Incompetence and malice

Often, it becomes difficult to distinguish whether someone is incompetent or has malicious intent. However, it is important to distinguish the two. Not being able to tell the two apart can often cause terrible heartache and anguish.

I have found it useful to begin by giving the benefit of doubt. Incompetence in one person can often be confused for malice by another person. Instead of jumping to a conclusion, it could be beneficial to tentatively assume good intentions at the outset. Then one can begin a gentle enquiry and try to understand from the other’s perspective what has transpired.

Many times, by putting oneself in the other’s shoes, one discovers a human being just like oneself who makes mistakes every now and then. This way, incompetence can be determined to be the cause.

Of course, one could very well discover malice as the root cause, in which case, the appropriate actions can be taken.

Opening relationships, closing sales

A small note on opening relationships, closing sales.

“The more you are grateful for what you have the more you will have to be grateful for” – Zig Ziglar

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness” – Seneca

After coming across the idea in a few books and talks in the recent past, I have tried to follow the practice of thanking people for their thoughtfulness. Random acts of gratitude are almost guaranteed to make anyone’s day. Also, in general, I have tried to develop a spirit of gratitude within myself. These practices have helped me on a personal and professional basis on many levels. This is definitely something I need to work on in an ongoing basis.

How tension is good for the soul

The word tension is often viewed in a negative light, along with a word like stress. However, of late, I have almost found myself looking forward to stressful situations since I realized that stress is one of the best and most effective ways to bring about growth. In nature, there is a process called hormesis, which refers to the growth that occurs on encountering minor stresses.

For example, our bones require small stressors in order to gain strength. Walking, sprinting and lifting weights are examples of helpful stressors for the bones. Of course, too much stress – like a big rock – will break our bones and likely kill us. At the same time, lying in bed for six months is guaranteed to make one’s bones brittle and weak. This indicates that this phenomenon is more of a spectrum, rather than being black and white. The concept of antifragility, as formulated by Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile, I think applies well to this discussion.

Practicing silence

Silence as a tool has been great in helping me develop good relationships with the people around me. On many occasions, remaining silent and letting the other person speak has been helpful in getting to know them better. This is a way of indicating to the other person that one is interested in hearing what they are saying. It is also a way of giving importance to others.  I have realized this is a skill that I have had to work at. It forms part of an other-centered approach to life. I think this practice of other-centeredness develops beautifully out showing gratitude towards others. Practicing silence and listening to others forms a crucial part of opening a relationship.

A recent example where silence came in quite handy was in a recent sales transaction I was involved with. I wanted to buy a used car. After going to a dealership, I found the car I was looking for and made my offer to the salesperson. In this process, I found the practice of silence a great negotiating tool as it gives you the power to walk away at any time. In the end, I got what I thought was a good deal.


For me, the best part of this idea is that it is an ongoing one.  As far as silence is concerned, of late I am finding myself very comfortable with silences. I read somewhere that as you are closer to a person, the more comfortable with sitting in silence with them, of course along with the usual talking. I would say that rather than pushing the other person, silence perhaps lets them to naturally fill it with their own true inner thoughts and feelings about any subject we may be talking about. This could possibly even help in resolving any disputes and, generally, help in building good relations.

I think the idea of goodfinding is great as it allows us to show appreciation to others. However, on many occasions, recognizing or even just acknowledging the other person is itself very helpful. I do think I would want to continue the below practices both in personal and professional life on a ongoing basis:

  • goodfinding
  • recognizing. acknowledging & showing appreciation
  • being silent and absorbing as much as possible from the thoughts and experiences of others

Of course, I would say I am no expert on these and I have indeed fumbled on many occasions. I do hope to learn from these mistakes and keep up this practice.

When it comes who benefits, I think expressing gratitude mainly benefits the relationship, which has the potential to benefit both myself and the other person.

I often find that most people give off bad vibes because of they may be having a tough day or going through some personal problems, not necessarily because they have some agenda against me (although this could very much possible in theory). The below Zig Ziglar video illustrates this well in my opinion:


When doing anything, it seems important to get critical feedback from others.

Whatever work one does occurs not in a vacuum, but in the context of a small section of society.

One might have an audience of one or twenty million, but getting good, critical feedback always helps to improve oneself.

Oftentimes, it is a kind of reality check or sanity check which gives new perspective on one’s work.

Especially, when starting a business, for instance, it may be a good idea to get plenty of feedback at the outset before venturing into the marketplace to see if there could actually be a section of the market which is interested.


Contrary but true

Here is an interesting quote from Peter Thiel. It is a question which he reputedly asks when hiring new employees:

“Tell me something that’s true but nobody agrees with”

― Peter Thiel

It is interesting because it speaks to a way of thinking which suggests that the way to succeed is to do something which:

  1. no one else is doing and
  2. is useful to others

As human beings, each of us is a unique creation as an individual. No two persons are alike in all aspects. So, it seems natural that each of us has something unique to offer to this world.

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson again speaks to the same idea as he suggests that as each of us is unique is some way or the other, one can always learn from each person one meets.

Also, as Seneca suggested nearly two thousand years ago, one always has the opportunity to serve and be kind to another human being in all situations. Applying this kind of thinking could lead one very far when it comes to not only business, but many other aspects of life.

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Long vs short

It is a often-repeated teaching in sales that focusing on retaining repeat customers is way more important than getting a sale done immediately.

Malcolm Gladwell in Blink gives an example of a car salesman who is the best-performing salesperson. His secret is shown to be that he has a host of long term customers who absolutely  trust him in their next car purchases.

Similarly, in many other aspects of our life, thinking long term turns out to be a better choice than the short term.

When it comes to relationships, avoiding direct criticisms and having a diplomatic outlook, as suggested in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is a way to act in the long term interests of the relationship.

In the world of finance too, a great piece of advice is to avoid or control impulsive buying and, instead, focus on saving for the long term.

Overall, it appears that a change of mindset needs to occur in order for the above to be effective.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting people in history. He was a true polymath and genius. His accomplishments in science, literature, foreign diplomacy, politics, music and a host of other fields are many.

One of the interesting principles he followed is he avoided directly criticizing people as much as possible. Also, he had a way to make friends wherein whenever he met a new person he wanted to be friends with, he sought their help in some matter. Once the person had helped him, he thanked them well and so forged a friendship. As a result, he was able to gain the friendships of many people all over the world.

In his autobiography, he listed thirteen virtues he considered most important:

  1. Temperance
  2. Silence
  3. Order
  4. Resolution
  5. Frugality
  6. Industry
  7. Sincerity
  8. Justice
  9. Moderation
  10. Cleanliness
  11. Tranquillity
  12. Chastity
  13. Humility

Following these virtues undoubtedly helped him to live a long and happy life. He was the richest man in the country for a long time. His bequest to his beloved city of Philadelphia where he established, among other things, one of the first firefighting and library companies, had grown with the accumulation of compound interest, and was used to establish what is today the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.