Tag Archives: #betterversion

Who Are You Kidding?

I taught five-year-olds science during a volunteering project. I was nervous because I did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed it. The main reason was I left the class feeling hugged (not Physically but general vibe). I often wonder why that is – my take is because with kids they are who they are – they are not trying to be someone else or make you believe something. They are just themselves. On the very first day of the class – a kid came up to me and asked, ‘Where is the teacher?’. I told her it was me. She looked at me and said, ‘You are too short.’ And walked off. She forgot about it, and there was no intention behind it – it was a comment and moved on. Something happens to all of us as we grow up. We start behaving in public.


So, does it mean we say what comes to our mind even when we grow up? No. But, it doesn’t mean that all we do is behave – because then we are what the world around us molded us to be. It is vital to retain your inner spark even when you have to act. As we grow up we have to adapt our behavior to different situations, different people – but underneath it all, you know who you are, and you are very well aware that all you are doing is just acting.

Another aspect of it inward. Are we faithful to ourselves even when no one is watching? This is even more important than behaving in public because at the end of you live with yourself 24 X 7. If you say something in society but do something else in private then it creates a crack within you – and if not controlled the break can devastate your inner self leaving you constantly not at peace. It is better, to be honest with yourself first. Know who you are (it all comes to down that) and once you know where you stand, it will automatically show up in the way you behave. It is tough in this day and age to not have a difference between who you are and how you act? But, as long as the gap is minimum and there is a slice of your life where these two are identical you are good to go.

It is crucial to have people or opportunities in your daily life with whom you can who you are without any doubts because they do not judge you. Some people find it easier to open up to strangers than to loved one whereas others are completely open to their family and friends. There is no right or wrong -what is essential that you have somebody with whom you can be yourself and let your inner self breathe freely.

When was the last time you let your inner self breathe freely?

Now It Exists and Now It Doesn’t

My brother and sister-in-law had a baby a few months ago. Until the day she was born – she was a concept. We spoke about her; we figured out her names, her traits – who will she look like. And then one day she was born – she was there in reality. And now she is a human being who exists on this planet.

Sleeping baby silhouette, stylized line logo. Cute simple vector illustration.

A bunch of us attended the Give Back Hackathon last year. And in that weekend we busted everything we had to set up the business, figure out the market proposition – even managed to get 25 orders. And until then our company was just an idea, and today Wild Tiger Tees is its entity – it is an LLC. We have youth who print T-shirts. Like, it is real, and it exists.

In both these examples, there was a seed of the idea first, and then you nurture it, water it and then Lo! Behold it becomes real. A baby or a new product do not exist one day, and then they live the next moment. There is a lot of creativity involved in bringing something to life, literally.

Now, I am sure some of you might be thinking – this all sounds good, but I am not creative. I want to challenge that. First, of all let’s talk about what creative means. Most people assume that unless you are drawing, painting or writing poetry – you are not creative. Our limitation of creativity is limited by profession.

I want to put forward the idea that we are creative because we exist. Our existence itself a piece of primary evidence that we are creative. Our parents conceived the idea of us first before they brought us into reality – everyone around us has been conceived at some point as an idea first and then in flesh and blood.

Every moment since then has been your creation. You wake up in the morning and create your day. For those of you who do not believe that you are 100% in charge of your life then let me modify the statement to say – you wake up in the morning, and then you co-create your day. The day happens because you do something, you invest emotional and physical energy into the next moment. You think about how the meeting is going to go or your interaction with the other person – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. You create things that did not exist before, like the experiences throughout the day, the emails you write, the food you cook. All these things did not exist until you invested energy in them.

To say that you are not creative is in someway disowning the very energy that created you. Even if you don’t believe that you are ‘creative’ in the literal sense – at the very least recognize that you create your life moment by moment. And if it calls out to you then explore your inner creativity by being with nature or by taking a journey in books like Artist way by Julia Cameron.

How did you express your creativity today?

You Are Not Done Yet!

Some of you might know that I have a dance class that I teach as a side hustle. I have been doing it for five years, every Monday teaching a class. At the end of last year, I could feel my interest in dance class waning. So, I decided to call it quits – I did float the idea with my students around June, but they were shocked, so I continued. Come October; I decided to take a break, a long break. At the beginning of 2019, I decided it was time to end Bollywood Dance classes. There was some inner conflict there – I love dancing, but I could not get myself to choreograph another song.

A few weeks ago I got an email asking if there was a potential teaching opportunity. I initially said no, but then Adam urged me to at least meet with that person. I reached back out, and we met. And it was a perfect match – she wanted to teach, and I had the setup. So, the dance classes are back on, and this week I attended my dance class as a student, and I had so much fun. Somewhere during the class, my heart was filled with gratitude at the gift I was receiving from her. All these years of dancing had taken away the joy of pure dancing which I loved, and now I have it. The universe works in its unique way.

This got me thinking. You know, how there are times when you cannot decide between choices like should you move to a different location, transfer to a different job, eat ice cream. Just make a choice; if something is meant to be it will come back to you. That’s what happened with Bollywood Dance. We weren’t done with each other – it was not time yet. I did try but it wasn’t time yet.

Prof.Rao from CPM always said that if it is a bet between you and life, always place your bet on life. Sometimes, we don’t know what is best for us – we have our grand designs, but the universe might have other more ambitious plans. I am talking about fate vs. free will and just offering another way to look at things. Sometimes we work ourselves up debating a choice – in such cases go forward, and it will all work out.

If you don’t know where you are headed, then it does not matter what road you take. (It’s a quote from Alice In Wonderland). Or if you know where you are headed and not sure if it is the right direction – don’t worry universe will take you where you need to be.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear or re-appear in some cases. Life wants the best for us, but we believe we know better because we don’t know any better. If we give life a chance, we might be able to live more easily.

What chance will you give your life?

Priorities

I recently watched an amazon prime series, ‘Made in Heaven.’ It is about a couple of wedding planners whose clients are the elite of elitist in Delhi, India. The show was ok overall, one-time watch. But, there was a thread in that show that got me worked up a bit – and not a lot of things do that to me now – thankfully.

One of the wedding planners is gay, and in the show, gay rights had not been legalized in India. Article 377 which in summary stated that any LGBTQ was illegal and a criminal act was still in effect. (On 6th, September 2018 – Indian constitution deemed article 377 invalid and accepted homosexuality as natural.) I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community and some very dear friends too, but I understood a lot more when I watched the show. In the show, the gay partner is reported to the police by his landlord and then jailed where the police officer abuses him.

This is the part where I struggled (and still struggle) to wrap my head around the whole concept. Can you imagine being punished for who you are? Being put in jail because you are who you are. Imagine having to live a double life 24 X 7. This is beyond my understanding.

I am a project manager by trade and maybe even by nature. If I were project managing earth then trying to round up the LGBTQ community into jail would never make it to any priority list, on the contrary, what this world needs right now is Love – in any shape or form, regardless of gender. There are so many other vital issues on earth that need to be tackled than spending precious resources trying to hunt down people who at the end of the day just want to have a normal life.

Let’s consider the following two fictional scenarios – we have a tree that is giving very sweet and a nutritional fruit in abundance. The unique thing about this tree is that it does not require a seed to grow, all it needs is a branch of an existing tree and once you plant it – it grows naturally.

And then we have another kind of a tree – which is not satisfied by its fruits, and it actively infects other trees to destroy them from having fruits by poisoning it. This tree is hungry for power and preys on the weaker sex for selfish reasons. But it grows in the typical fashion from a seed.

Which one would you focus on getting under control? Something that nature has deemed right or something that is twisted in its inner core and lives with harmful intentions.

In ancient history, homosexuality is celebrated and depicted on the walls of many ancient temples in India. Even transgenders figure in old Indian epic stories like Mahabharata. Makes me wonder what happened to those pure and loving thoughts? I asked my professor once – ‘Are there truly evil people? And his response was, ‘There is nothing evil – there is only ignorance.’

How can you contribute to getting rid of ignorance?

Not Enough

At work, we go through a lot of assessments – leadership, personality, etc. You will find a few statements common across these assessments and today I want to talk about one of such statements – ‘I have high expectations of myself and work hard but should be careful about expecting the same from others.’ I am paraphrasing, but you get the picture.

As long as I was an individual contributor, this was never a problem. And believe me I work hard, and I play hard. The picture was not so rosy once I became a people leader. And it forced me to examine why I had high expectations of myself and why others think I am a perfectionist when I know I am not.

Adam and I talked about this, talked about it some more, until at some point I told Adam, ‘In India if you get 99.6% you are considered a loser. That one question you got wrong can cost you a free seat in one of the top engineering colleges.’

Let me put things in perspective. When I was growing up in India – the system was that your %ages in Physics, Chemistry, and Maths would be totaled and then ranked with all the students who applied to that university. And then the cut-off would be the number of seats the university had. So let’s say if a university had 100 seats then the top 100 in the ranked list of %ages get a seat. Doesn’t sound so bad, right!

Imagine if thousands of students applied for 50 seats – yes, that’s the odds we are talking about in India especially if you do not want to pay tons of money for an engineering seat at a college. If you want a free seat (regular tuition) in one of the top engineering colleges, anything less than 99.6% was of no value. I got 100/100 in science in 10th grade – which was my saving grace.

I grew up in an unforgiving environment – and given the population of India there are various other incidents where you have to do your best – sometimes even that is not enough, you have to do better than the rest.

If you think, this is a horrible way of growing up then let me introduce you to a two-year-old in Hong Kong. We were at my friend’s wedding in Hong Kong, and one of his friends was telling us that his two years old cute daughter, will give an interview and is building a resume. She was taking piano lessons. She will be competing with thousands of applicants for a dozen seats at an esteemed nursery at an age where she is still learning potty training. Imagine growing up in Hong Kong. [Read more at this link ]

Growing up in such an environment shaped me to never settle for less – there is always more that I can do. Expectations at the end of the day are relative. I am grateful for the experiences I had for making me who I am today. Would I be who I am today if I had not had the experiences I had – Who knows?

How did your experiences shape you?

Hard Vs.Tough

I gave a talk on Leadership yesterday at an undergraduate class, my first ever talk as a leader officially. The students asked a lot of questions at the end of the, and on my way back I was thinking about the talk and life in general. That’s when I realized the difference between Hard and Tough.

Dictionary meaning of Hard is: with a great deal of effort.
Dictionary meaning of Tough is: strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.

I think Hard is more in the intellectual space and Tough in the heart space. For example, one might find equations hard to understand but if you work hard enough or a good tutor explains them to you-you will understand it. Whereas Tough to me is, you might know that ‘Be Kind to everyone’ but it is tough to do that in your life.

If something is hard to do, then you can do it by working hard – it’s a matter of practice and perseverance. Tough things in life are ‘harder’ to master even if they are not hard to understand.

I want to focus on the ‘Tough’ things because they are overlooked most of the time in favor of hard work. Everybody believes that you work hard, network hard you will get a promotion. Very few people will tell you that – if you authentically work on yourself – promotion will come to you. Why? Because it is easy to work hard but tough to work on oneself.

Why is it tough to work on oneself? Let’s take the most straightforward example out there – eating healthy. All of us are well aware and on a journey to eat healthy right? It is not hard to understand that we should eat healthy but tough to do it. Why is it tough to do it? Because we give in to the short term pleasure than long term gain. We have been trained to sprint and not for marathons. Or, is it because we do not have will power. Let’s call this our ToughHandler Muscle. We never work on strengthening this muscle – we work on building our physical body, family, bank balance but the essential thing ToughHandler – we forget. For some people, the concept of ToughHandler does not even exist. They are so engrossed in getting to the destination that they have forgotten to take care of the car that is going to get them there.

How to work on this ToughHandler Muscle then? First and foremost, is Awareness. If you are not aware of something how can you do anything about it? Well, now you know about it. Next practice it – how, whatever way calls out to you – Meditation, stay away from sugar for a day, for a week, for a month. The possibility of you failing to do this is high because you have started the journey and ToughHandler muscle is weak but with continuous practice, it will be strengthened and will help you prepare the marathon that life is.

How will you strengthen your ToughHandler muscle today?

Constant Gentle Pressure

Check out this article first at this link

The idea that it is life’s job to keep moving the salt shaker off the center of the table and my job to keep putting it back at the center – is so to the point.

I knew about this article in 2010 when Prof.Rao from CPM institute narrated this to us in London Business School. Recently, I remembered this article while preparing for the Wild Tiger Tees (WTT) team meeting. We have been up and running since August last year (I know it has not been that long), and I have tried to implement a lot of things (maybe a bit prematurely), and most of them have failed. Yes, I admit it. For a project manager and a driver like me, I had a tough time grappling with the inability to get things done. A few tries later (Quite a few tries) then I came to few realizations

  • We are doing this on a volunteer basis and mission is to support the youth.
  • There is entirely no point in beating myself over things in WTT because there is nothing at stake – we are making a difference.
  • Just because things do not work does not mean you stop trying.

The third point is why my mind dug up this article from the archives and brought it to the forefront of my mind chatter. Once I made peace with the situation, it became a lot easier. Now, I was open to trying different ways to make it work – it was like a game or a puzzle. I was trying to pick and see which piece would fit the best and then move on the next bit so that we can see the entire picture.

Lots of lessons in this one – Failure was a must for me to move on to the next step. The next step was the discovering that there is no need to treat every situation like a nail just because I have a hammer. Once I let go of the attachment to the outcomes I automatically starting exploring different ideas – creativity arose. And from there pure joy and well-being.

Life is pretty much the same way. Sometimes you have to keep chugging along even if the results are not there, but you know that it is the right track. The way our society shapes us we never fail enough. It is just not a done thing – however many books you may read, however many studies are out there which tell us that it is ok to fail. I take failure personally. Maybe it is time to rejoice the failures because then we can be unfettered in our next moves. Sometimes it might be best to fail and get the pressure out of the way so that you are free to experiment.

Yoda was right when he said – do or do not; there is no trying. If something fails then do something else – any beating yourself up, wasting time on what-ifs is not worth it.

What will you keep doing now?

View from the Terrace

Humankind has made tremendous progress in the last century than ever before. In our lifetimes, we have seen the journey of the internet from its birth to becoming the digital oxygen. Connecting across borders is easier than ever – we have come a long way from letters/steamer ships to instant messaging and Skype. With Google information is literally at our fingertips. Google has become a verb now.

With all these advances then why are we losing the sense of connection? Why are the suicide rates increasing? Why is depression becoming common?

Let me take you on my trip back to India. India has a population of 1.35 billion with the square footage of 1,269,219 sq miles which means that every person gets roughly 0.00094016222 square miles. Don’t get hung up on numbers – India is just crowded, you cannot step anywhere without running into people. I used to join my parents for a walk on the terrace, and I would look around. I could see kids playing skipping rope on a building terrace couple of blocks away. I could see two young men sitting on the water tank smoking cigarettes (probably hiding from their parents). I could see a woman picking off the clothes of the clothesline. And if I looked down the streets were teeming with life. I could empathize with the young lady coming back from work. I could see the old lady struggling to carry a heavy bag. I could see kids cycling off to someplace very urgently.

Even if you don’t go on the terrace, it is impossible to miss the sounds of life around you in your house because of the proximity of the homes. You can hear the kids upstairs playing marbles or something similar on the floor. You can listen to your neighbor’s tv. You could listen to the milkman and vegetable man in the morning. It is challenging to forget that you are a human and live among other humans. The maid comes in every day. The watchman brings you the newspaper every day.

When I came back to Columbus, there are a few people around on the street. You might see a few people running or walking their dogs. The houses are so apart that you could forget that you have neighbors once you get inside the house. We all sit in our cars – go to work and come back. Most families are nuclear these days, so the interaction is limited to family members these days when we get a break from the digital world. The sense of connection is not very easy – you have to seek it out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that overpopulation is the only way to feel connected. I am stressing on the importance of human connection. We are social animals who crave some connection, warmth. And there are many ways to connect – with nature, with candles, with people, with self. Having contact is important. If you do not get a daily dose of connection, then put yourself in situations where you cannot avoid feeling the oneness with the rest of the humankind. And of course, once you realize the unity with the self and others, then the need for connection goes away as you are always in a state of oneness.

How will you connect today?

A Whole New World

I am sure all of us have heard the Aladdin’s song – A Whole New World. And I am sure they could see a whole new world and a fantastic view from the carpet.

A few of us also believe in the parallel universe theory, where we might be doing different things – altogether a completely new world. And then we have people who believe in Aliens – that’s an altogether completely different world as well.

But, we don’t have to go that far to visit new worlds. They exist right here, right now. For example, my mom hangs the laundry on the terrace. One day it looked it like it was about to rain – so the maid asked if she should bring the clothes down. I was listening to the conversation, and I had just looked at the weather on my phone, and I let them know that it wasn’t going to rain – and the sun will be out in a few minutes. All of us went our ways.

In half an hour, the sun was shining brightly, and the maid noted to my mom, ‘Anu looked at the phone and said it wasn’t going to rain – a good thing, I did not bring the clothes down.’ Our maid does not know how to read or write – so for her what I did was from another world. 

This leads me to my topic – can you imagine the world that she lives in – where there are no letters, no alphabets. How do you make sense of a world if you are not literate? Her generation probably grew up in the era when the world was changing – when girls were sent to school and she probably just missed the window. [There are adult literacy classes offered for free by the government for this section of people]. I cannot imagine a world where I cannot read or write. See, we have two different worlds right here amidst us.

Similarly, our building watchman has no family, no possessions – he gets his salary as a watchman and doing ad-hoc laborer task. He does not own a single thing except maybe a few sets of clothes. And I believe that this is choice he has made. In this day and age, it is not difficult for an average man to work enough to get a roof to call his own and accumulate a few possession. Again, a very different world than mine. The minimalism that I am aiming for does not even come close to describing his lifestyle.

What this means is we might be living on the same planet earth, but, we all inhabit a different planet. We create our worlds in our mind and whether we realize it or not we all have individual mini planets that we live in, even on the planet called earth. Maybe, it is time to delve deeper and explore the world we live in before we start exploring the worlds beyond.

What will you explore today in your world?

Acceptance

At our village market a cow got free and was trying to eat the vegetables off the stalls – the owners and the customers shooed the cow away, and then life went back to normal.

During the cyclone in Tamilnadu, a few of the trees just fell.

During winter the trees shed their leaves, and during spring the leaves grow again.

What do the three scenarios above have in common? Going with the flow. At the market, life went on as usual despite the cow sauntering in. Nobody gave it much thought – keep calm and carry on. Nature is the best example of going with the flow. Everything in nature goes with the flow as I have never seen a tree try to hold onto the leaves in winter because doing so would be foolishness and impossible. Imagine if a tree decided it was not going to grow any leaves in spring!

I am sure you are thinking what a ridiculous idea, right? Now, what if I told you that we not only entertain but even try to execute such ideas. For example, we do not get the partner of our choice, but we do try to do our best to make it happen. We might not get a job we like, but we strive against the verdict with all might and vain.

At some level, we know that life is flowing all around us and we are just little drops in that flow enjoying the ride. We get so busy in our human experience that we start to believe that we are like the banks of the ocean and we can contain and direct the water inside it. That is the human predicament – knowing that we are a drop in the ocean, but the drop includes everything that the ocean does.

We also like things the way they were and are resistant to change. The drops in the ocean change so rapidly that it is hard to distinguish it from the ocean. We, humans, try our best to cling to the shape and size which to put simply is a futile effort. But we still try. This is a human predicament.

We have to accept that we are in a human predicament. What we have is a choice – on how we view this human predicament – as a boon or a curse.

It will be a curse if we view the human predicament as a constraint. If we see it as a problem that shackles us from living our life because things do not happen as we want them to – the big ocean we are a part of refused to listen to the whims and fancies of this miniscule ocean drop – then it will be a problem.

It will be a boon if we see this as the freedom to experience life as a drop knowing that we are a part of the ocean then this is amazing. It’s like living life as an actor and experiencing the different scripts as we can play the characters to the fullest knowing that we are not the characters. This gives us the opportunity to live life fully.

What will your choice be?