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Forever Happy Now! Posts

Creator Groomer

Most of us are working our day jobs, doing mundane stuff, often not liking it much.

And many companies too do not expect their employees to grow beyond a point either.

Seniors want to ensure their own seats are secure, and often happy slave-driving their juniors – and to make sure they do not leave the firm for whatever reason. Everyone is just thinking about themselves all the time.

But I came across a startup recently. The founder wrote an open letter, which to me was quite a lovely way to think about work.

His point, was that there are so many problems to be solved in the world. And folks working with him were encouraged to take risks, to disrupt, to be fearless, and to build and scale products with impatient optimism.

He also said, that if any of his employees would leave to found another startup, then he would go out of his way to invest in that new business.

Not just that, he would also enable the new startup to access his own set of VC/PE investors. How awesome is that?!

Not just giving jobs, but funding a potential job creator. Not just being a leader, but being a leader groomer! The magic truly happens when one thinks selflessly about others.

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Tail wagger

People nowadays don’t want to workout without a smart watch. It has to have a calorie counter – so that the exact calories expended are tracked accurately. People also like to have their heart rates reported. SPO2 monitored as well. And GPS enabled of course – how else would the running / walking path be charted?

Even weighing scales send electric impulses at two different frequencies which then measure not just a person’s weight but also report water levels, subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, protein levels, body fat percentage, skeletal muscle etc etc. I learned that this is called bio-impedance.

Technology is certainly super awesome for these things.

But all these gadgets, all this technology… these are merely enablers. They will still not do the workout for us. We still need to wake up, get up and move our bodies. Ultimately, it is our bodies that are the greatest technology ever.

But it has become a classic case of tail wagging the dog. If we exercise, we will be fit, irrespective of whether we wear smart watches or not. Exercise is critical, while the calorie counter is incidental. Technology needs us, not the other way around. We must keep reminding ourselves.

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What’s up doc

During a recent visit to a hospital, I happened to look at the doctor roster.

Just a quick glance, nothing out of the ordinary here.

Many doctor names, many many more credentials, and then their practice timings.

9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. 9 am to 12.30 pm on Saturdays.

Wow they work Saturdays too. And here I am cribbing about my never ending 5 day week. I need to change my perspective on life, and learn from these literal life-savers and life-givers.

And then a few names below, one doctor had a unique ending time for his practice. It read as follows:

“From 9 am, till the last patient is seen.”

Now isn’t that just an exceptional work ethic?

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The secret to success at work

We often struggle with delusions of grandeur. “How will it feel when I become CEO?”, “How will it feel when I buy my own BMW sports coupe?”, “How will it feel when I hit a 100 million in net worth?”, and so on. These aren’t delusions because they will not happen. Rather they are so, simply because they haven’t happened yet.

A very interesting book written by Anshul Chaturvedi called Vivekananda Handbook for Everyday Living is one I just finished reading. And here are 3 very relevant quotes from the great Swami himself. Perfectly applicable to such scenarios, where we are constantly in doubt: ‘what is my duty?’, ‘will I be successful in my current avatar?’, ‘am I good enough?’, or ‘will I ever make it?’. Grandeur … it just always seems out of reach.

  1. By doing well the duty which is nearest to us, the duty which is in our hands now, we make ourselves stronger. We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find it out too.
  2. He who grumbles at the little thing that has fallen to his lot to do, will grumble at everything. Always grumbling, he will lead a miserable life. But that man who does his duty as he goes, putting his shoulder to the wheel, higher and higher duties will fall to his share.
  3. When you are doing any work, do not think of anything beyond. Do it as worship, as the highest worship, and devote your whole life to it for the time being.

Simple, profound, and life changing!

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Reasonable

Here’s an interesting interview experience I came across recently. It was one of the early rejects of a person who is very successful today. Not everyone starts off with a golden spoon right?

His interview was with one of the best airlines in the world. He wanted to travel the world, and given he was young, what better way than to get the job of an air steward.

After a few initial group activity rounds that this gentleman breezed through, there was a personal interview round with just one question.

“What would you choose – food, or… service?”

Now this seems like the most obvious question and the most obvious answer for what is a business that thrives on providing the best service to all its fliers. Oops did I just drop a hint?

But this young man all of 18 years blurted out “food”, and was immediately shown the door. While it might seem like an idiotic answer, he came from a very poor background, with uneducated parents who struggled every single day to put food on the table. He had never even eaten at a restaurant till then. Of course “food” would be the first thing on his mind.

This is not about whether he should have been selected or not. Even this gentleman has no grudges. However for our own mental peace, it would help to cut people some slack for their weird ways. They may say or do crazy things, but there could be a good reason for it.

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Role reversal

Arjuna in the Mahabharata underwent a role reversal. He spent years and years training and performing as one of the greatest archers / warriors that ever lived. But on the day of the Kurukshetra battle, he underwent an unexpected role change.

He saw no foes or enemies, only brothers and uncles and teacher.

He was suddenly not a warrior on that battlefield, but only a family man. Can a doctor perform a high risk surgery successfully on his own child? Very difficult. Why? Because he has entered he operating theatre less as a doctor and more as a father. Can we clinch a business deal if we are constantly thinking about being with family or vacationing?

The pangs of attachment begin to play on the mind, leading to what Arjuna faced as well – delusion.

What is the solution? Before solution, must come acknowledgement of the problem. One the problem is located, the resolver is the Guru. But the resolution happens, only if the ego is surrendered to him.

As Swami Paramarthananda says, the disciple needs to first identify that a problem exists. And then the Guru needs to not only know the remedy, but also be free of the problem!

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Live in the moment (really?)

Here’s something we hear often. And it is linked to spirituality too. “Live in the present”, “Live in this moment alone”, “Don’t live in the past or in the future”, “the present is a gift” and so on and so forth. There are many variations of these. And they all sound amazing. Liberating too. Marry these words with some spectacular visuals on Instagram or Facebook and that is enough to make even a corpse feel all charged up and alive.

Feeling charged up and alive is indeed a good thing. But ‘living in the present’ needs to be understood well. It is ultimately dependent on the internal qualities or gunas of a person.

If people are sattvik by nature, they are likely to work for others and for a greater cause. Therefore their focus while working – in the true sense – will not be focused on the results of their actions.

For tamasik people however, this is not so obvious. They too may appear to not care about the result. But this apparent lack of caring comes from a deep rooted centre of laziness, inertia and selfishness which precludes them from calling a spade a spade. Their very success comes from denying the truth, and from seeking to avoid the consequences of their actions.

In that sense, the rajasik folks may be better off – as they at least know there is a gap which they need to bridge.

And thus, it is important to understand well what it takes to live in the moment. If we are thinking only about ourselves, jumping from one desire to the next, we may already be many moments ahead, and certainly not in the present.

If one has transcended the ego however, and is working solely for the benefit of the greater good, then living in the moment will come automatically. It is a state of ‘flow’. Nothing needs to be done to achieve it.

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Working for what?

A scene from the hit movie Munnabhai MBBS shows a very disgruntled hospital janitor. No matter what the situation, he is always grumpy.

Why? Well of course, he makes very little money. But according to him, it’s not the money alone. It’s also the fact that so many people just keep coming in and leaving their dirty footprints and shoeprints all over the floors that he would have just then finished cleaning. This includes all the well-respected doctors and nurses, not just many pay grades above him, but also much higher on the societal respectability scale. No wonder he is unhappy.

That is until the protagonist comes along. He tell the janitor that sweeping floors is one of the most important duties to society, and more so to a hospital. He goes on to explain, that doctors and nurses can only attempt to cure sickness after a person has already fallen ill. But the janitor? He is in a unique position. He is able to prevent ailments by keeping his hallways and rooms spic and span. The janitor now has an elevated responsibility and higher purpose to live up to!

We too may feel we are doing janitorial duties sometimes. And even sitting in a plush corporate office can give us this feeling. It can also happen at any level of seniority. That is why, even successful CEOs and Heads of Businesses quit their jobs in order to find their calling. Quitting to find another job is certainly an option. But while we’re at the current job, we can keep the janitor’s lessons in mind, and look for the higher purpose.

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Tough life

When life gets tough, we often just want to kick it all off and take a break. But few have this luxury. Here are some things we can do irrespective of whether life has gotten tough or not. It’s hard to practise, but this is what great and successful people have advised and continue to advise.

  1. Smile. That’s it. Easy peasy. But can we smile when we know the world around us seems to be falling apart? And “falling apart” is really taking things to the extreme. Often times it is just one of our life-long dreams hitting a minor speedbump. Many times even smaller and more inconsequential, but which we love to focus on and exaggerate.
  2. Don’t complain. As they say, “Don’t tell people about your problems, because 80% of the people don’t care and the rest 20% are happy you have them!”
  3. Learn. All of life is about growing and becoming better. One day at a time. If we can’t learn from our or other people’s experiences aka failures, then those would only be wasted opportunities.
  4. Give back. Living life for ourselves alone is a huge huge huge burden. But living for improving the life of others, for the country, for the world? While the tasks may be harder, the selfless nature of the assignment will make the burden feel weightless.
  5. ABCs. Attitude, Behaviour, Character – this is what differentiates the best from the also-rans.

Finally, as Guruji always says, modern education and material comparisons can only help us in the material world. But the material world is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Our ultimate goal as human beings should be moksha, i.e. realizing our true nature is not of the body but of the Soul.

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Jumping high

In the Tokyo Olympics high-jump event, the competition was down to two finalists. Both of them jumped exactly the same height of 2.37 metres. And so it was a tie.

The officials had each of them jump again – three more times in fact. But neither Olympian was able to better the 2.37 number.

In the last and final attempt, one of the two contestants had to withdraw because of a leg injury. The other bloke now had a clear path to gold.

But in what would go down in history books as an outstanding example of parasparam bhavayantah (Gita chapter 3, verse 11, nourish one another), the healthy contestant before his final attempt, first checked if he could … wait for it … share the gold with his opponent!

The officials quickly checked and confirmed that it would be indeed be possible. He decided to forgo his final attempt, and in the video, both players are ecstatically seen hugging each other. How amazing is that? We are brought up with the notion that if we win, someone else needs to lose. But life is not a zero-sum-game. If everyone wins, that is the highest jump of them all.

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Baby time

A lot of babies nowadays are raised not by their parents, but by their nannies.

Whether it’s feeding the baby, cleaning the baby, changing diapers, clothing the baby, carrying the baby, burping the baby, talking with the baby – you name it, and it’s done by the nannies.

The rationale is of course sound – couples in nuclear families have to manage the house and their office work. How can they possibly get time to fit a baby in as well?

Nannies get baby duties, while the parents continue to enjoy their favorite pastimes, whether sports, TV shows, movie outings, friend outings, eat outs, music concerts and a variety of other events. “We are still young. If not now, then when?”

Spending time with the baby is most critical during its first few years. If time is an issue, then why have a baby in the first place? As a wise elder in my family remarked, raising children is all about one and only one thing – Sacrifice. The parents would need to sacrifice their lives for the future of their kids. And when done well, when the sacrifice is out of love rather than lack of alternative, it earns the highest blessing.

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Pipe dream

Here are some wonderful takeaways from a recent youth satsang session I had the good fortune and pleasure of attending. The topic of discussion was Dale Carnegie’s excellent book How to Win Friends & Influence People:

  1. You can disagree in specific instances, but no need to become a disagreeable person.
  2. If your child is not eating, or making a fuss, don’t cajole him. Instead make him want to come to the table. Give him a “special seat”.
  3. Begin with the other person in mind. Real-life example that was shared: If the tenants want the landlord to take care of a major plumbing problem, don’t just begin by complaining to the landlord. The way that worked was to have the landlord and his wife over for a nice homecooked meal, a lot of genuine compliments about the house included, and a mention of the plumbing issue tossed in at the end. Needless to say, the problem was fixed – quickly and for free.
  4. It is possible to change the other person’s behaviour, by changing one’s own behaviour towards them first.
  5. Integrated thinking – build the patience to hold and analyse two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time. If this can be done, the solution is often a 3rd way, which is even better than the first two ideas.

    Quite good no?

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Working remotely

There’s a lot of people who want to work remotely these days. Work from the mountains. Work from the snow. Work from the riverside. Work from the beaches. Work from anywhere but home. All you need is a strong internet connection and some good homecooked food.

I know many people who’ve made this journey as well. From a few weeks to a few months, they’ve tried different combinations. And technology has certainly made things easier. No denying that. However, the feedback I’ve got (and it’s expected of course!) is that the work doesn’t magically become lighter. The sweet aroma of the flowers from the mountain top does little to change the deadline of an irate client.

Said differently, all that matters is what’s in our minds. If we train it to seek a rumbling waterfall or gurgling creek in order to do our work well, then that’s what it will keep demanding, regardless of whether it actually works well in that landscape.

Also, we hardly know what is good for us – but we always think we do. A recent tragedy is a case in point. So many wanted to work remotely from this idyllic place. But said place saw unexpected rains and subsequent landslides that resulted in quite a bit of destruction and loss of lives. Sometimes, if life doesn’t go the way we dream it too, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Does that mean we should never wish for anything? Not at all, but if it doesn’t go our way, then best to just take it in our stride.

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Advanced beginner

As a kid, going to amusement parks meant having to size oneself up against a ‘bar’. If I was shorter than the bar, then sorry, that ride wasn’t for me, no matter how adventurous it looked.

We always want to be permitted to do what we want. To be what we want to be. No shackles, no limitations.

I came across a spiritual book recently, which needed some permissions to be read. To read a book? Really?

Here’s what the book cover said. “Only for advanced seekers or absolute beginners.”

What an amazing requirement. I don’t know what was in the book, but it certainly makes me want to read it (even though I don’t fulfil the requirements). I’m certainly not an advanced spiritual seeker. And unfortunately, I’m not an absolute beginner either. I’ve read some spiritual books and listened to some YouTube talks, and that means my ego has only risen, rather than crumbled, as would be ideal.

Krishna makes it explicitly clear in the Gita. He needs no status, wealth, name, education or credentials for granting a spiritual revolution unto Him. All he needs is a clean heart dedicated only to Him.

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What do we know?

Here are some common and seemingly innocuous questions one may be asking. All good until we think of possible but unexpected answers.

  1. On someone’s physical features. [Maybe they have thyroid / other issues and have been on medication, what do we know?]
  2. On someone’s employment status. [Maybe they have enough money saved / aren’t getting a job despite trying, what do we know?]
  3. On someone’s house and car. [Maybe they do not wish to show off / maybe they wish to show off / in any case a US$ 1 million house or car only indicate that the person had 1 million, which they don’t now; what do we know?]
  4. On someone’s kids. [Maybe the kids are autistic, maybe they have special needs, what do we know?]
  5. On someone’s social media posts. [Those posts couldn’t be further from the truth, so best to ignore, and what do we know?]
  6. On someone’s marital status. [Maybe they are unable to find the right person, or are headed for a divorce, what do we know?]
  7. On someone’s education and career choices. [Maybe they came from a poor background, needed to start earning quickly, what do we know?]
  8. On someone’s behaviour and biases. [Maybe they had a troubled upbringing, what do we know?]

Everyone is constantly fighting their own battles. Compassion and empathy rules the world – both material and spiritual.

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Chocolate Olympics

’tis the season of the Olympics, and the medal tallies for each country are scrutinized keenly. In some sports, there are well known champions, while in others, new ones are created everyday.

One such champion is 24-year old American swimmer Katie Ledecky. She’s considered one of the best swimmers of all time, with 7 Olympic gold medals and 15 world championship gold medals.

Quite the feat. When I watch videos of her races, they are simply unbelievable because of the gap between her and number two. The focus and determination needed to not just swim 8 minutes at super speed with the whole world watching, but to also practice many many hours more on a daily basis, the capabilities of the human body are just mind boggling.

One practise video shows her swimming a lap in an Olympic pool while balancing a brimful glass of chocolate milk on her head with nary a spill. If there was a better demonstration of focus, stability and poise, I haven’t seen one. There’s another one where technology shows the World Record time as a line drawn across the pool as Katie swims, and the previous WR line is actually chasing her from behind!

Yet, as life shows us over and over, no matter the level of success, a new era will dawn where the incumbent is vanquished by an emergent victor. For Katie Ledecky, there is another Katie, a 15-year old Katie Grimes, who is already nipping at her heels. And hence for everyone in life, there is zero room for ego – which incidentally is the crux of all spirituality as well.

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Behavioural intentions

Here’s a lovely quote by Stephen Covey.

We judge others by their behaviour, but ourselves by our intentions.

This is brilliant because it is not just what it says, but is also the essence of karma yoga. As we have seen before, karma is not just action, as it is often loosely translated into. But rather, it is based on intention.

What Mr. Covey refers to here in a way is our lopsided view of karma. In our minds, we know that we mean the best. If we were late for work or an important occasion, we immediately have an answer ready. Not to the outside world, but to our own conscience. “I really wanted to be on time, but [it started raining] / [the carpenter came later than expected ] / [ got an unavoidable phone call ] / [add other genuine rationale here ].

This is fine. Things go wrong sometimes, and it’s certainly difficult to be perfect in everything all the time. But we apply these relaxations only to ourselves, not to the world. Why? Because we can only see what others do, and not what they are really thinking i.e. intending.

If as the realized masters say, it is intention that is most important even from a karmic point of view, we must introspect thus: are we being too lenient on ourselves, and conversely too harsh on others?

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Rejection notice

Here’s something I came across on my LinkedIn feed recently. A man who was in need of a job was giving some interviews.

During one such interview, the HR told him about the great practices followed in the company, the compassion, the empathy, the work life balance, the amazing culture, the camaraderie and so on. A wonderful HR marketing pitch if there was one.

A few days later, he got an email from the same HR. The email had no greeting, no salutation, no niceties, no ‘thank you for attending the interview’, no template-response either (‘thank you for interviewing with us, we appreciate your candidacy but regret to inform you…’).

Instead, the email from the HR had just one word. “Rejected”. Yes just this one word. Nothing else.

Maybe that HR didn’t have time, or was genuinely irritated by this applicant – who can say for sure. But it’s still basic courtesy isn’t it?

The learning for me was, that even though I don’t write ‘rejected’ emails, maybe I speak similarly – harshly and curtly at times. I may not even realize it, and I wouldn’t know the impact on the other person, but the other party might feel deeply hurt. Much care must be taken. Words once uttered, can seldom be taken back.

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First who, then what

Much of the work in the world is focused on answering the “what”s. What is the solution to this problem? What is the workaround here? What should be my position on this issue? What should I tell him or her? What should I expect from this project? What is our vision? What is the outcome of this strategy? What, what, what, what … that is what is everywhere.

However, the really successful people (think billionaires), they don’t care much about the ‘what’. They only care about the ‘who’. They know there’s a problem. But they also know they cannot solve all the problems in the world on their own. They know that the most optimal use of their time is to get the best person to solve that problem. Who do they want to work with? Who do they like? Who knows this job the best? Who is the one who’ll do this with the least fuss? That’s the important question – it’s always about the who. If the ‘who’ is taken care of, the ‘what’ will sort itself out. If the driver is good, then one needn’t worry about the car heading in the wrong direction.

Similar for spirituality as well. We are often focused on the what. What shlokas should I chant? What mantras work best? What meditation mat should I buy? What scriptures should I read? What seva should I do? What satsang should I join? So many whats.

But all we need, is one who. Who is the right person to answer all these questions? The answer is only one. The Guru. Once that answer is fixed, then all we need to do is to follow his advice. All problems solved.

500th post today by the way. Thank you for reading, and being part of this journey of joint transformation! 🙂

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Ready for battle

Here’s what my Guru says. Imagine you had the world’s best army.

It can achieve anything.

No task is insurmountable for this army.

100 billion in this army. And another 90 trillion. And another 27 trillion.

Yes that’s how awesome this army is. Imagine the scale and the power!

And you really do have this army – it’s no joke.

100 billion brain cells. 90 trillion body cells. 27 trillion hormones. It’s there in each and every one of us.

Are we making the most of it though?

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