How to live a conscious life

What is my conscience? Where does it exist? How does it influence my decisions?

What if I had the ability to be consciously aware all of the time? In every decision? Would my life look different to how it is now? How would it be different?

Have you ever stopped to think about this?

On a wet and stormy day as I got out of my car, I saw an old man looking at the sky and remarking to himself quietly, in great despair, “Look at how much rain there is!”

As I walked past him, I instantly gave him my umbrella without thinking; I didn’t have to do it, I had a choice, but I had made a decision and I had made it quickly.

I’m sharing this story not to show my benevolence, but because it left me thinking:

‘Why is it that, at times, I do not need to “think” about my decision – it happens almost automatically – whereas sometimes I can be left stuck contemplating for days?

Everything we do requires a decision. As we get older we have more autonomy over these decisions. This brings responsibility. So we want to make the right ones.

We can either make decisions from our values or from our beliefs. Values are innate and love driven whereas beliefs are fear driven depending on sociological upbringing. When we find it hard to make a decision, our first line of defence is to seek more information. Knowing more suggests we will then know if our decisions are the right ones.  But, in this case and many like it, I didn’t have all the information. I didn’t know much about this elderly gentleman. Perhaps he had a car, or was being picked up? Maybe the rain didn’t bother him? I didn’t know, but I still made a decision quickly.

When we experience our true conscious self, the values driven self that is created out of love rather than fear, we realise our conscience is in play. To feel your conscience ‘again’ it takes experience. Experience is what you get when you do not get what you wanted.  So we learn to ulearn our beliefs and so the journey begins from survival in our youth to serving towards the end of our physical existence.

Values = beliefs minus experience

From this experience and with spiritual philosophy I have come to realise there is a method to live a consciously aware life. This isn’t just about spiritual development but also about engineering inner peace.

There are five principles which if followed we can consciously make any life decision, whether it is big or small:

Conscious decision  = Truth + Compassion + Contentment + Humbleness + Love

If you speak truthfully, without fear, you are guided by the universe to be exactly where you need to be. You can not “believe” in this. You must experience this to see the power this has. Fortune does not favour the brave. Fortune favours the truthful.

More so, thinking of others and what is best for them brings about an understanding of how we are all connected. This is a very high level of conscious awareness. It  brings about an understanding of recognising humanity as one. For example, if you were looking to grow sales, make decisions based on compassion – empathise with the consumer as if it was your own family member. This will lead to a shift in energy in your conversation your words will lead to  a long-term, sustainable business relationship.

Likewise, with regards to Contentment, the mind cannot differentiate between the happiness of achieving a desire and being desire-less. They both provide an equal level of happiness. When you accept things as they are, you start to see the beauty in the creation. An important step to move away from fear based survival to love based serving.

Humbleness allows us to learn from others to make a conscious choice. It is a ‘tool’ that should be overused to compensate the ego.

Make every decision with Love. By being truthful, compassionate, content and humble you will automatically be fuelling your decision with love. Leave no room in your heart for hate. Leave no space in your mind to think that you are separate from another.

These five principles guide us to make conscious decisions. The mind seeks information. Your conscience already knows the answer. If used appropriately, the decision is comfortable rather than difficult. You are much more powerful than you think. The decision regarding the umbrella was easy. These principles were followed automatically, subconsciously.

Working together, these principles bring you a decision that is authentic to your soul.

What key decision are you fixated on right now, one which is still playing on your mind today?

Take a moment.

Write these five principles down and weigh up the options. You may not be able to tick every box but the very process of doing this will help a great deal in activating your decision to be a conscious one.

Don’t let Google guide you when you are stuck on a decision.

Let your conscience guide you; it won’t let you down.

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How do you know what your value is?

How can you paint a picture of who you are, when you are colour blind?

I find it hard to value myself.

I’m also willing to bet that it’s something not a lot of us have actively considered before. Do we value ourselves?

When I was searching for my last job, I did not give much thought to understanding how much my value is worth. But then it struck me. If I did not know what my own value was then, logically, how could I know if I was looking for the right job? Or furthermore,  even know where to start when negotiating my salary? How could I let someone interviewing me value me, when I did not know what my value was myself?

Separately, you may have heard a friend say “My significant other does not value me enough”.  Maybe you have even said this yourself. But again in this context, how can we say someone does not value us, when most of us do not know our own value?

Following on from this, we are all aware that in life, we have to constantly make decisions, everyday.

So I stopped to think. Would I be able to make better decisions in ALL aspects of my life, if I knew what my true value was?

Could knowing my true value even lead to greater happiness? Or perhaps, could it give me the realisation of where to focus my time and attention, so that I could improve myself?

In thinking about this I asked myself: why should I even want to know my own value? It sounds very egotistical; maybe I should be humble and think I have no value.

Well, on the contrary, I have learnt that by understanding what my value is, I can actually live a better spiritual life too.

Valuing yourself is not the same thing as thinking you are better than other people. This will be relative thinking. I was interested in an absolute value.

To understand this, first let’s consider how the corporate world calculates valuations as an example (bear with me, I promise it will not be too intense!).

There are essentially two methods to value any company;

1. Absolute valuation

2. Relative valuation

An absolute valuation will for example, look at the present value of all future streams of cash flows from investing in that target company.  This method looks at the internal fundamentals of the target company to work out its ‘true’ or intrinsic value. In a nutshell, you can calculate a value today, based on how much income this company will generate for all the years it operates in the future.

A relative valuation model on the other hand, compares the target company to other similar companies to calculate a valuation. This can be done by calculating ratios in the target company and then benchmarking them to the ratios of other comparable firms. Whatever those ratios may be, the point is a comparison is made to other similar companies. This is a lot easier and quicker and therefore is often the first method used to value a target company.

But valuing a company is very different to valuing oneself.

Returning to the question:

How do I know what my value is?

You see, we can only make decisions based on the information that we have.

A lot of the time we get this information by comparing ourselves to others. When doing so, we ask ourselves questions of comparison like:

“what job does someone similar age to me have?

How much are they earning?

Are they married?

Do they have children?

What car do they drive?

What type of house are they living in?

How many holidays a year do they go on?”

When we ask ourselves all of these things and more, we use other people as our benchmarks and then we place ourselves above or below that benchmark.

This is a relative valuation. It is easy to do. The corporate world thinks so too. During school we have a ranking system with grades. During infancy, our parents compare our ability to walk or talk to peers of a similar age. Our minds our conditioned from a young age to think relatively. Why would we not think relatively when we grow up?

The problem is, comparing ourselves to others does not give any indication of our absolute value. Thus, because we want to do better, even if we found the most accurate relative valuation of ourselves, once we feel like we’ve exceeded it, the benchmark moves to the next level up. Therefore, we are never content; using a relative valuation can only bring unhappiness.

But how can we possibly know our ‘true’ or intrinsic value?

Personal value = internal qualities + external impact

Understand that there are only two dimensions to us;

1. Internal

2. External

There is me as a being, my existence, and equally there is existence external to me. Nothing else. This is everything. Or higher still, this is one thing.

Internally, we are limitless. We are unbounded in our ability, only limited by our mind. We do not correctly value the technology we come packaged in and therefore we do not correctly value ourselves. We downplay it. We apply self-imposed limits on it.

Externally, our impact on the world is different for different people, only limited by the value we have placed on our internal qualities.

Realise that with confidence, you can achieve not only good things but great feats. Relentlessly spend time in society thinking about how you can increase the value of others to peripherally realise the true unlimited value of yourself.

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Does PowerPoint make a Powerful Point?

Presentations using PowerPoint.

We’ve all done them.

The whizz kids add graphics with spinning words and the novice’s, like me, fill slides with just….words.

A couple of months ago I had to give a presentation at Accenture, where I was invited as a key note speaker.

I had prepared roughly 15 amazing slides for this presentation. Some actually included graphics and one even had an embedded video!

With the memo cards in the inside pocket of my suit jacket on the ready, I was all set.

But as I connected my laptop to the display screen, I looked up and immediately felt disconnected with my audience.

Taking it back 30 minutes, in an earlier break at the conference, I was mingling with the employees and trying to understand who they were, as people. And vice versa.

Now on stage with this giant screen behind me, as I plugged in my USB stick which contained my presentation, I should have felt like I had everything ready to shower the room with all of my ideas.

But strangely, under the shadow of the giant display screen, I felt as if I could not share my passion the way I had intended. Everyone feels obliged to read the screen (as a test, put the subtitles on at home on the TV with the volume up and see what you do) .

My genuineness and true message was lost with this love triangle I had created. I look at my audience, the audience looks at the screen, I look at the screen, my audience looks at me.

So, how do you present in such a way that your message is the hot topic of discussion the following day?

Let’s think about it; how many political rallies or Presidential speeches happen with PowerPoint behind them?

You don’t really hear of people using PowerPoint to propose to their significant other either. Imagine how impersonal and ridiculous it sounds, with a screen behind them that says these are the benefits they can bring and the next slide is their collective vision for the future etc.

Some of the most influential speeches, take for example the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, did not happen with PowerPoint behind them. PowerPoint does not wake up the nation. The author does.

There is a reason Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, created a company-wide policy banning PowerPoint presentations during executive meetings.

Neuroscience research shows multitasking is not effective. Listening to a speaker, whilst trying to read from a screen, along with trying to process and digest this new information has a strain on our inbuilt RAM. Furthermore, research also shows that audience participation actually decreases, when you include slides.

“But my presentation is technical, not emotional, I need to show my thinking…”

There is a solution, talk. Have a conversation with your audience. Speak your thinking.

This leads to careful consideration of your ideas.

We are taught X% of a presentation is in body language, Y% is in tone, Z% is in the substance of what you are saying.

But 0% is in staring at a screen.

Our brains have not had a software update for thousands of years. Screens were not used to make technical or emotional speeches. Yet we use to engage with each other as humans then.

My solution is get people to listen to your message on a personal level, then give out handouts at the end (or in a reading slot before) with your key message.

During the presentation talk about who you are and why you felt this particular topic was so fascinating, so much so that you had to stand up and talk about it.

Dont bore people with a slide deck. Excite them with your personality.

“Realise that PowerPoint is stealing your charisma”.

That’s how we were naturally created to interact. Sure, we work in corporations and have complex issues. But talk them through. Step by step. Slowly. Understanding each point. This means you know your stuff. This means your audience knows you know your stuff. This leads to trust. Which leads to business.

People won’t remember a slide deck. What they will remember is the bits you explained to them, because you made them understand something new. That penny dropping moment when they were looking you in the eye and you opened a new way of thinking for them.

They’ll remember you. Not just your words. And it is you they want to do business with. Not just the alphabets that you had grouped together on a screen.

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When I met ego, it changed my life…

Last year I had the choice of taking up a role for a brand consultancy firm where I would travel the world, work in Covent Garden, turn up to work in shorts and a t-shirt and work with creative like minded people.

I turned it down.

Mainly because of a pay cut. How could I show my face to people after being affectively ‘demoted’? That too whilst all my friends were progressing strongly in their careers.

I realised after this, that every action I was taking, my ego would first have an influence. I wonder if this has lead me on a different path in my life than would otherwise be the case?

What about my thoughts? My conversations with people? Does ego influence me here too? How does this change my life? Furthermore, how does this change the lives of people I come into contact with? I wanted to know.

To understand this, I needed to go to the source. First, I needed to understand how I am made up.

I discovered that there are essentially two parts:

  1. The ‘soul’ and
  2. The cloth that covers this soul i.e. the physical body (which comes with a mind thrown in for free!).

So what is the soul? Well it doesn’t exist, per se.

Think of ourselves as ice cubes in the ocean. We are water AND we are immersed in the water. We are effectively everything, but with form. Therefore, our ‘soul’ is just our breath. It is existence. It is everything. This is the concept of ‘Ik’ or oneness.

But we are ice cubes and not the ocean. Why? Because of our mind.

The mind learns in this world what we feed it. We feed it ego.

This is quite interesting and very paradoxical – we have to first separate to merge.

What is this ego?

We all know ego is not tangible. There is nothing physical in our body that we can identify as ego. Therefore, it must be created in our mind. It is totally made up. In fact, we create it.

When we are born, our mind has not yet developed. It is like a blank hard drive waiting for photos, videos, conversations etc to fill it. Society, education nor our parents really tell us what to fill it with; there is no instruction manual that is delivered with each baby. So we fill our mind with things it finds sweet, like excessive anger, lust, greed, pride and attachment, often driven through fear and lack of gratitude.

I wonder if I downloaded my mind today and drew up a pie chart, what percentage would each of these five categories be taking up of my processing power?

What would I do with this pie chart? I started looking at my life wondering whether I need to sell my car? Or live wearing basic clothes? Live in a remote countryside etc? But in doing these things all I will end up doing is having no car, wearing different clothes, living without serving. These acts will not alone help me to control ego. In fact they will probably increase it, thinking I am better than others through these noble deeds.

The affects of ego are severe. Apart from missed job opportunities, all the fear, anxiety, guilt, resentment, never ending feeling of wanting more, leads to an illness in the mind. A true dis-ease. This then has an impact on health.

So I want to know how I can control the ego in my mind?

There is a solution.

First, it is just to be aware that it exists. This is the biggest step. When you check the memory on your phone it shows the breakdown of what is making up the memory use. Without this, how will you know what to delete?

We have a delete key too.

Through meditation, living in the present and complete selfless service we can slowly erase ego by introducing humility. This does not mean be shy or weak or hide out from society.

Quite the contrary. Be strong and tall, like a willow tree in a forest. When there is a storm, other plants and trees are uprooted but the willow tree remains firm, tall and strong. However, the leaves of a willow tree always droop downwards in humility to all other life. Saying it is still humbled by their presence. The willow tree knows another storm can still come, just like we know our ship is still out in the worlds ocean. We have not made it across safely just yet.

Furthermore, the willow tree is so humble that even when a metal chainsaw comes to cut it, that same willow tree will be the boat to support the metal across the sea. This is extreme humility. Still serving, selflessly, accepting it does not deserve to be the strongest.

What did any of us ever do to deserve the life we have? I needed to up my gratitude and in turn help control my ego by introducing humility.

Yet of course be careful, even in humbleness there can be ego. There is a difference between humility for show and genuine humility.

Therefore, by diagnosing our hard drive, we should try not to eliminate, but just control what is being stored.

Conquer your mind. And you can conquer the world.

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The Effects of Racism

In the face of the unfortunate Charlie Ebdo killings there has been backlash by some ignorant people who have made judgement’s about innocent members of society.

For some reason revenge is something that we as humans seek (even if it is misguided) in the hope that it would give us peace. The formula seems to be, if you get hurt then you can hurt another soul to somehow achieve inner peace. Who taught us this?  Why do we feel like this? Were we born this way? Or were our minds conditioned from a young age, maybe from what we see and hear, to be like this?

Now, I in no way condone the killings in France or elsewhere for that matter. The perpetrators most certainly should be apprehended and clearly such repugnant organisations have no place in society.

The ego will only grow when we witness such Charlie Ebdo style terrorist attacks because your ‘tribe’ has hurt my ‘tribe’ and although some will put strategic plans together to combat such crime there will be others, less educated, who want to take an eye for an eye approach to innocent members of society.

As Gandhi, whose statue went up in London this week, puts it,

“An eye for an eye will make the world blind”.

As a result of the 9/11 attacks, there followed an onslaught on innocent and peaceful communities around the world who were misidentified to fit the profile of a ‘terrorist’.

In the last couple of weeks an innocent Sikh boy on a high school bus was bullied and labelled a terrorist. This is all too common but is somewhat manifest in our society. To see such innocent souls with such misunderstanding and hate was too much to bear. It genuinely hurt me to see how we have taken a blank canvas and corrupted those minds when these are in fact, such pure and beautiful souls that have the potential to change the world for the better.

But who should take responsibility for this failing? What will children learn if they see adults doing the same thing? Let’s not blame the kids.

However, there are lessons we can all learn.

Being a turban wearing Sikh male, I remember an unfortunate incident that happened to me on the London Underground, not long after the attacks on 9/11 in the US.

I was on my way in to the heart of London, from my suburban home with my CV in hand and research notes on my lap, eager to do some last minute revision for a job interview I was going to attend.

Completely oblivious to the rest of the people in my carriage, I sat intensely focused, practicing last minute questions I may potentially be asked.

Having full attention on my notes, I hadn’t noticed but the train had gotten busier as it approached central London.

There was a white, grey haired elderly couple sat across me. Both stared right at me as I looked up. But I was revising an answer to a potential question in my head so as you do, I did not think twice about it.

But as I looked at my notes, a thought did cross my mind “Were they just staring at me?”

Naturally, I was conscious about all the attacks I’d been hearing about post 9/11 on innocent members of society. Unfortunately, turban wearing Sikh men had been particularly targeted by the uneducated few.

So I looked at the couple again, rather sheepishly, half smiling as a sign of peace and comfort, hoping to neutralise any potential conflict.

This time when I looked up, the gentlemen staring at me, said something in the ear of his partner. I could not hear what he said, apart from a couple of words, but made out from his heavy brogue that they were North American.

This happened a few more times and each time they would stare or make some comment to each other.

I was thinking to myself  “no please, not today of all days”, I had an interview and I wanted my energy to stay high and positive just as it was when I left home that unsuspecting day.

I prayed that they would not say any racial slur against me. I even considered moving to another carriage because I had lost total focus at this point on my interview revision. This stress had consumed me.

I looked up at the map of the Piccadilly line and realised I only had three stops to go! “Yes!”, I thought to myself, “I can make it out of here and no one will say anything”. I decided just to keep my head down and hope nothing is said for the next three stops.

One stop passed. I thought “Phew, nothing. We’re at the home stretch. Two more steps to go”. I’m on time and no racial slur has affected my energy (too much).

As the train left for the penultimate stop I could see the couple opposite were fidgeting. “Noooo”. Why are they moving!?

I looked up and they both stared at me with the gentleman now holding the rail above him to balance whilst taking a step towards me. His wife following behind, gathering her handbag . This was their stop. But I knew they were not getting off without saying the uneducated, ignorant truth in their mind.

I thought, “Prabhmeet brace yourself, it’s going to happen”. I could tell from his body language that he was going to say something to me.

He leaned right over holding the rail above me and said straight faced while looking right in to my eyes with his thick American accent “My wife and I were just talking about you, and your turban”.

I thought ok, here we go.

Then he said “And we really admire it. We think it’s beautiful the way you tie it”, and smiled gently, with his wife nodding in agreement and smiling at me whilst holding the rails balancing behind him.

As the train stopped for their stop he turned around, almost like an old friend would and said “Have a nice day” and they both exited the train.

I was left sitting there in total shock! Amazed, happy, pleased, confused, relieved, curious. Disgusted and ashamed.

Not with them but with me.

Hearing an elderly American couple that fit the ‘profile’ of a racist I was quick to form a judgement on these wonderful peaceful human beings. Through my belief of victimisation, I had become the racist. Racism had effected me but in a very different way.

A realisation hit me that day.

It bred a completely different form of confidence in me through open mindedness and love. I did not want to be ignorant anymore. I looked at people with love, trust and optimism. I felt liberated, but also educated. Not with the type of education from academia or the news but from education of the soul. That couple showed me what spiritual wisdom looks like.

Recognise all of humanity as one. As is the message of the Sikh Guru’s.

Now when people stare at me, I smile back always remembering this story, safe in the knowledge that we should embrace our individuality and express our true self to the fullest. It would be a grave loss if we didn’t, not only to ourselves, but to all those who are curious, inspired or grateful for the opportunity to learn something new.

Whether with the Charlie Ebdo attacks, or any other terrorist acts, there will always be some people who want to confiscate our humanity. But there are always stories that restore it.

A good friend said to me once “Why does it matter what other people think of you, as long as you know who you are and what you stand for”.

And….as a bonus, I did end up getting the job I was going for.

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The meaning of life…from real world examples

I’m back in the UK after spending almost three weeks travelling with friends around the Far East and Australasia.

I wanted to meet as many people as possible from as far and varied backgrounds as possible to try to understand what happiness and the reason for our existence means to them.

I’ve come back a completely renewed man, with a very different perspective on life.

The journey started in Bangkok, Thailand. The hustle and bustle of the city which is full of organised chaos is enough to leave anyone drained.


The rich-poor divide was the unpleasant side of Thailand but one evening I witnessed something that made me stop and think.  In one of the grand shopping malls I heard a man say ‘excuse me’ in a Thai accent as he came up behind me. He was a shop worker, dressed in torn trousers and white short sleeve shirt that had been covered in dirt and grease. He wheeled out a cart of cardboard boxes whistling a song as loud as he could whilst pushing the cart as if you gave a kid a new toy car to play with. I was drawn to his mannerism. I couldn’t help but watch and smile as he zipped in and out of the crowd. His happiness was contagious. It left me with a realisation that happiness really is a state of mind. Can you remember the last time you whistled like that on your way to work..?


Being alive really is having gratitude for everything we have. Live free like a child again daily, not afraid of what people may think.  Imagine not living being anxious about the future or worried about the past. Then we can actually enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it.

The next stop was Auckland, New Zealand. It happened to be the country’s 175th birthday, so we joined in with the celebrations by the harbour. Resembling a big city, we soon left, heading towards Rotarua, a more remote town in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.


This place was filled with stunning natural beauty, geysers that shot up natural spring waters, and lakes omitting steam smelling of sulphur from its rich volcanic history. Green lakes, red lakes, yellow lakes, I’d never witnessed anything like it. I was shaken by the fact that there is a whole world out there where our science and technology is no where near as complex and articulate as nature.  And it exists. As proven recently with the discovery of Limpet teeth. I can’t now help but think every day when I am sat in front of my computer screen, there are natural miracles happening every second in the world simultaneously.


I made a friend from Brazil on the bus on the way back from a tour. He was travelling alone and we got talking about life. He was a forensic detective in Brazil and was studying at a University near Auckland. But he told me that was just an excuse. The real truth was that he wanted to get away from Brazil and the people. It left me thinking. How can someone who was brought up in his country, the same demographics, culture and heritage, feel like he wants to get away from those same people? Surely those people must provide the greatest comfort? But this clearly was not the case. I felt sad for him initially but then proud of the bravery he had taken upon himself to uproot and explore the world.

To really feel alive, I realised, I need to really go out and experience the world. The box we create for ourselves of the country or town we live in or the people that surround us does not have to be ‘life’. Step out of that box and you may find your real home.

I was completely fascinated by the Maori history and attended a show. There were around 100 plus guests and as part of the fun we were asked if anyone would like to be the Chief. My hand shot up! I was tasked to meet the ‘real’ chief of Maori tribe, understand their traditions and prepare a speech that will win the heart of the Chief so we can share their food. The significance of the tattoos soon became apparent. Each tattoo had a meaning and most represented real life animals. For example, on the legs, the warriors would have engraved a picture of a hammer head shark. In the wild the hammer head shark is known to keep battling with no retaliation until it either wins or dies. It was interesting to see as humans we think we are the most advanced of all species. However, true tribes living with nature, aspire to the natural qualities of wild animals. An elephant can not separate sugar from sand but the ‘powerless’ ant was given the power to do so.  I walked away with great respect for all creatures, each exhibiting a character we as humans can only admire.


Being alive is actaully having respect for all things. Whether great or small, human or animal. The world seems a lot more stress free when you live with humility. This opens us to learn from everyone and everything without our ego getting in the way. I’d rather live this way.

In Queenstown, in the South Island of New Zealand, the natural mountain ranges looked almost unreal. We stayed in a  wool shed, at the foot of some mountain ranges where you can hear nothing but nature. The numerous stars in the sky remind you of your insignificance in the grand scheme of things.


We took a single propeller plane through the mountain ranges, watching as spring water ran down the side, creating natural waterfalls.


Getting on a boat, hovering past sun bathing sea lions, we sat literally behind a waterfall amazed at the scary power of this natural eco system.


Later one evening, we had dinner with an engineer who built the second largest bungee jump in the world. He was in the process of building his own eco friendly home.  Together with his partner, they told us how they know what the rat race world is like, but they actively choose not to be part of it. “In Queenstown”, they went on tell us, “respect and status are not dependent on the car you drive or the size of your house, but rather on how much you have achieved of your true passion in life”. Respect is given if you snowboard down a new range or climb to the top of a certain mountain or become the greatest skier/surfer/rugby player. Not for the fame or money it will bring but because there is genuine enjoyment from doing it.

I realised living so you feel ‘alive’ is following your true passion. It is doing what you were created for. When you align yourself to what you actually enjoy doing, life seems a lot different. The mind does not think of extra hours of work but as an opportunity to learn more.

Seeing the city life in Sydney for a few nights, we saw the huge contrast in peoples mentality in a metropolis. But I learnt something about myself. I was offered the chance to go on a sailing boat. Not being a strong swimmer, this was not something I was comfortable with. Especially when it was in Bull Shark infested waters. But because I was not comfortable made me want to do it even more. I’m glad I did.


Being alive is playing the ‘Yes’ game. When there is an opportunity to do something…say yes! Only think about how uncomfortable it makes you after you have committed. Then there is no choice but to do it! You will learn more from an uncomfortable situation than a comfortable one.

Travelling to Hong Kong was a completely different experience. The fusion of so many different cultures and variety of people, all living in peace. The efficiency of the city and the use of space was something a lot countries will have an overwhelming feeling of reverence for. On the last night I made a friend who had graduated from university in the UK and travelled to Hong Kong in search of a new life. After constant job rejection and running out of savings he ended up sleeping on the streets. His grandparents then sent him weekly deposits so he could at least live in a hostel. But he refused to come home and kept his faith. He didn’t give up. When I met him he was currently working as a junior architect, taken under the wing of senior architect boss who met him and heard his story and passion for living in Hong Kong. He was loving life and more than anything proved he had achieved where everyone else thought he would fail. I found his story of self belief and confidence hugely inspirational.

Dream not to escape reality but to create reality. With hard work and determination it can will happen.


I’m grateful for all those people and experiences that opened my eyes to the real world, having been cushioned in the cocoon we build for ourselves.

The test comes in the application of these lessons but the application now for me is no longer a choice, but a necessity.

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Would Genghis Khan have taken your company to the top of the FTSE 100?

Genghis Khan. A CEO? You’re having a laugh.

One of the most deeply feared figures in history. Actually maybe we can put him in the Banking sector, as one of the regulators, to sort out the mess other banking directors have been creating.

On a serious note, what can we learn from Genghis Khan as a leader of people? This post is full of a synopsis of fascinating history and leadership lessons we can learn.

In 1162, in a tribe in Mongolia, Genghis Khan was born. In those days, a tribe was just made up of a few hundred people, living in tents in the middle of nowhere, probably in the low grounds of the mountain ranges.

At just nine years old he lost his father, the Chief of the tribe, who was poisoned by another rivalled tribe. He sat crying next to his father’s dead body and watched his mother weep. In that moment, he transitioned very quickly from a boy to a man.

On the realisation of the death of the Chief, all the men in the tribe left. Leaving behind women and children, including young Genghis. For nine years they had to fend for themselves. And at 18, as tradition had it, he travelled to a fellow tribe and exchanged gifts, in return for marriage and a wife. Genghis was said to be smitten by his bride.

Only a few days after his marriage, they were attacked by a rival tribe and as was the case in those days, the men were killed, riches stolen, tents burnt and women taken as prisoner.

Genghis and his blood brother (a name described to a friend treated as a proxy to a real brother) with a few other tribes men, decided to flee. Watching, riding in to the distance, as his newly wed wife was being captured and his tribal home lit up in flames.

He swore revenge.

Genghis visited a fellow tribe, who was his father’s blood brother when they were children although they had lost touch. After identifying himself, explaining his story and offering gifts, they formed an alliance and the armies set off together for retribution against the earlier imperious raid.

He managed to win back his wife and in the process destroyed any trace of the assailant tribe members with fervour. With this victory and the burning fire of pain still residing within his heart, Genghis’s quest for further expansion of his empire began.

How did a nine year old boy, having lost his father, end up ruling an empire of almost 12 million square miles? His empire, to put into context, was four times the size of Alexander the Great and twice as large as the Roman empire.

Genghis had asked the literate members of his tribe to document each strategy and win, so we are able to have first person accounts of this unrepeated history.

So how did he do it? Because he understood people.

As he continued winning battles other tribes men would approach him and ask to join his tribe. And so his army expanded.

But why did they stay with him? His thinking was not conventional. He did away with old traditions where only the linage of tribe chief’s would be rewarded senior positions in his tribe rankings.

Instead, he awarded members in his tribe based on their ability and loyalty.

When you join a new employee workforce, you also do join a type of tribe. Do you currently work in a company where you see promotions happening because someone ‘knows’ someone? Directors or Managers promoted all seem to be chummy and good friends? Although this motivates some ie those that are chummy, it leaves other employees demotivated. Employees realising ability and meritocracy are not the key drivers for promotion. This causes fractions of disengagement and disloyalty among employees, just as it would dangerously among an army base. Genghis understood this.

As always, a power struggle soon ensued. His blood brother, also a great and highly respected warrior, who Genghis had known since early childhood was now turning against him and wanted to be the sole leader of the tribe. Genghis was not interested in going against him but knew tensions had been rising.

Eventually, his blood brother broke away from the tribe and left with his loyal followers to develop his own tribe.

In a later battle, his blood brother’s army was strong and attacked Genghis’ men. However, Genghis had a formidable force himself and battle strategies conducted with precision. The blood brother lost the battle but survived and escaped with only a few of his men.

A few days after the battle, from the horizon approached the blood brother on horseback with his hands handcuffed behind his back accompanied by the blood brothers’ two most senior Generals. The blood brothers’ own two Generals had betrayed him.

Expecting a reward from Genghis Khan, the two Generals instead, to their surprise, were ordered to execution.

Genghis highly valued loyalty and this wasn’t selectable. This was demonstrated in his actions to his own tribe, by ordering the execution. Here it was the principle of loyalty that was important. The application of the principle showed integrity to his own men, not empty words or selective actions. The outcome was increased credibility and trust. Everyone knew where they stood with this leader. So they felt even more engaged.

Senior management today may talk a lot about certain objectives and values that their organisations should follow. How many of these are merely good intentions? Having a good intent is not always enough. Do we actually see these values actioned? How many companies do you know that talk about customer services as one of their key values are willing to actually lose some shareholder money sometimes to ensure customers are delivered the right product or service? Or willing to sacrifice a potential sale that could have meant that profit target was met this year, not because regulation tells them they have to but because they genuinely want to build their business that way? Do companies always walk the talk?

Furthermore, what can we say about a leader (or company) who breaks his/her own word? A leader who’s actions do not match their intentions. Just as the blood brother was betrayed by his own Generals, employees will betray a company they do not trust or respect.

Genghis also valued his word. As any great leader would and he further demonstrates this. On the surrendering of his blood brother, who earlier had tried to attack him, Genghis still offered forgiveness. Citing that a good man can sometimes be wrong but should be forgiven. He wanted his blood brother to rejoin his ranks and once again rule together. No ego involved but what was more important was his word.

How many managers or leaders today in organisations are forgiving? Many will not accept the responsibility, ensuring the blame will put on those who fail. Not feeling like employees are able to make mistakes only kills creativity, loyalty and engagement. Do this enough times in an organisation, developing a blame culture and you will have an employee base that forget what their responsibilities are and only remember what their rights are.

Thomas Watson, the once Chairman and CEO of IBM, is encounted as having been convinced by a young executive in his Company to invest a $600,000 in to a new business venture. The young exec was intelligent, diligent and full of passion for the business. IBM took a risk and invested in his idea. Months later the idea completely failed and the young exec ordered to go and see Thomas in his office! Naturally, as we all would, shaking in his boots, the young exec entered Thomas’s office sheepishly asking if he will now be fired. Thomas turned to him and said “Why would we fire you, when we have just spent $600,000 educating you?”.

Genghis also knew his power will only grow as people who joined his tribe saw that he had a purpose. His purpose was clear, he wanted to rule the world and that was a big objective to work towards.

This required a lot of motivation to remind his men of the purpose. Before any battle Genghis would stop and turn to his men on the battlefield, with the enemy a few hundred meters behind him and give his men some heart felt words of inspiration. He would take an arrow and hold it in the air and remind his tribes men that one arrow alone can be broken easily. Just as one tribe alone can be defeated. But if they work together, and by grabbing a handful of arrows, he demonstrated how they were difficult to break.

He made each person feel individually important and valued, by reminding them of their role of forming a strong unit together.

Similarly, we can see what happens in Companies. Employees who do not feel valued at work or feel that their individual contribution is meaningless are less likely to be motivated to help the company reach it’s objectives.

If you give a plant, sun, water and mud. It will thrive. Give that to a dog and it will die. Good leaders should know what people need. People need appreciation to help them grow.

Genghis also knew money only had a certain impact on motivating people.

It was near impossible with his army to even think about attacking China. In fact, the then Chinese Emperor sent Genghis a message saying we understand you are progressing your army towards China:

“How can you even think about attacking our empire which is the size of an ocean, where as your men in comparison are like a splash in the ocean?”

The Chinese were one of the most sophisticated and wealthy economies of the time. They were so rich they were able to actually employ armies by paying money to mercenaries to guard the Chinese borders.

On a battlefield as both armies faced off each other head to head, as was the method in those days, Genghis knew that a mercenary paid to do a job is only as valuable as the pay he receives.

In exchange for wealth, the mercenaries joined Genghis’s army! They advanced through in to China and through the alliance also gained the strategies and routes used by the Chinese armies.

In today’s world we see a high turnover of employees in companies. If you get better pay doing a job that is similar to your current role, would you not leave? How much loyalty to the company does your pay buy you?  Probably not much.

What if the company you worked for stood for a purpose? If they were trying to do things in a novel or ground breaking way and you wanted to be part of that movement? If you highly respected or even looked up to the character of the leaders? Would your loyalty to this company still change if you were offered more money to work in another company where these qualities perhaps did not exist? Maybe so, since we do have mortgages to pay, but you may stop and at least think twice. Or you may even return after leaving!

Finally, to summarise (naturally we can talk in great detail about this history) when Genghis Khan died, it is said all those involved in his funeral where themselves executed so that no one will know his final resting place. This is still the case today.

Perhaps he did not want people to worship his shrine? His purpose was to take over the world and although he did not achieve that completely, what was the purpose for wanting to take over the world? He was, nonetheless, a revolutionary for his time. He did grant religious freedom to his subjects, abolished torture, encouraged trade and created the worlds first postal system. Not to down play the horrific slaughtering in the course of his invasions, perhaps his character shows he wanted to reign the world not to boast about his success.

Do many leaders today want to change or rescue a company because they feel the company serves a purpose? Or is it more to say job well done and another boastful tick on the CV?

When leaders have a genuine desire to work in a company to leave it better than when they joined it, first prioritising serving customers and employees rather than shareholders, perhaps capitalism will be in a better place. This will create sustainable, long term profitable businesses.

If you’re interested in taking your company to the top of the FTSE 100, take some notes from Ghengis’s leadership style. My only advice is, just go easy on the executions along the way.

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Who is your Role Model?

So it’s 2015 (how did that happen!?).

It’s great to see how everyone has big dreams for this year. I am seeing all the new year’s resolutions all over social media. All the self promises, desires, things we want to change. Things we want to accomplish. I am doing it too!

Then every now and again you see that person in whatever field and you think wow. They’re living it.

Take a moment just to think if you could aspire to live a life like someone, who would that person be?

It doesn’t matter what field you are in but you may look up to someone that is important to you. An entrepreneur, a singer, a sports athlete, a humanitarian(!), a poet, or just someone who seems content with their life. A family man or woman.

But you may think, how did they achieve what they have to get to where they are today? And you may want to achieve that too. That’s not a bad thing.

To change bad habits we must first study the habits of successful role models.

The key point here is the habits. This will make more sense as I share my story.

We may aspire to do what they do, to be ‘like’ them. We feel inspired. They become somewhat our role models.

It took me a long time until I was in my 20’s to realise just how mis-understood and dangerous this could be.

How do you select who your role model is?

When I was 17, there is a lot of pressure to decide what you want to do in your life. As you write University applications, they ask what do you want to major in? Which is pretty much a way of saying, sooooo…what do you want to do for the rest of your life?

At that time, my uncle who is a close relative frequently visited us from America. He had gone to study in Texas. He ended up being a an energy trader at Enron and worked his way up (I should point out, he was one of the ‘good’ traders). After Enron’s demise he worked in a hedge fund. I remember at 19 I googled his name and many articles came up saying how he is a rising star, interviews with big newspapers and trading magazines. Dinner with the President. He was still in his early 30’s and I was very impressed. He was very well respected. But he was still very humble.

To me he was my role model. His life as a trader seemed amazing. But I never asked myself why he was my role model. No one ever questioned me either. It was obvious. I wanted that life.

So I worked hard and achieved top grades. I set my route to be a trader. I applied to the top investment banks to get in to a trading type role. As I researched for interviews I had no real interest in equity or bond trading patterns. It didn’t excite me. But I wanted the life of my role model. The people I met didn’t make me feel comfortable. I felt like I was forcing this dream. My heart was never in it and naturally I did not get a role in Trading. I had failed.

I realised I was trying to live my uncle’s life. I was trying to follow his journey. His life. His opportunities. I was trying to recreate them. But I wasn’t him. I was me. I had my own journey. I had my own adventures in this life that I was meant to go on…

Having a role model is good for inspiration. But not aspiration to have a life like them.

A true role model will teach you to have love and respect for yourself. To ensure that you achieve what you have been created for.

I am not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball does not mean I should raise your kids – Charles Barkley. 

Additionally, no one role model, even for inspiration, will be able to give you all the aspects that make you and your life. You can have the same career as someone else, sure, but you are made up of so much more.

People will not remember what you try and teach them. But they will remember who you are as a person.

I am my own role model. Was the conclusion that I reached.

I realised it is good to look at the habits of role models but not to get confused with trying to recreate their life. Happiness will only come when you break down expectations of living a life like someone else. Create your own path.

Achieve the things that you value. Things that make you comfortable. That excite you!

Make many mistakes along the way. That’s what a really inspirational role model does.

Starting today, realise that you are your own role model. When you realise this….sky’s the limit.

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How do you decide how to make the right choice?

How is it, paradoxically, that sometimes having the freedom of choice can make us less happy?

When it is time to make a decision and we don’t know what to do, the brain weighs up the pro’s and con’s of both sides. This is what we have been taught. Almost like a very quick mini SWOT analysis.

Naturally, when you are in a situation where you have to decide between two or more options, you will chose the option with the most positive benefits.

Then sometimes you get that ‘feeling’. And now you’re stuck. Both options have now got an ‘equal’ amount of pro’s and con’s. Has this ever happend to you?

This doesn’t just have to be for the big decisions like getting married, choosing a career or moving country. It can also be for the every day smaller decisions, like whether to go to the gym, out with friends, what clothes to wear or even what to eat from the menu.

You are left indecisive for minutes, hours or even weeks and months.

Firstly, what is the cost of not making a decision?

The natural one is worry and anxiety about the future. When you worry, this impacts your health. An obvious point. But how seriously do we actually take this?

We may miss other great opportunities or moments in life. If the decision has to be made over several days or weeks it makes it more difficult to focus on life. Perhaps we are blinded to other opportunities while the mind is occupied with doubt.

I know when I am like this, my whole energy is impacted and I don’t live in the present moment at all. It happened in April this year when I had to make big career decision. This went on for weeks. Both jobs had great benefits but different types. They were not measurable on a scale. One gave me a stable life with good income and the other an opportunity to fly around the world, get promoted work on amazing clients but potentially long hours. It was like comparing apples with pears.  Without knowing, my health was being impacted as I was pulled between the two choices. It would always be on the back of my mind wherever I was, whatever I was doing. Looking back it seems ridiculous but when you are in that position, it feels like your biggest priority to resolve.

“Worrying is really just a misuse of imagination”

Secondly, why does this indecisiveness happen? What makes it so hard to make the decision?

1. Fear of being wrong. It’s a survival technique. I did not know what each career choice would actually turn out like. Perhaps I would have enjoyed travelling the world. Or working in senior exec position. But what if my stable life allowed me to pursue charitable events outside of work and that actually made me more happy? How do I know what the future looks like? What if I regret the decision I make and then I am unhappy? The same applies to smaller decisions. What if eating pizza made me more happy but instead I chose pasta which didn’t taste great. I don’t want to be wrong and both are equally nice in their own way, therefore I’m stuck.

2. Not having faith in my own decisions. Connected to the first point but this is more about not trusting myself or the decision I make is the right one. I met a lady recently at UBS Culture Awareness Network event, who is senior Exec at Deutsche Bank. She told me how over the years, whether it was interviewing people or strategic corporate decisions how she relied more strongly on her intuition. She was completed attuned to her intuition which gave her a lot of belief in her decisions. It doesn’t mean she’s not weighing up the facts, but when choices are hard to separate we have to turn to another deciding factor – what does your gut say.

3. We do not actually know much about ourselves. This is why we are indecisive. I chose the less enjoyable, safer job, stable life with more free time. Yet I thought life was about big promotions, city jobs and top executive positions. The values that I intend to have are different to the values that I actually have. Having a hard decision makes us learn this. Hard decisions can be considered a blessing!

“Every hard decision you make, regardless of the outcome, will teach you something about yourself. Therefore, welcome the hard decisions.”

Thirdly, When we have to make a hard decision, what can we do to enable us to make the right decision, quickly?

What if you were the type of person that can make hard decisions quickly? And be happy with your choice.

I’ve had to learn some tough lessons when making decisions. So here are some techniques that help make a decision quickly and confidently.

1. Know first of all that any decision you make there will be loss of one good thing but a gain in another. That’s why there is a deadlock. Accept the loss. I’m not travelling around the world with promotions but I also accept that there is much more to life than working long hours. In this, I realised I value both time and money. But I value time over money.

2. Have self belief in your decision. Believe what your ‘gut’ says. Eastern philosophy believes the energy we have is sourced from our gut. The gut instinct is also a survival technique that all beings have – it comes as part of the package when we get our bodies. Trust your gut instinct and trust that whatever you decide is the right thing. That pizza may have been great but it may have made you sick. Therefore, the pasta you chose even if you did not like the taste when you had it was the right decision at the time.

“You will make the right decisions, if you believe you are right. Be defiant in your self-belief.” 

3. Be open to learn. Therefore, you can’t be wrong. Regardless of the decision you make, you will learn something about yourself that you did not know before. This is an invaluable lesson. Make the decision, learn from it and better yourself for next time.

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The prophetable way of running a business…

“Being nice to customers is new strategy for me”, said Michael O’Leary the boss of Ryanair, as he sees profits climb 32% in the last six months.

“I wish I’d been nicer earlier to customers”, he goes on to say.

This is business Michael! The profit growth must have been attributed to something else, surely there’s no time to show love to your customers. Or is there?

What is the right way of running a business, from both a customer and employee perspective if you truly want to make long term sustainable profits? Whether you are setting up a business or work in a company, this is what I have found by interviewing real people running successful, sustainable companies.

“Companies should focus on being admired. Not just financially successful. Can the company serve society in some way, so much so that it can outlive its founders?”. That should be the real aim.

Companies recently have actually industrialised humanity. The industrial revolution needed a command and control environment. Employees would do the same task day in day out, overlooked by a manager who had been doing the same task with more experience. In a process driven environment this command and control method worked.

But by trying to create very well paid compliant robots just doesn’t work anymore.

As human beings, we are taught to be very rational. But the truth is, we are very emotional. Therefore, leaders can not command people. But they can inspire and value people.

When employees are inspired and valued, they feel important so they feel empowered. When you are able to empower employees they start to engage. Once engaged, employees enjoy what they are doing and so you get increased creativity, and they in fact motivate other employees. They do the hard work for you, releasing energy of top management. All this increases growth, profits and sustainability of the business.

Last week I met with Sudhakar Ram, CEO of Mastek a multinational IT company. Sudhakar told me he measures success in two ways:

1. If the sales force is reducing in size, this shows your business is becoming more successful (since customers are advocates of the company)

2. Are employees happy and thrilled or are they bored out of their minds

“We have scrapped all appraisals. It doesn’t make people happy. So why do company’s do it? We start by giving everyone a top performance rating then ask them to prove why they deserve it. The results are phenomenal. It allows people to stretch out of their comfort zone to achieve much more than they thought they could. Each person then develops a craft discipline, that of a master craftsman”.

When you scrap appraisals there is no way of getting feedback unless you seek it.

Plotting people on a normal distribution for grading also doesn’t happen at Mastek. Seriously, which corporate comedian came up with this distribution method? It always made me laugh. A peer evaluation is much more of a sensible approach where outperformers are identified as those not just with technical knowledge but have also improved the lives of those around them.

What about customers? Mastek notes that only a 1/3 of any project is ever successful in terms of time or cost. This had to change. So they set up joint remuneration goals based on deliverables. The service provider and receiver then work together on projects, rather than blaming each other for project failure.

I also met Mike Smith, a freelance journalist, author and head of Business Programmes at Initiatives of Change UK, to ask if he has heard of anything like this. He came up with a list of ethical business people and social activists. In fact, he liked their work so much that he has written a book about them and their success ‘Trust and Integrity’! This had really started to convince me that it wasn’t an isolated few but vast variety of international businesses that have taken up a culture of service, both to employees and customers alike.

Laughing over lunch with Benjamin, one of the co-owners of Mosob, an Eritrean Restaurant voted one of the top 10 in London, visited recently by stars like Stevie Wonder and Johnny Glover, I asked what is the recipe to his success? How did a poor family moving to the UK, with hardly a shirt on their back build such a successful business? His answer was quite simple:

“I listen to my customers and understand each customer’s needs, individually. I make them feel important not for who they are but what they are, a human being”.

He then played a little game with me where he said assign each letter in the alphabet a number starting with A = 1. If you spell out the word ‘Attitude’, the sum of the numbers equals 100. Your service to your employees or customers is then 100, if that’s positive, that’s 100% positive, if it’s negative that’s 100% negative. There’s no in between.

“The biggest discovery for human beings is that by changing your attitude, you can change your destiny”

Through meeting these people I realised they all had one thing in common. They actually cared about people. As in they genuinely cared. In fact, it’s what gave them strength, I could see it in their eyes when I was speaking to them.

If you truly want to make long term sustainable profits, first be ready to serve humanity.

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