Life, Transformation

Connectedness #Day 23

EVERY BALL COUNTS (2)

It was my last day in Mumbai, as a person seeking admission to a college. My dear father had gone back after the formalities were done. Big city, much bigger than I was used to. That day I roamed alone, a day alone with the city, where I would spend the next 6 years of my life. I decided to take a double decker, and got on to my favorite seat, the front row. I could see everything on the road, as a driver would. I could see the sea and Haji Ali on one side and skyscraper and traffic jam on the other. I would be lost, the city is too big, I thought. I felt like a dot on the planet, while the horns blew in the background, red lights flashed in front of me and BEST bus revved in heat. I felt lonely. The bus conductor asked me for the tickets. And he also told me the stop that I would need to get down. He tried to explain me in as much as he could in his Marathi accent.

I was on my way to catch the train from Dadar central station, exactly two days after my father had left. He had an important business to attend to. He filled me up with every essential. I was a grown up man, enough to travel alone. And yet, I felt small, the city seemed too big. My only luggage was a small bag, which I was holding close to me, to mitigate any mishap. I had also put my wallet on my front pocket, which otherwise I would use my hip pockets. Bombay is very crowded, you should be careful about the pickpockets, I was told, you would never know when your wallet disappears especially when you are in a crowd. The eventuality of losing my wallet was scary. How would I reach back home, better keep close attention on my items. I was very careful. The man in front of me kept reading the newspaper and the one standing next to me, kept looking at me. I offered him my seat when my stop came, he smiled and nodded in approval when his patience paid off.

I was on Dadar station, it was evening, didn’t know what time it was. I had a bag and wallet in my front pocket. I had to cross over to the other side to get to the train and as a matter of fact, I looked down. Not an inch of space on the platform. I could only see people everywhere. It was the evening time when every one is rushing back home. Like a ant colony, I felt small again. Probably, I won’t survive. In the midst of this chaos, there was a sudden realization that I needed to get to the train; I could afford to miss it. I wanted to get away from Mumbai, as fast I could. While I was walking, I asked a person who was walking by about time. “It is 6.30.”, he didn’t look at me and walked on. He was in hurry, to catch his local train, but had heard me. He helped me as much as he could in the time he had. I remember he also said, “Get off the last platform to get to Dadar Central.” I didn’t ask for his last piece of his advice, but I guess he saw my luggage. He walked on and didn’t look back or expected anything in return. I never met him again and he left memories that made me fond about the city & people.

My first few recollections of Mumbai were of concern, full of anxiety and sense of loneliness. And it took just about few days to settle in. The people, the food, the language, exuded warmth. I found spirit of people inimitable, it was grand and connected to each Mumbaikar. The culture and love is extended to strangers and the new. I miss Mumbai, so much so that when I went back to Delhi, the place I have spent longest time, I felt shallow. I couldn’t identify with people, I took me 3 years to feel at home in my  home city. We seemed to be running all the time in Delhi.

We were a group of 9 people in a yoga session and none of us know each other. My first exercise was to approach every single person in the group and tell him, I belong to you. Didn’t make sense to me at all. We did this every day of our course. Sincerely, even by the last day, I wasn’t able to truly say, I belong to you. We would leave after a week and none of us would connect again. We do belong to each other, even if it is for a fleeting microsecond. But it may take many years for us to realize it. I haven’t realized it yet.

And it is difficult, and takes courage to say, I belong to you, and stand by it. It doesn’t come naturally, as it comes for our siblings, parents or children. These boundaries, in our minds, are created by us and difficult to break. Irrespective, connectedness is one of the strongest virtues, that empower us and give us hope and strength. For the sake of simplicity we would just let it be. If it doesn’t affect me directly, it is none of my business.

Kids understand it the best. They have amazing 6th sense to know who is genuine and feel connected to them. First few interaction with a new person would tell you how genuine you feel with each other. There is an invisible bond amongst all of us, essential like air; we will feel suffocated if there isn’t any.

And it is all so powerful. Connected people make good families, teams, society and nation. Where each one respects the existence of the other, where there is a dignity of life in every individual, where there is strong connectedness.

Do you feel it? Slowly, one day at a time is all it takes to truly and sincerely say, “I belong to you.”

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Life, Transformation

How to become a millionaire in 10 steps #Day 22

EVERY BALL COUNTS (1)

A humble submission and resolution for next half of the new year.

  1. I won’t read any self help books
  2. I won’t read any blog or article that begin with headers such as “How to become a millionaire in 10 steps.”

This is at the cost of the blog not being popular or my inability to simplify life and experiences for the mass majority. I guess we lack patience and the rigor to go through the drill. Or possibly, the life too short to be enjoyed as a journey. I feel, we all have unique experiences and each of which makes this planet a better place to live in. If there was a formula, commercialization of this idea wouldn’t have been a problem and it would been biggest funded venture capitalists startup.

Such articles follow a typical methodology

  • They start with a successful personality and trace his life. Put in perspective all his/her hardships etc.
  • They look at few common traits such as courage, optimism, risk taking, etc and comment on the traits. “Taking risk” would be by far the most citied term. And encourage you to take risk and follow path.
  • Celebrate and equate “Risk taking” to amount of wealth generated, the most respected symbol for success.

Reading autobiographies are better because at least it is first hand. At the same time, we are assuming that all the facts mentioned in the memoir are true and verified. Whatever be the consideration, the success outweighs any other factor. By another argument, “Failure”, though a celebrated word in our context, won’t be seen as a successful plot; will have few takers. Have you read memoirs of anyone who has been failure? Probably none, because the chances are more likely that such stories wouldn’t have been written. Though such people in normal life would have demonstrated the same set of traits, courage, optimism and risk taking, however there exists a fine line between success and failure.

I was inspired by one of the section in Malcolm Gladwell’s book that I’m reading, David & Goliath, underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants. He dedicates a section to a Hollywood personality, who had been very successful. He began working very early in his life because his father would ask him to fund half of everything, pester him if he left the light switch on, “We are paying for you being lazy.” His father had a scrap metal business, where he worked and swore that he would never get back there again. So left with no choice he had to chart is own journey of being financial independent. His father had 3 sons who were motivated and did well in their work. I’m sure, few would be interested in the father’s side of the story. And even after reading, they may wonder where is it going. Unfortunately, what is learnt can never be taught.

Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught- Oscar Wilde

Mr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his book, The Black Swan, calls such phenomenon as the Silent evidence. He cites the story of drowned worshippers to further elaborate. One Diagoras, a non-believer in Gods was presented with a tablet which had portraits of worshipper, who prayed and survived shipwreck. Diagoras asked a very pertinent question, “What about the people who prayed and then drowned?”. The chances are likely that the dead worshippers won’t be available to pose as model or share the experience. To establish the truth we will take the part of reality that appeals to us the most. According to Mr. Taleb, the neglect of the silent evidence is the endemic to the way we study comparative talent, particularly in activities that have winner-take-it-all-attitude.

Phoenicians are credited to have invented the first written script. They were merchants and need a method to measure commerce. As it is said about the Egyptians, who used tablets to keep a record of treasury. The utility of these method was to facilitate the understanding and not just rely on memory. This wasn’t art, plain simple arithmetic. It served a purpose, it helped us count. It was real.

We may enjoy what we may see, but there is no point in reading too much, because we don’t see the full picture. The only complete picture that we have is of ours, which maybe ordinary, but is true and real. It requires courage to accept it as is.

And there couldn’t be better learning about success than from our own. Each day and every hour and the celebration of the ordinary, the mundane and the inconsequential. It is the most influential story that you can ever write.

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Life

Goal #Day 21

EVERY BALL COUNTS

The England Croatia match would be probably one of the worst semi finals. I was in a sports bar watching a match, where the English fans were outnumbered, not in their voice or spirit. I wish their players played like one.

Good part about being from a country which never makes it to world cup football is that I can support any team I like and at the same time I can change my favorite. England clearly started off as favorites, with the star players amongst whom, Harry Kane would be considered one of England’s all time soccer stars. I have found England to be a one man army. I can recall only single players from memory – Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, and Wayne Rooney, with no recollection of any other member. However, this time, was different. England had few other players, other than Harry Kane, such as Marcus Rashford, Dele Alli, and could be considered one of the better England teams. I though they had a chance.

Sadly, England gave the game away, they didn’t go after the ball. They lacked finishers spirit & celebrated victory too early.

I started watching the game, when England had already scored the first goal, brilliant free kick by Kieran Trippier in the 5th minute. Thankfully, I was happy I didn’t see the goal, else I could have changed my mind about England. The English team did pass the ball and had about 4 great chances. Right fully, they could have been 3-0 in the first half. However, it felt like, England had already won the game in their minds. None of the players went after the ball and trying to score another. They didn’t have pace, they didn’t have the spirit. The game went on in insipid fashion; I was only hoping that the game doesn’t go into extra time, which would have been extra waste of time. Credit to the England team, they dominated the first half of the game.

On the other hand, Croatia was much spirited. It took them some time to get their act together, but you could see that they didn’t give up. This was their second semis and they wanted to make it a special one. Croatia team had many misses, but kept on creating more opportunities. Croatia in the 68th minute with Ivan Perisic scored the equalizer. Though their attack was not as fast as French, but they kept the momentum. The English team didn’t see it coming and still played the same way. Harry Kane missed an important pass, he couldn’t see the ball come. Lazy body language.

In the extra time, the better team triumphed. Croatia won 2-1 and deserved every bit of the game. They went after every opportunity, after every ball.

Maybe France will win the world cup, but today was Croatia’a day and the victory of their never dying spirit.

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Life, Transformation

Humility #Day 20

100% (8)

I had been following with the gentleman’s office for almost 10 days, and I got his direct number eventually. Menon was known to be a tough professionally and very straight in talk. I had never met him, and this was my first interaction. Menon’s background indicated that he had been at helm of affairs for a considerable period and therefore a decision maker. He was an important contact and I was convinced that my product and service could deliver him incremental results. My enthusiasm showed in my fast delivery of introduction. He told me to call him back. And so he did the third time.

These interaction were during the Ramadan days, when work hours are short. In Dubai, people are relatively easy at work during these days. There is no pressure, because a large number of the day is spent in prayers. I was determined to call Menon again and so I did. And this time to my surprise, I did get his attention. I again introduced what I did. While speaking this time I got a sense that I very little time to make an impression. And what I did that day goes as a lesson for the rest of my life, not to be repeated. Absolutely.

Menon (sounding hasty): So what do you want?

Me: I need to meet you to explain about our service. I have studied your business and I believe we can deliver you results.

Menon (sounding still hasty): What is your summary?

Me: I can send you the opportunity gaps that we have found, which may help us increase your business.

Menon (completely losing it): You don’t have to tell me what I need to do.

Me: Mr. Menon, I haven’t even started to give you recommendations. Moreover, you can use it only when you have debated internally. It is your business.

Menon: No I don’t need your recommendation or your business. I hope this is the last interaction that we are having.

Me (completely losing it): It is your loss. I hope you do well in your business.

I remember my last emotions; it was anger, contempt and hatred for Menon. How can he deny me without listening to me? He is so fixated. And the thoughts went on and on. Clearly, Menon’s rigidity had made me upset and I was very livid. And it was also true that I had lost the business and an opportunity which may have resulted in large contract. It was not just opportunity loss, it was a deeper regret.

It was a habit that costed me tremendous opportunity and I decided never to do that again. I reacted and that was incorrect. When Menon told me that He didn’t want me tell him what he needed to do, I started hating him for his loftiness. I was saw him as abusing his position of power that he held in this relationship. I felt like a victim, which is where I was defeated.

When you are consumed by emotions, it is not the best time to make a decision. Reaction is even worse. There are more chances that you would regret it later. No matter how bad the situation is, the humility counts.

In the interaction with Menon, and in the heat of the moment, I ignored the good and let the untamed part of me take control. I wished I were more calm and requested if there was another time that I could call back. Maybe he would have thanked me later when he would have witnessed an increased business.

I also lost my focus on the outcome, which was to do business. And this was the larger worry. When we lose focus of the merit of discussion and get governed by the emotions, no one wins. The emotions shouldn’t decide the outcome, you should. Maybe I should have paused and kept the speaker off my ears.

Or maybe I should have just listened. There are many possible alternatives, but the reality stood unchanged.

After few day I shared this incident with my friend. He laughed. I laughed too, I felt lighter. Lesson learnt and time to move on.

Maybe I should write a book with the usual bestseller title: The Subtle Art of Not Taking Things Too Seriously.  

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Life, Transformation

Reality #Day 19

100% (6)

I fancy cooking, at least I used to. I still cook, occasionally with my daughter and wife. It is exactly in that order, first with Dhriti and then with Priya, in reference to the control that I have. In the case of latter, it is none.

One perfect afternoon, Dhriti and I decided to prepare Pizza, right from the start. We picked up our favorite Italian cuisine author, Giorgio Locatelli’s book, Made at Home. Perfect and apt as the book title suggests. Giorgio has the tradition of making Pizzas for his entire staff on Saturdays, a simple Margherita pizza and calls it The Saturday Pizza. It was Saturday and therefore it had to be Pizza. Few ingredients were missing, which we shopped from nearby grocery store. Yeast was the most important, which was our first purchase. Giorgio’s recipe mandated that we get the dough prepared right. The dough was to be kept at least of 8 hours in refrigerator. The following day it was to be kept out for at least 2 hours. The dough looked good, when it came out of refrigerator, we had our first step right.

Margherita pizza is one of the easiest preparations and the only one that Dhriti has most of the times. It was a new acquired taste for my 8 year old. Therefore, deciding which pizza to make was not a problem. Rolling the pizza or making the sauce was also not the problem. The problem as that we were using the oven for the first time. We, father and daughter, were making the pizza for the first time. And we were very confident, so much that we could taste our pizza before it went in. Our pizza was decorated with garnishing no less than a Christmas tree. It was our first time and we spared no effort. The smell of the first pizza of it’s kind had filled the room, leaving us wondering when would it come out. We set the time for 14 minutes at 220 degrees temperature and by 13th minute the father and daughter were on the table waiting for their magnum opus to arrive.

It looked ok from the top, a bit black, could have had lesser garnishing, but the bread was definitely thin. My first bite confirmed the suspicion. The pizza did lacked taste and was hard to chew. It’s a good pizza, I told Dhriti and also myself. I expected the words to work magic, like making dead alive. Internally, I was consoling myself, Don’t worry, Dhriti will find it good.

No Dada, it doesn’t doesn’t taste like Pizza we had.

This was real, 100% truth, undeniable reality. I wanted it to be different. I wanted Dhriti to have liked the pizza, because we had followed all the process and proportions. It was meant to be a perfect pizza. The reality was what it was, but I didn’t accept it. I wanted reality to be different, what I wanted it to be. This is not fair, a learning again. 

Our inability or unwillingness to see things the way they are, maybe is the single most important cause for dissonance. Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. The root for this bias lies in our emotions. We can’t take less perfect version of ourselves, because it would make us wrong. We would rather be right than wrong, emotionally being wrong is a heavy tax to pay. And lets face it, it is the most difficult thing to say that I was wrong.

How do we get rid of our myside bias? By developing a value system of acceptance, without judgement, with emotional equanimity. By daily practice of seeing things as they really are. And by not putting our egos in everything. This will take tremendous amount of time, practice and denying social acceptance of our acts.

After our first namesake pizza, we made pizza again, under the supervision of masterchef, Priya, who knew the art of making the secret sauce, the perfect tomato, the melted mozzarella, hint of basil, served hot. Italian King Umberto 1 and his queen Margherita would be proud that we were able to restore the sanctity of queen’s name in our second attempt. By the way the Margherita Pizza truly represents the Italian flag, as described by Giorgio.

The pizza was really good, genuinely.

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Habits, Life, Transformation

Fail #Day 18

100% (5)

It does come together. Everything. The power of faith, was the unseen force that I realized in the end. The reaffirmations do work, when every single cell in your body is aligned, to the same destiny.

It had been a tough 4 weeks practice. I had lost most of the games. It was hot and peak summer. We didn’t have air conditioning those day. Table tennis is considered one of the fastest games, because it requires sharp reflex and focus. My brother and I would go and practice in a small club, which had good players. Our father wanted to us to move a notch up in the game. From a nice cozy environment, the arena had changed to much bigger and we found ourselves like a tiny fish in an ocean. The players in the club worked hard and competed fervently to squeeze out every single point possible. I was at the receiving end and hated it.

Sports is a great teacher, and I was lucky enough to have this discipline in our family. My father played cricket until very long, as did many of my uncles. My father would compare sports to a real life, an arena that prepares you hard. It makes you humble and accept defeat and failure. If you played a sport, you would know that the real life is about not surrendering after a failure. And standing up again to give it another go.

And I was in one of the district level matches, one of the many that I had attended. There were new players that I had to play with. I was almost certain that I would face a very tough competition and may get knocked out by 2nd round or so. Since it was my participation money at stake, the only option left was to to try and with same intensity as during my practice.

It didn’t go that bad, I lost in the final. Thank goodness, that I lost. It was more disappointing than losing in the second round. And I got my money back.

I still enjoy playing table tennis today and when I get into the flow, I’m quite relentless. Thanks to my loss in final, I have kept playing in some way or the other.

Failure is a good proof of our limitations. If we give in, it would mean that we are literally limited in our virtue. Subliminally, we tend categories events as good and bad; the easy way to predispose our minds and actions. When we create these silos, we ourselves have become our greatest obstacle. We narrow down our definition of possibility. We limit our mind set. We are less open to experiments and become fixated. In doing so, you may never fail, but you will also never grow.

One of Robin Sharma’s favorite quote is Rumi’s and is beautiful…

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”

Embracing new shouldn’t be a chore. Periodically, we would need to step out of our comfort zone. It may also sound mundane, but this is where the greatest potential lies. When we challenge ourselves, we expand our universe. We define new possibilities. Individuals with such growth mindset are most happy, when they are learning, creating a value for themselves. Not when they are flawless.

Do try something new today, which you would be scared of or not comfortable doing. And do it for at least 66 days. You may be surprised to find a new you.

By the way, I still have to win a final in Table tennis and have a feeling I’m getting there.

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Life, Transformation

Time #Day 18

100% (4)

Some of the best lessons that I have imbibed, is from my daughter Dhriti. She is 8 years old, shy and curious. If I were to relate her to a character in Tom and Jerry, she would be the Rainbow dash, from My Little Pony, because she doesn’t like Tom & Jerry comparatively; she is more comfortable with the choices that she understands. She is very specific with questions. Short, crisp, which only get complimented with equally specific answers. If she found my answer vague, there would be more questions, until she is satisfied. If I devoid her of attention, she has ways to end my distraction. Believe me, you wouldn’t like her to ask questions. Like other kids, she is very persistent.

The following incidence happened just before she left to Hong Kong to see her new born cousin sister, Raina. She was mighty excited and had prepared an elaborate shopping list, which was seeking closure.

Dhriti: Dada, when are we going to buy the gifts for Raina?

Me: Sometime, when Mamma and I are relatively free.

Dhriti: When will you and Mamma be free?

Me: Weekend is more likely to be a free time for us. Thursday too, if I have time.

Dhriti: So, when will we go?

Me: We will go on Friday.

Dhriti: When on Friday?

Me: We will go at 11.30, so that we can have lunch outside.

Dhriti: Yippee!!

Dhriti doesn’t take answers that leave her guessing, she needs to have a specific date and time confirmed to her. How easy and simple way to manage activities.

But our actual life is different. When I reflect back on few business conversations, I find many lose ends. There are sometimes no specifics, when or where. This defines the difference between intending to do something and actually doing it. When we put the task on paper (by writing it down) and marking it on the calendar, we increase the likelihood of completing the task. The converse is also true. The days I found empty and found that I have accomplished little, that was the day, when I didn’t plan enough for the day. The task and goals were not on my calendar.

It is a very simple exercise and it works.

There was a research done with a two groups of people; this was a group of people who were trying to get rid of a negative habit. The first group was told to write an essay every 6 PM for next 60 days on a certain day. The second group was given a choice – they could write the essay either before 6 PM or after 6 PM with no specifics. Which group do you think faired well. 75% of the first group was able to write essays, where as none of the first group wrote. When we schedule time, we commit to ourselves the goal of completing it.

If we give ourselves, vague instructions, we will get vague results.

In my earlier post, Predawn, I emphasized the need for a good start of the day. The day starts with meditation, with specific goals that one would need to achieve. In order to further build on it, these goals would need to be written down in a journal in terms of days, weeks/months & year. In addition, they would need to be reviewed daily. I do that in the evening, with my night audit, the purpose of this 66 day exercise. (More about that in my next post.) Just these two acts of writing the points and reviewing them, has the power of changing your perspective and therefore, life.

My good friend, Deepak, further elaborated my point. He said,

When you write it down, you have already accomplished the task or your goal. When you put in the calendar (define timelines), you will get the answer, when.

Therefore make no commitments which you cannot fulfill. When you do, write it down and ensure that it is marked on your calendar.

It is the simplest life changing technique.

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