Category Archives: Excellence

Burden of choice

As if the gajillion choices we have to make every day weren’t bad enough.  Assuming the faint of heart (who like yours truly cry at a mere hint of the cheesiest emotional moments in Bollywood movies) are ready to witness the plight of an average Torontonian/ big-city-North-American, and have their embroidered hankies handy (yes this bad pun was intended), allow me to provide a sample:

  • There are 100+ brands of cereals starting with the letters A-C alone…. I stopped counting beyond 3 digits
  • At any given moment, about 50+ movies are playing in Toronto mainstream movie theatres
  • Within a 10 minute walk in a busy downtown area, one encounters at least 30 places to eat
  • A mid-sized shopping mall has 150+ stores to visit

… and this isn’t even beginning to tell the story.  We haven’t even talked about the tv channels and programs yet.

Amidst all this, we Canadians have our federal elections.  A blip of an event compared to our “glamourous big brother” down South, with a total time of a month and change for election ramp up to October 14th, compared to the years of effort spent elsewhere (e.g. Southern Republican Leadership Conference Hotline Straw Poll was held in 2006 for the 2008 US presidential elections).

Gone are the comforts of non-democracy, where we had one (or a few million) less decisions to make.  We have, by choice, take on the burden of choice.  Our decisions might have an impact.  (The purists who believe democratic govts do exactly as their citizens want, and therefore voting alone will have an impact, can write their own blog.)  Voting is a big responsibility.  I know because they told me so when I was studying for the citizenship exam.

I need comfort food to help me deal with this.  Sleep deprivation due to indecision (or any other less honourable reason) is best remedied with freedom fries.  And what one reads in the free newspapers while walking to work or standing squished in the rush hour subway traffic, does not really help reduce the confusion or indecision.

So I decided to read up on how the wise predecessors have dealt with the unique challenges of democracy and the responsibility of running for office, to reinstill in myself the faith in political leadership and abilities.  A subset of the fruits of my efforts (which involved simultaneous internet surfing, typing and slurping veggie soup), follows:

  • One day while campaigning against Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election, Adlai Stevenson was approached by a female admirer. “Governor,” she enthused, “every thinking person will be voting for you.” “Madam, that is not enough,” Stevenson replied. “I need a majority!”  Needless to say, despite his popularity among intellectuals, Stevenson lost the election.
  • In 1858, Abraham Lincoln campaigned against Stephen Douglas for an Illinois Senate seat. (Lincoln once described an argument made by Douglas as “thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.”)  Following Lincoln’s loss, he was asked how he felt (by a sympathetic friend). “Like the boy who stubbed his toe,” Lincoln replied, “I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”
    [Adlai Stevenson recalled this story following his loss to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election.]
  • In 1974, Richard Nixon, not noted for his social graces, visited Paris to attend the funeral of French president Georges Pompidou. “This,” Nixon remarked during the ceremony, “is a great day for France!”
  • During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore’s daughter Kristin praised his role as a mentor. “He was… the guy who helped me study for my third-grade state-capital quiz,” she explained. “Seattle – I got it down.”  Sadly, the record does not indicate who broke the embarrassing news to the Gores: the capital of Washington state is in fact… Olympia.
  • In October 2002, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned the Ferrari Spider which he had recently purchased, explaining that it did not fit his new image. The flashy car, he told the dealership’s president, might give potential voters the wrong idea: “I feel I need a car that would better telegraph my image as a candidate for California governor – a car that says I’m a man of the people.”  In March 2003, Schwarzenegger bought… an Austrian tank (called a Pinskower) modified to render it legal to drive on city streets.

Hmm…. eeny meeny miny moe

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How badly do you want it?

I was complaining to a friend that I can’t jump (no, you cliche-loving pop-culture aficionado, I’m not a white man but it can apply to asian females just as well!) This inability was particularly frustrating in a class taught by young athletic instructors who made it look so easy, and thereby increased my sense of clumsiness. I kept reminding myself of all the reasons why they could do it and I couldn’t. And my friend simply asked me… “How badly do you want it?” Needless to say, that’s the last time I complained about that particular non-achievement! (Now if I just stopped complaining, period, I’d demoralize everyone by implying my life is perfect, so for the sake of others’ happiness I selflessly persevere :P)

Thomas Edison said “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.

Research blows the “oh s/he is naturally better at it” theory out of the water by demonstrating that people become “expert” at certain things because they just plain worked at it. Long and hard. Actually, it’s been measured. 10,000 hours of practice. That’s a lot of time to be away from other fun stuff. Like perpetually changing my status on facebook. Or having a conversation with my pillow. Or trying to keep all the pop-culture trivia (such as Jay Leno’s car and bike collection) straight in my head to win the next game of “taboo”.

I wish I coud un-learn this. It was SO much easier (and therapeutic) to just plain be a “victim” and complain. Ah the good ol’ days!

My new hero

He propagated “Finding a Better Way Every Day” as the “reason to be” at GE.

He says “We build great people, who then build great products and services”.

He defined “the four Es of GE leadership”: high energy, ability to energize others, edge to make tough decisions, ability to consistently execute and deliver on promises.

He believes in giving people the freedom, confidence and resources to “take a big swing”, and if they miss, they still get a pat for trying. If people don’t take chances, they can’t win big.

Meet Jack Welch, ex-CEO of GE.

I’m SO stealing his ideas 😛 Of course I may not apply them to my (yet-to-be) multi-billion multi-national corporation, but my life is as good a candidate and laboratory as any. I’ve certainly treated it as such.

Incidentally, if there are any others out there from planet Thinkalot, you may recognize that the good principles in life apply to every situation: work, marriage, faith, parenting, government… you get the idea. Therefore I’m also considering taking his 4 Es and adding it to my spouse-hunt criteria (which includes fair-minded, positive-thinking, religious, rational, passionate, romantic, confident, considerate, self-aware, must love Toronto and Lahore … among others). Ever heard the one where a woman says to a man “I wouldn’t marry you unless you were the last guy on earth!” Excitedly, he says, “So I have a chance!”

What can I say, I’m optimistic!