Month: January 2011

Being balanced

“Honesty, without gentleness, is nothing but brutality … Gentleness, without honesty, is nothing but sentimentality.”  – Fr. Emmerich Vogt

As individual each of us has our own personal views on a number of issues, happenings and current events.  We also have our own views about people, politics and problems that abound around us. Yet when it comes to expressing ourselves, the vast majority of us would articulate views that would be acceptable to those around us. Yet there are times when we may get very passionate about the point of view and we could suddenly become brutally honest perhaps to our own surprise too. Other times, when the issue is very tricky and perhaps forces us to restrain ourselves, we would be extremely diplomatic and make polite noises without really committing ourselves.  In all the cases, what we are really doing is attempting to being balanced when communicating.

It is important for us to be aware of how we need to be balanced. While honesty is still the best policy, conveying the honest truth especially if it is not easily acceptable or it is terrible news or it is a true but offensive observation should be gently broken and in the right setting.  News about death, about bankruptcy, about a terrible defeat, terminal illnesses etc. are some examples of communication that needs to be honest but conveyed gently. Death of a loved one, particularly a young one no matter what the cause, is always a painful and agonizing moment of truth for there is a finality that is stark and irreversible. Perhaps that is the reason why we would rather chose a doctor, a priest, an elderly family member to convey such news for they are presumed to have maturity and the authority to effectively convey such news.  Annual appraisals are moments in a corporate executive’s life, that brings both dread and hope. The most painful part is not the outcome of the appraisal but the ordeal of having to endure the feedback particularly if the person conveying the feedback has a reputation for plain speaking, is rough rude and ruthless.

On the other hand, if we look back at our school days, we would perhaps look back with regret that we often despised those teachers who were tough in their assessment, frank in their approach and ruthless in their discipline. We may have actually despised their mannerism more than their communication. With the benefit of experience and age we may have concluded that the tough teachers actually molded us better. On the other hand , those who were willing to overlook our weakness, turned a blind eye to our eroding scruples and those who curried favor by being goody goody may have actually hampered our growth. By their gentle but not so truthful ways, they let us persist with our weakness, did not light up the right path and seriously negatively impacted our impressionable minds. We grew up without the firm moorings that would let us drop anchor in the right port of life.

Being balanced therefore means walking a tightrope. It is challenging to be both tough when required and gentle when needed for it is not an easy decision to make. More seriously we must not make the mistake of being sentimental fools nor brutal tyrants for our attitude, behavior, thinking and actions will have an impact not only on us but on all those who are influenced by us.

Remember: Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton

Try this:

  1. Recollect the names of at least 3 people who have had a major influence on your life. At least one of them must be someone who has been tough on you and yet you believe they had a positive influence on you. Outline 3 reasons why they influenced you positively.
  2. Your assistant is a technical expert who is working on a project that is just days away from being finished. If the deadline is not met there could be heavy penalties. The assistant had got his leave a sanctioned month earlier to attend his brother in law’s (wife’s brothers) wedding. However without his expertise the project will have an overrun and you have the power to overrule his leave.  How will you tackle the situation?

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Life story

Ten out of ten people die, so don’t take life too seriously.

After diligently managing to write this blog almost daily during 2010, I made a momentous decision to write only from Sunday to Thursday thus giving myself a break on Friday and Saturday. It was a tough decision to make for I was quite certain that I was letting my readers down. However things got worse when last week a combination of lack of motivation, overwhelming laziness and some minor illness combined to distract me from writing the blog with the same sense of urgency of the previous year.  I was therefore rather distraught when a couple of followers checked out with me as to why I had not posted my blog for a couple of days.  I was however  jolted into reality that I should set my own pace and enjoy what I do rather than force myself to do it because life is to be lived and not become a mere existence for me or for that matter for anyone. Today’s quote simply reiterates the point.

A simple test to understand the point is to recollect the names of people whose company you enjoy and to simultaneously list those people who, given a choice, you would avoid at all costs.  There would be a common thread that binds the first set of people and a dramatically different tread that binds the second set of people.  The first set of people would invariably be gregarious, have a contagious laugher, be very positive, often are spontaneous and they never seem to carry or display their problems or worries. On the other hand the second set of people seem to be glum, morose, negative, brooding, perhaps offensive in interactions and definitely seem to be cross with themselves and the world at large and their own fate in particular.

So how does one ensure that life is not burden to be carried but a song to be sung? The obvious answer is to reorient our mental conditioning and to view life as a song and not a burden. The next step is to set aside all worries about being a competent singer but to sing with the gay abandon that we all display as bathroom singers. Yes the key is to enjoy the song in our heart and sing to the beat that stirs us passionately. This kind of an attitude is not as easy as it sounds for many of us are more concerned as to how to utilize the lottery winnings than in the probability of winning the lottery. Life becomes a burden when we try to meet other people’s expectations and then we are in the vice like grip of the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, glutton, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

To be more pragmatic, here is a little self test. How many of us know anything much about our own great grandfather/ grandmother? In 99% cases the answer will be that we know precious little about him/ her. Yet we would believe that they did in their time contribute significantly to the family tradition and sustenance and possibly took their roles very seriously. Yet a couple of generations down the line there is no remembrance about the contribution let alone recognition. If they lead their lives in all seriousness and in a dour and self sacrificing manner, they would be definitely regretting it now. On the other hand if they had fun while taking care of their responsibilities they would have happily, cheerfully and ardently welcome death; for as the philosopher said ‘in the long run we are all dead’.

Remember: “Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.”

Try this:

  1. Recollect 3 of the happiest moments of your life. Now identify the reasons for that happiness. One of the prime reasons could be that almost everyone around enjoyed that moment. Now look at yourself as an inexhaustible reservoir of good cheer and begin to live life with a smile.
  2. Make a list of the following
  • The 3 regrets you have in life
  • The 3 hurts you cannot forget
  • Your three most painful moments
  • The 3 people you haven’t thanked enough
  • The 3 ambitions yet to be fulfilled
  • Your three favorites jokes

Now thrash the first three lists and begin working on the next three lists.

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Being grateful and appreciative

Please teach me to appreciate what I have before time forces me to appreciate what I had. Susan L. Lenzkes

By nature the human race is rarely satisfied. We are never pleased with our own self; be it our physical mental and intellectual abilities. We find fault with our relationships, our material possessions, and our work, our world in which we live and often feel uncomfortable with our own thoughts, feelings and desires. The root of all these is our obsession with comparing with what others have and craving for what we do not have  in the mistaken belief that possessing it will bring us happiness and peace. The problem is not one of possession but one of our inability to fully appreciate and relish what we are blessed with.

Our penchant to take all that we are blessed with for granted perhaps is the biggest single reason for our unhappiness. Having a loving family, a healthy life, adequate monetary support and a decent standard of living are all special blessings we are privileged to have. Just look around at the humongous population around us who do not posses even a meager amount of the comforts and personal riches both tangible and intangible that we are fortunate to have. We may for example fully appreciate the value of being fully fit only when we have a serious illness or maybe a fall that has temporarily incapacitated us. We often take our parents for granted, resent their loving but nagging ways or find fault in their outdated thinking and conservative ways, but miss them terribly when they are not around.

Comparisons are the millstone that keeps dragging us down the waters of daily life for we flounder and drown in the misery of pining for what others posses and we do not and what we desperately crave for. Be it the latest gadgets, the trendiest fashion statement, the cool tag funky gimmicks we want to be seen as having it all. We psyche ourselves into believing that without being accepted as part of the modern culture we are aborigines living in the deepest part of the urban jungle. Envy, greed and jealousy are the trio of emotions that wreck our daily living and turns it into a pure hell for we are constantly hurting inside hating the ones who show off and antagonize us. What we fail to really appreciate is the reality that it is our thoughts that antagonize us not their possessions.

It is our negative mindset and propensity to be critical that is the coup de grace that firmly ensures that we wallow in self misery and suffer imaginary ignominy.  Rather than see the good of people, things or events those who are negative will seek out the potential problems, the possible downside and the perceived ineptitudes that could disgrace one.  This perhaps explains the compulsive urge of people to splurge ostentatiously on weddings and funerals. The fear that one would be labeled miserly, tasteless and undignified pressurizes one to go overboard without rhyme or reason.  Instead of sticking to the simple, the time honored and the affordable, if one seeks to answer all the detractors, the critics and the self proclaimed socialites we would be only desperately seeking in vain to please others at the cost of never being pleased ourselves.  The beauty of tradition, the personal touch in simplicity and the  peace of mind one experiences in limiting our wants are what craves appreciation and is common sense.

Remember: “When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have”  Stephen Hawking

Try this:

  1. Have a look at the video on the armless pilot Jessica Cox and appreciate her self belief. Ask yourself if you have a fraction of her self belief to attempt something you are passionate about but feared daring.
  2. Choose one of the following three and tell yourself why you appreciate it
  • Flowers – Tulip / Lotus/ Lily
  • Animal – Rhino/ Alligator/ Wild boar
  • Fruits – Lemon/ Cherry/ Figs
  • Places –  Amazon jungles/ Kalahari desserts/ Siberia

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Get going now !

Do not wait for ideal circumstances, nor the best opportunities; they will never come. Janet Erskine Stuart

All of us have good intentions. We also get sudden spurts of wanting to change for the better. We begin each year with some firm resolutions to improve ourselves and to some extend also make valiant attempts occasionally. Most times though we don’t even get started and when we do we give up far too easily. The main reason for our inertia and starting trouble is that we wait for that good moment to come when our intentions and our inner drive are both in sync and ignite us into action. The trouble is we wait and wait for that moment but simply fail to recognize it. The problem starts when we decide to start an activity on a Monday or the 1st of a month or wait for an auspicious day. Invariably the day comes and we have some reason or the other not to start. The reason could range from the simple sheer laziness to the bizarre like had a bad dream so not good to start today.

By choice we all are apprehensive of change. This is the second reason why we are wary of attempting something new or different. Beginning anything new involves a change in the routine and that make us uncomfortable. Our mind is conditioned to follow the beaten path and so treading a new path requires effort, courage of conviction and the vision to see ahead. We therefore outline a set of near perfect and equally impossible conditions to come in harmony so that we can begin. Most times these are utopian ideals and the probability of such conditions becoming a reality near impossible. The wait continues and the possible opportunity goes by and we can only woefully lament.

Fear of commitment scares many a potential voyager / adventurer to make a non starter. Anything attempted new means a fixed new commitment. Most people are afraid of that commitment and so try to avoid or postpone making that commitment. Yet when the urge to grab opportunities overwhelms us we take tentative steps towards it. It si full commitment alone that can give fruits in the long run and tentative steps merely show us the way but we need to traverse it fully in faith and with the commitment to see it through the end. Mere good intentions and attempts to kick start are not enough but persistence and conviction if put into the venture will ensure we don’t give up till w attain our goal.

Risk of failure is the fear that is the bane of any new start. When we start with fear, we cloud our thinking, become defensive and find ways and means to postpone the start.  More importantly we make futile efforts to hedge against any failure and that is a near impossibility for we live in a dynamic world. It also happens that we may visualize a good beginning but then our own fears cloud our vision of the future and then we turn risk averse. Our fears paralyze us, our lethargy corrodes our spirit of enterprise and we cling to nonexistent hope for deliverance which we couldn’t even conceive to begin with.

Remember: “The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top.”

Try this:

  1. If you haven’t made your New Year list begin now. If you have update it with 3 more points. Now ask what it that you could have begun but not yet started is. Ask yourself the reason for not starting. Can you begin today itself?
  2. Do you have a dream to attain? If not, write down a dream for yourself. It could be doing something special with your abilities and talents or it could be pursuing a pet passion or it could be giving back to society. Now get cracking on that project by allocating some time each week to work on it.

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To see the valley you need to go to the edge

In order to find the edge, you must risk going over the edge. Dennis Dugan

Except for those who have a morbid fascination with the taking risks and walking the tightrope daily, the overwhelming majority is risk averse and prefers to play safe.  Yet in our day to day life many a decision we take has an element of risk associated with it that is inescapable; be it simply crossing the road, eating in a way side eatery or making friends online. However consciously flirting with risk is not really everyone’s cup of tea and the rare times we are forced to take the risks we weigh all the options, try to insurance against the worst case scenario and take a decision with great trepidation.

Yet there are times when the inner urge, the sheer lure of temptation and an inexplicable attraction draws us to experiment with risks. These could be in diverse spheres of life, be it in adventure sports like paragliding or sky diving or it could be risks in taking leveraged positions in the stock markets or even in relationships where the consenting parties are completely incompatible by the yardsticks of this world yet share a strange intimate bonding even though it may be fragile. What is common to these risks is that the danger is real, it is perceptible and yet it is that danger which we are willing to risk that gives the high to those who seek glory, happiness and success.

The circus provides a live and evergreen example of people who find the edge and take the risks. Each act and each performance is fraught with risks despite the fact that the parties are well trained and well equipped. The participants know the risks and yet revel in displaying their risk taking abilities and find ecstasy in the thunderous applause of the audience. In our growing up years, many of us have also taken such risks by not studying enough for the exams and daring to attempt the question papers. Choosing a career too has an element of risk but it is setting up an independent business that really brings one to the edge of the precipice for there are teething troubles, issues with scaling up and getting customers and payments always remain a daily challenge. Yet the sense of freedom to operate, the pride of having established ones self and the possibility of ramping up the operations often give us the daring to take the plunge.

For the modern generation who are brought up on a liberal dose of reality TV, it is these very TV auditions that provide the risk, the reward and also loudly rings the death knell to the ambitions of many a hopeful . Unless one dares to participate one can never knows ones mettle and when one gets rejected and is told the bitter truth of being incompetent or not being good enough one has already gone over the edge and the fall is harsh, hard and heavy. There are other times when someone has to bite the bullet and express the truth in relationships. Initiating a divorce is perhaps one of the toughest chasm that one of the two partners/ spouses has to boldly initiate, which often is much to the chagrin of the other. If both parties are mature the divorce is often by mutual consent and the relationship continues harmoniously despite the relationship having walked along the edge for a long long time.

Remember: “You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.”  Jim Rohn

Try this:

  1. Watch some of the videos of wild life enthusiasts who take risks photographing and observing the wild animals.  Here is a video link to the antics of the Steve Irwin the Crocodile Man
  2. You will also enjoy this motivational clip ‘Even Eagles need a push’ that emphasizes the need for baby eagles to be pushed over the edge to discover their Eagle Power to soar the skies.
  3. Make a list of the riskiest thing you did when
  • You were in school
  • You were in college
  • At your work place
  • When in a relationship
  • When confronted by another powerful adversary (eg. Principal/  boss at work/ burglar etc.)

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The challenge of decision making

If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. Lee Iacocca

One of the toughest parts of decision making is trying to minimize the uncertainties associated with the decision so as to ensure that we improve the chances of having taken the right decision.  There are numerous reasons why getting answers to all uncertainties is extremely difficult. To begin with there is a tradeoff between the time available to get all the inputs required to answer all uncertainties and the time frame within which to take the decision. There are numerous uncertainties where a judgment is the only way one can use to determine the probability of nailing the  if we visit a couple of doctors for each ones expert opinion on a serious illness and all of them suggest a different line of treatment, we have no choice but to go with one of those recommendations.  As a result, most times apart from using the available data we end up having to use our judgment and rely on our prior experience to arrive at a decision.

One of the most common ailments of decision making prevalent largely in the corporate world is described as Paralysis by analysis. Here the problem arises not because the decision to be made is really tough but more because the decision makers don’t want to be held responsible in case their decision goes wrong.  As a result they would attempt to use all techniques and tools to study and analyze the data available and they would even tweak it till it confirms what they want to believe or prove so that there is ample paperwork to justify their decision. Unfortunately since most decisions are time bound, decision makers can be mentally paralyzed by the reams of analytical data that is generated which may be quite at variance with our expectations and the decision making process goes for a toss.

Decisions concerning relationships are even more tough because it calls for a value judgment. A simple test is to write down the qualities of an ideal spouse. Most times this process for married people poses a serious problem of having to forcefully appreciate the qualities of a spouse. For those yet unmarried the problem is one of how to prune the list. The tough part is yet to come;  for those who are yet to be married the question is how does one really recognize this quality or attribute in their to be spouse for the married person it is accepting the reality that many of those attributes longed for are utopian and unrealistic now. Breaking off a friendship or relationship is perhaps one of the toughest decisions because it is hurtful, painful, emotional and distressing for all concerned. Many a time this happens when there is mistrust and doubt and an amicable parting is often difficult but inevitable. Here the sheer pressure of the uncertainly in the relationship could prove to be a mill stone in the relationship which ultimately drowns it perhaps a wee bit too late.   Even more tough is to take a decision to part because pure rational itself does not provide the answers to all the uncertainties associated with the relationship. E.g. An office romance between a married boss and a subordinate or social pressures associated with a gay relationship or the breaking up of a partnership or a joint venture because the parties have divergent view points.

Remember: “My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”  Theodore Hesburgh

Try this:

  1. Your most intimate friend has picked up a new job and ever since his visits and interactions have come down.  You are disappointed and not sure if it is only the new job that is the reason for this sudden drop in communications and interactions. You are confused and hurt but you still cherish his friendship. How will you ensure that you don’t take a drastic or wrong decision by cutting off all your ties while at the same time ensuring that he still values your friendship?
  2. You are at a famous art museum that has a Picasso, a Rembrandt and a Van Gogh painting among some other prized paintings being exhibited. Suddenly there is a fire in the museum and you are able to save just one painting. Which painting will you save?  (The answer to this will be published in our weekly blog before this weekend)

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The futility of worrying

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps today of its strength. A.J. Cronin

Strange as it may seem, many of us worry because the pain of worry seems to offer an axis around which one can go in circles and feel that we have actually done our bit to stem the tide. Unfortunately we fail to realize that in the process we have expended our energies, have not really changed the reality that stares at us and if anything we have just compounded our worries by wasting the present moment.  Assume we have an exam coming up and we have squandered away our time. Suddenly the reality of the exam date looms ominously ahead and instead of at least attempting to salvage the situation if we panic and brood and worry about our performance and fate, we would only have made a bad situation worse.

To cope with worry, we need to see the bright side of a hopeless situation and the get busy with our work today. Both these are tough especially when the Damocles sword of an impending worry is looming over our head. Seeing the bright side of a hopeless situation is a paradox in itself because hopelessness means a dark and bitter reality ahead. The brightest aspect of it is that at some point it will be over and done with. There could be other small but significant happenings like someone in dire pain lapsing into a comma where there will be no pain or failure helping one to switch tracks a decision which we longed for but didn’t dare to take. The key is to find straws of hope to clutch on to without turning those straws into steel ropes to latch on to and clamber out. One worry that is hard to overcome is the ‘what only if ‘syndrome. Take the case of a student who loses his rank by one mark. He/she can keep ruing that one silly mistake or the one question not studied well but the reality will not change. Or take the case of a person who is on the final question of ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ and chances his. her luck and fails.

If we can see the bright side of the future and to that extend minimize our worries, then we need to turn our focus on keeping busy. This is not to say one needs to engage in worthless and futile work rather one has to divert our positive energies into ensuring that w do our current jobs well. By being busy, our mind is occupied and will not stray and catch the worry bug.  At the same time, we would achieve some of our personal and professional goals, have no regrets about wasting our time and efforts and the net result is that we remain fit and agile. Where we really stumble is when do a tardy job, turn out shoddy work and pass the blame on to our worries and anxieties.  In the lexicon of the brave and the pragmatic person, today is what counts for the opportunities and the time will never come again no matter what the reality will be tomorrow.  Ask if we can we be concerned about the problem rather than worry about it?

Remember: There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” Harold Stephens

Try this:

  1. Make a list of 10 worries and assign 100 marks to be distribute amongst those worries with the highest marks going to the worry that we are most anxious about. Focus on the top three worries and orient yourself to be concerned about finding a solution.
  2. Ask yourself if more than 3 of the following traits are frequently exhibited by you, for then that shows signs of a person who worries too much.
  • Frequent negative thoughts
  • Constantly complaining, cribbing, whining
  • Do you get easily angry and enraged?
  • At the first signs of uneasiness do you consult a doctor?
  • Are you obsessed about things eg. Children’s exam marks/ punctuality/ neatness / rituals
  • Do you hate it when your carefully laid plans go awry and your schedule is upset?
  • In a crowd if the focus of attention suddenly shifts to you  do you feel very foolish/ sheepish/ disturbed/ irritated ?

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Dont let tomorrow mess up today

If you are afraid for your future, you don’t have a present. James Petersen

There are times, when each one of us has got this sudden unexplainable feeling of fear, panic and helplessness when thinking about the future. Such fear when it comes occasionally is useful for us to be aware of our own mortality, the reality of an unpredictable future, the need to plan and be prepared and it helps us actually realize the value of today and make the best use of our today. The trouble starts when we are so obsessed about the future that we end up constantly wailing and moaning about it, keep worrying about it, spend more time making plans to handle imaginary crisis and fail to enjoy today and the blessings that we are fortunate to have. The truth is we cannot completely hedge against the future nor can we let the future steamroll us and so we need to ensure that we have some insurance to manage the future. It is this insurance that begins with us first of all enjoying our daily living so that we have no regrets later. At the same time by being pragmatic and rational about the future we can intelligently and objectively attempt to protect our future and insure it financially, emotionally and dynamically.

Our worries about the future come in so many shades. We worry about our jobs, our finances, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations. We also worry through our jealousies, envy, expectations, irrational thoughts and far too often through thoughts about death be it our own or that of a loved one. What is pertinent to note is that we when we worry the first casualty is our happiness. No one who worries will ever be able to enjoy the present. No sooner we feel happy a fearful thought will suddenly creep in and prick the bubble of happiness. In extreme cases we even start worrying about being happy and fear that our happiness is short lived for a calamity is lurking around the corner.  See the people around who have dour expression, those who are always complaining, people who are extremely critical or frequently sarcastic, the people who cannot accept compliments and those who are always negative in their words, thoughts and behavior; they rarely exude happiness.

The second and logical casualty is our present; the moment that is for us to enjoy, the gift of today and the spirit of life.  Instead of appreciating the beauty of the day we start counting the hours to darkness; our laughter is always tinged with regret or sadness; we are morose and snappy most times; we see the shadows not the sunshine and we live in fear of being besieged by calamity. More than anything else we live in the belief that we are the unlucky ones, the cursed ones and the only ones who have this fate befallen on. The third and most unfortunate of all repercussion is our conscious and unconscious negative impact on those around us. Many a time because we are dour and negative, we hate it when those around are happy, cheerful and enjoy with gay abandon. We make efforts to spoil their mood by berating them, being loud and uncouth or simply denying them the pleasures that they depend on you to give e.g. refusing a birthday party or finding fault with a gift they give you. Other times our demeanor and behavior are enough to make others avoid us, move away from us or simply ignore us . The cycle of unhappiness is then complete; we are unhappy we make others unhappy and in turn we remain unhappy.

Remember: “Your past is important but it is not nearly as important to your present as the way you see your future”  Tony Campolo

Try this:

  1. Read the post on FUTURE (Foresee Unusual Trends Usually Rapidly Emerging) in our weekly blog
  2. Read the post on Why Worry
  3. To minimize your future worries make a list of your New Year Resolutions, if you haven’t done it already. Now  get working on it right away so that by this time next year a large number of items on that list is deleted and you enjoy each day this year because you have slowly inched closer to achieving the resolutions on that list.

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When do we really live?

Unless you give yourself to some great cause, you haven’t even begun to live. William P. Merrill

From the time we are born our primitive urge is self preservation and this means that we tend to compete/ fight to live for ourselves. Beginning with our need for food, we seek shelter and security for ourselves and our loved ones because it is the herd instinct. As we grow and become adults we become independent but then we tend to become more and more selfish and self centered. While the animal kingdom exhibits similar tendencies, they never have the human weakness of greed. Thus animals that kill and live of the carcass kill only when they are hungry and even the herbivorous animals too eat just for their survival. Man alone tends to hoard, to gorge and to deny a fellow human being.  It is against this background that one needs to understand the need for the human race to consciously make amends for this selfish tendency and the one way to really do it is to give ourselves completely to a cause where the beneficiary is anyone but us.

Since our natural tendency is to live for ourselves, it is only a conscious decision that will really enable us to identify a worthwhile cause and help us spare our time, resources and energies on promoting the cause. The joy and thrill of giving out without any expectations is the real moment that we enjoy our life and appreciate the blessings that life has showered on us. The cause one stands for need not be related only to the human race but should be for the good of mankind. This means that causes as diverse as animal welfare and environmental concerns would be on the same pedestal as working for the handicapped, the aged and the sick. Whatever be the cause, the key is selfless service, total commitment and active participation.

Self less service involves the ready and free desire to be involved in the cause. If the involvement is conditional or it is taken upon reluctantly because of social pressure then the soul of the activity is missing. It is when one seeks out a cause to give selflessly that the cause becomes an integral part of one’s life else it will remain just a duty , a chore and an obligation. Total commitment means the whole hearted and absolute devotion to the cause. No matter what it takes, be it financial resources, networking, seeking out activists to propound the cause no requirement is ignored or side stepped. This is possible when we are wedded to the cause and then we become absolutely committed. The essence of real living is experienced when we give ourselves to the cause by being active participants and be physically involved in all that is required to be done. This involves giving of our time the most precious of our resources, getting our hands dirtied, something that we may not be really used to in daily life and then we experience both he pain of the other and the joy they get from our intimacy and companionship and service.

Remember: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Ty this:

  1. One of the toughest religious orders to join in is the Mother Theresa’s  Sister’s of Charity. Yet they have one of the largest numbers of volunteers and applications to join the congregation. What do you think is the reason for it. If there is a home for the children/ aged/ sick or orphans run by them in your city visit them and spend a day to understand how they work and what they do.
  2. Outline a plan of action to identify a cause, to commit yourself and to actively be involved in it. Don’t fall to the temptation of trying to be involved in all your interests. Chose one and give it your all. Ensure that you even slot a time of the day for the activity and to give of your time and personal efforts. Experience the joy that comes with the commitment.

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Playing second fiddle

We cannot all be masters. William Shakespeare

The reality that we can aspire to be someone we crave to be does not lessen the pain of realizing that we may not realistically achieve it. The human ego, human temperament and human thinking often conspire to fool us into believing that we have it in us to be natural leaders and masters of our chosen field, vocation or team. To be a master, it is not just intelligence, pure expertise nor mere leadership skills that count; rather it is often a bit of everything and something sizeable in some key areas that counts. Just look at the ensemble of musicians who are giving a live performance and you will realize that the conductor is the master and though he does not play a single musical instrument during the performance, yet with his baton he has the entire entourage literally playing to his tunes.

In corporate world, seniority often is linked with leadership roles and yet, more often than not, we see young yuppies usurping leadership roles from the more experienced hands. The reason is simple, leadership requires not just experience and expertise but also vision and updated technological grasp. How do the more experienced hands cope with this reality that they may have missed the bus? Very often they are pragmatic and see the writing on the wall and take a cue and move out of the way either accepting the reality with dignity and playing along as a senior team member or they find another niche in the market place. The also ran’s in the political race to presidencies who may have lost their leadership aspirations typify those who nearly became masters but didn’t.  It may very little to do with their abilities or competencies but more to do with the political climate of the time, the perception of the electorate and occasionally blind luck.

Being a master is fraught with risks; risk of acceptance, risk of performance pressure and risk of failure. They also need to take critical decisions, often make unpopular choices, be ready to defend their actions especially when the going is tough and be prepared to take the flak of collective failure. Often becoming a master is not something that one aspires for but is delivered providentially. As would happened when a predecessor dies or moves out suddenly and the crown is passed on by virtue of being second in command. Here the pressure to perform and deliver becomes even more tricky for expectations are high, the circumstances perhaps not too favorable and personal confidence might not be at its peak.

Ironically each one of us is a master of our own life and we have to guide our own future, destiny and our successes. Thus even if we play just the second fiddle in an orchestra, we need to play it like a master second fiddle and then alone will we synchronize and harmonize the performance and win the applause. It is when we can master our own self that we can perhaps lay claim to greater leadership roles and when the honor is bestowed, one can lead with aplomb and leave a mark on the world.

Remember: “Performance is your reality. Forget everything else.” Harold S. Geneen

Try this:

  1. Honestly ask yourself as to what aspect in your life you have a good mastery. Eg. Some might be excellent cooks, others good at teaching or others are meticulous and orderly. If you find that you really are not a maser in anything attempt to choose and aspect of life that you would like to master. Work on it immediately and stick to it till you master it.
  2. Ask yourself if you shy away from leadership roles. If yes ask yourself why you do it? Is it lack of knowledge, inability to commit, poor leadership skills, fear of failure etc. that makes you refuse leadership positions? Now work on a method to work on those chinks that have let you down from taking on a master’s position.

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