The downturn in the economy

by suggests what to do if you do not get a job.


Dante’s Divine Comedy


Dante Alighieri wrote this allegorical epic poem in the 1300s. This is his examination of the afterlife. One travels through the Inferno (Hell), the Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the Paradiso (Heaven).

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Understand that this is an allegory. It is not a treatise on Christianity. Here is my interpretation

  1. All actions and inactions have consequences, intended or unintended. If you do not know the consequences or ignore the consequences, these ripples will come and impact you later…ripples take time and space to travel. The later part of your life in time and space is the after-life. That means you do not know when and where the consequences will impact you. And it can become hell because of what you did in your previous part of your life.
  2. Once you have suffered the consequences, you need to decide how you want to move forward. If you mope and whine, you continue living in hell. But if you have thought it thorough and decided, enough is enough, I accept the consequences, and move on, you are into purgatory. Purgatory cleanses you. Fire burns off all impurities from gold. You pass through, burnished.
  3. Once you have been purged of your guilt, your pain, and all negative emotions, you are left with positive emotions
  4. Now you are in heaven, as you start finding happiness in every small thing. You know how to reframe.

Values and personality formation – some theory


This comes from writings by Tad James who is paraphrasing the sociologist Morris Massey. Some parts have been removed for succinctness.

There are three major periods that a person will go through in values and personality formation.

  • the Imprint Period, which occurs from birth until age 7
  • the Modeling Period, which is from 8 to 13
  • the Socialization Period, from 14 to 21.


The Imprint Period, from birth to age 7, is the time when we are like a sponge. We pick up and store everything that goes on in our environment. We get our basic programming in that Imprint Period. Our basic programming occurs between ages 2 and 4, and by the time a child is 4, most of the major programming has occurred. Most of the phobias are created between ages 3 and 7. That is where we find most of the earliest experiences that serve as the basis for a phobia. (Of course, there may be amplifications or reinforcement of the phobia after that.) There may also be no remembrance of the creation of the phobia because the learning processes that occur during the Imprint Period are largely unconscious. The Imprint Period occurs from ages 0 to 7 and is the basic programming of an individual. The child unconsciously picks up the parents’ behavior.


The ages 8 through 13 are the Modeling Period. Between 8 and 13 the child begins to consciously and unconsciously model basic behaviors. I can plainly remember a time when I was about 10. I was with my grandfather, who had a rather severe limp. I was unconsciously mimicking his way of walking. He saw me and scolded me for doing that, and yet at the time I was not aware I had been copying him. Perhaps you, too, can recall memories of how you modeled adults during this time. Maybe you can even remember having to dress just like Mommy or Daddy.

Before age 7 or so, the child is mostly unaware of any difference between the parents and himself. The child experiences no difference from parents. Then at age 8 the child begins to notice that there are people outside himself, and through age 13 he begins to look outside himself at the goings on in the world. They notice the behaviour of friends and family and model them. At that point, children begin to develop heroes. We notice that children have fewer conscious heroes before age 7 than after from age 8 to 13 they begin to start picking up the values of the people they have made into heroes. Massey’s point of view is that our major values about life are picked up between 8 and 13 (at around age 10). In addition, his point of view is that your values are based on where you were and what was happening in the world when you were 10.


Ages 14 through 21 we call the Socialization Period. The child goes through a Socialization Period where social interaction begins with other human beings. The young adult here picks up relationships and social values, most of which will be used throughout the rest of his life. At age 21, values formation is just about complete. At this point core values do not change unless there is a significant emotional experience (or other therapeutic change is done). Other more conscious values change and evolve continually. People change and grow and their values change over time. The values people start with, however, the basic core values, are formed around age 10 and locked in at age 21.

Of carpentry and MBA


To learn to make a chair, there are three approaches.

I can teach you how to make a chair in theory and tell you a lot more about wood, types of chairs, design etc. This allows me to teach you a lot of things, and you gain knowledge about chairs, its history and how to make them. You can know all about chairs in a short amount of time and you would feel that you are getting value for money.

But you too can read a book (maybe not as many) to get the same knowledge.

You need a buyer who wants your knowledge instead of him reading a book. So you are substitute for his time. You are his google. You can use methods and tools that you learnt in different and creative ways. You are paid for your creativity.

If a chair needs to be made, your buyer will tell you to get it made and either you will micromanage the carpenter or try it yourself. The first chair created will be terrible. You may not be able to communicate to the carpenter and he will make a chair as perhis belief since he did not understand you or thinks you don’t know anything or does not want to listen to you.

This is what most of the educational institutes do.


I can ask you to make a chair and learn from your mistakes. Since making a chair is physical, it takes time. That means you will learn very few things in the limited amount of time but you have more expertise in these few things.

The buyer knows that you have made a chair and if needed you can make a decent chair. However, the buyer may not need a chair. Also you cannot be his google so he has to spend time himself to learn something, or ask you to learn something and then tell him. Both ways, a lot of time is spent on too few things. You are being paid for your expertise. If the buyer wants a different type of chair, you may not have expertise in it.

If a buyer is clear he wants carpenters who can build a chair, he will want you. When he asks you to make a chair, you will have better rapport with the carpenters because you can roll up your sleeves and help build. You will also create more realistic project plans.

This is what most students want. But then what is the difference between engineering students and polytechnic students?


I can tell you where you can read the theory and then discuss how someone (the subject) else made a chair. You can go through the process, using your theoretical knowledge and making comments on the process. I can add practicality based on my experience. So you learn from my experience of making a chair, your thoughts about making a chair, and the subject’s processof making a chair. So you learn from two persons who have made chairs, and clarify your thought process. I can also ask you how else to make a chair, and that will promote creativity. Drawbacks are that you need to learn the theory yourself – as without this background, you will not understand what is going on, I need to have done this before, and you will get your hands dirty only virtually, not physically.

This is the case method, which requires equal participation from the student and me.

The buyer needs to know that you have seen how a chair is made, you have discussed with 2 carpenters what can go wrong, what went right etc. And you have a lot of knowledge about a lot of topics with some practical experience.

What is the right approach?

There is no such thing as a quick pill


We have a headache, we take aspirin or paracetamol or consult a so-called expert, take their recommendation and get back to doing what we were doing. Since the problem goes away, we do not bother. Each time the headache returns, we take a larger dose or try a different medicine. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. One day we realise that this is not working and go to a proper doctor. We then understand that the root cause was different, by which time it may be too late.

We treat life the same way. When we have a problem, we consult a so-called expert or read a self-help book and apply its principles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

There are tens of thousands of ‘self-help’ or ‘how-to’ books, ranging from fixing your physical problems (weight, looks, complexion, height) to fixing your emotional and mental problems (memory, speed of thinking, control of emotions) to fixing your after-life (spiritual, religious problems). If they give quick fixes, it is a good book or advice. If it asks you to do things from basic principles (like yoga) where the results take too much time in coming or are not evident, we do not like that book or advice.

We become evangelists of some remedies thatwork. We close our eyes to the root problems, or ignore any signs that are contrary to our beliefs. We also try to convert others to our way of thinking. We force our beliefs on others. Check out the latest diet, fad, religion, spiritual guru.

The answers are within ourselves. We are a product of what we didor did not do in the past. All this past programming made us what we are today. This cannot be deprogrammed by an instant pill. We have to spend a certain amount of time undoing and redoing.

We then have four choices.

  1. We can get disheartened and keep searching for the magic pill. We will run from one fad to the other, ask more and more quacks about what to do and believe that the symptomatic relief is the final cure.
  2. We can accept ourselves as what we are, and by the same token, accept others as they are. We understand our shortcomings and work around them, and compensate for others’ shortcomings and/or help them.
  3. We can start the process of undoing and redoing the most important things. For example, health issues happen when we are old, and we have time to undo/redo our range of activities pertaining to our health. However, once we have taken the career path of ,say, engineering, we cannot go back into medical.
  4. We can, early on in life, start doing the right things, so that we are programmed the right way. This requires us to analyse and agree that we need to create some skill sets, find the best way to do it and stick to it, giving it a chance.

I hate my boss


I have discussed beliefs before. Any action has a response based on beliefs. If you believe that the company you are working in is bad, all your judgements will be coloured negatively. If you believe, like all humans, companies occasionally make mistakes, you give it a benefit of doubt.

The company is not forcing you…your boss, (an individual) is forcing you. He has his reasons. He has a belief, based on his upbringing, experience, genetics, about how to get things done. He is not there with a life mission to make you unhappy. He is paying you a salary, he is upgrading your skills, he is teaching you life lessons.

Messages come from all weird people in life. We need to be receptive enoughto receive these messages.

What does my balance sheet look like


In order to make oodles of money, I need to have something to sell that other people want and are willing to buy and pay. What I have are my assets.

I can have a physical asset (either god given, inherited, purchased or created by me) – this can include looks etc. as well as material assets, or mental assets (my ability to think, ideate etc) or interpersonal relationship assets. Sometimes it is a combination of all three.

Another aspect is the permanence of the asset and how many times it can be sold. For example, looks can be sold until I am old or a better product comes up, or people are bored, but real estate that I possess can be sold once only.

My experience is not an asset. It is an effort to create an asset. What did I achieve and the lessons learnt are the assets created, that would help a prospective buyer.

All assets need to be periodically maintained, cleaned up etc. Relationships are also assets and are evergreen, as long as I maintain them.

Another such asset is attitude. It is well known that people who look at the positive side of things are more successful in life. For example, a sales person who is realistic will not revisit a customer but an optimistic one will make one more effort. Situations change and sometimes he gets an order when logically he should not.

If I make a list of my assets, I suddenly realise that I am quite rich. All these assets are part of my balance sheet (read resume). Some assets are attractive to some buyers, others are not. My experience may not be attractive, but the lessons learnt may be.

The trick is to find out what the buyer wants.

Why am I being passed over?


I burned the midnight oil, I helped my colleagues finish their work in time, I fetched and carried for my boss, I made his presentations, his spreadsheets, his reports but my colleague got promoted.

I thought I was indispensable. My colleague did not work as hard as me, and in my opinion he was an ass-licker of the first order. Just because he had the gift of the gab, had better polish, came from, arguably, a better institute and was an apple polisher, he got the promotion.

What happened? What was the problem? Do I need to be a flatterer as well? Was the culture of the organisation incompatible? Is there something wrong in me! Do I need to change myself? I did a lot of agonizing and came to some conclusions.

As I look back on my life I realize that life is unfair. Sometimes I have the luck and the advantage, sometimes some one else does. Sometimes I get what I want, sometimes I don’t. So I need to shrug my shoulders and move on else I will be stuck in that time warp.

Does it mean I should get kicked on every time? I don’t think so. I think I need to learn my lesson and ensure that the next time this does not happen. I need to control what I can control.

What can I control? I can control my response to this adversity. Easier said than done, when the unfairness is hurting and I want to lash back and kill my colleague and my boss in no particular order. However, the realisation that I can control something is the first step towards control but I know the road is long and hard.

While I figure out my long term plan towards self control, what are the lessons learnt from being passed over?

I need to handle my boss. With this particular incident, I need to understand what it was that I did right, and what was it that I did wrong, in his eyes. Even if I do not agree to his (il)logic, I should seek to understand how his mind functions. This will help me modify and/or advertise the appropriate behavior. Would that be ethical? Does it sound manipulative? Ethics is easy. If I think it is unethical, I should desist. Manipulation – that is easy too, for me. If I get my objective, I think it is justified. At the end of it, he will know your mind and be careful.

Should I undercut my erstwhile colleague? If I now report to him, too bad. It is a long and arduous battle to prove his incompetence. Maybe it is better to have a long chat with him, speak your mind and ask him the way forward. Maybe not. He might not take it the right way. Maybe when the time is right. In all, the best strategy is to make him to realise my worth, say over the next 3 months, and at the same time prepare plan B – another boss in the same or different organisation.

Although the appraisal process talks about my KRA and the resultant KPIs, they are company oriented. I need a separate set of KRA and KPI with my boss. I need to know my boss’s expectations and his measures of evaluating performance. If it is subjective, so be it. It is his yardstick and I cannot change that.

Should I talk to HR? If I feel strongly, I should register a protest. Bit typically hr is busy with process and if not handled sensitively, this can backfire.

Should I be negative and show my disapproval in obvious ways. It will make me feel good. It may make the other persons feel bad. The end result would be a spiral of negativity when they will lash back and the whole relationship will go downhill. Ultimately everyone, including the organisation suffers.

am I doing the right thing?

Rome was built on the last day


The subject is a common project management adage. It means that things get done at the last minute, even if there was enough time to plan well.

It is human nature to prioritise things on the basis of the pleasure principle – personal gratification and ease of use, or the pain principle, that is avoidance of discomfort.

Each day, there is some crisis that throws intentions into disarray. I use the word intentions deliberately, since ‘intentions’ are not actions. ‘Want’ does not lead to action. Motivation comes in between.

Motivation to do things come because of 2 reasons. The obvious one is the stick-carrot or risk-reward. Enough has been written in management literature about it. The other reason is probability of success. The two are multiplicative. Whatever be the size of the carrot or stick, if the chances of success is low, things won’t happen. Similarly, if it is easy to do but the reward is not great, it won’t happen.

A word about reward. It is in the eye of the beholder. It is very difficult to fathom what motivates another unless I know the person. What I consider as gratifying may not be important at all to my colleague. Which is why most HR policies can only be at best, hygiene factors. Motivators is the job of the immediate manager.

I have meandered a bit. The aim of this blogcast was to point out that, as it is, we are not motivated enough, and on top of that, if we have to do things on a consistent and regular basis, it requires a sustained stamina for what seems like a marathon, with no end in sight nor any instant gratification. Hence, Rome is built on the last possible day.

Activities like exercise, building skills, reading a book cannot be done on the last day. But we postpone starting these things or are at best do it intermittently. How do we motivate ourselves so that we do not wake up one day to see a muffin-waist, or need to finish a lot of books before the exam?

We can’t. All of us are different. If we are in the military, such activities are regimented and forced on us because they are the raison d’etre for the army. If we are civilians, with a choice, most of us will fall on the wayside, so to speak.

I do not mean to say it is futile to attempt to regularise our life. Our moms have got up every day for all our life to provide food to the family. She did not do ‘last day Rome’ by cooking food for the month on one day. She did not look at motivation theories or excuses thereof. She did it every day out of a sense of duty or love. Maybe she had no choice, or she considered the alternative, or she got tuned to that way of life. She is a true professional and mostly taken for granted.

If we need motivation or inspiration, we do not need to go far. Look at our mothers, and be inspired by her, to keep plugging away and be a true professional. Rome will be built day by day, brick by brick.



Long time ago, I read a series of novels by Peter O’Donnell which had a team, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin, that ran a crime network and then retired. This was the time of the Cold War and getting into the Iron Countries was next to impossible, and you were monitored constantly by the secret police of that country. The two protagonists used to pose as buyers of second hand books and visit all these countries regularly, each year, just to create an innocuous profile and allay the fears of the secret police, in case they needed to criminally operate in the country some time later.

They did this boring and tedious thing, for no short term gain, because they were consummate professionals and the payoff could be huge in the long run.
Although a bad example of professionalism, it underlined the concept very well to me.
A google search yielded the following result:
I am not advocating an intensity that borders in the fanatical. However, I am suggesting that we should understand what our profession is about, and what determines professional success and train ourselves to acquire the traits, skills and mind set necessary. After all, we will be paid for our professionalism and it behooves us to provide the best value for money. It makes self-marketing sense.
Management skills are of 4 types:
  1. Conceptual Skills: Mental ability to analyse and diagnose complex problems
  2. Interpersonal skills: Ability to work with, understand and motivate people, both individually and in groups
  3. Technical Skills: Ability to apply specialised knowledge and skills
  4. Political Skills: Ability to enhance one’s positions and build a power base

It is imperative that we understand, given our goals, what skills are required to do a professional job, based on the above classification. We need to analyse if we possess these at an adequate level and if not, create a plan for learning about these skills and then practicing them till we have the right level of expertise.

A portion of time in an MBA college needs to be set aside each day towards identifying and subsequently honing these skills. We cannot read a book and be a professional unless we practice it till it is second nature.

A part of this pertains to professional conduct. Although an organisational culture plays a large part in defining condonable conduct, a large portion can and should be learnt early on. The ability to meet deadlines, a sense of urgency, behaving appropriately and ethically are skills and qualities that need to be learnt, specially if a lot of unlearning is required. What better place to start than a campus which allows this experimentation, without the risk of getting fired?