Category Archives: Quotes

The Capital “I”

I am reading this book called ‘Ego is the enemy.’ One of the speakers at my work mentioned this book and like all things that are on your path call out to you – this book did too. I have been fascinated by ego and always wondered if I have a big ego or not. One of the reasons is that I am very high on an individualistic scale. I love to stand apart, need a high degree of independence and freedom of expression. I also aim high and seem to enjoy power which are the trappings of Ego. And as one progresses on the corporate ladder it becomes even more tricky hence the need to read the book. Now, I haven’t finished the book but that is not a requirement for me to write a blog on ego so here we go.

To begin with Ego is not a bad thing and I don’t think we can be without Ego. Like everything else this is also a tool and we should know how to use it. Like you don’t like being angry but if you see a little kid trying to put his fingers in fire you have to act angry – Ego is a bit like that I believe.

How do you know you have ego problem? Apparently the CEO of one company has very fixed directions on how much cologne his personal steward should apply – now that is definitely an ego problem. To be honest I really don’t know what is that line when it becomes a problem but if we focus on keeping it in balance then we should ok.

What does mean to be in balance then? If something is bothering you then ask yourself is it the Ego in me – do I think I am special enough? Why is something not happening as I want it? All these are in some ways examples of ego. And if some situation in your life is causing you so much pain or suffering that you cannot stop thinking about it- then the best thing to do is to do just the opposite. This is how you will find inner peace. For example if you want your friend to call you because its her turn and now you have spent a week thinking about why she hasn’t called and how great you are etc? Then its about time you give her a call.

The book that I am reading it’s author (Ryan Holiday) says”I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness.” For me that resonated with me deeply and its really hard for me to do. And we all live in a world where the world revolves around us. This whole life is a movie and we are the stars. I am not saying that all of us live our lives with puffed up egos all the time but there are times when admittedly it would make the best sense to not listen to the ego – to lose that argument with a friend even though you know you are right! When you just keep quiet and listen to somebody tell you how much fun they had in London even though you lived in London for years!

This quote sums it all

Island with no Stallions

This is a different blog than usual – it’s about our trip to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw). I am done with my quota of touristy things like visiting every point of interest, going to all the top restaurants. Thanks to my stint in London, UK, my friend Ranjani and my husband I have had my fill of it. As prof. Rao says in his Creativity and Personal Mastery says “You Cannot Leave Desire, Desire Has To Leave You.” And the desire has left me.Those were good times but my focus at that time was checking my list rather than enjoy the city for what its worth. I am drawn to the human stories or little nuggets that most don’t know about but it wasn’t my primary focus.

Anyways, so weekend trip to Mackinac Island – first of all there are no cars on the islands just bikes and horse buggies. The words – Taxi, Shuttle, Uber will bring you something like below:

The horse drivers were all very interesting – they come up for 4-6 months and then take off to their winter homes.One of our drivers had been doing this for 10 years. There is no certification needed to drive a horse buggy – they give you some training and then you are on your own. You have to learn how to do a three-way turn/U-turn on the tiny winding mountains roads filled with bikes/people and kids – need I say more. We got talking to one of the drivers and I asked him if they breed horses in the island and he said, “No, there are not stallions on the island. There might be some males but the ones who cannot reproduce.” Reason being that horses are matriarchal society so if you put a male/female together in a cart female is trying to outrun the male but the male has bigger hoof-steps than female so makes for a very bumpy ride. [An interesting article that talks about the matriarchal society in horses]

Life on an island must be very interesting as the island is your home. Our lovely puppy got all the fan fare he wanted – the day we showed up a young kid with hair as long has he was tall showed keen interest in Aki. We got talking and it turns out his name is Dex, he lives in the island all year long, he is in 3rd grade and goes to the Mackinaw public school. He hitched a ride on his bike alongside our shuttle. Next day morning we ran into him and a bunch of his friends in the woods – apparently they were building a fort. And then in the afternoon he comes along with this bunch of friends and offers to give Aki a walk for 2$. When Adam said he will think about it, he said he would even do it for free. He and his friends were having a lot of fun – you could see that they belonged and they were not just visiting.

This post will not be complete without mentioning Aki. He is a social crutch for me – conversations with strangers don’t have to awkward, no more small talk as people like to come up and say all sorts of things. I am listing some of the common things.
Person1:”What kind of a dog is he?” Anu: “Shiba Inu” Person 1:”Shiba Unu” [for some reason its hard to say shiba inu the first time you hear it]
Person2:”Can I pet your dog?” Anu: “Yes, you can.” [This is my favorite]
Person3:”Do you know your dog looks like a fox?” Anu:”Yes, I do” [Sometime I feel like responding with a sarcastic – really I never noticed.]

And here is the photo of the famous dog Aki who left his indelible mark at the island

Where you are.

As some of you know I have started learning swimming. I can swim now – except the breathing part. I still use a swimming snorkel but I am more comfortable in water and have more stamina. When I first started off I couldn’t even take 2 strokes and I was swimming next to little kids who could do laps. Let’s say instead of practicing I just stood their thinking about a) how good the kids are b) how I will never learn swimming – then I am actually just failing behind in my aim to swim. But that space where your mind spins stories is so enticing or rather so conditioned that we actually love to wallow in that space. We refuse to see where we are. Yes, whether you like it or not you make a choice to dwell and not take the next step.

This is why sometimes it feels as if we are stuck in a pattern and are not able to get out of it or any situation we get into it always comes down to the same thing. In fact, in some cases the stories we spin in our heads to avoid facing “where we are” has so many layers that we are light years from reality.Like in the swimming example if I start extrapolating it to the rest of the world and say everybody else can learn swimming, they can have a better life but look at me I cannot even swim – then this is further taking me away from the core – which is kick and move your hands in water.

It’s like the quote from Einstein

You have to be able to peel back the layers of onion, get rid of the baggage and see the reality as it is. And take an action – even a small step towards your goal counts. If I decide to just swim to the middle of the pool and just do it even if it means I stop after every stroke. It is a mixture of lot of things – will power, your desire (true desire) to get to the goal, your past experiences all contribute to it. But it doesn’t matter because you can only start from where you are. There is absolutely no point in comparing yourself to others or where they are – it’s a waste of energy and time. Another quote from Einstein here

Ramana Maharishi also said that the world will be a much better place if everybody minded their own business.If these thoughts did not exist then I would just swim – there is nothing stopping me from swimming.

We have to accept the fact that our past deeds in this lifetime or past lifetimes have created the circumstances in which we find ourselves today but the response to this situation is in our hands. We have to see the reality as it is, accept where we are and move from there. It’s not easy but hey this is life, this is you.

Vipassana in Pali literally means “to see things as they are”.

Being Different – concept of Who Am I?

I remember when I moved to Columbus from London – it was an identity crisis of sorts. The first step was to recognize that my identity was tied to working as a Project Manager in British Telecom and having a MBA degree from London Business School. I identified myself with these two things without even realizing it in London. When I moved to Columbus nobody even knew British Telecom or London Business School – I even had somebody ask me what does an MBA stand for. That was the first time I realized that unknowingly I had created an identity for myself and was attached to it. And looking back I can see that it had taken me some effort to build my identity in London so it wasn’t easy to let it go. And let it go for what?

Moving to Columbus gave me the fresh start as I wasn’t encumbered by preconceived notions of what people thought about me. Let’s ignore the fact that the preconceived notions are in my head to begin with. Fresh Start – eh! that didn’t last long though.

I was driving back from work one day and my thoughts wandered to how I am different and have always been different. For example, I am a South Indian but I grew up in North – so really I didn’t fit in either places. [South India as different from North India like UK and Spain]. And then I joined the software engineering which at that time was still very much Male-centric world. And when I moved to US – again I was different, same in UK [Although London feels like home as everybody is from outside] And then I married someone out of my caste , first one from my community to go do an MBA,list continues…

The point being that this is the only life I know and hence I identify myself as being different. In fact, I would probably feel threatened if I was the same as others.

How am I different now? We (Adam and I) don’t drink. We don’t watch TV – we don’t even have cable. We do Meditation and Yoga. We love talking about well-being, self and being on the Journey. We don’t seem to be driven by materialistic desires as much. The usual small talk isn’t for us.

Then the question is – so is this better? Is this good that I am different and differ in the way stated above?
The short answer to that is NO. It doesn’t matter what identity I have – the key is to be aware that I have an identity. In the human predicament we have to play the role(s). The key is to know that you are playing a role and the role is not you. And we cannot get away from playing the roles as long as we are in the human predicament. We might as well as enjoy playing different roles and play them with gusto.

A role might be this perfect do-gooder who can do no wrong. Another role can be of a inspirational leader at office. Another role might be somebody is who is victim to everything that happens to them. Another role might be of a drug-addict. Another might be of a politician or in some cases even an enlightened Guru.

In essence it really doesn’t matter who we are – we are all one whether we truly realize it or not is a different question.

Long Term – how long is long?

I remember my hindi teacher at school telling us this story. It went something like this:
There is a bus that is going from A to B. On the way to B it runs into a oncoming truck and everybody on the bus dies. People come running to the accident to help any survivors and all they see is this 90+ year old woman who gets up with the help of her stick. Everybody comments on who lucky she is. She gets into a rickshaw so that she can go to the bus stop. The rickshaw runs over a tiny stone, loses it balance and overturns killing the old woman in the process.

What do you think is the moral of the story? The time of your death is pre-determined, you will die when your time comes, not a second later, not a second earlier.

There maybe some of you who are thinking well if the old lady had her seat belt on – she could have survived. Yes, that is correct but then it wasn’t the right time.

At the same time I am sure this story and the conversation so far is making you uncomfortable. Talking about death or dying does make people very uncomfortable. I have wondered why? I will be sad when the ones close to me die – it will leave a hole where they filled it but death is one of the most certain things in life. The one thing we know for sure is we will die but still we live our entire life denying it. The quote below says it all

So, how does it relate to the topic of the blog which is “Long Term”. A lot of the leadership and self-help books talk about “Long Term Thinking”. What is your five-year plan? Where do you see yourself in your 2-3 years? The real long term is a little different I think.

When you are trying to prove you are right to a co-worker – that’s when you think long term. You are going to die anyways does being right on whether the status report should say X or Y really matter. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not have opinions but the intensity and impact can come down a notch if we keep the long term goal in mind.

As everything else this kind of long term thinking is also a choice – I am just presenting a option , a different way of thinking. If someone overtakes you while you are driving – we have two choices a) get mad and ruin precious moments of your life or b) life is too short to get worked about something you are not going to remember in 24 hours.

“If somebody was to say – you have two hours to live.” What will you do? This is not a morbid question but a check on who well you are living your life. Are you living in the future or past? Or are you living in the moment – you are satisfied and at peace with where you are right now?

This is how I measure my happiness level – The art of dying is in essence the art of living. If you don’t believe me read this article on reasons behind Bhutan’s high Happiness index.

Making Friends – Mentoring

We have a mentoring event at office and one of my friends is on the panel. He asked me if I could speak at the event for a few minutes and give my testimonial from last year. I obviously said yes – I love being in the limelight even if I obsess about it before.

This got me thinking about mentoring, meeting new people … friendships.I still remember my first meeting with mentee – it was like meeting a complete stranger and was really awkward. We spoke and I realized that she is in a complete different space than mine – she was into big data, data warehouse. I went home that day thinking about what am I going to do in the mentoring sessions. I was convinced that I cannot add any value. I went home and conferred with my voice of wisdom who told me that its too early and I should not imagine the worse.

We had a first meeting – did introductions – spoke about feedback. She said that one of the feedback she had received was that she needs to be more confident and not ask too many questions to validate what she is doing. I remember using some general quotes and came home and once again conferred with my voice my wisdom [Who is my husband, if you hadn’t guessed that already] and he suggested well – you can tell her what you do about it, right?

It got me thinking – and I started exploring but exploring inwards which is another path to know yourself. Next meeting I suggested that she do a mental chatter exercise where she notes down her mind chatter – just bring awareness. And Voila! next meeting she told me of two instances where she realized that she didn’t have to ask for validation… from then on our journey grew – she painted, she tried different techniques with her team, she took ownership of some of the items in her home and last year she got promoted :). I cannot say that it was all because of me but remember the saying “No smoke without mirrors.”

What did I gain from it? First and foremost the advice you give to others is advice that you need to take. So in essence I was giving advice to myself. I found myself thinking about why don’t I try this in a similar situation.

It makes you pause and wonder about where you are in your journey – my mentee had taken a route which was very different that mine but could have been mine too. We both did our engineering in the same year but she got married right after that and I went gallivanting around the world. And now here we are – it made me realize that it could have been me too.

Once I stopped worrying about adding value and being present – everything worked out well because I was listening to her. Listening is a great skill to have – and it’s not listening to what the other person is telling you but what is she trying to tell you by talking about it. It’s a journey on its own.

I am moving onto new mentees this year but I know I have a friend now.

Need a Break!

It’s Sunday evening and you are thinking about all the things that you haven’t done. You have a busy day ahead and want to get to bed early but at the same time you have not had a break. Anyways you go to bed with the unfinished business hanging over your head.

You wake up in the morning with a feeling of never-ending list hanging over you.(All you want is some space to yourself) It’s Monday – busy day at work, things just keep piling up, people keep requesting things from you and you didn’t get a moment to do anything on your list.(You cannot wait for the break when you get home).

You get home – walk your dog – make food and eat. (All this while you are looking forward to a break). And finally you end up staying late so that you can have that time to yourself that you have been wanting for days now.

And the cycle starts again. Sounds familiar?

The question here is Why do need a BREAK from something?
Because you are so fed up with what you are doing that you need a break.
Why are you so fed up?
Because you think you would be rather doing something else than what you are doing right now.

We are not accepting the moment which unfortunately or fortunately is the only thing we have. The following quote from

Imagine we have a pipe through which water is flowing and we keep blocking one end of the pipe slowly. There comes a time when the pipe is blocked and water stops flowing.

When somebody comes with a request while all we want to do is to send the email – we resist it and add a little pebble to the end of the pipe. Note that we already added quite a few pebbles to the pipe over the weekend and as the day goes by we just keep adding pebble after pebble. No wonder when we come home all we want is a BREAK.

Now, if we just accept whatever happens as something that is exactly what we wanted then there is no pebble and water keeps flowing.

How do we do that? First and foremost as usual, awareness is the key, second practice and third actual experience of acceptance of what it is. And surprise, surprise when we accept things as they are we end up having more than enough time to do all that we ever wanted. This like all major shifts will take effort.

If you are ever present in the moment then the feeling of “Needing a Break” will diminish leaving more energy for you to do your own things or just be.

Another way to look at it is through my favorite Quote “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” Ros Zander who co-authored “The art of possibility” with Ben Zander talks about her experience in writing the book. She got herself a nice cabin in woods, well-equipped. And she would go there every weekend but end up doing everything else except writing – we have all been there! Until one day she realized that everything else that she was doing was also writing – it was food for thought like taking her dog for a walk, washing dishes etc.

Similarly if we view our daily life as all connected and every single piece including – broken pipe you need to fix, the stakeholder who has an urgent request then life just flows – there is no blockage.

Cooking Creativity

When I first met Adam one of the my very emphatic statements to him was that I am not going to cook. Coming from India where it is assumed that girls will grow up and cook for their husbands and family, I assumed that Adam had similar notions. I was all set to make it straight. Adam’s cool answer to my “ready to go to war with” statement was “OK”.

And now surprise, surprise I love cooking – well, trying new recipes and if they are vegan/gluten free/healthy and have chia seeds or other superfoods even great. Like this weekend I made Onion Garlic Buttah [Vegan butter from Cashews], I have been on this cooking journey since last year. This weekend as I was making the Buttah I thought about why the sudden change. At first, I thought it was because, now it’s not expected of me – it’s my choice. But then I realized it was because it was creative. That got me thinking and hence the blog.

The picture above says it all and the output of the cooking is a lot different from the input itself. You do create something new and that’s what I like. Even the recipes I have made once I always change something in them. There is something very satisfying in taking different ingredients and making something new out of them.

And maybe this is why I love Software development too – creation of a website/form that did not exist before. As an engineer I assumed that I wasn’t creative but as I got into management the one thing I really missed was the creation of something tangible. And we will not talk about the fact that creativity might end up looking like a skyscraper when the client really wanted a small cabana on the beach – minor details.

And it was when I read Artist way that I started opening up to my creative self. And it is a journey – for years I grew up thinking creativity was something was outside of me – even the dictionary meaning of creative states that is something which is used for artistic work like painting/art. So if you are not a poet or an artist you are not creative.

the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

However, now I am realizing that creativity is inbuilt in us as humans. Well, to begin with the mind chatter – voice in our head creates these lovely movies about things that don’t even exist or will never exist. For example, you see somebody in a party and your Mind Chatter creates a reality where that person does not like you. Or you have just given an interview and your Mind Chatter creates a reality where you will never get the job or where you get the job. We are creating all the time.

In fact, every day we wake up in the morning we are creating our day – every moment is a one that did not exist before. We are all creative beings in that sense – and now I beginning to understand where creativity and personal mastery come together.

What kind of a life are you creating right now, at this moment?

Love after Love- lovely poem

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

“You cannot travel the path until you become the path.”

This quote took me quiet sometime – literally a year on my kitchen wall before I began to understand what it meant. As usual this is my take on it.

For example, if you are writing a book, then everything that you do you think from a perspective of writing a book. Like how would I describe this person, this building, thinking of plots during driving. It literally takes over your life. Now, this has to happen naturally unless you are the Fake it Until I Make it types.