Keep track of accomplishments

“The palest ink is better than the best memory.” — Chinese proverb

This pithy maxim is very true, especially in corporate environments. It always makes sense to keep a running track of your work, especially milestones and achievements. Situations when this is the most useful:

1. When preparing weekly project status reports.

2. Getting ready for the annual performance reviews, so that you do not have to spend hours trying to recall everything that you did in the last year or going through every email communication from the past year. The list can also help in filling up gaps in the manager’s list of your work during such reviews.

3. When updating your resume from time-to-time so that you do not miss a mention of your smallest yet critical and impactful contributions.

4. When you want to perform a status check on your career from time to time (daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annually, annually). This list can provide insightful evidence and answer questions such as “where do I spend the most of my time”, “are my achievements in the right direction”, “is this where I want my career to go” and so on.

If you are managing other people, this list extends into keeping track of their work as well. Anyone who works for you will be pleasantly surprised if during performance review, you point out a small but important contribution that he or she did not think about. I have found that this habit makes the whole review process much faster, easier and more accurate.

It is a good habit to cultivate, both for the manager and the managed.

Assumptions and relationships

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” — Henry Winkler

The following assumptions can become a disaster in any kind of relationship:

1. The other person always knows his/her role in the relationship: Usually the cause of problems at workplace between colleagues and in marital relationships.

2. Assume a certain kind of character based on only a couple of circumstantial incidents. While it is true that the first couple of meetings is when judgements are usually made about each other, it is not wise to make those the only basis for assuming a certain kind of behavior or character of the person. A true character of a person usually gets revealed under difficult circumstances such as with responsibility or under stress.

3. The relationship will automatically be in full bloom right from the start. These kind of assumptions are usually the cause in the relationship between in-laws and the new bride or groom, at least in traditional Indian families. Everyone involved should understand that the relationship takes time to develop.

The alternative is to constantly and consciously communicate with each other and build upon past experiences instead of assuming how the other person will react in a given situation. One should never make assumptions about how someone else is feeling or thinking in any relationship.

Character

Recently came across a quote from Goethe: “Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable.”

This is very true in various contexts. I have seen some people talk mostly about other people and laugh at petty things such as “did you see how Emma was talking at the party?” or “did you know that John goes to graduate school at age 40..how funny!” Or people who wish for and laugh at the misery of others. All of us have seen such people, at least in movies if not in real life. What do we think about their character? Do we like them for what they are? Do we want to be like them?

Will keep this excellent quote in mind as one of the basic dimensions to have a first guess at someone’s true character.

Luxuries

“No matter what you can afford, save great wine for special occasions…a silk blouse a special treat…it’s a way to make sure that you can continue to experience pleasure.” - Barry Schwartz in his recent book, The Paradox of Choice.

That is right, a luxury is no longer a luxury when you experience it often.

Meeting the right people

“I used to think of all the billions of people in the world, and of all those people, how was I going to meet the right ones? The right ones to be my friends, the right one to be my husband. Now I just believe you meet the people you’re supposed to meet.” – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, The Quest, 1995

Quote from Goethe

From “The Happiness Project”:

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides…”
Goethe

Very powerful and true statement.

Focus

“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” – Robert Service

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