Archive for July, 2016

How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules – Week 2

Last week, we showed you how you can use bright lines to facilitate change.

This week, we’ll see how we can use them to break bad habits and boost your willpower:


[B]right-line rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or eliminate old behaviors.

My friend Nir Eyal proposes a similar strategy that he calls “Progressive Extremism.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme stand in one small area. You are establishing a bright line on that topic. Over time, you can progressively move your bright line forward and add other behaviors to the mix. (i.e. “I don’t eat red meat or fish.” And so on.)

Establishing bright lines in your life can provide a huge boost in daily willpower. Here are two reasons why:

First, bright lines shift the conversation in your head from one of sacrifice to one of empowerment. When you don’t have a bright line established and you choose not to do something, the tendency is to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, when you do have a bright line clearly set, your response can simply be, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” Bright lines help you avoid making just-this-once exceptions.

Second, by establishing clear decisions in your life, you conserve willpower for other important choices. Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time. With bright lines, the decision is made ahead of time. Because of this, you are less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and more likely to have willpower left over for work, relationships, and other health habits.


So there you have it, Bright lines and clear boundaries will supercharge your journey to change!

For a recap on bright lines and how they can help you, visit James Clear’s blog.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules – Week 1

One way to bring about change is to establish clear rules. In other words, we have to establish “bright lines”.

What are bright lines? Well, ……


A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying. If a police officer fails to inform a defendant in custody of their rights, then the suspect’s statements are not admissible in court. Plain and simple. Clear and bright.

Most of us, myself included, could benefit from setting brighter lines in our personal and professional lives. Consider some common examples:

  • We might say that we want to check email less frequently.
  • We might say that we want to eat healthier.

It can be easy to make promises like this to yourself, but they do not create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make progress hard to measure, and the things we measure are the things we improve. Consider the following alternatives:

  • I only process email between 11AM and 6PM.
  • I eat at least two types of vegetables per day.

These statements establish bright lines. These statements make action steps precise and obvious.


Join us next week, where we’ll show you how you can use bright lines to break bad habits and unleash your willpower!

For more like this, visit James Clear’s blog.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

At Frontier, Expertise trumps Position

While in the past Frontier has worked with quite a flat hierarchy, in recent times with the expansion of the team we have added a few more layers to the flow of responsibilities. We now have team leaders who are in charge of different teams within Frontier, i.e. Econ, Equity and Information curation & Business development.

Amal, our CEO now works more as a coach as opposed to a team leader, taking responsibility of the overall growth strategy, direction and diversification of the company. The three team leaders are responsible for the specific work in each sub-area. They have the freedom to decide and delegate work among their team members. Amal, as the coach, provides guidance on the broad directions of work.

Once the team leader decides the overall work targets for each team for a specific period of time, e.g. special reports, events, presentations etc., the work is then delegated among various team members within each team. The delegation is done based on team members’ capacity, skills and willingness to take on work.

While team leaders are responsible for the overall performance of the team and for the overall quality and accuracy of the work, every team member within each team is responsible for the work they take on. With that comes the responsibility of representing the work they have done – may it be presenting them to clients, writing/publishing a report, or media representation etc.

Basically, expertise is shared at frontier – each team member has a particular area they are specialized in. So often times, when Frontier gets requests to address a conference or make a media presence on a particular topic, the team member who is most knowledgeable on the topic and capable and willing to handle the responsibility is given the opportunity to represent Frontier, rather than Amal always taking on the responsibility as was the case in the early years. We believe this adds more value both to media output as well as to Frontier.

These media representations are some of the instances where different team members expressed their views on their specialized areas;


Travis on understanding the Key performance Indicators of Banks:

Travis interviewed by Echelon Magazine on the outlook for the CSE:

Travis was part of a panel discussion organized by UNFPA Sri Lanka on the generational impact of changing demographics in Sri Lanka:


Analysis on the economy with the recent dollar bond issue in FinanceAsia:,sri-lankan-bond-proves-fleet-of-foot.aspx

Shiran part of panel discussion organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on Brexit, IMF deal, 2016 outlook:,_IMF_deal,_2016_outlook-3-5570-1.html

Op-Ed in the Sunday Times on expectations for the economy in 2016:


Opinion piece on boom and bust cycle of the economy:

Ashini & Thilini on provincial and sector household income growth in Sri Lanka:

The same behaviors that spell academic success can backfire at work

Many times, it happens that those who excel in school find difficulty in the workplace. The reason is simple – the behaviors that define academic success just don’t work at work.

Here’s a few things that everyone needs to change to be better leaders:


Early in my work as a career coach, I noticed something surprising: The women who faced the biggest challenges in senior-level positions had often been star pupils in school. Now the same behaviors that had been essential for academic success were holding them back in the boardroom. Here are a few of the key adjustments that all leaders—both men and women—need to make:

Learn to improvise

In traditional school environments, students are given the opportunity to prepare for whatever they’ll be asked to do. Yet as we move into leadership positions, we need to be comfortable with improvisation. Great students—who often have come to rely on careful preparation as their primary way of working—tend to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, stressed, and unqualified in such situations. So they have to consciously work to become confident when they’re thrown into situations they couldn’t possibly have seen coming.

Trust yourself

In order to improvise, you need to trust that your existing skills, knowledge, personal capabilities are sufficient to guide your actions. Schools often erode this kind of self-confidence. Students are asked again and again to turn to research, books, and professors’ lectures to acquire knowledge and internalize it. The implicit message is that students’ value is contingent upon what they’ve learned from outside resources. Students are rarely asked to speak, write, or create from what they already know. But that’s a key skill for leaders.

Influence authority

Great students are chameleons. They’re very adept at adapting themselves and their work, again and again and again, to each teacher’s unique preferences and requirements. Yet to cultivate our abilities as leaders, we need the opposite skill: The ability to recognize and stick with what is distinctive about our thinking, and use these distinctive traits to influence and challenge authority.


If we want to nurture leaders that can change the world, we need to teach them how to lead. That is something that should start in the classroom!

For more like this, visit

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The Global Economy in June

Global markets were shocked on the 24th of June when the results of the UK’s referendum on its EU membership – dubbed ‘Brexit’ – saw a majority in favor of leaving the EU. The volatility and uncertainty that had persisted in the run up to the ‘Brexit’ vote spiked as markets around the world fell dramatically.

However, the market drop did not last long. Emerging and North American markets recovered their ‘Brexit’ losses in the weeks following the vote. This was aided by a number of other factors affecting investor sentiment. Investors favored Asian and Emerging markets as they were seen as being sheltered from the uncertainty affecting European markets, with Jakarta’s stock market leading the rise in South-East Asian stocks.

Europe is expected to remain mired in uncertainty, however, with no clarity on when – or even if – ‘Brexit’ would actually happen. Odds makers still show a significant chance for Britain being a part of the EU by 2020.

Uncertainty over ‘Brexit’ also played a part in the US Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) decision to hold out on an interest rate hike in June. Analysts now put a greater possibility of a rate cut as opposed to the previously anticipated hike. This has also brought relief to emerging market companies that were expected to find it difficult to pay back $800 billion in maturing debt over the next few years.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has taken steps to sell bonds to foreign investors for the first time. The decision was pressured by the increasing budget deficit created by low oil prices. Meanwhile, Nigeria decided to abandon the peg on the Naira and adopt a free float system, amidst an economic recession due to the oil price plunge. The currency depreciated immensely. But it was accepted by markets gleefully with stocks rising and bond yields falling.

Oil prices were volatile, rising above the $50 mark several times this month. The volatility was caused by fears of supply disruptions in Nigeria and Canada, amid some risk-off sentiment following the ‘Brexit’ vote. Oil traders expect the current price range to persist till the end of the year.

China continues to remain a major concern for markets with a large number of bad loans affecting the banking system in the country. Analysts predict a bailout of about US$ 500 billion might happen over the next two years to recapitalize the banks. It could drag down Chinese markets and the yuan, while increasing government borrowing costs and credit risk. Accordingly, many warn that investors should be warier of China’s economy than Britain’s.

Are You an “Abstainer” or a “Moderator”?

If you’ve been trying to develop a new habit (or kick an old one), chances are, it hasn’t been easy. But maybe that’s because you’ve going about it all wrong

This week, we’ll see how your approach to change can differ on whether you are an abstainer or a moderator:


A piece of advice I often see is, “Be moderate. Don’t have ice cream every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you’ll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan.” I’ve come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the “moderators.” They do better when they try to make moderate changes, when they avoid absolutes and bright lines.

For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation–and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson, who said, when someone offered him wine: “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I’m an “abstainer.” I find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately.

There’s no right way or wrong way–it’s just a matter of knowing which strategy works better for you. If moderators try to abstain, they feel trapped and rebellious. If abstainers try to be moderate, they spend a lot of time justifying why they should go ahead and indulge. (Exception: with an actual addiction, like alcohol or cigarettes, people generally accept that abstaining is the only solution.)

You’re a moderator if you…

– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve

– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…

– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started

– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

Now, sometimes instead of trying to give something up, we’re trying to push ourselves to embrace something. Go to the gym, eat vegetables, work on a disagreeable project. Perhaps this is the flip side of being an abstainer, but I’ve found that if I’m trying to make myself do something, I do better if I do that thing every day.


Are you a moderator or an Abstainer? Whichever you are, you are now well-armed to tackle that change you wanted to make!

For more like this, visit the Gretchen Rubin’s blog.

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The Moral Bucket List – Week 3

Some of us have had the privilege of meeting truly wonderful people. Those who are selfless and possess impeccable character.

We all want to be like that. The good news is, we can! This week, we explore how these wonderful people see life:


Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

Their lives often follow a pattern of defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding — by keeping a journal or making art. They are not really living for happiness, as it is conventionally defined. They see life as a moral drama and feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal.

This is a philosophy for stumblers. The stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness. Recognizing her limitations, the stumbler at least has a serious foe to overcome and transcend. The stumbler has an outstretched arm, ready to receive and offer assistance. Her friends are there for deep conversation, comfort and advice.

External ambitions are never satisfied because there’s always something more to achieve. But the stumblers occasionally experience moments of joy. There’s joy in freely chosen obedience to organizations, ideas and people.

The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, the stumbler looks out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and is overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated her much better than she deserves.


And that folks is how we can live an enlightened life.

For a recap of the Moral Bucket List, visit the New York Times.

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