Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

5 Tests of Commitment Levels

“There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or out. There’s no such thing as a life in-between.” Pat Riley

The quote above epitomizes the true essence of commitment . There are no middle roads, if you cannot commit to certain goals or tasks, you are better off saying no. Over the last week we have talked about five levels through which levels of commitment can be tested. The list below summarizes all five levels and can be a quick reference list before making a commitment .

1. Core Values: The first level for any commitment is the need to check it for direct alignment with your core values. These are a set of values inherent and embedded into individual systems. They are the result of life experiences, culture, environment and spiritual belief systems. If we make commitments which deviate  from these core values, it will result in a disconnect, making it difficult to achieve set goals. To read more about core values and commitment please click here.

2. Goals: All of us have certain goals and targets we  want to achieve in life. These goals need to be based on core values. When we commit to a certain SMART goal, it is vital to think it through meticulously. It is only once you go into details that a commitment level is required and you can then gauge if it is something you aspire to. If the commitment is in line with core values and is something you want to work towards, you are ready for the next level. To read more about goals and commitment please click here.

3. Time: Committing to a goal requires an appropriate demarcation of time. Committing to a goal without the necessary allocation of time will result in half hearted attempts which are not productive. This is not recommended and one needs to be careful about being able to take out enough time to achieve particular tasks. Once time is allocated to a particular commitment we are ready for the next level. To read more about time and commitment please click here.

4. Support: Once we have committed to a certain goal, we need to ensure continuous support to it through the good and bad. One will most definitely encounter setbacks, this may lead to doubts about your level of commitment to the goal. Therefore, breaking commitment into manageable components is recommended, this will allow you to focus with greater accuracy as also support critical functions more appropriately. If you are committed to supporting your commitments you are ready for the last level. To read more about supporting your level of commitments please click here.

5. Improving: The last stage involves testing efforts to constantly improve on the level of commitments made. It is essential to continue to develop and enhance the processes we use to reach certain goals. This creates momentum and helps maintain levels of enthusiasm. It also provides motivation to acheive excellence in whatever you commit to doing. To read more about improving levels of commitment please click here.

These five levels provide a framework to test how committed you really are in achieving a set of goals. They force you to look deeper into situations to ensure that you are truly committed. Making a commitment is a serious matter and one which should not be taken lightly, specially in a startup venture where the team needs to pull its weight together to achieve goals. Individuals who do not honor what they commit to, cause hurdles that need to be dealt with immediately, so as to ensure that high levels of enthusiasm and motivation are maintained in the team.

The next time you need to make commitment, remember to test yourself for how committed you really are!

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Improving Commitment Levels

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” Eddie Robinson

Once a stage is reached where we actively support and work towards commitments, the next and final stage is improving the processes. This stage involves the commitment to continuously strive for excellence in all we commit to. We have to continue to find ways through which to improve on the processes currently in place. This will make the journey not only more exciting but also keep it from reaching a mundane and stagnant state .

The danger of a current set of processes stagnating is directly proportional to levels of complacency. This results in dramatic decrease in levels of motivation and drive to push harder. For example, with my current blog I am reaching a stage where I feel the need for change in layout design and functionalities.  I have hence begun working on these aspects to bring in a change. This continuous commitment to improve what we are working on not only makes our work more interesting but keeps the momentum levels high and ensures optimal levels of work.

The same logic applies to working on new startup ventures. There is a need to identify segments which are not working to potential and to ensure that improvements are put into place to rectify trouble spots. Without inculcating a culture which promotes continuous improvements to processes, naturally results in rigid organizational approaches where change becomes a challenge. This ultimately results in organizations being unable to realize their true potential. 

Hence every organization committed to achieving goals and growing its business, needs to inculcate improvement of current processes as a cornerstone of their strategy. This will provide them the ability to not only honor their commitment, but also enhance the capability to reach their true potential and unleash the power of their teams. 

 

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Supporting Commitment

“When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word succeed, you find that it simply means to follow through.” F W Nichol

It is only once we have our commitments chalked out and demarcated time to ensure they are completed, that the actual process begins. At the beginning it can be intimidating to figure out how to begin this journey. At this point it is essential that you focus on encapsulating the commitment into manageable components and identify which parts are the most critical. This is vitally important if you are part of a team which has joint commitment to reach certain targets or goals. If you are leading this team, you need to identify the important components and then lead by example.

When you start working on these critical components you will gradually begin to see movement towards desired goals. Progress in the correct direction, provides a great boost to overall productivity of a team and motivates moving forward. This level of momentum helps achieve fantastic results. For example, when I started this blog on the 1st of January 08 I made a commitment with myself to write daily for the entire year regarding entrepreneurship and life. At the beginning I was working on getting my footing correct and identifying the direction I wanted this blog to take. I settled into a weekly routine and readership has been increasing. This increase has provided me the encouragement to continue writing and give it my best.

Along the way you will most definitely face a fair share of trouble and doubts. There will be times when you will not get the results you expect and will question yourself on moving forward. At other times you will experience great hardship in the form of losing a big deal, a vital team member or negative feedback. All of these will test your commitment and  the strenght to keep moving forward. If you have made a commitment, it becomes your responsibility to stand up and defend what you are wanting to achieve.

This applies to all kinds of commitments, business, career or relationships. If you are not committed in supporting it through the good and the bad, keeping your level of commitment constant will become an increasingly difficult challenge. When you make a commitment, ensure that you will be there to support and defend it no matter the hurdles on the way.

 You are now ready to move to the last level.

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Time and Commitment

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions which speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.” Anonymous

After you have identified core values, set goals, made a commitment to them; the next step involves starting the journey to acheive your target. Time and commitment go hand in hand. Commitments made without proper allocation of time, result in half hearted attempts which lead nowhere. When you make a commitment, be it for a business, towards a job or even a relationship, choosing the middle road results in very little progress. I am a firm believer in committing only when I know I will be able to allocate time and give it 100% commitment. 

Being a young entrepreneur this is something I have had hands on experience with. We are in a constant state of flux on this path, bouncing from one direction to the next. Harnessing this raw energy is a difficult process. I am involved in multiple business ventures at the present, however each of them have been allocated time according to my personal commitments to the venture. This has brought about an efficient use of my time and has allowed me to compartmentalize my day, week, month and year. Through this system I am able to give dedicated time to all the ventures I am involved with at the moment.

This is one word of advice I have for anyone thinking about setting off on the entrepreneurial path…discipline. This is not the easiest of paths, there are no clear boundaries and it is not sign posted to help you along the way. At times it seems you can be as free as a bird, at others you fight to catch your breath. Discipline is a vital virtue to move effectively along this path, disciplining time commitments, in my opinion, is of the essence, absolutely critical. If you want to seriously commence this venture make sure you are 100% committed by demarcating the time you allocate to the venture diligently. 

Once you have allocated time to your commitments ,you are ready to move to the next level.

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5 steps to a balanced life

“Life at any time can become difficult: life at any time can become easy. It all depends upon how one adjusts oneself to life.” Anonymous

During this series, several factors were discussed which are often taken for granted in the course of our chaotic lives today. A lot of the time we forget the simple things which, not only help us to get from one day to the next  but which keep us anchored, healthy and motivated to continue doing what we do. I hope some of the things discussed this week will help you enjoy a more balanced and healthy life;

1. Diets: Diets tend to be one of the first things which go out of whack when we enter very ‘busy’ periods in our life. The effect of this however is felt on all aspects of our life. It is unhealthy, productivity goes down and we just don’t feel that great about ourselves. We have to do all we can to keep this aspect in check at all times for a more balanced life. To read more tips and suggestions on keeping a balanced diet please click here.

2. Sleep: A lack of rest can impact severely on the quality of life. When you are working on complex deals which are extremely draining, having a set routine for sleep can dramatically increase your productivity, motivation and overall drive. To read more tips and suggestions on developing a balanced sleeping routine please click here.

3. Exercise Routine: Lethargy and restlessness can result from being pent up in an office all day long. The body needs a release outlet to get some fresh air into the system. Developing and sticking to an exercise routine can be a challenge, however, if you do set one for yourself you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. To read more tips and suggestions on sticking to your exercise routine please click here.

4. Family and Friends: In life we need anchors to keep us rooted and prevent us from drifting too far off course. Family and friends are one of these anchors and help us do just that. Sometimes when we are caught up in our busy lives we forget how important they are to us. In order to have a balanced lifestyle we need to focus on stuff other than, bottom line results and material acquisitions, we need to focus on the things which really matter. To read more about keeping in touch please click here.

5. Inspirational Story: A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was….To read the entire story please click here.

In life , we are all intent on reaching our goals and acheiving our dreams. Along this journey, life…happens, and we tend to get busy with the details and the little things. Soon, if we haven’t paid too much attention to the bigger picture we may find ourselves in a place we do not want to be. Don’t let that happen. From time to time come up for air and see if you are moving in the right direction before it is too late to turn around. 

p.s stop along the way, periodically, to smell the roses and actually enjoy the ride . 

 

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An Inspirational Story

“Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.” Norman Lear

I was told this story a long time ago and I realize that the factors which we have discussed in this series and this story, are intertwined. I hope you all enjoy it and learn from it as much as I have.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.” The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now”, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that, if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the rubbish. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand”.

 

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Friends and Family

“There are the families that we are born into, and there are the families that we choose; our circle of friends. While their faces may change over the course of our lives, the joy they bring us remains constant.” Anonymous

Anchors are used to stabilize ships during choppy times, control speed and even provide directional control. When a ship loses its anchor, it tends to drift into unchartered territories without being aware of the direction the ship is taking. If the anchor is not restored, you may move so much off track that finding your way back sometimes take a lifetime. 

In life, family and friends provide your ship with a similar kind of anchor. They help keep you grounded, provide support and allow you to remember where you come from and the value system you represent. This is a critical aspect of our identity, I am however often surprised how life has this uncanny ability to make us forget our true anchors and drift unknowingly wherever the wind takes us. We get so busy and caught up in our lives, we forget to pay attention to the little things in life that matter and find ourselves having lost our way to what really matters the most . 

During periods where we are working 16-18 hour a day for extended periods of time this bond between family and friends gets strained. What I have come to realize is that we do not need to do much to keep this relationship alive. A phone call or an email goes a long way in just letting the people you care about know that you are well and thinking of them . Facebook now allows us to stay in touch and has made it very easy to do so. With all these convenience which are only a click away we still make excuses and do not make that phone call or send that email or even leave a message. I know I have been guilty of this in the past and looking back, I don’t know why it was so hard.

We all work really hard at achieving the goals we set out for ourselves. What I am learning is, that along the way we have to pay much closer attention to the world around us today. There will be very little satisfaction in getting everything you want if you then find that when you get there, no one is around to celebrate your success with. 

 

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Exercise Routines

“Exercise is the chief source of improvement in our faculties.” Hugh Blair

Its been a really long week, you are sitting at your workstation with a ton of work, but you just cannot get started. The words to describe this, more often than not, is “Lethargy” and “Restlessness”. In my case this state occurs when, coupled with my eating and sleeping habits, my exercising routines also get affected by ‘busy’ periods. There is a definite and drastic drop in my energy levels, productivity and most significantly creative output. Exercise , the total routine, allows me to focus better on the bigger picture.

Breaking the exercise routine is probably one of the easiest habits to get out of, as also the most difficult to get back into, once you have left it for an extended period of time. It starts innocently enough when I miss a couple of squash games in a row. One missed day leads to another and pretty soon before I have even realized what has happened I am standing on the outside, wondering how I got there. Thats pretty much how life is, if we do not pay attention to the small changes occurring on a daily basis, very often we do not see the big hits coming. It can be difficult and confusing to undertsand how such a drastic change could come about so quickly.

To help me keep up regularly with my exercise routines I have taken some steps which have helped me stick with it during the busier times.

1. Probably one of the best things I have done is, to get a gym buddy and a regular squash partner . 

2. A commitment to myself, to keep myself in good shape, and my health, in constant check.

3. Set SMART goals, and once I achieve them, I have promised myself rewards when I hit those benchmarks. For example when I started with my squash routine I told myself if I could make it to 30 games without a break in the middle I would buy myself the really fancy racquet I wanted. The feeling of achievement after my 30th consecutive game was much more fulfilling than buying that racquet.

Apart from all the health benefits of exercise it has greatly increased my energy levels throughout the day, I feel a whole lot better about myself, it gives you a great feeling of being alive and, being fiercely competitive myself , the thrill of winning just makes my day.

Related Posts:

SMART Goals

The Gym

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Sleep

“Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep.” Fran Lebowitz

The world starts to blur a little, you reach a semi conscious state where you can barely see the word document open on your screen. The proposal still needs a lot of work, but you convince yourself to just close your eyes for minute, and you drift away ………for those of you who have had to pull continuous all nighters, this is a familiar state. Sleep pattern is the next point in my case which tends to go out of whack when the pressure is on. Initially it feels pretty good cutting down your usual 6 hours of sleep down to something like 4-5 hours, getting away with an extra hour or two is do-able for a short time. However extended periods of sleep deprivation can have serious side effects. 

It is a proven fact, that when the body experiences a continuous lack of sleep, the immune system starts to weaken, productivity dips and you enter a state of limbo where you just seem to be drifting along. Analyzing the situation from this angle clearly helps us realize that such a state is not desirable. Yet we continue to burn the midnight oil when the heat is on like there is no tomorrow. One of the factors it comes down to is, personality types. Some of us are pressure prompted and others just keeping plugging away day after day. If you are able to find the motivation and discipline to keep plugging away daily that is clearly the more desirable alternative.

Being a pressure prompted person myself, I have made a conscious effort to break tasks down over a longer period of time, to avoid the massive build up which occurs right before project delivery. It has helped boost my overall productivity and efficiency levels . However during extended crunch times my sleep is heavily compromised and this is another factor I am working on to bring under control. I am attempting this by putting structured routines into place and replacing some bad habits:

1. Going to sleep as soon as I cannot read a page of text without dozing off.

2. Setting my alarm clock to go off at specific time everyday. (I do no set it when I want to sleep in)

3. Taking 1 or 2 power naps of 15-20 minutes during the course of the day, depending on my level of fatigue.

4. Drastically decreasing caffeine intake during high pressure periods and switching to green tea.

Sleep is a critical component of our daily lives. I am going to make a conscious effort to stick to set routines even during turbulent periods to make sure that I am getting adequate amount of rest. This will in turn increase my overall level of productivity and efficiency while keeping my health in balance.

Related Articles:

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Diets

“Strength is the ability to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of those pieces” Judith Viorst

The mood in the office is one of pandemonium. Proposals need to be sent out, a customer wants a trial of the new software tomorrow and one of the key team members has called in sick. It is one of those crazy days. During the day you get hungry at random points and reach for the quickest snack to get an energy boost. This could be chips, chocolates, burgers or pizza as opposed to other healthier alternatives. The objective at this point is to get done with the meal as quickly as possible, and get back to work. Sometimes you realize you have missed lunch and all your timings are off the chart.

If this happens once a week it is acceptable as it is part of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, where there are no fixed lunch or dinner breaks. You are so consumed with the work at hand that time no longer registers in minutes or hours, rather in the amount of work that needs to be done by a given deadline. In this frame of mind your diet is not a priority, and it starts to show. Surviving on an unhealthy diet for an extended period of time can be severely detrimental to your health. If you have not seen Super Size Me , I recommend you do so to get an idea of how bad it can be. It is not only fast food, it may even be frequent and regular meals at restaurants. Getting your diet in control before it gets out of hand is essential.

Even though I have a pretty strict diet routine, it does go off track during these crazy periods. The last few such times I have attempted the following to keep my diet in check:

1. Keep a journal of my food intake when I am off my routine. Through this method I was actually able to see where I was overdoing it and I could then consciously tell myself to lay off the junk snacks.

2. Have a standard order when eating out. This one is a tough one, especially when you are at a fancy restaurant. However keeping the fried, creamy and desserts at a minimum certainly helps. This is not to say that you should avoid that stuff all together, induldge yourself once in a while, just do not make it a habit.

3. Instead of crisps stock the office up with granola bars, fruit, fat free yogurt and nuts. 

The next time I go into one of these intense periods I am going to make sure that I keep a healthy balance about what I eat and snack on. This will defintely help keep a better shape, prevent the constant after meals stupors and affect overall health positively in the long run.

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