Anger and the Workplace – A Tip from Ghengis Khan

Has anger ever gotten the better of you at work? I recently saw a post from an internal consultant at Microsoft on this topic. He shared a story about the great military warrior, Ghengis Khan.

As the story goes, he is out with his forces and has his favorite, most trustworthy falcon with him. While his men are resting, he decides to go into the woods to clear his mind and find some fresh water.

Now, falcons are renowned for their sure, swift striking ability and their razor-sharp vision. Khan lets his falcon loose, and after a few minutes it dives and lands at a trickle of water. Khan approaches, sees the water, and begins to fill his cup.

As he raises his cup, his falcon swoops and knocks it to the ground, spilling the water. Khan curses furiously, then picks up his cup and begins filling it again. And once again, the falcon swoops and knocks it from his hands.

Now, being strong and having won many victories, Ghengis Khan is a proud man. Fearing one of his soldiers might see this and ridicule him for letting a simple bird get the best of him, Khan draws a small sword and begins filling his cup for a third time from this slow trickle of water.

The falcon again dives and knocks the cup from his hand. Khan is prepared, and he strikes down his own bird. Infuriated that his bird is dead and his cup is still empty, he walks toward where he determines the source of the water to be. He is astonished to see a poisonous snake, laying dead in a small pool of water. Surely, if he had drunk the water contaminated by this deadly snake, he would have died.

Khan later orders that a statuette be formed in the shape of his slain falcon, and engraved with these words:

“An action done in anger is an action doomed to failure.”

The lesson here is in how you react to fear and anger.

Especially as a leader (or parent) acting in anger doesn’t make you look strong. In fact, it makes you look childish and petty or like a bully. How you respond to negative stimulus at both home and work are what will really define your legacy and have far more impact on how the world perceives you.

 

The Secret Skill of Productive People

We all yearn to be productive, or at least I do. I want to wake up early in the morning and start working on my tasks immediately and finish them. 18 months ago that was a dream until I listened to a short talk on the Internet by Anthony Robins on mimicking the habits of successful people. So I started reading and tried to see which of their habits I could apply.

Keyword: habit.

To change your life around, you need to develop new habits. Doing a single productive thing today, say waking up early, is not going to change your life if it’s not something you’re willing to do constantly.

How Do You Develop Habits?

You cannot remove old habits. You can only replace them. Say you like to sleep late. And you can’t wake up early. To wake up early, you will need to replace the habit of sleeping late with going to bed early.

21 days. Apparently that’s how long it takes for your brain to start doing this automatically. You will need to willfully force yourself to perform this new task for 21 days. Then your brain will automatically start to understand this routine and your subconscious mind will automatically take over this tasks. And waking up early now becomes a new habit.

You want your subconscious mind to take over the task. This is the key to productivity. This is the secret of successful people.

Your Actions

Your action for today is to list the habits that you would like to acquire. Sort them by priority. Beside each habit, write down why you want it. Studies have shown that you will only form new habits if there is a “pain” in not achieving what you desire. Write down this “pain”. Let this pain drive you.

For example, if losing weight is your pain, write down the things that you can’t do with your current weight. Also write down the consequences of having so much weight.

Make the process of moulding your new habit into a game. Push yourself to see how much weight you can lose within a week. On the contrary to what people say, and I agree with them that your weight fluctuates daily and also during different times in a day, weigh yourself daily at the same time, naked. Yes, naked.  Jot down your weight. You’re in for a big surprise when the week is over.

And spend the next 21 days working on this habit.

Dont screw up this process by working on multiple habits at a go. There are no short cuts in life. Put in the effort and Mother Nature will do her part. Pick up one habit and work on it. Remember, Rome was built in a day and neither will your productivity. Work on this slowly and surely, within a year, you’ll be amazed at how productive you would have become.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
–Aristotle

The most famous book on habits was written by Dr. Stephen Covey many, many years ago. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explains how to change habits by changing your perception of the things you don’t want to do. This is a book you can read in a day. It takes time to read and digest the ideas in this book. My copy of this book has a lot of notes written on the side, underlined passages and it really changed the way I perceived my behaviour and my spouses behaviour.

Another excellent and new book on the power of habits is The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. He mixes facts and stories that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL and to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Whatever You Do — Own It!

One of the secrets to a successful career is to take charge of your career — own it.

Stay focused on what you’re doing. Dont get distracted. Decide on what you want and focus on obtaining that. Do the very best in it because you will never know who’s evaluating your work.

Focus on your strengths. Sharpen them. Make the best use of them. If you’re an excellent analytical person, focus on doing analytical things and not waste your energy on things you’re not good at. Don’t blunt yourself by being a Jack of All Trade, Master of None.

Enjoy what you’re doing – whether it’s a success or a failure. If you failed or didn’t deliver something well, ponder on it for a moment – why did you fail – is this something you’re not good at and can’t be delegated to someone else or is it your mistake and if so, have you learnt where you went wrong? Either rectify the mistake of delegate it.

Own your life.
If you don’t, someone will own it for you, to make their lives better — not yours.

Life’s Whispers

Oprah Winfrey at Standard University, 2008
Oprah Winfrey at Standard University, 2008

“What I’ve found is that diffculties comes when you dont pay attention to life’s whispers, because life always whispers to you first. And if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream. Whatever you resist persists. But if you ask the right question – not why is this happening, but what is this here to teach me – it puts you in the place and space to get the lesson you need.”

— Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University, 2008