Archive for July, 2013

Another Convocation Address …

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: Searching for Success |

Extracts of a Graduation Address by Nipun Mehta, (chosen by the graduating students themselves), on May 27, 2013.

To you, the Class of 2013, Congratulations! I can tell how you’re feeling: “happy, free, confused, and lonely, miserable and magical at the same time!”  The question! Will you, Class of 2013 step up to rebuild a culture of trust, empathy and compassion?  

Our crisis of disconnection needs a renaissance of authentic friendship. We need you to upgrade us from Me-Me-Me to We-We-We. Reflecting on my own journey, there have been three keys that helped me return to a place of connection. 

The First Key Is To Give.

When I was about your age, Silicon Valley was in the seductive grip of the dot-com boom. It was a time when it was easy to believe that Greed was Good. But a small group of us had a different hypothesis: *Maybe* greed is good, but Generosity is better.

We tested that hypothesis. When I started ServiceSpace, our first project was to build websites for nonprofits at no charge. We ended up building and gifting away thousands of sites, but that wasn’t our main goal. Our real purpose was to practice generosity.

In the early days, the media was pretty sure we had a hidden agenda. “We’re doing this just to practice giving with no strings attached,” we said. The few who actually believed us didn’t think we could sustain it. The thing is – we did. A decade later, when our work started attracting millions of viewers, entrepreneurs told us that we’d be crazy to not slap on ads or try to monetize our services.

The thing is – we didn’t.  We probably *were* a bit crazy. And when we started Karma Kitchen, people really thought “No way!”  It was a restaurant where your check always read zero, with this note: “Your meal is paid for by someone before you, and now it’s your chance to pay it forward.”  The thing is – 25 thousand meals later, the chain continues in several cities around the globe. People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are simply wired to give.

In one study at Harvard, scientists surprised a couple hundred volunteers with an unexpected monetary reward and gave them the choice of keeping it or giving it away. The only catch was that they had to make the decision spontaneously. Lo and behold, the majority chose – to give away the money! Greed, it turns out, is a calculated after-thought. Our natural instinct is, and always has been, to give.

Our capacity to love is a currency that never runs out. May each of you tap into that generous ocean and discover every day, what it means to give.

The Second Key Is To Receive

When we give, we think we are helping others.  That’s true, but we are also helping ourselves. With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our biochemistry changes, our mind quietens, and we feel a sense of gratefulness. This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives.

A couple summers ago, we had two 14-year-olds, Neil and Dillan, interning at ServiceSpace.  One of their projects was a 30-day kindness challenge — they had to come up with and do a different act of kindness every day for a month. In the beginning they had to plan “kindness activities”, but slowly they learned how to spontaneously turn their daily life into a canvas for giving.  Doing the dishes for mom without her asking, stopping to help a stranger with a flat tire, standing up for a bullied kid, gifting all their winnings at the arcade to a child.

Very quickly, kindness shifted from being an activity — to a way of life.

It wasn’t just about who they were helping; it was about who they themselves were becoming through the process. Last weekend, I happened to see Neil after a while, the day after Senior Prom, and he had a story to share, “Last night I noticed that the dance floor was too small and a few of the special needs students just couldn’t get on. So I grabbed a bunch of my friends, and we started dancing in a little circle around them.  Everyone had a great time.”  Then, he paused for a reflective moment, and asked me, “But I felt so good about doing that. Do you think I was being selfish?”

What a profound question. What Neil experienced was the fact that when we give, we receive many times over.

When we think of generosity, we typically think of it as a zero sum game. If I give you a dollar, that’s one less dollar for me. The inner world, though, operates with an entirely different set of rules.  The boundaries aren’t so easy to decipher. Your state of being inherently affects my state of being. This isn’t feel-good talk. It’s actual science. Research shows that, in close proximity, when people feel connected, their individual heartbeats actually start to synchronize — even with zero physical contact. In neuroscience, the discovery of mirror neurons has shown us that we literally do feel each other’s pain — and joy.

And joy is *definitely* not a zero-sum game. The law of abundance says that if I give you a smile, that’s not one less smile for me.The more I smile, the more I *do* smile. The more I love, the more love I have to give. So, when you give externally, you receive     internally. How do the two compare?  That’s a question only you can answer for yourself, and that answer will keep changing as your awareness deepens.

Yet this much is clear: if you only focus on the externals, you’ll live your life in the deadening pursuit of power and products. But if you stay in touch with your inner truth, you will come alive with joy, purpose, and gratitude. You will tap into the law of abundance. May you discover that to be truly selfish, you must be generous. In giving, may you fully experience what it means to receive.

The Third Key Is To Dance

Our biggest problem with giving and receiving is that we try and track it. And when we do that, we lose the beat. The best dancers are never singularly focused on the mechanics of their movements. They know how to let go, tune into the rhythm and synchronize with their partners.

It’s like that with giving too. It’s a futile exercise to track who is getting what. We just have to dance. 

Here was this guy who, always when he walked into a fancy restaurant, he told the waiter to find a couple that is most madly in love. “Put their tab on my bill, and tell them a stranger paid for their meal, with the hope that they pay it forward somewhere somehow,”   Being a fan of Batman, he took his anonymity seriously: “If anyone finds out it was me, the deal is off.”

Many restaurants, and waiters, knew him for this.  And as a food connoisseur, some of his favorite places were also quite pricey — upwards of a couple hundred bucks per person.

On one such day, he walks into a nice restaurant and does his usual drill. The person serving him obliges.  However, this time, the waiter comes back with a counter request.  “Sir, I know you like to be anonymous, but when I told that couple about the tab being covered, the woman just started sobbing. In fact, it’s been ten minutes and she’s still tearing up. I think it would make her feel better if you were to just introduce yourself, just this once.”

Seeing this, he agrees to break his own cardinal rule and walks over to introduce himself. “M’aam, I was only trying to make your day. If it has brought up something, I’m so sorry.” The woman excitedly says, “Oh no, not at all.  You’ve just made my year, maybe my life. My husband and I, well, we work at a small nonprofit with physically challenged kids, and we have been saving up all year to have this meal here. It is our one year marriage anniversary today.”  After a pause, she continues, “We always serve others in small ways, but to receive a kind act like this on our special day, well, it’s just an overwhelming testimonial that what goes around comes around. It renews our faith in humanity. Thank you. Thank you *SO* much.

Sometimes you’re giving and sometimes you’re receiving, but it doesn’t really matter because the real reward of that give and take doesn’t lie in the value of what’s being exchanged. The real reward lies in what flows between us  our connection.

So, my dear friends, there you have it. The bad news is that we’re in the middle of a crisis of disconnection, and the good news is that each and every one of you has the capacity to repair the web — to give, to receive and to dance.

No matter what you have, or don’t have, we can all give. The good news is that generosity is not a luxury sport.

Harker Class of 2013, may you ALL find Greatness in Service to Life. May you all GIVE, RECEIVE and NEVER STOP DANCING.

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Re Your Safety and Security on the Net …

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: American Thinkers, Business, Guide Posts, Searching for Success |

Mat Honan of Wired magazine wrote a very detailed article last year about security flaws that led to an epic hack of his Twitter, Apple and Google accounts. It is a fascinating read and showcases the relatively straightforward techniques that can enable someone to breach our accounts. The steps outlined above are basic but taken together can seriously protect you and your assets online.

Here are Top 11 tips for online protection from a pro:

1) ALWAYS use strong passwords (combination of capital letter, number and punctuation).

2) Don’t use the same passwords for all accounts and change passwords regularly. This is easier said than done but it’s a necessary evil. You would never use the same key for your house, your car and your bank safe deposit box and the same applies online. 

3) A more secure entry check would be to use a two step authentication process which requires you to receive a session PIN (via SMS). Several web services are beginning to offer this option and it is recommended using this for the most important sites where you have financial and other personally identifiable information (PII) data.

4) The backup accounts used for restoring and resetting your password should be one that you use actively and provide near real-time notifications.

5) Back up your data into multiple and diverse solutions such as an external portable hard drive in conjunction with a secured cloud based backup solution. Don’t rely on a single storage medium for your most important data (family photos, etc.)

6) Basic information like your address and birthday are easily obtainable online. Always use secret questions that are fairly obscure and only you or close family would know.

7) Another good practice is to make sure public profiles on Google or Facebook are controlled and you only share information that you are comfortable the whole world can see. Don’t make it easy for someone to guess your password.

8) Full disk encryption (e.g., BitLocker for Windows, FileVault for Mac OS X, dm-crypt + LUKS for Linux) for your personal machines is critical to secure your data in the event you misplace or lose it. That way, despite the loss of the hardware, it becomes more difficult for someone else to access your data.

9) Be wary of using your credit card or other sensitive information online with websites that are not well known. Always ensure that HTTPS/SSL encryption is used when performing any transaction that requires you to enter sensitive information including your username and password. Look for https on the URL and the padlock icon in the URL. To even be safer, one can click the padlock and ensure the site has a valid certificate (such as Verisign).

10) Enable every alert possible for transaction confirmations, password changes and other notifications. It is one of the best ways to keep on top of any unauthorized change in any online account. Pay attention to the options each site provides and enable as many as possible.

11) Be aware of email phishing scams where a hacker attempts to gather information about you such as your username, passwords, or credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity. Avoid clicking on any suspicious links or providing any data about yourself. Always contact the entity directly using their published contact details to validate if it’s a legitimate request.

I diligently follow these tips but it just so happened that for my PayPal account which had been dormant I hadn’t updated my password in a long time and suffered as a result. I learned my lesson and luckily there was no damage in the end, but it was a good reminder to keep your eye on the ball.

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A US General on Defense Pay Scales …

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career, Guide Posts, Personalities, Searching for Success |

The US Congress had defeated the Bill providing better pay for Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers of the Armed Services, 
Then General Omar N Bradley, Chief of Staff of the US Army, declared –
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“More than any institution, the Army is in the business of People.
If we are to be outbid for the services of outstanding men, then I submit that we shall entrust our Security future to rejects,- content to make their way in a steady job at steady pay. An Army so handicapped in peace time cannot cope to produce the Generals it needs in War. Bargain personnel seldom produce a bargain Security system.
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Yet our Government clings to the theory that it can deal forever in basement prices on the talents of men.
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We are in danger of making Patriotism a luxury that the most able men can no longer afford. A talented young man must choose between a Military career and the prospect of greater abundance for his family. By our failure to modernize pay scales, we have told him he can’t have both.
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Inferior inducements attract second rate men. Second rate men invite second rate Security.
 In war, there is no Second prize for the runner-up”.
 
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Sam Bahadur – Remembered on his Death Anniversary

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Personalities |

The first Obit –

He broke through the anonymity of military uniform, became a legend of his times, and found a prominent place in modern India’s pantheon. For a nation born out of non-violence, military heroes cannot be commonplace. However, Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, who died in 2008, was a rare exception. – Joey Joseph.

The 94-year-old Field Marshal died at the Military Hospital in Wellington, close to his Connoor residence in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. He was given a state funeral with full military honours in Ooty on Friday evening. There was, however no attendance from the Govt or even the Army. “Without doubt one of India’s greatest soldiers and a truly inspiring leader,” is how prime minister Manmohan Singh described him.

Leader Sam was, ever since he joined the British Army in 1934 as commissioned officer number IC-0014, after his training in the first batch of the Indian Military Academy. He was initially attached to the Royal Scouts and later to the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment. After independence he moved to the Gurkha regiment. For the rest of his life, he was “Sam Bahadur” to friends, peers and millions of others. 

During World War II, as a young Captain, Manekshaw was at the forefront of the British Empire’s desperate efforts to check the Japanese military surge into India. Near Sittang river in Burma, the young captain was fatally wounded as he led a charge. A senior British officer, who was aware of the courageous counter-charge led by Manekshaw, saw him struggling for life. Legend has it the officer pulled off his own Military Cross and pinned  it on Manekshaw, saying a “dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross”. 

As India became independent, Manekshaw moved to the military operations headquarters of the Army in New Delhi and was involved in the Kashmir operations and several other sensitive operations of his day. His straight-talk landed him in trouble. He had a serious fallout with then defence minister VK Krishna Menon. But such distractions didn’t stop Manekshaw’s meteoric climb.

Manekshaw would actually be remembered for a long time to come for his sterling role in India’s 1971 war against Pakistan, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh and a humiliating defeat of Pakistan. “Sam Bahadur was the architect and the inspiring leader of the operation and the consequent military victory in what is now Bangladesh,” Singh said. 

Manekshaw also symbolised some of the greatest attributes of Indian democracy. In 1969, then Army chief, General PP Kumaramangalam was retiring and the government had to pick between two brilliant military minds: Manekshaw and Lt General Harbaksh Singh. The latter had powerful connections, was from a royal family and had an equally brilliant career. But the government decided on Manekshaw. By 1971, he proved why he enjoyed such respect, as he headed the Army’s brilliant campaign, backed by a strong political leadership, and created Bangladesh. 

“In his demise, the nation has lost a great soldier, a true patriot and a noble son,” defence minister AK Antony said on Friday. The country honoured him with Padma Vibhushan in 1972, and conferred upon him the rank of Field Marshal. The only other Field Marshal of the country was the late KM Cariappa. 

Manekshaw was Independent India’s true military hero, mesmerising generations into the glamour and valour of military life, helping India emancipate itself from the humiliations of 1962 with a thunderous victory in 1971. And taking forward age-old traditions of humour-in-uniform with panache. There are many who believe that Field Marshal KM Cariappa and General KS Thimayya were far better military leaders, but it isn’t a matter of dispute who of the three would live longer in democratic India’s memories. 

As a child Sam almost went to England to be a doctor like his father. He would have “liked me to be a gynaecologist”, Sam would say. As a General, destiny made him the
mid-wife in the birth of Bangladesh, and several folklores.

And now this is by Sam’s old MA

There is a saying that “victory has many parents, defeat is an orphan.” So the 1971 victory has many claimants, of being its architect, but the fact of the matter is that it was Sam Manekshaw’s strategic vision and character which ensured that we didn’t enter the war prematurely. 

And we only started when we were ready. And thus made the enemy play to your tune rather than you play to enemy’s tune.

Correlated with that, one must give credit to Mrs Gandhi, who despite all political pressures had the audacity to accept the advice of a professional, and not to hustle him into doing anything prematurely. The operations of 1971 were planned by him, conducted by him, and won by him. 

The war days were a relaxed atmosphere in the headquarters, there was never tension and the mornings would start with me going around getting details of what had happened in the last 24 hours. I would brief him when he came into the office around 9 or little earlier. He would then push off to the PM, everyday, brief her, come back, and then the defence minister would walk across to his office, get briefed. Then there would be a chiefs of staff meeting, and orders would be issued for 24 hours. Very relaxed! 

That time even though he gave that impression of being relaxed, internally there was a lot of tension. So his natural wit was at a premium, I remember. 

Many stories have been spawned over by many, but the fact is that when Mrs Gandhi was first briefed about incursions in the military operations room, she asked, “Can we do something to ease pressure?” He turned to her: “Prime Minister, you never allowed me to enroll goondas into the Army, so there is nothing that I can do at the moment.” She just smiled, and said, “OK.” 

The day after that or so there was the cabinet meeting at which the Field Marshal was invited, where everyone was insisting that we must go in right away. That is where he said, “I am glad that you all are playing Hamlet without the prince.” 

Then he got after the finance minister saying, “I asked for tanks you haven’t given me money for that.” And another minister, complaining about some other pending sanction. “How can you now tell me to start right away? I will only start operations when I am ready,” he said. Since the PM had already accepted the advice, it was left to his professional judgment. 

It was his human qualities that really attracted people to him, his abilities to be gracious, to be kind, to be giving and not demanding anything in return except hard work. And hard work is what we are paid for. That is what sort of earned him all that charisma he generated, and it made people following him loyally. 

When finally Bangladesh was liberated, and the moment for accepting Pakistan’s surrender in Dhaka came, he said, “(Lt General) Jagjit Singh Arora (then chief of the army’s eastern command) fought this battle, it is but right that he accept this surrender.” He was ready to give due, equally ready to accept blame. 

One remembers him happily, always a light hearted spirit. Sadness, as in this moment, was never attached to his character. 

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Sam Bahadur – Tribute on his Death Anniversary

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

(The author of the piece is a Retired Army officer, who worked for many years under Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, but wishes to remain anonymous)
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It was a crisp golden morning. And I had a problem. I walked to the office of my boss – Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was just preparing to leave for a meeting with the Defence Secretary for a routine briefing. Sensing that I looked troubled, he paused, looked straight into my eyes, as usual, and asked. “What’s bothering you General?” I poured out the reason for my despair. I had been appointed by Sam Bahadur as the Army representative on the Fourth Pay Commission panel.
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There were two others as well, one each from the Air Force and the Navy. And then, there were the bureaucrats. Whatever we defense personnel recommended, the bureaucrats would shoot down. If we’d prepare one note, they’d prepare two to counter it. I was frustrated. I felt there was no point on being on a panel that didn’t take cognizance of our views. 
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Sam Bahadur put his arm around me and asked me to accompany him to the Defense Secretary. As we walked in to the meeting, he announced, “My nominee has something to say.” He indicated to me that I speak with candor. 
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Soon after, all civilian members of the Pay Panel were dropped. This is just one of the many incidents. Much earlier, I had encountered his sense of fair play. He valued honesty and hard work above all else. If he felt there was genuine case, he would not even be too much of a stickler for rules.
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I was working under him as an S&T appointment. Ordinarily, people in this department are not shifted to Infantry. However, precedence did not stop him from recommending me twice for the promotion to the Defense Ministry. 
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An incident that stands out was one that followed the 1962 War with China. During the War, our Corp Commander Lieutenant General B N Kaul ordered a large amount of supplies and arms to be dropped in the hills for the soldiers. The War ended in a drubbing and Lt Gen Kaul was sacked. But the auditors were at our door. They wanted me to account for all the equipment and supplies. I had few answers. I told them frankly, that I was only carrying out the boss’ order. Unsatisfied, they recommended action.
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In the meantime, Sam Bahadur took over as our Corp Commander. I narrated to him the entire episode. He just said two words, “Don’t Worry.” 
And before I knew it, Manekshaw had used his special privilege as a Corp Commander to write off that humungous amount as war losses. And the story ended. He had saved my skin, but he did not even subtly mention the huge favour that he had done. 
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Sam Maneskshaw was bone honest. Supplies to the Mess would come from Calcutta. Officers would often complain and clamour for a more lavish fare. I told him that this was possible, only that he would get a bad name. He minced no words when he told me, “Don’t listen to them. Do only what is right.” 
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Sam Bahadur was a very sympathetic man. Yet he was extremely strict and a complete disciplinarian.
It was wartime 1971. Our secrets were being leaked. And we knew of this. 
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Sam Manekshaw summoned me and two others to his office and told us that the enemy was getting hold of our intelligence information. Something had to be done. And he had a plan. So far, most information would go out as written instructions, coded or otherwise. Which meant it could be officers, or clerks who typed it. He had decided to do away with the system. 
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While routine information would be typed and sent out, all information related with strategy and intelligence would be sent through us. We would work as liaison officers between him and the field commanders. Manekshaw would give us oral information and we would pass it on word by word. It was a clever move and it worked. Pakistan was foxed. 
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Then came triumph. Bangladesh had been liberated. Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw to take the surrender. It was that glorious occasion that would go down in the annals of history. It was his moment under the Sun. Yet, he refused.
Manekshaw told the PM, “My Field Commander will do the honours.” It was an example of his epic generosity. 
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And forever in time, the image of Lt Gen Jagjit Aurora getting the surrender papers signed by Niazi will hang over our mantle pieces. 
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When Sam Bahadur visited Dacca, Lt Gen Aurora sent him a luxurious car to come. But he refused point blank. “I don’t want to ride in a stolen car, I will travel in our military Jeep,” he quipped.
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It was a message he wanted to send out loud and clear. He would not tolerate looting. It speaks volumes of his eminent character that he wanted to ensure dignity in our victory. 
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Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was indeed a remarkable officer and a great gentleman! 
 

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