Life Beyond Code

Why some people work hard but don’t get appreciated enough for that work?

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 22 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 11 Comments

Note: This is part of an ongoing mini-research (less than six weeks each) on topics that catch my attention. At the end of this post, you will find links to outcomes of the other two (previous) mini-research projects.

Over the years I have heard many young people complaining (in various flavors) that they work hard but their hard work goes unappreciated. To be more specific, here are some complaints:

1. I did most of the work but my Boss got all the credit

2. I work in the evenings and on weekends and all that happens is – my company takes me for granted.

3. “They” don’t really care how hard I work. It hurts.

If I have to summarize the various flavors of complaints into one sentence, it would look something like this – “I am a victim of someone taking away credit for my work.” So the real question becomes “How can you prevent someone else from taking credit for your hard work?”

When I started my mini-research work, I suspended my bias on the topic and just listened to people as they complained and probed them further to get more details of their specific situation. Upon further digging in, research, reflection and analysis, I reached some conclusions and I have presented them below.

Yes, I agree – in a few cases people were victimized and they were treated unfairly. In those cases, I don’t know why the victims were continuing to be employed in that company. Either they had no other choices or they were “really” stuck (an example: the company had applied for their Green Card and they wanted to get through that process)

In most cases though, I found that they had to take complete responsibility for their situation. If there was ONE over-arching reason for their situation, it was their interpretation of “hard work.” Here are the final observations that led to the “victimization”:

1. Working hard because of lack of skills: This is their first job and they had to “walk the extra mile” to ensure that they develop the skills required to complete the job on time. The company does not “directly” benefit from their skill-update exercise.

2. Working hard because of lack of competence: This is similar to #1 but here you simply lack competence and they are not aware of it.

3. Confusing “time spent” to “value created”: There was a general notion that whoever spent more time contributed more value. This is far from truth. One can spend a lot of time creating zero value or sometimes eroding value or even creating headache for someone else who is creating value.

4. Forgetting the value of experience: There is one general but thousands of foot soldiers. When the battle is won, the General gets the credit. When the battle is lost, the General will be blamed. Foot soldiers are very important but they are replaceable. Generals are not easily replaceable. It is easy to forget that Generals have paid their dues earlier for a LONG time before they reached that position. With that experience, it is easy to “better interpret” the situation and tell the soldiers what to do. Even if the soldiers work “very hard” they may not be able to “interpret” the situation as well as how a General can interpret it.

5. Forgetting that the commodity stuff can’t get a premium: If one spends a lot of time on commodity work, it can be hard work but it is something that “someone else” could have easily done for the same or less price (consider outsourcing or offshoring or both.) If you are “easily replaceable” your hard work does not count much. If you are a “linchpin” instead, you start getting a premium.

6. Not knowing how to tell the “right” story about one’s work: When someone completes a job, “they” don’t see a job completed but a story about the job that got completed. If the person who completed the job does not take the responsibility of telling the “right” story about the job that got completed, whoever needs to know about the job completed will tell a story to themselves about the job. That may not be in the best interest of the person who completed the job.

7. Too much humility; too little pride: One needs to be humble but too much humility hurts. Similarly having too little pride hurts. The ultimate combination is right amount of pride and humility. If there is an imbalance it creates a competitive disadvantage.

8. Thinking the employer alone is responsible for career growth: Sometimes people think that the employer is “obligated” to take care of their career growth. They forget that they are “already” getting paid a salary for the their contribution and the employer provides a framework for them to grow. That’s the most an employer can do. Rest is left to the employee – they can sit on the sidelines and watch others flourish or get cracking to go somewhere.

9. Confusing affiliation with the employer as their personal brand: This was more common with employees working for VERY big brands. They were proud of that affiliation and had a tendency to confuse their affiliation with this BIG brand as their personal brand. Affiliations help but they are not a substitute for “valuable accomplishments.” Employees get special attention if they build big personal brands but they get nothing “extra” for affiliation.

10. Confusing brilliant storytelling to showing off: There were also cases where I heard people saying that “their work should speak for itself” and they didn’t have to tell anything else. What they forget is that brilliant storytelling is not showing off. Storytelling is an art. Showing off is a desperate attempt to gain attention. Storytelling is helping people “interpret” what happened in the right way. Showing is interrupting for personal gain.

There were a few other minor observations but the above were worth sharing.

In summary, take a look at your own case. If you are feeling victimized AND there is a clear case that someone else is “responsible” for it, you have to think whether you want to continue being associated to that place. If you are feeling victimized and it is your own making, you have your work cut out – take responsibility for it and make the necessary changes to make things happen.

Here are the outcomes of the previous mini-research initiatives:

1. Why some smart people are reluctant to share? (Dec 26, 2009)

2. Why nice people will win BIG TIME in the long run? (Jan 15, 2010)

Posted in the Main Page category.

Unseen AND Important

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 21 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 12 Comments

A few days ago I spent a day in Dubai. I was fascinated by many things there – especially the Palms – a township that was entirely constructed on reclaimed land inside the sea (almost a few kilometers from the shore)

On our way back, we stopped at the Marina and again, the skyline there was impressive. Here is a one picture to give you an idea.

Right next to where we were standing was a building that would become part of the skyline soon. It was a building in the making. The scene was of that of the foundation where people were busy building things that would soon become unseen but very important. I talked to the folks who were supervising and they mentioned that the foundation work would go on for months. You see, the “unseen and important” work happens over a long time to make the “seen and beautiful” happen.

It is the same case with anything “remarkable.” There is an “unseen and important” work that is mostly behind the scenes. The final outcome is what we all get to cherish.

The point here is that in the case above, it is easy to notice the “unseen and important” but in other cases such as when you see brilliant talent at display (writer, musician, public speaker) you might skip seeing this. For your own benefit, the more you can quickly see the “unseen and important” for anything remarkable, the more power you have.

Posted in the Main Page category.

One Hundred Percent

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 20 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 2 Comments

This was in 1986. I was one of the 400,000+ students who had just finished writing the first major board exam. We all had to wait for a few weeks before the results were announced. When the results were finally announced, I was delighted to find that I came in at the 20th position for the state. I was studying in a town called Hassan and the last time someone had secured a rank at the state level was a few years ago. I had got good marks but it was not one hundred percent.

The same year on November 1 – there was a big event in Bangalore where all the top rank holders were felicitated by the chief minister of the State. I met the rest of the rank holders. I also had a chance to meet Arun Hiremath (later my classmate and my friend in Engineering) who had secured the first for the State. The point is even Arun had not secured one hundred percent marks.

[ if you are curious, here is a detailed account of my teenage years ]

Long story short – I secured state and University ranks in the next three board exams and met other rank holders from those exams. The point is none of these people had secured one hundred percent marks.

I have kept contact with many of these bright people and they are doing very well in their careers albeit not securing one hundred percent marks.

So, what’s the real point?

First, there is no one or nothing that’s perfect and you don’t need that as a pre-requisite to do very well.

Let me now switch the context to lifelong learning.

I meet people almost every week who have just completed one or the other training to improve themselves. The trainings range from improving their life skills (meditation, relationship skills, communication etc.) to improving their professional skills (public speaking, leadership, teamwork etc.) When they complete the training they are very enthusiastic about how this one training program will totally change who they are for good. A few weeks later, the charm wears off and a few months later they rarely remember anything from the course.

Of course, many of them have very intelligent explanations for why they stopped practicing things they learned.

One of the common excuses is that they find “something” in the course that they didn’t like. Examples include:

  • the teacher did not give a convincing answer on a couple of questions
  • there was “one” thing in the course on which they had a philosophical disagreement
  • they didn’t like that the teacher marketed the advanced course at the end of this course
  • they didn’t believe in a couple of concepts outlined in the course

I can go on but the underlying theme was that they were not satisfied “one hundred percent” with the course – so there was no point in continuing the course.

Just basing your actions on “one hundred percent” of anything is not a recipe for failure. It is a recipe for disaster.

The same people are pretty comfortable about they not executing their projects with a “one hundred percent” perfection but they expect others to perform at that level.

It is one rule for themselves and another rule for others.

Think about your own case. How many things have you dropped or stopped because they did not deliver “one hundred percent.” Which of those things can you restart today?

Something to think about.

Posted in the Main Page category.

Making it Memorable (in a geeky way)

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 19 Feb 2010, 4:00 AM – Leave Comment

There is a reason they say – “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

First, thanks to Amit Agarwal for sharing this very cute pic. Also thanks to Albara Alohali who originally shared it on Facebook.

There is a lot to learn from the kids who created this picture. For one, they could have just written – “The world’s best Dad ever” on a greeting card. That alone would have bought tears in the eyes of his Dad – Jason.

The kids (and whoever helped them) went out of the way to make it memorable.

Just take a look at what they did and you will be amazed at their creativity and thoughtfulness. I am sure their geek (assuming here) Dad would have been on Cloud Nine.

Have a great day.

Posted in the Main Page category.

Do you want a gift with it?

By Rajesh Setty on Wed 17 Feb 2010, 4:00 PM – 1 Comment

Everyone has heard the phrase:

Do you want some fries with it?

This refers to the standard up-sell offer from McDonalds. You buy a burger (or almost anything) and while the person in the counter rings that he or she looks up and asks,

“Do you want some fries with it?”

The offer is compelling and it works. Most people take up that offer and McDonalds wins.

Now, let’s look back at our lives.

You will get an opportunity to up-sell all the time. Every time someone makes a simple transaction with you. A brilliant up-sell might get some appreciation for marketing brilliance but that’s not what will make someone memorable.

Imagine that we change the game a bit – let’s say you forget about the opportunity to sell or up-sell. Let us you just decide for the rest of your life, you “look” for opportunity to give gifts.

In simple terms, a gift is something that (note: partial list only)

* Will help someone be better than who he or she is OR

* Will help someone get closer to their goals OR

* Will help someone have more capacity to contribute OR

* Will help someone have more capacity take care of things they care about OR

* Will connect them to someone that will increase their capacity in the future OR

simply –

* Will help someone make more meaning out of their lives

Now, suppose you were able to do that for the rest of your lives – with almost everyone that you touch…

Do you think your own life will be more meaningful?

You bet!

Then, why not start today?

It is easier said than done.

First, you need the “mindset” of gift-giving that is ON all the time. It takes time to develop that.

Second, you need “capacity” to give gifts. Based on all of our histories, we all have some of it but it is a life-long process to build this key asset.

Third, you need to be “growing” so that your “gifts” are more powerful with time.


Lastly, there has to be healthy balance of taking care of your concerns and taking care of the concerns of others. Just because you have the mindset of “gift giving,” there is no need to “sacrifice” yourself or your dreams.

Posted in the Leadership category.

Call in the Next Ten Minutes…

By Rajesh Setty on Wed 17 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

You’ve probably seen those thirty-minute, late-night television infomercials that tell you a story about a product in all its glory.

After about twenty minutes into the commercial, you have been repeatedly told that your life is incomplete without this latest gizmo. You’ve heard others enthusiastically state how the item changed their lives and brought them health, wealth, happiness, and love.

Strangely, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a vegetable juicer, a home fitness implement that fits within a doorframe, a diet system, or a miraculously absorbent towel from Germany. Suddenly, you start to feel the gap in your life!

You start wondering – how much does this gizmo cost?

Well, the marketers have anticipated your question. But they won’t tell you the answer just yet—no, let’s hear another testimonial first.

Even after that, they won’t divulge the actual price right away. If they give away the actual price at that point, you may think it’s too high. So, the strategy is to reveal the price and make you feel lucky when you finally hear it. It goes something like this:

“Let me tell you. Typically, items like this one sell for six hundred dollars or more. However, today we’re offering you a very special deal. We’re not going to sell this for six hundred dollars.”

“At three hundred dollars, it’d be a steal. But that’s not what we’re going to sell it for.”

“At one hundred dollars, you’d see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Today, it’s only ninety-seven dollars. This introductory offer applies to just the first thousand orders. We still have 390 items left. So call now!”

You are thinking that this may be your chance to be in the “exclusive” club of people who will own this for a song. Compared to $600, $97 looks like a steal.

As you are thinking about it, there is an announcement.

“Wait, here is a special deal. If you call in the next ten minutes, we want to offer you one extra gizmo for free. You buy one and you get one for free. You can give this extra gizmo to a friend or your colleague. Do whatever you want but call in the next ten minutes. Operators are standing by. Please call now.”

That nails it.

In the first twenty minutes, you are convinced that you really need this gizmo.

In the next five minutes, you have been “educated” on the value of the object. Prior to the infomercial, you may have had no idea of the product’s cost. But now, you have a benchmark—it’s not one you invented. It’s a contextual decision based on information provided to you by the marketers. You’ve accepted their pricing frame of reference.

In the next minute, you are convinced that if you act quickly, you might be in the exclusive club of people who can own this gizmo for a song.

In the final minutes, you are convinced to act now—so you can get something for free.

Really, they tell you – you have got to act now to get in the exclusive club.

I know, I know – you are not one of those people who will fall for this kind of gimmick. You are way smarter than that. But the fact is that these infomercials are produced with big budgets and some of them produce millions of dollars in sales.

Someone out there is falling for this marketing approach, for sure.

And if you remember, the Bernie Madoff scheme required investors to be part of the “in” network. When people see an opportunity too good to be true, they misapply their frame of reference. They want to believe. They want to act, because they fear that they will be missing a great opportunity.

Instead of asking “What if this offer were true?” maybe we should ask, “Are there some reasons that this offer isn’t as good as it seems?”


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Posted in the Compelling Offers, Main Page category.

Watch the stories (pun intended)

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 16 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

You can check the time on your cell phone. Or you could buy a reasonably good watch for less than $100.

So, why would anyone buy a watch that is north of $2500.

Obviously not just to check the time.

So, it must be the stories that the watch makers tell about why you need to buy them.

Here are some samples (photos from the world’s largest mall in Dubai)

First, let us take Omega.

You may want to buy it because it is George Clooney’s choice.

That doesn’t cut it? OK this should do it.  Omega is also Zhang Ziyi’s choice

Second, Jaeger-LeCoultre

Jaeger-LaCoultre thinks you might have never really worn a real watch (that is unless you own a Jaeger-LaCoutre)

Third, Tag Heuer

They have been making watches since 1860 and have a rich history. Plus, you might want a watch that is accurate to a 1/100 of a second.

Fourth and final, Patek Phillippe

You have to look at them because it is multi-generational story. According to them, you never really “own” a watch. You just take care of them for the next generation.

Convinced yet?

Posted in the Business Models, Compelling Offers category.


By Rajesh Setty on Mon 15 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 2 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Tsja! on Flickr

You drink water when you are thirsty. But the doctors say that you need to drink at least eight glasses of water everyday to stay healthy. Most people ignore the advice and stick to drinking water only when they are thirsty. While they can ignore the advice they can’t avoid the consequences of ignoring that advice.

Drinking eight glasses of water everyday requires going out of the way – meaning you need to drink water even when you are not thirsty. Seems odd to do at first but if you get into a habit, you will get used to it.

Thirst for knowledge works the same way. You can acquire knowledge when you need it (thirsty) or you can develop a habit of acquiring it throughout your lifetime.

The latter is of course the “healthier” choice.

Posted in the Main Page category.

Our deepest fear.. by Marianne Williamson

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 14 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

This is an excerpt from the book “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson

(Hat Tip: Mari Smith)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness

that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small

does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,

as children do.

We were born to make manifest

the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;

it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

Please take a moment to reflect on what you read and have a wonderful day.

Posted in the Leadership, Main Page category.

The Present

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 13 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

Photo Courtesy: jmb1977 on Flickr

A few days ago, I had a delightful dinner conversation with Mitchell Levy and Kiruba Shankar. We talked a LOT and covered many things.

A story about a “Present” shared by Mitchell totally touched my heart. Here it is in his own words.

This happened when D (Mitchell’s son) was about two years old. His Grandpa had brought D a rocking horse as a present. It was in a big cardboard box. D knew it was a present for him and he was so happy to see it. He jumped on the box quickly and started playing with his “present.”

D’s Grandpa had to explain (with great difficulty) that it was not the present and the real present was inside the box. D was not in a mood to listen anyway. After some negotiation, Grandpa finally got D away from the box and opened the box and took the rocking horse out.

D was happy to find his present. He now jumped inside the box and started playing there. Remember Grandpa had told him the present was inside the box.

Grandpa had to convince D again that the present was really “outside” the box. D came out and looked at what was outside and for him it probably looked like two wooden pieces and he was totally not interested in that. Playing inside the box was more fun.

Long story short – Grandpa fixed the rocking horse for D and it took a few more minutes of convincing and FINALLY D decided to play with his real present – the rocking horse.

Shows that sometimes the “Present” is right in front of our eyes but we can’t see it.

Posted in the Main Page category.