kiruba-1

I’m a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.

kiruba-1

Speaking at Maldives HR Convention

This is the largest gathering of HR professionals in Maldives. The MAHRP is the largest association of HR professionals in the archipelago.

It’s good to get back on the international speaking circuit. Always a pleasure to visit Maldives again. Very enthusiastic audience. The main auditorium was full to the brim with 350 HR professionals.

Am speaking on ‘How to Nurture Socially Engaged Eorkforce’.

More information on www.MAHRP.org

 

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Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: Documentary to Get You Back in Health

Last night, my family sat together to watch the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. This was a story about how one man documented his journey back to good health and inspiring another guy (a very obese truck driver) to do the same.

The documentary was very inspiring. This was recommended by KG Sriram, one of the participants of the first edition of Bucketlist Bootcamp I organized.

Many of us commented on how healthy KG looked and he credited this documentary for changing his life. He recommended we watch it and the best piece of advice was what followed. “Watch it with your family” he recommended and what an impact it had.

Today, we begin our journey to better health. My family now has a new found motivation.

This documentary is available for free on YouTube and I strongly recommend you watch it. With your family.

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Sportsmanship Sparkles Better than an Olympic Medal

Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is great. But there is something that sparkles better than a gold medal. And that’s fair play and sportsmanship. One such remarkable story is from the Turin Winter Olympics 2006.

The Cross-country skiing race at the Olympics was a highly contested game. There is very little to choose between Canada, Finland, Sweden and Norway. All of them were hot contenders for the gold medal. It was one of the most anticipated races.


As the race began, Sara Renner of the Canadian team took the lead. At the third lap of the six-lap race, disaster stuck for her. Her ski pole broke. She could hardly generate the thrust needed to push through the snow and slowly began to lose momentum. The rest of the contenders began to overtake her one by one. By now, she had slipped from pole position to fourth place.

One man rushed towards her and handed over a spare ski pole to Sara. This enabled her to power through and finish second, winning a silver medal for Canada. And who is that man? It’s the Norwegian Skiing team head coach, Bjørnar Håkensmoen. The sad irony is that thanks to his generosity, his own team was pushed outside of the medal position, coming in fourth.

A journalist asked the head coach that had he not helped, Norway would have won a medal. Bjørnar Håkensmoen’s answer? “If you win but don’t help somebody when you should have, what win is that?”
That answer epitomizes the Olympic spirit. He continued, “The Olympic spirit is the way we try to follow. Without that, we are in big trouble. Every skier, every staff member from Norway follows that.”


This act of sportsmanship captured the imagination of the World.  Canadians went wild, praising his sportsmanship, inviting him and his family for a long vacation in Canada, and even sending him enormous quantities of maple syrup. The Norwegian embassy in Canada received over 600 letters, telephone calls and e-mails of thanks.

While Bjørnar’s act of kindness might have cost his country a medal, he helped it earn the respect of the world making every Norwegian proud.

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Hermann Maier: Crashes and Come-back.

Hermann Maier, the Austrian skier, is a hot favourite for gold medals at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. He started off the Downhill race with measured aggression. He did all the right things and on track to ace the race…until the 8th bend. He lost his balance, lost control of his path, went over a mound that catapulted him dangerously 30 feet overground. He went flying over 100 meters treacherously and awkwardly crashed on the ground, narrowly missing injuring his neck. He crashed through two safety nets, the soft thick snow cushioning his fall, and came to a stop. He lay there motionless. After an agonizing minute, he slowly picked himself, much to the relief of those watching in horror. Miraculously, he came out with minor injuries.

Doubts loomed large over his continuation in the Games. Yet, three days later, he participated in the Super-G race, does a textbook perfect run and won the gold medal. Three days later, he claimed another gold medal in the Grand Slalom.

To make such a comeback from a confidence-draining and ego-deflating crash that was watched by millions of people live on TV, is a hallmark of a champion. The media gave him a moniker: ‘The Herminator’, a play on a fellow Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, The Terminator.

Hermann is no stranger to such challenges since an early age. He started skiing as early as 5 years. It helps that his Dad ran a skiing school in Flachau, Austria. He showed early promise and he joined the Austrian National Ski Academy. However, he was sent home a year later as the Academy felt he was too short to make for a professional athlete. He continued to learn and train in his father’s academy. However, a growth disorder hampered his practice. After he graduated from college, he became a bricklayer. He continued teaching in his father’s skiing school.

He participated in small local tournaments and slowly but surely started to show his mettle. He started to win many races and eventually made it to the Austrian national team. Over the next few years, he began to dominate the sport with vengeful aggression as if to prove a point. Maier won his second and third overall World Cup titles in 2000 and 2001.

In August 2001, tragedy struck. Maier had a horrible, near-fatal, motorcycle accident. His leg was badly injured. The doctors considered amputating his leg. Instead, they undertook a complicated reconstructive surgery to save his leg. After the surgery, it took him over two years to recuperate and come back to normalcy. He felt really bad missing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Being an Olympian had always been his dream.

In 2003, he made a spectacular comeback to the sport. Even after meeting multiple accidents both in skiing as well on the road, his love for the sport and his competitive spirit made him practice hard. He went on to win his fourth overall World Cup championship which many considered a phoenix-like miracle. He took his form into the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy and won two Olympic medals, a silver medal in the super-G and bronze in the giant slalom. He had avenged his demons.

Maier story has a strong lesson for corporate professionals. We are bound to have major setbacks in our lives. But if our love for the work is strong enough and his will to succeed is powerful enough, we will prevail and prosper. Maier’s story is such an inspirational one for all of us to learn from.

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Age is Just a Number: Claudia Pechstein Competing at 50 Years


Longevity in sports is such an underrated achievement. As one age, the body takes a beating. That’s why most Olympians are either in their twenties or thirties. That’s why it is remarkable to hear about Claudia Pechstein who will turn 50 years this year, competing in her 8th Winter Olympic games. It actually should have been a record-breaking 9th Winter Games had she not missed the 2010 Vancouver Olympics due to a ban.

At the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, she will compete with much younger athletes, many of whom were not even born when she won her Olympic medal at the 1992 Albertville Games. At the Beijing Olympics, she will aim to win her 10th Olympic medal in her remarkable career.

Pechstein qualified in the mass start, a game that involves sprinting, jockeying for positions and clever tactics. This game debuted four years ago in Pyeongchang 2018 Games and features 24 skaters racing 16 laps at the same time.

Pechstein is a federal police officer in Germany and continues to train to keep her in top physical shape. To do this even at 50 years and competing at such competitive games is remarkable.

Age, after all, is just a number.

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#NeverRetire: Living a Fulfilling Life Till the End

I adore people like David Attenborough, Clink Eastwood and Nammazhwar. They do what they love and never have to worry about retirement. This is a philosophy that I really like. And it’s a mindset am consciously developing.

Today, I came across a story of a man who worked for 70 years without taking a single sick leave. It’s a fascinating read.

Brian Chorley

Taking workaholism to a next level, an 83-year-old English man slogged for the same company for nearly 70 years and that too without taking a single day off sick. Coming from a poor background, Brian Chorley began working at the original Clarks shoe factory in #England in 1953. He was just 15 years old when he joined.

Chorley said his father was the one who encouraged him to work as they were poor. He worked in the #Clarks until the 1980s. The premises then were converted into a shopping centre and he got into its customer services. Brian, now 83, says David #Attenborough is his idol and says he does not intend to retire yet. He was quoted by Mirror as saying,

“I lost my wife eight years ago so at home I don’t see anyone. I want to be out, I want to see people and I just love working. I don’t want to sit down in an armchair all day – it’s boring. I always look forward to work…I go out of my way to help people. I’ve been told so many times what a wonderful service they’ve had and they feel so happy, and that’s all I want.”

Now, that’s a great guy with a great attitude.

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Nadal’s Post-match Cool Down Exercises

This Australian Open was different for me. For the first time (atleast for me), I got to witness the pre-match warm up exercises of the players. These behind-the-scenes live footages were fascinating to watch how world-class athletes prep themselves before a match, both physically and mentally. 

What absolutely stunned me was the dedication of some players who would do post-match cool down exercises. 
Nadal’s epic finals was a case in point. He just finished a gruelling five setter with Medvedev, them went through a long presentation ceremony. After that and before the long post-match press conference, he hit the gym to do his routine cool down exercises. 

Any other person would have given higher priority to celebrating the victory. Not Rafa.
To have that level of commitment to take care of his body is remarkable. That’s why even at the age of 35, he has the physical stamina to outpace rivals 10 years younger to him. 

Rafa’s routine reemphasized the points from the book Atomic Habits and the importance of setting and following systems. 

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January Month-end Review of My 2022 New Year Resolutions

On January 1 of this year, I had published my list of new year resolutions for 2022. Every year, I make a list of new year resolutions. The difference this year is that I had made a promise of reviewing the progress publicly at end of every month. This way, I am not only accountable to myself but to you as well. More importantly, this practice of monthly reviews helps me to stay in touch with my goals.
In this monthly review, you will see both positive developments as well as failures. I’m laying things out honestly. There’ll be no sugar-coating.
Build a 3rd Farmhouse at Vaksana Farms: We have hired an architect to do the designing of TANG. That’s the name of the new farmhouse. It has a fruity name because it is in the middle of a fruit forest. The architect has started work on designing the layout. We are currently in frequent discussions to fine-tune the layout. The architect has also started working on the 3D walkthrough video which will give a realistic impression of the farmhouse.

Learn to Swim: I’ve bought swimming goggles, a cap and shorts. Enquired and finalized the swimming pool in Chennai that I will be joining. For most of January, I have been at my farm and hence couldn’t join the classes. However, there’s YouTube. I have been watching tutorial videos on swimming. Luckily, we have a good pond at the pond and have been going there to practice. Not making much progress and I definitely need a coach to help me correct my form.
Learn to Meditate: I bought a premium subscription to Headspace, a  highly recommended app for guided meditation. Fixed time in afternoons to do the meditations.
Synopsis of Books I Read: I have created a section on my personal website for jotting down the synopsis (actually points that resonated well with me) from the books I’m reading. It is at www.Kiruba.com/read . This idea is inspired by Derek Sivers, one of my favourite authors, who has a really good habit of note-taking.
Albumize All Photos: I have taken zillions of photos and they are safely backed up on Google Photos. However, they are not categorized properly. Even though I have been meaning to properly organize the photos in folders, I was never able to get around to it. So, I smartly outsourced this activity to my younger daughter. This is a paid activity and the money will go into her savings. She is doing a much better job than I could.
Flat Tummy: Apart from daily farming activities (which are quite strenuous), I did not do any physical exercises especially to reduce my tummy. Must change this in February.
Grow Bees: I’ve bought one bee box and the bees are super active. Very fulfilling to watch this. With the success of the first bee box, I have placed an order for 5 more bee boxes.
Failure is Fuel Project: We had our first meeting with the organizers and chalked out the plan of action. Built the alpha version of the website for the project.
Co-organize College Reunion: Had an initial round of discussion with the key people who are enthusiastic about organizing. There is favourable sentiment among the college gang. The alumni get-together is planned for December 2022.
Write Down My Fears: I have made a start in jotting down all my fears. I will continue to keep building on this. The next step is to take a fear one by one and get to the bottom of it. Keenly figuring out the source of the fear is a good way to seek help in overcoming it.
Continue to Refrain from Alcohol & Meat: This has now become too easy. This has now become a permanent life change.
Hire a Professional Coach: I did reach out to professional coaching organizations. I find them very overpriced for me as most of them put me in the CEO category. For someone who is just getting warmed up with professional coaching, I prefer taking measured, careful steps.
Hire a Personal Assistant:  I didn’t make any headway at all on this goal in January. Need to prioritize in February.
Learn Snake Rescue: My Dad bought a snake catching tool for the farm. This is step one in snake rescue. Happy to let you know that we were able to save the life of a rat snake ( a non-venomous snake), thanks to the tool. Otherwise, the folks on the farm would certainly have killed it.
Stay and Learn from 12 Amazing Farms: Visited a good farm near Mahabalipuram and have lined up one more farm for February. I’m really looking forward to picking up best practices and applying them at Vaksana Farms.
Action Atomic Habits: We had a joint family discussion with my wife and two daughters on the book. Each of us brought out key points that spoke to us personally. It was a good discussion and happy that the girls are exposed to the book.
Journal Every Day:  I use the hashtag #DailyDiary on my Gmail to jot down everyday happenings and capture my emotions. It has been quite cathartic. I need to expand on this goal by doing longer, deeper insights via writing.
This is the first in the #BloggingChallenge series where I aim to blog every day in February.  This is a challenge I’m jointly doing with my friend Amar Vyas who initiated the idea.
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Review of My 2021 Goals

Setting goals is easy. Accomplishing them takes effort and consistency. Here’s my self-review of the goals I set for 2021.

Here’s the rating system.
1 = lowest.
10 = highest.

So, how did I perform? Let’s find out.

Get 6 Pack Abs:  0/10  
This was an abysmal flop. Not only did I NOT get a 6 pack, I actually ended up having a paunch.  The lesson I learned is to focus on a daily routine instead of an ambitious goal.

Build Pico Farmhouse: 10/10
Pico, our first farm stay home was among the biggest success in 2021. We finished the construction and interiors in under 5 months.  This is amazing when compared with our first farmhouse which took over two years to complete. We got rave reviews for the architecture of Pico that made the small 400 sqft home look far bigger than it is. We opened the farmhouse for guests and the number of bookings surprised us.

No Alcohol: 10/10
For the second year in a row, I completely abstained from alcohol. The reason for my success is that I’m not hard and fast on this goal. I tell myself that if I ever wanted to have alcohol, I can. It is this flexibility that gives me the power to say no and I don’t miss it. I never feel as if I have something I’m being denied.

No Non-Veg: 10/10
Also the second year in a row, I have successfully stayed away from eating non-vegetarian food. This is one of the best decisions I have taken. There’s so much delicious variety in vegetarian food that I hardly miss non-veg. 2021 is also the year my compassion towards animals reached a record high.

Author the Olympics Book: 5/10
I wanted to finish this book and launch it at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. But I could only finish half of the manuscript. In terms of enjoyment, this is a fantastic project that I’m thoroughly enjoying. Honestly, the longer this project is, the happier I am. I’m in no hurry to finish it. I anticipate the book to be completed a few months before Paris 2024 Olympics.

Author Grandfathers’ Biography: 2/10
This is a book about my maternal grandfather and his two brothers who were very well known in our village.  By documenting their life story, I want their legacy to be appreciated by future generations in our family. More important than that, I wanted this to be a gift to their wives. All three of them (my grandmothers) are still alive and are in their 80s. They would be awesomely proud. I made very little progress and I definitely want to fast track this project this year.

Be Punctual in Zoom Meetings: 9/10
Barring just a few, I have been quite punctual in most of my online meetings. I would religiously set up reminders and this has worked wonders. Punctuality is a trait I have been consciously building and will continue to get better at.

Grow Long Hair & Beard: 10/10
This was a two-year goal that I successfully accomplished. The last time I had long hair was in 2010 and I loved it. I wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary but growing it again. This time, the beard was included. I loved the entire process of growing long hair for two long years. I’ll write more about my experiences shortly. This was a clear win in 2021.

Use Fewer Plastics: 2/10
This is a losing battle. In spite of being conscious of plastic usage, there’s simply no escaping them in real life. I wanted to make Vaksana Farms a no-plastic zone but the amount of plastic that gets accumulated is embarrassing. I feel this is a lost cause but I will continue to reduce my usage of plastics.

Collect & Plant 1000 Palm Seeds: 10/10
Every September, palm fruits ripen and fall. I spend two weeks last year patiently collecting these palm fruits and planting them on pond bunds at Vaksana Farms. This time, I was able to plant in excess of thousand seeds. These palm seeds are super resilient and have a good germination rate. Almost 90% of the seeds I planted in 2020 has sprouted. It is sad to see palm trees being mercilessly decimated. They are considered useful to farmers. Happy to plant these with a vengeance. In a few years time, Vaksana farm will be lush green with lots of palm trees. Excited about this.

Do Goal-setting as a Family: 9/10
This was such an enjoyable exercise we did as a family. We had a series of discussions where we did our financial budgeting, our savings strategy, a list of things we wanted to do as a family, our review of last year, resolutions for 2022 etc. The critical thing here is the involvement of my daughters. This exercise has made them more responsible. We enjoyed this so much that I foresee us continuing to do this regularly.

Send Daughters on Overseas Trip: 1/10
I was hoping the pandemic would ease out now that the vaccines have been rolled out. Omicron had other ideas. No travel happened this year, let alone an international trip.  Hopefully in 2022.

Apologize to People I Have Hurt: 5/10
This was a purposeful initiative that I undertook. It helped me get closures, strengthen my relationship with people who matter. However, much like most resolutions, I did this well in the first 3 months of 2021 before I got busy with other things. It was good while it lasted and happy to have made myself vulnerable.

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Featured on Travel Trends Story in Times of India Newspaper

 

Recently, the Times of India Newspaper got in touch with me to get my opinion on the travel trends in 2021. They sent me a questionnaire asking for my answers.  As expected, the final story only had a small tidbit of my comments. I figured it would be good to publish the entire Q&A on the blog as it gives my full insights. Here you go.

  1. How has the changing travel trends in 2021 given an upswing to farm stays this year?

With the world slowly opening up and people getting their vaccinations done, there is interest among people to travel. However, with the fear of the virus still looming in the air thanks to the Omnicron variant, people don’t want to travel very far.

Families are looking for safe options to stay and farm stays are the best choice. They are naturally socially distanced. For example, the Pico Farmhouse at Vaksana Farms is situated in the middle of a 13-acre organic farm. The farm itself is situated two kilometres from the nearest village. Visitors get total privacy and they can be safely ensconced within the green environs of the farm.

 

  1. If you’ve put it in numbers, do you think there have been more bookings at your place this year when compared to all the previous years?

Definitely yes. In the last three months, we are sold out completely. We advise customers to block dates early as there has been a surge in interest to stay in a genuinely, working organic farm.

 

  1. What’s the reason for this boom in farm stays? Have there been many newer places opening up for farm stays because of the surge in demand?

People don’t want to stay in a namesake farmhouse like the posh ones on ECR. They are just fancy holiday houses. People seek out a real working farm with regular farming activities. They want to witness and even take part in farming activities. They prefer to engage with the farm animals.

I strongly feel the reason for the boom in farm stays is they want to experience genuine farming life in a remote, rural village.

Another major reason is they want to play safe by staying on a remote farm far away from crowds. At Vaksana farm, we have only one farmhouse and when a family books the place, there will not be anyone else sharing the home. Not only do guests have the entire farmhouse for themselves, they also get to have the entire 13-acre farm for themselves. This is something that guests truly appreciate.

 

  1. What does that farm stay offer that attracts more and more guests to such places and goes anti-resort?

Staying on a real, working farm is very important. The primary activity of working farms, like Vaksana Farms, is farming. The farmhouse is an additional add-on. Staying on a working farm lets people experience farm life and soak into the rural atmosphere. Most people who come to our farm are city folks who want a break from the monotony of the concrete jungle. They want to step away from the noise and the pollution. At the farm, they have peace with lots of chirping birds and fluttering butterflies.

 

  1. Do you think the demand will further go up for farm stays in 2022?

I definitely see the demand going up for genuine farm stays (not holiday homes). We Vaksana farms, we have booked in 2022 as far as June and September where Indian diaspora from US, UK and New Zealand have blocked tying with their travel plans to India.

 

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