12 Email newsletters where Arif & Ali get their Inspiration.

Other than blogs and podcasts that I read/listen, there are quite a few enewsletters that I am subscribed to. Most are free, some are not. Below are the ones that I get most value out of and have survived my ruthless email filters and unsubscribing-trigger-friendly finger.

McKinsey Quarterly Top Ten Newsletter
The McKinsey quarterly emails me the best/most popular articles of McKinsey consulting for the past quarter. Itís something that Iíve subscribed to just so that Iím some what in touch with the best practices in the Corporate Circle. I have not got tremendous value from it yet. But since the newsletters are just once a quarter, itís not that much clutter that I need to unsubscribe to it.

Verneís Insights
Iíve found more handy information from Verne Harnishís weekly newsletters. Theyíre shorter, punchy and let me know of what are the cool useful things that Corporates around the world are up to and if thereís anything that I can implement at Vakil Housing immediately.

Metaphor Minute
Some people are born with the Metaphor gene. The can put their point across to you in mere moments by explaining you what they mean with the most appropriate Metaphor or Similie. Itís a skill I have long envied. Anne Miller has written this brilliant book called Metaphorically Selling where she explains a methodology on how to come up with a Metaphor on the fly. I have read it and highly recommend it. In her monthly newsletters, Anne gives really good examples of metaphors that you can use and prods you to keep your eye open for them. This newsletter is probably one of my favourites and can be subscribed to here.

Go Comics
Itís the Comics and the TV pages that enticed me as a schoolboy to begin reading newspapers. Unfortuantely the comics I enjoy do not always appear in the newspapers I read today. I have recently renewed my subscribtion to Ucomics, by paying $11.95 for the year. Now Everyday I get emailed to me the latest Calvin & Hobbes’s imaginative world, or Jasonís latest tiffs with Paige in FoxTrot or Diane make obvious the nonsense of the political world in Non-Sequitur.

Personal Development
GTD Connect
GTD Connect is premium membership service where one can get access to a whole range of Audio, Video, Text material to help enhance your personal GTD process. Click here to learn more about GTD. Being such a busy bee that I am, I donít get much time to hand around the GTD Forums to see what conversations are taking place or whatís the latest Audio/Video material on GTD thatís out there. However, being a member of GTD Connect, I get an email of whatís the latest out there in the GTD World. If you are serious about implementing GTD, I highly recommend becoming a member of Connect, even if itís just for a month or two. Give it a try, sample the Audio material that they have in store, specially the Tele-seminars by David Allen. Itís been worth my investment.

Productivity Principles Newsletter
For those who are not ready to be members of GTD Connect, but still want to gain traction on your practice of GTD, you may subscribe to the newsletter of David Allen himself called Productivity Principles, where he writes tips and reminders for all to stay strong in the GTD Wagon.

Emails by Vital Smarts
Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations are two brilliant books by the Vital Smarts team. Infact I’d say they almost the next best thing after GTD (and you all know how much I love GTD). One of my personal challenges in life is to be able to hold a Crucial Conversation and/or Confrontation with skill so that both parties come out as winners. Whatís a Crucial Conversation? Well, common examples are possibly when there’s something you need to tell your collegue but he’s highly sensative about it, or you have a difference of opinion on an important business issue, or possibly even dealing with a customer complaint. etc.

In all the above conversations the common elements are that:
– Both parties have conflicting opinions/interest
– Emotions run high
– Stakes are high.

Observe yourself itís when these three elements are in place that you get a crucial conversation. When faced with a Crucial Conversation, there is a roadmap on how to get from tongue-tied, raging emotions scenario to a cool, slick, dialogue smart situation. The Roadmap is long, and thatís the topic for another blog post, however, to get started you may subscribe to the newsletter by Vital Smarts Team. In each edition they address they demonstrate how one can talk one’s way through seemingly impossible highly sensitive topics. Examples of Crucial Conversations addressed in their newsletters are:
– Conversation with an employee over mediocre Performance
– Conversation of a Parent with her daughter on being overweight
– Conversation with a sibling on a difference of opinion on a certain matter in their family business
You can access the above and further past newsletters in their archive here.

Continuing Education:
Learn Out Loud free resource of the day email
Itís been a really long time that I was meaning to blog on the excellent material that Learn Out Loud has. Do browse this website. There is amazing education I have got from many of their Audio programs. In addition to those, you may also subscribe to their daily newsletter where they are continuously scanning the web to find inspirational/motivational/educational audio/video content.

BBC Breaking news alert and Documentaries:
BBC, is the best International news site there is. Period. They hit you with just facts, no exaggeration, as less biased as they can be, and provide you with sufficient analysis and history so that you can make your own opinion. To stay upto date on the latest breaking headlines round the world, Iíve found the BBC Breaking news alert really handy.

Furthermore BBCís documentaries are also the most insightful in the world. To stay abreast of the documentaries coming up on BBC World in the coming fortnight Iíve subscrived to their BBC World New enewsletter here

Quotes by Dr. Mardy
Iíve recently subscribed to this quotation service, by Dr. Mardy. Iím generally quite conscioius of the number of emails I receive and if a newsletter Iím subscribed to doesnít really add value to the subjects/topics Iím interested in, Iím quick to unsubscribe to it. The weekly quotes that I receive from Dr. Mardy have held my attention for the last couple of weeks. I admit I donít read every single email I receive from Dr. Mardy. The days I have my inbox flooded, I am quick to delete the email without giving it a second glance. But the days that I have the time, Iím glad I have I subscribed to Dr. Mardyís service. Here is an excerpt from his weekly email for the week ending 2 May 2009:

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
for the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment;
and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible
before handing it on to future generations.”
George Bernard Shaw, in a 1907 lecture

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze
than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow,
than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”
Jack London, a remark made to friends in 1916

Baby Centre
As soon as my Sunshine gave me the “good news“, I began scouring all over the net for books, websites on pregnancy, babies etc, till I came across Baby Center. Baby Center provides this terrific service with their weekly updates, that let you know just the information that we needed throughout the pregnancy. Which was emailed to us just in time. It really saved me immense amount of time in researching the same online or in books. Furthermore the service continues till date guiding fledgling parents on the little nuances in bringing up children. I highly recommend parents and parents to be to subscribe to this service. The best part is that this service is also personalised for India, so get tips specific to the Indian context.

Top 5 ads from
Advertising. An old crush of mine. I used to be a subscribed member of Adcritic and keenly track the latest TV spots being released all over the world. Now I quench myself with the Top 5 Adforum weekly email that email me the most popular 5 TV ads over the week.

*Phew* that’s one hell of a long list.
I had no idea I was subscribed to so many enewsletters till I began compiling them. Any of the above enewsletters that you are glad you got to know about? Is there something else that you are subscribed to which you think I and other fellow blog readers would enjoy and look forward to. Do leave a note in the comments if so. Happy reading.

Maryam turns Four, going on to Five. Personal Update.

Maryam turned four months old on 30 April 2009. By the time you would be reading this it would have been close to 30 May and she would have been 5. I overheard my dad mentioning once to someone on the phone, that, watching your kids growing up, makes you realise how old you yourself are becoming.

Fox Trot Classics-2.jpg

FoxTrot (c) 1998 Bill Amend. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Unfortunately Maryamís sleep schedule and my work schedule arenít really synchronised yet. What I mean is that sheís fast asleep when I leave home and by the time I return sheís well into her nightly slumber. But because I see her so less during the week, makes my time with her on the weekend that much more special. Oh, I could here her gurgling and cooing all day long. The simplest of things fascinate her. Itís just the fan rotating on the ceiling, but she will stare and stare at it in amazement. The creaking of a door, the tinkle of a bell, the faintest and most of ordinary of sounds is enough to distract her. What a wonder it is to see from childís eye and hear with babyís ears. For some reason Iím not able to get her to smile very easily. Therefore most of her pics that I have of hers, has a sad, blank look. My Mum gets her to smile real quickly and easily. Itís probably one of those things that you have to be a mum to know how to do.

When Iím with her, a part of me would like her to grow up instantly. So I could take her to walks in parks. Read to her my favourite books (which I actually do anyway), re-watch my favourite Disney cartoons, play family board games together. Another part of me wants her to stay a 4 month old toddler forever, so that we can just hug and cuddle, so that I can hear her coo and gurgle, is there any greater joy in this world?

The following passage from Hadith-e-Muffadal by Imam Jaffer-e-Sadiq, comes to mind

If the infant had been born mature intellect with an understanding of his functions, there would have been few occasions for the sweetness felt in the nature of the offspring, and the exigency, under which the parents find a full time pre-occupation with the affairs of the young ones, would not have arisen. Love and affection, felt for ordinary children, following the inconvenience undergone for their sake, would not subsist between the parents and their offspring. Because of their mature intellect, the children would not have needed parental care. A separation would have taken place just after birth of the infant from its parents. Even a mother or a sister would have been strangers to him and as such within wedlock limits. Don’t you see that everything big or small has been created on a flawless plan without fault or error?

25 of the infinite number of things that I am Grateful for. Thank you God, O Thank you!

giving thanks
Creative Commons License photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino≤≥

O God, as the great grandson of the Prophet (SAW) Imam Zainul Abideen says in his prayer of Thankfulness,

“The most thankful of Thy servants
has not the capacity to thank Thee,
and the most worshipful of them
falls short of obeying Thee…”

but still we try O Lord.

1. Iím so utterly grateful for having received the parents and grandparents that I received.
2. I’m so grateful for the brother that I have. Heís my confidant, my business partner and my coffee-buddy. (Iím also grateful that recently heís been taking more interest in the blog :-p)
3. Iím grateful for my wonderful extended family, my uncles, aunts, brothers and cousins. Even though we are so far apart, when we meet itís amazing, itís as if we were never away at all.
4. Iím so grateful for my pious and loving wife and my beautiful little princess that God gifted me through her.
5. Iím grateful that My car starts every morning.

6. Iím grateful that myself, family members and all friends around me are in the best possible health that they can be.
7. Iím grateful for the warm cup of coffee that I receive every morning.
8. Iím utterly grateful fo the the wonderful teachers that I have received in my life. They are the giants on whose shoulders I am standing.
9. Iím grateful for the love of reading and writing. I am grateful for having an inquisitive mind which is propelling me to search for the Ultimate Truth.
10. I’m grateful for the friends in my life, those who I grew up with in Dubai and friends that Iím still growing with here in Bangalore. God bless you all!

11. Iím grateful for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful company called Vakil Housing. We work with fantastic people, both within the organisation as well as beyond it (ie our Vendors, Contractors and of course our Customers).
12. Iím grateful for this blog and itís readers. Me and Ali blog because simply because we like to, and the compliments we receive make it more than worthwhile.
13. Iím grateful for the fact that we can afford the things that I can and still have money left over to give away.
14. Oh, Iím so grateful for my health. (Over the last week I have come across people who have suffered from cleft lip, paralysis, polio and cancer). Every breath is such an invaluable gift, cherish it and make the most of it.
15. Iím grateful for having that opportunity and ability to maintain my health too.

16. Iím grateful for the religion that I received and the religious education which I am still receiving.
17. Iím grateful for the insight that this world is so temporary. Our stint in this world is that of the traveller who is taking shade under a tree only to resume his journey.
18. Iím grateful for the problems and the challenging situations that Iím presented with, which make me stronger at every passing moment.
19. Iím grateful for the Golden Era of Information that we live in. So many problems are just a Google search away. Thanks to which one can overindulge in so many forms of knowledge. One can get the best of the best of books, lectures and DVDís. Iím so grateful that my learning doesnít need to stop.
20. Iím grateful for having learnt GTD. It has truly accelarated my learning, helped me clarified my vision in life and provided me with lazer sharp focus.

21. Iím grateful for the conviction that there is indeed a Creator to the universe and for the certainty that itís a trial that we are under.
22. Iím grateful for the realisation that whatever you do is completely useless, unless God Almighty is pleased with it. On the flip side it d
23. Iím grateful for learning that success does not mean a faster car, a bigger home or more money. But these are just means to true success which is spiritual purification, (ie getting closer to God by knowing who you really are).
24. Iím grateful for exposed to the wonderful authors that I have been exposed to (Sheikh Fadhlallah Haeri, Eckhart Tolle, Arundathi Roy are a few names that come to mind now).
25. Iím grateful for exposed to the wonderful lectures by the enlightened Zakirs in my life which have transformed and upgraded my thinking in ways I think nobody could have (Malim Hassanain Rajabali, Malim Khalil Jaffer, Sheikh Arif Abdul Hussain, Dr. Murtaza Alidina)

O Allah SWT, please guide us on to the straight path. The path where we utilise all these gifts and more the way You have intended us to. To get closer to You. Not in the way that we go astray from You, neither in the way that we attract Your wrath.

Any of the above resonated with you? So, what are you grateful for? Do the math people,Öcount your blessings. ?

Keep track of Web Links that we find fascinating and Books that weíre currently engrossed with.

The Arif & Ali blog is now on Twitter and

Whatís Twitter?
Twitter is this wonderful service to help stay in touch with friends no matter where you are by sending status updates of what you were doing. So be it youíre visiting a websites (or a cafe) you can post a little update in twitter via your pc or your mobile phone on what you are up to. Me and Ali are now on twitter and will be mostly posting interesting links that we come across. Incase we mistakenly happen to do anything exciting, weíll make a mention of that in Twitter too. To track our Twitter feed, itís best done by downloading one of the Twitter Widgets available here. If you want to set up a twitter account you may do it here.

Books galore
Weíve always been into reading, but over the last twelve months or so, our library has exploded. Weíre buying books ever so frequently and itís truly great fun trying to keep our reading at the same pace, ofcourse it hardly happens. Thanks to the indepth review, comments and the ability to peek into the book itself at Amazon, we are able to get truly the best of the best of any subject that we are interested in. And once youíre following GTD, implementing what you read gets so much easier too. The subjects that weíre covered are as varied as the themes on this blog. Some of the topics have been:
Personal Development
Fantasy Fiction
Political/Essays on the World and India specifically

These books are REALLY good. I mean Really really good. Hence we were keen to share this with all those who are interested in similar subjects and reading about them. Some of the books that we like and recommend have been reviewed on this blog, but we are not able to do the same for so many others that are equally impactful. Therefore, those whoíre interested what books weíve been completing, you may keep track of them here. Anytime weíve finished a new book, itílll be uploaded onto that same link.

Ofcourse, both our Twitter Feed and Books at can also be tracked from this blog itself as you can in see the right hand side-bar.

Incase you have any recommendation looking at the books weíre covered, please post a comment, weíd love to hear from you.

Muharram, Maryam, Mayhem – A personal update

It has been a little quiet at the Arif and Ali blog and there are a few reasons for that:

Late December, Muharram began. Itís the beginning of the Islamic calendar and where the Islamic world remembers the sacrifice of great individual Imam Hussain ibn Ali Talib. His sacrifice was indeed immense. He and his family were brutally murdered and his women were subsequently paraded and then jailed in dungeons. But itís not for what he sacrificed that heís remembered. Itís why he did so. He stood up to the tyrants of the time and refused to give-in to his principles knowing the heavy price that he would have to pay for it. Muharram is generally a busy time. We attend religious lectures whose theme revolve around improving ourselves, be it in our character, our worship, faith etc. Which always end with a reminder of Imam Hussainís sacrifice for his principles.

As detailed in my last blog post, itís in Muharram that I became a dad too. So if Muharram didnít keep me busy enough, Maryam Fatima Vakil certainly did. You know, I was always highly fearful of being a father. The mere thought would place on me a burden of an immense responsibility. How can I give my baby the best in the world. Infact I know I canít, but my princess (just like everybody feels for their little darlings) deserves no less. Anyhow, will worry about that some other day. Right now, little Maryam is chilling with her maternal grandparents at Mahuva, Gujrat. A sleepy little town where we originally hale from. While she is away, every little cry that harks upon my ears, I fell itís Maryam whoís calling out for me. Whenever I come across a woman now, I wonder is this how Maryam will grow up to be? Her round face with large eyes keeps appearing in front of me again and again. Itís truly something else to be a father.

But the main reason for silence was not so much being preoccupied with Muharram commemorations nor my little bundle of joy. It was something else that was happening hundreds of miles away from Bangalore, that was giving me sleepless nights here. It was/is the Gaza crises.

Just like many of you, I too was deeply disturbed to say the least by the happenings at Gaza. From the moment the air strikes began, there was little else that I could put my mind to. Even though the cease-fire has come now, but at what cost? And for how long? I really wanted to do a blog post on Gaza, but was not sure what I wanted to convey. It would have been a rant against the Israeli aggression, the complicatedness of the situation and the weakness of Arif Vakilís principles for doing nothing about it.

Anyway, letís all pray that there is peace not only at Middle East, but in every nation, city, town and family. Itís little acts of selfishness, greed and injustice which left uncorrected that end up in fights and wars. Similarly itís little acts of Love, Generosity, Kindness and Sacrifice that will lead us to our elusive World Peace. Iím sure if Hitler was guided as a child to Love, live in Peace, strive for Justice there wouldnít have been World Wars nor the Holocaust. How swiftly time flies. We are truly in this world for a really short time indeed. Thereís so much that needs to be done. To begin with, letís re-sensitise our selves to the massive poverty around us. As a child I couldnít bear to see a begger at the car with his hand outstreched. Now itís so easy for me to dismiss him with a wave of a hand. (I personally do not encourage giving to beggars, there are better ways to help them, but itís how thick-skinned that we can become is my point). Let us all be clear what are the principles that we stand for and lead our lives accordingly. If we stand for nothing, weíll fall for anything. Letís teach and then reteach all those in our cirucle of influence, beginning with our children that Love, Truth, Peace, Justice, Courage prevails over all the glitters around us. Most of us believe that our actions in this life will affect our life after this one. What reason have we then for not giving our best to bring about World Change? Is it required? is it Important? You bet it is. Together We Can make a difference. We Will. We Must.

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