“Lincoln’s Letter” is the essence of Management Skills


Lincoln once write a letter to the teacher of his son. It is quite well known and found in most text books. I happened to glance at it at my daughter’s school and marvelled at how similar it is to the values we teach in management schools.

He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.

We have discussed that there is no such thing as fairness. We have also discussed the rule of 1/3rd, wherein, you will, in general, have 1/3rd of the persons supporting you, 1/3rd opposing you and a good salesperson is one who focusses on the 1/3rd sitting on the fence.

It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning. 

We have talked about the fact that sales is about numbers, and a hit ratio. Therefore we have to fail more often than succeed. The faster we fail, the nearer we get to success. To earn a dollar, we have to struggle, and in struggling, we learn, like a butterfly gets fluid in its wings only by struggling to get out of its cocoon. Machiavelli also said, “the less a man relied on fortune the stronger he has made his position. ” He also said that to  acquire power strictly by prowess is more difficult to do, but the person has a better chance of holding onto their power.

Steer him away from envy if you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter. 

We have talked about the concept of a “mental shrug” and a “mental smile”. We need to shrug off, mentally, any misfortune that comes our way. Similarly, a smile from within, “smiling with every cell in our body”  even if our face is serious,creates an aura of peace and tranquillity within and around us.

Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books. But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.

We also learn that fear comes from imagining a dismal future, and in most cases this future does not come true. A bully tells you about your future in such a way that you believe him, and his power comes from your belief.

Well, reading books is important, as they are a distillation of thoughts of various persons. I know that experience is the best teacher, but if a teacher has had the experience, and he has written a book about his experience, why not learn vicariously?

In school, teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with the gentle, and tough with the tough. 

This is a tough one, and goes against most modern norms. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to make your own judgement on this.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon.

This is the essence of product differentiation. Most of us tend to hide in mediocrity and we accept the Great Indian Crab syndrome. We allow people to pull us down. We want to be part of the crowd. Lincoln clearly says that we need to make our own path.

Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

We make decisions based on other person’s advice, and opinions. With the advent of the Internet, we tend to take opinions on the Net as facts.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

This goes back to creating our own path. The problem is that of self esteem and the confusion that we have grown up with. People tell us to be different, but when we do, say in class or with friends, we are asked to confirm. I believe this to be a test. People who cave in, and become part of the general populace, becomes followers. But people who bide their time, and then emerge to create a new path, become leaders.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient; let him have the patience to be brave.

The purpose of a teacher is to push him into doing things he has not done before. A teacher is an agent of change, and given the short time he has (typically a year), he needs to make changes in a student. We tend to remember those teachers who created a change in us, even if controversially. It is said in motivation, that a stick is good to make a person move, but carrots are needed to keep him moving. If you use a carrot to make a person move, the person can decide that he does not like carrots. However, he cannot avoid a stick.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This directly related to self esteem and self confidence. Looking to others to provide support, having faith that others will pitch in when needed – these are nice to have but slightly ephemeral. The only thing that is concrete is our faith in ourselves.

9 Mistakes you are making on Linkedin – From Inc.com


I had earlier written a blog on why LinkedIn should be used. Inc.com has published an article on the mistakes that you may be doing on LinkedIn. Please do read it.

I have two additional comments to make.

  • The essence of networking is to give before you receive. Further, giving should be done way before you ask for something in return. I recently visited an alumni meet and I found 2 glaring oddities
    • People of a batch cluster together, as if:
      • they do not meet on facebook or face to face
      • they are afraid of meeting others
    • People meet only those who they think can be of help immediately

I was reminded of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment about delayed gratification. I believe that a similar correlation exists in networking. Persons who invest in the future are more likely to succeed, not the ones who spend immediately to satisfy current needs. Giving should be without conditions.

  • The last point in the article, “You go Generic” is very pertinent. I have had people trying to connect to me by sending a generic “Chandra I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Okay, so those persons are busy, but they initiated the connection. Half the time I do not even know them or remember them. They want something from me, want to access my connections, but do not have the courtesy to send me a slightly personal note? 
    • The best part is when my students send me a ‘generic,’ calling me Chandra. Umm, okay, maybe that is fine in the US, but here, I still call my teachers, Sir or Ma’am. I expect a similar salutation.

What do you think?


What can help me find an ideal job?


When people quit after working for only a few months in a job,  some of the reasons they cite are listed below.

  • I was bored!
  • I was overworked!
  • It was not what I was promised!
  • The organisation is not good!
  • I did not like the profile!
  • I could not handle the job!
  • My boss was not good!
  • The culture is not good!
  • The salary is too low!

Typically we join a company because of 3 reasons:

  • Job Profile (what we do in the company now and will do in the future),
  • Company Brand (which improves our personal branding and provides longevity in employment because the company is doing good)
  • Salary (which allows us to satisfy some of our needs).

We give “salary” the highest priority when starting our career, then “brand” and last, the “job profile”.

Most of the reasons listed above for quitting are emotional and related to what we are expected to do (job profile). We are capable of hard work if we are motivated. If there is a future in the job, we remain motivated.  We find something to do if we are bored. We can tolerate or handle our boss if we want to stay. We will take a low salary (within reason) if I enjoy the work and there is future growth. However, hard work is not s substitute for enjoying our work. We stick around if we enjoy our work.

What creates enjoyment at work?

If I look at the reasons above, I also see issues of personality clashes. For example,

  • when the job requirement does not fit my personality
  • the company culture does not fit my personality
  • I have a personality clash with my boss.

The clash is also about what I do, compared to the expectations by the company and by my boss about what I am supposed to do.  What I do is determined by what I am… in terms of my personality.

The Myers-Briggs Test (a simple version of the test can be found here) analyses us in terms of our extravertism or introvertism, whether we use our 5 senses to gather data or our intuition, whether we use logic or emotions and how much data do we need to make decisions. Evidently, certain jobs require certain personality types.

For example, I am an INFJ. By definition:

INFJs are idealists. They work hard, but are stubborn about their ideals and the type of work they would like to be doing. They’re also often unconventional, complex, and warmly interested in people. They are insightful, perfectionistic and principled. Typical careers for such people are: teachers, counselors, artists. They are the rarest type in the population.

Here is another site that explains more about MB personality types.

More details of personality type, careers and relationships can be seen here. The same site talks about careers related to each personality type. Another site that talks about careers for certain personality types is here.

So according to the analysis, I am good in advisory roles and am good as a consultant. If I am asked to execute a project within a given deadline, I may not do a good job. Similarly, I can help in a sales process, but cannot be made directly responsible. I can theorise, understand others’ issues and can give advice, linking a lot of possibilities and perspectives. I would be successful in such careers.

A stakeholder may tell me to go into Information Technology Sector and run a software project because the company profile is good or the salary is good. It does not mean I will do a good job at it.  I may be technically capable of fulfilling my duty, but that is what it will be: a duty, not a joy.

Nor am I a chameleon. I may be a good actor, but actors change personalities for a short period, not 8-12 hours a day for the rest of their lives. hence, we cannot say that we will behave in a way that is contrary to our intrinsic personality. That is very strenuous.

To summarise, if we do not know who we are, and therefore what is it that we would enjoy doing based on our personality, can we really adjust all the time to the environment and live a life of “quiet desperation?”


Myers Briggs Test is one way of looking at personality. The way we see the world (that is, the filters that we have) is another way of looking at our personality. Such filters comes in the ambit of Neuro-Lingustic Programming (NLP.) An example of this is given here. Taking some aspects of this methodology:

If I are motivated “away from” which means avoiding pain / “stick” rather than “towards” which means going towards pleasure / “carrot”…then I cannot be a sales person, because a sales person is motivated by what he will get, not what he wants to avoid.   

Time referencing is about whether you remember and stay in the past or we are more focussed on the future. Again, people who focus on the future tend to be better sales people than those who stay in the past – who are better in operations since they remember the mistakes or past precedences to determine what to do next.


The Cattell’s 16PF personality type also gives some indication of our personality in 16 aspects. An on-line questionnaire can be filled here. However, its relationship to careers is not readily available in the public domain.

Love after Marriage?


Question: “What should I make my career in?

Answer: “Follow your passion!

Me: “What Crap!

The suggestion made by most well-meaning ‘advisors’ is “Do what you love…

There are abundant books and articles written around this theme. If you are a cook, start a restaurant. If you like watching films, become a film critic, even make films. If you like doing plinkity-plonk on a guitar or a keyboard, start a band. It you are creative, write a novel. If you like hiking, start an adventure sports academy.

Running a restaurant is a difficult business and requires cut-throat (maybe the chef’s knife will come in handy here!) business practices. Ever wondered why no one listens to your witty criticisms about the films, or reads your facebook updates about the film you saw last night? Managing an outbound sports program requires the ability (among other things) to handle a lot of logistical uncertainty including propitiating the weather-gods. Ever wondered about the average lifetime of such businesses? Ever considered that low barriers to entry means too much competition? And, believe me, doing your own thing is harder work (with longer hours) than your current job.

We will probably not be able to do what we love…because:

  1. If what we love is spending money (consumerism) then it seems crazy to earn money by spending money.
  2. If we love wasting time, we will not earn money doing that.
  3. We will also not have too many choices of a job.
  4. Being an entrepreneur requires a different set of guts (not the belly that most of us have because we love drinking beer).
  5. If your business is successful, others will follow.
  6. You may burn your bridges and not be able to return to a position of safety (your previous job).

By now you must be thinking, what has all this to do with the subject of this blog entry?

I will digress a bit into the debate about ‘love’ marriages versus ‘arranged’ marriages. Arranged marriages have been given a bum rap in recent times, but face it, most of the couples of our generation are happier, more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand each other, share issues and problems, fight and can live with our differences. Most of the couples in my children’s generation are quite the opposite. There are fewer permanent relationships.

Maybe we should just blame it on technology (internet) and the knowledge explosion. Maybe it has to do with more available choices.

But the point is, we fell in love after we got married, and we have remained married. And we are happy. Youthful passion may not endure, but love does.

Another interesting aspect of an arranged marriage is that families have to adjust. There is a lot of emotional investment and that creates a support system. Since our beliefs are based on our past experiences, and our future responses are based on our beliefs, it is highly possible that our backgrounds may determine how we deal with an uncertain future. The support system also gives us the courage to take risks.

Put it another way, the chances of success are higher as there is more background analysis, more emotional investment and a better support system.

So to return to the topic and drawing a parallel between successful marriages (with your spouse or with your career)

  • A career should be like an arranged marriage, not a ‘love’ marriage based on youthful exuberance and passion.
  • We can love what we do. Fall in love with your job, with what you have been given…like in an arranged marriage. Be more accepting, more adjusting, take time to understand your colleagues and your boss, share issues and problems, fight and live with your differences.
  • Do background checks on similar businesses, talking to people in the industry you want to be, researching the culture of the firm you plan to join makes the chances of loving your job better. 
So in short:
Don’t do what you love…Love what you do.

I am sure I am raising the hackles of a lot of persons right now. I would welcome your comments.

3 reasons why we do not believe, “Prevention is better than cure…”


Folks, I am part of the IIT Mentors group where I mentor a team of professionals during their career. We are organising a panel discussion for corporate executives who wish to do an MBA. If you have friends interested in doing an MBA, please pass this message to them. And, if you wish, please post this on your corporate bulletin board.  My book will also be available there at a discounted price.

Thank you for reading this.


Business school is for the informed and the driven. It is a planned intervention in your career to lift you from where you are to the next higher level. B-School education, across the globe, comes with a heavy price tag (typically above Rs. 30 Lakhs) and just having any B-School degree is not good enough to change your fortune. In fact our experience shows most successful MBA grads did very diligent homework of fact finding around B-school education before plunging into it.

IIT Mentors (http://www.iitmentors.org) is proud to bring an extraordinary session for those who want to undertake MBA education to leapfrog their career. So, register now – to get answer to all your queries – whether it be do’s and don’ts of an application letter or how does a USA or an International B-school fares against its Indian counterparts – from noted experts in the field of MBA across the prominent geographies. Seats are limited to ensure the quality and depth of interactions, so register now to secure your opportunity to attend one of the most sought-after pre-MBA workshops.

The pre MBA workshop would mainly cover three areas: Selection of B schools and managing your profile, Leveraging maximum out of an MBA degree and Career progression post MBA.

Panel of experts

1. Chirantan Chatterjee – Assistant Professor IIM Bangalore, IIT Roorkee alumnus

2. Pamli Deka – Alumnus INSEAD 2010, IIT Roorkee alumnus

3. Dinesh Nilkanth – Principal, Jain University Bangalore

Registration fee: Rs. 200/- only

Find out more and Register here: http://iitmentors-event-workshop-23june2012.doattend.com/

About IIT Mentors:

IIT Mentors is a unique PanIIT ‘nation building’ program that aims to unlock the powerful network of the IIT alumni across the globe. With the vision of ‘Touching the lives’, this program offers global mentorship opportunities in an informal, supportive and resourceful manner through the multi-domain pool of the alumni mentors, knowledge resources and local networks. With the core belief that true mentoring can only be gifted, IIT Mentors are aspiring to touch the life of every young professional.

From: “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom


This probably is the most pithy statement about life purpose or goal. Do read the book, which probably, along with “‘To Sir With Love” and “The Last Lecture” would stand among the top 3 books about teachers.


“I decided what I wanted on my tombstone,” he said.
I don’t want to hear about tombstones. “Why? They make you nervous?”
I shrugged.
“We can forget it.”
No, go ahead. What did you decide?
Morrie popped his lips. “I was thinking of this: A Teacher to the Last.”
He waited while I absorbed it.
A Teacher to the Last.
“Good?” he said.
Yes, I said. Very good.

3 ways to increase Self Esteem


Suppose I feel pretty proud of winning a prize. I feel on top of the world and I want to share my happiness with others.

If others tell me that this prize has no value, or do not reciprocate my happiness, I have two choices:

  1. I can feel terrible because others did not value this prize, and therefore the value of the prize has decreased
  2. As long as I feel good about my achievement, I need not consider others’ valuation.

People with high self esteem value themselves and their achievements and do not care of others’ opinions, unless it is beneficial to them.

On the other hand, people with low self esteem depend on others to give themselves and their achievements some value. They depend on others’ approval. If people tell us we are no good or we did not do good, we feel bad.

Another example of this is how we treat fortune.

If I am a person of low self esteem, then if good things happen to me, I shrug my shoulders and say it was luck. If bad things happen to me, I say it must be my fault.

However, if I was a person with high self esteem, I would be attribute good luck to my efforts and bad luck to fate, that this did not work out.

Therefore, in order to increase self esteem we need to do the following:

  1. Make a list of things that we are good at (skills) and what we have done (achievements). Use our friends to help augment this list. Paste this list to the mirror and read it every day.
  2. Make a list of things we want to achieve and create a glide path. An aeroplane, while landing, has an optimal glide path. If it is descending too rapidly, it may crash; if it is too shallow, it will overshoot the target. If we create a target level of our desire, and the time frame, we create a glide-path. Just like a pilot does course correction based on the numbers on his instrument panel, we need to have some way of measuring if we are on-target and therefore make course corrections. These small successes give us confidence that we will reach the target.
  3. What we are (traits) is not what we do (action). Each action has a consequence. Whenever we act, people will react. Sometimes their reaction is favourable to our cause, and sometimes they are not. If we can control their reaction, we have a better chance of success. But we cannot control everything, since we do not know who will react in which way. Therefore, at best, we can only improve the probability of  our success. Since our success and failure is uncertain, we cannot attribute it to our capabilities and therefore should not feel guilty about it.

The result of this is:

  • increased awareness of our traits,
  • understanding that our traits have nothing to do with our failures and
  • that our value is based on how we see ourselves.

Desiderata – A 1927 prose poem giving Advice on Emotional Intelligence


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Please also see

If by Rudyard Kipling

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

6 Characteristics of Relationships and How to Maintain Them


When two persons enter into a relationship (be it professional or personal), the following interaction happens.

Diagram of a Relationship

There are three distinct areas – the two persons having unique identities A, B and a third shared identity (C).

This is a very important concept – that the relationship is separate from the persons who create the relationship. Just as we invest in ourselves, we have to invest in the relationship also. A relationship is like a child born out of two persons coming together, and the child has a unique and distinct personality from the two parents. The way parents feed the child (emotionally and spiritually) determines how the child grows.

Characteristics of relationships

  1. We invest time in a relationship. Since time is limited, the amount of time spent eats into personal time and this creates issues. The time can be willingly given, or forcibly taken. The time spent is at the expense of other activities and these have repercussions. We believe that if time is being invested, it should be utilised well. If I perceive that the other person is physically present, but not emotionally there, I may feel the time to be wasted.
  2. We invest emotional content in a relationship. We create memories of good and bad times, we fight, make up and we spend quality time together. Each incident has an emotional content that either nurtures or detroys the relationship.
  3. We have multiple relationships at the same time. We have a professional relationship at work, a semi-professional one with colleagues, another set of relationships with friends, with parents and with our spouse. the limited time creates a continuous tussle for prioritisation.
  4. Each relationship has a purpose and fulfils some need. If the need is fulfilled or cannot being fulfilled, the relationship dies. Sometimes because of social pressure, we continue in a relationship for the sake of appearances. This happens professionally as well as personally.
  5. A relationship is of a finite duration. It may extend to the lifetime of one person, or for a smaller duration. Sometimes, one person leaves the relationship, due to death or change of priorities. Other times, needs change or are satisfied and there is no need for the relationship. Eventually when the relationship dies, we suffer a sense of loss. We retain the emotional content and remember the good times. All loss leads to a feeling of grief and we go through 5 stages of grief.
  6. The nature and the boundaries of a relationship changes. Specially when in love, we sometimes put all other relationships at low priority and invest everything in one relationship.   This happens especially if we believe that this one relationship will fulfil all our needs. Sometimes we start changing the relationship and want more out of a relationship than what the other person wants to give. We start ignoring boundaries. We start taking the relationship for granted. We force things.

How to maintain a relationship

  1. Understand the finite nature and the changing nature of a relationship. A person with a negative mindset may conclude that there is no use of a relationship. A positive person would rather enjoy the relationship and the experience while it lasts. We also need to understand that the initial boundaries and the time spent on a relationship will change. We should be prepared for it, and deal with it. See my blog entry on Acceptance and Resigation.
  2. A smart investment manager creates a portfolio of low-yield stocks that have guaranteed returns as well as instruments giving high returns but having more risk. He actively looks at the value of the portfolio and juggles his investments to match his objectives. He spreads his risk and monitors daily. A bad manager will have a large dependency on one stock, and may not actively monitor, taking his portfolio for granted. Similarly, we need to understand that different needs are satisfied by different relationships and depending on one relationship to satisfy all needs can create serious damage and is high risk.
  3. A relationship is not the person. We may respect the person, and we need to respect ourselves, and not blame the success or failure of the relationship on the persons creating the relationship. A relationship has a life of its own, different from the life of the persons involved. You cannot, individually, take the blame not the credit for the relationship.

Acceptance is not Resignation


When someone come to me with stories of how badly life has treated him (no one tells me stories of how life has treated them fairly), and asks for advice on what to do, I request him to accept that this incident has happened.

Invariably, the person becomes confused and asks, “So, you are telling me to do nothing?

And I answer, “I did not say that!

Acceptance is acknowledging that something bad, that you cannot currently control, has happened and is happening to you. In essence, we do not fight it, and accept that it is happening or it has happened. Once we have done that, instead of focussing on fighting it, we focus on what can be done to mitigate the damage and to prevent it from happening again. We decide on some action.

In Judo and Aikido, we accept the other person’s strength and use it against the opponent to bring him down. Most soft martial arts do this. Acceptance here is the key to not using direct opposing force, but to use your own skills to mitigate the opponent’s strength.

Resignation, on the other hand, means accepting and doing nothing. This neither mitigates the damage, nor does it prevent something similar from happening again. We absolve ourselves of any responsibility, and attribute the current problem and future similar problems to luck, fate and will of God.

Blame is the only action that most resigned persons do. Apart from blaming others, we sometimes blame ourselves for putting ourselves in this position.

Resignation is about giving up. Acceptance is about deciding what to do next.

Instead of sitting and castigating ourselves and the world, we say, “Okay, crap happened. I will learn from this and do something different next time. Here is what I can and will do…