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

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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

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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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Life, Transformation

R.I.A #Day 17

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Yesterday was my daughter’s last day in this term, which also meant that her holidays had started. “I’m feeling excited about the holiday, but sad about leaving my friends behind.”, she told me in confidence. She is indeed very excited about the holiday, much more than my wife. Both of them love breaks and make elaborate plans. I would be joining them in 2 weeks time, and already I’ve started to get a bit of concern.

For me the subject of holidays is two distinct emotions. On one end, I’m excited about the good times and meeting new people. And on the other, I’m develop anxiety, being concerned about losing time and opportunity. Anyone who knows me, would know how I adore my family and spend lots of time together. Whether it is organizing for a big together or handling the kids, these are precious moments that stay with me for long. But then there are distractions.

Though I enjoy these treasured moments, I feel that it is not complete and the joy won’t last long. Since I’m in process of a setting up a new entity, the more I think of it, the more I feel that the new baby needs more attention. By going on vacation I would deny it of my precious attention. Though, this is being like workaholic, but it is not that. It is not just me, I see a number of friends going through the same seesaw of emotions. In this http://www.world, we want everything to be available at every time and everywhere, and this expectation includes us.

Relaxation Induced Anxiety (RIA) is not an uncommon term. Relaxation induced anxiety happens when activities that are supposed to be calming trigger worrisome thoughts that have a snowball effect into a general anxiety attack. It could be worrisome thought while you are watching a movie, or when you are sitting comfortably on your beloved sofa and as you enjoy the warmth, you feel as though you have tons of job unfinished and as if your destiny is dependent on it.

Because, we are connected so much to technology, we can be free. The email updates will keep seeking our attention, the calendar reminders will keep popping up and not to forget the few phone calls that you may get while you are on vacation. Pressures play up on your mind. Working makes you feel valuable, indispensable and boosts your self esteem. Taking these away is hard and you are bound to feel insecure. Fortunately, this is not as chronic as the others.

A couple of years back, when I employed and was going to go off on a long vacation, I spoke to all the stakeholders, including my team. On the last day, I spoke to my boss, who was also my mentor. I told him that there was a lot on the plate for the time I would be gone. He smiled and said jokingly, “We will gradually forget you. And will replace you.”. He saw the tension on my face and laughed again. I laughed too, and said that I would be reachable if he needed me. The lesson that I got was that there is no point in worrying, if there is a good system in place. As leaders, we need to strive for that.

Lesson learnt and have been practicing two basic rules for my holidays.

  1. 100% present where you are: Therefore, if on the beach, I would be with my favorite drink and enjoying the sunshine with Priya and Dhriti. I avoid taking my phone. And for the same reason, I hate taking photos, because it makes me use the device.
  2. Allocate time: If I do have to plug in, I either do that early in morning, before everyone wakes up or late at night when every one is sleeping. The work time shouldn’t eat into the holiday time. Sacrosanct.

Though I adhere to these rules with some struggle, I have a feeling that I’m getting there, soon.

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Life, Transformation

Proof #Day 16

100% (1)

I was humming the opening of Bob Dylan’s song today, on the pavement. I was on my way to Spinney’s, which is in my neighborhood.

How many roads must a man walk down,
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail,
Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, and how many times must a cannonballs fly,
Before they are forever banned?

As I walked on the paved, with my hum, I noticed a group of teenagers. Slight distraction to boast about my abilities, people around me would be glad that I was humming because last time when I sang, that day, I was banned from future social gatherings. There was nothing special about today’s Thursday, it was a usual buzz in flashy Dubai downtown district, where Burj Khalifa outshines everything around. Every time, I look at it, I’m reminded of tall human ambition. Most glorious sight on earth. It wasn’t the first time that I saw the teenagers, they would be there every Thursday, with no parents and having the first taste of independence and adolescence. As I watch them, I couldn’t fail to notice the latest fashion or gadget, and at the same time I would get a feeling that I’m definitely born in a wrong generation. Boys and girls had his/her own individual hairdo, music and banter. They were having fun.

The most usual about them, a burning white stick between their fingers; the one that is lit is passed across the group. They wouldn’t be more than 14-15 years old and seem to be enjoying the moment. I could see something big going up in smoke.

It was for the first time that I could witness to a deep apathy within me and my inability to reverse any of these happening. I couldn’t go up to them and tell them not to smoke and like every other day, I let it pass. How does it concern me? I’m stranger in a strange land. I realized, I wouldn’t feel for them unless I would see in that group, anyone I knew.

How much proof is needed for us to start acting?

The cigarette packet has a vivid, horrid looking image on the pack, and says “Smoking is injurious to health.” CDC (center for disease control and prevention) quotes following statistics…

  1. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
  2. Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Illegal drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Motor vehicle injuries
    • Firearm-related incidents
  3. More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
  4. Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
  5. Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
  6. The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in the U.S.

However, someone, in the shopping counter selling cigarettes wouldn’t have these statistics handy. Or would be short on his/her sales target. Or would have put the best foot forward to service the customer. My rational thought fails, probably I’m trying to put more reasoning in it than required. It only a weekend and kids are having a good time, would you do the same. Better thought prevailed and I walked on. Rationality for an irrational universe. Yet again, I failed to stand up for a cause; if I were to test my agreeable  quotient, I would have score my highest ever. I didn’t want to be embarrassed socially. I better stay silent than speak up.

How much proof is needed for us to start acting?

How any times have we found ourselves to be in such situation, where we feel from within, yet fail to act? Family, work or otherwise. How does it matter, unless it happens to me? How many times our supreme intelligence fails to show up?

As I encounter these absurd thoughts, I hum the last few words of the Bob Dylan’s song. Ironically it says,

The, answer my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

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Life, Transformation

Fear #Day 15

5

I was on a long call this afternoon today. As I was driving, I was in midst of intense discussion with two overseas colleagues. I was on my phone,

Fortunately, there was no one else in car with me. However, I was not alone. I could feel that there were at least 3 parts of me at this time. My 1/3 was the driver, who was watching out for cars, ensuring that car was following the traffic laws. The driver was very vigilant, but the second 1/3, the supervisor, was critical of his actions. “Hey you missed giving the side indicator while changing the lane.” The supervisor clearly was not happy with proceedings. And then there was the worker, negotiating on phone while the driver and supervisor were having a go at each other.

Normally the drive to Al Ghurair center in Deira would take about 40 minutes, today I didn’t have a clue.

Maybe the time taken was far more, since I was still on a call. While all this action was going on, I parked the car, in a parking slot that I could find, and I don’t remember; I had a had time on my way back. The simple truth was that the supervisor approved it and therefore the driver parked it, while the worker was still at it. None of these guys had a clue.

While the conversation was still on, I had to get out of the car and get to a hotel for a meeting. So I, take the escalator, get out of the parking lot and go on the road. The hotel was on the other side of the road and therefore it involved going over a zebra crossing. But, my worker  was still in his act, trying to find a better argument. While in this zombie state, I could see that the traffic was considerably more in number, and as I look towards my right, something in me tells me it is not right. I look again and in the nick of time retract, and feel the presence of the passing truck, Ford Raptor. Thank dear God for the sound it makes. I immediately get off the call, I will call you back, I say.

If it weren’t for that sound, I wouldn’t have realized that the truck was within the collision distance and threatening the lives of many, not considering my own. It was a time to reflect.

How many times, have I known the the dangers of using a mobile while driving, and still to this day, my first reaction is not a denial. It hasn’t happened to me yet, so therefore for just one last time. I’m sure nothing would happen. What I forget is that all it takes is one incidence to wipe out all your previous statistics, Naseem Nicholas Taleb, and his celebrated book, Black Swan, explains this beautifully. Citing of one black swan in Australia, disapproved the truth held for so long that the swans are only white.

My mind knows everything, has infinite intelligence and represents flawless craft. Still, it hasn’t prevented me from talking on mobile on road. Driving while using mobile on the road is equivalent to drunk driving. Texting is worst, a study shows that a driver is 23 times more likely to encounter accident than other, because the driver spends a large proportion of his attention on mobile screen than on the road. Somehow, observations and instructions from supervisor does make sense, however hasn’t translated into a behavior. Not yet.

Fear is a very powerful emotion and has one of the most profound impact, provided we use it correctly. To the wrath of my contrarians, who would like to be fearless and would like to extract every ounce of fear you possess, I would disagree. I would like to be left with some amount of fear, because fear is one of the greatest motivator. Fear is the best  catalyst you can find, like a nitrous boost for A Fast & Furious Movie car and with the ability to propel you in the outer-space. If you use fear properly, it can change behavior.

Running was not a natural one-day-out-of-bed event. One of the evening, I realized that I’m becoming a burden with a oversized belly. My father was similar, and had a heart problem, which runs in our family. And what if I succumb to it, what would happen to my family? Gripped with this fear, I realized that there was no better way to get as far away as possible from the situation than running. The fear of losing health and haggardness drives me up every morning, to wake up during hours of the day, when there couldn’t be anything more comfortable than the bed. And then it translated to eating healthy, so that I could run better and lose weight and further on, my gym routine etc. But the truth is it all started from fear, fear of not being around for my family.

We do start our year with big motivation and great resolve, and what I would add to it is a layer of fear. Those few things which you definitely want to do, use fear as the task master with a whip (a.k.a, PK Simmons of Whiplash). I have heard a 1000 Rs. bet, which has been successful in changing behaviors. So the method goes like like this, with someone whom you trust the most, say your mentor, you give him Rs.1000 (the more the better) and commit that if you develop a specific habit, you will ask back for the money, and if you don’t, he/she gets to keep the money. The chances are likely that you would end up changing your behavior because of fear of losing the money (fear of poverty).

The only word of caution here is that, if you fear always, the chances are likely that you may become oblivious to it or it may consume you. You can’t be always on the dark side and you would have to ultimately start enjoying the new found love. You have to start appreciating the new attention that you would get once you lose weight. If you let fear overpower you, it won’t be sustainable, it would be stressful, destructive and self deprecating. You will become a maniac. Use fear well.

For me, today was an eye opener. And if I’m not able to change my resolve of not using the phone, while I’m on the road (driving or walking), I’m going to be using the AED 1,000 wager.

Any takers for that?

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