Tag Archives: #selfhelp

Beyond Our Noses

Have you ever been in a situation in your life where it felt like ‘THE End Of The World’? Like, nothing would be ever right in your life again. What will people think of you? How will you ever get out of bed and face life again?

And here you are, reading my blog hale and hearty with no recollection of that life-ending moment. I am reading the book, ‘Failing Forward’ by John Maxwell, where he says that failure is not an event. It is a journey, just like success. The first time you bombed your interview or sent a text that should have been deleted is not the end of the cliff but only a little event on a long journey. If we keep that perspective, then it gives us the perseverance to keep going and also changes our attitude towards failure to something that we know how to do better next time.

Growing up, it is not explained to children that failure is ok. In fact, as a kid, I remembered that I had the mental model that engineers and doctors have a decent life, poets and artists usually starve and have horrible things happen to them. I also had a similar model where if I did not do well in exams – there was nothing beyond that. It was in my mind the end of the world. I could not imagine a world beyond bad grades. I am sure some of it was from the movies or society or cultural upbringing. But, now that I am an adult, I do not have to deal with failure this way.

So what, if this relationship did not work out? So, what if the house I had my eyes set on did not come through? So, what if I never made it to the second round of interviews? So, what if I said some nasty things to my loved ones? So, what if I stopped exercising? Do not get me wrong I am not a proponent of anybody stopping exercising or getting their home deal. We have to remember that sometimes life does not work out the way we want it to because something else is planned that way and time will show us how. The keyword here is the time. If we live in a world where we do not keep the long term view in perspective, then everything seems catastrophic, but if we remind ourselves that life is a marathon and not a sprint, then we will be able to pick ourselves a lot quicker and move on. In fact, it is better to hurry up so that you can get to the next thing.

And maybe somewhere along the journey, we will all realize that life is all about the journey and not the outcome. And the journey as it happens with its own ups and downs. As Prof. Rao from Creativity and Personal Mastery says, ‘The purpose of washing dishes is not to clean dishes but to wash dishes.’ A very zen saying but very profound if you think about it a little more.

Are you washing dishes to clean them or wash them?

Can You See It?

All of us have been part of at least one of the following scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: Seen a kid, niece or nephew and commented on how much they have grown? – ‘Oh My God – she has grown so much.’
SCENARIO 2: An uncle, aunt or somebody older than you comment on how much you have grown? -‘Look how tall you have become.’

And if you haven’t, then I am sure at some point you have looked at your old pictures or even in the mirror and commented on how much you have changed. These changes are physical changes that our body goes through as we age. And these are very visible, unfortunately for us especially as we age. Grey hair, Wrinkles, not so firm Skin, height, weight are all outward appearances of growth.

What about the signs of internal growth – emotional and mental maturity. They are not as visible but equally important if not more. It is hard for even us to see the growth that has happened to us. We don’t get a halo or a ring around our head as we progress on the path of maturity. And it is also not automatically correlated to our physical maturity – for example now that you are X age – you are at 60% mental maturity. I am sure all of us have met people who are wiser than they look and people who could do with a little bit more growing-up.

From the time we are born, we automatically start learning, and that learning happens in leaps and bounds as we do not know anything. And most of that learning happens without us knowing about it. If our parents told us to brush our teeth twice a day – that’s what we did. We never sat down and analyzed if that is a good thing. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we do not that either – we just let it happen without actively learning.

For example, you have a boss who is a micromanager, and you listen to the boss and get your job done, or you speak up and ask for autonomy. How often do we sit down and say to ourselves, ‘I have a situation here – how should I go about it?’ or ‘Well, that did not go well – what can I learn from here?’ We wake up and get on with our lives – ups and downs included.

Our emotional growth and maturity would be faster and targeted if we were an active participant. What if we started the day wanting to be a better version of ourselves every day. What if we sat down at the end of the day and did a quick lesson learnt session. How much better we would be, our life would be. And our emotional maturity marker might not be visible, but it would be in an upward trajectory. Guess what, if it did not increase as much, then it is a reminder to ask ourselves what we can do next?

Can you see and track your emotional growth inside?

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?

Competition

Adam and I were walking with Aki – our fabulous Shiba Inu pup one day. It was a hot summer day, and Aki was dragging his feet. We ran into another couple with their Shiba Inu pup. We exchanged notes, and they continued walking with their white Shiba Inu pup leading the way, happily bounding towards his home.

The minute they left, I turned to Aki and said, ‘What is wrong with you? Why cannot you also walk like the other Shiba Inu?’ Aki made no move from the shade of the tree, but I realized that I might no longer live in India, but the competitive spirit that Asians/Indians have hasn’t left me.

Did you know that for the last decade or so the National Spelling Bee championship has been won by Indians (Second Generation)? I shared this fun fact with a few people and let’s see what their reaction was

Adam (My husband): Laughter mixed with – what am I not getting here?
American Friend: Polite ‘hehe’ and then move on to the next topic
American Friend: Confusion – no clear on the context (Awkard)
Indian Friends: Laughter with a clear reflection of empathy in their faces
Indian Parents: Sigh with a deep understanding of the motivation

There is so much cultural context in the statement that even we as Indians will not be able to articulate it. A child is born in India with the knowledge that he/she is competing with the billion other people.

When I gave my 10th grade and 12th-grade exams, nobody said it, but I knew that if I do not well, then the world will end. Imagine a hundred thousand(s) kids write the entrance exam for engineering and only the top 1% get admission. If you got 99.7%, you missed the cut-off, and you are a failure. Nobody told me growing up that this is how the system works, but I understood it loud and clear. It is only now in hindsight when I try to understand why I am so competitive that I articulated it. However gruelling it may sound I learnt a lot and a part of loves the thrill, hard work, anxiety and anticipation.

Well, so now I know why I am competitive, and I accept that this is who I am. I am one of those people who will look for the next thing – Stay Hungry, Stay foolish. Will this last forever – who knows? The important thing is I accept my competitive nature as who I am for now. And being competitive is not a bad thing as long as it is not a compulsion but a choice. If you are competing with everybody over everything, it is unsustainable – I tried. What do you think made me wonder why I was so competitive in the first place, eh? But, if it is a choice, then it brings out the best in me – and that is my motto in life. Be a better version of myself every day.

What are your compulsions? And do they need to be choices?

Innocent – Are You?

A few days ago, NASA launched astronauts to the space station. And a few days ago George Floyd was killed as a result of police brutality or racial injustice as some of us would say it.

Somebody in your team made a mistake, and you tell that person it’s ok – this is the time to offer grace and show some self-love. You come home and end up eating an entire bar of chocolate and beat yourself up.

There are people like Sri M, Sadhguru who are looking to lead us towards higher consciousness and we have a few people in this world who need not be named who are trying to the do the opposite.

What I am trying to say through these examples is that all these realities exist simultaneously. Humankind is on the verge of making robots real, whereas at the same time, we are not able to see some of our peer humans as real.

Has this kind of a spectrum always existed? Is there a reason why this spectrum exists? I honestly do not have an answer for this – not even an intellectual or a logical one which makes sense. Except that maybe it takes everybody to make this world, there is a reason behind everything whether we like it or not.

Right now, there is a lot of anger around George Floyd; emotions are running high. A white policeman killed a black man. And everybody is angry at the white policeman while expressing sympathy towards the black man. The question I want to pose is who is responsible for the white policeman’s behaviour. Haven’t we all created a society in which it was acceptable for this to happen? We can all say – I don’t do this. I wasn’t a part of it. But you know what – we all are. We let this happen collectively as a society, and that is on us too. It is not fair to blame the white policeman 100%. We have looked past so many items that they have become routine for us until something significant like George Floyd happens. Most of us turn a blind eye to it – consciously or unconsciously.

There are a lot of things that we ignore because we do not know how to deal with it or we do not have the time, or we are too selfish. The homeless person on the street when you are in your car. The little girl who was begging for money when you stop at the lights. When your co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, and you let it slide. When we ignore a bunch of young guys eve-teasing a girl.

If we all acted and did something about these minor things, maybe they won’t go out of control. It requires all of us, including me, to have the courage and awareness all the time. It needs me to be mindful of not only me but also people around me. It means I have to tune into how others are feeling so that I can respond with the ability I have.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of jolting us into the new consciousness which we all need to evolve into – for us to survive.

Sign Of Intelligence

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function – a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is hard to see both sides of a situation – understand the truth of both parties – knowing that they cannot be reconciled. It is easier to switch to one side because it is a more comfortable choice.

Let’s say at work, you have a so-so employee, needs monitoring, and on top of it spreads rumours. He is eager to show improvement but is not consistent. What would you do? Put him on a performance plan and take it from there. Now, what if I told you that he was the sole breadwinner of his family and his looking after grandson. Does your decision change? Can you understand why he might not be paying attention to details? Can you understand why he starts a crazy rumour of people losing jobs because that’s his greatest fear?

The question still stands – what would you do? Fire him or keep him on. A tough decision isn’t it? This is the intelligence that Fitzgerald is talking about.

Life would be a lot easier if things were white or black. If people were either good or bad. If people behaved consistently all the time without deviating from the character you have created for them in your head. But, then you wouldn’t need humans – you could program robots to run the world. Hey, they may as well be running the world in the years to come, but I digress.

If your friend slept with your boyfriend and she works with youth at risk – is she a good or a bad person? If your boyfriend forgot that you had a dinner date tonight because of work? What if your boss cannot make tough decisions as he is afraid of confrontations? These are all real-life situations which exist because we are human. If we were all robots that we would have a strict code to adhere to and we would not budge from them.

Let’s face it. Life is messy. We are humans and by definition, not perfect. We all make mistakes, and that is what makes us human. It is understanding this and recognizing this in other humans is a sign of intelligence. It does not mean that you do not make a decision. Maybe you make a decision to fire the employee, or you put him on a performance plan with clear expectations, or you shift him to another area and hope he does well there. There is no right or wrong answer. You do what your style and belief system says – but the key is to do it knowing that there are other sides to it—knowing that you are deciding to fire that person even though you know his family situation—knowing that you may have made the wrong decision.

How are you exercising your right to be human?

Timepass or Pasttime

When Adam and I got together, he used to hang around me and my Indian friend Ranjani. And we both used to talk in Hinglish which is Indian’s way of using English with Hindi. And one day he asked me what did we mean by timepass. And that’s when I realized that Indians have a different usage or meaning of certain words which only Indians can understand. Like the head nods – Indians know instinctively what the head nod means.

So, timepass is a unique word in the sense that it is an activity and is also a review of activity (I am paraphrasing Kanan Gill – Indian stand up comic). Let’s look at a few usages of timepass.

Ques: What are you doing?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: How is the movie?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: What do you think of my boyfriend?
Answer: I think you should leave him, he is doing timepass.

Ques: Where are the kids?
Answer: Must be doing timepass somewhere.

Not sure if this gives you a gist, but it means you are doing an activity – may be useful, may not be helpful.

Word usage can tell us a lot about the culture. Again, inspired by Kanan Gill. In the US, people do not do timepass they have pastimes.

In literal terms, it means – for Indians time passes whereas, for Americans, they pass the time. That is a very profound statement because it is the fundamental difference between being and doing.

In India, there is an understanding of flow, time flowing by – understanding that it is ok to be a watcher – an observer. If you ever happen to go to India, you will see Indians just sitting around doing nothing. It is prevalent to find people just sitting under a tree or side of the streets – doing nothing.

In America, past time refers to a hobby or activity that you do actively to pass the time. It is something of your choice that you actively decide to do to make the best of your time or your skills. It is very rare to see people just whiling away time – there is a sense of rush or urgency – a need to get somewhere.

The point of the blog is not to say one is better than others. It is to ponder on this unique connection of words and what they say about culture. And also maybe plant a seed of awareness around your preference. Do you like to pass the time or do you sit there while time passes you?

Aristotle to the rescue – golden mean is the solution to everything. As long as it is a choice and not a compulsion, you are good to go. If you were rushing all the time because you do not have any other option, then it is good to pause and think – is it needed? Yin and Yang – there is a reason why Golden mean, and yin/yang keep popping up.

What is your preferred choice?

More Time Now?

I am currently in the seventh week of lockdown. Who would have thought? I had just published my book – ‘You Can Do It’ when all this was beginning. And I had sent out emails to the few folks I know to do my marketing.

And a few of them replied with, ‘Now that you are Working from Home – WFH, you can write more.’ I have a problem with that statement – because it implies that all you need is time to write or pursue a creative habit. It’s equating writing to a production system where productivity is equal to the amount of time you run the system.

For me, writing is an unpredictable activity. The more I plan it, the less the probability of my writing anything. I do not know why? But, this is the one activity where sheer will power does long-lasting damage. And it takes time for an idea to bloom, put down roots and grow to the point where it bears a fruit which appears in the form a chapter or a blog. Sometime the ideas slosh around before settling down for you to see a clear picture, especially if it is a fiction book.

Writing a blog like this or the non-fiction books comes a lot more easily to me. I do not have to think of them. I live in this space all the time. My purpose in life is to ‘Learn, Grow, Inspire and Contribute’ and my vision in life is ‘ To be a better version of myself every day’ – given these, it is natural for me to ponder on the topics of self-growth or better me. Hence these topics flow naturally through me -Through me being the keyword. I have come to realize that I am just the medium for these things to happen through me. I offer very less resistance to be a channel of such topics. This topic is ever-present in my mind chatter – there is no forcing the subject for which I am grateful.

Fiction books for me have a more extended gestation period – because there is so much scope. And ideas all add up over some time. And things need to readjust as new information comes to light. This is my favourite part of writing – the brainstorming. Anything is possible, and I am not invested in any idea or story. There is a freedom in fluidity which I love, you can imagine more so than ever, there are different pathways, there is scope for your characters to change.

I wish life could be that way – I could re-define myself the way I can my characters. I wish I did not etch myself in stone but define myself a moment to moment. I wish I were not stuck in the past but discovering myself new with every new moment because, in reality, that is the truth. I am a new person every moment. The old me stops to exist, but my idea of the past me continues.

How can you re-define yourself?

Not Fair – Just A Slap

If something is unfair and nobody is aware that it is unfair – is it still unfair?

I am writing this blog right after watching the Bollywood movie – ‘Thappad’ which translates into – ‘Slap’. And I am writing this caught up in an emotion which can only be described as ‘Outraged helplessness.’

This movie hit hard because it articulated out aloud what I knew was unfair. I have talked about this often. And my admiration for the tolerance that my mom, her mom and her mom have- has only increased. And how often it goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

I am successful by society’s standards. I am a software engineer with an MBA working at a prestigious company. I have written three books, founded a dance company and co-founded a social enterprise. But, it still bugs me that when I go back home – my extended family does not ask about my work – they ask my mom if there is good news aka ‘If I am pregnant or not.’ When I got admission into London Business School – the vast majority did not celebrate the success instead were worried about my marriage prospects.

I am not stating this because I want to list my accomplishments or point out the ignorance of others. Instead, I want to point out that according to society, my purpose is to get married and have kids—a woman’s life.

Even as I write this, I feel a bitterness inside of me. Me, my mom and thousands like us are told that a woman has to adjust, compromise and keep the house together. And guess who tells us this – other women.

I am not blaming anybody. We are where we are as a society, and the only way is forward. I get that. I also get that women have come a long way. I also understand it is easy for me to make these statements because I am independent. Most women do not have this choice. I am also not blaming men – they know what they know, are learning, and every day it is getting better.

PLOT SUMMARY: A couple in love – a housewife and ambitious husband. Husband comes to know that he has not been awarded the position he wanted in his company and slaps his wife at the celebration party. Just one slap and the first time it has happened. Wife says – One slap brought into focus all the other items that were unfair in her life. And her husband, her mother and mother-in-law all tell her. ‘It was one slap – Let it go – Women have to adjust.’

I am outraged that this happens, and I know some of the people I know would give me the same advice. I feel helpless that there is no one easy solution for this.

We are all in this together. Women and Men. We have to re-imagine what is possible and make it happen. But, we limit ourselves by our perceptions of reality and what is possible. There is a fear to break the societal norms because that’s the world we know. We all have moments in our life when it tugs at our heartstrings – when it does act on it. That holds for me as well.

Maybe coronavirus is nature’s way of showing her outrage at what we did for ages. Will we learn?

My recommendation especially if you are a woman – watch it. It is available on amazon prime video.

Not Just Funny!

So, I have been watching a standup comedy show called – Comicstaan on Amazon Prime Video. This is an Indian show featuring Indian comedians. I stumbled upon it – watched the trailer, loved the jokes and got hooked to it.

I have watched other standup comedians too, mostly western and I enjoyed those, but there was something more endearing about Comicstaan. As I kept watching episodes, it dawned on me that it is the Indian context that I connected with at a deeper level sometimes even more so than the comedy.

Because I knew what they were talking about as I had gone through the experience myself. I believe that the punchlines are just a lot stronger in Hindi or other regional languages because that is what I heard growing up and some words aren’t translatable. You have to know them.

It was more of a nostalgic journey for me, as well. It brought back all the school memories, eve-teasing in India, local trains. The daily routine that I had and brought into sharp focus the sad/annoying parts of it in a humorous way – the beauty of stand up comedy. For example, when I was growing up, we had to do this thing called ‘March Past’. It was a squad of kids who would march around the school grounds and turn to look at the chief guest when we passed them. One of my favourite comedians – Kannan Gill did a 5-minute bit about it. To paraphrase, he said, ‘Which perverse chief guest wants to see kids sweat in the sun and look at him as they march past him?’ Authentic, made me wonder why we did that, but this is the beauty. You laugh at all the agony you went through.

It is also a source of connection for me. I shared this with my good friend and even my dad. And when I described it to them there was this moment of instant connection when we all went back to our school days – experienced the same thing – came back to the conversation feeling more connected.

It also brought me up to date with what has happened in India after I left. India now has the tallest statue in the world – called ‘Statue of unity.’ The state of ‘Allahbad’ is now called ‘Prayagraj’. And apparently, dick pics/casual sex/dating are the rage in India. It made me realize that India I knew and grew up in does not exist. I do not think I will be ‘at home’ in India the same way I was before – there will be a lot of catching up to do.

And of course, I laughed a lot. I chuckled and sometimes came close to rolling on the floor. When we can laugh at our follies – it is as close to nirvana or enlightenment that we can get to. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, and sometimes we need somebody else to point out that funny side.

How do you bring humor in your life?