Tag Archives: #creativity

Do I Know You?

Coronavirus – Let’s start with THE topic on everybody’s mind. Even if you do not want to hear about it you have no choice – it is impacting almost everything. We finally gave in to the fear that we might have no food at home (which made no sense) and Adam decided to make a trip to Kroger, our local supermarket store. The shelves were empty, and he admitted feeling the panic vibe as other people piled items into the shopping cart.

Let’s move to the real topic of this blog.

And as he was walking down the almost empty aisles – a stranger walking from the other side looked at him and asked, ‘Are you Aki’s dad?’. For those of you who do not know Aki is our Shiba Inu pup who has his own Instagram account – you can follow him @IamLuckyAki. Adam was a little surprised, and he said, ‘Yes’. The stranger told him that his wife works at the Big Walnut Boarding Center, where we board Aki sometimes. Aki, who is super diligent about his social media following, immediately reached out to the stranger on Instagram who expressed a desire to meet Aki in person someday. Aki hasn’t responded but feel free to stay tuned in to his account to see what he thinks of the suggestion.

With social media and private data floating around, it should not come as a surprise that people know us even though we do not know them. A lot of my work colleagues follow Aki on Instagram, and it gives them a sense of connection to me which I might not feel always.

Is there anything like privacy anymore? Or a more pertinent question – is that even feasible unless you live entirely off the grid in which case you won’t be able to read this blog either. Another critical question is, does it matter? I am not talking about the information like Credit card/SSN etc. but general information that most people feel comfortable posting like their, pet photos, vacation photos, food photos.

Like everything else, there are two sides to the coin. People might use that information for the wrong purpose, but the other side of the coin is that information is readily available. And it can help us connect as well. Social media does help us connect with people as it narrow downs your likes/dislikes. Most people who follow Aki are dog lovers or have a pet of their own which makes the connection so much easier. I feel comfortable talking to a stranger with a dog than with one who does not have a dog.

Apart from the connection, it also helps the spread of information quickly. Think about Coronavirus and how we know at our fingertips how many cases are there, which country is the epicentre. Some might argue that it is information overload, but it is readily available. Unlike in the past, when it would take days for the information to reach and the damage cannot be undone.

Key is awareness and intention. Are you aware of your interactions with social media? Are they working for you? Are you aware of your consumption of the information? And what is your intention as you interact with these – is it to get a specific update or general mindless wandering?

Stay Healthy, Stay Aware. May All Beings Be Happy!

Echoes Of Past

I have mentioned in the past that I do run a Bollywood Dance Class as a side hustle. It is my creative outlet for me, given the rest of my work is pretty organized.

It so happened that I choreographed wedding dances for three couples and one of them included proposal as well. And all in a span of roughly six weeks. I could not help but wonder at the coincidence.

Firstly, I am grateful that I can be a part of their lives in a small fashion. And I love this kind of a behind-the-scenes impact. I am a medium through which they get to shine. And it is deeply satisfying.

I am amazed at how ‘I just want to dance’ evolved into ‘Connection with people’ business. At the heart of any enterprise – it is all about people. We are mostly focused on tasks at work, but there is still a people element to it. Yes, I know robots are soon going to become our colleagues at work, but you know in Japan they believe that robots have a soul too!

It is fascinating to watch the couple dynamics – who listens to whom, which songs do they enjoy the most and how they share the humour between them. There is something special when you first start a relationship. You are getting to know another person more. And you do change the minute the relationship is official. The guy you meet and the guy you marry are two different people even if they are the same guy.

It made me look back at my own life and wonder if we were also in a similar phase. It is funny how if we are not in the thick of it – it loses its awareness for us. It made me realize that just because I am done with that phase does not mean it is not happening around the world. Even now, as I am writing this blog, I am sure people are connecting, getting engaged, getting married.

What seemed to be present for Adam and me ten years ago is now a faint echo from the past. And choreographing the wedding dances reminded me of my past and how we have come a long way. Marriages are like wine – it gets better with age.

Anytime you focus on the past, you wonder about the future. What is alive for me now will be a faint echo in the future. Is this the echo I want to listen to? Am I living the life I want to live? What kind of memories am I building? Who knows how it will be another ten years.

There is joy in the anticipation and also the power of creating now. The awareness that the present will be an echo in the future helps us focus more on the present. That is all there is to life – the moment, the now. Eckhart Tolle talks about it in his book – ‘Power of Now’.

How are you creating the now?

Human Predicament – Musings

I just watched the movie Parasite. (Disclaimer: there might be some spoilers below). It is a Korean oscar-winning movie. The premise, plot and complemented with the acting. It is not a light watch – instead, it left me feeling very heavy in my heart for reasons that I cannot articulate. Hence, the blog.

If you have been reading my blogs, then you are familiar with my fascination with the human predicament. The human predicament for me refers to the condition(s) that arise with being human. For example, – our need for control, our bond with mind chatter, and so on.

Parasite seems to touch on so many of the human predicaments – that it struck a chord which is still resonating. Let’s explore some of the themes that I could see in the movie.

History repeats itself, but we are not any wiser.
I cannot get around my head around the fact of how we never learn our lessons (me included) regardless of how many times we are in the same situation. We as a human race have survived – wars, holocausts, genocides, and still, they keep happening. Will we as a race every learn? In the movie, the Kim family fail to empathize with the housekeeper and her husband, even though they are in the same situation. We have not realized that we are all one; hence we tend to attack each other – metaphorically in various ways.

We see only a part of the reality.
Parks have no idea that they have a couple living in their basement; they do not even know they have the second – deeper basement. The Parks also do not realize when the Kims con their way into their homes. Parks also have no idea that they are supporting the entire Kim family. In fact, till the end, nobody discovers the basement. There are so many things that we do not see in our daily lives because we are caught up in our drama.

The best plan is no plan.
This is a line from the movie. Dad Kim tells his son that the best plan is not to have any plan because then nothing can derail it. We can make all the beautiful plans in the world, but there is always something that can derail it. We can account for all the contingencies, back up plans, but in the end, there is no guarantee that a plan will work.

We can die at any moment.
With so many calamities happening all around the world, be it Tsunami, Earthquake, Gun shooting – there is no guarantee that I will wake up alive when I go to bed. And no guarantee that I will come back home alive when I leave the house. I know this sounds morbid, but this is the truth of life. Here today – gone tomorrow. But we conduct our lives in a fashion as if we are all immortals.

Unfortunately, none of what you are reading is a new theme – we are all familiar with the issues, but they are not how we lead our lives.

Did this tug at your heartstrings? What does this spark in you?

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?

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?

Necessity – Creation – Jugaad

India has started a new system where every Indian is required to get an Aadhaar card much like the Social Security Number (or SSN) in the US. Now, India has a population of 1 billion and the USA about 328 million. While I was in India, my parents suggested getting my Aadhaar card done as well. So, we go to the bank, and like all government offices in India after a little bit of back and forth across a few officers we got the form, got a token and sat down for our turn. The bank was like a regular bank – a cashier, three counters, two offices, and a receptionist. The only twist was a guy was sitting on a makeshift table with a lamp and a laptop with a webcam. I asked my dad – who is calling out the token numbers and just then the guy on the makeshift table called out our number – he was processing the applications for Aadhaar cards.

I go over to his ‘office,’ and he has to take a passport photo to complete the application. I sit on a stool – there is a white paper behind me stuck to the wall with sellotape (scotch tape for those who live in the US), and he uses the lamp as a flash and takes a photo using the webcam on this laptop. And we are done. This kind of a temporary ‘Make-do’ arrangement is what I love about India and Indians. It is the only way you can get done something on a large scale (rolling of the cards to 90% of the population) where most of the population is illiterate. It’s people like the guy sitting in his makeshift office across India that made it happen.

Such arrangements are so common in India that we have a word for it called ‘Jugaad’ – Jugaad (a word taken from Hindi which captures the meaning of finding a low-cost solution to any problem in an intelligent way) is a new way to think constructively and differently about innovation and strategy.

And that is why necessity is the mother of creation which we Indians are born with – we have limited resources, lots of constraints and stuff still needs to get done and does get done.

A lot of times we are hung up on having all the right tools, right resources to get work done and in some cases right mood or the right attitude when what needs to happen is to take the first step, fail fast and not worry about getting it perfect. For people who have the means to get all the right stuff before usually fall into this trap but for those who do not have the means – their focus is on getting it done, they don’t have distractions like having the right size pencil to start drawing. If you think in this fashion, then there is nothing that can stop you from doing anything. All you need is to want something badly, and you will find a way to make it happen.

What are we waiting for? Let’s make it happen.

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.”

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?