Three questions for everyday life

Ankur Bora

The moment when I first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful part of my day. I give these quiet hours to myself to recharge. The rest of my day is inundated with constant stimulation – listening to the news, catching up on emails, responding to social media. But it is in the silent moments in the morning that I choose to take my time-out. I begin my day by asking myself three questions – how can I do my best today, do I have action steps for today and am I keeping myself focused on the most beautiful elements of life. Friends, no matter what’s happening in the world outside, I do this exercise every day and I attribute this habit to my high school English teacher who encouraged me to go deeper into the quest of life.

The high school in my home town in India is one of the oldest schools established by the British. My English teacher had a profound influence on us. He used to regale us with the childhood stories of Abraham Lincoln , Mahatma Gandhi and Isaac Newton as well as stories from the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There was magic in his words, and we were often held spellbound. After each lesson, he always asked thoughtful and challenging questions some of them I still remember. One day he was telling us the story of warrior prince Arjuna. Friends lets travel back in time to a period of kings, princes, and warriors. One day, Arjuna, his brothers and cousins were asked to appear for a test by their Guru. They gathered by the woodland with their bows and arrows. Across a stream, their Guru set up a small wooden bird in a tree. The winner of the competition would be the one who could strike the eye of that bird. But before letting them set their arrows loose, the Guru asked each one of them a question. “What do you see there?'' Arjuna's eldest brother was the first and he replied, "I see a wooden bird, the branch and the tree, the leaves moving and other birds." Everyone else who followed also mentioned the same elements: tree, branch, bird and leaves. Everyone was disqualified; none could take the shot. Then came Arjuna, and his answer was “I can only see the eye of the bird”. It was the winning answer. Arjuna took the shot - the arrow sprang from the bow straight into the bird’s eye and the bird fell with a loud thud. When he story was completed my teacher asked, “Can any of you tell me why Arjuna was allowed to take the shot over the others?” I slowly raised my hand and answered, “Because, only Arjuna had the focus, attention, and concentration.” My teacher patted me on the back, “Now you see, you can achieve any goal you set if you possess these qualities.”

Many years later when I was a senior completing my Computer Science and Engineering degree, I went to visit him during a break. He was at his desk and smiled broadly when he saw me. He inquired about my career plans and what I wanted to do next. I began telling him about Bill Gates, how he upended the world by bringing Computers into everyone’s home and how I wanted to be an important part of the computer revolution . Then I declared , “ My goal is - I want to be the best.” My teacher was unimpressed. Even though he was supportive and encouraging, he was also a direct and no-nonsense man. When I stopped ranting, he leaned forward, looked straight into my eyes, and asked, “Do you know what the best is?” I was speechless, had no answer. As that moment, the electricity flickered and went out leaving the room in total darkness. My teacher found a candle and lit it up with a match. Pointing to the matchbox he said, “You just need a spark to light a candle, but to be exceptional you have to light it again and again.” It was truly a lightbulb moment – till then “The best” was merely a dream but my teacher made me realize that I needed to get serious and work on it every day, to be the best.

Almost one decade later, when I moved to the United States, I received the marvelous news I had been waiting for since my Engineering days– I was shortlisted by Microsoft. I was especially flown to Redmond , Microsoft’s headquarters for the final interview round; I was excited. When I arrived, I was greeted by a senior manager and ushered into the reception room. There were four other candidates – all of them tidy, well-dressed wearing suit and tie. As I entered a conversation with them, I found out that two of them were PhD holders while the other two were master’s from top rung universities. I, a mere graduate, was at the bottom of the ladder. Then someone informed - there was only one position. I was getting nervous; I had no chance. But then I began to remember the story of Arjuna and asked myself– how did Arjuna win the contest. The answer was he won because only Arjuna had the focus, attention, and concentration. I realized that instead of worrying about others I needed to focus only on the task ahead. Then, I entered the interview. I was making satisfactory progress until I encountered the question by the panel chair, “We only hire the best, why should Microsoft hire you over the other candidates?” As the question was asked I was transported back to my teachers class room , the moment when electricity went out ; I regained my composer and I knew what to do. I asked the Interview panel, “can I use a prop?” The chair pointing to the projector on the desk said, “Yes, and you are welcome to use it.” I went around the desk to the back of the projector and turned it off. The whiteboard projection screen turned blank. Then I turned it on, and the board filled with light again. I was telling the panel “I strive to be the best and like flipping the light switch, I make the decision every time; no matter what’s happening in the world outside, I do this exercise every day, each time, every time”. Friends, the Interview panel liked my answer, and I was hired by Microsoft.

Every day, I ask myself three questions – how I can do my best today, do I have action steps for today and am I keeping myself focused on the most beautiful elements of life. Friends , whether you choose to take your time-out in the quiet of the morning or at night when you hit the sack, ask yourself these three questions – they helped me immeasurably and I am sure they will add unfathomable vibrancy to your life.

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Bob Turel, DTM

Positives -1:

• Excellent use of the Rule of Three - 3 questions, and story of Arjuna.

• Use of personal stories.

• Nice use of the candle prop.

Potential Opportunities:

• When you have artwork in your background, it is advisable for you to stand to the left of the art from the audience's viewpoint.

• I was distracted noticing your eye contact was downward as if checking your notes. Perhaps positioning your prop closer to the camera lens will help balance eye contact?

• Avoid turning around to point at artwork. Steep out of the way and verbally refer to the graphic, while looking at camera.

• Avoid saying thank you at closing.

• It might be less distracting if someone other than you operated the lights during your demonstration of your interview answer.

Positives -2:

• Standing to deliver your speech, effective lighting, and excellent camera height.

• Some gestures were effectively offered to underscore the message.

Kailash Nautiyal , Thumps Up Toastmasters

As usual your speech was superb adding much needed lofty values to life, focused, well conceived creative actions, commitments and accomplishments. Morning hours, with all pervasive solitude, are the best happy hours, provide basic stimulant for self retrospection, concentration to set the best purpose, goals and action plans. The key elements to make life beautiful is to keep yourself off and on and not go by the professional degrees, but by the use of knowledge that you own, process and create.