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Dinaz Vervatwala: A Profile of Dogged Determination and Derring Do

Leadership Lessons through Life

Saina and Dinaz

To those who have often wondered about the book ‘Nice girls don’t make the corner office’ by Dr Lois P Frankel, there are innumerable posits of ladies with the drive, determination and derring do  to rule the world. With fire in their bellies and song on their lips they surmount all odds in this male dominated world to reach the top and redefine success. Frankel cautions women that their careers could get sabotaged by “girlish behaviour” learned in childhood, such as working non-stop without a break, worrying about offending others, backing down too easily, explaining too much when asked for information or “polling” friends and colleagues before making a decision…

The book’s naiveté surprised me. All the women I have worked with or known have been go getters willing to push the envelope at all times better than their male counterparts. Not that I am deriding male workers but some examples will highlight what I mean. My ladies in the office, the stenos and personal assistants are at times better than the leaders they support. Well that may be so but this discourse is reserved for Dinaz Vervatwala – the Guiness World Record Holder for 26 hours nonstop aerobics at the age of 43 to be followed up by winning the Miss Fitness award in the US this year. The Hyderabadis know her too well. This is to excite the crowd across the globe to marvel at this gift of god.

Dinaz is a woman who loves what she does and successfully integrates this passion and her own character into her work. While the narrative is about one, it is reflective of the many wonder women who work in our midst and who make our organization a better place with their unique nature.

Dinaz

Life

Dinaz was born in Jamshedpur, the youngest of three children and the only girl in the family. Her upbringing was far away from being girl like, thanks to the influence of her brothers. Cycling and hiking were great hobbies and pastimes, and formed the fitness foundations that ultimately charted her destiny. She lost her father while she was in Class X and life was hard after that. Her mother worked hard to bring up the children and it took a long time for the family to recover. After her schooling at Sacred Heart Convent School at Jamshedpur, Dinaz left for Mumbai to pursue her under graduation in Accounting hoping to be a Chartered Accountant someday. While studying, she worked at night and completed the course. She returned to Jamshedpur as an intern for S.P. Bilimoria and there resumed her hobbies and added jogging and free hand exercises to her routine.

She got married to Jamshed Vervatwala (an excellent mentor and chef apart from being an oil expert) in 1988 and moved to Hyderabad and continued to study and work towards becoming a Chartered Accountant. The internship was interesting but had long hours built in. Fitness and a healthy lifestyle used to pique her interest constantly, but time was not on her side. Some of her family members were victims of osteoporosis and it was sad to see them fall prey to this deadly disease that according to information available at that point, medication and prayers were the only solution. Many a time, she used to wonder how elderly women in the West were in relatively better shape than their contemporaries across the globe. Standard response to queries regarding women’s problems was attributed to `natural’ causes and fate (which she didn’t buy).

Her opportunity came after she had her first child in 1993. She was at home looking after her son and as expected putting on weight. She decided to start exercising by herself and then it struck her that  that may have been the opportunity she was waiting for. She started on her own, encouraged by her family, started reading and watching exercise videos and getting better educated and informed.

Dinaz’s is Born

In 1993, she opened her classes to the public and waited for her first client. Dinaz’s was born and the rest is history. Since then she has remained committed to the well-being of women. She runs four studios, all wooden-floored and her operating systems of maintenance and management are comparable to the best in the rest of the world. All the instructors and administration show compassion and concern to our clients at all times.

Dinaz at Work

Dinaz says, “I am proud to report that I have distinguished members of society as chief patron and patrons of Dinaz’s, a distinction not found anywhere in the country. The task of motivating women to exercise in society we live in is proving increasingly difficult as labour-saving devices and sedentary entertainments become more easily accessible. With this as a background, I am encouraging a number of youngsters to look into becoming fitness professionals. Today’s fitness pro has to stay on top of things because today’s exerciser is lot more knowledgeable about health and fitness than ever before. In 1999, I opened my doors to the 50-plus women in a programme called “Nifty-Fifty” designed by me to include women in the peri-menopausal, menopausal to the post menopausal population. At that point (may be even today), no structured and scientific programme was available in the country. Today, that programme is popular at all the locations and that caught the eye of the doctors from the Obstetrics and Gynaecologists Society of Hyderabad and the Indian Menopause Society – Hyderabad Chapter who invited me to talk at a scientific session called `Positive Health After 40′. I took along a 50-plus group who demonstrated and that led to us starting an exercise programme for the doctors at the OGSH.

One of the high points of her life was when she was invited by the President of the Indian Menopause Society as an expert to the Second National Revised Consensus & Policy Development Expert Meet on Menopause & the Role of HRT In Indian Women organised by Indian Menopause Society and Apollo Hospital at New Delhi. She presented a paper “Exercising and Menopause – Increasing the Joy of Living”. She was the youngest out of 45 experts to be invited and the only fitness expert in the country.

Our Meeting

I came across Dinaz in 2004 while heading my organization in the army which warranted a lot of expertise on physical and mental well being of my people. I recall that humble and demure lady sitting across me and listening to my male bravado about the stern stuff we soldiers were made of. Whatever she was thinking, she did not trespass my vanity and offered to look at the current exercise regime to offer suggestions at improving output while curbing exercise injuries. I took that as a light hearted activity and agreed to go along with her.

Three days into the grind watching our methods she paused to formulate a programme of “training the trainers” to improve our standards. My officers and men initially scoffed at the idea of a female teaching physical fitness to them and there were many a chauvinistic discussions as to how this might adversely affect the morale. However, having gone through some basic classes in her studio in the meanwhile I had learnt more about her and prevailed over my team to let her conduct the programme. We set about training 30 of my most fit instructors under Dinaz. The rest they say is history – those inspired instructors continue to spread Dinaz’s resolve, methods and scientific approach along with practical nutritional guidelines to stay mentally and physically alert while achieving a fine balance.

Thus we started a study of a lifetime in leadership. Watching Dinaz at work is like watching spirituality in motion. Her dedication, passion and humility transcend regular human behavior. An otherwise quiet and serene lady she is a tigress in her studios. Putting hours in her home work, music and the hygiene factor of the studio, she is a no nonsense task master when it comes to her passion – her clients.

The Catastrophe

The turnaround in life came in 2005 when we were out In Rajasthan and learnt that Dinaz had met with a serious accident in a nasty gas cylinder leak in her kitchen. That was a shocker for all of us who had trained with her. She had suffered more than 40 percent burns and we thought that was the end of the dynamo called Dinaz. However, three months and a miracle by Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad later, Dinaz bounced back in her studio. Brandishing bandages and scares of the incident, she fought back all odds to start her sessions at the studio.

Guiness Record Feat

Dinaz's World Record Breaking Performance

Her recovery was slow but her determination dogged. She recovered soon from the incident and embarked on an ambitious plan to break the Guinness world record of 24 hours nonstop aerobics by a human – male in this case. In 2009, infront of the entire Hyderabad town she achieved a feat which no human had done before her. 26 hours of nonstop aerobics by a living girl – a mother of two at an age of 44 years. Thus she broke the existing world record by of 24 hours by a  man.

 

In US

Not to stop here she went on to participate in Ms Fitness in 2010 in US and won accolades and a top four position for her outstanding performance.

 

Yet the feisty young lady is also very sentimental and has always placed great value on maintaining relationships. As a woman, she believes she is better equipped at building and nurturing relationships with her peers, team members and clients. She is convinced that she can be successful only if each one of her team members feels valued, appreciated and important, and has worked hard at achieving that.

Such emotional intelligence has only worked to Dinaz’s advantage. Ever since her early years, her sentiments were paid back in equal measure with  ready support forthcoming from colleagues and managers. On her part, rather than giving directions all the time, she tries to be supportive and encourage team members to take the lead, discuss options with her before arriving at a collective action plan.

Dinaz is of the opinion that women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition! Fiercely independent, she believes that women are much more versatile, dynamic and adept at multi-tasking, which comes to them naturally as they play the multiple roles of executive, mother and spouse.

Dinaz has lived this belief at work. Life does throw in many a challenge along the way but she works through them with resolve. Her motivation to think beyond the normal allowed her to evolve as an individual and kept her going even in tough situations.

According to her, no one can stop women from succeeding, but only if they believe in themselves, dream big, work smart and hard. “Listen to your heart. Be sure. Be strong. Stay focused. Keep up the spirit of a woman,” says she.

Lessons in Leadership

Dinaz’s entire life is a lesson in leadership. Every trait, quality and principle later, she leads change from the front and with her dedication has produced a chain of fitness studios in Hyderabad. A lesson which has made Dinaz synonymous with drive, determination, passion and humility – the key ingredients of successful leadership when blended with dogged determination and will to fight through the thick and thin of life. Perseverance should we say?

I am proud to have worked and built a relationship with a person of her caliber and human qualities. This is my humble tribute to the great spirit of this wonderful lady.

 

 

 

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The Choice to Choose is Ours

One single reason for people to be miserable is their inability to exercise the choice to choose.

Being Happy

By Donald Latumahina

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy

There are many ways for people to be unhappy, but happy people have common characteristics. That’s why a good way to be happy is to learn the common characteristics of happy people and apply them.

So I studied what the great minds in history say about being happy. I went through hundreds of quotes on being happy and extracted the best lessons out of them. Not only are these lessons useful, they are also timeless in nature.

Here I’d like to share what I learned with you. Without further ado, here are 17 timeless secrets of happy people:

1. Forget the past

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.

Rita Mae Brown

You won’t be happy if you carry the burden of the past. Did you make mistakes? Did you have terrible experiences? Whatever they are, you should let them go. There’s nothing you can do about the past, so you’d better let them go and focus your energy on the present.

2. Take responsibility for your life

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.
Thucydides

To be happy you should have freedom and the most essential freedom is the freedom to choose. No matter how bad a situation is, you can always choosehow you respond to it. People can annoy you, but it’s up to you whether or not you will resent.

But, as the quote above says, freedom takes courage. Freedom to choose requires the courage to take responsibility for your life. You shouldn’t blame someone else when something goes wrong. Take the responsibility and you have the power to choose.

3. Build relationships

Life’s truest happiness is found in friendships we make along the way.
Unknown

Relationships is where we can get true happiness in life. The reason is simple: only through relationships can we love and be loved. Make relationships yourtop priority and you are on your way to true happiness.

4. Develop multiple passions

The more passions and desires one has, the more ways one has of being happy.
Charlotte-Catherine

Passions lead you to happiness. So not only should you discover your multiple passions, you should also expand yourself to new passions. This way you will create new ways to happiness.

The key to expanding to new passions is curiosity. If you are curious, you will have an endless stream of exciting things waiting for you.

5. Build your character

Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.
George Santayana

Building your character is essential for happiness. When you are true to yourself and others, you will be in peace.

The way to start building character is by making promises and keeping them. For example, you make promise to yourself that you won’t smoke. When you keep it, you are building your character. Or you make promise to others to be punctual. When you keep it, you build your character.

6. Be who you are

The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is.
Desiderius Erasmus

You can only be happy if you become who you are. Don’t live other people’s life by trying to meet their expectations. People may expect you to have certain job or certain way of living but don’t be intimidated by them. Find who you are and be yourself.

7. Live your life purpose

The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.
William Cowper

To have a fulfilling life, you should find your life purpose and follow it faithfully. Find what matters to you and build the courage to follow it. Having a one-linerwill help you internalize and communicate your mission.

8. Count your blessings

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.
Unknown

Being happy is easy if we are grateful. Unfortunately, seeing what we don’t have is often easier than seeing what we have. Sometimes we need to experience loss before appreciating what we have. So don’t take things for granted. Look at what you have and soon you will have plenty of reasons to be happy. You may start with these simple things.

9. Have positive mind

It is not the place, nor the condition, but the mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable.
Roger L’Estrange

Happy people know how to control their mind. They don’t let negative thoughts come in. While a situation may seem bad to others, happy people look at them in a positive way. They always believe that no matter how bad a situation seems, there is always something positive to take from it. Your mind can make or break you, so guard it well.

10. Work creatively

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

When you work creatively on something you will find happiness. There is a well-known phenomenon regarding this called flow. When you are in the state of flow, you are fully focused on the task at hand that you no longer realize the passage of time. This state of flow allows you to achieve high productivity and being happy at the same time. Here are some tips to achieve it.

11. Start with what you have

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.
James Oppenheim

Happy people don’t need something they don’t have to be happy. They don’t need certain job or certain level of income. Instead, they learn to be happy with what they already have. They have learned the art of contentment. Be content with what you have and you will be happy.

12. Change

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
Confucius

Being happy requires you to constantly grow. In fact, the process of learning itself is essential for happiness. Have you ever felt the excitement of being enlightened about something? Have you ever felt the excitement of achieving a new level in life? Top 10 Things You Should Change in Your Life gives you some practical tips on changing your life.

13. Use your talents

True happiness involves the full use of one’s power and talents.
Douglas Pagels

There are two lessons to take from this quote. First, you should find your talents and second, you should use them to the fullest. Working in your talents is a sure way to enjoy your work because it’s something you are “hardwired” to do. Using your talents fully will make you even happier because of the satisfaction of doing your best.

14. Beware of small things

The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.
Ernest Dimnet

This is very true. Often it’s not big things that ruin your happiness. It’s the small things that do. Perhaps you don’t like someone or break some “small” promises. But even small leaks can sink your ship of happiness, so beware of them.

15. Distill your ambitions

Where ambition ends happiness begins.
Author Unknown

While wanting to achieve more in your life is good, being obsessed by it is not. Do your best to improve yourself but don’t be obsessed by it.

16. Make others happy

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my favorite secret of happiness. The way to being happy is to make others happy first. The more you help other people and make them happy, the more you will be happy. Happiness doesn’t come through selfishness but through selflessness. You reap what you sow.

17. Practice compassion

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
The Dalai Lama

Compassion is perhaps the highest level of selflessness we could have. As this quote aptly says, practicing compassion can make both others and you happy.

But of course, it requires practice. Start with thinking about the people around you. Look at their needs and find ways to meet them. Even if you don’t do it out of compassion in the beginning, your compassion will grow over time.

***

All in all, I can summarize the lessons above:

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

It’s you who decide whether or not you are happy in life.

The Choice to Choose is ours and ours alone

choose to be happy. What about you?

So Be happy & spread happiness

This wisdom came to these pages courtesy my friend CN Suresh..Grateful to him

 

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Pushing the Envelop

This term is often used in the leadership domains as a fancy burn out strategy by those attempting to prove their mettle in the leadership ladders at various levels. Translated – it means working hard beyond the call of duty.

It can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending upon who is looking. I have seen people drive themselves and their teams hard in the quest to achieve results. There is nothing wrong with that, provided the furious activity results in creating desired velocity (a product of speed and direction) in an environment conducive to learning and growth.

When organisations and leaders decide on a policy to push the envelope, which can not be a continuous process for fear of early burnout, there are few pertinent issues which merit consideration.

  • Firstly, the 15 percent theory must be applied diligently to ascertain the velocity required to be generated. The intent must be very clearly debated, designed and conceived to provide the doctrinal umbrella under which the organisation should operate.
  • Secondly, the ownership of ideas should be transferred to the people responsible to execute the desired missions. This calls for flattening of hierarchies and creating an environment of trust and faith. It should lay down the parameters of work culture reducing one up man ship in the organisation.
  • Thirdly, the empowerment module under such conditions requires adequate lattitude to each leader to operate independently with in his/her sphere of influence.
  • Fourthly, there should be a regular work audit to ensure teams maintain direction.
  • Lastly, while pushing the envelop, it should be the foremost duty of each leader to ensure that his team does not burn out doing non essential activities.

Organisations must continuously push the envelop – but this should be a fun activity aimed at bringing out the best in each team member rather than focussing on profits. Once the teams take on the ownership of ideas and gets the requisite fredom of action, profits automatically follow.

Keep it Simple

Tips for Keeping it Simple and Sane from Walk the Talk

  • Thoughts can accumulate like old, dusty house clutter, and provide you with an excuse not to move forward with your life, but to dwell in the familiar.
  • Quit thinking about what you “should” have done. If you could have done it differently, you would have.
  • You must first be mentally balanced to achieve a total healthy balance in your life.
  • Consider words that you believe define you, words that you have heard others use to describe you, words that come from past memories, and old words that might once have been used to describe you. Are there words you are holding on to that caused you to sacrifice other, more positive words? You have the power to change those words, but it’s a choice you have to make for yourself.
  • Engage in every aspect of life that you can, and enjoy the ride. Accept the helping hands of travelers who have gone before you, and when you become a traveler, be ready to offer your own hand to those that need guidance in their own rides.
  • The Difference Between Try and Triumph is Just A Little Umph!

This is truly inspirational if applied without fear or favour. Technically the reward and punishment systems that we follow in organisations complicate things. Rewards to some diempower more while punishment dis-empowers the group. Tough Choices to keep it simple

Humility and Perseverance

Getting good at getting along with people is a great book. A learning resource for every leader who aspires to achieve his vision through collaborative participation of his team. Amongst  great visions of bottom lines and productivity, organisations take their eyes off the ball in leading their visions through the power of their people.

The ultimate character of an orgnisation and its leaders ,therefore, is in investing in its people through humility and perseverance. These two essential organizational qualities transcend known performance enhancement matrices and catapult the leaders to an all together different dimension of governance. These two allow you to balance your life needs with the organisational goals and enable organisations to excel.

Positively controlled and managed anger, at times, can yield results in the short term but somehow leave an unsavory taste in the mouth. They cause a disconnect deep within where trust is eroded and perseverance suffers.

Humility and perseverance are thus the hall marks of all good organisations. These organisations get good at getting along with people who celebrate life in a multidimensional approach.

Profits follow

Fire in the Belly, Song on the Lips

When we look back at ourselves with in the construct of the Laws of Attraction of the Secret and now the wisdom of The Power, one thing stands tall.

If the purpose of life is happiness why not attract it that with all your might and will it to come to you. Obvious and simple. I am not going to delve into the philosophy any more but explain a team’s orientation towards fun and balance within the parameters of organisational behavior.

Leadership and team building have been viewed, discussed and dissected from all possible angles in business theories. However,when we apply the Laws of Attraction differently to our work and personal lives, we reach a stage of perpetual discord. Then there is a perennial disconnect created in lives because of the conflicting laws at work and home. In the bargain both suffer.

In all my experiences in life I have observed this disconnect with ones higher self, in the garb of utopian aspirations, the biggest bane in organisational failures. Since teams are led by individuals and comprise individuals, the work environment should some how connect with the life environment.

It is the quest for unrealistic aspirations which lead the individuals, teams and organisations to grief. Leaders, often sacrifice life goals for organisational goals. This results in a serious conflict of interests with the self and the teams and organisation suffers in the quality of output they deliver.

We often watch hierarchies blaming each other depending on the direction they are looking at or from because the sense of self preservation and self promotion has

Differentiating crap from

as soles

transcended the larger life goal –  which is happiness. Hence the guys on top view every one below as crap and those looking up claim they only see assholes. A perfect recipe for disaster!

It is therefore imperative that leaders and teams at all times have the desired fire in their bellys and a song on their lips harmonizing the work and life needs towards happiness. The formula invariably works to the betterment of personal and organisational needs.

To achieve this, the leaders  need to display this crucial characteristics with in the ambit of leading from the front. Once the leader applies this to himself , the team and the organisation automatically resonates with a fire in the belly and a song on the lips attracting only the best results.

“A fire in the belly is a champion for the ridiculous. It keeps you going day after day, stroke after stroke, step after step. You have to keep going in order to honor yourself. The fire gives you the courage to fly in the face of a world that values products more than people and the bottom line more than somebody’s tender dreams.” – How Much Joy Can You Stand?  a great book about igniting personal creativity by Suzanne Falter-Barnes.

Try it…it works and that’s when you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach to get on with it, wherever..whenever. It is infectious