Harsha's Life Blog

250+ articles on life, career and change

personal development blog

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    Whose game do you want to play?

    Whose game do you want to play?

    Playing someone else’s game is a sure way to stifle the human spirit. Whatever the dangled carrot, there is always a hidden stick waiting to strike if you deviate from their terms. Play your game on your terms. Whatever the difficulties, at least you hold your own...

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    Help to think

    Help to think

    I often share vignettes from coaching sessions where something not obvious emerged. But, today I’d like to talk about the value of helping someone to simply think through a problem, even one that appears straightforward. To really listen and to pose questions that...

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    Reassurance of consumerism

    Reassurance of consumerism

    Much of consumerism is about sub-consciously seeking reassurance. The hidden belief is that consuming what is thought should be consumed — often what others are seen to be consuming — will somehow bring validation. So, the reassurance of consumerism is when doing what...

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    Squeezed to fit

    Squeezed to fit

    Lazy explanations are easily hatched. Often, it takes much more discipline and consideration to realise that we do not know something. The certainty of the known is very attractive — too attractive — and that is why it leads us astray.   Control  The human mind craves...

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    Stop adding value

    Stop adding value

    If you need to ask yourself if you are ‘adding value’ at work, you are very likely doing something that is not valuable. Let me put it this way, a plumber is not going to turn up at your house, fix the pipes and then ask if he has added value. Neither is a nurse. The...

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    Golden cage

    Golden cage

    “Wild fowl get a peck once in ten steps, a drink once in a hundred. Yet, they do not want to be fed in a cage. For although they would thus be able to command food, they would not be free.” This caution, attributed to the Chinese Philosopher, Chuang Tzu (4th century...

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    Russian-novel problem

    Russian-novel problem

    The “Russian-novel Problem”, coined by the psychologist David Premack, arises when so many events occur in the lives of two individuals over time, that it is impossible to know what caused what. The greater the number of interactions — all potentially connected in...

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    Obsession with being productive

    Obsession with being productive

    We are living amidst more than one pandemic. The second is the obsession with being productive, where even to sit for a moment and enjoy a coffee is somehow experienced with furrowed brow. With a nagging feeling that you are somehow doing something wrong or not...

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    Confusion about consciousness

    Confusion about consciousness

    Discussions around Consciousness generally have a fundamental pre-supposition baked-in —that humankind is somehow special. That we are somehow different to the entire realm of nature. Yet, if we take a first principles approach that the entire universe comprises of...

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    Last day on earth

    Last day on earth

    How would you change your schedule if you had, say one week or one day left to live? If the answer is “not by much”, you are truly blessed. If the answer is “f@&!, totally” it’s probably time to take a hard look at your choices.  Funny question?  Okay, so this is...

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    Your response-ability

    Your response-ability

    Personal agency begins with taking responsibility. And, "responsibility" is quite simply the ability to respond. Whatever happens then, you always have choice in how you respond, both inwardly —within yourself — and outwardly. The Latin roots of the word...

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    Medicine for a closed mind

    Medicine for a closed mind

    Diverse life experiences can be good medicine for a closed mind. The state of one’s mind is often laid bare in those situations that challenge your deepest beliefs. That challenge your view of the world and how you believe things should be. Vastness of experience But,...

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    Self-actualisation is not self-improvement

    Self-actualisation is not self-improvement

    When people talk about self-actualisation they inevitably invoke Maslow with visually appealing colourful pyramids. They present self-actualisation as if it is somehow ‘self-improvement’. The reality is that this is a mischaracterisation. Self-actualisation is not...

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    Negativity of positive thinking

    Negativity of positive thinking

    Positive thinking is a dangerous game. One that brushes over and risks suppressing the so-called negative, such that it remains hidden — its importance missed. That’s not all, the ‘negative’ that is ignored often surfaces with great force when you least expect it....

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    Bound by culture

    Bound by culture

    We can so easily forget just how much we are bound by culture. How culture influences us through the force of our surroundings and the mimicry of others. Just think of the reaction to Coronavirus as a display of cultural tendencies. Wearing a mask is second nature to...

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    Career success is for suckers

    Career success is for suckers

    Have you noticed that people who either love what they do, or are really making money never talk about “career success”? Why? Because they are too busy loving what they do or making money! “Career success” is a sucker’s game.  Second best  “Career success, career...

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    Four types of people

    Four types of people

    There are four types of people when it comes to discourse. Those who (1) understand quickly (2) understand with (some) guidance (3) understand superficially, at most (4) are not even trying to understand. People in type 4 are most likely acting in bad faith and you...

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    Clinging to definitions

    Clinging to definitions

    One may cling to definitions of self to find meaning — I’m this and that, blah blah blah. Actually, one can find more meaning by letting-go of these inherently partial narratives that we box ourselves into. What is left is the purest essence of who you are. ...

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    What logical reasons hide

    What logical reasons hide

    There are reasons and there are reasons. Often, the logical reasons we give have nothing whatsoever to do with the real reasons for doing something. They may be worlds apart, yet the logical reason is often put forward as if there was no doubt about it.  Logical...

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    Secret games

    Secret games

    We are very good at playing secret games in our daily lives. Some games are about deliberately presenting a front, designed to manipulate or deceive another. And, some secret games are more about self-deception, where what is actually going on for you is not what you...

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    Less-expressed or repressed?

    Less-expressed or repressed?

    There is something quintessentially you about you. The same way that leaves on a tree are somehow all similar yet different, we humans too are similar but different. Each one of us will have a unique flavour — a character and personality that is recognisable. However,...

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    Algorithm is the new God

    Algorithm is the new God

    The algorithm is the new God. It moves in mysterious ways. When things go wrong, someone will now just say the ‘algorithm decided’.  Complex systems  The sad reality is that even the tech creators are unable to predict the behaviour of their own algorithms completely....

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    Like bad window cleaning

    Like bad window cleaning

    Seeking happiness in external achievements is like relentlessly cleaning a window from the outside ignoring the dust and finger prints on the inside. No amount of rubbing from the outside will ever provide a clear view. You might even obsess over a single spot that is...

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    Our heroes

    Our heroes

    Rather than worship heroes, look to their archetypes. What is it that they embody that you admire? Can you find more of that within yourself? Hero worship may be a starting point, but it does not have to end there.  Archetypes  Archetypes refer to the qualities that...

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    Are you coachable?

    Are you coachable?

    The question of coachability is fundamental to the coaching relationship. It is so fundamental that without coachability, coaching simply cannot take place.   What is coachability?  Coachability is the ability to engage in an introspective process of...

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    Avoiding time wasters

    Avoiding time wasters

    Better to over-filter potential BS and miss out a little, than under-filter and contaminate your mind. Filtering BS is sadly needed for maintaining sanity amidst so much noise and the same goes for avoiding time wasters.   Filtering BS  The idea behind over-filtering...

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    Coaching in the work place

    Coaching in the work place

    Some people have the idea that coaching in the work place is a maintenance activity, like oiling machines that aren't working quite well. The more generous of these people say it is like maintenance capex (capital expenditure). Such maintenance has a long-term impact...

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    Who’s going places?

    Who’s going places?

    “She’s going places. He will go far. They’ve made it!” Everyday speech is littered with these apparently harmless phrases, yet they all hide something deeply disturbing. Something about the way we relate to success and the good life that poisons everyday living. ...

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    Serendipity of teams

    Serendipity of teams

    Leveraging each other’s expertise is what makes being in a team all the more useful. Yet, avoiding silos at work is easier said than done, even when working together in the same space. It is even harder now with remote working for all its many other benefits. So, how...

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    Leaf in the wind

    Leaf in the wind

    You are in big trouble if you solely look to prevailing ideas as the lens through which you view the world. Some kind of change is always in the air, but how do we make sense of it? Are you to be blown about like a leaf in the wind? Each one of us needs some kind of...

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    Inattentional blindness

    Inattentional blindness

    Attention is primary to how we experience the world. It is the lens through which we engage in matters with different levels of focus. But, how good is your attention? Could it be that much of the time we miss what is staring us in the face because of inattentional...

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    Interacting with absurdity

    Interacting with absurdity

    Interactions become much more interesting when rather than trying to convince people, you really seek to understand their perspective. Perhaps you will learn something new, and perhaps they will glimpse the absurdity of their position through the exploration, despite...

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    What does money buy?

    What does money buy?

    Sometimes, people say that money doesn’t really buy happiness, but that it buys freedom. Does money buy freedom? What does ‘freedom’ really mean? Because inner-freedom and the ‘freedom’ that money buys are not the same thing.  Does money buy neither freedom nor...

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    The happy life

    The happy life

    One version of how to live a happy life is doing whatever the f*** you want without harming others. Of course, this is much easier said than done on both accounts.  Doing whatever you want  Whatever the external constraints at play (for example time, money) you can...

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    Subtle emotional abuse

    Subtle emotional abuse

    Emotional abuse can be as bad as, or sometimes even worse than, physical abuse. Just because it does not leave any external marks, that does not mean it is any less real. Emotional abuse may also be subtle and can exist in personal relationships and at the workplace....

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    If money wasn’t a problem

    If money wasn’t a problem

    How would you spend your days if money wasn’t a problem? Realistic or not, this simple thought experiment helps identify and make room in your life for the things that really inspire you. Things perhaps forgotten because of the busyness of the daily routine. Indeed,...

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    Denying emotions

    Denying emotions

    Extract from Machine Ego  Emotions are common to us all. To be human is to experience emotion, whether it is anger, sadness, joy, shame or fear. Though denying emotions sometimes feels easier! While we experience complex emotions such as contempt and jealousy,...

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    Personal accountability

    Personal accountability

    Sometimes, people get in touch seeking coaching to keep them accountable for career and life goals. But, what does it really mean to be “held accountable” for keeping track of your own life? The real question is — WHY you would need someone else to keep you...

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    Everybody’s got religion

    Everybody’s got religion

    Everybody's got 'religion' — some idea of what the good life is. The difference is between those who consciously recognise this and those who prefer to live in denial. And, denial is a dangerous game because ignoring something does not make it go away. Our deeper...

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    Psychological barriers

    Psychological barriers

    What gets in the way is often not logistical, i.e. not knowing what to do or how to do it. Rather, it is our own personal blockages. Those often non-conscious, psychological barriers that stop us from doing what we already know.  Logistical  By logistical, I am...

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    So you want to be different?

    So you want to be different?

    To rebel against convention by trying to be “anti-conventional” is still to be defined by it. For, you continue to anchor to the very thing you supposedly wish to distance yourself from. You derive your identity in opposition to it and thus in very close relation to...

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    How to find a coach

    How to find a coach

    How to find a coach The question of how to find a coach is certainly daunting. You are faced with drowning in a sea of google results as you would do when searching for a plumber. Only the problem is worse with finding a life coach because the risks are arguably...

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    Your shadow

    Your shadow

    To think that ‘evil’ is something out there and does not apply to you at all, is perhaps the greatest evil of all. For, we all carry within us both the seed of darkness and the highest essence of divine love, by virtue of being human.  Your shadow exists, whether you...

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    Epistemology of self

    Epistemology of self

    Wisdom has a lot to do with epistemology — the nature and limits of knowledge. What does it mean to know something? What can be known, what is knowable in theory and what is unknowable? And, what about those things that can be known only by you? It is this last...

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    On ethics and morality

    On ethics and morality

    The words ethics and morality tend to be used interchangeably in common discourse. For most discussions glossing over the ethics vs morality distinction is harmless. However, it is worth remembering that they are not quite the same thing.  Morality is the origin  I...

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    It’s never laziness

    It’s never laziness

    Laziness is never really laziness. It is usually a veneer for (i) not caring enough  (ii) feeling confronted by a thing. It is the surface result of a deeper force. Laziness is really dispassion or fear.  Dispassion  Coachees sometimes tell me that they are not...

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    “Busy” is the wrong question

    “Busy” is the wrong question

    It’s not about being busy or not busy — it’s about being busy on your own terms. I used to think I was busy during my early private equity days, with late nights and what not. But, the reality is that I am as busy, if not busier, doing my own thing now. It’s just that...

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    The unattended

    The unattended

    “My experience is what I agree to attend to”, observed the American philosopher and psychologist, William James in 1890. But what James —who was exploring the nature of conscious awareness — noted, is not quite right. What we choose to pay attention to and consume...

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    Yet another challenge?

    Yet another challenge?

    I’ve always been puzzled by the idea of “seeking new challenges.” Seeking out something undefined except for its challengingness, its level of difficulty and hardship. And, this can become almost pathological for some as they look for yet another new challenge — a new...

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    Comfortable with yourself

    Comfortable with yourself

    A fundamental indicator of how comfortable you are in your own skin is the ability to just be with yourself — to sit with your thoughts and your feelings. To not have to rely on some activity, distraction or dopamine hit to feel at ease. To simply be comfortable with...

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