Harsha's Life Blog

350+ articles on life, career and change

personal development blog

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    How our roles shape us

    How our roles shape us

    It has been 50 years since the infamous Standford Prison Experiment. A psychology study organised by Dr. Phil Zimbardo that simulated a prison environment using college students. The study was supposed to last for 2 weeks, but abandoned in 6 days after the ‘guards’...

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    The Other Half of Life

    The Other Half of Life

    I recently learnt that there is more genetic difference between two groups of chimpanzees from the same region, than there is between two humans from Western Europe and East Asia. This is quite astonishing when you think about the incredibly different lives humans...

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    Rushed Living

    Rushed Living

    More information and choices automatically lead to rushed living, for the supply of your time is fixed. By trying to accommodate every new thing modernity produces, you end up breathless, following the herd as a cognitive shortcut.   Autopilot  Unless you live a...

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    Circularity of being employed

    Circularity of being employed

    The lower the minimum you need to live, the quicker you can meet it, and the easier it becomes to say NO to soul destroying work. But, this is true only if you value such freedom. The freedom to explore what inspires you. Beware the circularity of being employed just...

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    Modernity has ADHD

    Modernity has ADHD

    Modernity has ADHD. Rather than attention, it is ACHIEVEMENT deficit hyperactive disorder. Obsessed with ticking boxes of achievement, everything must somehow be “productive”, or we feel like we are failing. But this hyperactivity only betrays a chronic insecurity...

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    Creativity in coaching

    Creativity in coaching

    I just finished comedian and screenwriter John Cleese’s gem of a book, “Creativity”. Amongst the many valuable nuggets in there, one that really struck me was the value of playful exploration. Not shutting down ideas too quickly because the critical, analytical voice...

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    Simple does not mean easy

    Simple does not mean easy

    Simple does not mean easy to do. Many powerful life choices are simple — their value readily understandable. Yet, they can feel so hard to implement. Consider, for example, ‘not caring about what others think’, ‘leaving unfulfilling work/relationships’, or ‘letting-go...

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    The Pre-packaged Life

    The Pre-packaged Life

    Readymade solutions most likely serve someone else’s interests more than they serve yours. For, how can they account for your highly personal needs? Do you really want to outsource the most important parts of your life? This is the trap of the pre-packaged life.  The...

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    Understanding what people value

    Understanding what people value

    Understanding what people value is crucial to effective interactions, both personal and professional. For, if you really get what is important to someone, you will be in a better, more-informed place. You are less likely to waste time in misunderstandings and to get...

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    Needing something to look forward to

    Needing something to look forward to

    Iron Maiden’s 17th album will be out in September and I found myself really looking forward to it. I mean, it has been 6 years since their last! This also made me think about the case of constantly needing something to look forward to. How it is a sure sign of unease...

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    The relevance of degrees

    The relevance of degrees

    Paul Graham shared something recently, which I feel is an excellent heuristic for considering the relevance of degrees. “Avoid getting degrees in subjects whose best practitioners rarely have such degrees. E.g. many mathematicians have degrees in math, but an MFA...

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    Don’t be the smartest person in the room

    Don’t be the smartest person in the room

    Don’t be the smartest person in the room, instead be the freest person in the room. Free in your mind, free with your time, free to live in your own way, on your own terms. In fact, I’m not sure this can be bettered.  What is smart anyway?  People tend to think of...

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    5 year plans are useless

    5 year plans are useless

    5-year life plans are useless in a world of causal opacity. Better to prioritise what's important to you as ‘soon as possible’, start on it, and see where it takes you. For, if it's so important, why should it wait?  Are you building a dam?  Some things, like building...

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    The void is fertile

    The void is fertile

    If you very intentionally avoid what doesn’t interest you, you automatically create space for serendipity, inspiration and fun to emerge. The void is fertile.   We cannot force some things   We cannot force things like serendipity and inspiration, yet they are at the...

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    Artful living is a skill

    Artful living is a skill

    Wisdom tends to come with age because, artful living, like all skills, needs practice. And, practice benefits from time spent navigating different life circumstances. The good news is that you can very intentionally increase the intensity and extent of your practice....

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    On instinct and intellect

    On instinct and intellect

    Why do we love animals so much? They are unapologetically and unselfconsciously so utterly themselves — something we humans rarely, if ever, manage. This is true even of dogs, who desperately try to please their masters, having lost their independence through...

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    Stuck in sameness

    Stuck in sameness

    Being stuck in sameness can happen in all manner of different areas in life, usually without us ever noticing. It happens when you are constantly and only exposed to the same kind of thing, whether that is food or ideas. So, being stuck in sameness has two properties,...

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    Great or small is missing the point

    Great or small is missing the point

    Asking whether what you do is great or small is missing the point, for it is your experience that counts. Whether you are building a sand castle or La Sagrada Familia, you may derive the same satisfaction. The same immersion —being in flow, one with the activity....

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    Surround yourself with the right people

    Surround yourself with the right people

    Yesterday, I was at an outdoor arts and crafts market near where I live. I was noticing how the makers there, many of whom I know, were sharing ideas and encouraging each other in what they were doing. It made me realise what is possible when you surround yourself...

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    Personal mastery is not about control

    Personal mastery is not about control

    There is an erroneous view that personal mastery is about controlling feelings and emotions. But, seeking to control only makes you more out-of-control. Mastery lies in being willing to experience ALL that you feel. By being open to all emotions, you avoid becoming a...

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    Jumping is always better than being pushed

    Jumping is always better than being pushed

    Being pushed may feel easier than jumping, for example being made redundant vs quitting, or when ending an unfulfilling relationship. Outside events may certainly catalyse beneficial action that you have been avoiding. But, is it wise to rely on them? While being...

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    Jealousy and friendship

    Jealousy and friendship

    You can be annoyed at your friend. You can be angry at your friend. Hell, you can even hate your friend (for a brief moment or two). But, you can never be jealous of your friend. For, jealousy at root implies that you do not want the best for them, destroying the very...

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    Quality of your free time

    Quality of your free time

    One thing people often forget when they consider their jobs is how their roles affect their free time. I am not just talking about the amount of your free time, but also the quality of your free time. Your ability to make the most of it.  Noticing the relationship ...

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    Holding the space

    Holding the space

    People often ask what ‘holding the space’ and really ‘listening’ in coaching and other therapeutic practices looks like. We may use phrases such as ‘acceptance without judgement’ to point to our commitment to receiving the person unconditionally. To receiving them...

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    Tempted by new gods

    Tempted by new gods

    In a world of information complexity and so much noise, it is tempting to cling to something, anything. An idea, a narrative, an ideology. Yet, it is precisely because of the noise that we must keep an open mind. That we must embrace uncertainty, or at least...

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    When stress transforms into bliss

    When stress transforms into bliss

    Much of what we call ‘difficulty’ or ‘stress’ disappears when the thing is of your own choosing. This is when stress transforms into bliss. Bliss that lies in walking a path — your path. To others it seems like a ‘struggle’, but to you, it is what you want.  Labour of...

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    Showing who you are

    Showing who you are

    People rarely fully reveal themselves in life. Few have taken the time to really know themselves and how they show-up with others. And, how they show-up is often the result of non-conscious attempts to fit in and win approval. For, much of our behaviour lives outside...

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    Soul destroying work

    Soul destroying work

    Even if you accept lower pay, never accept soul destroying work, or a workplace that stifles you. If doing what you love is not achievable yet, at least find something ‘neutral’ that you don’t hate. You will free-up immense creative and emotional energy.  Is your pain...

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    Your deepest interests will be a mystery

    Your deepest interests will be a mystery

    The world is full of arresting possibilities, but few may really speak to you. In the final analysis, the source of your deepest interests will be a mystery. Yet, it is YOUR mystery, and you must choose to own it. If you don’t, someone else will choose for you. ...

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    The Gateless Gate

    The Gateless Gate

    I was having a coffee locally next to an outdoor artwork of a free-standing door. A door, which if it was closed, might make you believe that your path was blocked. It made me think of how so often, we stand in our own way — how we create a gateless gate.  Wumen...

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    Be a Giver and only work with Givers

    Be a Giver and only work with Givers

    Be a Giver and only work with Givers. That is the secret recipe where everyone wins. The recipe for creating positive feedback loops of mutual gain and growth. The hardest part though is simply staying away from the Takers.  Givers  To be a giver and only work with...

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    Trickster behind the Drama Triangle

    Trickster behind the Drama Triangle

    When people discuss Karpman's Drama Triangle, they often forget the role of the Trickster, or Mothaf****r, as I like to call him. Many are familiar with the possibility of personal and professional relationships involving the mutually reinforcing roles of Victim,...

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    On variety and choice

    On variety and choice

    When I find something that I like, I tend to stick to it. In addition to this being very good for my relationship, I've come to experience it as a great blessing in general. Paradox of choice? Variety may be the spice of life, but in trying too hard to have too much...

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    Dissent in your team is very informational

    Dissent in your team is very informational

    If you have to set rules/standards that your team does not embrace — you either have the wrong approach or the wrong people. Or worse still, both. For, the right people and the appropriate approach will automatically bring alignment. So, any dissent in your team is...

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    Review of Noise by Kahneman

    Review of Noise by Kahneman

    Thought I’d do a short review of ‘Noise’ by Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstein, based on a few notes I took. Authors distinguish between system Bias (average error) and system Noise (standard deviation) when judgement accuracy is definable and desirable (e.g. medical...

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    Understanding does not mean inaction

    Understanding does not mean inaction

    Just because you ‘understand’ someone’s behaviour, doesn’t mean you agree or have to put up with it. It is precisely because you understand that you take action. So, understanding does not mean inaction. Understanding does not mean that you have to let other people...

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    Growth mindset?

    Growth mindset?

    The pace of modernity where everything (material wealth, knowledge, entertainment) is growing makes us automatically think that everything MUST grow. That the increase of things (growth) is automatically better. Such that it becomes an unconscious habit, something we...

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    Supporting people to grow

    Supporting people to grow

    Supporting people to grow and supporting organisations to grow are not the same thing. While they may help each other, the former often takes second place or worse, becomes a front. And, the bigger the scale, the bigger the danger is. What is the point of just growing...

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    To rush, or not to rush?

    To rush, or not to rush?

    As long as you feel rushed in life, you will never find ease, enjoyment or mastery in anything you do. One needs time for things to breathe and to emerge. This is the fertile void that constant busy-ness pulls you away from. Always being in a rush is a curse, and it...

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    Humour in coaching

    Humour in coaching

    When I refer to humour in coaching, I am not talking about telling jokes. Particularly, if telling jokes is not your natural style. Otherwise, you risk ending up like one of those novice presenters whose first-time attempt at humour falls flat on its face. So, this is...

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    The value of negative knowledge

    The value of negative knowledge

    Negative knowledge is about knowing what does not work and what to avoid. And the value of negative knowledge cannot be stressed enough in a modern world that is so full of noise. One that drowns you with a daily dose of nonsense.   So, knowing what is wrong is vital,...

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    Shared clarity

    Shared clarity

    Many difficulties in relationships, both professional and personal, arise because of a mismatch in expectations. The more shared clarity you seek then, the more chance you have of building something enduring based on trust.   Foundation of trust  Creating shared...

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    Difficult coaching client?

    Difficult coaching client?

    There is no such thing as a difficult coaching client. And, this applies more generally to other therapeutic fields such as counselling and psychotherapy. If the person has difficulties, that is precisely why they have come to you!  A window  The ‘difficulty’ that you...

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    What movie are you unconsciously living?

    What movie are you unconsciously living?

    People are often unconsciously living out scripts handed down to them — by their parents, by their teachers, by their communities. We are all in some movie or the other, and greater awareness about this brings greater choice.   Unconsciously living out scripts  We are...

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    To have your cake and eat it

    To have your cake and eat it

    Much of life is about avoiding trying to have your cake and eat it. Trying to reconcile things that cannot be reconciled, or trying to separate things that cannot be separated. In other words, trying do the impossible.  More common that you might think  And, life is...

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    Become the best version of yourself

    Become the best version of yourself

    ‘Become the best version of yourself’ is another one of those hollow, mottoes of modernity. It seems like an attractive slogan because it calls you to better yourself and to improve. However, its attractiveness soon loses its glitter when you dig a little deeper into...

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    Celebrating insights that challenge you

    Celebrating insights that challenge you

    If you have an insight into yourself that unsettles and challenges you — celebrate it! It is much better to become awake to your life, than be trapped in a Sisyphean struggle. A struggle where you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Change begins...

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    Leadership coaching is bullshit

    Leadership coaching is bullshit

    Much of leadership coaching is bullshit that peddles the hollowness of Hollywood dreams. It is better described as ‘how to generate false bravado and hot air in order to float into some position of authority’. Typically, this happens in some big corporate setting....

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    People who make you feel bad

    People who make you feel bad

    What impact do the people in your life have on you? If someone makes you feel like sh*t why put up with it? Sometimes, we need to set-up boundaries for our own health. Boundaries that protect you from people who make you feel bad.  Noticing the people who make you...

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