Business Management

Attuning IT with Business Strategy

“A kaleidoscope of IT and Business Strategy can tell us different superlative patterns that are available to attain organizational goals and business objectives.”

clipart-kaleidoscope

1. Overview

We can surely fetch superior results by changing patterns (improvising processes) with existing or incremental IT resources, though organization can determine among different strategies to grow in the same business environment – low-cost leadership strategies, differentiation strategies, and focus strategies. Thus, alignment of IT, is not limited with implementation only. Our IT strategy should be synchronized with organizational growth and complexities. But sometimes our IT function becomes counter-productive because of – legacy systems, complex IT infrastructure and external environmental rejection.

Orchestrating right IT strategy, with self-corrective measures, faces major challenge in order to align insatiable business needs – enhanced productivity, improved workflow, better risk control mechanisms and gain competitive advantage.

2. Tangible Alignment

In business organization, we need to express every aspect – tangibly, to receive wider acceptance of management. CFO or CEO may not be agreeing on any investments that do not have direct correlation with outcomes. CIOs are facing immense pressure to conclude a road-map that could only suffice the future needs of an organization. Bigger organization would pose greater challenges as it could have diversity in culture, processes, people and priorities. It forces CIOs to work like transformer that could transform out-put as per forthcoming challenges at various business units. But in today’s scenario, continual upsurge of new technologies, profoundly revolutionized the approach of businesses to engage with their customers. It also responsible for this dramatic resurgence for the IT department.

We require rational thinking towards contemporary IT strategy. Before we move ahead, we need to ask some fundamental questions:

  1. What all are the future expectations?
  2. What all IT resources do we have now? (and SWOT analysis as well)
  3. What would we require in order to support business strategy?

Now after critical survey and analysis of above questions, we need to find-out tangible area of alignment that would verify real-world feasibility to adopt IT strategy.

3. Action

We should specifically look at creating greater business alignment and defining IT objectives and goals as a function of individual business goals. Here we need to balance short-term goals with long-term organizational strategy. Our alignment process should also decentralize decision-making that allows divisional CIOs and business heads to meet their needs.  At every level, KPIs should be prepared to assess the business impact of IT at the unit level and corporate level. This more precisely measures the benefits of IT spending, and makes it easier to prioritize future investments. Following process should be followed to calibrate IT with your business strategy:

  1. Assess business
  2. Document the workflow
  3. Capture the context
  4. Roadmap Creation
  5. Develop implementation framework
  6. Implementation
  7. Corrective change adoption

4. Conclusion

A well formulated and aligned IT strategy will reap manifold business benefits. Organization can sense risk and prepare future risk mitigation.

By: Rajeev Misra

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Business Management, Uncategorized

How Top Salespeople Land Hard-to-Get Meetings by Stu Heinecke

Richard Branson famously said, “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” Mr. Branson surely has little trouble getting anyone he wants on the phone, but the rest of us could use a little help.

While I was researching my new book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, I asked the top 100 sales thought leaders in the world, “When you absolutely must reach someone who is very important but nearly impossible to reach, how do you do it?” What I discovered was a shadow practice that has been extremely effective at breaking through to critical contacts, but no one actually had a name for it.

I dubbed it “contact marketing,” and found it to be a surprisingly effective marketing technique. Based on my interviews, reported response rates averaged from 60% to 80%, with some campaigns actually hitting 100%. What exactly is contact marketing? It’s a fusion of marketing and selling, employing specific campaigns to connect with specific C-level executives and top decision makers. The idea is that you only need a few dozen of the right high-level relationships to change the scale of your business. Contact marketing can take many forms, but there are five takeaways you can use to make your own high-level connections:

Deliver something of value. Here’s your chance to stand out, to be audacious, and to create a meaningful connection. The objective is not to attempt to bribe someone to meet with you, but to deliver something that makes a difference to the recipient. It should express your brand personality but contain absolutely no pitch. Your first mission is simply to create a connection, to establish yourself as someone they’ll want to listen to. While you might use search results and social media postings to try to determine an executive’s specific challenges and desires, there are also some simple assumptions you can use to open doors, based on universal desires shared by most business leaders. We all want more success, recognition, and income, but we also want to do the best job we can and leave a mark. For example, I’m a cartoonist, and I’ve found that my cartoons can touch upon all of these markers in a very personal way. Sending a personalized cartoon, like the one below, has become a can’t-miss way for me to connect with virtually anyone, but anything that recognizes the recipients’ desires, helps them do their job more effectively, or enhances their business in some way can be highly effective.

ed139-hbr-cartoon-580

 

Offer something of further value. As your request for contact is received, it’s a good idea to include something additional as a reward for taking the proposed meeting or phone call. Some campaigns split a gift in two — a remote-control model sent with a note explaining that the withheld control unit will be delivered during the meeting, for instance. Although this has reportedly worked, it can come off as being too pushy. A far better approach would be to offer relevant research, a white paper, or a free audit of some aspect of the target executive’s business when the meeting takes place, as a way to provide the incentive you may need to actually get the meeting. The point is to continually add value to the connection building between you in a way that helps the executive do their job more effectively.

Include the executive assistant. Many sales reps do their best to avoid, circumvent, or trick the executive assistants they encounter, but that is a fatal mistake. Don’t think of assistants as gatekeepers; think of them as talent scouts, always on watch for extraordinary opportunities their executives would otherwise miss. Once they’ve rendered assistance, be sure to thank them with a modest but meaningful gift. If an assistant has been helpful to me, I often send a card with one of my cartoons personalized in their name and a handwritten note of thanks. Whatever you send, don’t make it look like a bribe; a dozen roses is way too much, but a gift card for a few lattes is perfect. Just make sure it expresses your appreciation for their help.

Secure the meeting. Arranging a call or meeting can be painfully tedious as all parties attempt to coordinate openings in their schedules. You can either suffer the details or use one of many productivity tools on the market to get your meeting on calendars, such as Calendly, Assistant.to, ScheduleOnce, and TimeTrade. I recommend x.ai, an artificial intelligence agent that makes the necessary arrangements via email, from the initial request right on through to confirming meeting times on everyone’s calendars.

Connect, don’t pitch. Once you’ve gone through the trouble of arranging the meeting, it would be a waste to ruin it with a misguided pitch of your company’s product or service. So don’t do it. Instead, be ready to have an exploratory but informed conversation about an issue by researching news stories or mentions in their social media feeds. Share other cases in which you’ve helped companies in their industry gain new competitive advantages, but never start the meeting assuming your offer is right for them. Be human, explore, and have a conversation.

Here are two stories of how others have used contact marketing to inspire a few ideas for your own campaign.

Dan Waldschmidt’s swords. Dan Waldschmidt is an extreme athlete, an author, and one of the top sales bloggers in the world. But his core business is turnaround consulting. To connect with prospects, he scours the business news for stories of missed earnings estimates. When he finds one, he has a beautiful sword made with an engraved inscription in the target contact’s name. It’s sent in a fine wooden box with a handwritten letter telling the CEO he’s got his back in the next battle — but says nothing about his turnaround service. This offer has generated a near 100% response rate and numerous multimillion-dollar engagements while beautifully expressing the value Dan delivers and the personality of his brand.

NoWait app launch. The founders of the NoWait app, which allows you to put yourself on the waitlist of your favorite restaurant from anywhere, used Contact Campaign as the basis of their entire launch strategy. They targeted the CEOs of 30 top restaurant chains with a brilliant campaign that used personalized videos delivered on iPads in custom NoWait packaging. Their highly targeted approach allowed the company to focus on the people who could do them the most good, using a minuscule $30,000 marketing budget to achieve their objectives. As a result the NoWait App is already used by more than half of the targeted chains.

I’ve always used my own cartoons to connect with great effect, but you don’t have to be a cartoonist or send expensive gifts to break through to important contacts. Just produce a contact marketing campaign that makes you stand out as someone the recipient really needs to get to know. Do your research and figure out the sweet spot between what your future client needs most and why you’re the best person to help them reach their goals.

This Article Published on hbr.org (MAY 05, 2016)

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Business Management

Collaborative and Advocacy Platform for Healthcare Industry

In the U.S., pharmaceutical companies are spending billions of dollars to promote their drugs and new medical practices through physicians. They usually hire renowned physicians for conducting seminars on specific problem areas or medical innovations. Speakers, in such seminars, provide insight on new treatment methods and medicines. Information is disseminated through neutral platforms that create acceptability for new medical practices.  We can understand the degree of influence by two simple scenarios, which are as follows:

  1. Scenario 1: If a company is promoting drugs through some direct mediums (such as TV and newspaper  ads), it is perceived as advertisement and profit making activity
  2. Scenario 2: On the other hand, if a leading physician is sharing a case study on new medical practice through neutral platform, it will have a greater influence. Here, peer influence plays a vital role

It is evident that second scenario would have greater influence as physicians would follow the leaders of same profession and specialization. Pharmaceutical companies know this fact and they promote medical practices indirectly. They also provide fund for clinical researches, which are carried out by the medical associations.

Every physician is associated with one or more medical associations.  Medical associations promote the art and science of medicine for the betterment of the public health. They also lobby for legislation favorable to physicians and patients. Medical associations provide support for medical education and conduct clinical survey. These medical associations are funded by government or pharmaceutical companies.

In this whole engagement, there is no formal collaborative medium which can engage medical professionals for long time. Eventually, this system becomes ineffective for physicians, medical associations and pharmaceutical companies. Following are the drawbacks of the current system that finally leads to its failure:

  1. Medical professionals are not tightly coupled as there is no connection medium after dispersing
  2. Information is lost after some time as there is no storage medium which could keep the findings and discussions on the central location and reproduce it on demand
  3. No analytical pattern derivation
  4. There is no benchmarking for any action
  5. ROI is immeasurable

Need of Collaborative and Advocacy Platform

As we know that healthcare industry is driven by knowledge and research, so there is the need of collaborative and advocacy platform. In simple words, we can call it ‘online networking platform’ but it is placed differently for medical professionals. However, if some practices are disseminated through a neutral platform and supported by some unbiased opinion leaders, practitioners are likely to more rely on that.

Potential Solution – Collaborative and Advocacy Platform

An online collaborative and advocacy platform can bridge the gap between the formal and informal peer connection and provide a structure to informal collaboration. Physicians can dive into the knowledge pool from any point. In other words, instead of ending up with a deluge of information which a peer (medical professional) needs to sift through to find relevant content, this platform could provide just the right information from in-house experts, thought leaders, and peers.

This collaborative and advocacy platform can help in various ways and few of them are as follows –

  1. Communities of practice could create and join user groups based on topics relevant to their jobs
  2. Dynamic search mechanisms that help users to discover and retain meaningful information
  3. Measurement tools that allow organizations to measure collaboration by assessing each contribution
  4. Mechanisms to incentivize and motivate contributors by using an in-built scoring mechanism for each action (such as blog, forum, audio & video sharing etc.) performed on platform ranging from asking a question to rating someone’s contribution to creating a community focused around a common area of interest. The higher an individual’s ratings, the higher is his/her ‘Thought Leadership Index’
  5. Ability to categorize and present information in different ways—by authors, by popularity of contributions, by the type of media (audio, video, images), and so on
  6. Collaboration in real-time allows instant screen sharing and recording of sessions for future use

The 24/7 connectivity offered by mobile devices are amenable to instant access, real-time search, as well as, storage of information on a ‘need-to’ basis. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for any collaborative platform to use mobile devices as the media for interaction among peers and experts. Collaborative platform supported on mobile devices certainly have potential in terms of achieving higher levels of satisfaction as their on-the-job needs can be fulfilled just-in-time.

Published: http://blog.rsystems.com/collaborative-and-advocacy-platform-for-healthcare-industry/

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Business Management

What Makes A Good Leader?

When discussing business leadership, the distinction between good management and good leadership is often made. Managers are thought to be the budgeters, the organizers, the controllers — the ants, as one observer puts it — while leaders are the charismatic, big-picture visionaries, the ones who change the whole ant farm. But such a construction, those interviewed for this article agree, erroneously leads to a bimodal way of looking at something that should really be evaluated on two separate scales. “Everybody has got a little bit of each in them,” says John Kotter, who admits he is sometimes guilty of using the dichotomy in an effort at simplification. “It’s much better to think in terms of measuring people on a zero-to-ten scale for each quality.”
HBS professor Joe Badaracco agrees that the traditional manager versus leader argument (“Clark Kent versus Superman,” he jokes) tends to undermine the value of management. “There are lots of people who look and act like managers, who have excellent managerial skills, and who don’t make a lot of noise. Nobody is writing cover stories about them. But after they have been in an organization for a period of time, things are significantly better,” observes Badaracco. “Now, are these mere managers because we can’t compare them with Martin Luther King? Or are they leaders because they accomplished something that needed to be done?”
 
Some great managers struggle with change and fail to be great leaders, while a great leader might fail to create a sense of stability in an organization and not measure up as a manager. HBS professor David Thomas points out that “increasingly, the people who are the most effective are those who essentially are both managers and leaders.”

Communication Is Key
“Communication is the real work of leadership,” says HBS professor Nitin Nohria, who documented the importance of persuasion in his 1992 book Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management. Nohria believes effective leaders are masters of the classical elements of rhetoric, as outlined by Aristotle centuries ago. “You can reach people through logos or logic, by appealing to their sense of what is rational,” he explains. “You can use pathos, appealing to their emotions, or you can make an argument based on their sense of values or ethos.” Great leaders, he notes, “spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.”

Nohria also feels that leaders are able to distill their message, however complex it may be, to something that is accessible to those who may not share their knowledge or background. Joe Badaracco agrees. “You need a talent for simplicity — for saying things in a few words. General Electric’s Jack Welch is a good example. He is astonishingly articulate and able to convey complicated concepts in just a few phrases.”

Of course, knowing your audience is also essential. “Great communicators have an appreciation for positioning,” states John Kotter. “They understand the people they’re trying to reach and what they can and can’t hear. They send their message in through an open door rather than trying to push it through a wall.” Badaracco believes part of knowing your audience is the ability to listen. “Communication can’t always follow the top-down model,” he says. “With the fluidity of information in business today, leaders need to be masterful listeners; they need to be able to receive as well as send.”

David Thomas stresses the importance of “multimodality” in communication. “What you say is only the beginning,” he states. “Your behavior, your actions, and your decisions are also ways of communicating, and leaders have to learn how to create a consistent message through all of these. It’s been said many times, but leaders lead by example.”

For Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a key question is whether a leader’s personal passion matches his or her aspirations. “There are so many false starts, unexpected obstacles, and surprising turns along the path to change. Daily work often drains energy needed for change,” she says. “Leaders must pick causes they won’t abandon easily, remain committed despite setbacks, and communicate their big ideas over and over again in every encounter.”

Telling the Hard Truths
What happens when leaders must communicate facts that are hard to take? Nitin Nohria reflects on Winston Churchill’s devastating defeat at Gallipoli, which resulted in over 100,000 Allied casualties during World War I. “The campaign was a total fiasco for British military leadership,” he notes. “When it was over, Churchill took complete responsibility. A setback like that could have been paralyzing, but he was able to move forward to lead his country to victory in World War II.”

The lesson, says Nohria, is that Churchill and other great leaders are pragmatists who can deal with difficult realities but still have the optimism and courage to act. “Enduring setbacks while maintaining the ability to show others the way to go forward is a true test of leadership,” he asserts.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, has said that one of the key elements of being a good business leader is the capacity to tell the hard truths. “Leaders struggle with this problem all the time,” says David Thomas. “From a leadership point of view, you always want to move toward telling the hard truths and helping people cope with the realities of change. But as a manager, you might be more inclined to minimize the complexity of a situation so things can run smoothly for as long as possible. It’s often a judgment call.”

The ability to render that judgment can sometimes make or break a company. “The phrase ‘public confidence, private doubt’ comes to mind,” observes Joe Badaracco. “If leaders disclosed all their concerns and doubts, stock prices would plummet, their competitors would be all over them, and employees would be jumping ship. But even if you can’t be absolutely open with everyone, leaders have to confront their companies’ problems and, of course, share them with top management.”

John Kotter underscores the positive potential of facing problems head-on. “Great leadership does not mean running away from reality,” he argues. “Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralize the company, but at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.”

[This article has been reproduced from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, the online research journal of University of Harvard Business School]

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Business Management

Why Nice Guys Don't Always Make It to the Top

Typically regarded as a common virtue, generosity can also be a sign of weakness for leaders, according to a new study.The research finds that contributing to the public good influences a person’s status on two critical dimensions: prestige and dominance.

“People with high prestige are often regarded as saints, possessing a self-sacrificial quality and strong moral standards,” said Robert Livingston, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. “However, while these individuals are willing to give their resources to the group, they are not perceived as tough leaders.”

The researchers define dominance as an imposed alpha status whereas prestige is freely conferred admiration from others. Al Capone, for example, characterizes a high-dominance individual, whereas Mother Theresa represents a high-prestige individual.

The study argues that people with high prestige are perceived as desirable leaders in noncompetitive contexts; they are seen as submissive compared to individuals who strive to maximize their personal gains. In times of competition, individuals who are less altruistic are seen as dominant and more appealing as leaders.

“Our findings show that people want respectable and admired group members to lead them at times of peace, but when ‘the going gets tough’ they want a dominant, power-seeking individual to lead the group,” said Nir Halevy, lead author and acting assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Livingston and Halevy coauthored the research with Taya Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and PhD student Eileen Chou of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Their study highlights the need to distinguish between different types of status in groups, as well as how intergroup conflict shapes followers’ leadership preferences.

“There are numerous academic findings on status but we sought to investigate the antecedents and consequences of two distinct forms of status, depending on the context,” said Livingston.

To test their theory, the researchers conducted three experiments where participants were given the option to keep an initial endowment for themselves or contribute it to a group pool. Contributions either only benefited the contributor’s fellow group members, or simultaneously benefited the contributor’s group members and harmed the members of another group.

The first two experiments found that selfishness and displays of ‘out-group hate’ — unnecessarily depriving the members of another group — boosted dominance but decreased respect and admiration from others. In contrast, showing in-group love — generously sharing resources with fellow group members — increased respect and admiration but decreased dominance.

The third experiment found that “universalism” — that is, sharing one’s resources with both in-group members and outsiders — had the most dire net outcomes on a person’s status. The researchers discovered that universal generosity decreased perceptions of both prestige and dominance compared with those who shared resources only with members of their group.

In short, being generous can boost prestige if an individual is selectively generous to his or her own group; this increases respect and admiration from others. However, being selfish or belligerent (unnecessarily harming members of another group) decreases respect and admiration from others but it increases perceptions of personal dominance.

The intriguing consequence is that dominant individuals were more likely than prestigious individuals to be elected as a representative for the group in a mock competition with another group. Thus, being too nice can have negative consequences for leadership.

“Being too generous often comes at a personal cost to one’s position of strength or power,” Livingston explained.

“This research begins to explore when ‘nice guys’ finish first and when they finish last, depending on the group context,” Halevy said. “Nice guys don’t make it to the top when their group needs a dominant leader to lead them at a time of conflict.”

The study, “Status Conferral in Intergroup Social Dilemmas: Behavioral Antecedents and Consequences of Prestige and Dominance,” will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

 [From Stanford Knowledgebase, a free monthly electronic source of information, ideas, and research published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.]

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Spirituality

How to enrich our creative talents and memory?

Yam medham devaganah pitarashcopasate |Taya mamadya medhayagne medhavinam kuru svaha | | -Yajurveda 32/14

O Fire – God incarnate! Bestow on me the brilliance (of intellect), which is prayed for by the gods and the spirits of the ancestors through devout adoration. Everyone is interested to find some sure – shot formula to increase memory power. The student community, in particular, feels its need more acutely. How to memorize a lesson fast? How to retain and not forget what has been learnt? Such questions keep cropping up in the minds of students. In search of their answers, they indulge in all sorts of tactics, including recourse to some medicines/drugs.
The drug companies, too, on their part exploit this vulnerability of the students. Through attractive and high – power advertisements and false promises of miracles they are ever eager to make a fast buck. It is not known whether the really needy ever derive any benefit or not from the advertised drugs.
This much, however, is certain that the so-called recipe of strong memory remains a much sought after mirage. In this connection, we should know and for certain that such wishful miracles do not happen anywhere in the universe. Every action, every event is defined and regulated by set rules of cosmic order, be they in the realer of physical laws or the spiritual.
The same principle operates with respect to memory.
This has a science of its own, it own techniques. Those who know and understand it are able to derive benefit easily, while the ignorant ones waste their time in futile ventures and feel disappointed on crucial occasions. SO it is better that one should thoroughly understand the correct techniques of firmly committing some thing to memory and use them properly. Those who suffer from memory problems have some standard complaints: What can I do, I just cannot memorize; I had indeed memorized this, but forgot it; I can recollect but only piecemeal, and so on and so forth.
There are contrary claims too – of committing a thing to memory in just one reading, or recollecting exactly every detail of what had been read, or memories of long bygone times being still vivid in the mind etc. There is an instructive anecdote, which will help in understanding these diametrically opposite statements relating to memory function. This anecdote is from the life of Vivekanand. Those days Swami ji was in pravrajya (ascetical wanderings) within India. He had a gurubhai (brother disciple of a common teacher) as companion.
A continuous routine of swadhyaya (self-study), satsang (company of the truth seekers) and rigorous tapa (austerities) was being followed. Whenever he could lay his hand upon a good book, Vivekanand would not miss reading it. In every new place, his first search was a good library, and when he came across one he would make full utilization of its treasures. At one place, in course of this pravrajya, a library impressed him much and he decided to stay at the place for an extended period. His gurubhai would fetch for him a variety of books is Sanskrit and English, which the Swamiji would return the next day after reading them. This routine of issuing fresh books daily  and quite voluminous ones at that- and receiving the same the very next day perplexed the librarian.
He enquired of the gurubhai: ” Do you take all these books daily only to took over them cursorily? If so, I will show them to you here itself, why carry so much weight all the way to your place of stay? Hearing this remark of the librarian, the gurubhai replied in all seriousness: “It is not as you think. My gurubhai does read these books seriously before returning them”. Surprised at this reply, the librarian said: “If it is so, I would very much like to meet the gentleman”. The next day, Swamiji met him and said: “Sir, do not be perplexed. I have not only gone through the books, but have also memorized their contents”. Having said so, he handed him back some previously issued books and repeated verbatim many important passages from them. For the librarian, this spectacle was nothing short of a miracle. Very humbly, he asked Swami ji the secret of his super-human memory. Swami ji laughed and said: “There is no miracle or mystery in this. It is simply a technique of mental concentration”.
This technique has certain stages. The first stage is that whatever is read or listened that should be with a calm, composed and concentrated mind. Indeed, the sense organs are mere doors through which messages are sent to the mind. It is the mind which is the real thing. The more the holding power or capability of the mind, the more the information which can be imprinted on it. In fact, memorizing something or recollecting it is but a mere process, which is called memory (smriti). But the storehouse of memory is talent or intelligence (medha). In each individual, this talent exists in direct proportion to his mental composure, tranquility and concentration. For this very reason, things read, heard or seen in a hurry, or in state of instability, or casually and perfunctorily do not register in the mind.
The more clearly and deeply a thing is imprinted on the substratum of mind, the more vivid and detailed its recollection will be. If for some reason, this imprint is not clear in one attempt, the process should be repeated. It will be helpful if the important points are jotted down, since the process of writing, by itself, generates steadiness and concentration.
The third important point in connection with memory power is that one should be conceptually clear about the subject or points which are sought to be memorized, because it is easy to retain in memory those facts or events which touch our inner chord. Interest in and aptitude for the subject matter is another important consideration; again concentration comes as a matter of course when the topic is of interest to us. In addition to all these, an essential requisite is that our nervous system be stable and strong.
Those who lead a regulated and disciplined life are found to have a sharp memory and they can also absorb information very fast. One cannot lay too much emphasize on the distinct correlation between an orderly and disciplined life style and highly developed and sharpened memory as well as creative abilities.

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Spirituality

Know Thyself

It is but natural to enquire about the name, village, address, etc. of a person with whom one has to travel or whom one has to accompany for some time. This acquaintance gives freedom from worry and at the same time paves the way for depending on mutual help in emergencies. A total stranger looks suspicious. Ones own entity always remains with oneself. Its physical and mental aspects are so close that they remain with the self round the clock whether one is awake or asleep. Wife is called by many epithets like life partner, better half of the husband, two bodies-one consciousness, etc. but, she too remains with the husband for a few hours that too at some distance from him.
Children come near once in a while for specific purposes but they are considered ones very own and one has to share their pleasures and pains.
A person is always worried about the future of his children and, as far as possible, plans ahead for it. It is strange that our inseparable instruments of expression like the body and the mind, which are always there with us, are neglected by us. Seldom one enquires about their purpose.
The soul has embodied itself in the material plane with some purpose. Do we understand the purpose and consciously and resolutely pursue it? Whenever a bungalow or a vehicle is given to an officer, he is told that these are to be used for official purposes and not for personal work.
If any officer defaults and rents out a portion of his bungalow or uses his vehicle for private purposes, it would be considered immoral and willful infringement of the rules for personal gain and will attract suitable punishment. Human life is precious. It is a unique, artistic creation of the Creator. Such a boon is not available to any other creature on the earth. No other creature is endowed with the faculty like the human intellect, or with two hands with ten fingers that can be creatively and dexterously used? Which other creatures have the ability to stand erect and walk on two feet? Who is capable of earning their livelihood and accumulating the surplus for later use? Which other creature uses clothes and houses? Who else other than man possesses the wisdom to develop an organized family and social order? Whose senses possess such sensitivity? Who possesses the intricately fashioned living garment like the human body?
The fact that a human being has been blessed with special faculties sets him apart from other creatures. Thus it becomes evident that human life has been given to us for some specific purpose willed by God.
We must concentrate on clearly understanding this purpose and then live life in the light of our true identity as a spark of Divinity. If appropriate efforts are not made to know our true selves through the special faculties and instruments gifted to us for this search by our Creator and we squander away these divine gifts in sense-gratification, it would be a betrayal of our spiritual inheritance leading to endless suffering and pain. In order to get started on this pilgrimage of self-discovery, we will have to wake up out of the stupor of self-forgetfulness  Maya.
Here is what Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo has said about self-effort in the path of self-discovery in his marvelously inspiring words: “In all that is done in the universe, the Divine through his Shakti is behind all action but he is veiled by his Yoga Maya and works through the ego of the jiva in the lower nature. In yoga also it is the Divine who is the sadhak and the sadhana; It is his Shakti with her light, power, knowledge, consciousness, Anand, acting upon the adhara and, when it is opened to her, pouring into it with these divine forces that makes the sadhana possible. But, so long as the lower nature is active the personal effort of the sadhak remains necessary.
The personal effort required is a triple labor of aspiration, rejection and surrender- an aspiration, vigilant, constant, unceasing- the minds will, the hearts seeking, the assent of the vital being, the will to open and make plastic the physical consciousness and nature; rejection of the movements of the lower nature- rejection of the minds ideas, opinions, preferences, habits, constructions, so that the true knowledge may find free room in a silent mind,- rejection of the vital natures desires, demands, cravings, sensations, passions, selfishness, pride, arrogance, lust, greed, jealousy, envy, hostility to the Truth, so that the true power and joy may pour from above into a calm, large, strong and consecrated vital being, – rejection of the physical natures stupidity, doubt , disbelief, obscurity, obstinacy, pettiness, laziness, unwillingness to change, tamas, so that the true stability of Light, Power, Anand may establish itself in a body growing always more divine; surrender of oneself and all one is and has and every plane of the consciousness and every movement of the Divine and the Shakti. In proportion as the surrender and self consecration progress the sadhak becomes conscious of the divine shakti doing the sadhana, pouring into him more and more of herself, founding in him the freedom and perfection of the divine nature.
The more this conscious process replaces his own effort the more rapid and true becomes his progress but it cannot completely replace the necessity of personal effort until the surrender and consecration are pure and complete from top to bottom. Note that a tamasic surrender refusing to fulfill the condition and calling on God to do everything and save one all the trouble and struggle is a deception and does not lead to freedom and perfection.

(From: The Mother p.8-11)
When American philosopher Thoreau was on his deathbed, his aunt came to meet him. She asked whether he had apologized to God for his sins and whether he had prayed for peace.
Thoreau smiled and said that he had never in his life diverted from the path of righteousness, as far as he remembered and that he had never infringed the Divine principles, hence there was no reason for him to tender an apology to God.

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