Category Archives: Thoughts

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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Ideal Match

[Ideal partner WANTED, rich or poor, good looking or ugly!]

I asked couple of my friends this question – “who do you think will be your ideal partner?”. The responses are a replicate of above youtube video. In general, most guys will prefer a beautiful, smart, intelligent, trustworthy, exciting and loving girls who can appreciate everything they have or yet to have. Common personalities of most wanted guys are handsome, smart, rich, caring, good listener, family man, and endless list. Feel free to personalize this illusive list. Now that we know what we want, let’s have some introspection.

Ideal partner is a myth. If you are looking for ideal partner, then you might be in wrong place, at least not in the Earth. Try finding all or some (not less than 4) of those above qualities in you with an independent perspective. Because, it is not what you think you are, but other’s perceptions of you are going to make them recognize the potential ideal partner in you.

If you have those qualities, then you ARE the ideal man/woman who must be living a “happily ever after life”. And this post is not for you. I am happy for you and your partner. Please share your story with us so that we can learn the secret formula from you and enrich our life with your proven method.

Like me, most of you might find that you are not the ideal one. Be aware that, we (not ideal) have overwhelming majority. People like you and me are also enjoying an ideal relationship. How is it possible to have an ideal match with a non-ideal partner?

Ideal match is established between two imperfect persons where imperfection of one compliments the perfectionist within other and vice versa. From childhood, we are told to be perfect, ideal, and be number one in anything and everything. Less attention has been given to the imperfection. The imperfections within us are even despised and deliberately hidden from others. Little we know that our imperfections possess the key to have a “happily ever after” relationship with our partner.

We do need someone who is best in what we are not. Try holding the right hand of your partner in your right hand while walking. Both of your right hands supposed to be the strongest and efficient, yet both don’t fit when it comes to holding both together.  However, when you try holding his/her left hand with your right hand, the bond becomes stronger. It is this difference between both left and right hand results in stronger bond. Relationship is strengthen exactly same way when our imperfection provides the space needed for our partner to express his/her care.

Relationship strives on care, compliments, and self-confidence. Imperfection gives us the opportunity to show that we care by giving and receiving each other’s generous service. Compliments we received for being helpful increase our self-confidence.  And two confident and caring hearts can survive all turmoil of life and live happily. For outsiders, they are perfect.  However, the couple knows inside that it is their complimentary imperfections allow their love to grow stronger.

Our partner should be the person who can best use our strength with his/her imperfection and should be the one who help us overcoming our weakness. Understanding our self is the key to find someone with whom we can live happily. Therefore, we should not be ashamed for the imperfection within us – the imperfection that unlocks the secret of ideal match or our gateway to life full of happiness.

Our ideal match should be the one who can fulfill our limitations and ascertain our strength or someone who makes us complete with all our perfections and imperfections. What is your perception of your ideal match? Please share your experience with us.

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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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A confession

My flight from Spokane was about to land at Denver International Airport.  I was sitting near exit row.  I hurried myself to put my iPod and laptop in my bag.

“Would you please ______  the ________?”

“I am sorry. Can you repeat what you are saying?“ I said.

“Would you ______  the ________?”

I still could not understand what the flight attendant was talking about.  Without wasting any second, I began to imagine any instruction or protocol required for those who sit near “exit row” of the airplane.

Looking at the confusing look of my face, my fellow passenger stretched his arm and opened the window cover.  Only then I realized what the flight attendant was trying to tell me.

Bemused with my poor understanding of her instruction, the flight attendant whispered loudly to her fellow flight attendant – “I thought he (me) said he understood English”.

I must confess that it was painful when someone like her judged me within seconds without understanding various possibilities. Possibilities like, flight attendant was talking way faster – she was using sentence without window or anything in it for easy guessing – I was very absent-minded after listening a powerful story in my iPod.

With a heavy heart, I came outside of airport to catch the bus.  The bus driver asked me about my destination before putting my luggage in proper compartment. I said “Baseline” in my accent.

I saw the same confusing look that I must have while trying to decipher the flight attendant’s question. Before I could speak the second word, bus driver guessed my destination and nodded positively before moving on to the next passengers waiting with their heavy luggage.

This series of events about language barrier and misunderstanding reaffirm my thought about how I should respond to this kind of embarrassment.  I am sure many of my international friends whose native language is not English must have gone through similar incidents to some extent.

It’s not what has happened to us, it’s our choice or reaction to what has happened determines the outcome.

We often expect others to change to cover our limitations.  Instead of learning English or anything else for that matter in proper way, we sometimes wish other to understand our shortcoming and being nice to us.  Why?  Are we not judging other in the spur of moments? If yes, it is just another day to remind us the ground reality.
The reality is that we all should take responsibility to overcome our shortcoming.  Taking things personal does not do any good to us rather makes us trapped in our excuses.  It is nice if others are less judgmental.  But this is the very opportunity we sometimes need to break out of our own misery and be a better person than what we are.

I felt lot better after these thoughts. Bus started moving, so do my thoughts – a step closer to where I like to belong.

Do you have experienced similar embarrassment and learned something positive out of it? Please share my view if you like it.

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