Category Archives: Opinion

New Year Resolution

At the end of each year and beginning of every New Year, most of us feel the urge to have one or more New Year resolutions. These are the lessons I learned from my unsuccessful attempts to keep up my New Year resolutions over several years.

Do you need a New Year resolution?

YES, if you want to have some fun in life and you are not one of those who has high expectation from New Year resolution (out of desperation or boredom).

NO, if everything in your life is going well or not so well as your liking.

If all is well, you don’t need to make any resolution now. You may do it when there is a need for change.  Doing it during New Year or some other time of the year will make no difference.

If you are going through tough time, you are probably under a lot of pressure to do well.  The chance of making too many resolutions and breaking all of them is high under the trying condition.

What resolution is best for you?

If you want to have some fun without having too high expectation from your resolution, then challenge yourself making one resolution that will bring you something that you should have last year or you will feel proud to have by the end of this year.  This blog post ends here for you. And share your fun experience with us.

If you have high expectation from your resolution with everything going well in your life, then making one resolution could open more doors for you. There is a good chance that you will create a hobby out of your 10-15 min endeavor that will bring many good changes in your life.

However, if things are not going so well in life, then you are the one who need a resolution very badly.  For the same reason, you may be the one who would have toughest time to keep any resolution.  Therefore, you should take care not to be too ambitious while making any resolution.  You need very specific resolution that will not drastically or dramatically change your lifestyle.

Five steps to consider to make a new year resolution:

1. Make a resolution that takes less than 10 min to keep everyday. You will give yourself the best chance of succeeding if it does not take too much time.  It will not come in the way of other activities that are more important to do.  You don’t want to be distracted in the name of New Year resolution.

2. “When” and “how often” are more important than “what”. You should give attention to your resolution at least once per day, but not more than three times which can be distracting and overwhelming.  It should be done in the morning before getting busy with other activity or after you are done for day.  I prefer doing it early in the morning that cut down the risk of not doing it at all because of daily pressure.

3. Have a check system that will keep you on track. Set a reminder in your watch or phone or computer or just on the wall of your bedroom or place for your resolution related activity.  The reminder message should be very positive where you have your reward or picture of the reward for keeping it up. Yes, reward is important and you need a self-announced reward to motivate you.

4. Tell your friends and family about it. This is another way to set a reminder and inspire yourself as well as others to have positive impact in each other’s life.  Remember the saying – “Positive habit or emotion is contagious”.

5. Have fun doing it. You must not stress yourself to keep your resolution.  If it is stressful, then it is a wrong resolution. You should enjoy yourself doing it and wanting it more day by day.

A New Year resolution with a good check system that requires little attention daily will bring a lasting change in your life.  My New Year resolution is “to write a 10-min summary of one good experience of each day before going to bed”.

Good luck making one or keeping the one you already have.


Leadership: Lesson learned from my recent field trip.

Field Experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN

I was out of blogging over last one and half months due to my long awaiting trip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. This was one of the most successful trip I was part of as a leader. I had to overcome many adversaries to make things happened. I thought to share the lessons I learned from this trip – not academic lessons that may be meaningless to most.

The first few days in our trip were very challenging. We had missing equipment, broken setup, unavailability of pure water to do experiment, unfriendly bureaucracy with loads of excuses, and unfamiliar territory to overcome any problem.  The chance of getting anything done out of our ambitious plan within the tight schedule looked bleak.

I had to balance my thought between finding a way to get any work done and genuine complains against people (not my team) who were responsible for the problems.  It was hard for me to find any solution amid all the tension/pressure of problems and constant complains/frustration from other team members.

It is easy to get into complaining mode when we are victim of the fault of other. Nevertheless, we worked really hard to get things going on our first day.  At the end of the day, Joe – my advisor, sat with me after dinner.  What he said during that time changed the course of the events that were to follow. He said –

“You had given so much effort to put this trip together.  We flew hundreds of mile and spent thousands of dollars, our time and effort.  We did not come here to face the failure and go back empty handed.  The rewards of getting this work done or repercussion of failure is going to affect you more than anyone else, as this is your project and your PhD.  So make things happened and I believe you can as you always do.”

What a big difference a leader can make when he/she instills the faith on your ability as well as helps you focus on thing that matters the most! After that moment with Joe, I never looked back.  Complains, excuses and problems that came later never bothered me a bit.  I was very focused to solve anything and everything that came in the way of my team.

The belief that every problem is there to be solved was contagious to the team and everyone started making things happened.  A good team (Joe, Dave, Jim, Audrey and Brett), positive attitude and good leadership had made this trip successful that seemed impossible at first.

Though Joe gave me all the credit for good leadership and the successful trip, deep down inside I know that it was he and his faith on me has changed everything.  I learned that – there is no substitute to think positive and keep our focus on solution.

Now I am glad to realize that problems are there in our life for a reason – not to slow you down but to make you stronger, wiser and better than whom you are before.  Choice is yours how you see it.

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Bad listener: A Google inside us

This was part of a disastrous conversation between two of my friends during a hiking trip.

A: (talking.. talking.. talking).. bla bla bla
B: (listening) bored…
… silence for a while..  finally!!
A: What do you think of making a plan of hiking at Glenwood (1 hr driving from our place)?
B: It will be fun.  My friend was suggesting to go for hiking in Fort Collins (similar distance from our place).  Do you like to join?
A: No man.  It is too far.
B: Okay, that’s fine.  We are going anyway.  You can join us some other time.
A: No no..  I can go with you guys.
B: (confused) Oh, but you just said “NO” to me.
A: No. I did not.
B: Yes, you did.
A: Then, I mustn’t have been listening to you! (excuse that is so honest)
B: What have you been doing then so far?
A: (getting impatient) I don’t listen to anyone while hiking because I think about stuff. That’s why I don’t like to go hiking with anyone (..after talking for hours and urging us to go for a hike with him).
B: (bothered) well, in that case, you should shut up while hiking.
A: (angry) I hate talking to you.
B: (—-) What?
…. Silence prevailed again …

This was how a promising hiking on a perfect Saturday morning came to an end. An awkward moment presented itself from nowhere because one of my friends found it unbearable to listen to another after talking for hours.

More often than not, we think we are listening.  But in reality, we might be extrapolating their view based on our experience/knowledge about the topic.  Extrapolation or prediction does not work without listening to the other person completely.  Otherwise disastrous outcomes like the google search of “why” can occur.

Google search almost always predicts entirely irrelevant results due to the extrapolation of incomplete words in search bar. Sometimes, the result of our extrapolated imagination after half-hearted listening would lead to similar result.

Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their interests, but few can listen when someone else is talking.  There are several reasons why most of us are terrible listeners.  Most notable symptoms are:

  1. Lack of interest in knowing about the other’s view
  2. Lack of patience in giving our attention to someone completely
  3. Lack of respect for the other’s opinion
  4. Making assumption about others
  5. Start thinking before the other person finishes their talk (missing the rest of the talk)
  6. Attitude of Mr/s Right or know it all (thinking about what advice to give before understanding the nature of talk)
  7. Interrupt them because we are so desperate to have our voice/advice heard
  8. Getting angry with the speaker for not accepting our offer/advice (without knowing they are not asking for it at the first place

So on….

Worst of all is that we all feel when someone is being a bad listener, but we never bother to introspect to see if we are one of them. Why do we need to talk so much about ourselves when we already know everything about us?  Why to lose peace of mind by inundating someone with our unsolicited advice? Why cannot we learn from other’s story that is offered for FREE?

So let’s prevent the GOOGLE inside us from popping up every time someone has something to say.  Everybody is unique and has their unique story that may teach us something new.

A good listening habit may be all that is needed to be successful in almost every aspect of life. One will always come out with a valuable lesson after listening to a conversation.  On the other hand, one will go with nothing more than what s/he already has by doing all the talking.  The more one listens, the more learned s/he will be. That’s why all leaders are good listeners.

I was a a very bad listener to begin with.  Things are changing after I have started paying attention to how I listen.  How about you?  Please share your experience here.

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Chameleon changes its body color to camouflage from its prey.  It becomes what the surrounding is or what it gives attention to. I always wonder what if we have the same power. Would it not be cool to be like a chameleon?

After reading the article by Darren Hardy, I realize that we are born chameleon without knowing our power within. The most important choice that we exercise everyday is “our choice to give our attention”. Yet we think so less about how we exercise that choice.

We become what we give our most attention to. Everyday, we are bombarded with tons of information from TV, Internet, book, friends, and work. Phrase like “Economy is bad”, “no job”, “so much corruption”, “X has bad attitude”, and “Y is hard to work with” are norm in daily life now. There is no end in constant complains, ineptness, and difficulties. I am guilty of doing the same mistake to some extent.

We are trapped in misery when we start giving our full attention to difficulties. Our thought becomes negative and it reflects in our action. Our action starts shaping up our personality and character. Eventually, our success and happiness become illusive.

Good things are always around only if we are watching carefully. Some of my friends are getting good jobs, professors are getting tenures and awards, unknown people are making inspirational success stories everyday. Endless opportunity and good things are always presented themselves. It is almost impossible to take advantage of the opportunity if our attention is always focused on only obstacles in our path.

We become part of the solution when we give our attention to the way to solve a problem. We have a goal to achieve, a life to live and a world to contribute. That should take all our attention. And we shall overcome each difficulty in our way to success and happiness.

What are you giving attention to and what are you not? I like to know how are you doing it. Please share your suggestions.

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Who does the child look like?

A few days ago, I posted this photo of me with my friend’s son and asked “who he looks like”. Some of my close friends expressed their surprise for not telling them that I already have a kid.

I know the question was loaded to make them think that the kid is mine. I am also guilty of making assumption in my life that sometimes curtails my ability to understand a situation correctly. It made me take wrong route in academic life as well as personal life.

Assumption and academic life:

My first encounter with “assumption” that changed my life occurred in Hawaii – during my transition period from Physics to Environmental Engineering. Coming from science background, I don’t assume anything while solving an engineering and complex problem. I ended up not solving some because it was nearly impossible to solve those problems without simplifying those by correct assumptions.

Right assumption may simplify the problem to get a meaningful answer.  Our obsession for simplification sometimes changes the basis of the problem and we may found ourself solving a modified or entirely different problem.

Starting from scratch and going to the basic without too much assumptions should be the best way to go. Imagine Netwon would not have discovered the power of gravity or Einstein would not have realized the theory of relativity if they would have assumed what everyone had been assuming. The greatest scientific invention comes when one refuses to make blind assumptions.

Assumption should be our last resort to solve any problem. Because assumption is a biased opinion based on our previous experience that might not be perfect.

Assumption and social life:

Imagine your friend/partner/colleague acts in a manner that is very uncomfortable or socially unacceptable to you. What is our first reaction? More often than not, we start making assumption and start judging even before we listen to their complete story. Fight/misunderstanding rises and we get stuck with finding the answer about who is right and who is wrong.

There is not always an answer for every misunderstanding when the problem lies with our attitude of making assumption based on our life’s experience. Everything is okay when we are listening without making assumption. However, the moment we do, we stop listening and start judging. An example of wrong assumption and following events that change the heart of a father is told in this “$100 – a touching story

We blame everything on being overly judgmental or not listening. Little do we know that act of making assumption at each moment of any conversation is the origin of every misunderstanding or no understanding.

Blind assumption is the worst enemy of creative thinking and our understanding in establishing any relationship in science or social life.

Everyday our vision is blurred based on the assumption we make in daily life. It distorts our judgment. We end up landing on a place that is far from ideal.  And everything begins with an assumption.

What assumption have you made today? Was it helpful or not so helpful? Please share your story with us.

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Braking free out of our own misery

Dogs won't see the wall, they see a way to cross it. Why not us?

I am going to be 4th year of my PhD and have no noteworthy progress (publications) to measure my success.  But my life is never more hopeful as it is now amid of all hopeless situations as foreseen by many of my friends.  I have found my way to make up for the lost time and have a successful career by end of my PhD.

Life was not as hopeless as it used to be for last few years.  I changed my major from Physics to Environmental Engineering when I have everything to take from Physics.  Then 3 years was a struggle to find my tone during my MS in Environmental Engineering.  And now, three years into my PhD where I finally felt like to find my lost rhythm.  I have this hope of everything can be possible and I will become what I am working for.

When I look back, there is thousands well-articulated excuses to convince all that I have not done that badly, if anything – it is because of circumstances (bla bla..).  The excuses that most of us can throw so convincingly that failure seems a natural disaster like tsunami – that we have no control on it.

This attitude of being focused on problems, circumstances and other’s fault dangerously cripples our ability to think a way out of it. We are hold hostage to the world we created, the world that is so negative that one can find a negative reason in everything.  Being negative does not change anything, but makes it worse until there is celestial blast to shatter everything we believe.

Should we not try to break this wall of negativity before the blast and have a fresh air to look at everything in different prospective?  If yes, how do you wake a non-sleeping human from the world of denial where everything is conspired against him/her.

Here I need your help to tell me if you have learned anything about it so that I can get out of my denial, if any or help someone coming out of his or her negative world.  Feel free to write me email or post it in comment section.  I will appreciate a lot for your thought on it.

Here are my checklists that you can add on to find if anyone needs to change his or her approach for better future.

  1. Does anything bother someone for more than years and there is nothing s/he can do about it other than worrying about everyday?
  2. Is s/he doing the same thing over and over and waiting for the misery to go away somehow?
  3. Is s/he feeling alone in this world where none understand him/her or even they understand, cannot help him/her?
  4. Does s/he have dying desire to be someone else other than who s/he is now?
  5. Does s/he have issues that preventing him or her to have happy personal or professional life?

If s/he has even one YES to any of these questions, s/he is ready to try something new in life.  First thing that helped me to break out of my cage of negative world is to stop worrying about other’s opinion, projected consequence and start trusting more on myself.  I stop giving too much attention to anyone who judges me for anything, though I tried my best to listen to their say on my matter.

The more I look my part that is contributing to the misery, the more I found myself focused on solution.  That prevented me to have those desperate feelings to depend on others.  Truth is none can help us unless we are not that desperate to make the best out of anyone’s help – how little it may be.

Time is to stop looking at the problem and focus more on solution and self. It does not matter how much you try to solve world’s problem.  If it is by cost of your own problem, your future will be a liability to you.  So lets not live a life dictated by others and circumstance, but a life that is earned by us. I am glad to learn from your experience on how you overcome your difficulties.

Success is what count at the end irrespective of how we start. Success changes everything – it will make cynics to run away from you and friends to run toward you and life will be never same again. I will end this post with a phrase from Darren Hardy, the editor of “success magazine” – man who earned six figure at age of 18, and have earned million dollar by age of 21 and now multimillion dollar business by helping people achieving their success.

Unsuccessful people think about what they don’t want most of the time. They talk about problems, listen to news & gossip, & spend their time blaming circumstances, situations & others. Successful people think about what they want & how they will get it. They are intensely focused on their goals & the information needed to help obtain them.”

Which person are YOU?” Please share this post if you like it.

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Progress is all about continuity

Progress is all about moving in right track, not sitting there

Progress is all about moving in right track, not sitting there

I was on my way to see my friend, Tesfa in his lab. His lab is one hallway away from where I works.  I came across some quotes posted on doors in the way.   I got interested and started reading all quotes until I was hit by a cart.  This incident became more relevant because that moment, I was reading this quote.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there” – Will Rogers

It was a pure coincidence that I was in right track to see my friend, but I was blocking the hallway reading these amazing quotes that inevitably invited something wrong to happen.  Had I kept moving in the hallway, it would have been a perfect walk without any incident.  But I am glad that this thing happened in the hallway, not in highway, where the repercussions could be more costly and devastating.

We all understand or connect to this principle so well when we are driving in highway.  But few of us really understand that our career or life is a journey that is held in the balance of moving in right direction – not knowing or sitting in the right track.  If you ever ride a bike, you would understand.  Riding a bike is harder when the movement is slower and it crashes when it ceases to move.   Same can be said about everything we do in our life.

In the end, moving in the wrong track is not that different from sitting in the right track – both will not lead us anywhere near to our goal.  This simple incident today made me think twice if I am sitting on the right track or moving.  I realized that I was sitting on a right track (Example, my Ph.D.) for a long time and to some extent I am doing so even now.

What about you? Please share this post if you like it.

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