The Winning Attitude

Chapter 1.


THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.

A craven hung along the battle’s edge,
And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–
That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this
Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.

Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

– by Edward Rowland Sill

Action Summary:

  • “Do what you can,
  • with what you have,
  • where you are.”
    – Theodore Roosevelt

Chapter 2.


A 10-year-old boy decides to study judo despite the fact that he has lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy begins lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy is doing well, so he can’t understand why, after three months of training the master has taught him only one move.

The boy finally asks: “Sensei, shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

The sensei replies: “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know.”

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy keeps training.

Several months later, the sensei takes the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily wins his first two matches. The third match proves to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent becomes impatient and charges. The boy deftly uses his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy is now in the finals.

This time, his opponent is bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appears to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee calls a time- out. He is about to stop the match when the sensei intervenes and convinces the referee to let him continue.

Soon after the match resumes, his opponent makes a critical mistake: he drops his guard. Instantly, the boy uses his move to pin him. The boy has won the match and the tournament. He is the champion!

On the way home, the boy summons the courage to ask what is really on his mind.

“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

Action Summary:

  • Turn your weaknesses into strength.

Chapter 3.


(John Kanary tells us the story of Charlie Boswell.)

Charlie is blinded during World War II while rescuing his friend from a tank that is under fire. After the war, even though Charlie is blind, he takes up a sport: Golf!

Through determination and a lot of hard work, he becomes the National Blind Golf Champion! He wins that honor 13 times.

One of his heroes is the great golfer Ben Hogan, so it truly is an honor for Charlie to win the Ben Hogan Award in 1958.

Upon meeting Ben Hogan, Charlie is awestruck and states that he has one wish and it is to have one round of golf with the great Ben Hogan.

Mr. Hogan agrees that playing a round together would be an honor for him as well, as he has heard about all of Charlie’s accomplishments and truly admires his skills.

“Would you like to play for money, Mr. Hogan?” blurts out Charlie.

“I can’t play you for money, it wouldn’t be fair!” says Mr. Hogan.

“Aw, come on, Mr. Hogan…$1,000 per hole!”

“I can’t, what would people think of me, taking advantage of you and your circumstance,” replies Mr. Hogan.

“Chicken, Mr. Hogan?”

“Okay,” blurts a frustrated Hogan, “but I am going to play my best!”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” say the confident Boswell.

“You’re on Mr. Boswell, you name the time and the place!”

A very self-assured Boswell responds “10 o’clock . . . tonight!”

Action Summary:

  • Make others play to your rules.

The Art of Focusing

Bulls Eye
What Can You See in the Above Picture?

It’s the days of the epic Mahabharata in ancient India. All the kings send their sons to the ashram of Guru Drona for their education. Guru Drona teaches them everything from the Vedas to philosophy to the art of war.

One day, Guru Drona decides to see how attentive his students are. He wants to know how far they’ve come with their skills in archery. So he places a wooden bird on a high branch of a tree. And asks his students one by one to take aim to shoot the left eye of the bird. Guru Drona then asks each one what they see before they shoot.

One by one, the students come and claim that they can see everything clearly. The forest. The trees. The branches. The bird. They then shoot their arrows. Some come close to the mark. Others miss by wide margins. One or two even hit the bird. But no one is extremely accurate.

At last comes Arjuna. He takes aim and then Guru Drona asks him: what do you see? But like everyone else’s answer, Arjuna doesn’t say that he can see everything clearly. In fact he says: I only see the left eye of the bird.

When he shoots his arrow, it goes straight through the center of the left eye of the wooden bird. Bulls Birds eye!

Arjuna goes on to become the most accomplished archer of his time. And all because he learnt how to “focus” on his target.

Two Tricks to Focusing Better

There are two tricks to focusing:

1. Get rid of all your distractions.

2. Add focus reminders.

Why Do People Put Blinders on Horses?

Horse Blinders

Blinders are put up in front of the horses’ eyes so that they can focus on what lies ahead of them. So that they don’t get scared or distracted by things happening in their periphery vision.

You need to put up blinders so that you can focus better too.

The most productive people I know regularly put up blinders when they sit down to work:

  • They won’t check their email while working.
  • They will shut off their cell phones.
  • Many of them even hire secretaries and gatekeepers to help them keep unwanted things out so that they can focus on the important things.

Hernanda Cortez went one step ahead. After landing in Mexico with 600 people, he burned down all of his 11 ships. So that there is only one way for his army to move: ahead.

Because he left no other choice for his men but to march ahead and conquer, his men went on to defeat the mighty Aztec empire!

The first part of focusing is getting rid of distractions. The second part is to use focus reminders… tools that prevent distractions… and tools that help you get your focus back once you are distracted.

Let us look at 2 such tools, shall we?

Focus Reminder Tool # 1: Use Post-it Notes

Some time back, I realized that my eyes would strain because of long hours in front of the computer. While digging for a solution to the problem, I found out that the chief reason for my eye strain was I didn’t blink a lot while I stared at the computer screen all day long! (Experts say you should blink 10-12 times per minute!)

So I created a post-it and wrote 2 words on it.

“Blink. Breathe.”

And stuck that post-it note right on my computer. Every time my eyes wandered off a bit, I would see the note and blink.

You can place post-it notes around your work space too so that it keeps on reminding you of the important stuff.

Focus Reminder Tool # 2: Wrist Bands

Wrist Band

Lifestyle Design pioneer Tim Ferriss wanted to inculcate a new habit: to stop frivolous complaining. He realized that if he could control his words, he could control and think better thoughts too. To keep himself focused on developing this habit, he went on a 21 day no complaining experiment.

What he did is he wore a purple wrist band. This wrist band constantly reminded him to not to complain. Every time he complained, he had to switch the arm band from one hand to another. The goal is to go for 21 days without switching the arm band!

“I made it 11 days on the first attempt, then I slipped. Back to zero. Then it was two or three days at a time for about a month. Once I cleared 21 days at around month 3, I no longer needed the bracelet.” – Tim Ferriss

Buy a bright coloured wrist band. And wear it. Let the arm band remind you of the one truly important task that you need to do. Until it becomes a habit.

How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Bite at a Time!

Chanakya’s Epiphany (What to do when your goal or task is way to big for you?)

2300 years ago in India, young Chandragupta – with the help of the great strategist Chanakya, builds an army by borrowing soldiers from the Himalayan kingdoms. In return, he promises to share between them half of whatever territory he manages to conquer from the greedy Nanda Empire. (The Himalayan kingdoms agree to lend soldiers because they have no risk except giving up a few soldiers, but the returns could be a part of a dynasty!)

Chandragupta then ventures into a war with the Nanda Empire but fails to seize control. He is in a dead lock with the Nanda Empire. Both the sides proved themselves equal in a few skirmishes.

At this time, Chanakya – a Brahmin and Chandragupta’s guru, is roaming through wilderness. He comes upon a hut and watches a mother and child. The child keeps burning his hand while eating khichidi (an Indian rice dish). So the mother scolds the child to eat from the edges and not the center, as the center will always be hotter.

This is the precise moment when Chanakya has an epiphany. He sends a message to Chandragupta to withdraw his forces and not to fight any more wars with the Nanda Emperor directly. Instead, he should go on and challenge the harmless and ignored independent small kingdoms that weren’t directly a part of the Nanda Empire, but laid at its periphery.

Chandragupta heeds to Chanakya’s advice. And starts conquering the kingdoms at the edges of the old Empire. With every new conquest, Chandragupta’s might grows.

After a year of such small conquests at the edges, Chandragupta once again challenges the Nanda king. But this time, he is a little more powerful and has a few more soldiers. And this time he wins.

Chandragupta goes on to create the Maurya Empire that for the first time unites India and brings on its “Golden” age.

Chandragupta Maurya Unites India

Action Summary:

  • Your success depends on your ability to focus on the truly urgent tasks.
  • Create an environment for yourself where there are no distractions.
  • Use focus reminder tools like post-it notes and arm-bands to constantly remind you that you need to focus on the truly important tasks.
  • If the task is gigantic and overwhelming, take a deep breathe and start at the periphery. Move to the center from the periphery. Divide the big task into smaller sub-tasks. And then focus on each smaller sub-task one at a time.


Un-Abbreviated Definition of Focus


Master marketer David Frey shares this definition of Focus:

  • Follow
  • One
  • Course
  • Until
  • Successful

How To Win at Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors

Takashi Hashiyama is the president of a Japanese electronics company called the Maspro Denkoh Corporation. He owns a collection of Impressionist paintings that include master pieces by Picassos and Van Gogh. The collection is worth £11 million.

In January of 2005, Takashi decides to sell his entire art collection. But he is in a conundrum: He doesn’t want to break his collection. So which of the 2 world’s best auction houses should he select to handle the selling of his collection without breaking it?

  • Christie’s?
  • Sotheby’s?

How To Decide Between 2 Things That Are Equally Good?

To solve the conundrum, Takashi comes up with a solution: both the auction houses should play a sudden-death game of rock-paper-scissors! A representative from Christie’s and Sotheby’s has to show up for a meeting and write their choice down on a piece of paper: rock, paper or scissors. The winner of the game takes the gig.

Sotheby’s decides that this is a game of chance. There is a 50% chance of winning and a 50% chance of losing. And so they go in without considering any strategy.

But Kanae Ishibashi – the president of Christie’s Japan spends an entire weekend surfing the internet and asking friends for suggestions on how to improve her odds of winning.

She hits jackpot when she talks to the 11 year old twin daughters of her colleague: Alice and Flora.

The twins recommend that Kanae could improve her odds of winning to above 50% by going with scissors while playing with a beginner.

Sure enough, on the day of the game, Sotheby’s writes down paper. And Christie’s scissors cut through Sotheby’s paper!

The Explanation:

Rock, paper, and scissors – all 3 don’t have an equal probability of 33.33% of being chosen. Rock is the most popular choice because we perceive rock as being strong and forceful. So while playing a game of rock, paper, and scissors – we go with rock more than 33% of the time!

But because Sotheby’s and Christie’s were going to play a sudden death game, Sotheby’s would try to be one step ahead. They would go with paper thinking that Christie’s would go with rock.

So to win a sudden death game with a beginner, the safest choice is to think 2 steps ahead and go with scissors.

“Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper.” Flora piped in. “Since they were beginners, scissors was definitely the safest,” she said, adding that if the other side were also to choose scissors and another round was required, the correct play would be to stick to scissors – because, as Alice explained, “Everybody expects you to choose rock.”

6 Strategies to Win At Rock-Paper-Scissors

  1. Start with scissors. Because rock is the most popular choice, your opponent will start with paper more often than not – thinking that you’ll go with rock.
  2. Play the double bluff. Tell your opponent what you’re going to throw. Then throw it. Because no one believes you’ll do it, they won’t play the throw that beats the throw you’re playing. Eg: If you say you’ll throw rock, most people won’t play paper because they won’t believe you. So they’ll either throw rock or scissors. So by sticking to your rock, you’ll either win the round or have a draw.
  3. In case of a win or a loss, throw the move that loses to your opponent’s previous move. This works because we humans are bad at randomization. And unconsciously, we’ll try to beat our own last move. Eg: If your opponent went with rock in the previous round, chances are higher he’ll go with paper. So by going with scissors, you’ll tilt the probability in your favour.
  4. In case of a draw, go with the same throw. Eg: if both of you threw a rock in the previous round, go with rock in your next round too. Because after a draw, your opponent will think that you’ll throw paper. And so chances are higher of her throwing scissors.
  5. Look out for the “double run.” When your opponent throws the same move twice in a row, go with the throw that’ll lose to her last 2 moves. For eg: if your opponent goes with rock twice in a row, go with scissors the 3rd time. Because as we humans don’t want to be predictable, chances are higher that your opponent won’t go with rock again. He’ll either throw paper or scissors. And so if you throw scissors, you’ll end up winning or in a draw.
  6. If in doubt, throw paper. Rock is the most popular choice in the game as people perceive it to be strong and powerful. And because rock is the most popular choice, scissors is the least popular choice. Statistics show that people throw scissors only 29.6% of the time, instead of the expected 33.33% of the time. So by going with paper, your chances or losing decreases.

All bets are off if your opponent knows some of the above strategies too.

The Ultimate Strategy: Never Losing a Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors

Here is how to play the game so that you never lose:

  1. Only play it against the person you like / have a crush on.
  2. Play for kisses. The loser kisses the winner.

While rock-paper-scissors is extremely useful when you’re having a tough time selecting one out of two equal choices, its become the favorite game of pick-up artists too. Because it allows them to cozy up with the opposite sex in record time. It enables one to go from hello to kiss-kiss in less than 10 minutes (even quicker if one or both of you are drunk).

You’ll win even when you lose!


Did you know that rock-paper-scissors is adapted from a very ancient game? But what did people call it before scissors were invented?

There are two other names of the game:

  • “Earwig, Man, Elephant”
  • “Bear, Hunter, Woman.”

Slow Elevators & Long Ass Queues

Taipei 101 is one of the world’s tallest sky scrapers standing 1667 feet tall with 101 floors. So how do you go to the top floor? You hop on to one of the 67 elevators that rocket you up at the speed of 69 km/hour (37 miles/hour).Haven’t we come a long way since 1861 when Elisha Otis patented a steam elevator equipped with a safety device?

It’s the early 20th century, and the elevators are becoming a lot more popular. But people are complaining about how slow they are. Some of the elevators put the tortoises to shame. It is faster to climb up the stairs than to go up by an elevator (especially when it’s crowded and stops frequently.)

The elevator manufacturing companies listen to the complaints and spend a lot of time and money on creating faster elevators. Most tall buildings follow suit and spend a lot of money upgrading their elevators.

But right about that time, one smart person discovers a much cheaper solution to the problem that stops all complaints. No he doesn’t upgrade his elevators. He just places a mirror in it.

The real problem isn’t that the elevators are slow. It’s that people get bored in them. Give a mirror to monkeys and they will entertain themselves for hours at end.

Finding the Real Problems

Most people go along with the wrong way of solving problems:

  1. What is the problem? Elevators are slow.
  1. How to fix it? Create faster moving elevators.

The correct way is asking one extra question:

  1. What is the problem? Elevators are slow.
  1. Why is it the problem? Because people get bored in slow moving elevators.
  1. How to fix it? Don’t bore people. Occupy their attention. Place a mirror.

V-Matrix for Problem Solving

One single “why” question gives you clarity. And helps you get to the root of the problem.

It’s not always so clean and easy though.

The Disney Waiting Problem

Disney faced a similar problem. People hate standing in long queues. But Disney can’t do much to entertain folks standing in queues for one of their rides. And after a certain extent, they couldn’t even speed up their queues.

So they had to delve a bit deeper to solve the problem.

  1. What is the problem? Standing in long queues.
  1. Why is it the problem? Because it bores people to death.
  1. Why else is it the problem? Because people can sit on more rides if the queues aren’t these long. (Doesn’t lead to a solution.)
  1. Why else is it the problem? Because it’s frustrating to stand in queues.
  1. Why is it frustrating? Because people don’t know how long it’ll take for their chance to come.
  1. How to fix it? Place signs along the queue that let people know how long it’ll take them from that spot.

When signs are placed, people stop complaining. They brace themselves for the wait. A specific number placates them. If the waiting time on the sign is too long, people will automatically go to some other ride (thus not elongating the queue).

(Here is why Disney is no.1 in customer service. They lie on their signs. If a sign says that waiting time is 20 minutes from that spot, you’ll most likely be on the ride within 10 minutes. Under-promise and over-deliver.)

Action Summary:

  • Always ask “why” before zero-ing in on the solution for a problem.
  • If one why doesn’t lead you to the solution, delve in deeper, get a bit creative and ask more whys.


Waiting Line Psychology: 5 Rules to Keep People Content while Waiting

  1. Keep people occupied while they wait. Provide a mirror. Books. Videos.
  2. Let people know how long they’ll have to wait.
  3. Explain the reason for long waiting times.
  4. Follow discipline. Nothing fries people’s patience more than queue cutting. (Have a private hidden backdoor for special VIP folks. Or make it official with speed lane passes.)
  5. Make people wait in groups.

Building the Freemium Moat


“In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable ‘moats’.” – Warren Buffett

Smart kings built moats around castles to protect them. The wider the moats, the harder it is for enemies to attack the castles.

For Buffet, castles are the companies. And moats are their competitive advantage. He searches for companies that have strong competitive advantages that are hard to copy by the competition.

One of the ideas to build competitive advantages has been the concept of freemium. Give away the base product for free. Attract a lot more clients than the competition can. And then upsell accounts with more features and less restrictions. has become the biggest email service provider because of their freemium plans.

But the problem has always been that the companies that start with a freemium business model face cashflow problems. Their initial expenses are unsustainably high. Is there any solution to this problem?


People first build the bridges. Then they fill the moats.
Starting with moats makes building of bridges insanely hard.

This is a lesson many SaaS based companies seem to have forgotten.
They start with the freemium model. Their cashflow can’t sustain the model. And they then drop the freemium plan.

What you’ve got to do is delay the freemium model. Start with fee based accounts. Accumulate cash. Then use that cashflow to sustain the freemium clients. That’s the only way to become the pre-eminent market leader in your industry with the freemium strategy.

A Presentation on Optical Illusions

So at Barcamp Mumbai #7, I gave a presentation on optical illusions. Why they work.

This is a topic that interests me a lot.  And even though I’m no psychologist or a researcher who studies the brain and evaluates why illusions work, I decided to experiment a bit and give a presentation on my thoughts on optical illusions.

It was a fun presentation to give.  I had quite a handful of people who asked me for slides after the presentation was over.  But slides without the talk would not mean a lot.  So I decided to post slides with the talk points online.

Click to go through the presentation: Why optical illusions work

Dominoes, Trimtabs & Atomic Chain Reactions – Small CAN Lead To Huge Changes


“Anyone who believes he is too small to make a difference has never been in bed with a mosquito.” – Anita Roddick


“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.” – R. Buckminster Fuller


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Mumbai Hackers & Founders Dinner Meet – 6 December

Am organizing a dinner meet for Mumbai based hackers and founders.

  • If you love – you should come.
  • If you have started your own startup you should come.
  • If you have a cool side project and want to scale it up, you should come.

(This is a Dutch event. Not free. Everyone shares the bill.)

Monday 6th December 2010

(Please don’t come fashionably late. This is a small get together. Not an event.)

Roof Top, Shopper’s Stop,
Linking Road, Bandra (W)
Mumbai, India
Phone: 022-66770555

Please let us know on facebook if you are coming so that we have an accurate head count and can do reservations accordingly.

What does it feel like working at a startup

A friend sent me the above video as a joke.  But to tell you the truth, this is exactly how it feels like being in a startup. You’ve got to plough and plough and plough your way through.

Podcast on Social Media Marketing & Affiliate Marketing

Some of you know that I’m not too comfortable with phone (I am not the best on phone due to the accent and lack of a powerful voice).  And for the longest time, I’ve always refused telephonic interviews and podcast requests.

But recently I decided to get out of my comfort zone.  And have started testing the waters.

Recently, Vivek Khandelwal of invited Aditya Rao and yours truly to do a podcast on social media marketing and affiliate marketing for websites.  Aditya Rao spoke on social media marketing while I gave tips on affiliate marketing.

If you’re brave enough to listen to it and get past my voice to gain value from the content – then here is the link:

Voicetap Podcast on Social Media Marketing and Affiliate Marketing – with Aditya Rao and Ankesh Kothari
(Note: audio starts automatically.)

(Downloadable link for folks who want to download and listen to it on your ipods at your own leisure.)

I may do these a lot more often because a couple of reviews have not been too bad.  We’ll see.  Thanks.