Giving Ourselves the Best Gift Ever Possible

I recently watched this video from Apostolos on the Design Collector Feed. Apart from being a visually stunning piece of work, the video also talks about a very important, if not the most important thing that each and everyone of us should never forget – to live in the moment and be fully present in the NOW.

Before I go further, request you to take the 3 minutes and 47 seconds to watch and listen to the video first.

Splendor of Existence from Apostolos Stefanopoulos on Vimeo.

Its that time of the year, when we are either reflecting on what we did well or did not do well in the past year or contemplating what we would like to do in the year ahead. While it is important or even critical to do this exercise of reflection and contemplation, it is equally important, if not vastly more, to ensure that we do not end up living either in the past or in the future.

The Keystone Habit

Charles Duhigg, in his book “The Power of Habit” talks about the importance of Keystone Habits. These are habits or routines, that have a positive cascading impact on most of your other habits. If you only have the time to work on and improve one single habit, it would be wise to identify a keystone habit in your life and work on that one habit.

The habit of staying in the NOW is one such habit. If we just work on improving on this one aspect of our behaviour, we have the potential to bring in a positive cascading impact on our lives, by allowing to build strong relationships, by allowing us to spot opportunities around us and most of all, by allowing us to truly and fully enjoy our time here in this journey called life.

I know for sure that this is something that I am guilty of not doing. I have the habit of constantly thinking of something and being lost in thought – either in the past or in the future. My wife has pointed this out to me many a times and has been the cause of a lot of not so comfortable discussions between the two of us.

What this video did was to remind me of this habit and also poignantly point out and drive home the importance of building this habit of being in the NOW.

The Best Gift Possible:

As they say, the best gift that one could give to oneself is to develop the ability to be present in the present, almost always. The best gift that one could give someone else is our complete, undivided attention.

Starting right now, I publicly commit to learning to and building the keystone habit of being present in the present and embrace “NOWNESS”. I know that by making this commitment in public, I am allowing my wife, my friends, colleagues and my readers to hold me accountable to this behaviour and help me on my journey to embrace “NOWNESS”.

I hope that some of you, who are also afflicted by the same challenge that I have regarding staying constantly distracted, also, make this commitment to embracing #NowNess.

This is even more critical if you are a leader, because, then it is not just you and your life that we would be impacted by this commitment, but the lives of every single soul that you lead will be positively impacted by your commitment to #NowNess.

Lets go experience the wonder that is, Our Life on this Beautiful Universe.. Click To Tweet

How To Build Organizational Culture

Recently, I was moderating a design thinking workshop and talking about how it is critical to foster a culture of innovation within the organization and that it is responsibility of the leaders to build & nurture this culture.

Some one stopped me and asked the following question:

” As a leader, what can i do to build the culture that i want for my team or organization”.

For a moment, i was lost for the right words. I then took a pause and collected my thoughts and responded such:

Building a culture is like gardening. Irrespective of what you do or dont do, something will grow. As a gardner,

  • its upto you to have a vision for how you want your garden to look like (full of flowers or vegetables for self-consumption, etc).
  • You then need to identify the right seeds or saplings to plant in the garden. You need to understand the right combination of plants to plant.
  • You then need to tend (water, sunlight, trim, fertilizers, etc) to them as they grow.
  • You need to remove the weed that grows in the garden. You need to protect the garden from insect attack or diseases.
  • If a particular plant doesn’t seem to take to the soil, you need to replace it quickly.
  • You need to build a habit of tending to the garden everyday.

As a leader, you are the gardener. The plants that you plant are your people and the garden is your organizational culture.

If I have to expand this analogy to an organizational setting, I think that culture is at the intersection of “People, Performance & Process”.

Culture as the intersection of People, Process & Performance.
Culture as the intersection of People, Process & Performance.


As leader, you need to:

  • Ensure that cultural fit to be a critical aspect of your hiring process. This is similar to know what seeds/saplings you want to plant in your garden.
  • You need to continue to train and coach them well. This is like tending to the plants that you have planted.
  • You need to identify wrong hires (from a cultural fit perspective) and fire them quickly, but respectfully. This is like ridding your garden off weeds.
  • As Gary Veynurchuk says, he is the Chief HR officer for his company. You can listen to him share his thoughts on this topic here.


As a leader, it is critical for leaders to

  • Consistently provide feedback to your people so that they can continue to improve.
  • Reward behaviors first rather than results. By rewarding for behaviors, you are setting expectations that it is critical to put in the effort irrespective of the results. Once everyone puts in the effort, results will automatically follow and will be consistent rather than being unpredictable.
  • Set clear expectations from their people. Identify lead indicators and create KPI’s around them. Monitor them consistently and course correct whenever necessary.
  • Remain consistent in your evaluation of the performance. This is a key aspect in building any culture.


As leaders, it is your responsibility to

  • Identify critical aspects of your business and create a process for these aspects which have zero tolerance. Use the 80/20 principle to set process only for the 20% of the activities that create the 80% of value for your business.
  • Think processes as organizational habits. You need to cultivate good habits and replace bad habits. Read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg to learn about creating and replacing habits.
  • Remember that no set process is also a process – using individual judgement. Trust the judgement of your people and they shall repay you for the rest of the 80% of processes. Do make it clear that you do expect them to use their best judgement.

I think the analogy of the gardener and the garden was well received by the participants in the workshop. What do you think? Is there any other analogy that could explain this better? Please share it with us.