Will it not be wonderful?

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The areas of life I am talking about are:

1. Self – the person that I am.

2. Relationships – with partner, children, other family and friends.

3. Wellbeing – my health and happiness.

4. Career – what I do to generate your income.

5. Financial – the money I have and where it is coming from.

6. Social – what I do for fun.

7. Spiritual/contribution – what gives my life meaning and purpose.

8. Lifestyle – the things I enjoy as a result of all the other stuff.

An ancient failed leadership story from the bible

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Let me re-tell a story that happened about three thousand years ago. The Israelites at that time occupied present-day Israel or a little more of the land and they had a king named Saul. Saul was the very first ‘king’ of Israelites. They have always trusted in a certain theocracy up until that time, meaning that a religious leader would be their material leader as well. Saul was a tall and handsome young man when he was made king by the religious leader at that time, Samuel.

Saul was invested with kingship with a certain mandate. Israel was surrounded by enemies all around who were far more advanced in military weaponry than themselves. For instance, the Philistines had thousands of chariots and numerous swords and shields and iron implements. Israelites, by contrast, had only a couple of swords, which belonged to Saul and his son! It is hard to believe, but that is how it seems to have happened. Samuel made the mandate that Saul should defend Israel from its enemies. That would have been the condition of appointment as king. The benefits of being a king, of course, were as numerous and far fetched as can be. King is above the rule and all the subjects and all the property are available to him to use or misuse as he pleased, and there would be no question about it. Obviously under such inordinate powers, all kings would cavort like crazy and amass wealth. Any dissenting voice would be silenced by execution!

However, King Saul doesn’t seem to have gone through these predictors of kingship. Worse still, he didn’t defend his country against the enemies at the crucial moments. He would wait when action was needed and carry out animal sacrifices for days and days on end when enemies were attacking them.

A few years down the road a bizarre incident occurs. I will quote the bible here.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?” Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord ’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.” (1 Samuel 13:10-12 NLT)

Philistines are ready to march and guess what Saul is doing! Little wonder Samuel immediately divests Saul of his royal position and starts looking for another leader, who eventually turns out to be David!

To quote:

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord ’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13, 14 NLT)

This was the end of Saul’s leadership. He didn’t rise to the occasion and act. A leader should be proactive. Saul would have done well to have efficient weapons and chariots. A leader should lead the action from the front rather than hide or tarry like Saul did for days and days on end when the enemy was getting ready to march on them.

Leadership by competitive advantage

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“Everyone is tested by life,but only a few extract strength and wisdom from their most trying
experiences. They’re the ones we call leaders.”

Warren G. Bennis and Robert J. Thomas

The above quote from the Harvard Business Review Sep 2002 article leads me to call the ‘wisdom’ as a competitive advantage.

Let me bring in a few other classical reference frames from religious texts.

Quoted from Sanskrit Hindu literature “God’s songs’ circa 1st century AD: Whenever the balance is broken, restoring force springs forth.

Story of Gideon from the Bible, circa BC 1100 : ‘Gideon rises from the ranks and file of Israelites and takes charge as their leader. He and his modest motley band of warriors annihilate 120,000 enemies in no time.

To use a principle from finance, perfect competition marks a certain stasis and results in very low returns. Incentives for doing business disappear, until – this one is important – someone comes up with a competitive advantage in terms of technology or cost savings. The competitive advantage sets up a monopolistic condition that generates what is termed as ‘abnormal profits’, which are what people actually want!

I am trying to draw a parallel for the above phenomenon in sociology: whenever stasis becomes too boring or protracted, abnormal things happen and challenge the status quo. New balances will be restored in hitherto unimaginable ways. However, significant changes will have happened in the process. The protagonists in leading such changes have an intellectual competitive advantage.

I think this is becoming way too serious matter! Let me leave the theorizing here. Actually I am trying to simply say that leaders emerge from most unexpected quarters with novel ways of solving vexing issues. These leaders emerge in every situation, big or small.

Leadership and money

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http://m.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investor-community/trading-shots/why-marissa-mayer-yahoos-59-million-ceo-is-worth-it/article11347927/?service=mobile

Globe and Mail reports huge earnings for S&P 500 CEOs, the average is in the vicinity of $10 million per annum. Larissa Meyer, until a couple of years ago worth only a million a year is laying claim to close to $60 million this year.

Is this food for thought?

Earlier this year I confronted a question in graduate business school classroom. ‘Why is there a proliferation of leadership literature in google searches in recent years?’

Neither the students nor the elderly professor mentioned astronomical bonus earnings of CEOs as a possible lure. The standard business school version is that leadership is not only about creating shareholder wealth. In reality, though, that is the paramount question.

I remember President Obama taking up issue with Wall Street for what he thought were excessive bonuses in 2009 when the US and global economies were struggling to recover from the Lehman Brothers collapse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/business/30obama.html?_r=0

The companies were giving away $20 billion in bonuses at that time! Unconscionable? Well, in the light of economic theories that we learn, I think not! Why do I think so? It is the theory of why picking up a hypothetical $100 bill from the road is not advisable! Paradoxical as it might seem, this theory is the core of corporate finance theory that in a mature market there are no arbitrage or free money opportunities. It is well night impossible to find free money, so the question of picking up $100 doesn’t even arise!

However, free money, or ‘abnormal profit’ as it is called, is available when a company enters a monopolistic regime with a competitive advantage either in innovation or in cost savings. The CEOs and business leaders are supposed to be bringing in this cutting edge and the compensation for generating such a competitive advantage has to be really super high, don’t you think?

In other words, there is no super company that churns out profits unless someone is paid super bonuses as sufficient incentive to innovate.

The bottom line is, the leader creates wealth for the shareholders and takes away a sizeable chunk for himself or herself. Everyone is happy. Only the outsiders who are neither the shareholders nor the CEOs themselves will complain. Unfortunately, Obama is in that group.

A million dollars or a lifetime of vacation?

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Well, the question was popped at me in an impromptu speaking contest that I lost.

I said vacation was far more meaningful if I can have all the experiences that I valued. There is no point in obsessing over accumulation of wealth. The actual question should be what experiences we want in life and then script those experiences! And, surprisingly the experiences that we cherish to have are either cheap or even free!

Bill Gates says he doesn’t have the need for all his wealth, Tim Ferris has written a wonderful book ‘4-day work week’ with this theme.

Bible succinctly puts this idea forward.

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15 NLT)

However I lost to other guys who argued for money. I think I was too out-of-the-box.

When I mentioned this topic to an accomplished humorous speaker, he said: “What if I can have both?”

Becoming a better you

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Joel Osteen’s book by the above name has some important lessons that interested me.

1. Keep pressing forward: I take it as the arrow of time, or in Jesus’s words, let the dead bury their own dead.

Zig Zigler said:

The past is important insofar as it has brought you to where you are; but it is not nearly as important as how you see your future.

Don’t be buried in the past, what we do right now decides the future.

2. Be positive:

Accusatory voices have been nagging you. Sometimes guilt overburdens people and they keep repenting again and again endlessly. Joel asks to cut off the nagging words and to apologize only once. And then you are growing, the past is past. Forget it.

In my words, I would say that Joel has done remarkably well by pointing out the power of self narration. Most people have long narrational and experiencing states of mind during the wakefulness. The narrative is usually about the past mistakes or things gone wrong or how miserable they are and so on and so forth. They become so obsessed with a continuous narrative in the background of everything they do, so much so that they fail to smell the roses as they pass by. The even appear clumsy in much of what they do.

Switching off this useless narrative and turning on a new type of narrative is an extremely powerful tool. The new narrative is about the future, what you want to be, what you believe you are, etc.

In real world, we have to see something to believe it, but in the spiritual world, the opposite is true, which is, to believe first and then you will see it.

3. Better relationships

Be good to family, people.

Be free with your compliments and be quick to vocalize them. People perform better under praises rather than criticism.

4. Form better habits.

There is a whole new book on how to cultivate good habits and how to get rid of bad habits.

Bloomberg has reviewed Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habbit’. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-15/book-review-the-power-of-habit-by-charles-duhigg#p1

Develop a habit of happiness.

5. and 6. I will leave these points. Maybe I will write later.

7. Be passionate about life.

Always have goals. Accomplish and checkmark current goals and as soon as you are done, plan your new goals. I think this is a very good piece of advice. Life is a continuous motion in the forward direction, we must have goals.

I am planning to live a long, healthy, prosperous life.

Move from believing to expecting.

Zig Zigler:

Plan, prepare and expect to win.