One life to love

The Stockdale Paradox

Every good-to-great company faced significant adversity along the way to greatness, of one sort of another—Gillette and the takeover battles, Nucor and imports, Wells Fargo and deregulation, Pitney Bowes losing its monopoly, Abbott Labs and a huge product recall, Kroger and the need to replace nearly 100 percent of its stores, and so forth. In every case, the management team responded with a powerful psychological duality. On the one hand, they stoically accepted the brutal facts of reality. On the other hand, they maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and a commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts. We came to call this duality the Stockdale Paradox

The name refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over 20 times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again. He shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while fighting an internal war against his captors and their attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda. At one point, he beat himself with a stool and cut himself with a razor, deliberately disfiguring himself, so that he could not be put on videotape as an example of a “well-treated prisoner.” He exchanged secret intelligence information with his wife through their letters, knowing that discovery would mean more torture and perhaps death. He instituted rules that would help people to deal with torture (no one can resist torture indefinitely, so he created a step-wise system—after x minutes, you can say certain things—that gave the men milestones to survive toward). He instituted an elaborate internal communications system to reduce the sense of isolation that their captors tried to create, which used a five-by-five matrix of tap codes for alpha characters. (Tap-tap equals the letter a, tap-pause-tap-tap equals the letter b, tap-tap-pause-tap equals the letter f, and so forth, for 25 letters, c doubling for k.) At one point, during an imposed silence, the prisoners mopped and swept the central yard using the code, swish-swashing out “We love you” to Stockdale, on the third anniversary of his being shot down. After his release, Stockdale became the first three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

You can understand, then, my anticipation at the prospect of spending part of an afternoon with Stockdale. One of my students had written his paper on Stockdale, who happened to be a senior research fellow studying the Stoic philosophers at the Hoover Institution right across the street from my office, and Stockdale invited the two of us for lunch. In preparation, I read In Love and War, the book Stockdale and his wife had written in alternating chapters, chronicling their experiences during those eight years.

As I moved through the book, I found myself getting depressed. It just seemed so bleak—the uncertainty of his fate, the brutality of his captors, and so forth. And then, it dawned on me: “Here I am sitting in my warm and comfortable office, looking out over the beautiful Stanford campus on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I’m getting depressed reading this, and I know the end of the story! I know that he gets out, reunites with his family, becomes a national hero, and gets to spend the later years of his life studying philosophy on this same beautiful campus. If it feels depressing for me, how on earth did he deal with it when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?”
“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”


I didn’t say anything for many minutes, and we continued the slow walk toward the faculty club, Stockdale limping and arc-swinging his stiff leg that had never fully recovered from repeated torture. Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say,‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Another long pause, and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
To this day, I carry a mental image of Stockdale admonishing the optimists: “We’re not getting out by Christmas; deal with it!”

From Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t’’

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Good Read | Leave a comment

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of your dreams… By Deepak Chopra

This is one book that I have read quite many times, but each time I read this, I am able to understand things better. Best thing about this book is that it is short & sweet, so crisp and well written that we can finish reading it in one sitting of couple of hours.

This time I read the book, there were 2 laws that caught my immediate attention, thought I will mention them here for the benefit of those reading my blog. 🙂 , not many I know.

1st Law – The law of pure potentiality.

The author explains that the pure consciousness is pure potentiality and it opens up the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. He explains the concept of “self-referral”(Internal reference point is our own spirit and not the object of our experience) and “Object-referral”(we are influenced by the objects outside the self which include situation, circumstances, people and things; we are constantly seeking approval of others). Very beautifully explained!

This got me thinking about the discussion I had with a friend about “Living inside out” or “living outside in”. I felt it would be impossible to live totally “inside out” which is the same as “self-referral”.
The author further goes on to explain how to achieve the state… steps advised are
-Practice silence gradually by starting with one to two hours daily.
-Practice meditation twice a day
-Take a commitment to live a life of non-judgment.

Once we have done all this we would find it easier to connect with our inner self and then we need to spend time with the nature and learn to enjoy how the entire environment exist in pure sync and harmony.

4th Law – The law of least effort

This law talks about “Do less and accomplish more” and be happy… i liked this.. though it is easier said than practicing in life.

Firstly learn to accept the moment as it is, that is why it is called the “present”. Do not have expectation of what the present should be since we cannot control the reactions or responses of others. When things don’s happen the way we want, its because pur expectation of the situation is rejected by other’s responses. So it is actually the rejection of our expectations and it can be no other way than the way it happened, because it is the moment and we will have to accept the moment as it is. (Do not build expectations of how the moment should be, it is already defined and cannot be controlled, we can only try to mould the future based on the moment)

Acceptance simply means that you make a commitment: “Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances and events as they occur.”

Once we accept the moment, we need to respond to the moment and not to the expectation we had for the moment. This means not blaming anyone or anything for your situation, including yourself. All problems contain the seeds of opportunity, and this awareness allows us to take the moment and transform it to a better situation or thing

This means that you have relinquished the need to convince or persuade others of your point of view. Do not get defensive about our opinion. If you relinquish this need you will in that relinquishment gain access to enormous amounts of energy that have been previously wasted.

Least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you seek power and control over other people, you waste energy. When you seek money or power for the sake of the ego, you spend energy chasing the illusion of happiness instead of enjoying happiness in the moment. When your actions are motivated by love, your energy multiplies and accumulates–and the surplus energy you gather and enjoy can be channeled to create anything that you want, including unlimited wealth.

Well said, isn’t it?

September 10, 2007 Posted by | Good Read | Leave a comment

Hounded out

This is an interesting article I found in Outlook magazine some time back. We keep hearing in news about decisions to do mass killing of stray dogs in order to reduce the trouble they cause us.. this article gives a good insight of the situation.

The questions still remains “What is the most effective way to control stray dog population?”

Hounded Out
A massacre of strays is not the answer
By Hiranmay Karlekar

The death of two children in Bangalore on January 10 and March 1 following attacks by stray dogs should never have happened. While the upsurge of public shock and anger over both incidents is entirely understandable, one needs to remember that the grief of the children’s families would have been as intense, and their deaths as tragic, had they been electrocuted following contact with live power cables left exposed by the negligence of the Karnataka State Electricity Board.

Such accidents have led to mob violence in the past but never to the systematic, government-led destruction of power generation and transmission equipment or lynching of power department officials on the ground that they threatened human life. One would, doubtless, be told that such a course would paralyse life in the state, damage the economy and inconvenience people.

What is, sadly, not well understood is that the mass killing of stray dogs that the municipal authorities of Bangalore and Mysore have launched in the wake of the deaths, with active encouragement from the state’s health minister, is also a disastrous step.

It has scuttled the successful and widely-hailed Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme in Bangalore, which had, according to one estimate, brought down the stray dog population from about 2,00,000 to nearly 50,000 in the five years preceding ’06. The four NGOs involved in the programme—Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, Karuna, Krupa and Animal Rights Fund—have decided to withdraw from it following the municipal corporation’s action.

The consequences will be disastrous. The WHO has repeatedly pointed out that stray dog populations can only be thinned out through the successful implementation of the ABC programme. Under this, dogs are neutered, vaccinated against rabies and returned to the streets; And the solid waste that many strays subsist on is effectively disposed of.

Killing will prove counter-productive. The who also points out that killing has never reduced stray dog populations because they breed faster than the highest-ever recorded rate of killing.
In Bangalore itself, the corporation’s strategy of electrocuting stray dogs and administering neural anti-rabies vaccine to pet dogs had led to the slaughter of 25 million stray dogs between 1936 and 1999. But their population and the incidence of rabies continued to rise.

Furthermore, the massacre of stray dogs has diverted attention not only from the corporation and the state government’s criminal neglect of garbage clearance and expansion of civic amenities to match Bangalore’s rapid growth, but also from the need for a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the attacks that killed the two children.

This is most unfortunate, because there are unanswered questions.

One has heard of Rottweilers killing kids, but Indian stray dogs are known to be protective toward children and people. On May 25, ’96, a Calcutta daily, Aajkaal, front-paged the photo of three of them guarding a new-born baby abandoned near a dustbin in the city on the night of May 23. The report said the dogs had protected the baby throughout the night without even going to forage for food themselves. They left only after the child was taken to a home. We need to know what went wrong in Bangalore.

July 10, 2007 Posted by | Good Read | Leave a comment

Budget 2007 highlights

Since the Budget was announced recently, let me paste some highlights…

· CST rate will be reduced from 4% to 3%
· No change in service tax and excise rates
· No change in CENVAT rate
· R&D tax concessions extended to Pvt Research bodies
· 1 per cent cess hike to fund higher education
· Corporate Tax surcharge scrapped for SMEs
· Dividend distribution tax to be hiked to 15%
· Excise duty Increased on Cigarettes & Beedis,
· Excise Duty Cut on Cement from Rs. 400 to 350/Ton
· Excise duty for plywood reduced to 8%
· Gas-pipelines to get 10 year tax holiday
· Duty on pet food reduced to 20%
· Duty on sunflower oil to be reduced by 15%
· Customs duty on polyster to be reduced to 7.5%
· Service tax extended to commercial renters (ICPL rentals will increase)
· No change in corporate income tax
· Mouth fresheners to be cheaper, excise duties slashed to 40%

· Income Tax exemption limit to women hiked to Rs 1,45,000
· Personal income tax exemption limit raised to Rs 1,10,000
· Personal Tax exemption for senior citizens hiked to Rs 1,95,000

· 5-yr tax holiday for four and five star hotels to be constructed for Commonwealth Games in the NCR
· Scope of MAT widened to I-T Cos.
· Cash transactions up to Rs 50,000 exempted from levy.
· No attempt to check staff absenteeism in public sector
· Overseas investments by individuals to be allowed via MFs
· SENSES down by over 400 pts after Budget proposal
· Forex reserves at $180-bn

March 9, 2007 Posted by | Good Read | Leave a comment

An Interesting Reflection ( Author Unknown)

It’s been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It’s a rule.

Globalize processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo , a state in Brazil .
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm , has 500,000 people. !
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden , one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn’t say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, “Do you have a fixed parking space? I’ve noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot.” To which he replied, “Since we’re here early we’ll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don’t you think? Imagine my face

Nowadays, there’s a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of “hurry” and “craziness” generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of “having in quantity” (life status) versus “having with quality”, “life quality” or the “quality of being”. French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US ‘s attention, pupils of the fast and the “do it now!”.

This no-rush attitude doesn’t represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the “now”, present and concrete, versus the “global”, undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans’ essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It’s time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there’s a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, “I can’t, my boyfriend will be here any minute now”. To which Al responds, “A life is lived in an instant”. Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

February 8, 2007 Posted by | Good Read | Leave a comment