How to choose a career after school (esp. in India)

How to choose a career to follow at the age of 16 is a difficult task, especially if you have Asian parents. Here is a guide to help you navigate through this difficult decision making process.

I’ll get right to the point.

To choose a career in India, or any Asian country in general, is a special type of problem. The main obstacles– our own loving parents and the lack of time for hobbies. I am, myself, a product of such a society. So, following is an insider’s solution to tackle this problem.

Steps of construction

Go through these steps, one-by-one and follow a timeline. I will provide my understanding of each section as you proceed and provide a sample timeline at the end. The steps are:

  • Step #1: Find out which technology excites you.
  • Step #2: Find a place that teaches a course in that technology.
  • Step #3: Find out what kind of jobs one can do after that course.
  • Step#4: Find out more places and respective courses in that same thing.
  • Step#5: Create a list of the top 5 courses of your choice.
  • Step#6: Convince Parents.
  • Step#7: Apply and wait for the results.
  • Step#8: Pack and leave the nest.

Step#1: Find out which technology excites you

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If you know what excites you

If you have an idea of what excites you and you also know how to turn that activity into a profession, Congratulations! You have completed step 1. You can skip reading this next part and go straight to step 2.

If you are not sure what excites you

Don’t worry, we all have been there. First point is, that it does not have to be just one thing for the rest of your life. It can be many things over the course of your life that excite you. Second thing, if you think there is nothing exciting, you just need to look from another perspective.

Jobs change all the time. Some best paid jobs of today may not exist in coming 10 years, all due to changing technological landscape. If you do not keep up with changing technology in your chosen field, whatever it may be, you will find it hard to be valuable to the society. Or in other words, be jobless. On the other hand, if you keep up with the changes and update your skills accordingly, you may end up being the leading person in your field. Beeple is such and example. His digital art sold for $69 Million. Being a traditional graphics designer, that would have been hard to imagine if had not learned about NFTs.

What to choose?

So, start by finding a technology that you find exciting. That can be technology of travel, carpet making, engineering, medical science, food, painting, financial systems, education, film making, acting, language or Space. By technology, I mean the inner workings of your field, the rules and devices which make things happen and knowledge of under-the-hood of your favourite product.

how to choose?

And if you are confused about what to choose, you need a reason to chose. You need to find a “why“. Why should you do this job or that job, Why does this profession feels better than the other? Questions like these are very important because this “why“, is the basis of job satisfaction and your productivity as a member of the society and your organisation. And trust me, if you think that money and affluence are the only goals worth pursuing, without a solid “why“, it’s just a matter of time before you burnout or feel lost.

This why will serve as a guiding compass in the uncertain future. Just like a compass always points to the north, your reason, your why, will help you go in the right direction.

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what is a good reason?

There are many ways to find your reason. For some people, this reason can be money, happiness, stability, safety, altruism or, excellence. But I find excitement is one of the key factors related to all these others. It is not only at core of them but also what makes these other values worth perusing. Let me provide my reasoning behind it.

To earn or achieve any of these targets, you need to spend time doing your chosen activity or profession. During this time, you will make mistakes, encounter resistance, criticism and disappointments. Successes, if any, would be small, short lived and mostly celebrated alone. So, you need to stay disciplined and motivated to stay on this path. And if the goal is a far off fantasy land with all your wishes come true, it may seem too far, especially when you are down. You may loose motivation, have self doubt and as result, give up. This means you will be again where you first started, faced with choices. Only this time you will be a little wiser but older. This happens to people more often than you would expect.

Excitement is a good value to work with. It is an excellent reason because it is linked to our neural pathways, which have developed overtime. If those pathways are not that rewarding, that means you need to adapt to a new way to do things or try something new. Excitement is an emotion which connects your inner self to the outer world. Excitement is happiness. So, if some activity excites you, it will also make you happy. And isn’t happiness the whole purpose of doing anything we do?

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Following is a very small guide to explore your choices regarding technology.

Long approach (time required: 1-3 months)

  • Step #1: To get an overview of what it means to find a work-life balance and why is it necessary, read any or all of these books:
  • Step #2: Follow the exercises provided in the books to get a better idea about your interests. Then, make a list of top 5 activities that excites you.
  • Step#3: List the technologies/techniques needed to learn to master those activities.

Short approach (time required: 1-3 days)

  • Step#1.1: Take a free personality test at 16personalities and read the sections named ‘Introduction’ and ‘Carrier path’. You can also read the Biographical description of some well known people in your profile type to see if some of your characteristics, ambitions and situations are similar to them or not.
  • Step#1.2: Pick 2-3 people from the list given in the introduction whose work inspire you. Observe the common theme there. If their professions are similar, that is your area of interest. If they have varied Professions, that means you may find more than one thing exciting.
  • Step#1.3: Come back to the result of the test and pick the list of famous people from your profile again the next day. See if you pick the same people as last time. If your new list remains the same, lock target on the excitement. If not, feel free to update the list. So, by the end of this exercise, you must have a list of carrier choices which are exciting to you and are also actual professions.

These two exercises are meant to guide you in the direction of self exploration. There are of course numerous other way for self exploration ranging from meditation to joining a personality development course to doing multiple internships overtime. Feel free to choose whatever method works best for you and remember the goal: to find what area of knowledge excites you.

Step#2: Find a place that teaches a course in that thing

After selecting your area of interest based on what excites you, you need to find a master to learn from. Or in our case, a group of masters in form of a course. A master is someone who can guide to through the process of learning and self discovery. A master can help you figure out your personal best way to learn and show you the possibilities on this path of learning. If you have 3-6 months time, you can try to find a short term course of 3 or 6 months to get a feel of the technology you want to learn for the rest of your life. But most of you will not have the luxury of time because of the pressures from parents, peers and the society. I do not like this way and I strongly believe that no one should be allowed to jump to a bachelor degree directly after school without taking a gap year to explore other choices or testing your ideas.

But let us get back to our present reality. we are locking on to a degree program in a limited time.

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So, start researching about the places that teach such a thing. Start with Google and type “Course on …..” fill in the name of your area of interest. If you want to work with marine animals, type “Courses on Marine Animals“. It will take you some time to get to the correct words to type but you will get there. Google is like a Genie from Aladdin. He can find you anything you say but you have to be careful what you say.

So, after you have optimised your search tag words and have reached the correct name of courses, try to find what is the course content of that program.

  • What is the syllabus?
  • How much time is for practical training?
  • What is the qualification of course instructors?

These information can be easily extracted from the course website. Also, check YouTube for videos related that course to learn about the actual experience.

Step #3: Find out what kind of jobs one can do after that course.

Now that you have the name of the course that you want to learn, its time to see what kind of jobs one can do after it. Every field of knowledge is ever expanding and new roles related to it keep emerging. So, there is probably more than one kind of job that you can do after you complete this course. You will have plenty of time during your 3-4 years of study to make that choice but before joining that course, it is good to know that you have choices.

So, we head to Facebook and LinkedIn for research and type in the name of the course you want to do. It will give you a list of people who are related to that course, most probably, graduated from the same one. Look at their resumes, locations and the companies they have worked with. You should message them and ask about their experience and recommendations of the course. Do not hesitate, people are happy to help if you ask nicely. Not all of them will reply but even if one of them replies, you can take their guidance in your decision making. You can some of the following questions to them:

  • Did you find the course updated in terms of actual industry demand?
  • What was the biggest challenge for you during the 4 years of study?
  • What was the first job you took after college and how did you find it?
  • What is your ambition in this profession?
  • Do you want to do a masters course? If yes, then in which field and why?
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These are some of the things you can ask without falling into the trap of asking about salary, job perks and other monetary questions. And avoid asking obvious questions like ‘What is the chance of getting placed after this course? because of course if you did well, you will get a job. And you will do well because it is what excites you. Studying will be fun, not work if you choose wisely.

Step#4: Find out more places and respective courses in that same thing.

So far you have done the basic research about the field of technology you want to learn and found at least one course, which is taught in some universities/colleges. Now is the time to cast a wider net and look at some similar courses.

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You should also search for the variations of the original course you selected. There might be something you did not notice or simply did not care to check because you were focussed on only one course. Now is the time to do a more open minded search as see what are the possible variations of that course or the field. Ask yourself:

  • What can be other applications of this course?
  • What other fields can be combined with this field to make a new specialisation?
  • Is there a course with just the parts I like?
  • What are the highest paid jobs from this field?
  • What kind of master courses are offered based on this course?

Step#5: Create a list of the top 5 courses of your choice.

To be sure to get an admission in your desired course, you need to make a list of 5 courses in different colleges. If you are sure, you can make a list of 3 colleges. The main criteria should be that these all should teach similar course content in order to choose one direction and maximise the chance of getting an admission.

If you are making a list of 5 colleges, they should look like this:

  • College #1 – Hardest to get admission in.
  • College #2 – Moderate chance of getting admission.
  • College # 3, 4 & 5 – Good chance of getting admission.

If you list consist of 3 college, then

  • College #1 – Hardest to get admission in.
  • College #2 – Moderate chance of getting admission.
  • College #3 – Good chance of getting admission.

The main criteria to filter a course can be found in the course requirements. Course requirements will give you an idea about how hard or easy can it be to get an admission. Although you will not know for sure but still you need some criteria for classifying the courses. These are:

  • Academic requirements – minimum percentage
  • Language requirements – International course require a English Language certificate from TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Application Deadline – Last date to submit your application
  • Recommendations – Letter of recommendations from your faculty.
  • Financial requirements – These are your personal limits to which you can take a loan or use your parents savings to pay for college tuition fee and accommodation, food and travel fees. We will consider this in a while.

Step#6: Convince Parents.

There are two ways to fund your education. One is that your parents to the initial investment and you manage to support your studies by earning from a part time job. Other is that they fund all the course fee. The last is that you do not take any money from them and only use your savings for admission and late for semester fees, pay from earnings from a part time job. If you are lucky, you will have no problem with convincing your parents about your future plans and getting money from them to support you in perusing the plans.

But assuming you are not that lucky, let us make up lost luck by hard work.

So the problem with parents is that most of them have their own expectations and ambitions from you. Mostly it will be one of their repressed dream that they could not fulfil or if they could, continuation of their legacy by including you in family business. Also, they tend to have very telescopic vision of carrier choices and lack knowledge of existence of other fields out there. Also, they do not consider you an adult yet, who can make life decisions. Maybe even you think so about yourself. This aspect of parenting is very different in eastern and western world. Western world focuses mostly on self-reliance and independence while most of the Eastern societies cultivate a culture co-dependence of family members.

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But this is the time to change it. If you do not follow your plan, you are doomed to follow someone else’s plan. So, we start by convincing ourselves that I need to take charge of my life. No matter what happens after I decide to go on this path it, I will not back off and keep moving forward. It is my life and not anyone’s property. Be responsible for your own fate.

Now to the parents. They mean well and wish the best for you but they probably also had a plan about your profession even before you were born. Sometimes love can act like a golden chain, tied to your leg. It can keep you safe but will also limit how far you can go. They will not take this chain off until they trust you that you can make your own decisions. That may not happen anytime soon but we have to start somewhere, right. So, to convince your parents of your plan, you need to convince them of your decision making abilities. If they trust you to make a decision, they will most likely let you make it.

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To convince your parents, you need to show them your decision making process. You need to show them your work so far. What is that you want to study, the names of the courses and the job prospects after that. For them, the most important thing is that will you be able to earn decent amount of money to support yourself. So, prepare this part well. If you can show them the profiles of some people on Facebook and LinkedIn from your research, it may help. Also, if someone replied to your questions, show that. It is a proof that you are able to take action and get results. You have to win this argument because your life literally depends on it. Prepare your whole presentation in advance and ask for an appropriate time when you can present it. Ask them formally that you want to show your research to them that want to have a discussion about it.

Suppose they get convinced and fully support you in your decision. Best case scenario, right. But let us face the possibility of rejection, the worst case scenario. To mitigate failure to get their approval, you need a backup plan.

Here is the time for first big decision of your life, whether to follow your plans despite opposition from your parents or follow their suggested carrier path and follow your plans on the side. If you have the time to save enough money for admission by working part time for a year or two, take that that path and work towards your chosen carrier. If you do not have time, choose the path thought by your parents but make a plan to study your field. Maybe your university or college has some course in your field too and you can switch to it in the second year of your course. It is a long shot but if you are trying to salvage your idea, this might be your best practical shot.

Main idea here is, present your best idea but be prepared for whatever outcome it generates and keep on your choose path. Whatever path your decisions lead, just remember your compass, and seek excitement. You will find your goal.

Step # 7: Apply and wait for the results

Going ahead with your best case scenario and successfully convincing your parents, you start the application process.

As you have the list of colleges and courses ready, you know the application deadlines.

  • Prepare each application with the same care and responsibility. If you need to get letters of recommendations for each course and letter of motivation(LOM), prepare each one custom and modified according to each course. Do not send a general sounding LOM to every college.
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors in all written documents.
  • Check if all necessary forms are signed and dated.
  • Check if the colleges require attested copies or normal copies of your certificates.
  • Apply at least 15-20 days before the last date of application, if possible as early as possible.

After application is the period of wait. It can excruciating to wait for the results as you have no way of knowing it otherwise. Find something that will keep you engaged like doing a short term course as a primer for the course you want to do. Or just chill with your friends if they are free. It will be the last time for most of your friends to spend time with you as they too will soon leave to follow thier paths.

Step # 8: Pack and leave the nest

So, you did it. You got admission. Congratulations for the beginning of a beautiful friendship with work. This day marks an important day in your life because you are going to face the world on your own for the first time alone. But do not worry. They are also going to face you for the first time.

This also marks the start of your skill development – both hard and soft. Hard skills are the technical aspects of your trade and the soft skills are the emotional skills that you need to successfully work with other. Some of the most important soft skill to learn are:

  • Goal orientation,
  • Resilience,
  • Empathy,
  • Assertiveness,
  • Ability to work in a team and
  • Social support

What you should learn during your studies is a discussion for another time. For now, following is a summary of all the steps and a possible timeline.

Hope this has helped you. Till next time.

How to improve your Handwriting

Handwriting can be improved, at any stage of life. The only difference between improving your handwriting being in school vs improving your handwriting as an adult, is the amount of practise. As an adult you will get less practise to actually write and ponder over the shapes you just drew.

It is actually easier than it looks to improve your handwriting. Let us explore how.

Side quests

Before you go on for Boss fight, some side quests need to be taken care of. These are the following three:

  1. Get your favourite pen
  2. Get some sheets of paper
  3. Free your time (even 2 minutes count)

It is important that you know your tool. Choose a pen that you find the most satisfying to write with. It can be a ball point pen, ink pen or a roller pen. As long as it feels right in your hand, it is fine. My present favourite is Lamy ink pen because of its smoothness on the paper.

Any type of paper will do as long it is not made of raw pulp, hand made or anything that drinks ink. Check if it is compatible with your pen. Also, it should be smooth enough to let the pen skid without getting stuck in it.

And lastly, time. Just start with 5 minutes. And if you still like it after 5 minutes, you will make time yourself.

4 Steps to improve your Handwriting

Start with the Alphabet.

It is a good place to start to improving your handwriting by practising Alphabets. Back to school but his time with your choice. Following are the 26 letters of the English Alphabets for you to observe and practise.

Following Alphabets are a guide for you to practise. If you don’t like it, try a different one. Or maybe change these and make new ones. As long as you take care in drawing each letter, it’s fine.

Do not rush

I learned to write fast because I needed to. Writing fast is one way to write your language paper in time in exam. So, I had to balance the handwriting and speed to get the best marks. But you are in no rush now. You do not need to write under a time constraint. So, whenever you write, do not rush and write with half the speed you previously used to write. It will instantly improve your handwriting.

COpy letters

I used to pick typography as a kid from sign boards, tv ads, movies, even from cartoons. Keep your eye open for any interesting letter and add it in your arsenal. Try any letter couple of times with different styles and see how it fits. If it doesn’t, leave it. Full disclosure, I picked my ‘f’ from Professor Dumbledore’s handwriting in Harry Potter.

Mix letters

Try to scribble on any piece of paper you get and try to write as many possible versions of a letter as you can. One way to do this is to write different words with the same letter such for practising a with other letters, write apple, bat, create, master, camp, lamp, arc etc.

Benefits of having a good handwriting

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Leave A lasting impression

Writing something is literally leaving a lasting impression on someone. When someone will look at your handwriting, they will make an assumption. Your handwriting can make you look confident or meek, optimistic or pessimistic, careful or careless.

Enjoy Writing

If you are fascinated by your handwriting and try to improve it, every written piece can become a relaxing experience. Doing something you like makes you happy. So enjoy writing, enjoy making each alphabet and it will bring you enough joy to write.

Train your brain

Good handwriting requires a good hand-eye coordination. It automatically takes a lot of concentration to do something good and repeat that. Once you reach a level that you do not require any longer to write well, challenge your handwriting again and start the process all over. Your brain loves challenges because they keep it fit.

That’s all folks. Hope you have fun improving your impression on this world.

How to loose weight quickly

Ok, so you are looking to loose weight “Quickly”. But how quickly ? In one month, one week, one day? And how much weight are we talking about here – 10 kg, 20 kg or, 50 kg ? So, what is the correct rate of loosing weight?

According to the Centres for Disease control and Prevention, the healthy rate of Weight loss is 0.5 kg to 1 kg per week. So, if you want to loose 10 kg, it should ideally take 10-20 weeks, that is, 3 to 6 months. So, pace your progress accordingly otherwise you risk loosing hope by failing to meet unrealistic goals like 5 kg in one week.

I am not an health expert but just like you, I once searched for an answer. I am sharing what I found and used in my life so far.

These are my tips:

  1. Eat lesser
  2. Choose you snacks wisely,
  3. Drink water, not Cola
  4. Choose a Workout you can do

Eat lesser

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Eating lesser is far better strategy than eating salads because eating salads is tough. I tried making salad one time but ended up with a green fodder. A goat may have loved it but I ate it just to prove it to my wife that I can make a salad.

do it like this

Eat in a smaller plate and each every time in the same plate. Eventually, in a day or two, you will find a sweet spot between food and hunger where you are not hungry but you can still eat more. Stop right there. Get up, wash your hands and drink a gulp of water. Walk away, that is your cue.

Choose your snacks wisely

Your snacks are the ones that is killing your hard work of eating lesser. As you will get hungry again or maybe soon after eating, you look for comfort snacks. First step to avoid eating junk is not to buy it. You are lazy enough not to go shopping just for snacks right when you are hungry. Good, use this as your strength.

do it like this

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Next time you go shopping, buy unsalted peanuts. Instead of Chips and cupcakes, buy some nuts like almonds, pistachio, walnuts and raisins if you can. These are rich in minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, which your brain needs but cannot produce. Buy at least one fruit, such as Banana, which is easy to eat and you enjoy eating too. These are superfoods that enrich your body and mind. Plus they keep you lean.

Drink water, not Cola

Do you have any idea why you drink Cola or any other carbonated soft drink for that matter? Because it quenches your thirst? Well, is Water a joke then? Because it digests food – No it does not, it stops the digestion because it is alkaline and your stomach acid is well, acidic. Makes your burp? Well, that it does. But is a Burp enough price to pay for all the damage it does? Let me name the one biggest reason not to drink it – Sugar. All the carbonated drinks are laced with sugar and if not, even zero sugar drinks have some kind of replacement sweetener. Sugar is evil. It literally modifies your brain‘s pleasure and reward centres to eat more sugar, keeping your weight out of control.

Do it like this

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Keep a couple for bottles of carbonated/mineral water at home. Normal water, just with that fizz that make you Burp. Problem solved. Drink it and see what you miss. The taste you miss, is from the sugar that was killing your gains.

Also, remember to drink at least 1-2 bottles (1-2 litters) of water daily.

Choose a Workout you can do

This is a big one. No one wants to deliberately hurt their bodies. Most of us don’t do it until we are shamed beyond our limit or a doctor tells us to do. But even then, we shamelessly forget the pressure in some time and go back to being our old self. But the problem was not exercising itself. It was the type of exercise you choose.

Do it like this

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Start with the simplest thing you can do and build up from there. Is it walking? Good. Walk for 10 minutes a day, slightly faster than normal. Increase 1 minute daily in your walk until you reach 40 minutes. So, today you walk 10 mins, tomorrow 11 mins, and so on until you reach 40 minutes per session. Then if you decide to keep sticking to walking, add 1 minute running to it. So do 1 minute running and 39 minutes walking. Next day, do 2 minutes running and 38 minutes walking. keep adding the running and subtracting walking as you go ahead. That way, you are competing against yourself, not repeating a boring routine and getting better at something.

Walking is just one example and maybe it it not for you. Maybe it is cycling, swimming, boxing or dancing. There are many things you can on your own. Choose one activity and keep adding difficulty in that to improve your performance and keeping it interesting.

Pro Tip: Get someone to do that with you. Your success rate will increase tremendously by just committing to someone.

Get enough sleep

This may be problematic to you because of weight but it goes on in adding to that weight. Sleep is one of the most mysterious human behaviours and Scientists are still not 100% sure that they understand why do we sleep. But the best guess is that in this time our body repairs, resets and reboots itself.

Do it like this

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Wake up at a fixed time. No need to get up at 5 am, just choose sometime you can do daily. The first couple of days in starting a new routine are difficult but if you keep your alarm far enough, you will have to get up. Then drink a glass of water and go start your day. In the evening, do not drink any stimulant drink like tea or coffee at least 3 hours before going to the bed. Then 1 hour before going to the bed, keep you phone away from you. And go the bed with a book in hand or your partner. Make best routines for the best results.

Make realistic plans

Setting up a really tough plan, with things you have never done in your life before for a long period of time is a recipe for disaster. You will fail, loose hope and go back to being the older you. You have to be realistic in your assessment of your limits and expectations and then make a plan you can actually follow. But the goal should be to have such good habits that you do not need to plan.

Do it like this

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First, find out how much weight you have to loose weight. Then, calculate how much time it will take to loose that weight. As I said above, ideal would be to loose 0.5 kg to 1 kg per week. Set a realistic goal and as you will make progress, you will pick up better habits and eventually, a healthier lifestyle. That’s how not only will you loose weight, you will also keep it away.

It is important to stay in a healthy weight range to avoid getting sick. But please beware of the beauty standards on social media. Loose weight to get healthier, not to get a body like a supermodel. It is far more important to have a healthy, flexible and strong body than looking cosmetically good.

Have fun changing for better.

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How to deal with Productivity Porn

I am not against productivity. If anything, I am pro-Productivity. But you gotta admit, there is too much of good advice floating on internet and at some point you have to realise that you received all the good advice you needed to do this task, and you should now get up and just do it. But most of the time, what we do is watch another YouTube video and another after that, until the YouTube algorithm is done with suggesting you similar content or your brain just gives up. Result, we end up feeling exhausted and under more pressure to do something with our lives because all these other awesome people of YouTube are nailing it.

What is Productivity Porn

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Productivity Porn is any group of content aimed at arousing your interest in Productivity. The keyword here is arousal. It is generally a series of related videos suggested by YouTube or Instagram based on your likes and searches. The main property of Productivity Porn is that is captivating enough to keep you hooked but you end up spending more time watching than actually doing something about it.

My experience with Prodcutivity Porn

I have also been an addict to Productivity Porn for almost 2 years. This is how it happened. I am curious person and a learner. So naturally, when I go to YouTube, I look for advice such as, how to earn Passive income, how to improve your health, how to write better, best books to read and similar things. Then I would click on some video, watch it and before it is finished, I would go to another similar video. Then after couple of motivation and guidance filled videos, which could potentially make me millions and make my life exponentially better, I would jump to the new marvel trailer or something else to ease my mind. But then, filled with anxiety about not doing anything, I would not get up but go back to watching more helpful advice. And as I was interested in my topics, this continued till I had to shut my laptop because of some worldly concern like food or sleep or my daughter asking to play with her.

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How I coped with it, or better said, How am I coping with it right now may not apply to your situation but it is worth looking at. I realised it was a problem after 2 years because I was thinking about writing more, watching videos on it, talking about it but didn’t actually write anything. I mean, I would write something everyday but that was for my eyes only, never showed it to anyone. The Problem was – that I wanted to take all information in before starting. FOMO – Fear of missing out, held me back. So, I decided to take a step back and start again, this time, one thing at a time. I decided if I wanted to watch something, I would type it in the search bar, look for the answer and only if I did not get the right answer the first time, would I go the next video. If I did get the correct answer, I would use that information to do that step physically and would not watch another motivational or guidance video until I am on the sent step. This discipline has helped me write thousands of blogs. Just kidding. It has not but at least it took me this far that I am talking to you right now.

How to discipline yourself against Productivity Porn

I am going to be a bit ironical here and give you advice about how to not take too much advice. But Please before you move on to the next page or video, take time to implement at least one of the following steps.

Always type your query

Whenever you want to know something, you ask. Similarly, whenever you want advice on YouTube, type your query every time. And keep refining your search. Sometime you won’t have a clear idea about what is the correct keyword to look for. For example, if you wanted to know how to increase your website’s searchability, you need to type SEO in the search bar with your question but you will start with that first question and eventually learn this word and use it to refine your search.

Do more

As a general rule, what you do with the information you receive, should take more time than you spent listening the advice. If you want to learn guitar, and you spent 30 minutes listening to the advice on how to play a guitar, you should play the guitar, tune the stings or just walk around the house holding it for 31 minutes.

Be shameless

Sometimes it is our lack of courage to show our work to the world that pulls us back. But that is the thing. Everyone thinks like that and most of the time, they are not thinking about you. Everyone is at the centre of their world and whatever you do, however disastrously wrong, they will get over it in a minute. They will go back to their own world, thinking about themselves. So, use initial this time to practise, make mistakes and embarrass yourself. Show your work to your partner, your friends, share it on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. Who cares. In fact, how to get more people to watch you will become your primary concern after sometime. So before you go from being embarrassed to show your work to excited to show your work, be like the child you once were, curious, walking funny, talking with weird made up worlds. Eventually you learned how to talk, walk and curb your curiosity like boring adults and you did fine. So just do that again and you will be fine again.

Look at the small picture

What you want to do with your choice of activity or the productivity increasing tip will change with time. So, do not get obsessed with defining your life 5 years own the line doing this thing. If you want to plan, plan your day and how to integrate this new advice into your life in that day. If that day is not today, then tomorrow. But choose a day and apply the advice on that day.

Refrain from spending money, Except on a book

If we get zealous about an activity, we tend to throw our money at it as a way to commit. Don’t do that until you have spend a month or so doing it for free. Maybe guitar was just a phase. Maybe writing is not really what you want to do. It is better to spend some time using the infinite free material on the internet before putting your hard earned money in it. Business want your money. Don’t make it easy for them.

Read a book

If you want to test your commitment, read a book on that topic. It takes much more commitment to read a book than reading a blog post or watching a video. Plus there are no distractions and suggested booklist with each page you read. And as an added advantage, you will actually learn something. Test your limits of commitment to your new habit of Exercise, Nutrition, Music or investing with this step.

au revoir

Hope you had a good day and survived with just minor bruises which can we healed by a good night sleep. Take good care of your mind and body tomorrow, and let me know if you wanna talk about something. I’ll be glad to.

Gratitude – a path to Inner Peace

We are all grieving. We are grieving the loss of our freedom, our social life and our life before 2020 Pandemic. In this time, Inner peace or the calmness of mind is the super power we all need. Between home office, lockdowns and disruption of our travel plans, we all need to stay calm and live our life without ever going on a Rampage. Inner peace is wonderful to have but how do we achieve it ?

Before we explore the actions, which take us towards inner peace, we should be aware of the other emotions, which may appear before us.

Understanding our emotions

“In order to find the new world we needed a map, and in order for us to find a calm mind we need a map of our emotions”.

Dalai Lama

Paul Eckman, a Psychologist and leading researcher on emotions, developed a catalogue of emotions and in 2016 launched a beautiful website by the same name – http://atlasofemotions.org/ . It guides you through the jungle of emotions by categorising them in 5 major groups – Anger, Fear, Sadness, Disgust and Enjoyment. Then he presents all other related emotions in each group on a scale of low to high intensity. Further, he suggests what action do we take when we feel them and what can be the counter measures for each. It is quite a lovely use of infographics and I suggest you visit it for getting an overview of the range of emotions we feel.

On this website, in the group “Enjoyment”, one can find “Peace” in middle of the scale of low to high excitement. It is neither as basic as a sensory pleasure nor as exciting as Ecstasy. It is in balance and that is what we want to aim as our default mode of living in daily life.

This catalogue serves as a guide for what actions do we take when we feel certain emotions but it does not guide us on how do we achieve one of them, let us say, the emotion of peace. Of course, the website leads you to more websites where you can do some courses on managing your emotions to help you “Cultivate Emotional Balance”, but we are not going anywhere, are we? We are looking for something that we can do from the comfort of our beds, without changing the pyjamas.

So, How does Gratitude help us achieve this inner peace ?

What is Gratitude ?

Gratitude is an Action and not an emotion. Simply put, It is any act of thanking someone for their contribution in your life. Let us explore the key words here.

  • act of thanking: being grateful, thanking someone in person or even thinking about it, or thanking the right conditions and timing for your actions.
  • their contribution: acknowledging that someone else helped you along the way, physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way.
  • your life: your life story is written by your actions but what or who lead you to those actions, are also important. When you look back on your life from present, you should be able to recognise those faces.

Thinking of Gratitude as an action makes it a tool, something that you can use to build or fix something. and Gratitude is a multipurpose tool because it can help us in many ways.

Why is Gratitude good for me ?

Gratitude for us is like drinking water. You can go on with your day without drinking more than 2 glasses of water but in the long run, it is going to cause you metabolism problems. Also, if you drink too much water, you will take above average toilet breaks and in extreme cases can even drink yourself to death. Seriously. Check this out if your don’t believe me https://www.healthline.com/health/how-much-water-can-kill-you

Similarly, Gratitude is required in the right amount. Too little will cause you attitude problems and too much will wear you out. So, in between the two extremes, of being a ungrateful waste of humanity to being everyone’s punching bag, there is a sweet spot, where you can exist and have all the benefits of using Gratitude without feeling the burnout.

To the more curious, here are some benefits of Gratitude in your life:

Long Term Happiness

If you want happiness to last for more than a few moments, you need to have some control over how to generate it on demand. And I am not talking about the thrills generated by the Dopamine rush, which we get while seeking pleasure. Like when we are eating Ice cream. I am talking about the happiness, by courtesy of Serotonin, which you get when you think about the feeling of eating that Ice cream on a perfect sunny Saturday. But as eating Ice cream is limited to some perfect days and is enjoyable to think about certain number of times, we need something more perineal and deep. Hence, Gratitude. When we express Gratitude to someone or something, we generate a long lasting and replicable feeling of joy and happiness.

Humbleness

No matter what you have achieved in life or what you have done for others, to brag about it is like baking a beautiful muffin and licking it all over before giving it to someone. Yukk, right. It is still beautiful but no one other than a complete sucker for you would like it. And how can you be more humble ? Yes, by expressing Gratitude. Even if you generated a billion dollar empire on your own, without any mortal’s help, you can still thank your customers for putting their money in your pocket when they could have gone to your nearest competitor. They did you a favour by choosing you, not the other way around. On the other hand, if you are earning a living by doing a job, you have tons to be grateful for, starting with your parents who raised you to the partner who puts up with your weirdness to the kind lady at the supermarket who said “good day” to you even when she was tired from her day’s work.

Genuine good behaviour

If you are thinking that are you a decent human being or not, I have god news for you. You already are or are at least starting to be. And just to make sure you are, include Gratitude in your ever expanding arsenal of good actions. Gratitude is such a strong key habit that it will shape your perspective and in turn, will help you make your thoughts positive. Remember, it always starts with one small step. Just one good thought a day will move mountains of negative emotions in some time.

Solution to Anger/Jealousy

Holding anger or Jealousy in your heart against someone is like holding a burning piece of coal in your hand and thinking, that it is harming your enemy. Just like that burning coal, Jealousy will just harm you. And it is easy to hold on to it because you are hurt and you want revenge. You want closure, which we sometimes do not get. You are not alone in feeling that. Also, there are different degrees of this anger. Anger towards your boss for unnecessarily yelling at you is not the same as the anger towards someone who took enjoyment in tormenting you in school or someone who harmed your family member. It requires different degree of effort to overcome such emotions. But it is a good start nevertheless to find something in this situation to be thankful for.

Cooperation

If you express Gratitude towards your team members, you automatically open yourself to their ideas. You become more collaborative and appreciate each other in a group environment, which in turn, will boost the productivity of your whole team.

Sense of Purpose

For many, Gratitude is a way of life. They devote their life to help others because they feel such strong need to express gratitude that it overtakes their whole existence and guides them to help others. Their work becomes an extension to their act of expressing Gratitude. Even if that person is not you, you can still include Gratitude in your daily regime to remind you that there are people other than you and you have responsibility to serve your fellow humans.

Knowledge of limits to self

Can you do anything and everything ? If yes, how dare you not help all those in need right now? Hopefully, you said no. See, sometimes, we forget our limits and make mistakes. For example, it will be a mistake to buy a new iphone on credit because, 1 – you would have lesser to pay when you pay upfront, 2 – you would be under a debt for 1-2 years. Similarly, when you do not have any idea about what you cannot do or can do, you sometimes make mistakes such as trying to raise a child without ever reading any parenting books, or trying to take an exam without studying. You should be thanking those parents who have been though life and want to share their experience for your betterment.

And as it takes time and mistakes to learn to use any tool, it takes time and patience to learn to use Gratitude.

How to show Gratitude ?

Expressing Gratitude is a three step process.

  • Step 1: Recognise that something in your life is good.
  • Step 2: Recognise that the reason for that goodness is not just you but someone or something other than you.
  • Step 3: Thanking them in person or in your thoughts.

Let us see an example for this. I am sitting in my comfortable writing chair, writing this piece. This is step one. I realise that this is good. Next step is to recognise that to have this time to write, I must have some free time, which would not be possible if my wife and daughter did not realise that I need this time alone to write. So, the reason for this good, me having the time to write, is not just my decision to write it but my family’s understanding. And the last step, Thanking them. I just did, with a hug for both. Gratitude all over the place.

How to avoid burnout from Gratitude?

Set a minimum

Thank at least one person or one situation per day that has helped you to become the person you are today. It can be someone in the past or some one you met today who generated a feeling of thankfulness in you. Thank them in your thoughts.

Set a maximum

This is more important to avoid the burnout because if you go on to thank everyone you want to thank in person, you will have to spend a lot of time finding the right moment to say that to them and it requires much more courage to say thank you to their face than in your head. So, use this rule instead – say Thank you to your partner and children daily, Say thank to your parents once every week, say thank you to your friends twice a year, say thank you to your relatives once a year and thank strangers or new acquaintances once your lifetime.

Or make your own rules. But make an upper limit to the thanks you give in person as per your interactions to sound sincere and not flattery.

A parting word

Thank you for reading this till the end. I hope you find peace in your life and start your day with a new outlook.

Till next time.

Optimising our ordinary lives

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

Introduction

Let us have a conversation about optimising your life. To set the mood, let me put on some Gandalf style declaration: “this article is not about becoming great or achieving something extraordinary in your life. It is about living an ordinary life to the fullest”.

All right, mood set. I will now proceed with my monologue, like an overconfident villain explaining his plan to his captor who will eventually find a loophole in that plan and eventually kick his butt. But my monologue will not end in a butt kicking, instead it will end in lifting that butt and putting it somewhere useful.

Also. Talk to me. Answer my questions in your words in your head before reading ahead every time a question pops up.

What is a small step ?

There is huge power in small, consistent actions. Tiny drops of water can overtime carve mountains. One breath at a time is enough to keep us alive. One day at a time lived adds up to a lifetime. Each meaningful step completes one part of the journey. Anything you want to do or have, can be broken down to small very do-able steps. This is the small steps I am talking about.

Why should I take these small steps ?

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

If you are human, your belly size will start expanding with affluence. If you have money, your money will eventually run out. If you are in a relationship, you will eventually disagree on something. If you like gadgets, you want to buy the new iPhone. These all examples illustrate one single fact. I like iPhone. And also, that even living an ordinary life requires keeping up with the changes around us. This keeping up with life requires calibration of our habits and routines and optimising your resources such as time and money to the best of your advantage. The ordinary and extraordinary life just differs in the frequency of calibration and optimisation. So, did you get your answer ? My answer is, to keep up with life and if possible, be prepared for the coming changes.

How to create a small step ?

Human mind is unique. Our vision, the ability to imagine multiple futures for us sets us apart from rest of the life on Earth. I can not think of any other animal being able to imagine an alternate ending of Avengers: Endgame where Antman goes all diabolical over Thanos. Can you imagine your cat pointing towards a new nap pillow she really likes. No. We can imagine futures. So, how this juicy knowledge nugget helps us ?

You can imagine what you want. You can imagine yourself with six-pack abs. You can imagine yourself writing a book. You can imagine yourself retiring from a job at the age of 30. All sorts of amazing things. And then there are those non-goal goals of keeping up with life, remember, like keeping fit with age ? So, we can imagine a future, where we are up to date with the challenges of the life and if required, we can imagine additional wishes. Because we are not boring ass robots but interesting, sexy ass humans.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

And after you have imagined yourself a future, you can now trace it back to your present situation to chart out a path. First, you need to locate, where you are. What is your present waist size ? How much writing have you done so far ? How many sources of passive income have you created so far ? Second, calculate what do you require to reach your end goal. How much weight do I need to loose, how much do I need to write, how many sources of passive income do I need to create ? And please do not limit your imagination to my examples. These are just illustrations to guide your thought process. I am just the train conductor, you can take any passenger with you on this journey.

How often should I repeat the step ?

Past exists in memories. Future doesn’t exist yet. Present exists in a day.

A day is the smallest unit of life. An hour is too small, a year too long. Biologically, we are programmed to wake up with the sunlight and go to sleep with the advent of darkness. During a day, we have periods of sharp concentration and high energy and then contrasting periods of lethargy. There are periods when we want to socialise, and then those where we just want to be with ourselves. So, in essence, a day is a representative slice of the full spectrum of our life.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

The best way to optimise a process is to tweak its smallest unit. So, my suggestion is to do a small step everyday. Workout for 20 minutes everyday to reach from a 40 inch waist to 28 inch six-pack. Save €100 each month to buy that iPhone next year. Make a part of your tube video daily to put up 2 videos a week to create a sustainable passive income source from YouTube. The path may seem exhausting but the alternative is hard too.

How to keep myself on the path ?

This is where motivation meets grit. This is where life takes a turn for better. This is where you live. You have to balance your motivation and discipline to stay on your path. Motivation is like taking the first sip of hot coffee, which will slap you to attention. Discipline is like drinking the whole cup of that bitter coffee because you know you know you need it.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

To invoke motivation towards your goal, put up a picture of your imagined future everywhere you can. And don’t overdo it, just good enough to remind you of the goal but not enough for people to call you a psycho. Write your goal as a statement and paste it above your bathroom mirror. Do not stick it above your laptop or somewhere in your constant view because then you will just learn to ignore it like you ignore a Microsoft update notification.

But the main driving force of success is discipline. Motivation is overrated. It is sheer grit and determination to do the necessary that takes one person places. But no one is motivated 27×7. Discipline gets the job done. The best way I found to install discipline in myself is to make the clock my drillmaster. I schedule my tasks so that I know when to start a task and when to stop. I suggest you to do the same and schedule your one small step at a fixed time of the day. Do not bother about arranging everything in your day with fixed timings but focus on doing that one thing at a fixed time.

What if I need help in any of this ?

Photo by Muhammad Rayhan Haripriatna on Pexels.com

I am not inventing these ideas here, people have already done all of these things and much more. And these same people can help you too. Just look at their journey and examine it with our questionnaire.

  • My imagined future: What do I want ?
  • My present: What is my situation now?
  • My pathway: How to reach from my present situation to my imagined future?
  • My daily small step: What change do I need to make in my daily routine?

And commit yourself to taking that one small step each day for your calculated period of time. That’s it. You can now peacefully live a perfectly ordinary life with your imagined future. Isn’t that a nice feeling? Being stress free from uncertainty and controlling some part of your life.

Mic drop

Everybody has answers, they just don’t have the right questions sometimes. I hope these are the right questions for you, right now. If not, let me know what are your worries and challenges today and maybe, together we can find their solutions.

Yasir out.

How to get better at your engineering job

If you are just starting in an engineering job, you may find it overwhelming to cope up with the amount of information you have to process on a daily basis, most of which was not taught to you in college. And then there is a problem of getting better at your job. Getting better at your job is different to learning in school because there is no fixed theory for you to first learn and then practise, and you are learning while always being judged by your boss. For the sake of ease of writing, I am going to assume your boss is a male.

What am I doing wrong?

Task related mistakes happen in one of these three categories – input, process and output.

For example, if the task is to prepare a report about the structural calculation of steel connections, the input is all the communication regarding the task till you start working on it, process is the actual calculation, problem solving, design considerations, report preparation etc, and the output will be saving your work, presenting your work to the boss etc.

One other area of mistake is the non-work-related communication such as communication with our colleagues, body language etc.

How do I fix my mistakes?

1. Input mistakes

Understanding the task given by the boss

Being new to this, you may not know all the terms used during a conversation. When the boss is explaining you your task, always carry a notebook to note down the details and important terms. If you don’t know any term or a step of the task, ask before leaving his office and starting your work. Best to clear all the details when he is ready to discuss them. If he was in a rush and said he will explain it to you later, note it down, go to a colleague and ask him. Also, maintain a list of all the new words you hear. Best write it in an excel sheet so that you can go through them time to time. Use Anki or any other method of spaced repetition to recall those words for longer memory retention.

Forgetting what your boss said

As there will be a lot of information related to any task, such as, dimensions, alignments, algorithms, flowcharts, calculations, report format etc., you need to be able to record it. Use a notepad at all times when talking to your boss or wherever there is an exchange of information. Also, it makes you look serious about your job. Further, review everything as soon as you reach your desk because some of that you may have written in shorthand and even you won’t be able to decipher its meaning after one hour. So, rewrite the tasks and important info and make a step-by-step list by own. It should not take more than 10 minutes for you to finish.

2. Process mistakes

Taking too much time to submit

You may be getting stuck at one or several steps of a task. After writing down the steps, mark the difficult part where you may get stuck. Most of the time we get stuck because we want to solve that problem ourselves. It becomes a matter of pride and intellectual challenge. It works in college but it is not an efficient method at work because it costs you time and your time is worth money to your boss. And he will hate to lose any money. So, if you cannot figure out the solution in 15 minutes, ask a colleague to help you with it. Don’t be shy or fear any ridicule. You will make fool of yourself once but not asking will make a fool of you every time.

Calculation mistakes

Calculation mistakes often occur because of loss of concentration. First, get some coffee. Yes, you need to be fully awake and attentive. If possible, plan to calculate in your peak attention time, like mornings before 11:00. If not possible to choose or not a fan of coffee, chew a chewing gum, drink water at every 20 minutes or so and listen to some music you can focus with. I personally prefer some upbeat pop or when stuff gets serious, J.S.Bach is my main man. Stand up and walk after every 30-40 minutes of sitting.

Also, another reason of making calculation mistakes is that you did not consider all the information. Start by drawing a rough sketch on paper and applying all the loads. Go through all the loads Axes by Axes, the x, the y and the z. Consider all the angles and don’t be lazy thinking about difficult loading conditions.

Not making your work checkable

One of my most frequent mistakes was not making my work easy to follow. Generally, when you set out to either draw, model or calculate something, you will use various help lines, sketches, formula and reference material. But if you do not put the correct references where they belong, no one would be able to understand where did you get those values from. Make clear sketches and paragrapgh references to your work. If drawing in Autocad, make sure to pack all the help lines in a seperate layer, so that it can be displyed neatly when needed. The main idea here is that your boss or the person checking your work should not waste his time figuring out how you did it. He should be simply able to see it.

Error in preparing the report in the right format

Your boss may get pissed at little details like the orientation of an image or the font size being irregular because he wants to send this report to a client and this report will represent the company itself. So, it needs to be done in a standard way, down to the font size so as to maintain a level of professionalism and reflect expertise. Ask about an example report from last project and ask if there are any changes to be done with the format. If none, then stick to the script and if yes, note them down and do them before submitting the report back.

Not saving your work

This is a rookie mistake not to save your work if you are working on a software. Because software crash and then you lose your last 2 hours’ worth of work. Again, your time = ka Ching for your boss. So, press cltr + S and save him money.

Not using the office method of file management

File management is one thing you cannot learn in college. Every company has its local server where it stores files. And then there is an order of folders and location for each type of file. For example, if a project is about the planning and design of a road, there will folders named – incoming communication, outgoing communication, structural design, drawing, tender documents etc. Save your files in the correct folder and with specified name. The file name is a major game changer when it comes to work place maturity. Learn the right way by asking your boss or colleagues.

3. Output mistakes

Executing everything your boss asked you to do

It will be taken care of if you are writing boss’s instruction down and following a step-by-step workflow. If still it happens, then it was because of some distraction, forgetting where to start from the next day, or because your boss modified some details too late in the job and it was one of the things in the start. To avoid these, take a pause before submitting your work, and review it. Did you check your list? is every concern addressed? Was anything updated? is any details marked red? just pay attention before submitting to these clues.

Communicating your ideas to the boss

This one will require some courage. Now we are in the realm of personal development. You may at some point want to ask your boss about an unrelated topic in your job or make a suggestion to him about a project which you may be your proposal for something new. How do you do that? Ideally, to be taken seriously, you need to be ready to start working on your proposal if asked. So, collect some background information about how you would execute it, or the numbers or steps related to that idea. Then find the right time. Technical communication is part timing and part data. It is okey to have partial knowledge about the data part because you won’t have all the information till you begin to work on it. Observe when your boss is not on the phone and is less engaged with people. Dealing with people requires energy and we don’t want him to be drained before listening to your idea. Then ask for permission to share some ideas and be precise about your idea. Start with your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a collection of sentences in which you will explain him your idea in an elevator ride from his office to the ground floor. Then after he decides to listen further, get into detail. If not, try later with a different idea or a different pitch.

4. Communication

Communicating with your client

You may not get a chance to talk to your client in the initial months but once you get to, be structured with it. There must be a mix of personal plus professional communication. No one likes to talk to a robot, so do not be one. Ask about their day before this call, to know a little about their mental state and also to establish a caring relationship. If they want to get to the details right on, ask about their plans for the day or weekend after the work discussion. Or if you know them from last call, ask about that last task. Ask about their opinions and suggestions. If nothing, ask about the weather in their city. But if your company is charging the client for the phone call and you are providing the solution on this call, be specific to the task from the beginning and talk about personal stuff at the end of the call. This way your client controls the time they want to talk and they won’t feel that you are stalling to make money, which would look unprofessional.

General communication skills

This is a topic worth its own article but I’ll try to sum it up here. There are verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal is your language skills and non-verbal is your body language and dressing sense. To improve your verbal skills, learn the work-related vocabulary. Note down the new words you hear on a paper and keep making a list. Just read it without trying to remember it whenever you get time and make an excel sheet too if time permits you. As you will not look at that list anywhere outside your work as you have a life too, try to revise is every other day for just 10 minutes before starting a task.

Non-verbal communication is dictated by your body posture, facial expressions, tone and loudness of your voice and your dressing sense. Sit straight mostly, slouching posture shows you are bored or lazy. Try to smile whenever you greet someone. Be cautious of your voice as it changes with your emotions. Depending on the discussion, your voice can quiver, become too loud in excitement or anger, or too meek under pressure. Try to be mindful of this. These are subconscious reactions of our body to different situations which are either perceived by the body as rewarding or punishing. To avoid being awkward, this subconscious reaction needs to be controlled. Being mindful of your emotions will help you tame those changes.

Non-work talks with co-workers

If your get time to talk to your co-workers, use it well to develop healthy work relationships. If you are an extrovert, you are already laughing at the very notion of me suggesting you to talk because that is why you probably changed your job. But if you are an introvert like me, you should try to engage a little everyday with your colleagues. It is actually not that hard. Being an introvert, you are already good at listening. Use it. Ask about their weekend, the weather, any sports you follow or if nothing strikes, what are they eating. And build up your questions from the opening question. Follow up one or two question and then diverge to a different idea because you are not interrogating them. Also, talk about your side of the story too.

Am I all better now?

Yes, you are. But always keep an amateur mindset. Keep learning the trade, keep making mistakes. Just try not to repeat them.