Being Present In The Moment

Life has become so busy. Long hours at work, rushing home to make dinner, spending time with the family and then opening up the laptop to finish off the days work. Finally, dropping into bed totally exhausted knowing that we have to do it all again tomorrow. When did we stop being present in the moment? Not looking to the past and regretting the mistakes we have made, and not looking to the future striving for something that always seems just out of reach.

One way to stay present is to practice gratitude. Gratitude will open doors for us that we didn’t even know were possible. If we are genuine in our thanks, and happy with what we have we will be rewarded. It is said that the action of being grateful is the most powerful action there is. It is so important more now than ever with the recent events of hurricane Sandy to count our blessings. There are so many people without the necessities of life, things that we take for granted on a daily basis.

To me, being grateful means knowing that I will be provided for, given exactly what I need and being thankful for just that. I walk into work each day, and most days earlier than I need to be just to sit at the desk and take in everything that has been given to me over the past year. I give thanks for a work space to call my own, a husband and a partner to share it with as well as the clients that I see regularly that are the reason why I have a roof over my head and food on my table.

Letting go of past anger and fear will also keep us present, but how can we even begin to find joy if we are always focused on what was or what will be. Joy is found by being present in the moment. Embracing what life has presented us, instead of worrying about tomorrow. Joy can come in all forms, like a song that has meaning, a breath of fresh air, or even an activity that you enjoy doing. Our joy is as individual as we are.

So I have a challenge for you; find a park bench and eat your lunch outside today, go for a walk with the family, pick a flower and put it on your desk at work, listen to your favorite song, but whatever you decide to do today, remain present.

Indo-US Nuclear Deal and Negotiation Gambits

It’s very intriguing if you were to simply observe the ongoing process (so called) of signing the Nuclear Deal with the USA.
If one was to look at it from a ‘negotiators’ point of view, there are certain very well known tactics being used by everyone involved. There are also certain well known flaws being unknowingly committed by some. 
These tactics and flaws in negotiating terms are called gambits. Gambits of course is a term used in Chess. Negotiations, especially, when both sides are well versed with the tactics and counter-tactics, is no different than a game of Chess where each maneuver (or non maneuver) can cost dearly.
The First Case: George Bush versus Manmohan Singh.
The age old, common sense gambit, that we wouldn’t dare to think holds a chance to succeed in the modern business world – still works for a high power negotiation as this. Before I attempt to bare my thought process – let us first examine the positions of the two sides.
George Bush for whatever reason is very keen to see the deal through. Presumably because of ‘economical’ reasons and the advantage or benefits it may give to the companies in America. Since when has he cared about economic development, God only knows. However he is very keen to see this through and so is the next Republican candidate. May be they have their reasons – Economy for sure. The others might be a footprint in history or a more likely assumption is election funding, maybe. Who knows?
Manmohan Singh is equally keen to see this through. The ‘economic reformist’, the ‘first liberal visionary’, the ‘father of stock market budgets’ is absolutely certain that this is it. His team is sure that they have squeezed US into granting as much as was possible. They are keen to do it. No one knows the exact content of the agreement, however it’s been marketed well enough to assume that this will be good for us in the long term. Of course the fact that its Manmohan Singh helps to validate this. Furthermore, Congress knows that the next government, be it BJP or Congress itself, will seal the deal. Make some cosmetic changes here and there but will seal it and take credit for it. Congress does not want to lose out. Manmohan Singh wants it. What better than this as a final imprint on India’s economic history.
There are two gambits that US has masterfully played: Number one is “Good guy, bad guy” – In a typical business situation it means two people working together one friendly, the other threatening. You would have experienced it plenty of times. It happens all the time in real estate negotiations. Also happens in a lot of legal battles.
How has America used it? “India has got a dream deal. They have got more than they could have bargained for. The next government, specifically if it were to be Obama, is very unlikely to go through with this. They will want to re-negotiate the agreement. Bush is being very kind.” .. Isn’t it wonderful how this still works. As if George Bush is some long lost friend of India’s. The truth is that he’s never been. So easy for an entire nation to assume that this is not planned by Republicans and Democrats. Breaking News: It Is. Developed democracies are way ahead of us. A give away to this fact is that they are not even voicing a ‘superficial’ dissatisfaction. 
The other related gambit used is called the ‘Withdraw Offer Principle’ – Take an example of a sales situation where you are selling a product for say 100 bucks. The buyer asks for a discount. You say 95. The buyer says 93. You say you need to check with your manager if that is possible and will let him know tomorrow. You go back to him and say that we had a discussion around it, I am very embarrassed to inform you that our CFO intervened, did some calculations and revised the policy based on some calculations, saying that even 95 is not possible as we incur a loss on that discount. So I am very sorry but I’ll have withdraw the 5 Re offer. 9 out of 10 cases: the buyer instantly says but you already made that offer, you can’t go back on your word – and you sell at 95. It’s a widely used gambit.
India is the 9 out of 10. US (Democrats) is threatening to withdraw the offer, once it’s in power. 
The Second Case: Left-Congress Deadlock.

One of the underlying rules, rather a premise of Win-Win negotiations (I don’t personally believe there is another kind) is this – Never Narrow Negotiations Down To One Issue. Why? Because when you do, there has to be a winner and a loser. 
This is exactly what has gone wrong with discussions between the Left and the Congress. Day one, itself, it was publicly narrowed down to one issue. The Left had the power in that particular process and threatened to withdraw support and topple the government if it went ahead. Congress had no choice but to retreat and buy time. 
The sad part is that the Left never used its power to reach a decision or a negotiated agreement. Its one of the most common errors made by a party that holds power in a negotiating process – that you don’t reach a decision. By a decision, I mean a negotiated agreement. There are plenty of examples in our history on this – The Kashmir issue, Setu project, Afzal Khan death penalty, the Mandal commission, the Emergency or even the Godhra riots – Gujrat is not resolving it because they have the power.  
Once a party to a negotiating process have the power, they get fooled into believing that they will be the only winner. They can get all. The history suggests otherwise. Equations change rapidly once they start to change. 
The mistake that Left made it not realize that the deal is inevitable – whether with the Congress or with the BJP in the next government – Imagine if BJP was to win the next elections and bring the deal to the parliament. They don’t even need any support. Congress cannot oppose it.
Left, in hindsight, had they kept the main issue aside, could have got what they wanted – Policy changes to suit them (or their voters), petroleum price waivers for certain states, SEZ allocations, a possible non-compete from Congress for Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, perhaps a next president nominee… endless.
As silly as it sounds – no one negotiated – they only debated.

The Third Case: Samajwadi Party (SP)

Congress has very smartly used the ‘Mediator’ principle. SP has the power to save the government. The perceived threat for SP is losing the Muslim vote. who does Congress bring in – Dr. Kalam. Can anyone on Earth imagine a situation where the great president will be opposed to ‘Nuclear’ Deal. Considering the Congress opposed his re-election as president, obviously then he will be perceived as neutral. Moreover BJP is unlikely to challenge Dr. Kalam. They supported his re-election and his 2020 vision.
Mediator Gambit in negotiations is bringing in a third party, someone who must be accepted as neutral. This is used all the time in ‘out of court’ settlements. It has found a perfect fit in the current situation.
SP though has gained where Left has lost – A negotiated arrangement on UP seats is what is somewhat in the open. However I suspect that they will now start ‘Nibbling’. The Nibbling principle says this – Somethings are more easily achieved later in the negotiations as introducing them early may mean a ‘trade-off’. For example their demands on resignations of the finance and petroleum minister may already have been traded or rejected on some other grant. However watch out for a lot of nibbling now. One such nibble has already taken place – Mukesh Ambani’s jets! The second one has started – Getting Rahul Gandhi to be appointed in charge of UP coalition. 
Nibbling is actually a kind of ‘cheap’ tactic but works on a simple behavioral principle that once you have made a decision – you like to validate it so you are susceptible to action in it. For example  - you just bought a car – now you are the most vulnerable to nibbling by the salesman – as you in your mind want to validate your decision and make it better – accessories are coming and I guess you’ll be buying something – even if it is a foot-mat. Conversely even the salesman is susceptible to your ‘nibbling’ – he’ll give it free if you ask. It’s a matter of who negotiates.
Finally, I am no political theoretic, neither am I a very keen observer. The realities of this particular situation were indeed intriguing and I think you will understand the point I am attempting to make. Getting back to negotiations do remember these facts: 
1- You are negotiating all the time. 
2- Anything you want is presently controlled by someone else. 
3- There are three critical factors to every negotiation - power, information and TIME. 
4- Never assume what the other party wants - negotiations are with people, not parties. 
5- Never narrow down to one single issue and 
6. Negotiations have to be Win-Win. If the other person is not thanking you at the end of the process – It wont sustain.
Chetan Walia.

Important Presentation? Don’t Do Death By PowerPoint!

A boardroom needn’t be a bored room.

If you’ve suffered through one PowerPoint presentation too many, you’ll know how sedating slides can be. But what’s the alternative? Can you present without them?

Organisations like NASA and the US military are increasingly saying ‘Yes,’ and even banning slides in important presentations. Spoken language, they argue, is more agile and if used properly, more interesting. Sometimes slides actually get in the way.

If you’re bold enough to fly ‘au natural,’ and brave enough to stand out from the pack, here are some simple tips to help you conquer your next presentation and rule the boardroom.

1. Orient Yourself Correctly:

Ask: What is my goal? Remember, you’re not just doing a data-dump. You are a sales-person for a message; a Crusader for an important idea. That’s a critical shift in thinking, and using this one principle as your starting point will simplify your task in creating the presentation and place you ahead of most presenters when you come to deliver it.

Every presentation is an argument for an idea. If anything fails to help your argument, it’s extraneous. Feel free to dump it. The same goes for lengthy company histories of the ‘In the beginning, when Moses founded our toupĂ© factory’ variety. No one cares, and all additional filler weakens and softens the impact of your core argument.

Focus with laser-precision on making a clean, clear, effective argument. The more you’re able to strip it down, the greater the hammer-strike will be. If a fact or figure helps you to make your argument, it’s in. If not, march it to the guillotine.

2. Put Critical but Low-Impact Facts into a Hand-out:

If there are details that they must have, but which are terrifically boring to present (i.e., which soften the impact of your argument), their rightful place is in a hand-out, not on a screen behind you.

All of those lovely little dots and dashes, charts and graphs, dense paragraphs and squiggly lines may add legitimacy, but they needn’t be part of the oral delivery. They take up time and dampen impact.

The oral delivery is all about persuasion, not reporting of facts. Remember, you are there to deliver a message, which is ‘what you want them to think as a result of the facts.’ Merely delivering the facts themselves is relatively pointless; they could simply have been sent by email. What do the facts tell us? What should we do as a result of them? That’s your actual job.

3. Pick a Powerful Structure

Most presenters really just use PowerPoint in place of notes. They’re scared of forgetting what they wanted to say, and so they load the entire contents of Google onto the screen behind them. PowerPoint was initially meant to be a ‘visual aid,’ not a set of reminders for the presenter.

Using a powerful presentation structure will help you to remember your points easily, negating the need for text on a screen. There are many incredibly effective structures to choose from, but here are three of my favourites:

  1. Use PSA: Point – Story – Application. Make a point, tell a story, make another point, tell another story. This is a powerful way to speak. The PSA structure adds one more element, which is ‘application.’ Make your point, tell a story that illustrates the point, then show your audience how to apply the point in their lives. Repeat this formula for as many points as you may have.
  2. Use a central metaphor and sub-points: Scenario planner Clem Sunter is renowned for his riveting (and PowerPoint-free) presentations on ‘Foxes and Hedgehogs.’ After introducing a metaphor for a central idea, which is that ‘foxes’ are agile and explore many options, while ‘hedgehogs’ are old fashioned and cling to one doctrine, Clem explores various story-examples that illustrate this theme. He speaks for 60 minutes, using this one metaphor alone. Think of this structure like a MindMap: An interesting metaphor in the centre, with story-examples spiralling out from it.
  3. Use an A-versus-B structure: To make your idea come to life, contrast it with its antithesis. For instance, to make a series of points about how experts behave, contrast the idea against how amateurs might behave; to speak on ‘how rich people think,’ contrast your points against ‘how poor people think.’ This structure also works using ‘before and after.’ Speak about life before your idea, then create a mental picture of how things might be afterwards.

4. Use Theatre-of-the-Mind:

To belabor a point a little, the best presentations really are persuasive arguments, not information-dumps. To that end, the more you can get your audience to ‘live’ in the world of your ideas – seeing them, feeling them, truly becoming emotionally involved – the greater your effectiveness will be.

For that reason, it’s often effective to build tension around how unfavorable a world without your idea may be. This can be done in the form of hypothetical stories, in which you paint mental pictures and explore the cost of inaction. Equally, you want your audience to feel enthusiasm for your idea, which can be achieved just as well through the use of hypothetical stories, this time showing desirable outcomes.

5. Master a Few Public Speaking Basics:

There is no doubt that our own conviction in an idea is a significant aspect of selling it. Learning a few simple public speaking techniques will make you exponentially more compelling and far less dependent on slides.

There is no end of oratory techniques you can learn, but let me offer you one master-key to them all: Contrast.

The most compelling presenters know how to create contrast in a number of elements, including soft and loud volume, slow and fast pace, emphatic delivery and pauses. Animation is the product of contrast. Monotony is the result of its absence.

Do you ever practice in front of a mirror? Wander around your office delivering a pitch? Practice at a Toastmasters club? Excellent! Public speaking and presenting are all about what you do out loud, and quite often, the sort of language we use when we rehearse in our minds sounds awkward in a live delivery.

Out-loud practice is imperative. My personal recommendation is to use a mirror, and observe your own body language, posture and enthusiasm.

Good luck on your next big presentation, and remember this guiding principle: Having the information is only half of your job. Making it come alive for an audience is the balance.