Tag Archives: #2018

Not all who wander are lost

I remember somebody telling me about their best friend who has known them since childhood. Most people will probably say, ‘Awwww, that’s so nice.’ Not you, you are thinking – ‘That is so scary, why would I want that?’

You have lived in a place for five-plus years, and the locals ask you – “Is this place home?” And your answer is ‘No’ or if you are polite – you laugh and beat around the bush.

When people talk about exploring new places – going somewhere new – your heart gives a little tug.

If you resonated with the statements above, then you know what I mean by ‘Plight of an expat.’ These are people who have lived away from their so-called “Home” for so long that it is no longer home. And not having a home is their home now.

The world is made up of two kinds of people: those who travel and those who don’t. And for the most case, I do not think this is a choice – I believe some people are just wired that way. (There are exceptions always but still) These people never live in one place for long. They get bored of places, people, routines. They like change. And in most of these cases, these people moved around a lot growing up, and that’s the only life they know. Sounds familiar! And it is hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t experienced this about the feeling of not belonging anywhere.

This blog is dedicated to people who know what I am talking about and to raise awareness about global nomads. Yes, they exist. These people have a culture and social norms of their own.
They speak a language which is not rooted in one place but applies to everybody because nobody is from one place.
They are not asking the other person to conform to their ways but expand their’s to include others.
They understand that what is right for them might not be appropriate for others and they are ok with that.
They are willing to experience your ways and customs because they want to connect with you.
They want to know more about you because they are curious, they want to expand, they like change and diversity.

For a global nomad, they know nothing else – this is their life as they know it. I could go on and on and on. World today needs more of the above. Even if we cannot travel – we can expand our boundaries, bring awareness to the world outside of us. Be more welcoming to others in our life. We are all humans, and we all experience the same emotions of joy, happiness, anger. The barriers created by words, boundaries on earth are artificial and built by us and can be broken by us. But for that to happen, we have to recognize that we have created this and the person on the other side is us – we are all alike and not different.

And if you find it hard to follow then travel – go live somewhere else, experience somebody’s world and see yourself reflected in them.

Thinking Different

For selection into an orchestra, the potential candidates were asked to perform behind a screen so that the examiners had no idea who was playing – a carpet was placed behind the screen to prevent the heels of the women to give them away. RESULTS: The number of women in orchestras rose from 5% to 25% after the blind auditions.

Airbnb is well known for having diversity as their highest goal – Belong Anywhere (which appeals much to the nomad within me).
At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong. I sincerely believe that [discrimination] is the greatest challenge we face as a company. It cuts to the core of who we are and the values that we stand for. Brian Chesky CEO, Co-founder of Airbnb.

Let’s take an example: At a work meeting, five out four people state that it takes them thirty minutes to complete a report and one person says it takes them two hours to do the same report. What is the usual reaction – the fifth person is looked upon as an oddity or somebody who is not smart enough.

Let’s reverse the example: At a work meeting, five out four people state that it takes them two hours to a report and one person says it takes them thirty minutes to do the same report. The reaction now is – the fifth person is looked upon as somebody who is not doing their due diligence.

I am not debating the right amount of time to complete an office report – I am trying to highlight two things a) unconscious bias b) diversity in thinking styles (which I was ignorant of until recently). Whether we know it or not we all have an unconscious bias – and we don’t know what we don’t know. Once we become aware of them, it is up to us to deal with it effectively.

The diversity in thinking style was an eye-opener for me as I did not think that I was exhibiting bias when people did things differently than me. I understood that they processed things differently. It’s like an in a country of blind people – a one-eyed man is an outlier. If the majority of people are exhibiting a behavior that tends to become a norm and if you are not in that majority then you are not the norm.

Why is important to celebrate a diversity of any kind? Can you imagine a world filled with just engineers or with just artists? In our human predicament, we need the opposite to show us the mirror and help us achieve balance. All these distinctions are created by us, and we make them true.

Everything has a place in this universe – good and the bad, dark and the light, young and old, black and white, like and dislike. We have a preference for certain things because for some reason we have a preference for one – in the end, we are all the same – here is to Belonging Everywhere.

Choreograph or Improvise

Have you ever said to yourself – “If only, I had done it this way – it would have worked out.” or “Why did this have to happen?” Have you ever been able to get things executed precisely the way you planned?

Neither have I – best-laid plans gone awry, right. I am a project manager, and I have come to realize that one of the reasons why we need project managers is because things rarely go to plan. If everything worked as its supposed to then, we wouldn’t have to manage them. Life would work similarly – if everything in life went as we planned we would all be robots (maybe an exaggeration but you get the picture)

I recently came across the book “Gallop to Freedom” – a book about two horse trainers who have a very different way of training horses – with compassion. And one of their leadership principles is “Improvise and not choreograph”. And like all things I need to learn – this stayed with me. We try to plan our life just like we choreograph a dance. But unlike dancing life is not a one-person show – we live in a society where there are so many external factors ranging from people to weather that it is impossible to account for all the different outcomes.

How about if we decided to improvise our steps in the dance depending on who shows up. We might have a very well choreographed Bollywood song but what if the music presented is a ballet song. It does not mean that we should not plan for things at all – remember the golden mean. Instead, choreographing can help us when we improvise. Life is no different – we prepare for various or often one outcome, and hence we are unprepared mentally when life throws a curveball. If we were improvising, then we would continue without breaking a sweat. The amount of emotional energy getting over not being able to use our choreography will not exist, and we will ride along taking in whatever comes our way – not only making it our own but improvising on it too.

The best thing about improvising is that you are always where you are supposed to be – there are no regrets, and it is up to you how great you make it. If life hands you lemons, then you make lemonade, or you cry. The choice is yours, and you own your choices.

Improvisation also ties into the principle that we do not have control – all we have is the illusion of control. Unexpected things happen all the time – either we get overwhelmed when things don’t work our way or make what is happening our way and carry on. If you are a realist, then the following quote probably resonates with you. You can only invest in the process and not the outcome – but if you improvise you can create your outcome.

My friend and I were visiting Palace of Versailles in France. There was a long line to get in. We decided to play dumb charades and entertained ourselves and others around us. The funny thing is that’s what I remember about our trip, not the actual palace – Improvisation makes for good memories too!

I Am A Fraud & Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron. It was a lifesaver for me. I grew up in India where getting a job is more important than following your creative instincts. And as an engineer, my mental model was that – being an engineer and artist was impossible.

We are all creative beings, and as my level of awareness increased, I was drawn to express the creativity. And this is where Julia Cameron’s book helped me. I don’t even remember who told me about it, but I am very grateful to that person for introducing Artist’s way to me. It is a 12-week course that takes you on a journey of self-discovery via morning pages, artist’s date, letters to self and others. It felt very foreign but good – something inside of me felt fulfilled.

I cried a lot too, and that for me is not normal.
“Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth. Without this creative moistening, we may remain barren. We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.”

And the exercises in the book worked, and I ended up opening up a Bollywood dance class and writing a book called ‘The Lifepod‘. I was very nervous when I published it on Amazon. Even now I feel very unsure when I tell people about the book – it is almost like as if I am a fraud or an imposter. I am afraid that people will find out I am not an author. I am plagued by self-doubts. And it is in times like these that Artist’s way helped me because she explains how creative people feel and most importantly that it is normal to feel that way. It does not matter how confident I am as a program manager at work, but as a writer, I am a budding artist and need a lot of encouragement and appreciation. Any criticism at this point can be jarring to the soul. I protect the artist in me very fiercely.
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE”

I thought that the process would be more natural with my second book – ‘Make Your Life Easy.” It was easier because I felt less of fraud with this genre – I blog about such topics every week, but I am still very vulnerable and scared about how people will view my book. Every time somebody says they are going to read my book – I don’t know whether to happy or scared.
“Remember that even if you have made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.”

I find the creative process fascinating because I created something that did not exist before. Like the email at work, dance I choreograph or even this blog – these things did not live until I became a medium for them and let them flow through me.

“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to play the piano/ act/paint / write a decent play?”
Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t.”

Tame The Elephant

An elephant and its rider are trying to get somewhere
1. The Rider has no clue where he wants to go – he and the elephant meander needlessly.
2. The rider knows his destination, but cannot decide which route to take – he and the elephant stay in the same place.
3. The Rider knows where he is headed and has a path to get there, but the elephant is stubborn and does not want to move.
4. The Rider knows how to get to the destination, the elephant is attuned to the rider, and they reach their goal.

What do the elephant and the rider have to do with us? This is a theory from the book The Happiness Hypothesis (http://www.happinesshypothesis.com) where the author, Jonathan Haidt states that we (humans) have two sides:
An emotional/automatic/irrational side (the elephant)
An analytical/controlled/rational side (its rider).
And in order for us to change we have to keep the two in balance.

It sounds effortless on paper – keep your elephant and rider in sync, and you are in utopia. Every day in our life it is all about maintaining that balance.

Let’s say you want to exercise. If you read tons of book on exercising and watch videos but don’t step outside of your home – how will you achieve your goal. And on the other hand, you are outside but have no idea how to exercise – that also does not do you any good.

How would you apply the elephant and rider theory correctly to exercising? Your rational mind the rider needs a clear goal – Exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week. It is a specific goal for the rider. For the emotional side, you have to appeal the emotions – you can keep an image of what you will look like when you exercise or maintain a visual target of weight that you want to get to or watch videos of people who have lost weight to get your elephant motivated. Once your rider knows where he is going, the elephant is excited for the ride – the next step is to shape the path – which is clear instructions on how you go about doing so. An example of developing the road could be – getting a Fitbit, load up a playlist on your iPod, and keep your running shoes/socks/clothes outside your closet. This way when you come home in the evening, you will have no choice but wear the running clothes and go running.

This theory is explained in the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath

Shaping the path requires practice – you cannot clear a path in the jungle overnight – it will take time and patience – you will make a lot of progress some days and very little progress on other days – but if you keep at it – you will shape the path for the elephant and the rider. Similarly, it will take time for the elephant and the rider to sync as well – like any good team they will have go through their forming – storming – norming – performing cycle.

Taming the elephant takes time. I am hoping my latest book “Make Your Life Easy” can aid you in that process.

A Perfect Life.

Let’s start with a story first. A group of carmakers from the US went to study the car making process in Japan. In the US, there is a stage where the engineer uses a rubber mallet to fit the doors into the car. The US group kept waiting for this to happen in the Japanese cycle but to their surprise, there was no such process. So, one of them asked their Japanese counterpart about this missing process. He replied sheepishly, “We make sure our doors fit from the start.”

In short Japanese carmakers plan their cars so well that when the finished product arrives, it is perfect. They do detailed planning in advance.

Now, have you planned your life like the carmaking process in a) the US or b) Japan?

For example:
Are you playing the violin at a friend’s party now or frustrated that you would like to do so but don’t have time to learn it now?
Are you envious of friends who are lean and trim or upset that you haven’t got a lifestyle diet/exercise habit yet?

These kinds of habits – lifestyle habits take years/decades to build as it is not easy to change ourselves. Change does not happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere. If you are thinking – “This is all well and good, but I should have started ten years ago” – then consider what will you say another ten years down the line.

Firstly, you have to think about your life and where it is headed? If you don’t then you are accepting to drift – there is nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t get upset/frustrated with your choices (or lack thereof) later. For most of us, we do not even think about how we want to live our lives?

Secondly, you have to start the journey to knowing yourself. What do you like? What do you dislike? What qualities do you admire? What are your values? What makes you laugh? What inspires you?

Thirdly, charter a course. Unlike carmaking process, life is a bit more complicated, and hence we have to ready for tons of trial and error, knowing that with each iteration we are understanding more about ourselves and strengthening the muscle to stay put on a course.

Fourth, once you are on the right track – keep repeating the process.

If this sounds REALLY SERIOUS stuff – then yeah! We are talking about your life here! There is no course in university which can teach you this because life is the university in this case. Like everything else starts small – keep a journal once a week, note down what your ideal life means to you? Note down which kind of people you are drawn to naturally. And once you start feeding energy to this process – it will energize you. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I said before it doesn’t matter where you are in your life journey – it’s about what you will be next year.

The idea here is not to plan the life out of your life but to live an intentional life.

Expiry Date On Blaming Others

I was watching one of the episodes of Law and Order, and this scene jumped out at me.
Ben Stone: The father really believed that he loved his son.
Adam Schiff: And, you don’t.
Paul Robinette: Well, history has shown that sons will go to extremes to please their fathers.
Ben Stone: Well, my father wanted me to be a doctor – and the closest I got to was organic chemistry.
Adam Schiff: Then, what happened.
Ben Stone: I grew up.

J.K Rowling – the author of the Harry Potter series, says, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” [This extends to people other than our parents too – like friends, siblings and sometimes just plain old childhood]

Some of us have lived so long thinking that we are living life on our parent’s terms that we forget that it is our life at the end of the day.

This stage when you grow up comes in everybody’s life or lifetimes 🙂 but it does arrive. Everybody has to accept it – what differs is how they accept it? Some do it happily; some are forced; some do it begrudgingly, and some do it unknowingly.

As a child, we are not capable of processing the information or emotions that world throws at us, so we create a reality which works for us as a child. For example, let’s say you did not like swimming class as a kid, so you threw a tantrum by locking yourself in the restroom – every time you had a class. In the end, your parents decided that they are not taking you to the swim class. You found out that throwing tantrum lets you get away from unpleasant situations. Now, the child has grown up, and he has not updated his defense mechanisms – he does not like applying for jobs – so his default response is to hide in his room and not come out.

Sound familiar? Nobody escapes from childhood – we build our mental models as a child and then spend the rest of the adult life trying to undo the mental models. Sooner we update our operating system sooner we start living life on our term.

Why is this important? Why is it important to reset the way you handle a situation as a child? Well, the simple answer is you are not a child anymore. Another painful answer is this: Let’s say you have an elastic band that you have been stretching for years – there will come a breaking point. And when it breaks, it will snap back at you, and everything that it was holding will fall. Do you want to move to a tie or a new rubber band or wait for the old one to break – is up to you.

All of us human beings have been put on earth for a specific purpose to overcome obstacles and reach our highest potential. And we can do that only if live our life, not our friend’s, not our parents but ours. Claim what is yours and shine like a star!

I Am Vegan

Before we begin:
Vegetarian: No meat including chicken, fish (eggs – Maybe)
Vegan: Vegetarian and no dairy products (including eggs)
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (WFPB): Vegan plus no refined or processed foods or sugar and limited oil

I turned WFPB (Vegan) this year. I still have eggs once in a while but overall Vegan diet.
Vegan Chai Smoothies + No Oil Bread Pakoras

WHY? That is the question that most people ask – Why am I Vegan? When my mother-in-law asked me this question, I realized I did not have an answer. I am realizing now that I am very intuitive and this was one of those things – I am ready to be vegan so here I go. But, it did get my thinking cells started, and I have tried to list some of the reasoning below

  • Healthy Lifestyle: As I grow old I have to do something about this ever-growing weight. I usually eat well and seem to be on some diet all the time, but my weight grew a pound or two every year. And this kind of a rate is not sustainable. And when I am eating healthy my body feels great whereas if I stuff myself with fries it does not. I wanted to treat my body well. (If I don’t take care of my body where will I live.)
  • Vipassana Meditation: One of the precepts for Vipassana includes not killing or harming other living beings. And as students, we take the precepts during the ten-day course and are encouraged to maintain our precepts in daily life too. A decade of practicing Vipassana has to have some effect. And now I cannot bear the thought of eating an animal. I might start crying if I see a fish being killed (and for those of you who know me crying is a compelling statement from me)
  • Other Centered Universe: This is a by-product and not an intentional result. As a result of going vegan, I am doing the planet a lot more good. The global warming effect is primarily due to the CO2 that the cattle release and the amount of grain that goes in feeding the cattle can feed the entire human population many times over.

 

HOW? I am bragging a bit when I say that I have no trouble saying no to ice cream/chocolates. But, keep in mind this was not an overnight decision – I have been on a healthy lifestyle journey since 2008. I switched to Soy initially and then did the Master Cleanse for the first time and did it every year since then. I switched to brown sugar from white one year and then to honey the next and now no honey either (I use date paste/maple syrup only if necessary). So as you can see this has been a long journey with incremental steps. Last year we did the FOK course, and that brought me closer to being vegan. So, this year becoming vegan was practically the next step in my journey.

WHAT? What next? I have been vegan for three months now and loving it. I continue to have delicious dishes likes Chocolate chia pudding/Pita pizzas, and I am eating a lot more vegetables. And some of the vegetables I had never even heard of like Palm of hearts. I eat till I am satiated and guilt free.
(No Cheese pita pizza)

The main reason I went vegan is that it was the easiest way to eat healthy everywhere (at office/ restaurants). They did a study once where they left an apple and Mcdonald burger out for a week. The apple had decayed and was rotting whereas the burger was the same – Can you imagine putting something in your body that even the bacteria could not break down. With vegan diet you only eat stuff that your body can digest :).

My Friday drink – Fruit Beer Float [Cheers to a healthy lifestyle]

Groundhog Day

I have been watching episodes of Law and Order Season 2, which aired in 1990. Apparently, it was the first series to introduce the forty-five-minute episode format and also the first to include both sides of the story (Law and Order). I am enjoying it – if you remember reading my blog about Right Vs. Right it helps me exercise my ethics muscle – it does make me wonder whether there is something that can be truly right or truly wrong. But what I am left wondering as I watch the episodes is that we are still facing the same issues two decades later – racism, abuse, drunk driving – in some ways it does feel like groundhog day.

Now, if we go back to Romans, Greeks – the politics, power play existed then and exists now. We have made some progress (I would like to believe so) regarding slavery etc., but I am not convinced that we have come any closer to solving the cause of the problem.

What do you think is the cause of the problem? The society we live in? The world we live in? Our leaders? Our parents? Or is the right question – WHO is the cause of the problem. The answer is Me, You, Us – Humankind. We are the root of the problem. We are the only constants since society’s humble beginnings.

Root Cause Problem Solving means you tackle the problem at the root and not alleviate the symptoms. If we don’t realize that we are the problem we will look outside to solve it.

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “this is where the light is.”

For example:
We all fall sick, but instead of trying to find out why we are sick we get medicines. Now do not get me wrong – medications have their place but isn’t it important to know why you fell ill in the first place.
There is so much violence in the world, and we have organizations like Samaritans, child helpline who can help you cope with that but do we ask ourselves why there is so much violence in the first place?

Something goes wrong in our life, and our instant response is – it was somebody else’s fault. She was micro-managing me. She is so overly critical of me. Do we ever pause and wonder what part did I play in what happened in my life? Humankind as a whole has faced and is facing problems. And if each one of us who collectively make this humankind look inwards and think about how we could alter ourselves, humanity would improve as a whole. But do we know how to do that? Are we taught how to do that? Are we even aware that this is a possibility? [Meditation, self-awareness courses are some of the ways]

Two things are certain – Change starts from within AND unless we accept our part in what happens to us we will never be able to do anything about it.

Growing Old

Incident 1: I turned thirty years old, and I remember talking to my dad who is a realist in all sense. I told him, “Can you believe it I am thirty years old?” And his response was, “Yes, and in another ten years you will be forty and another ten you will be fifty.”

Incident 2: I was serving at Vipassana and had a conversation with one of the other younger servers. She asked, “Who is your favorite Bollywood actor. I answered, “Aamir Khan.” Her response was, “He is good, but he is old.”

Incident 3: We had a get-together at my place, and the conversation turned to boyfriends, crushes, etc. One of the girls was narrating how she loved somebody, and he lacked the courage to bring it up to his family. A few others chimed in with their experiences. And during that conversation, I realized that how long ago since I had one of such experiences – it was a long time ago.

I am sure you have got the gist of the topic by now – growing old. It happens to all of us, and it is inevitable. But we still live life like it is never going to happen to us until it happens. When you are young, it is understandable – now when somebody looks at my photos and comments – “Boy, you look so young here.” I suppress the urge to say, “It will happen to you in the next few years.” They don’t know because they haven’t crossed that stage yet.

But once the realization hits you, there is no reason not to accept it and live life fully because you have the experience. The question, “What would your younger-self advise older self ten years from now?” is relevant here. What are the things you did before that you can change now because you know it’s not worth it or it doesn’t matter or make sure you cherish it as it does matter?

Living life entirely does put things in perspective. All the heartbreaks, the anxiety of getting an interview, getting into school was a tiny blip compared to the lessons I learned, memories I made in that process. In London Business School, a few of us got a lot of rejections for various companies. What I remember about that is the overnight conversations on the run-down couch with cups of chai in our St. Johnswood flat. The case studies were a real mystery to me but what I remember is the pasta dish my friend used to make when we were supposed to studying. I also remember the pangs of loneliness when my relationships did not work out, but it taught me some of the hardest lessons in life – patience, things happen when the time is right, something are just not meant to be. There are a lot more nuggets that my conscious mind remembers, and I am 200% sure that there are a lot more than my subconscious mind knows.

We do have the advantage of hindsight in some fashion – but the key is to be aware of now. If you are not fully aware of now, then you will not be able to take advantage of it and reap the benefits later on.