50 Good Habits

Daily Habits
Good Habits

Habits are behavior that becomes second nature to a person. They help make our lives easy and effortless. There are as many good habits as there are sand grains on a beach. Some of the good habits are universal and some are local, pertaining to the cultural milieu of a particular land. Here is a list of 50 good habits:

1.    Wake up early in the morning 
2.    Exercise daily

3.    Drinking 2 litre of water every day 
4.    Eating fruits and vegetables daily
5.    Saying thank you 
6.    Reading few pages of a book every day 
7.    Maintaining a daily journal 
8.    Daily Meditation 
9.    Practicing affirmations 
10.  Practicing Gratitude 
11.  Practicing forgiveness 
12.  Saying a prayer daily 
13.  Keeping in touch with family and friends 
14.  Self grooming
15.  Sleeping early
16.  Saving power by switching off electric appliances when not in use 
17.  Saving paper
18.  Saving water
19.  Doing errands by walking around 
20.  Cycling instead of motor bike 
21.  Using public transport instead of a private car
22.  Volunteering once a week for any social cause 
23.  Picking up your own trash 
24.  Making your bed every morning 
25.  Washing your own dish
26.  Creating a to do list each day
27.  Reviewing your goals each day
28.  Practice mindfulness 
29.  Single tasking 
30.  Complimenting others 
31.  Encouraging others 
32.  Limiting time on smart phone and internet
33.  Visiting family and friends 
34.  Brushing and flossing your teeth daily 
35.  Taking daily bath, especially in warm countries 
36.  Giving alms to the needy
37.  Practicing small random acts of kindness 
38.  Remembering names 
39.  Listening to audio books while driving 
40.  Being proactive 
41.  Goal setting 
42.  Prioritizing the tasks 
43.  Tipping service people 
44.  Listening attentively 
45.  Greeting every one you meet with a warm smile and big hello 
46.  Eating small meals
47.  Reading newspaper daily
48.  Limiting television viewing
49.  Speaking the truth
50.  Introspecting your day 

The key to forming habits is self discipline. Start small. Conquer the habits one by one.

What are some good habits that you would recommend?

The Monitor Badge

The other day when I came home from work, Sara, my yet to be 6 year old daughter, who is in class 1 now, ran up to me. She seemed very happy and excited. “Papa, Papa, (do) you know what happened at school today?”, she said, in her lilting voice. I knew she had something to share with me. Her mama was standing behind her, beaming as well. Faking utter surprise, I said, “No, Sara. Tell me, what happened”. “Papa, papa, I got this monitor badge today”, said she as she held up a white rectangular piece of plastic with Montitor, Class 1 Section C, inscribed on it. “Wow, you have become the monitor of your class!” I exclaimed. We did a high five and I asked how it happened. She told me that Priscilla Mam, her class teacher, made her the monitor. My wife laughingly told that in her school, the naughtiest fellow used to become the monitor. May be that is the reason, Sara became the monitor. Sara showed some displeasure and said she is not the naughtiest.

The next day, when I returned home, Sara was still basking in the glory of being the monitor. I asked her what she did as a monitor. She replied that she did whatever Priscilla mam told her to do. She followed her to the cupboard where the notebooks were kept. She had to carry them from the cupboard to Priscilla mam’s desk and distribute it to the children. She was still thrilled of doing that job.

I remembered the days when I was the monitor of my class. We did not have a monitor badge or anything. The teacher just announced that someone is the monitor of the class. Now, that was a grand feeling, because it exalted your status in the class. It felt like you immediately acquired some super-powers. And which kid is not enamored with super powers? In my days, I as the class monitor, apart from doing the usual job of carrying stuff, also had to actually “mind the class”. Minding the class means, announcing to the other kids, actually shouting to them to remain quiet and refrain from any pranks, going around the class like a king, looking at the other children and noting the names of the errant ones on the blackboard. The teacher would come and then take those folks to task by making them stand on their chairs or asking them to kneel down outside the class depending on the severity of their indiscipline.

The next day, while dropping Sara at the school bus stop, I saw that she was not wearing the monitor badge. I told her so. She was shocked and she ran back home instantly with me trailing back. She scooped the badge from her cupboard and put it on in a jiffy. She could not for a single day, go without the badge.

Couple of days passed and Sara was still gung ho about being the monitor. She would put the monitor badge proudly every morning and show it to everyone in her bus stop. People also feigned wonder and disbelief by seeing that badge. Children of her age were eager to be monitor of the class one day.

I realized that unlike our school days, when I was monitor for the entire year almost, these days, schools must be rotating the task of being the monitor among all students, just to give them that extra responsibility and make them feel special. So, I guessed that it must be a weekly turn and Priscilla mam will take the badge away after a week. Since Sara was quite attached to her monitor badge, I thought it would be good to tell her that one day, it will go away. She should know that nothing in the world is permanent. So, one night, I broached the subject to her. While she was in bed, going to sleep, I told her that mam will take the badge one of these days and give it to someone else. She said, it is not going to happen. She is the monitor and she will have the badge. When I tried some rationale justification to explain it to her, she didn’t listen. However old one may be, one cannot reason with a 6 year old! She can furnish unquestionable arguments, no matter how nonsensical they may be, and if nothing works, she would crumple her little face, break down and start sobbing.

In the middle of that night, she woke up from sleep crying. She had dreamt of something and she was blabbering about me saying monitor badge being taken away. We somehow put her back to sleep again.

In the coming days, I decided not to make this monitor badge a big thing. This issue had to be taken off from her mind and the best way was not to bring up that topic and engross her with something else. So for a few days, neither the badge, nor the monitoring activities were subject of our discussion. One morning, while going to drop her off at the bus stop, I noticed that she had not put the badge. I asked if she has forgotten her badge and she nonchalantly said that mam took it away. She did not have a tint of sadness or any attachment to it. She had happily forgotten the incident and moved on to other things that were in the present.

Are you still holding on to your monitor badge after it has been taken away?

Re-Calibrated Dreams

Did you ever wonder where the daughter of your house maid studies? Did you spare a penny of a thought to what hardships the son of the person who cleans your car every morning goes through? Do you know what could be the dream of the daughter of the watchman in your apartment, who says 'salaam saab' to you every time you pass by? Well, I did not, till some time back. I was in my own world, minding my own business, mostly.

It was a day that I would never forget in my life. A day, which taught me so many things and made me realize some of the hard truth of life. I and some other folks from office had received an invite from someone to visit an institute and meet the students who were preparing for their upcoming placements. Since I was involved with campus recruitment for our organization, I had received this invite. I was all pumped up to go and give a pep talk, motivate and inspire them to do well in the interviews. The organizers also wanted us to conduct some mock interviews.

We had to go to Tolichowki, a locality at the intersection of the old and new city at Hyderabad. On one side you could see flyovers leading to tall buildings with shining glass fa├žade, housing the young urban professional, and on the other side was the massive expanse of living quarters of middle and low income group families. The location of the institute puzzled us. Nonetheless, we found our way to a nondescript building whose address was given to us.

We 4 colleagues from Capgemini, climbed the stairs to the first floor of the building where the institute was located. The first floor had a small reception, an office room and 2 class rooms. The walls were decorated with motivational quotes. In one of the room there were about 30 kids. They were looking nothing like engineering students. They were 18-23 year old students from slum areas and villages, all children of low income families. We were asked to address the students. Very soon, we understood that they would find it difficult to follow English properly. Hence, we used Hindi to address them.

We all tried to inspire and motivate them. I told them about having a goal and narrated the story of karoly Takacs, the Hungarian shooter who despite losing his right hand won the Olympics gold medal. I told that they, despite of their struggles and problems, can also achieve their goals, if they focus on it and work hard.

Then it was time for the mock interview. We divided the students into 4 groups and I told them that we would do a group discussion and I will ask questions to them and they can ask questions to me as well.

The group of 8 with me went to another room. We settled ourselves and I asked them to introduce themselves with their name, where they come from, what they are studying and what are their hobbies, interests, dreams & goals. That is when I realized that they were mostly 10th class failed. Their parents were auto drivers or house maids or working in a tea stall or road side hotel. Most of them did not speak audibly. I had to really struggle even to understand their hindi even though I was sitting quite close to them.

I gave them some tips like saying hi/hello, smiling at others and saying their name loudly and confidently. After giving some other tips, I asked them to ask me questions. There were absolutely no questions from their side. So, I kept prodding them. I learnt that they were studying Sales – to be sales boy or sales girls in small shops, Hotel operations – to work in small restaurants and Computers – to be data entry operators. Most of them told me that their goal was to get a job and start earning. I understood, being financially independent by earning their livelihood and helping their family was something badly needed by all of them.

After asking them several times to ask me questions, Saba, a girl in a black burqa asked: Sir How big is Capgemini? Where are the different branches? Who is the owner? What is your duty time? Etc. I answered those questions patiently.

Then Saba asked,

Sir, what is your designation?

I said Senior Manager.

Sir, What do you do in a typical day?

I struggled to explain to them what system integration is, what is a merger and what are the challenges when an organization like Capgemini acquires another organization like iGate. But these questions still could be answered. The next one was a googly.

Sir, what is your salary?

I did not know what to answer to that particular question. The first thing I thought was that these kids were so innocent that they did not know what questions could be asked and what should not be. I was overwhelmed with their simplicity. But still I did not know whether to tell the truth or not. The truth, which I at the end of every month feel is not enough; but the same truth, I am sure would be sufficient to sustain some of their entire family for almost a year. If I tell the truth, I felt they might feel deprived and bad, and if I did not, I would be lying. Then it dawned on me that I am not supposed to disclose my salary.  Relieved, I let a long breath out and winged up a convoluted answer telling them what I earned when I started my career, and that it goes up with experience.

The next question was again a bouncer. Another kid asked,

Sir, if I want to become like you, what I should do.

I was at a loss for words. What could I say? My life and how I became what I am flashed across my mind in a second. And I realized how just plain lucky I had been to have been born to parents who could provide me with education that helped me get on the professional train. Should I tell them, that to become like me, they should get an engineering degree, then get an MBA and then get into a corporate life? Will it encourage them, or will it discourage them? How do you say that to someone who is 10th fail and does not even know what the real world boundaries and limitations are? Would you just tell her that there is no way for you to join a large MNC? Or would you sugar coat your answer? Without knowing what to say, I just ducked the question asking them to dream big, to focus on the goal and to work hard – One day they could become like me.  My inner voice was shouting - how hollow these words were. What actions could I take for them?

Question after question kept stumping me.

Sir, what are the opportunities for me at Capgemini. 

I was just as helpless as before again. What could they do at Capgemini? Would they be happy to be the housekeeping staff, I thought to myself, to clean the premises, pantry and the washrooms? I was actually feeling very small because I did not have an answer. For several minutes, I did not dare to say anything. Finally, those hollow words came out from my mouth - You can be anything that you want to be!

Sir, how many years of service is required to reach your position?

Very soon I realized the reason why they were asking me questions about my designation and how much money I make. Perhaps, they were trying to imagine themselves at my position. Perhaps they wanted to day dream. Perhaps they wanted to understand that such a thing, which we in our society take for granted, is possible. It is possible to become a professional, to speak to one and to get to know one was a dream come true for them. They were re-calibrating their own goals and dreams. How could I ask them to become a cleaner or office boy and shatter their newly painted nascent dreams the color of which had not even dried from their eyes?

Finally, 2 of the 8 kids announced proudly – Sir – I want to become a Senior Manager at Capgemini. That is our dream. Their dreams had just changed from becoming a data entry operator to become a Senior Manager at an MNC. This was no laughing matter. They were dead serious about it.

How could I help these kids was the only thing that was in my mind. All of them had goals and dreams. Though their voice was weak, their passion shone clearly. One boy told that his father has a tea-stall. He wants to expand that. He wants to make it a hotel business. These were the kind of dreams they were carrying.

Later, we had a feedback session. We were supposed to give our feedback to them. I gave the feedback that I loved their passion, dreams and goals. I told them to work on their English speaking skills which can be a passport to their job. I told them to help each other and never feel that they are alone. And whenever they feel like they are alone, just ask for help.

At the end of the session, they came and asked for our autographs. I was afraid to sign as I do not consider myself worthwhile to sign an autograph. We were all simple office-goers, but were treated like celebrities. However, we wrote an inspiring message for each of them, not to disappoint them.

On the way back, the Hyderabad traffic was bad. Throughout the journey, I sat silently. Just one thought kept recurring  – Just how plain lucky I had been! Then, a sense of gratitude came over. It was gratitude to all those – my parents, teachers, members of the society, colleagues, everyone who helped shape my life.

I went there to inspire them, but I came back inspired. I went there to ask them questions, I came back with lots more questions, unanswered. I went there to show them the way, I came back having realized the path.

That night I kept asking myself, what I could do to help the kids. Now, I have a plan. And by will of God, I will be able to execute the plan, one step at a time. This blog is the first step. To spread the word.


This post is incomplete if I do not mention the organizers, the instructors, the fund raisers at such organizations like AIF and CAP Foundation. They are all doing tremendous service to society by helping these kids find their livelihood. They go door to door, mobilize these students and train them free of cost. They also organize placement service for them. Just imagine, if such selfless people are not there, what would be the future of all those who due to financial and social circumstances have been deprived of proper education? My request to anyone who has ways and means of helping these kids to come forward and extend a helping hand, lend an ear or at least spread the word.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some pictures of the session.

A Complete Man

Someone asked me, how to become a complete man. Here is my response!

Many of us aspire to become a complete man. Each of us defines a complete man in our own way, a different way. But, whatever be your definition, no one can become a complete man by the snap of a finger. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes loads of patience to become the complete man you dream to be.

As they say, a journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step. Thus, the journey to become a complete man is no exception. The first step in this journey is to define your goal vividly and completely. The next step is to break down the vision to smaller actionable steps. If I were in your position, I would work on different areas of life - Physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, financial and spiritual. 

Make 2-3 goals in each of these areas. For example, a goal in physical realm would be to remain fit and healthy. Though this is a long term goal, it has to be broken down into daily habits or behavioral steps that will help achieve it down the year. As an example, for the long term goal of remaining fit a day healthy, waking up early in the morning and following an exercise routine would be my daily goal. In fact, this is one of my goals and I track it on a daily basis. 

Similarly, if you may have a intellectual goal of being a well read man. Set up a goal to read 2 books every month. This means, on an average, read 15-16 pages per day so that you can finish a 200 page book in 2 weeks. 

The key here is to set effective goals and pursue the behavior required to achieve the goals on a daily basis.  This obviously requires tremendous amount of will power. One suggestion is that do not be too ambitious and set too many goals. If you have more goals and try to establish too many habits at a time, then you run the risk of losing focus and getting disheartened. So, pick up just 1 goal. Focus on it completely till you master the habit. Over a period of 2 - 3 months, that habit will become second nature and you will do it effortlessly. This habit will keep moving you forward towards your goal. Then pick up the next goal as your focus, and try to establish the next habit. One by one, you keep building new habits and over a period of 1 year, you will be surprised to see that you have mastered several of them. 

There will be days and weeks where you will waver. You will start something but not be able to complete. Do not lose heart. It is all in the process. Introspect where you went wrong. I remember the quote by Samuel Beckett: Ever tried? Ever failed?  Try again. Fail again. Fail better!

Thank you for asking this question. Wish you all the best for your journey to become the complete man. 

Book Review - Blue Ocean Strategy – W Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

This book was published in 2005 and became an international bestseller. All Management consultants and MBA students were expected to read this. I laid my hands on this book a couple of times. But somehow it did not pike my interest.

Having failed to read it couple of times, this book was like a challenge to me and I decided to polish it off this time around as part of my 2016 reading challenge.

Blue ocean strategy is about developing new markets or expanding the boundaries. It is in contrast with a Red Ocean, which means compete in a blood bath in a limited size old market. The book not only gives numerous examples of companies or organizations that followed the Blue ocean strategy, but also gives a theoretical framework to evaluate and pursue the same.

Some of the key learning were:
·         Value innovation
·         Four Action Framework
·         Strategy Canvas
·         Formulating Blue Ocean Strategy
·         Executing Blue Ocean Strategy

Value innovation is any action that favorably affects both a company’s cost structure and  its value proposition to the buyer.

Four Action Framework is used for increasing buyer value. It could be by Eliminating something from the product or service, Reduce something, Raise something or Create something new in your product/service offering.

Strategy Canvas is a pictorial representation of an organization’s strategy plotted against various factors that affect the offering. A competitor can also be plotted on the same canvas and it can show where there is a differentiation. I felt though the concept was good, the actual plotting of the measures against factors could be subjective!

The part on Formulating Blue Ocean Strategy was quite interesting.  There are lots of new concepts to be learnt. This is about reconstructing Market Boundary. This basically means to expand the boundary of your market. This can be achieved by looking at alternative industries and their scope, at strategic groups within industry, across chains of buyers, across complementary product and service offering, across functional or emotional appeal to buyers, and across time.

Then the authors describe how to draw the strategy canvas through visual awakening, visual exploration, visual strategy fair and visual communication. How to draw the PMS (Pioneer-Motivator-Settler) map. Pioneers are companies with largest market share. Motivators are companies trying to break out from settlers to become pioneers. Settlers are me too, also ran variety of companies. Some global gyan!

The last part of the book, Executing Blue Ocean Strategy, is more about organizational change management techniques on how to implement the new strategy. It talks about overcoming the organizational hurdles like resource crunch, unmotivated staff, cognitive shutdown and political hurdles. The authors give techniques to overcome each. For example, to overcome political hurdles, the author recommends to ‘leverage your Angels and silence your devils’.

Finally the authors give examples from contemporary industries that have knowingly or unknowingly used the principles of Blue Ocean to survive.

My verdict: This book is a very good combination of strategy and practice (examples). But Unless you are top management or a management consultant, this book may not really be very useful in your day-to-day work.