Hits and Misses of 2017, in retrospection, and goal setting for 2018!

Hope you had a memorable entry into 2018!

Though life doesn’t always happen as planned, a certain amount of contemplation and planning does go a long way in help get us closer to the goals in our lives and help us cherish our lives better. This is the reason why all of us should take a few moments to reflect on the year that passed by at the beginning of every year. To see what we did right the last year and that worked for us, and to evaluate what we missed, so that we can improve upon it in the new year.

I did set a few targets at the end of last year and while I didn’t meet them all, I believe the very fact that I set these targets, helped me achieve a good part. So here are the hits and misses of 2017 for me:

The Hits – The Things That Went Well for Me

1. Working on my Marriage  – I have just completed a successful year of married life after being a chronic bachelor for far many more years than my peers and can now appreciate the actual difference of being in a relationship and being married. The time I was single, it seemed every other family member or friend made it their life’s mission to get me to tie the nuptial knot (and then once I got married, half of them told me how it sucked – darn sadists!). Following my rather unconventional marriage (compared with traditional Indian ones), I was determined to make it work – because I knew I’d be having enough family waiting at the opportunity to snipe, “it was your choice”. I’m glad to say 1 year into our marriage, I have been happy with completely satisfied with my decision and realised along the way that having a happy marriage involves a lot of effort starting with the simplest of things such as sharing of chores and open communication. I believe I passed the anniversary marriage test when my wife joyfully declared on our first anniversary “I have the best husband in the world!”

Now all I need to do is to repeat that feat for another 50 years.

Pic: That’s us yesterday night – 1st anniversary night dinner and new year’s dinner rolled into one

2. Moving to a productive job –  Life at my previous company had become stale and I had decided 2017 would be the year to move on to a company where I could practice ‘actual’ Project Management (given my hard-earned credentials as a certified Project Manager) instead of ‘namesake’ project management. And just around the time I started looking out, I found the perfect opening in the old company I worked for – just in line with what I wanted – a place where I could build on my skills as well as use my previous knowledge. Given that I want to become freelance contractor by the time I hit 40, this was just the perfect break to gain the necessary experience till that time.

3. Publishing a #1 Bestseller – Even after publishing 3 books, I was never able to get an elusive #1 bestseller badge for any of my books and I was determined to do all the right things to earn that for the only full-length book I released this year. In fact, I used to visualise my book as #1 even before I had I had hit the publish button. I used to go to the Amazon bestseller charts and superimpose my cover the top-rated book there and pretend it was #1. A few months later it occupied that very spot in which I used to imagine its appearance – and for almost 4 months now it’s the best-selling book in that category. Goes without saying that I did tons of work in between, but the fact that I believed it was possible, went a long way in making it possible.

Pic: The most satisfying moment for an Indie author is seeing their efforts culminate at the top of a bestseller list4. Learning about Blockchain and Cryptocurrency – While this was never on my agenda at the beginning of the year, it was in-line with my generic goal of learning something new. I spent most of my out-of-office hours in the entire second half of 2017, after the release of my book on Options Trading, understanding and learning about blockchain, cryptocurrencies and the potential of this technology that could power the future.

Pic : One of the best things I learned this year was about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, amongst others, and their underlying technology

In fact, the many hours I spent not only helped me with some good knowledge of the topic, but also helped make some investments that have given rich dividends already.

The Misses – Which are now on my plate for 2018

1. Health and Fitness – 2017 has been one of my worst years in the past decade when it comes down to health and fitness. It was far worse for my wife who was constantly troubled by ailments (my wife had over 18 trips to a doctor between January and October and her health was major reason for concern that led to her leaving her job too). Though I didn’t have any serious disorders (but a few niggling ones) my workout and fitness routine I had built over years took a beating too, and a serious neck ailment took me out of action for months. From being somebody who was extremely fit and did half marathons 2 years ago, I can barely run a kilometre right now. So, one of my prime targets for 2018 is to get back into that shape I was in 3 years ago (<14% body fat, and lean fit) – and that’s not going to be easy but will be worth it! And yeah, I need to help get my wife into a healthy lifestyle too – and that will need some convincing!

Need to do a lot more running and workouts this year to get back into shape2. Book Reading goals –While I did a fair bit of book reading in 2017, it is nowhere near the levels at which I used to read many years ago – this was also partly because I spent a lot of time reading articles and focussed on video tutorials in a quest to learn something new. But either way, after keeping a target of 24 books, I fell short by half and need to work on this in 2018.

Pic : The noteworthy books I completed reading in 20173. Passive Income and Writing goals – One of my medium-term objectives is to get my passive income to match my earnings from my full-time job. In Dec 2016, I had set a rather lofty goal of achieving this by end of 2017– ridiculous though it sounded then (because at that time my only passive income source, from book royalties, was barely 5% of regular salary). However, I did scale up from 5% to 50% in the past one year (thanks to the 2 books released in Dec 2016 and July 2017) and believe that target is now within my reach with a bit more effort (more sleepless nights I suppose).
Since my passive-income goal is tied with my writing, I am setting myself a target of completing 1 full length book for 2018 (I’ve already decided it’s going to be on Cryptocurrencies) and a revamp of my Project Management Professional Certification Books (which I cannot avoid since the exam is undergoing a change early next year). I’m also keeping the bar a little high here by taking another crack at short fiction in the latter half of 2018 – I haven’t done any fiction since my first book, for the record!

4. Moving Abroad for work – This is another long-term goal for which I was supposed to initiate the necessary paperwork in place this year, so that we could move abroad to live and work in a couple of years, but failed to do so. It’s another item that my wife and I have on our plate together to plan and complete in 2018!

And these are my goals for the coming year and I’ll be monitoring them frequently to see how I’m progressing with them.

 So, What about you? If you haven’t done this already, set your Goals today!

If you’re somebody who’s had a problem not knowing what to set as your personal goals, have a look at this image below – it will help you create your own set of goals too!

Believe me when I say this, rather than drifting through each day as it comes, it helps having goals and targets for each month or year.

Create your list of goals and stick it where you can see it, or write in in a diary.

Meeting each of the goals you set will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of 2018, rather than the feeling of dejection many feel at not having done anything of significance the entire year and then creating a set of new year resolutions in 2019, that will get forgotten in a week’s time!

I wish you a wonderful 2018 and may you achieve each of your goals!

PS: Originally posted on my blog Steemit.com


Turning your disability into your biggest advantage – A lesson from the Scatman

cover pic for steem postsSomewhere in the mid-1990s, as a teenager, I came across this song that was creating ripples in music circles. And the more I heard it, the more the song grew on me – the song did have a peppy beat and some unique vocals.

It wasn’t a song of one of those ‘aww-so-cute’ boy-bands with custom made love songs or a song from one of those stunningly beautiful singers from girl-bands whose sexuality oozed off the screen and distracted viewers from their actual music, which was, more often than not, mediocre.

This was the song of a very unassuming middle-aged aged man who wore a black suit, a bowler hat, and a rather unfashionably thick moustache. Clearly, his song’s popularity had nothing to do with his extremely modest looks.

At the age of 53, John Larkin, an almost unknown Jazz pianist-turned-singer was making waves with his songs that was a fusion of disco and scat singing (a type of singing in which the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using his voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium) and was selling records by the millions and giving all the pretty boys and girls sponsored by the big corporate labels a run for their money.

John Larkin was better known by the name Scatman John.

Everybody has a story, but some stories are just way more inspirational. As was John Larkin’s.

Larkin, who was born on March 13, 1942 in El Monte, California, suffered from a serious speech disability from the time he could speak – a severe stutter that traumatized him throughout his childhood. His stutter was supposedly so bad that he was afraid to speak because he struggled to string two sentences together, and was constantly ridiculed by other children in his neighborhood.

John started learning to play the piano when he was 12 and grew up became a professional jazz pianist.

John’s piano was his voice.

He was quoted as once saying, “I hid behind the piano when I was performing because I was scared of talking.”

John’s lifestyle, compounded with his speech problems, took him through a dark phase in his life where he got caught up in drug and substance abuse – he apparently finally came out of it following the death of a close friend, and with the support of his wife and the couple’s inner social circle.

It is said that the most defining moment of John Larkin’s life was when he received a standing ovation for his rendition of a 30’s jazz song called “”On the Sunny Side of the Street”. That was probably the moment he decided to put aside his insecurities aside and tried singing for the first time along with his piano performance.

Till his late forties, John, never really found noteworthy musical success despite being active for 2 decades as a jazz musician. He even came out with a self-titled LP record in 1986, known today only because of his fame that came much later.

John left California to move to Berlin, Germany, where Jazz was more happening in 1990.

It was his agent who suggested he try scat-singing with a combination of dance music. Larkin adopted the name Scatman John and working with his producers came up with his first single in his newly adopted genre – a song called “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)”

And things took a turn.

In 1995, at the age of 53, became a worldwide star – his single went on to sell over 6 million copies. Ostensibly his scat singing not only improvised on his stuttering problem but the words of his song as an inspiration for those suffered from speech defects.

“Everybody stutters one way or the other
So check out my message to you
As a matter of fact, I don’t let nothin’ hold you back
If the Scatman can do it, so can you

Everybody’s sayin’ that the Scatman stutters
But doesn’t ever stutter when he sings
But what you don’t know I’m gonna tell you right now
That the stutter and the scat is the same thing to you”

Scatman John came up with another single the same year called “Scatman’s World” – the song debuted in the top 10 in the charts and built on the singer’s repertoire.

Both his hit singles made it to his debut album as Scatman John, titled Scatman’s World released later that year and was a huge international success and was even one of the best-selling albums in Japan! He was so popular there that Japanese toy stores sold dolls of his likeness, and he even appeared on phone cards and Coca-Cola cans.
John Larkin became a symbol of success for the community of people who suffered from speech defects and e was a recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community and National Stuttering Association Hall of Fame.

In 1998, John Larkin was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on Dec 3rd 1999 at the age of 57.
It is tragic that somebody who found acclaim late in his life after so much struggle was destined to live for barely four years after tasting success.

But it is said that John Larkin, aka Scatman John, remained positive till the very end of his life. He said, “Whatever God wants is fine by me … I’ve had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.”

Scatman John may never be counted as an all-time musical great and very few would probably remember his name a generation from now.

But his story serves as an inspiration for those felt let down by their disabilities. Like he sang in his most famous song – “If the Scatman can do it, so can you”.

When Life comes Full Circle – From Employee #150 to Employee #3742

Teachers Appreciation Week
I recently rejoined the organization I had been part of for six and half years and had quit in the autumn of 2011.

It was a mixed feeling that I was engulfed with when I settled into my cubicle – not very far from the very spot I was last seated in, years ago, surrounded by my 8 team members (all of who had left the company since my leaving – with one returning too, after a 5-year stint in a different organization).

I was undoubtedly hit by that expected wave of nostalgia when surrounded with those familiar sights –the cubicles, the old library, the cafeteria, the faces of the rare few who had never left the company, and surprisingly even those few wall posters that hadn’t been removed in over 6 years.

 And yet, I knew in the past six years, we had changed – both the company and I.

When I first joined the company in early 2005, the excitement of any new joiner didn’t wane in weeks. The first day at work comprised a fabulous day long induction program, which included interactive sessions with the top management (covering all the CXOs and Vice Presidents of that time) – fun filled, yet enlightening. They narrated their vision, the company’s growth story and what made them unique – and yes, the company was unique – in culture, outlook and attitude towards its customers and workforce.

All those in my peer group and I were youngsters in our early twenties who had graduated less than a year earlier. We felt privileged to be part of the organization – a relatively young one that had found phenomenal success, and we wanted to be part of its success story too.

In the years since, work happened at a break-neck pace and yet it was still fun and enervating without a dull idle moment. While the company went from strength to strength, so did its employees. The company had carved a niche for itself in a small domain and ruled it while employees who were associated with the company long enough always found themselves to be in demand, with lucrative job offers (often unsolicited) coming their way.

In the six and half years I worked there, I went through the steepest learning curve of my life. When I finally quit, it was one of the hardest farewells of my life – on one hand I was off to fulfill a dream of studying full-time in a world class university, yet on the other hand, I was leaving the organization in which I had not only cut my teeth in the corporate world, but had also built so many lasting relationships.

 Change, they say, is the only constant in life.

The time I had left, the company had already started going through a rough patch, primarily due to an acquisition that didn’t go too well and left it in huge debts.

Things got worse barely a year later; one thing led to another and before long an organizational rejig happened that resulted in the entire founder-management team leaving the company for good.

An exodus of employees too followed in the years since – I spoke with a few of them those who left and their words echoed the same message – “It’s not just that same company anymore”.

Things did turn around for the company eventually, and it seems the ostensibly tough-as-nails new management team did find a way to get rid of the debts and make the company profitable again.

In six years, the face of the company changed drastically but what mattered was that it survived.

Likewise, the past six years has been a transitional phase in my life too.

After spending an eventful year and half at the immemorable Warwick University and being gifted a hard-earned MBA, an unexpected turn of events led me to return to India following my graduation and after languishing without a job for 6 months in an economic downturn, I took up a project management role that gave me a chance to live and work almost a year in Uganda – new place, new people and new perspectives.

I returned to India from Uganda in mid-2014 and I found the drive to take my writing more seriously and published my first book, Kaleidoscopic Lives, in 2015; it was the realization of a dream I had cherished since I was in my early teens.

It was tough balancing writing with my regular day job and I made the best of lean periods between projects to work on my books. There were numerous personal trade-offs made, to make time for writing. As an Indie author, it only gets worse when you are responsible for everything from writing to designing and marketing. Being one of the most read writers in a company that had over 110,000 employees worked to my advantage though – I built a dedicated set of readers from within the company itself.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of diversifying into non-fiction writing at that time and Book #2 would never have happened had I not laboured my way to earn an acclaimed professional certification and was wrongly denied a reimbursement of costs due to a technical glitch. I had to leverage that knowledge someplace and had to make up for my investment – both time and money. When I realized I had enough on me to write a guide-book, ‘Be a PMP Ace in 30 Days’ was born.

Book #3 “300 Practice Questions for the PMP Exam” was a follow-up title that did rather well and even helped the previous book sell and established me as an unwilling so-called ‘expert’ on the subject – a title that accidentally befell me when I was for a while the most read writer on Quora for the PMP Exam topic and both my books started hovering regularly in the top 20 bestsellers list for the PMP Exam.

I realized that writing non-fiction was mostly about creating tangible value for readers by articulating my knowledge on a topic in an immensely readable manner and I thus planned for Book #4 – “The Ultimate Options Trading Strategy Guide for Beginners” – the writing of this was easier since I this was a topic I was well versed in for over 10 years. This turned out to be the first book of mine that hit #1 on any chart (and thankfully is still there as I write this) – reason being it was hard to find a book otherwise that explained options trading in layman’s terms.

Life isn’t a bed of roses and in these six years, I had my share of troubles:  personal trauma, many conflicts, moments of self-doubt, and a period when I had an empty bank account, and a student loan, that hung over my head like Damocles’ sword, with only freelance student assignments to sustain myself.

Yet looking back at these six years, life wasn’t too bad – bottom line was that I earned a valuable degree from one of the best Universities in Europe, a valuable professional certification, published 4 books and earned some reputation as an author, worked for 4 years in a role of my choice, and experienced life in two different continents (outside my own).

I realized on my second coming, twelve and half years since my first day in the company, that we both were different from the time we were last associated. We are older, soberer and the way I see it, wiser than what were from the time we parted.

We had our ups and our downs and yet we did both gracefully survive everything time threw at us.

And I know that things might not be exactly the way they were many years ago, but I have faith that we will still have a fruitful association.

The company may have a new logo and new leaders, and I may have a new employee ID, but in the end what matters is how we can make a difference to each other – and I have a feeling we will…