Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Parental Woes

I read somewhere this " If you have a kid, you are a parent. If you have two kids, you are a referee. I guess that qualifies me as referee. But since my eldest is in hostel I don't have any problem of having to intervene kid fights. Strangely enough, I had to intervene with my youngest kid's fight with her mother.

It is a kind of great ordeal to get Rae to go to school. Right from the time she is woken up the trouble starts. A compulsive procrastinator and strong willed , she creates havoc at home in the mornings. The energy needed to handle this kid is huge and by the time she is off to school, her mother is completely done.

I was discussing this with one of my friend and he said that " Kids are very sensitive and if their ego is bruised at a very early age, they may grow up to be very difficult adults. " Strangely what about 40 year old parent's ego ?

It is a dilemma. If you discipline your child too much then they grow up to be obedient, orderly, good and boring human beings. A free spirited child can grow up to be an independent, strong willed and irrational but very interesting human being capable of changing the world. But our intolerance during their growing up can kill the real potential . How does one balance that ?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dog Menace

There is a very interesting post in the chennai runners about dog chasing the runners. It just got me thinking. Ever since I started road running one thing that had always stayed at the back of my mind is the fear for stray dogs. During my school days we have always maintained a very healthy distance with the dogs and never have tried any kind of gallantry when dogs are involved. As I grew older, I have some what become more confident about dealing with them and thus lost the fear for them.

Though we do not have any dog at home , we have had a few at our home in the village and those dogs are quite ferocious. But no problems for us kids. But now every morning as I run , I always look out for a stray from the corner of my eye and sometimes it is very distracting. Especially, in one of my long routes there is a pack of dogs who chase people persistently. I don't think they have bitten any one but the very thought of being bitten by dog is good enough to instill fear.

Whenever I encounter a stray dog, I try to stop, stay calm and move slowly, without giving a slightest of sign that I am afraid. This strategy works most of the time but most of these dogs are always argumentative types. They insist that they argue and that's when the fear turns into anger. Now a days I carry a small stick while running, which might look very funny, but that is a deterrent for the dogs to attack me. I have not had the opportunity to test it so far, but I am sure the dogs are as scared of me as I am of them.

However, wise men say " Dogs are man's best friend". But that's another story............

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Do we really plan ?

In all the years I have been consulting on risk management to clients and teaching to students, one thing of late keeps coming back strongly to me. As a society we are risk takers and our risk tolerant level is surprisingly high.

Consider this. A bike rider goes out every day, without wearing safety helmet thinking that either nothing will happen to him or what is destined to happen will happen irrespective of what he does. How often have we heard this argument that " I will do this some how!!!" - How ?? no one has any idea. We fail to prepare or our preparation is insincere. Even though we have one of the elitist teaching on this - " Nishkama Karma".

Having a high risk tolerance per se may not be bad after all. However, coupled with complacency or indifference it can be very dangerous. A lower risk appetite person will always be on the guard to the extent of being a paranoid. Paranoia increases alertness . On the contrary a complacent person will get careless and invite trouble.

Human mind always believe that all the bad events and miseries that happen around us will not happen to us. Not will it touch us in any way. How untrue !!!! This sense of comfort and complacency can be misleading and result in big loss. But it can also build resilience to bounce back once some thing terrible happens.

We normally plan but once. A corporate project may have back up plan or alternatives, but everyday plans do not have plan B. A plan is not complete unless we also have an alternate plan of action in case things did not go as thought. Working an alternate plan requires intensive thinking and imagination. A first level plan can be made very simple. It is to look at the objectives one need to achieve and the shortest route with least possible resources. But having done that one must go through that plan minutely and try and visualize pitfalls and shortcomings which can surprise during implementation. Unless this exercise is complete and we also have an alternate plan we might fail even if we had a fool proof plan.

One might find during bad days , even alternate plans do not work.. You might need some thing else to succeed. But that's another story.........

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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My Chennai Marathon Ru(i)n

Every time I believe that people have risen to their highest level of incompetence they surprise me by exceeding it .

My Chennai Marathon of 31 August 2008 is one such experience. In fact, I had very cautiously expected them to be unprofessional , chaotic and confused but the degree of that chaos was shocking. I had not run marathons in my life and so I did not know what a well organized one will be like. But project management is one of my favorite subjects and I have always evaluated any project by it ability to meet its objectives and measure it by parameters that help attain the objectives.

My observations of this is based on an assessment of those objectives.

Now Let us look at what are the objectives of the organisers:

1.Their website states that this run is organised for promoting charity for educating deserving children.
2. To promote a running culture in the city.
3. The organisers had given media interview that they wanted to make this marathon the largest in the world in terms of participation.
4. The organisers have also stated as objective to make this event a world class one.

Now lets look at how these objectives are met

1. The post event interview and the speech published in the media states that the organizers have definitely been able to raise substantial funds from the various sponsors. However, since the funds so collected is for general corpus it is not clear whether they have really achieved the target. Since there was a political angle to the whole thing I am sure the collection has exceeded the target, therefore attained the objective.

2. Any change in behavior is a sustained exercise and the real impact can be assessed only on a long term. However, we need catalytic events which trigger as inspiration to change . Has this event been such a catalytic event ? Resounding Yes. The promotion has been good. The brand ambassadors looked sincere, the public response has been enthusiastic. But, promoting culture is a sustained effort and the organisers' core objective is not one of them. They are more like event venture capitalists and their stock in trade is short burst events. Their charter does not figure running even as secondary or tertiary objectives. Therefore, the organisers have met the objectives only partially. In fact, I would dare say that it is no more than a star nite show as far as they are concerned.

3. To make it a largest event and get recognition as such, any novice would know that you need to have that event authenticated by thought leaders. A mere media claim will not make it so. The organizer should be able to substantiate the claim by post event audits and independent scrutiny. There seems to be no effort in that regard. Did they really wanted to make it a massive event ? They are happy with the media reports , it looks like. Even the media reports carried very wide margin of error to make it any credible. I think that objective is also a failure.

4. Finally, the objective of making this a world class one !!! Forget it. It will not be fit event at club level. The chaos was throughout, administration dismal, essentials in disarray and there was no one accountable for any task. Classic case of world class screw up!!!! It is really providence that not many people suffered seriously. After all how can non runners under stand the plight of runners like, running condition, fuelling, medical assistance etc ?

All in all this has been a fiasco big time >>..

But I went there to run and run I did....
I guess I am now a Chennai Runner ...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Still Looks like a Dream

I am 74 kgs now. And I was 106 kgs till last August. The journey has been arduous , excruciating at times and very painful but every thing is worth it.

It all started during last July. Periodically I donate blood and I have registered with blood banks and a few hospitals for emergency requirement as I have a rare blood group. Last July one day I got a call from MMM hospital for blood requirement for a patient who was suppose to go through a complex heart operation next day. I went to the hospital from the office around 5 pm . The lab technician who takes blood checked my pressure and found that it was high - around 110/150. She said that high pressure could probably due to stress and lack of sufficient rest. She advised me to take rest for the night and come back in the morning.

After sufficient rest I went in the morning for donating blood, but once again my blood pressure was high. This time they asked me to see my family doctor. My family doctor , after a battery of tests suggested that I do some thing about my weight and life style. I was 43 years old, grossly over weight with high blood pressure. My lifestyle is sedentary and food habits bad. I am a perfect case for life style related health problems. My doctor also suggested that I meet up Mr J Subramanian, JS sir in short.

JS sir, is a retired PT master. He lives with his wife and all his three daughters are married and settled in the US. He was a fitness freak in his days and even today keeps himself very trim. And he is also a very strict disciplinarian. It is to this man my doctor had sent me.

After introductions and listening to my purpose of visit JS sir, was not very convinced that I am seriously looking at reducing my weight. He said that in so many words. He figured that a 44 year old man, that too working as a managing director in a company will neither have the humility nor seriousness to follow a strict regimen that is required to reduce weight. He didnot think that it would be worth his time to try and work on me. I was insistent and I promised him that I will not behave like "a middle aged corporate executive" . I was determined that I will reduce my weight and do whatever is required to achieve that. JS told me that he will charge me a sizable sum as fees. Not that he needed the money, but he wanted me to take this whole exercise very seriously. I agreed and signed up.

JS sir worked out a running programme for weight loss. He said that he would try and make me a decent long distance runner. I felt funny. I just could not fathom how could I become a runner. May be he is overestimating my ability ? However I decided to keep my mouth shut and tag along. JS asked me to come to the ground near his house next morning.

My running training started. On day 1 I ran for 30 seconds and gave up. Running did not look like an option, and I doubted that I will be able to continue. After 30 seconds of running ( I guess I must have moved like a drunk elephant) I felt my heart is about to pop out of my mouth. I felt like I was about to have an heart attack. I thought of my wife , my daughters my sister , my nephews, my parents and every one in my family even those whom I have not heard or seen for years. Surely, there must be another way than to run for weight loss. May be I should try and find some quick fix method and reduce only to the extent of bringing my blood pressure under control. I felt that I have bought a ticket to hell with my own money.

The next day was equally bad and caused more misery and pain. No so much physically , but mentally as inability and helplessness weighed very heavily. During the week I was trying to find excuses for not getting up and going to ground. JS sir, always would give me a patient hearing but softly and firmly would then insist that I drag myself to the ground. One day on frustration I said I am running temperature and he insisted that I go to the ground and lie down there for about 30 mts and go back home and take rest. I just could not shake that man.

Day by painful day my stamina improved. From a no hope , I learnt to run continuously for 10 mts , 15 mts and still further....

I changed my diet and workout a healthy diet plan. I started to run regularly . I became fit and felt very light.

On the start of this weight loss programme on Aug 15 2007, I weighed 106 kilos and my waist was 42 inches. JS sir, gave me a target of 77 kgs by March 31, 2008. He had planned to visit his daughters by Feb 08 and he told me I will be able to manage the programme without his supervision for a month.

Week after week, I kept on and he dogged me on. By September end I could see the results and my motivation levels went up. I now had started enjoyed running. I had now become a very serious runner , reading materials about running, investing in gear etc.

It was a great thrill to see my waistline thinning. Every month I bought new pants which would become loose by the next month. And on January 17, 2008 my weight read as 77 kgs. I had achieved my target weight before JS went to US. I think he was happier than I at the results. Thank you sir, I owe this to you.

Now I am proud runner and intend to participate in Marathons. There is a list of Marathons that I intend to participate before I die. But that is another story...............