Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for April 2011

My Article “Where Is The Groom?” is published as part of the latest “Chicken Soup” Series of books, “Chicken Soup For The Indian Bride’s Soul”. If you get a chance to read it, Please share your feedback. Thanks in advance!

URL to buy the book –>


N. Chokkan …

30 04 2011


(Artist: David Martin (1767) / Image Courtesy:

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography is one of the most famous and widely read memoirs of all time. It shows him as an excellent author, eager scientist / inventor, successful politician / diplomat and more. Really, he was a genuine allrounder in the game of life.

In this interesting autobiography, Benjamin Franklin talks about few virtues which he developed at the young age of twenty. These simple principles acted as guiding lights throughout his life:

· Temperance – Don’t eat / drink too much

· Silence – Don’t talk too much

· Order – Organize your things / thoughts / time

· Resolution – Resolve to perform what you have to, perform what you resolved

· Frugality – Don’t spend unnecessarily, Save, Don’t waste money

· Industry – Don’t waste time, always do something useful

· Sincerity – Don’t hurt anyone, Be sincere

· Justice – Don’t damage others’ interests

· Moderation – Avoid Extremes

· Cleanliness – Of body, clothes, your environment

· Tranquility – Remain Calm, Don’t be disturbed by common, unavoidable happenings

· Chastity – Be Pure

· Humility – Be Modest

When we do a quick scan, it seems some of these virtues overlap, some pull us in opposite directions. Hence it will be very difficult to maintain all of them at once.

So, Benjamin Franklin found a short cut. He started maintaining a chart in which all these virtues were listed, and every week, he only focused on one of these items, didn’t really worry about the others. It doesn’t mean he ignored the other virtues, but instead left them to chance, what he would do naturally, instead of worrying about doing them right.

For example, in one week, he would concentrate on “Temperance” only. Next week, he will pick “Silence” and practice it as much as possible. Like this, every week he used to select a different virtue and focused on it. This gave him a chance to practice all the virtues in the best possible manner.

But isn’t it cheating? When you have 10+ rules, you should follow all of them at once, not one at a time.

True. Benjamin Franklin agreed that it would’ve been better if he followed all the virtues together. But it wouldn’t be practical. Also, following them one after the other is better than living a life with no control. In his own words “this attempt made me a better man contributing greatly to my success and happiness.”

Interesting thought. May be, we should tackle our (long term) goals one per week, instead of attempting all at once and we will have a better chance of all-round success?



N. Chokkan …

21 04 2011

Two of my close friends, are 180 degree apart. One is a Cricket lover, and the other hates cricket and thinks all cricket matches are fixed by bookies and their uncles.

Other than this minor(?) problem, they are good friends too. They discuss a lot of about various topics, but when the talk turns towards cricket, I can see an interesting pattern.

Friend #1 (who is a cricket lover) doesn’t mind Friend #2 insulting cricket players, officials etc., Even if he is called an ‘idiot’ for watching a ‘cooked’ cricket match live, he will still smile and accept it.

On the other hand, Friend #2 doesn’t have this level of acceptance. If Friend #1 or me or someone else talk about cricket or cricketers’ glory, within a few minutes he will jump into the conversation and start shouting at the top of his voice. ‘Are you guys crazy? Why do you talk about cricket? It is not a sport, but a cheating business!’

Forget cricket, think about these two friends. One is able to accept any amount of negativity from the other and keeps the friendship intact, whereas the other is not ready to accept even a tiny bit of alternate-view. You might have observed the same pattern when people talk about politics, movies, share market, even religion.

There is a concept called “Negativity Threshold” which explains this. When two people interact, they have different negativity thresholds. They are okay with any disagreement as long as the other person is within this threshold, but when they cross it, these people express displeasure / disinterest openly, by shouting or arguing or even ditching that relationship.

Negativity Threshold is considered an important factor in success of failure of marriages. When a husband or wife is constantly crossing the negativity threshold of their partner, slowly but steadily the relationship sinks. The same is true in a friendship or even a business relationship.

So, what should we do to avoid losing friends or customers or business / life partners? Should we have a low negativity threshold or a high negativity threshold?

In case of my friends, the cricket lover has a high negativity threshold, whereas the cricketer has a very low negativity threshold. As a result, the cricket lover is losing friends, That means, we should increase our negativity threshold to as high as possible. Right?

Nope. Psychologists say having a very high negativity threshold actually backfires and hurts you. It is like the famous “Poison Tree” poem by William Blake:

I was angry with my friend:

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe:

I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears

Night and morning with my tears,

And I sunned it with smiles

And with soft deceitful wiles.

This means, a high negativity threshold may look like saving your relationship, but in reality you are building a poison fruit. Sooner or later it will result in a bigger damage.

Instead, relationship counselors advice us to have a low tolerance with anyone we interact with. It doesn’t mean you keep complaining 24*7, but if you don’t like something, say it immediately. Don’t worry about the short term unhappiness or the repairing that may be necessary to get the relationship back on track. If you decide keep the ‘criticism’ on hold, it will result in a bigger problem later.



N. Chokkan …

15 04 2011

Reading a very interesting book (“The Go-Giver” By Bob Burg and John David Mann). Wanted to share this amazing extract from this story:

‘I have to know you’re taking this seriously. But here’s what is far more important: you have to know you’re taking this seriously.’

Joe nodded slowly. ‘I think I understand. You want to make sure I’m not wasting your time. Fair enough.’

Pindar Smiled. “Joe, no offence, but you don’t have that power.’

Joe looked confused.

‘I mean, the power to waste my time. Only I can do that.’

Very true. Won’t it be foolish to give away that power to waste our time to somebody else, or worst, something else?



N. Chokkan …

12 04 2011

Couple of days back, I was travelling in a taxi. The roads were practically empty and the driver was speeding at 80+ kmph.

Suddenly, a voice came out of nowhere ‘Danger, Danger, You are exceeding the speed limit. Please slow down immediately.’

When the driver heard this, he slowed down religiously and started driving at a more humane, safer speed.

This sage-like-behavior lasted exactly seven minutes, after which his adrenalin took over. He started touching 80+ again.

Once more, the same voice came back, in a pleasant tone, it announced ‘You are exceeding the speed limit. Please slow down immediately.’

This happened four or five times. The driver always obeyed the ‘voice’, But went back to 80+ within next few minutes. I asked him why. ‘This is kind of scary, when your car reminds you to slow down, why don’t you obey?’

He said ‘It’s not my car, But my company!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘This voice comes from the computer installed in this car. It tracks the speed in which I drive and if I exceed the safe limits, it warns me, So I have to slow down immediately. If I don’t slow down within 30 seconds, it will send a SMS to my manager and I may lose my job!’

‘Okay. That’s Good, But then, why do you over-speed again?’

‘We found that the computer forgets and forgives you the moment you slow down and go below the safe limit. After that I can over-speed again, My manager will never know!’

This is what happens when we depend on machine-supervision too much. People always find ways to get around it. Instead if the discipline gets into their brain, there is no ‘voice’ required to tell them when they over-step, they do self-check and self-correction.

Any day, A company with a safe-driving culture is better than a company which installs latest computers to track their driver’s discipline!



N. Chokkan …

05 04 2011


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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