Distorted View

Montessori Mafia – is a nickname coined for the people like Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. These are well-known people who have been to Montessori. Now, my eleven-year-old nephew also goes to Montessori. His response was, ‘You know, there are lots of other people who graduate from Montessori.’ That one statement puts it in perspective.

Similarly, let’s say you are an inspirational speaker; all your events are jam-packed. At one event, you spot some empty seats – and suddenly you are not a successful speaker. All those previous full house events that you spoke at are out of the window. It does not take a lot for us to switch our views even in the face of glaring evidence.

We all do this – in our personal lives, in professional lives, in small ways, in significant fundamental ways.

Recently, I read the book, ‘Brave New Work’ where he talks about how there was a rigorous process for a factory worker to get gloves because at some point somebody stole a box of gloves. We obsess so much over losing that one box of gloves that we forgot about all the 99% of the time when it worked well. We plan for exceptions, we plan for things not going well – but do not take into account what happens most of the times. For example, in the glove example – we want to penalize all the other workers because one worker decides to swizzle the system.

How much of our own lives do we plan around the one thing that has a tiny probability of happening? We had one bad experience talking to a stakeholder at work, and we prepare ourselves to deal with such situations for eternity. We conveniently forget about a dozen times in the past when we have had no issues. We are trying to protect ourselves – I understand but admit it, it is a distorted view.

It’s like it rained hard when you had a garden party once – so now you wear a raincoat to all the garden parties. Silly, right? But, sometimes that’s how we live our lives too. That one time we had a heartbreak – we let it dictate all our future relationships – in some cases, we take it with us to the grave.

We have to prepare ourselves when things do not go as planned but live our entire lives assuming things are not going to be that way is a little extreme. What can we do about it? If a situation is causing us to worry, then it might worth checking to see if I am planning for the 1% that will rarely happen or the 99% that usually happens. If we focus on 1% that does not go well – since we are focused on it – it becomes our life.

What are you focusing on these days?

It’s Not Worth It

At work, one of the peers has this annoying habit of forwarding emails that I have already received – and these emails are more of the provocative nature (focusing solely on issues or highlighting where things are not working). I used to respond to these emails. But, as things got hectic, I did not have the patience to do that, so I decided to delete such emails. Funnily, enough one of my team members mentioned the same thing, ‘Why does she/he keep sending emails? And it gets my mind racing.” I told her – “Ignore the emails – just delete it – it’s not the best use of your time.”

There was another time when I was worried about something at work, and one of my peers nonchalantly made a statement, ‘It’s not worth putting energy into.”

How many times in our lives do we spend an obscenely vast chunks of time spending emotional/mental (and sometimes even physical) energy on something tiny? It’s not worth it.

I cannot recall which book I was reading, but one of the statements in the book was, “You are a tiny speck in the universe, and nobody gives a shit about you.” All the things that we do to make ourselves feel important – at some level, they are meaningless.

How do we first identify that it’s not worth spending our energy on? One of the critical indicators could be – ‘Are you dealing with an exception or a regular occurrence?’ If it is an exception and happens once every five years – not worth it. And if it does happen – then yeah, find a way to deal with it and move on. The thing about life that people forget is ‘Moving On’ refers to your thoughts and mental state as well – Keep Moving.

Another question could be, ‘What kind of an impact will this have in my life?’ Do you keep thinking about traffic, or do you think about your future partner? If it has no impact on your life – there is your answer. It seems ridiculously simple, but I find myself surprised at the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking about something that does not even occur in my life.

Ok, so now you can identify which questions are worth it and which are not? Now, how do you get your mind to move in the same direction? Training our minds is where most of us struggle. Most of the time, we are so unconscious that we do not even know what we are thinking. We are all puppets of our minds – Somebody says something to us, and off we go on a roundtrip around the world. We rarely ask ourselves – is my mind focusing on what I want it to think? Meditation is one way to train the mind – watch your thoughts, become aware of them and awareness will automatically bring it to your attention – when you can make a conscious choice about whether it’s worth it or not and move on.

What things are you spending time on which are not worth it?

State Of Things

During our trip to Turkey, we went to visit the ruins which were just outside the city. The guide took us to the ruins where the hospital had once stood, and he said, ‘This hospital was famous for not having a single patient die on them.’ We all looked at him expectantly and then said, ‘That’s because they never took on those patients who might die.’

For as long as humans exist – I can guarantee that if a system exists, we will know how to game it. How is it what the Turks did any different from the corporates of today who slightly modify their metrics to tell the story they want.

It makes you wonder – Have we been caught up so much in the gaming the system that we have lost sight of the fact that it is a system – not THE system. Sometimes I wonder that is why we lack imagination. Don’t agree with me. Let’s journey through history to see the standard plot lines.

  • Kings occupied other countries and waged war. (This is a cyclical process)
  • World War 1
  • World War 2
  • Even now, the squabbling of the territory continues like Palestine/Kashmir…
    If you think the story will change in the future – think again. Aliens and planets will replace people and Places in the above examples. It’s like we don’t know anything else except fighting for land and amassing power. These are the stories that continue throughout the history of humankind and will continue to dominate the future too unless something changes.

The question that arises now is why change? To understand the answer take a look at the state of your country, the world. Are we in a better place than when we started – no, in fact, we are regressing at such a rapid rate that at some point we might not exist at all. Life on earth might be better off if you took humans away.

Why haven’t we changed? Because we are focused on playing the game that we have become the character and forgotten that it’s just a game. We are so focused on getting through the daily grind of our lives that we seldom stop to wonder if there is any point to the daily grind? So many of our societal models are outdated, like the entire production floor in factories. Our education system, our offices, even our traffic lights are designed to support the mindless thinking required from a factory worker. There was a time when that was needed. But in today’s day and age, we need self-managed, innovative, creative people.

In schools, kids are expected to sit at their desks quietly for five to six hours a day – which kid can do that, but this is all training so that when you grow up, you can go and do this in a factory. If you look around, you will see a lot of examples where active questioning is discouraged. Things are changing like Montessori schools, remote offices – these changes are happening in small pockets. We need to embrace these and refine these models to arrive at a new system that will ensure a sustainable future – one that is vastly different from where we started.

How are you going to embrace change, today?

You Have To Earn It.

I did a couple of Bollywood Dance workshops for kids at a library during the summer holidays. The library staff had been reaching out to me for a couple of years, but the timing worked out this year, so I said yes, mostly out of guilt and also at the happiness she expressed when I responded to her email.

My parents are in town, so we made a day trip of it. I was not expecting much, and this was my first time teaching kids who are in the range of 3 yrs – 8 yrs old. Both sessions went well – the kids all joined in, even kids who were too young tapped their feet. They all followed the instructions and happily danced away. Even the library staff, teachers and kids – grandparents joined in.

After the session, a couple of kids came up and gave me a penny and a rubber band – bracelet (which is a very precious commodity at their age) as a gift. A couple of kids gave me hugs, and a few of them came over and said how much they loved it.

As we were driving back, we were discussing the gifts, and it made me wonder. These kids knew me for less than forty minutes, and they were showering with me affection right after that. They are so free with their love and displays of affection. What happens to us when we grow up? People have to earn our love and friendship – it is no longer freely given. We no longer get recognized for doing our job – we need to go above and beyond our duty to distinguish ourselves and gain recognition. What has changed in the value of love from the time we were kids to the time we start working that it has become such a scarce resource. And we are not talking about diamonds or even chocolates which cost money – we are just talking about appreciation, simple gestures of gratitude which are free but priceless at the same time.

So, at work I am of the mindset that if somebody has done something to evoke the feeling of gratitude in me, then they hear about it – it does not matter whether we have achieved the result or not. One of my peers got us external help that enabled us to move forward, and I told him how grateful I was – and he said, ‘Don’t thank me, yet’. I told him – I will, it’s my choice, and I did. Why do we have to wait to express our love or gratitude unless they have proven something – are we not capable of feeling gratitude and love just for the heck of it. Somewhere in our civilization process, we have lost this beautiful practice of expressing love and appreciation. The irony is we chase after happiness even though we have it. We do not accept it because we are waiting for something grand to happen before we take what we are already feeling.

How will you give gratitude and love freely?

It’s Not Working.

How many times do you go through your pantry and throw away stuff that has expired or gone bad? The things you thought you would use but have forgotten or no longer need.

How often do you go through your closet and select clothes to throw away or donate? Clothes that do not fit you or are out of fashion.

Now, how often do you go through your thoughts or beliefs and throw the ones that are not working for you any more? The beliefs that do not serve you but have become harmful.

At some point in my life I thought that a) I could only have one best friend and b) that friend should know everything about me or more than others. Now at that young age, it was possible to do that – but as I grew up it became impossible because the social circle changed, I changed – things that I thought were important were no longer relevant. That belief was not working for me, so I had to change it – expand it.

It was an innocuous belief, but it had far-reaching impacts on who I trust even now. I know what I don’t do, which is a blessing, but it doesn’t change what I do. It is an effort.

We all have such mental models on which we base our life. And these models worked when they did – that’s why we use them again and again, but there comes the point when they don’t work, but we still try to use them like squeezing the honey out of an empty bottle. A wise person would wake up to the fact that the bottle is empty and its time to get a new jar of honey.

It is obvious to use when we outgrow our clothes, but we are very negligent when it comes to our thoughts and mental models. Mental hygiene is not taught in our society. Nobody talks about it – that is another widely held belief in the community. So much of the problems in the world exist because we do not let go of what has expired. Imagine eating food that has expired – no way; we throw it away even if it is a day past. But we hold onto thoughts are that centuries old. Don’t believe me – then take up any popular Netflix show – you will see the same themes pop up – underdogs rising, a man fighting with a man for territory (or planet), greed, politics. We haven’t changed and never will unless there is a rise in consciousness.

Real change and a much-needed one can happen if each one of us becomes aware – self-management is the key. A tree knows what it has to do when it rains or when it’s windy. We do too, but we have been focused on how we look, how others look that we never look inside to see what we know.

If each one of us took upon us to wake up our inner compass, the world would be a different place to live. How will you go about discovering your inner compass today?

It’s Not The Same.

We recently played a game – Dayam, it is popular in the villages of South India. I had played it as a child growing up and recalled fond memories of playing it with cousins and other friends to pass the time in the long hot summer holidays. I had got the board and the dice years ago but never got a chance to play it – so we decided to play it with my parents. To my surprise – the game was not as much fun as I expected it to be.

I watched a show on Netflix called Perfect Match – it is about two chefs. A uber wealthy couple comes to dine at the restaurant, and they wanted to taste the same dish that the chef had made 50 years ago when they got married. The younger chef has the exact recipe that her father had used to prepare for their wedding, and she decides to make that same dish. The experienced chef modifies his recipe. The couple loves the modified recipe, and to her surprise when the young chef tastes her recipe, she does not like it, either.

What happens? The experienced chef explains it to the younger chef – that the couples taste and ours to evolve with time. When the couple got married, they did not care about eating organic, or they were not watching their salt intake – so if he had served them the same recipe, they would not have liked it.

It’s the same with us and our lives – our taste evolves but memories linger. That is why as we grow old things from the past seem more enticing and exciting than they were because they get enhanced as our experience increases.

Life is change at its core – we change, our tastes change as we experience life in our way – this is why sometimes it is harder to connect with friends back home because the path travelled are so different that we are at different places in our lives with no overlap. That is normal and ok. Our tastes change – that is how we improve. If I ran meetings the way, I did before I would have learnt nothing. The foods that I eat today are a lot different than what I used to eat before — everything changes – what we do today, what we like today, what we wear today.

And this personal change is reflected in the world around us – our attitude towards sex, climate change, IVF babies, plant-based food, liquid food, online ordering. Life is not what it used to be when we grew up, and this is how it is going to be.

What this means is to enjoy each experience for what it is – not holding onto it, and it is the experience that counts – every interaction changes us as a person – it is up to us to decide how we want to change and include or stay away from that change or accept that change in our lives.

What is your relationship with change?

Is It The Right Knife?

During my first Vipassana Service, I served in the kitchen. And we usually cook for like about 70-90 people – breakfast, lunch for these many people. And it means everything we do is in huge quantities like potatoes – 4 Kgs, cucumber – 2 Kgs. One of the tasks that I was assigned to was cutting tomatoes – Kilos of them. I admit that I was a novice at cooking and had a hard time cutting tomatoes because the knife would just slide by as opposed to make a clean cut. One of my fellow servers saw me struggling with tomatotes and came over with a serrated knife and cutting tomatoes has been a source of joy since then.

Have you ever tried to slice ginger? If so, then you probably know that if you are having a hard time slicing it then it probably means you just have to flip it to the other side. Yes, one side of ginger is more amenable to being cut than the other.

What does all this mean? That things do not have to be hard – if they are then that means you are doing it the hard way, not necessarily that it is hard.

This technique is not restricted only to cutting vegetables or in the kitchen – this is true even for life. When we are doing something for the first time, it is hard because we are figuring out which knife to use for which vegetables – which side to turn the ginger on to ensure that the knife slices smoothly. When I became a people leader – it was hard because I was learning, and as I keep at it, I realized that I have a toolkit and now I use the tool needed for that situation.

People might tell you how to be a great leader, you can read all the books you want, but nothing can replace the hands-on experience. Sometimes people who write the books are so well experienced in their craft that they do not think that mentioning that using a ‘serrated’ knife is the key because for them it is the only way to cut tomatoes. We build our toolkit – the one that works for us, not the one that made the author successful. It does not mean that you have nothing to learn from the books – of course, you do, but just reading books is not going to cut it.

If something is hard, then it is a good thing because it means you will eventually learn how to make it easy or you will learn something new. Giving up is not the option – a lot of people say nowadays I have so many emails in my inbox that I cannot read all emails – Excuses!!! If you cannot manage your inbox, then how are you managing your life. You haven’t figured out how to manage your inbox the easy way, and you have given up and accepted that it is hard – that is a sad situation.

Which knife are you looking for?

To Give Up Or Not.

At lunch, I was telling my family about an amazon prime video I had watched. It’s called ‘Spotlight’ and is based on real events depicting the Boston Globe newspaper’s journey in exposing the child abuse by priests. It led to a lively discussion around institutions, power, giving up and from there, the topic led to Anthony De Mello – who was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist. He has written lots of excellent books (Recommend Awareness if you are interested). Adam mentioned that in one of Anthony’s clips he says (I am paraphrasing) – ‘When he would talk to priests – all they would want to talk about is sex – because that’s what they have given up. And when he would talk to sex workers or prostitutes, all they wanted to talk about was God and spirituality.’

Moral of the story – you are obsessed with what you give up. Because when you give up something, you are so focused on giving it up that it is almost an obsession. For your mind – it does not make a distinction between whether you are giving it up or not – all it knows that a particular topic is on your mind a lot. For example, you decide to give up dairy – and you keep googling various kinds of non-diary desserts, articles on benefits of giving up dairy. All your mind knows is that you think about dairy non-stop which from its perspectives it’s true.

Why is it that when you give up something, you are obsessed with it? If you give up something before you are ready to give it up, then there is no point. How do you know you are prepared to give up something? You are not looking to replace it with something – you are not doing something in its stead that’s when you know you are ready to give it up, but at that point, you are not giving it up because you do not have it.

I know it sounds confusing – Prof.Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery says, ‘You cannot give up desire – desire has to give you up.’ That is the essence. But we are all humans, and we have to start somewhere. Why is it important to know the difference – so that we can accept and absorb something fully before giving it up. How can we give something up if we are not done with it – and be done with something means knowing it fully, we have explored it fully.

We cannot solve a problem by thinking the same thing – it’s the same with giving up – there has to be something different about the way we think about it and in order to do that sometimes you have to immerse yourself in it fully as opposed to fighting it even before you know what it is. Everything in life is there for us to learn – if we have not learned the lesson how much ever you try to give it up – it won’t work. But the minute you learned from your experience – it will disappear.

What are you trying to give up without having grasped it fully?
Leaving with a poem from the famous saint poet – Kabir

Kabir’s poem
“When I gave up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment
about me:
When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its
folds.
So when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;
And when I renounce anger, greed is still with me still;
And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;
When the mind is detached and casts Maya away,still it clings to
the latter.
Kabir says, ‘Listen to me, dear Sadhu! the true path is rarely found.””
― Kabir, Songs of Kabir

Where Will It Lead Us To?

This blog is a little bit different from my other blogs in the sense that it is a collection of various bits of information about Japan that I find fascinating. For a while, I have been fascinated by Japan. Not only because our Shiba-Inu pup is from Japan but because of the demographics in Japan.

Some interesting facts about Japan
43% of 18-34-year-olds say they have never had sex.
64% of 18-34-year-olds say they are not in a relationship
In 2018 there were 921,000 births and 1.37m deaths, with government efforts failing to encourage families to have more children.

So Japan is one country where people are dying faster than babies are being born. And on top of it, young people in Japan do not show an inclination towards having babies – I wonder where it will lead it.

I am sure you are wondering why young in Japan are moving towards sexless orientation. I think that it is because housing is tiny and expensive. In Japanese culture, – Men are breadwinners. It is a stigma not to have a full-time job. Full-Time jobs are exhausting – many companies violate labour laws. With these factors, it is hard for men to find a job that can help them form a family.

Also, most men seem afraid of rejection, and they spend most of their time on animation or with their phones, hence the fascination with Manga. They have a relationship with their phones. There are counsellors in Japan who teach young men how to approach women. Women seem to prefer their independence. One woman says that her desire to have food and sleep wins over sex.

Japan has a rental service for lonely people. In Japan, an agency supplies role-playing family members to people struggling with loneliness and isolation. Sometimes it’s to maintain face at social events. Sometimes it’s to provide company and companionship to those who find themselves alone.
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If this trend continues, then, Japan would truly become sexless and would take us into the Sci-Fi world where babies are born in factories in a controlled environment. Men and Women never touch each other and live with machines for companionship.

What’s happening in Japan is not isolated to Japan. Think of your childhood and think of children growing up now. I was never inside the house – I was always outside playing with other kids or just being outside. Nowadays, kids are on the digital highway. They have online friends. Earlier my parents used to drop into friends place – neighbours would drop into our home unannounced. Now, it takes weeks to schedule a coffee with someone.

In Europe, streets were built so that people can hang out and showcase their singing/dancing and other talents – the community was so integral that it was built into the infrastructure. Now, we live vicariously through Netflix, Facebook, Instagram.

We are progressing so rapidly in the technological domain that it is taking precedence over all other aspects of a society that needs nurturing for a fully functioning community. Honestly, do we need another version of iPhone or Samsung – I doubt if we are using our current phones to their fullest extent. What we need is more hugs, physical touches – human connection.

How will you connect with humanity today?

There Is Enough Room.

Have you ever wondered at the sheer variety in nature? It is unbelievable, even in one tree, no leaf is the same. I am sure there are many other species of animals and trees in existence that we are unaware of. Nature is at peace with it – the tree does not wish it could get rid of the poison ivy or that one annoying leaf which a dog ate. I am sure shrub does not think about shedding that branch which has become the favourite pee spot of all dogs in the neighbourhood.

Since my role as a people manager, I am trying to come to the same understanding as mother nature. There is a reason and space for all of us to exist. For the longest time ever I kept thinking that if everybody was like me then life would be so much easier – I have come to realize that it would be really dull and not a peaceful place to live in. Then I thought if only I had a high performing team life would be so much easier – I have come to realize that there would not be much opportunity for self-growth. At the end of the day everybody has a place and a reason to exist everywhere. Once I made peace with this, my life became a lot easier. There are still times when I want to change what exists to what I would like it to be but that is a fruitless exercise in itself. But I always try. Human Beings never learn.

If you ever watched a period piece in any country – it is the same storyline. Power struggle, minorities are trying to find their rights and the powerful trying to suppress them. And if you ever watched a sci-fi, the same storyline, humans trying to find their place with the aliens or humans fighting with other humans on a different planet. We never learn – Netflix shows are a prime example of that fact. Even the storylines we make revolve around the same theme – finding our place by taking somebody else’s position or trying to replace somebody. Because we do not know any other storyline, and these storylines will repeat unless we annihilate ourselves (which by the way we are close to) or we learn a different storyline that there is a place for everybody – there is no need to find it or replace somebody else for our situation. There is a reason why we all exist. If we do not accept what it is, then we will never learn.

It does not matter who we are, what language we speak, how we dress, or where we live. What matters is what I do and how I do it – it is the intention that counts. If we were all blind will we still be guided by our misplaced biases – the world will be a different place because we wouldn’t change our behaviour because of what we see. We don’t have to go blind to see the change.

Is there a place for everybody in your day to day life?