20 Sept 2013

The 1 Question That Matters Most...

As a kid, I loved sweets – especially kulfi. When I was 7, I attended a wedding where the kulfi was really tasty. I didn't stop at 1 plate. As I helped myself to a 3rd, my mom scornfully looked at me and said “Don’t eat so much.” “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s bad manners.” Being a typical 7-year old, I ignored her, finished my plate and took another one. My dad, who presumably had been watching my gluttonery, asked me “How many plates of kulfi would you order if you invited 100 people to a wedding?” “100”, I said, stout chested, proud of my maths. “And how many people will get to kulfi if you eat 4 plates?” he questioned. “96.” Suddenly I started feeling bad. “So 4 people at this wedding will not get to eat kulfi. If you really want, I’ll buy you your favourite ice cream after we leave from here”. I readily agreed. This 7 year old had no problems with the answer his father gave for his question – Why?

Our thoughts, behaviours and actions stem from a single question – Why? This question arises from the most ancient part of our brain – the amygdala. What we do and how we do it are results of the answers and are formed in the neo-cortex, the more recently developed lobe in our brain.

Whatever we may say, there always is an eventual reason for our actions. The reason why one buys a Blackberry shirt goes beyond a simple “because it’s good.” It’s because he’s asked himself why he should buy the shirt and his brain responded by saying that it fits him well and makes him look good. The quality and colour are secondary. The buyer buys it because his “Why” has been answered, though he may not fully be aware of it. Successful marketers and companies selling stuff stimulate our amygdala; they create an emotional bond with us. They give us a reason to buy from them. Simon Sinek, in the video below, explains why Apple is such a thriving company while competition is always playing catch up.

Wasn't it awesome? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Which probably explains why Steve Jobs was so kick ass. By the time he was 25, he was worth $100 million. But it didn't matter to him. Why? Because he wanted to put a dent in the universe, not just make money. Martin Luther King’s & Gandhi’s ‘Why’ got them millions of followers. Why do people follow a good leader? Again, it’s beyond the “she’s a great person” dialogue. It’s because she inspires them, makes them feel good and cared for. The same concept goes for why a person may be despised.
So remember, if you want your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or peers to do something or desist from it, you have to address their main question – Why? Why should they do what you say; what’s in it for them? If you’re a parent or a manager, this becomes even more important. You want your children and/or subordinates to look up to you, right? So, if you want to bring about a change, you must address their “Why”. Like my dad did. The “because I said so” techniques won’t get you far. Then again, the question is – Why do you want your bidding done? For your good, or for theirs?

Forget the world, look at yourself. Why do you start a venture? Is it merely to make money or because you see a need in society which you can fulfill  If it’s the former, you almost certainly will fail. Why do you want to become a musician? Is it because you want to make beautiful music or just get laid? If it’s the latter, you may score the odd college-going girl, but you’ll never be a good musician. Why do you blog? Is it just to get hits or because you genuinely want to tell people something? If it’s just the former, your quality will barely improve. And while you may attract traffic through various sources, you barely will have any quality in that either. Why are you helping someone? Is it because you expect them to help you in return or is it just a selfless act? Once again, if it’s the former, you’re most certainly bound to get hurt if they don’t reciprocate.

It’s the thought and not merely the action that helps you achieve excellence and nobility. We live in a world where we’re judged every day. Plus, as Captain Jack Sparrow says “The world is the same. There’s just less in it.” We keep reading and hearing appalling news each day that shakes our faith just that little bit more. Staying noble and true to your values becomes difficult, but not impossible. Ask yourself the question ‘Why’ before you do something. Keep your intentions clean and your actions will follow suit. Your character will form your reputation and not vice versa. Live like all your actions will appear on the front page of the newspapers. For all you know, someday they will.

14 Sept 2013

All You Wanted to Know About WriteUp Cafe...

Binoy Karan - founder of WriteUpCafe
This post is about the blog sharing platform many bloggers are aware of - WriteUp Cafe. Most of us merely use the website to share our posts and links. But this platform offers so much more than we know. This article is to make us bloggers (and aspiring ones too) aware of the very purpose that drives WriteupCafe (WUC).

The founder and owner, Binoy Karan, designed and launched the website in 2009. He tirelessly and selflessly toils at developing this not-for-profit venture to boost bloggers' reach. I am enthralled by many ideas he has for improving not only the reach of us bloggers but also our quality of writing.

I won't spoil things further. Here is a tête-à-tête with Binoy about the past, present and future of WUC:

Vishal Kataria (VK). What is WriteUpCafe all about?
Binoy Karan (BK). WriteUpCafe.com is a social network of writers offering a wide range of features for the users like posting writeups directly on the site, submiting links to blog posts, showcasing their personal blogs as well as provide a platform for them to interact with each other.

VK. When did you launch the site?
BK. The site was launched in March, 2009.

VK. Why did you think of launching WUC?
BK. I was introduced into the world of blogging sometime in 2006. But soon realized that writing alone is not enough, I need to get people to read what I write. I also realized there were thousands like me writing millions of things under the sun on their blogs but not being able to reach out to fellow readers. I came to know many fellow bloggers who were trying hard to get genuine readers. Back then every time we published a new article we posted the links on the several blogging communities on Orkut. It was then I thought why not create a site where people can directly write and comment and interact with each other. In the beginning there were just a few of us who regularly wrote, read and commented on each other's writeups. But soon it picked up and there were many others who joined in and today we have a community of thousands of members.
WriteUpCafe - A Social Network of Writers

VK. What differentiates WriteUpCafe from other blog sharing platforms?
BK. WriteUpCafe caters to anybody who has a desire to write and is not restricted to people who have their own blogs. We have introduced several features keeping in mind the requirements of the different category of members - bloggers and non bloggers. Members can post writeups directly on the site or submit links to their blog posts. We have regular contests which are purely based on creativity. Though commercialization is necessary and important for sustenance , we are trying to come up with a model wherein the creativity is not sacrificed in the name of commercialization. Our primary target will always be to foster the spirit of writing and to provide a literary environment to budding writers.

VK. What does WUC help bloggers achieve?
BK. WriteUpCafe like any other site provides a platform to reach out to readers. Every writeup or link posted on the site is automatically submitted to our facebook page having more than 11000 members. But traffic is not the be all and end all for a writer. Here you get a chance to know other writers, add them as friends, interact and learn from them, make your own groups and have your own internal contests.

VK. What are your future plans for the website?
BK. We would like to hold as many literary events as possible on WriteUpCafe. Recently, we successfully concluded the second season of the Indian Bloggers' League (IBL) and would like to come up with more such contests  which would help the writers in discovering their own talents and at the same time get to know fellow writers from around the country. In future we also plan to hold regular workshops for budding writers where participating members can collaborate and learn from each other.

So there we are! Thanks, Binoy, for all that you are doing for us. It must be quite difficult to handle this liability (responsibility wise and monetary wise) along with your family (including your new born daughter).

We use WUC for posting our articles and for IBL. With our collective involvement, Binoy will be able to achieve his dreams of making WUC one of the best sites which bloggers will use for improving not only their rankings but their quality also. We wish Binoy all the best and hope he can achieve all his goals.

Follow WriteUpCafe on Google+ and on Twitter

5 Sept 2013

An Ode to All Teachers on Teachers' Day...

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love for learning.”

Teaching is arguably the most revered profession in the world. And why not? A teacher shoulders the tremendous responsibility of forming the very foundation of society. From the ability to read and write to instilling values, principles and shaping thought processes, a teacher prepares every living being to face the world. The poise, attitude, persona and thinking of a person are outcomes of the teachings she has imbibed within her.

A teacher isn’t just a professor or lecturer. Every parent, mentor, superior, friend or guide is a teacher. Everyone who can teach us something in life is a teacher. And trust me, everyone can teach us something. Whether we incorporate those lessons in life or not depends on us.

I have been fortunate to find exceptional teachers in my short journey. Since good teachers are hard to find, it makes them indispensable. My mother instilled values and communication skills in me. My father still teaches me about street smartness through practical lessons. Some bosses taught me a lot and showed faith in me. Some professors in college (where I studied MBA) reshaped my thinking. They broadened my horizons and helped me look at what can be; beyond merely what is. Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeps teaching me about how to manage people and oneself, and how nothing is impossible. He’s my Dronacharya and I’m Eklavya; he’ll probably never know that I even exist. And of course, there are always friends whose pearls of wisdom are awesome advice.
A true teacher

The teachers I respect most never enforced their opinions upon me. They questioned, prodded, and delved till I found most of the answers myself. When I faltered, they were always there to hold me. When I fell, they didn't jeer. Instead, they showed unwavering faith which helped me get back on my feet.

Here’s an ode to all the teachers in the world; a toast to the terrific job they do. Let us never think that we know enough. Let us keep looking for teachers and absorb what they teach. Let their unselfish efforts not go in vain. Let us improve ourselves and contribute to the betterment of society. Let us make our teachers proud. It’s the best gift we can give them. No money, gifts or lavishness can replace the sense of pride we can offer them for having taught us.

Dear teachers, without you, I am nothing. Here’s wishing you a very Happy Teacher’s Day. Hope I make you all proud someday.

Dear readers, if you would like to pay tribute to your teachers, the Comments section is all yours.

image Courtesy: Google images

1 Sept 2013

Book Review - 'Beaten by Bhagath' by S.V. Divaakar

You are admired for your writing skills. In fact, people tell you that you’re capable of doing better than the most commercially successful Indian author, Ketan Bhagath. They say – no, insist – that you must write a novel and compete with him. Excited and bullish, you take up the challenge! What happens next?

I knew I HAD to lay my hands on this book when I read the gist. So when S.V. Divaakar’s ‘Beaten by Bhagath!’ was delivered, all other books I was reading took their places back on the shelf.

This 190 pager makes for a breezy and interesting read; one that can be completed in a 3-hour stretch. It sheds light on the trials and tribulations a new author goes through. New here means an unknown author who is trying to get his book(s) published and sold. How an author treats his book like his child, how the market treats it like just a commodity, how the author readily shells out cartloads of money to try anything for more people to read his book, how people take advantage of this vulnerability and fleece him...

The book has another main character apart from the fictitious author – Ketan Bhagath. This character bears a huge resemblance to Chetan Bhagat. When one reads the first chapter, she may feel that the Divaakar is taking pot shots at Chetan Bhagat. But, contrary to initial impressions, this book actually shows him in positive light. Like a lot of readers, I’ve am not fond of CB’s books. I’ve wondered how he writes intellectual columns for Times of India while his novels are commercial with weak storylines. Maybe the man is pragmatic enough to know how to cater to the masses while displaying his real side to the knowledgeable audience. Henceforth, I am going to see him with a different mind frame.

Beaten by Bhagath - Book Review
'Beaten by Bhagath' is peppered with too many analogies. The jackal and the lioness, the worth of an elephant after its death, the premature baby in the respirator, the ‘Emperor’s Clothes’... I prefer getting straight to the point. But then again, maybe it’s just me. And S.V. Divaakar knows what he’s doing. That’s why he’s an author while I’m just another blogger. Also, he could’ve done without explaining analogies like ‘The Emperor’s Clothes’. We know the story; we have read it. Explaining an analogy in detail sort of dilutes the fun. Most authors don’t explain the Achilles heel, the Pythagorean Cup and other terms. Also, Divaakar seemed apologetic about the part I liked best – the explanation of how e-commerce websites are bleeding bookstores. There were touches of Aravind Adiga to it. And I loved it. But the disclaimer at the end makes a reader feel that it’s boring, even if they’ve enjoyed it.

On the whole, the book makes for a pleasant read. It feels fresh, fast paced and humorous. The way authors’ and Bollywood actors’ names have been changed without making attempts to conceal their true identities, tiny errors made by people leaving the writer clawing at his hair, the blunders he commits throwing caution to the wind... While the book makes you smile, it also exposes the plight of budding authors. 'Beaten by Bhagath' has elements of Chetan Bhagat’s and Aravind Adiga’s writing styles. This book is recommended for everyone, whether she likes to read or not. Even voracious readers can use this book as a good break in between their Amitav Ghosh, Gurcharan Das, Malcolm Gladwell and Devdutt Patnaik books. At less than 100 bucks, it’s quite affordable too.

My biggest take away from this book is the shift in mindset towards Chetan Bhagat. I wish ‘Beaten by Bhagath’ ‘s author S.V. Divaakar all the best. The book was enjoyable and I really hope it does well.
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