night. However, the hotel staff was very helpful in finding us a place to eat since many restaurants were already closed even though it was not even 10 PM. The hotel was located in the center of the village with easy access to the Gondolas. It was a very nice hotel and the staff was very good. Definitely staying there when we go there again.

The Rooms

After our dinner, we went into the 1-bedroom condo that we rented that had a connecting door to another room so we all could stay together. The grandparents stayed in the adjoining room and the three of us in the condo that was 1200 sq ft with a kitchen and a living room. The condo was spacious and the balcony overlooked the mountains instead of the village. So, the views from the balcony were breathtaking.

Sunrise on the mountain top

I woke up early morning at 4:15 since I was still doing The Miracle Morning 30-day Challenge. Of all the things, there was a lunar eclipse too that morning. Could have taken a picture but was more eager to go to the mountain top to watch the sunrise. Took a gondola from outside the hotel to the mountain top.

The sunrise on the mountain top was unbelievable. There were snow covered peaks on all sides and each peak was radiating the morning sunrays. Here are some pictures of the mountain peaks.

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The Town of Telluride

It was the perfect time for non-skiers like us since there were no crowds and folks were getting ready to close down businesses and go for the off-season. We went around the small and sleepy town of Telluride and took some breathtaking pictures.

IMG_3479

The Mountain Top Restaurant

For dinner, we went to a mountain top restaurant, AllReds and the sunset views were gorgeous from there too. In half an hour or so after the sunset, the full moon came up and wowed us.

IMG_3712 IMG_3720

All in all, it was memorable trip and looking forward to going there every year.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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The Miracle Morning Challenge – Potential Game Changer in personal development

At last, I finished something that I started. This week, I finished The Miracle Morning (TMM) 30-day challenge. As part of the 30-day challenge, I woke up at 4:15 AM and completed the SAVERS activities as mentioned in the book, “The Miracle Morning”, by Hal Elrod.

The Miracle Morning

Hal Elrod’s story and his success is very inspiring. You can check out his videos and books at his website. To me, the following quote was very inspiring. This is a quote from Jim Rohn that the author, Hal also liked and kinda started him off on his personal development journey.

“Your level of success, will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.” – Jim Rohn

Even though I read this book last year, I did not take up the 30-day challenge until I re-read it this year. After re-reading TMM book, I downloaded the PDFs from the website, printed them out and took up the 30-day challenge. I am so glad that I followed up on this challenge as it has given me a new found belief that these 30-day challenges are potential game-changers in my personal development.

I took 90 minutes to complete the “SAVERS” activities, every morning, from 4:30 to 6 AM. On weekdays, I started working from 6 AM, checking my email and then get onto conference calls by 6:30 AM. On weekends, the routine was different. On Saturday, I would write for this blog and on Sundays, would go to a Yoga class. (More on Yoga in a later post)

In other words, there were enough activities to fill the time productively and completely, otherwise there was a good chance that this would fail like my other experiments with waking up early. The first two weeks were not so easy and I had to drink two to three cups of coffee to stay functional during the day but the last two weeks were amazing. I had good energy and did not have to drink any coffee. Looks like, my body adjusted.

My plan is to stick to this habit and reap the benefits of waking up early. With spring in the air and summer approaching, I am hoping that I will continue with this habit that was formed over a period of 30 days.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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“It is definitely not a witch hunt”, how true is it?

MN_Oct_9-09_-_Witch_hunt

“It is definitely not a witch hunt” was one of the oft-repeated words by a PMO when the PMO tried to implement the so-called “health review meetings”. The original purpose of these health review meetings was to get help/guidance/direction from the executive sponsors at a portfolio level.  To get buy-in from project managers, these meetings were advertised as “no witch hunt” health reviews.

Before I get into the specifics of how these meetings turned out, let me first give out the definition of a witch-hunt. Dictionary.com defines witch hunt as follows

an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion,dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

Since the purpose of what these health reviews were and what they should not become was explained initially, the first few meetings were civil. Also, for the first few meetings the project managers were given the freedom to present the information that helped their projects get out of red. However, these presentations showed some departments in bad light and in many cases, the PMO was culpable too for not having the right tracking tools, right methodology etc.,

That’s when these meetings started to become political and took an ugly turn. To control the discussions, the PMO made a few changes. The first change was to identify, 3-4 weeks in advance, which projects will be presented in these meetings. The second change was to use these 3-4 weeks to review/update the presentations internally with the project managers so that the PMO was not shown in a bad light.

Now, the whole process became a project manager’s worst nightmare. First of all, the project was itself in red and needed lot of attention to get things under control. On top of that, there was a considerable amount of time spent to make sure the health review presentations were politically correct. That was not an easy job to do because of the integrity of some of the financial reporting tools. No wonder the project managers started to feel like these meetings were a drain of their time with not much help coming in terms of fixing the issues at hand.

The tactics of the PMO could not be hidden for a long time as the sponsors were smart 'First of all, let me congratulate everyone on the swell turnout and the really terrific job you all did on such short notice.'enough to see through the misrepresentation or dilution of facts. As you can imagine, the project managers were caught between a rock and a hard place. Instead of focussing on the issues at hand, the project managers had to explain the inconsistencies within their presentations. Within a few months, these meetings became – what is the phrase that I am searching for – yes, witch hunts.

This is another example of a good idea executed poorly. A few things done differently , as shown below, could have made this a huge success.

  1. Always be loyal to the project success. Assuming that the project delivery is aligned with the strategic initiatives of the company, staying loyal to the project rather than to your department is the right thing to do in almost all scenarios.
  2. Health reviews are not just sickness reviews. Rather than go through troubled projects only, throw in a few healthy projects that have stayed in green despite complexity of solutions, and major issues. Maybe the PM and the teams have figured out how to make things work and other PMs with the troubled projects may learn from that.
  3. Be prepared for some major organizational issues to show up. Eventually the root causes that have caused projects to fail will show up and it is a good thing. Knowing the problem is first step to solving the problem and so be prepared to accept these so that you can focus on fixing them.
  4. Focus on a benefit more than avoidance of a bad thing. Saying “no witch hunt” was like saying, “no hitting the wall” for NASCAR drivers since these drivers are trained not to look at the wall otherwise they will eventually run into it. 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Micromanagement needs to be defined as clearly as bullying is

I am sure that most managers would take offense when called a micromanager. Definitely, not as much as being called a bully but somewhere in that ballpark. Before, we get any MM-blog1deeper into the subject, let me categorically say that I am against micromanagement. Micromanagement takes away the micromanaged employee’s dignity and happiness at work. It may also impact the employee’s health, family, and social life. So, it is an evil that needs to be eliminated.

I am also sure that most most managers do not like to micromanage. In good companies, when managers are tagged as micromanagers, their careers may stop advancing and that is a good thing too. Micromanagement, just like bullying, must not be tolerated. But, before we start labeling managers as micromanagers, we first need to understand what micro-management is and isn’t. Otherwise, there is a good chance that some disengaged employees, to avoid accountability, can start misusing this label. So, it is required to understand micromanagement with the same clarity as that of bullying.

Micromanagement is defined as “management with excessive control or attention to details”. Many of us have come across micromanagement at work. I, for sure, was. I was once chewed up for missing a thousands separator in a financial report, a report that did not exist before and I created it from scratch to show the variance in the budget. Instead of worrying about the huge variance and how to fix it, the micromanager gave me a lecture on his pet peeve of seeing every number with a thousands separator. In this case, attention to details was a waste of time as there were bigger things to worry about.

Having said that, attention to details (not ALL details) and control (not excessive) is needed to get things done right and on time. Only then would teams flourish, projects succeed, and companies thrive. How much control is ideal? This needs to be determined by what is ideal for the project or the work at hand. The success of the work should be the determining factor. But, in most cases that is not the determining factor and that needs to be fixed.

MM Blog 2

The factor that plays a major role is the prior experience of the manager as well as the employee.

If the manager has been called a micromanager before by a disengaged employee then the manager may act safe and let the control slip. Or the manager worked for a micromanager before and hated it so much that this manager went to the other extreme, only to lose control.

If an engaged employee worked for a micromanager before then a paranoia may set in and cause the employee to look at all reasonable activities of accountability as micromanagement.

None of these attitudes are beneficial, since subjective criteria is being used to determine what is needed to succeed at the work at hand.

micromanagement-3

So, there is a need to have clear guidelines as to what micromanagement is and it should be as clearly defined as bullying is, so that no one is victimized by this workplace evil called micromanagement and at the same time great work is done by everyone so the teams flourish, projects succeed and companies thrive.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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The never-ending debate in the world of Project Management

One of the never-ending debate in the world of Project Management pertains to this question, “Does a PM in IT need to understand the technical solution?”. This question was asked in one of the LinkedIn groups, PMI Credentialed PMPs. There are many variants to this question but at the root of all this discussion is this question, “Who will successfully manage the project, a Project Manager with great Project Management Skills but average expertise with the technical solution or a great technical expert with average Project Management skills?”

Project success is dependent on many factors and only one of these is the expertise of the Project Manager, albeit a critical one. Having said that, let us look at the choices. Actually, there are only two real choices if you disregard the no-brainer ones. The no-brainer choices are at the two ends of the spectrum; a PM with great technical & great PMing skills and a PM with average technical & average PMing skills. You hire the former and not the latter, obviously. So, the decision comes down to two choices: average PM with outstanding technical skills vs outstanding PM with average technical skills. Choosing from one of these choices has divided the project management community into two camps.

Belonging to one camp or the other is purely based on real-life, personal experience. As with all experiences, this experience is also subjective especially in the absence of any well defined metrics or thorough exercises in learning the lessons from the success/failures in the project. Naturally, the easy way out is to attribute project failure to the project manager and so the skills of the PM are now under scrutiny. Based on your assessment of what skills were lacking in the PM, you put the blame on those lacking skills. This experience, when repeated makes your bias stronger and you now start belonging to one camp or the other.

I said bias because no one starts with a blank slate. Most people are not scientific in their approach and so come to this question with a bias. If you can understand your bias and look at the issue scientifically then you will get to the answer on your own.

The answer that I have got after much analysis is that a smart, hard working and diligent Project Manager with outstanding Project Management skills has a greater chance of helping a project to succeed than the other way around. Let me explain with an example.

As we all know, Michael Jordan, came out of retirement for the second time to play for Washington Wizards. Actually, MJ was hired as a President to run the basketball operations and instead of running the operations, he decided to play but did not take the Wizards to even playoffs. What does this all have to do with our topic of Project Management at hand? Everything.Wizards Jordan X

You can draw parallels to this incident in the project management world too. If a PM is tied to his technical area and has been a superstar before then making him the leader of the project may cause the PM to jump in to fix technical issues, more often than not. Even MJ could not help his team but many technical experts think they are ageless superstars and jump in. In the basketball world, MJ had to resign his job as President of basketball operations to start playing so someone else can run the operations but in the PM world, the PM will try to do both and you can very well imagine the outcome. (I know of a project that is currently in the exact situation. The BAs, developers and testers have given up on this PM who is trying to do it all )

MJ - Wizards 2

Conclusion: An experienced PM would have developed strong project management skills running technical projects successfully and during his/her experience would have figured out a way to communicate technical risks/issues in the most effective manner. So, in my honest opinion, a successful PM with strong PMing skills is one of the best things that can happen for the success of a project. Get MJ of the Chicago Bulls but not MJ of the Washington Wizards.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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