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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Packaged Drinking Water Banned in Lachen

Thought out of the Bottle

Packaged Drinking Water Banned in Lachen

While San Francisco became the first major city to impose ban on plastic water bottles in March 2015, our very own small heritage village in Sikkim had imposed such ban in February 2012.

Lachen (9700 Ft), a serene and beautiful heritage village in North Sikkim, 120 Kms away from Gangtok is the base location for travelers to Gurudongmar Lake.  This lake at a height of 17200 ft, is among the top 15 highest lakes in the world and is the second highest lake in Sikkim as well as in India, the first being Cholamu lake at a height of 18000 ft appx 5kms away from Gurudongmar Lake, also situated in Sikkim.  Being the second highest lake in India, the panoramic and scenic beauty of the place is a sight to behold. The lake is considered sacred by the Buddhists as well as the Sikhs. The glacier above this lake is also a major source of Teesta river that flows through Sikkim to West Bengal culminating in Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh.

Gurudongmar Lake attracts many visitors from across India, which leads to accumulation of garbage around the lake, and pollution due to the offerings released by pilgrims into the lake. WWF-India had been working towards conserving this lake in partnership with the Lachen Dzumsa (local administrative body equivalent to Panchayat System). It is in this village where pilgrims and tourists stay over for the night to get acclimatized to the high altitude before going up to the lake. After a series of awareness programmes with tourists, local communities, tour operators, and clean up drives with the help of local communities, the Dzumsa of Lachen announced a complete ban on the sale and use of packaged and bottled water in and around Lachen in February 2012, and has prohibited tourists from carrying them up to the lake. This ban has the consent of all stakeholders involved, including hoteliers, shopkeepers, and local communities.

The visitors are provided with boiled water of local source which are as pure and safe as mineral water.

The state of Sikkim, nestled in the Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot holds within it many glacial fed High Altitude Wetlands, which support a wide variety of flora and fauna, as well as local communities who depend on them for various needs. Over the years, some of these wetlands have become popular tourist destinations, and tourism is gradually becoming a threat to these lakes in the fragile high altitude ecosystems. The state with diversity of culture, flora & fauna, association with the Himalayas and proximity to China has always been of interest to tourists, scholars, historians, adventure lovers and other enthusiasts. Such initiative of one village is worth many applauds and an example to be followed by others in preserving our nature.

   Panoramic view of Gurudongmar Lake

Friday, 22 May 2015

Summary of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

The Monk who sold his Ferrari
Robin Sharma

Sure I am that this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us. – Winston Churchill

Seven virtues the book emphasizes have been made memorable in the following fable-

You are sitting in the middle of a magnificent, lush, green garden. This garden is filled with the most spectacular flowers you have ever seen. The environment is supremely tranquil and silent. Savor the sensual delights of this garden and feel as if you have all the time in the world to enjoy this natural oasis. As you look around you see that in the center of this magical garden stands towering, red lighthouse, six stories high. Suddenly the silence of the garden is disturbed by a loud creaking as the door at the base of the lighthouse opens. Out stumbles a nine foot tall nine hundred pound Japanese Sumo wrestler, with pink cloth covering his private parts, who casually wanders into the center of the garden.
As he starts to move around the garden he finds a shiny gold stopwatch which someone had left behind many years earlier. He slips it on and falls to the ground with an enormous thud. The sumo wrestler is rendered unconscious and lies there, silent and still. Just when you think he has taken his last breath, the wrestler awakens, perhaps stirred by the fragrance of some fresh yellow roses blooming nearby. Energized, the wrestler jumps swiftly to his feet and intuitively looks to his left. He is startled by what he sees. Through the bushes at the very edge of the garden he observes   long winding path covered by millions of sparkling diamonds. Something seems to instruct him to take the path and to his credit, he does. The path leads him down the road of everlasting joy and eternal bliss.

Virtue 1 : Most Extraordinary Lush Green Garden:  Master your mind. When the mind is cultivated, it will blossom beyond your expectations. The quality of life is determined by the quality of your thoughts.  An average person runs about 60,000 thoughts in a day. 95% of it were the same thoughts already thought about yesterday. All are made of same flesh and bones but what a mind harbor makes all the difference.
This garden needs to be guarded of toxic entries like negative thoughts, anxieties, worries etc. Positive Thinking always is the beginning of all actions. Your “I Can” is more important than “Your I.Q.”
Winston Churchill had once said “The price of greatness is responsibility over each of your thoughts.”
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
And the secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all your energy towards doing it. Once you do this, abundance flows into your life and all your desires are filled with ease and grace.
There are no mistakes – only lessons. See setbacks as opportunities for personal expansion and spiritual growth.

Virtue 2 : Lighthouse : Follow your Purpose: The purpose of Life is a Life of purpose
 When you clearly know what your life’s aims are and wish to achieve over the course of your life be it material, emotional, physical or spiritual and you spend your days accomplishing them, you will ultimately find eternal joy and fulfillment. But one must know one’s life’s aim or vision and then manifest this vision into reality by consistent actions. Sages call this DHARMA, which is Sanskrit word for “LIFE’s PURPOSE”.

Virtue 3 : The Sumo Wrestler : Practice Kaizen : Improving Self or Self Discovery for self-leadership
No man is free who is not a master of himself. How could a person lead a corporation if he cannot lead himself? How could you nurture a family of you haven’t learned to nurture and care of yourself? How could you do good if you don’t even feel good?
Self – Mastery is the DNA of life mastery. Success on the outside begins within. Enlightenment comes through the consistent cultivation of your mind, body and soul.
One important technique for Self-mastery is: Do the Things You Fear. The Universe favors the brave.

Virtue 4 : Pink Cable like cloth : Live with Discipline :  
Through the steel of discipline, you will forge a character rich with courage and peace. Through the virtue of will, you are destined to rise to life’s highest ideal and live within a heavenly mansion filled with all that is good and joyful and vital. Without them, you are lost like a mariner without a compass, one who eventually sinks with his ship.
Discipline is built by consistently performing small acts of courage. The more you nurture the embryo of self-discipline, more it will mature. Will power is the essential virtue of fully actualized life.
Wage war against the weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind. They will see that they are unwanted and leave like unwelcome visitors.

Virtue 5: Gold Stop Watch:  Respect your time. Time slips through our hands like grains of sand never to return again. Those who use time wisely from an early age are rewarded with rich, productive and satisfying lives.
Time is our most precious commodity and it is non-renewable. Focus on the priorities and simplify your life, and maintain balance.
Courage to say NO to others is important in prioritizing one’s priority.
The Deathbed Mentality approach can be used to most effectively use this moment ‘NOW’ as the most precious and important time for any action is ‘now’ and not later.

Virtue 6: Yellow Roses: Selflessly Serve Others: The noblest thing you can do is to give to others. Start focusing on your higher purpose in life.
The quality of your life ultimately comes down to the quality of your contribution. To cultivate the sacredness of each day, live to give. By elevating the lives of others, your life reaches its highest dimensions.
Practice daily acts of kindness and compassion. Give to those who ask. Cultivate richer relationship in all spheres of life.

Virtue 7 : Diamonds : Embrace the present : Past is water under the bridge and the future is a distant sun on the horizon of your imagination. The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savor it fully. Being engaged in a pursuit that truly challenges you is the surest route to personal satisfaction. But the real key to remember is that happiness is a journey and not a destination. Live for today – there will never be another one quite like it. Never sacrifice happiness for achievement. We are all here for some special reason. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

David and Goliath : Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

This is a book about what happens when the ordinary people confront the giants (opponents) of all kind like mighty army, disabilities, misfortune or oppression. Various stories emphasizes on how davids have taken over goliaths and have proven over multiple times that it is not only the mighty or one with the advantages succeed but those davids using disadvantages of the advantages of goliath and or using advantages of their own disadvantages that they have beaten them time and again.
Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise seemed unthinkable.

Part One - Advantages of Disadvantages and (Disadvantages of Advantages)

In a classroom if the student teacher ratio is high, the quality of education is often affected. With the intent of improving the quality, if this ratio is reduced, the quality of attention  and hence education the teacher gives to students would improve. However if this ratio is further decreased, there would be the same deterioration of quality as was seen when the ratio is high. This finding has been proven through studies (and the specifics are given in the book).
One interesting example of relation between parenting and money is noteworthy. More money is not always better. Obviously it is also very hard to be a good parent if you have too little money. But having huge money and parenting only makes it easier till a certain point – the point economists would refer to where “Diminishing Marginal Returns” sets in. The children of rich parents have everything and most rich parents cannot teach “work hard, be independent, learn the meaning of money” unlike the children of marginalized parents. A parent has to set limits. But that’s one of the most difficult things for the riches because they don’t know what to say when having the excuse of ‘we cant afford it’ is gone. It is difficult for a rich parent to say “ we don’t have the money” because if you have a teenager, the teenager says, ‘ Excuse me. You have a Ferrari and Mom has a Jaguar. ‘
The parents have to switch from ‘No, we can’t ’ to ‘No, we won’t.’
But saying ‘No, we won’t.’ is much harder for a rich parent.

Graph (page 52-53)

The inverted U curve reminds us that there is a point at which money and resources stop making our lives better and start making them worse. Another example - of striving to join the best college or institutions might making things worse at certain point. You might have been the best of your schools  (Big Fish, small pond) but as you join the best college or university, you would have to compete with the best of other schools (Big Fishes, Bigger Pond). It is likely that you may not live upto your own expectations of being the best in this college and hence if not realized, might hurt your own self esteem. So instead of doing the good, this point can simply be the point of downfall.
We strive for the best and attach great importance to getting the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest.

Part Two – The Theory of Desirable Difficulty

Dyslexia is a problem in many humans since the developmental stage of the foetus. The dyslexics have problem in processing what is being heard, have difficulty in reading fluently and comprehending. So as dyslexics grow, the discovery of the peers being able to read and respond faster and his inability would be frustrating. Peers think you are stupid. Parents think you are lazy. With low self- esteem, the kids would get into depression. Many such kids get into criminal activity.

And so no parents would wish dyslexia on their child! Or would you?

But there are many success stories of Dyslexics. Dyslexia – in the best of cases – forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant. Gary Cohn, is the president of Goldman Sachs. Sir Richard Branson the British billionaire entrepreneur, Charles Schwab, the founder of Brokerage firm, John Chambers, CEO of CISCO are few names who are dyslexic and have made it huge in the business world.

This remarkable group of people triumphed inspite of their disability. They are so smart and creative that nothing – even the lifetime of struggling with reading couldn’t stop them. Secondly because of their difficulty in comprehending difficult things, they often make it to the simplest possible for them to understand. When they understand, the whole world understands making it easy for their employees and customers.

Any such difficult situations have two ways to deal with. Accept and live in difficulty or Accept and find an alternate better route to live and overcome the difficulty. David finds the courage to take on Goliath and win over.

Malcolm Gladwell has made references to examples from history, science, human psychology, business and politics to prove the point that it is not always the giants that make the victory but an underdog with disadvantages that triumph.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

To inspire, excite and arouse the followers is a central leadership attribute in all the situations.

A must read on leadership by Harvard Business Review. What it takes to be an authentic leader, an inspirational leader, a true leader? This book takes through various qualities required for an individual to demonstrate true leadership. Some of the noteworthy points in brief are:

An inspirational leadership consist of the following
i)                    Leadership is about tensions between revealing strength but at the same time about showing weakness.
ii)                   It is about being an individual as well as conforming.
iii)                 It is about establishing intimacy with the followers but also keeping enough distance.

Excellence in any one of the above is insufficient for a truly inspirational leadership. Through interplay amongst above areas guided by situation sensing that great leaders find the right style for the right moment.

While there is no concrete test or result that can conclude or prove the leadership qualities, it is about the individual sense that prevails on many occasions. Had great financial results been the measure of leadership, the example of collapse of Enron and Satyam Tech couldn’t have proven it wrong, but as a matter of fact, both cases have been great examples of poor leadership. An organization can have competent management with poor leadership which can deliver exemplary results or an inspirational leadership only which can deliver the same. Competent Management is not equal to Inspirational leadership.

Be Authentic :  Being self and not enacting someone else is a crucial aspect of leadership. Sir Richard Branson is an example who displays his casual and adventurous self and still leads others without losing his identity. The important part of being authentic is that the leader needs to maintain consistency between words and deeds.
Knowing Yourself, Being Yourself and Disclosing yourself are vital ingredients of effective leadership.
An organization often inhibits the individuals from being their actual self (authentic). So the tough task for a leadership lies in creating environment that individuals are able to exhibit their authenticity and prepare themselves for the leadership positions.

Taking Personal Risk:  One who attempts at displaying leadership or is given a leadership position, is exposed and has many things to lose even at the personal level. This opportunity is of disclosure of personal strength and if not delivered, could be a massacre of personal confidence. Nevertheless, true leaders learn from the mistakes and move ahead. Earning respect from the followers is a never ending process for a leader.

Purpose : Unless you are clear about your purpose and your values and are doing something that you really care about, it is difficult to be a leader. With clarity in the purpose, the passion comes into play which takes the individual towards consistent effort and persistence.

Leaders recognize that group goes through four stages viz.
1)  FORMING – Team is put together.
2)  STORMING – There is conflict about what to do and how to do.
3)  NORMING – Some agreement is reached about how to work together.
4)  PERFORMING – The team now focuses wholeheartedly on the task.

There is an inevitable progression between these four stages. Some teams disintegrate at FORMING stage itself. A major problem is common in a leadership style which makes an unrealistic attempts to demonstrate or demand quick results which involves leaping straight from FORMING to the PERFORMING stage.

3 Fundamental Axioms of Leadership :
i)                    Situational: What is required of the leader will always be influenced by the situation. History is full of examples of leaders who found their time and place but whose qualities lost their appeal as things moved on. Eg Winston Churchill was an inspirational wartime leader but his style was ill suited to the reconstruction agenda of postwar Britain.

ii)                   Non – Hierarchical: The common understanding that only those who occupy the top positions in an organization has probably damaged our capacity to understand leadership more than anything else. Hierarchy alone is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the exercise of leadership. The best example of non hierarchical leadership exhibition is in the army where each individuals are coached and developed towards leadership role and given the opportunity to exercise it.

iii)                 Relational: Always between the leader and the led. Edgy or harmonious, the leader knows how to keep the relation and inspire, arouse and excite the team to perform.

Leadership is never an end in itself, that it is always characterized by the pursuit of an overarching purpose. It is neither simply a technique nor can it be achieved through the careful following of a recipe or formula. It is rather made real only when it is exercised in pursuit of a goal. But which goal? Increasing economic profit? Healing sick children? Or destroying the competition? The leader must choose. And that choice is fundamentally an ethical one. Examples of charismatic leaders exciting their followers in pursuit of a goal, an unethical one, does often bring an unfathomable harm in the society.
It is precisely because leadership can be so powerful in releasing human energy that leaders must ask and answer tough ethical questions.

Leadership is hard, but worth it. So don’t let us end on a pessimistic note. There is always  a constant and pleasant surprises by the ways in which leaders in a myriad of settings bring meaning and high performance to organizations or group being led.. They provide purpose and excitement; they live on the edge between uniqueness and a necessary degree of conformity. They make a difference.