Tag Archives: #growth

Oops – I Made A Mistake!

As some of you may know, I took a new role [Read a bit about it in this blog]. I changed my profession. And being the kind of person I am, I read a book called ‘The First 90 Days’ as I transitioned into my job. One of the exercises is to evaluate how complex the move is, and my change was difficult at all levels – new area, a new profession, a new team and a lot happening in the role. 

In the past, I have made moves with unrealistic expectations of myself being a superstar the day I started. This time I thought I had set my expectations correctly – of learning for a year and give myself grace. Setting expectations did not prepare me for the actual thing – ‘You cannot tell how it is until you experience it.’ And it’s been such a long time since I had made a change. I forgot what it was like to struggle, feel like you are underwater some if not most of the times, realize that you just don’t something even if it is required for you to know. And worst of all, I did not consider I will make mistakes – things will happen that shouldn’t have. 

And I acknowledge my emotional maturity just because I can say – I am struggling, or I made a mistake publicly. It is ok to be vulnerable. Do not get me wrong – this experience, however painful it is right now, is precisely what I wanted when I took the new role. But it does not make it any easier as I go through the experiences. 

What am I learning from this situation? It feels like a time of change and upheaval in my life. I need these experiences to realize how much I have grown. Remind myself that the universe does not give me anything that I cannot handle. It will require me to dig deeper into my inner reserves of courage, patience and growth (more than now). Maybe it will teach me the much-needed lesson of humility. And strengthen my practice of looking at the entire picture. For every challenging experience I have – I have pleasant experiences. Connection with people, bonding with my team, the little aha as I learn something, feeling that you are using all parts of your brain. The feeling of quiet satisfaction when I realize I am fully capable of what the situation requires of me, newness, fresh perspectives, no judgements – not feeling bored. It has made me realize the importance of laughter – not to take life too seriously.

And most importantly, an opportunity to revisit what is essential in my life. Every painful situation is a way out of suffering. It is a reminder to ground myself even deeper in the NOW. This is the time to put into practice all that life has prepared you for. The question to ask is not what I want from my life but what life wants of me. Be the conduit for life.

Humanity’s True Religion is the capital ‘I’.

‘I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older, I converted to narcissism’ is a famous quote by Woody Allen. 

He is more aware of the core belief than most of us, who harbour the belief that we are not in love with ourselves. The truth is we only love ourselves – the sooner we come to terms with it better for us and humanity as a whole. The degree to which we all suffer from this dis-ease may vary, but there is no denying that this is a universal illness.

Anytime something happens in your life – your car breaks down, your husband leaves you, your kid is expelled, your boss leaves the company, your pizza delivery guy is late. What is your first thought? What about me? What will I do?

The ‘I’ is so important in our lives; we capitalize it. If it is not, then it is considered a grammatical error. Look out for yourself, stand up for yourself – and the I have become collated into bigger I’s based on caste, race, gender, birthplace, financial status. These bigger I’s are now fighting other bigger I’s because they believe in their I. They are fighting for a cause – a cause that is bigger than the smaller I.

Does this mean that we should stop thinking about ourselves and focus on others – give up everything and live like a monk or a nun. Unfortunately, how much ever we try, we are wired to be selfish. We are focusing on the wrong I. We have mistaken the sign for the destination. It’s like the dog who keeps looking at his owner’s fingers when he needs to look at what the fingers are pointing towards.

We are focused on the role that we play in our short time on planet earth. We play many roles – boss, employee, mother, wife, widow, pet owner, vegan, meditator, spiritual seeker, capitalist. The list is truly endless. Unless we are in touch with the unchanged within us – these roles are like filling up a bottomless bucket. Beneath all the roles we play, that entity observes the role. The very fact that we have a relationship with ourselves means there is a watcher and the watched. 

When we say, ‘I am sad,’ – the I is aware of the sadness. There is a part that is sad and a part that can observe the sadness. No other species on the planet except humans have a relationship with themselves. A dog does not have a self-image. A bird does sit on a tree branch wondering, ‘Should I fly now? Can I make it? What if this gust of wind is not good enough? Will I get where I want to go?’ No, this is the speciality of human minds alone. [Read my story about how this came to be at this link]

It is time to awaken from the drama and realize who you are. We need to be aware of the roles we play and take them for what they are – Roles. Only then will we be able to get in touch with the true self, which is love. And for that self – talking about love is like talking to a fish about water.

What role are you playing now?

What is a genuine human connection?

In the ten-day Vipassana retreat, Goenka Ji tells us a story about Kisa Gotami. Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. Her story is one of the more famous ones in Buddhism. After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone could help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had lost her mind. An older man told her to see the Buddha. The Buddha told her that he could bring the child back to life if she could find white mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. She desperately went from house to house, but to her disappointment, she could not find a home that had not suffered the death of a family member. Finally, the realization struck her that there is no house free from mortality. She returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth. She was awakened and entered the first stage of enlightenment. Eventually, she became an Arahat

I had heard this story on previous retreats, but this time it struck a chord with me. What made me emotional was how painful it must have been for Kisa Gotami to realize that her son has died and there is nothing she can do about it. The gut-wrenching realization is almost like a physical ache in your heart.

When things do not go our way, and we want it to happen badly – it is painful to face reality and move on. In the human predicament, situations come and go, what is common is our desire/aversion towards specific outcomes and the joy/pain when that happens. When we recognize that the pain or pleasure is common across everybody – that is a sign of genuine compassion.  

In the story of Kisa Gotami – yes, it is excruciating to have your only son die – there is no denying that. It is even more painful to accept that and move on. You had so many dreams, future built on your son and when he died all that comes crashing – the reality as you imagined it is not going to happen and that is devastating to the human mind. For her to realize that her son has died and she cannot do anything about it – is what I connected with.

Everybody on the planet goes through these life situations. When we see a fellow human being overcome her challenges and face reality – there is a shared understanding of what it takes to accept it. And if we connect at that level, then we are connecting with the human predicament and the ability to transcend it – which is genuine compassion. As long as we identify with the human form, we will have to overcome such situations, and in some ways, that is what we need. Imagine reading a novel where everything goes well, and nothing happens – who would read such a book. The very reason things do not work forever in our lives because it is our destiny to transcend them.

Imagine if we truly understood what connected us as humans – will we still fight over our skin colour or what part of the land we were born? Can you feel the shared connection?

What Matters Most?

When you read a book, do you wonder about the blank spaces around the words? Do you wonder about the blank pages on which the letters appear?

When you enter a room, do you think about the space in the room? When you use the furniture, do you think about the space in which it exists?

When you watch a film, are you aware of the screen on which it is playing? When you see the actors in the movie, do you realize that they are people?

Let’s bring it all home with a story. One of my friends got laid off from a toxic job and not the best fit for her. She was miserable in that role working long hours in a thankless role. When she told the news to her parents and in-laws, their reaction was, ‘Wow, that is amazing!’ and ‘Good riddance – such great news!’. My friend is a little upset about it even though she knows its the best direction for her.

Her parents and in-laws are happy because they care about my friend, not her life situation. They care about what matters most – the person behind the job, the blank space behind the words, the person playing the role.

Think about how much of our life we spend thinking about our life situation and not life itself. There is nothing wrong in thinking about a life situation, but we have to keep life in perspective. As a human society, we have become so life-situation centric that the real meaning of life is non-existent.

Why is the space in which it all exists so essential? Because it is the only constant – life situations will come and go. The little or big Me (ego) will grow bigger and then deflate itself. The entity we call ‘I’ will play many parts or actors in various plays. If we remember the space/entity, we will not identify ourselves with the actor or the life situation. That gives us breathing space to choose – to be aware that its all a play and we are all actors. It is not the essence of who we are.

If you knew that the life situation playing currently in your head where EGO is the main actor – ‘I am so busy’, ‘I will never get the promotion’, ‘COVID has ruined our lives’, is just that – plays, then will you be unhappy? We will play the role with gusto, knowing that it’s not who we are.

How do we keep in touch with space, person, and not identify with roles or thoughts? An easy way is to be in your body – if you are walking your dog, but your mind is thinking about work, what is real and what is fantasy? It is ok to think about the future or past as long as it is practical. Another way is to keep reminding yourself – ‘Is this a problem that is happening right now?’

Will you be aware of the blank pages or space next time? What about now?

Lost In Russian Dolls?

Have you ever seen a new-born baby? For the first six months or so they have no idea of who they are, they are not aware of their legs and arms. One of my nieces used to pull her hair as a baby and start crying – unable to tear her hand and stop the pain.

Babies live in the NOW – there is no concept of past/future or self/I. They do have minimal basic desires and wants like milk/sleep/food. They have no great desires or plans – a baby does not think when I drink milk twenty-four times a day I will become a millionaire or other ridiculous cravings/aversions that we tend to get as we grow up. For the baby, there is nothing except the present moment.

As we grow up, we get to know the mind-based concept of time. And with time comes the need to get somewhere, the desire to meet our plans or the aversion towards something happening. And we leave the present moment and start to live in the future and past. The conditioning becomes stronger.

Another thing that happens as we grow up is our sense of ME. We start creating a picture of who we are, what people should think about of me, what society should think of me? And we go about making that image to our liking. A baby does not think – my dad should think of me as pretty or my brother should look up to me. When we grow up this self-image becomes so ingrained that we are not even aware of it.

The society, media and other factors are all egging us to live in the future/past or create an ‘Ideal self-image’. The TV ad that tells you that if you use their aftershave lotion, you will find love, the news piece about a spiritual coach, the interview with an actor/actress with a so-called perfect body.

Nowhere people tell you that the practically impossible to live in the future or the past. My body is right now sitting on a couch, typing these words in the keypad. I can’t skip to the next weekend – but my mind starts thinking about the following weekend, and I have lost touch with reality. I can think about it all I want – the weekend will get here when it is NOW.

We/our minds keep jumping away from the present moment all the time – into past or future or dreamland. There is nothing wrong with planning. We do not stop at planning; we derive a sense of self from something happening or not happening in the future, which becomes futile.

Like the nested Russian dolls, we have lost sense of who we are or where we are. There is so much depth to the present moment that we never explore because we are so busy looking at the outer covers – its paints, designs. A big part of understanding the depth is the acknowledgement of the inevitable is-ness of the present moment.

Where are you right now?

Hierarchy

Have you ever wondered why the CEO gets the corner office on the topmost floor? Have you ever wondered why everybody has to rise when Judge enters the room?

There is a distinct hierarchy everywhere – in hospitals, airports even in Restaurants: head chef and a sous chef, Pilot and a co-pilot, Doctor and a nurse.

It makes sense that the doctor does the operation, and the nurse has a supporting role, but it does not mean that the nurse’s job in any way inferior to the doctor’s job. I am sure nobody says this aloud but isn’t it implicit. We all grow up having a mental model around what is essential and what is not – who has power, and who does not? Principal versus the teacher in school. As a kid, nobody explained the org. Chart of the school to me, but it was evident to me that the Principal was at the top.

Just because somebody has a corner office or has more responsibilities or gets paid more does not mean that they are at the top of the food chain. We, humans, have a come a long way since our Stonehenge days in terms of technical and medical advances. But we have been unable to get rid of this hierarchical system – it is ingrained in us.

Ideally speaking every person in a company has a role and they get paid based on the risk they take (in most cases), instead of treating the CEO like any other role we have made it THE role. OK – so CEO makes the final decision, earns money, but he/she also carries the risk of the decision. Still, everybody underneath him plays an equally important role, then why does CEO role get biased attention.

I am not advocating that we do away with the entire reporting system. We do need some structure. But, do we need the associated superior/inferior label that people seem to attach to it. Just because I am somebody’s boss doesn’t mean I automatically get the best chair in the room or tea gets served me to first. All of this is an ego trip and has nothing to do with my job.

Undue importance to the superior roles creates an additional set of actions which add no value. All of a sudden, the boss becomes the person who can make or break your life. All the employees want to be in his good graces because he makes the call. Shouldn’t the decision be made on more objective measures than the whims and fancies of just one person? The role of that person is to serve not to rule. There is nothing wrong with ruling as long as there is no I involved. It is harder than said, but it needs to come from both sides. Boss needs to understand that its just a role that he is playing and the employees need to treat him/her accordingly.

How are you encouraging the hierarchy?

A Select Few

There is a lot of news about the suicide of the Bollywood Actor – Sushant Singh Rajput. It has raised questions on the powerful few who own most of the industry – which movies make it, who is the hero etc. Soon after that, there was another post from a singer stating that it is the same state in the music industry – a select few make the choices. In the retail sector, a few own all the Malls and hence dictate the rents for the stores.

Hence the name Mafia/Cabal etc. The dictionary meaning of Cabal is – ‘a secret political clique or faction’ and dictionary meaning of Mafia is – ‘a closed group of people in a particular field, having a controlling influence’.

What all these examples share is the Pareto principle (80/20). The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many phenomena, 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort. The principle has been named after Vilfredo Pareto—an Italian economist—who, back in 1895, noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population. 

In the cases mentioned above, cabals are 20% of the population that holds 80% of the Power. Is this right? Is this how things should be?

Unfortunately, there is not a straight answer. Before we solution lets understand Power. How many you cringed when you read the word Power? How many of you have a negative connotation with the word Power? If you search the internet, watch movies – they will send the message that Power is a bad thing.

1st Baron Action even had a quote for this – ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute Power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…’ 

I recently read the ‘One Minute Manager’, and there is a quote in there which talks about – ‘The sole advantage of Power is the ability to do more good. Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your points of Power.’

Power by itself is neutral – it is how you use it defines it. And honestly, you do need some Power to make changes.

In the previous examples – if all the stores got together and said these are the rents we want – the mall owners cannot do anything. If all the actors/directors boycotted the select few – the producers will have to change their view. If all the nerds and average children in the class got together against the bullies then – there will be no cliques. 

What we forget is that they might be 20%, but we are the remaining 80%. We have the majority of Power – but most of us are selfish. We look out for us, and our closed ones and the 20% take advantage of that. And for this not to happen, each one of us needs to realize our Power – work on ourselves, raise our awareness so that we can use our Power for good.

How will you use your Power today?

Loud Silence

We are living in interesting times – something that is making history right now even as I write this blog. 

India is in a 21-day lockdown, and some of the temples shut down a bit earlier. My parents told me that within a few days of the lockdown, wild animals started roaming in the vicinity like tigers, snakes and monkeys. The silence due to the absence of humans is being with filled with nature. 

Within the last few weeks, Europe has seen a dramatic improvement in air quality in many regions. With a reduced human population, nature is breathing a sigh of relief, and we can see the results of that.

Humans have a way of invading everything – land, forests, fuels, water, air, animals. We have impacted everything on this planet and not for the better in most cases. We are loud, and it’s like we want to shout our presence. For somebody who is a million times smaller than a speck in this universe, we do make a lot of noise and a lot of it unnecessary. 

The primary reason for this is as Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” as I mentioned in my previous blog ‘On The Other Hand‘. 

Why is it so hard for most of us to spend time with ourselves? Because we have this deafening mind chatter going on. It is constant, mindless and for the most part – illogical. And we are not trained or not even aware of this constant noise in the background that creates not only our lives but this entire world. It is that voice that tells you that you are not good enough, that you will never get a partner, that tells you that the world is coming to an end, that tells you to do yoga, that tells you not to trust another person. If you dig deeper, you will realize that all our habits/fears/desires/needs/feelings – all are just that – our mental chatter. 

Uncontrollable mind chatter is why we look to escape, unable to spend time with ourselves.

Any change and one such drastic as this will put a sudden break to our everyday life as we know it. With end comes new beginnings. We are more aware of our lives as opposed to the frenzied robotic way of living. For most of us, the pace of life has slowed down, and we are discovering what it is to spend more time with our loved ones. 

And with fewer distractions or new fodder than usual, we are forced to become aware of the mind chatter we have. When all else quiets down the internal noise take precedence. We can use this as a means to become super aware of our mind chatter and learn to sit with ourselves and meet/define who we truly are. 

This could lead to the new consciousness that will help us take the next big leap in evolution, or it may drag us all down into the depths of unawareness. What choice will you make?

If you want to befriend your mind chatter – check out my free ebook on amazon – ‘You Can Do It.

Home Away From Home

I have talked about this topic in a few of my previous blogs. But every time I am in London, I am reminded of my global nomadic tribe despite living in Columbus. I cannot deny the almost visceral feeling that I am home while in London. Every fibre of my being relaxes knowing it has arrived – what is it about London that makes me feel at home.

Well, partly, it has nothing to do with London. It is the fact that I have moved around so much that I feel at home only when I don’t belong anywhere. And where else in the world would that be possible except in London.

When you land in London – you are welcomed in a dozen languages at the airport itself. You only have to step outside to hear all the multitude of languages that are being spoken around you. If you were blindfolded and dropped in London, you wouldn’t be able to identify you were in London just by listing to the languages around you. Different accents, Different looks, Different nationalities – THAT IS HOME for me.

I have walked on the streets of London for long enough to make them my home. The pure nostalgia of walking down the old paths and hanging out at the old haunts – makes me feel like I could go back to my old flat in Cleveland street and be back in my good old London days.

Another aspect of London is the proximity to Europe. This time in less than seven days I had visited Paris (for a day) and Spain (for the weekend). The pure joy of listening to french in the day and come back home to the Italian-English accent of the Uber driver in London feels home to me. Because honestly, that’s how I grew up in London, trips every weekend. Within 3 hours you can immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, eating dinner for three hours and have a nice long siesta and then be back in London for work.

And it is always nice to know that I haven’t lost touch with the ‘Things Londoners Do’ – get irritated at people who stand at the left side of the escalators. I had just gotten off the airport, and I was back in the element – mentally willing the tourists in front of me to shift to the right side so that I could zip down the escalators. The way a true Londoner sidesteps around the tourists, politely smiling at their awes. I used to work at British Telecom, conveniently located in st. Pauls – joke around the office was that we were probably in a large number of photos around the world than in our family albums.

London welcomes diversity with open arms and love. That is what this world needs right now – not divisiveness of Brexit or not – but pure love which you cannot take out of London. I am grateful for the fact that you can take a Londoner out of London but not London out of them.

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?