Tag Archives: #success

Forgotten Story

We were lucky enough to meet a lovely couple friend of ours while at the wedding of a common friend in the charming city of Pas Robles. We literally ran into them and decided to have a very relaxing brunch. While the food did a great job of satisfying our appetite, it was the conversation which satisfied our souls.

What caught my attention was the quote that one of our friends mentioned – ‘Life is a story forgotten by its author’. The context was he was talking about his dad, who has senile dementia – so short term memory loss. And his dad was a greatly accomplished man – went to Harvard. And now in some ways, it is unfortunate (or fortunate) that he cannot remember his past. When he mentioned the line – it just caught my attention.

All of us do amazing things in our life for the sole reason that we all live the human predicament. And I am not talking about going to an Ivy school or winning Nobel prize – every one of us has a beautiful life whether we believe it or not is a different story. Each one of us has gone through a unique circumstance that has made us who we are, and the universe loves uniqueness – no two of us are alike. And we end up being attached to what we did or how the society expected us to define ourselves.

I went to London Business School – a prestigious MBA school if you move around in those circles. I was one of the youngest to get admitted to the school, which has a 25% acceptance rate. That means for every 100 students who apply only 25 get selected. And while we lived in London, it was a significant portion of my identity. London Business School defined who I was. And then we moved to Columbus, Ohio, and almost 99% of the people I met were not even aware of the existence of London Business School. I also had one gentleman ask me what an MBA was. I went through an identity crisis during the first few months. And it made me realize that I did not know who I was, honestly. Who I was – was a collection of the places I had been to and my accomplishments. Not having to define myself was freeing, made possible by not having to move in circles where I have to define who I am to gain a place in the societal hierarchy. I still use it when needed but knowing very well that it is not who I am.

We do all these great things and at the end of the day (I mean death) it does not matter. If we were to lose our memory today would what we have done till date matter? Then, the critical question is, what matters? Well, if we lost our memory, then the only thing that matters is the present moment – NOW. Who we are cannot be destroyed by erasing our memories – and most of us have barely started on the journey to understand who we are. Why wait for death or amnesia to begin finding out who we indeed are?

Who Am I?

What If I Poke You?

If you poke your finger in a lake or ocean what do you get? More Water.
If you poke your finger in a desert what do you get? More Sand.
If you poke your finger in a watermelon what do you get? More Watermelon.

If I was to poke you – what would come out of you? Now, I do not mean the blood and physical stuff but emotionally. What will pour out of you? Will it be love, anger, jealousy, fear, happiness? What do you want to come out of you? And what input are you giving yourself? Are the input and the output in sync?

Let’s say you love a person. If this person is right next to you – do you have love towards that person? What if the person is 3 miles away from you? What if the person is at the office? What if the person is on another continent? In all these situations you are capable of feeling loving towards the person regardless of the distance.

Now, let’s say this person dies – are you still capable of loving them? Yes. So the capability of love exists within you – it has nothing to with that person. That person is just the medium through which you express your love but the love comes from you and stays within you even of the object of love is dead. [This story has been taken from inner engineering program by Sadhguru]

It does raise an interesting question. Most of the time we are under the impression that we feel something because of some other person. Like if we are angry its because the other person did not do what we wanted them to do. We are jealous because they got something we wanted. We are sad because something did not happen the way we wanted. But if we are capable of generating love within us, then it means we are capable of creating other emotions within us too without the other person being involved. Now, you might argue that even though the other person is not there – their memory is what is responsible for the emotion.

Ok, but then does it mean that everybody who sees that person feels the same emotion as you. For example, you have a neighbor who gets on your nerves. The minute you see the neighbor your mood turns nasty, and you transform into a devil from an angel. So, this neighbor is responsible for that transformation. But, then does everybody who sees him feel the same way? No, his family must adore him. His mother might think he is god’s gift to the world. So, if other people are responsible for our emotions then how come we all don’t feel the same way towards that person.

We are responsible for how we feel. Nobody else can make us feel something. It is our choice whether we recognize it or not. We react to the story that we have told ourselves within our head. We are reacting to that story and not the person. Regardless of whether the other person is a saint or a robber – we have an image, perception of who this person is and that is what we react to.

If all our stories are filled with love then only love will pour out of you if I poke you.

What do you want to come out of you when poked?

Every Moment – Change

In the ten-day Vipassana course, Goenka Ji tells us lots of stories. My mind wandered over to the following story today.
Goenka Ji asks that the light bulbs we have in our houses – they appear to remain the same for a long time, if they do not change then why do we pay electricity bills?
Similarly, the candle flame appears to remain the same, but after a few minutes or hours it grows smaller in size, right?

Even though the candle flame and the light bulb appear to remain the same – they are changing every second. Every second the old flame dies, and the new one takes its place. But it happens so fast that our naked eye cannot see it – hence the illusion that the flame/light bulb remains the same.

Similarly, we change every moment too – that is why we grow old. The change that happens is not only at the physical level but also at a mental level. We are adapting every minute and at some point, the change accumulates, and it manifests itself. Whether, we like it or not, whether we believe it or not change is the only constant in our inner selves.

If change is the only constant then why do people find change so hard not only in ourselves but also in others? When I lived in London, I had a thriving social life, and that meant talking to a lot of people mostly about the same topics. I told my ‘story’ around the theme so much that the story became a reality and then a belief because I invested my emotional energy talking about it. For example, I was a devoted Bikram Yoga practitioner for two years, and that meant for two years the story was that I go to Bikram yoga every day – it was the staple fodder of all my conversations for those two years. And one day I woke up and decided that I have had enough – it was more work to relay the change in my story to others after that – because in thier and my mind I was going to do Bikram Yoga every day forever. And who knows how many of those two years was because of the story I was telling myself and others – if I did not have the story then maybe I might have stopped sooner.

Bikram Yoga is just one example, but this permeated in every aspect of my life. I felt bound by the stories I was telling others because it was harder to change them even if I had moved on from that old story. When I moved to Columbus, it was freeing because I could be who I wanted. And it gave me the space to explore, try and fail and adopt new realities.

I am not advocating that having social circle is a problem, all I am pointing out is that change is the constant and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves and others prevent us from making a change because the story continues to gain our emotional energy and becomes a prison from which we find hard to break.

What story will you break free from, today?

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.

Positive Intent

Have you ever woken up in the morning deciding to make someone’s else life hell? If yes, then it is better that you don’t get out of bed. Jokes aside, earnestly when have we wished to hurt another person. If you are like an average person then your thoughts will be focused more on you – I am already running late, I need to do a zillion things, traffic is going to be worse. Etc etc.

Then why do we assume somebody else would want to wish us to harm intentionally?

For example, you are driving to work, and somebody cuts you off – how often do we jump to the conclusion that he did it on purpose. When in reality the other driver might not even be thinking about you – all he wants to do is get to work like you.

Or, at work, if somebody forgets to do what you asked them to do – the immediate response is a judgment on his ability when in reality the server might be down, and he could not access the work he had done to bring it to you.

You go to a party, and the hostess takes one look at you and does a 180-degree turn. You think she does not like you, but it is possible she realized she just left her purse in the toilet.

Now, in most cases, we will never know what the other party intended but what is in control is our reaction to the situation. This is where you choose to feed the dog and not the wolf within you.

Dalai Lama, said, “Love and Compassion Are Necessities Not Luxuries, Without Them, Humanity Cannot Survive.” Look at the world around us, the circumstance in which we live – we need more of the positive energy, and we can do our bit towards it.

It doesn’t have to stop with us. If you have a friend or a companion, who jumps to negative in everything try and plant a good possibility in their minds. And of course, if somebody has decided to live in a world where everybody assumes harmful intent towards them then wish them well and make sure you protect your well-being when you interact with them.

All significant journeys start with one baby step. The first step here is to become aware of the fact that you are not assuming the positive intent. Most of the times our minds conditioned to see the worst in the people – that mental model needs to be modified. And for it to evolve first we need to know in which situations do we use that mental model – shine a light on it – and the very act of shining the light on it will at the very least decrease the intensity of our response or adverse reaction.

Another way to incorporate into our lives would be when you are preparing for an awkward conversation with a loved one or a colleague – make a conscious decision to assume that they have the best intentions. This would take out 80% of the stress from our lives due to such situations.

And the best way to learn something is to teach it – so if you can spread your light to another person, the light will only get bigger.

Aki The Great

I would like you to meet our Shiba Inu pup – Aki (which means Bright Prince in Japanese). He is two years old, and honestly, I don’t know what life was like without him. All the secret to success mantras like positive thinking, the power of thought Aki knows them all instinctively – the ones that I still have trouble grasping. This post is dedicated to Aki and his greatness.

1. Power of Thought: Aki lives in a world where his humans exist to give him treats. The minute I step into the laundry room the possibility of not getting a treat does not exist for him. He will just sit there, and in his eyes, he is 200% sure that he will get the treat and he usually does. I wish I had the same unwavering faith in the outcomes I want in my life.

2. No grudges: Aki has a very short memory. He has no recollection of things, so every day is like a groundhog day for him. This one time Aki got free from his collar and took Adam on a one-hour ride. And he was punished by cage time, but by evening he had forgotten that he was ever in the cage and he was as excited to see Adam as any other day. I, on the other hand, took two days go let go.

3. Serious Business: Aki is a watchdog of some sort. And he takes this very seriously – it doesn’t matter to him if I am giving him a treat at that time. A scrap of paper flapping in the corner of the road is serious business. If he thinks there is danger he is on it – tail straight, teeth bared. He means it – how much ever Adam and I might find it funny. Sometimes I wish I could go on with the things which I thought were serious, even if people around me were laughing.

4. Relax: Aki can relax at any time. There is nothing that stops him from going to sleep if he wants to. He can sleep immediately and get up instantly. There is no getting ready for bed for him or waking up in the morning. I am asleep, and now I am not. I wish I could switch off like that.

5. Unconditional love: This one I doubt if I will ever master in this lifetime. For Aki, there is no doubt about the love he has for us. It is so ingrained that it possibly doesn’t even cross his mind. We are a pack – end of story. Until I met Aki, I didn’t think I was capable of unconditional love or putting somebody else’s needs before me (Yes, I know I am selfish.) Aki neither earns any money or does any chores, but his humans serve him willingly – what a life!

I had heard about how great it is to have a dog but having a dog makes you realize that all that is true. There is so much simplicity and pure joy in his life that it is a miracle. You can follow him on instagram @ iamluckyaki.

Creations By The Moment

I sat down to write my blog, and I didn’t know what to write. Usually, I have an idea that I have been toying with and then its just a matter of letting it all flow on the paper. This time was a little different. I looked at my backlog, racked my brains, but nothing came up, so I decided to write about what I was experiencing – creating.

Some of you probably know I have a dance class that I teach and the first class of the year is on Jan 22nd, this coming Monday. I choreograph the songs in advance, and it is an exciting process. I scout the upcoming Bollywood movies for songs. And once I identify a song, I listen to it a dozen times, look at a few of the existing dance videos and then start choreographing it. The first time is a little sketchy – steps are random, they don’t quite fit. But the second time around it falls into place and voila! I have the song choreographed. Isn’t this amazing that I have a set of steps for a song which did not exist before – this is creativity. Creating something that did not exist before.

Much like writing this blog, it did not exist until I started putting words on paper. Similar to cooking too, where you get a bunch of ingredients to create something that did not exist before. Even at work where you create a document, process, product – it did not exist until you created it.

Life is no different – we are creating something that did not exist before – moment by moment.

Does it mean that we create the problems in our life too? Yes, like how you create joy in your life? For most of us, we are not aware of what we are building. For example, let’s say you are about to go and have an awkward conversation with a stakeholder – take a moment and notice your thoughts. Are they filled with loving-kindness towards this person or do you fear, anger towards this person? Depending on what views you have – the situation will present itself. If you approach the situation with Metta, then things will be amicable, but if you advance with animosity, you have set the stage for a confrontation. Now, when we say thoughts – it is not the superficial mind chatter we are talking about, we are talking about the feeling that you have deep down which you know how you are feeling. That sense will dictate how the conversation proceeds.

Now that we know we create our life and the situations in it – we can proactively create joy. If we believe that we still have negativity, then we postpone the meeting until we get to space where it is positivity. Even if we have no choice but to have the conversation awareness of your thoughts will lessen the intensity of the outcome.

We are indeed creating our life moment by moment. We can direct it how we want – let’s all go forth and create the life we want.

Courage – in daily life

“It is easy to fight a war, but it’s the day to day life that wears us out.” Like all things that have something to teach us this quote stayed with me. The words might not be the same, but it does convey the message. It is easier to tackle a big crisis than with the minutiae of our daily life.

For example, it is easier to work towards the project deadline than to say no to chocolates. A big goal helps us focus our energies – it is so big that we find it hard to see anything else. It is difficult to deal with the smaller things that keep chipping away at our willpower because they slip under the radar. Oh! Its just one chocolate we say, but that tiny hole is enough to break the dam.

What is courage really? Courage is required for us to climb everest but courage is the following little things as well.

– Courage is not participating in gossip about a person at the workplace.
– Courage is refusing to join in the complaining about the state of the world.
– Courage is refusing to eat chocolates or junk food when offered to you.
– Courage is going for another lap in the pool when your mind is saying no, but your body is ready.
(It is good to take action too but the first step is to recognize the behavior and stop encouraging it.)

And like everything else in the world, the golden mean applies here too. There is no wisdom in pushing yourself so hard that you faint while running as opposed to stopping when your body tells you. It is a delicate balance that comes with awareness and experience.

It is a skill that can be learned and not something that people are just born with. Like strawberry beer, this is an acquired taste. Good news is this that we can learn this in the school of life. We don’t have to go to university and take on a student loan to learn how to be courageous.

As you go about your day be aware of your thoughts, sensations and most importantly what your inner voice is saying. Every time we suppress the inner voice that is asking us to be courageous there is a frission in our soul. Note that moment when the crack appears and next time instead of accelerating the break just stay silent. Next time your colleagues/family start talking about somebody behind his or her back dare to remain silent or just walk away. Be brave and say no to the temptation to join in. If you are not able to resist yourself, then make a mental note that you tried. Even this small act of awareness feeds the little courage inside of you. And some more actions of this kind will feed the courage until its ready to reveal itself and act. Show itself; it will – courage that is.

And if each of one of us minds his or her own business and focuses the energy internally on strengthening the inner muscle of courage the world will be whole with a few fewer fissures.

No Need To Respond

A bunch of us were talking about our holiday plans for the year-end. The person sitting on my left was telling me about how he and his wife had gone to Brussels and spoke to this young girl who was traveling Europe with just a backpack. And I responded with, “I didn’t like Brussels, as it was frigid and all that seemed worth seeing there was the Manneken Pis.”

Now, was there genuinely a need for me to respond? Did he ask me about my experience in Brussels? There are a lot of such situations where I respond unnecessarily. How many times in conversations with friends and family I have ignored what they are saying and just butted in with what I think is more important. Most of the time I am talking to myself even in a conversation. The intent with which I have a conversation is one to reply not to understand.

Why do I respond when there is no need? There are many reasons. Primarily, I believe it is my need to show that I know more – a little bit of ego. Since I live in Columbus, I think I need to prove that I don’t belong to Columbus. Secondly, it is just lack of listening. I am not hearing, genuinely listening to what the other person is saying. Lastly, its because I am not intentional in my discussions. I am not sure myself on what the purpose of the conversation is and what my role is? Are they looking to pass the time, seeking advice, share good news or just need somebody to listen.

What are the few ways I can change this attitude?
1. Set the intention: If I even thought for a few seconds in any conversation about what my role is in the conversation it will be a lot better. If I am overtly aware that the other person is just filling their time, then I can focus my energies elsewhere. Or, If I determine that my purpose in this conversation is to set direction then I can respond accordingly.
2. Be Selfish: Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you just repeat what you know. If you listen then you might actually learn something new.” Next time take the learning approach to the conversations.
3. Take small steps: If I decide to do the above in all my conversations, I will be exhausted. I might end up doing more harm with no progress. The next baby step is to start with one or two conversations a day and then build on that.

Silence is also an acceptable response and most of the times a better one.

Communities and Creation

Last Saturday our two year old pup – Aki decided he wanted to experience freedom. He wiggled free from his collar and went for an hour jaunt around the neighborhood. My husband, Adam trudged behind, coaxing Aki to come back. Aki is a shiba inu and they are known for their stubbornness so he kept going. Fortunately, Adam ran into another couple walking their dogs,he explained what happened and asked them to watch out for Aki if they see him. And Aki decided to say hello to their dogs and they managed to catch him. Adam and I are grateful to them for catching Aki.

It is easier for dog owners to relate to each other as they all go through similar experiences. Even though the dog owners do not explicitly share their experiences they can relate to each other. In some ways the community of Dog Owners just exists – nobody had to create it. I was telling a stranger in dog park about how Aki has become more rebellious since he turned two. He responded, “Maybe he is just being a teenager.” For somebody who does not own a dog this conversation might not make a lot of sense but the dog owners know that for them their dogs are just like children.

We all know the quote that “friends are the family we choose”, I believe that the same thing exists for communities or social circles as well. Lot of people ask me how is London different from Columbus. Personally, the main difference is that I felt at home in London and I never realized it until I left London. In London everybody is from outside, from somewhere else. Every other person is talking in their own language, different cuisines – even the airport in London has welcome in different languages. And that itself is a community of people who don’t belong anywhere – global nomadic community. Adam and I feel at home there because we don’t really belong anywhere too.

Can you imagine a world where we believe that humanity or rather the human condition itself is a community.Our existence on earth as a human being goes beyond the race, religion and other barriers we have created. We all face heartbreaks. We experience the same emotions of happiness, sadness, jealousy, envy. These are more powerful binding agents than what kind of dress you wear or language you speak. We all go through the same phases in life – birth, baby, kids, young adults, teenagers, adults, family, old age and death. Instead of finding commonness here we look for other factors like skin color, religious beliefs as something to bind us. Just because I was born in India and Adam in America does not mean we experience different anger or joy. It is the same.

I am an utopian – I believe in an ideal world. And I fail to understand why humanity as a community is termed as Utopian. When I share my views with people the usual response is – “In an ideal world – yes.” Humans understanding each other as a human and relating to each other as human is just table stakes not an ideal world. This is how we should all live – but then maybe this is what is Utopia.