Once you accept someone as your leader/guru/mentor/boss/trainer/coach, follow them unquestionably and do what they say.

Results shall follow you.

Back to Toastmasters

I recently quit Toastmasters as I am not finding enough time to practice my speeches. Insufficient practice shows up pretty badly in front of audience. Toastmasters are incredibly forgiving. They will put up with the worst of the speakers.  But it hurts to not live up to the Toastmasters Promise.

There is one thing that all bad speakers have in common. They don’t practice enough. It takes about  an hour of practice for every minute of a speech. So you got to practice at least five hours to deliver a five-minute speech reasonably well. This is in addition to the time spent to research and write the speech. I don’t have that much free time. This was the reason I quit.

But I really loved being a Toastmaster. So I decided to go back to the club meetings as a guest and take part in impromptu speeches. I won’t have a membership but that doesn’t matter. What matters is practicing in front of audience and remembering to use word of the day in the speech.

In that sense, I am calling myself a Toastmaster again.

Loving Coffee Again

I started drinking coffee in August. I had a coffee everyday except Tuesdays.

It took a lot of mental energy to continue not drinking coffee. I missed the routine more than caffeine. And I couldn’t find a substitute routine. I tried very hard. I wasted more than fair share of my day’s cognitive budget on just deciding whether to have coffee. How silly is that! So I told myself this struggle is not worth it. I am now back to sipping coffee every workday except Tuesday – I fast till evening on Tuesdays. However, this is not the only reason I took the U-turn.

I did not go looking, but all the following posts came my way. Two of them appeared on my twitter feed. The other two were written by the people I admire.

Moderate doses of caffeine is exactly what I drink, as mentioned in Reaching Peak Productivity Is Easy (5 Simple Strategies) :

Our mind and our bodies are intertwined and Davis encourages us to focus as much on our physical health as our mental health. He recommends the usual: stay hydrated, eat smaller meals more often, moderate doses of caffeine and moderate exercise.

“Do keep drinking coffee”, suggests this post titled 11 Morning Habits That Will Change Your Life (And Make You More Creative), among other useful tips. It elaborates:

Caffeine makes us more alert, yes, but perhaps more importantly, it also increases our brain’s production of dopamine, which gives us a feeling of reward and motivation when we start having good ideas. Making it a habit to grab a morning latte in the morning adds structure to a morning and helps create the aforementioned windows of creativity.

Structure is what my coffee break adds to my morning.

Jeff Finley, who coached me on how to wake up early, wrote a great post on why he started drinking coffee. I can relate to some of the thoughts he shared.

Lastly, Jeremy DuVall advises on CNN:

Don’t forget caffeine. Coffee lovers rejoice! It turns out that cup of java may give you more than just an energy boost midday. When researchers gave subjects coffee and then measured their caloric burn, they found that the caffeinated individuals burned more calories than their decaf-ordering counterparts.

I am sure there will be heaps of material on the internet explaining at great length on why coffee is bad. But the above information is from the people I admire and sources I trust. So it is valuable to me. I experienced some of it first hand.

That’s the end of my coffee chronicles. I certainly learned a lot from this experience. Not hesitating to retract from opinions, being the foremost lesson.

Adventurous Life

You don’t have to jump off the planes or cliffs to be adventurous. You can also live an adventurous life by not accepting the status quo, not giving in, not listening to cynics, and not stopping to learn.

All it requires is the belief that anything you don’t like at any stage in your life can be changed and a daily dose of action to back that belief.

Besides the hardcore stereotypical heroics, these other “soft” kind of life adventures can also get your adrenaline rushing and give you that sense of achievement.

There is nothing sanctimonious about either of them. All it matters is to be adventurous one way or the other.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Today I listened to the latest episode of  The Tim Ferriss Show featuring none other than Matt Mullenweg . As always it is energizing to listen to Matt.

Last week I also listened to episodes 33 and 34  featuring Ramit Sethi which I felt was a great conversation as well,  although I don’t follow Ramit. He seems to be cool.

I strongly recommend you to listen to these two shows and others, if you have time. Tim has a great line up of guests for his podcast.

Thank you Tim for not only creating great conversations and most importantly, making the shows available for the world, for free. I could not appreciate them enough.

 

Book Review: Delivering Happiness

Last week I finished reading Delivering Happiness book by Tony Hsieh. The book has also has its own resourceful website.

I work in Customer Support and have plans to advance my career in this area because I love learning things, solving problems, and helping people. So reading this book made perfect sense.

Most of this book is about Tony’s personal entrepreneurial story leading to acquisition of Zappos by Amazon.com, with an emphasis on company culture and its importance. The action oriented tiny chapter at the end got my thinking hat on and articulate what happiness means to me personally. I did that exercise but am not yet ready to share my happiness plan publicly. But this was an interesting exercise to do.

The wowing customers part particularly resonated with me. I would be cheeky if I claim that I wow my customers all the time. But I try my best and be as close as possible to the utopia. So this wowing thing did not feel foreign to me. For any business that intends to be relevant, I can’t think of anything else that can take precedence over delighting customers.

Taking cue from the book, I pinged one of the Zappos customer support team to check if they ship to New Zealand. I really felt like ordering something, if they can ship. But it seems down under is too far for Zappos to ship their “Happiness Box”. However as I read in the book, the customer service rep offered me a visit to Zappos facilities in Las Vegas. If I ever visit Vegas, I will remember Zappos and would be glad to visit their facilities and understand their culture first hand.

As an aside, I made a list of what some companies I admire call their customer facing teams. So far I listed Customer Support, Customer Experience, Customer Happiness, Customer Success, Customer Loyalty, Customer Care, Customer Service and Customer Excellence. I would be glad to know if you are aware of any other name that can be added to this list.

Just Learn

Today I read the latest Paul Graham’s essay that’s lying in my Read Later list.

Before the startup is a good read even if you have no plans to start up.

Following are few paragraphs that couldn’t be more correct:

Larry Page may seem to have an enviable life, but there are aspects of it that are unenviable. Basically at 25 he started running as fast as he could and it must seem to him that he hasn’t stopped to catch his breath since. Every day new shit happens in the Google empire that only the CEO can deal with, and he, as CEO, has to deal with it. If he goes on vacation for even a week, a whole week’s backlog of shit accumulates. And he has to bear this uncomplainingly, partly because as the company’s daddy he can never show fear or weakness, and partly because billionaires get less than zero sympathy if they talk about having difficult lives. Which has the strange side effect that the difficulty of being a successful startup founder is concealed from almost everyone except those who’ve done it.

Mark Zuckerberg will never get to bum around a foreign country. He can do other things most people can’t, like charter jets to fly him to foreign countries. But success has taken a lot of the serendipity out of his life. Facebook is running him as much as he’s running Facebook. And while it can be very cool to be in the grip of a project you consider your life’s work, there are advantages to serendipity too, especially early in life. Among other things it gives you more options to choose your life’s work from.

I try not to forget these lines:

The way to become Larry Page was to become an expert on search. And the way to become an expert on search was to be driven by genuine curiosity, not some ulterior motive.

So here is the ultimate advice for young would-be startup founders, boiled down to two words: just learn.