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Month: November 2022

Top Class

Top Class and Top of the Class, are two totally different things. We’ve each seen this. People who are top of the class in school and university, may be successful, but rarely are the truly top class and top-of-the-world successful.

Pete (his co-founder) and I thought of the people we wanted to run these new business areas as "10 out of 10s". We had both been judging talent long enough to know a 10 when we saw one. Eights just do the stuff you tell them. Nines are great at executing and developing good strategies. You can build a winning firm with 9s. But people who are 10s, sense problems, design solutions and take the business in new directions without being told to do so. Tens always make it rain.

Here’s what Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone says in his book:

Notice how he doesn’t even mention the 1s to 7s?

Are you an 8, 9 or 10? ?

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Love and happiness?

When you see an animal that is hurt, do you feel sorry for it? Do you try to help it? Or do you pelt it with stones? Harming an innocent animal may not even occur to most of us, and yet there are people (and kids) who take pride in causing such harm. Maybe it shows some false sense of being in control?

How abnout removing stones on the path to prevent some bare feet from getting hurt? Or to remove a nail from the road to prevent a tyre puncture? This is all nothing but being sensitive, being attuned to the needs of others, as the great Jiddu Krishnamurthy would say.

This set of feelings for those around us, is not coming because these other people are ours, but because we are aware of the divinity and beauty inside everything.

Love is being sensitive to others. Doing things for others, irrespective of what others may do back, no different from what a mother does for her baby. When the heart is filled with love and affection, it becomes happy. And this happiness itself is nothing but God.

Love = happiness = God

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Muscular frog

We must have all come across that book with a weird title. “Eat that frog”.

Want to eat a frog? No thank you. But that’s what the book says. There’s always stuff we don’t like to do, like eating frogs, and hence we should do those tasks first. This is more from a work perspective, so that by the time the day is even half done, we feel like we’ve accomplished something.

Of course there are those that love to eat frogs, literally, and so to those I wonder if this title even makes any sense.

But keeping them aside, one slightly dated but interesting example is of the actor Amir Khan in Dangal. He was playing two roles in the same movie, initially as a young muscular fighter, and then eventually a fat old man.

But what was his genius here? That he decided to eat the frog later, and requested his Director to shoot the ‘old man’ scene first, followed by the ‘young man’ scene. He knew that eating and becoming fat was easy, but losing it would be very hard. And if he had no reason to look fit, he would just lapse off. Clearly, eating the frog later is also not that bad, but it must be eaten!

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In a tearing hurry

Steve Schwarzman is Blackstone Group’s Chairman and Co-founder. The company is worth some 100 billion dollars plus.

But he didn’t start out on top. In one of his first jobs, he was asked to take a printout of a presentation that he had made. This was to be used by his boss for an important client pitch.

Enroute to the client’s office, his boss realized that Steve had made a mistake in his calculations, and a big one at that.

To remedy the situation, his boss told him he could still manage the show, if Steve could just tear out all the even pages and leave only the odd ones. Simple enough, and Steve was relieved that he wouldn’t be the cause of a messed up meeting.

Except, that in the tension and anxiety of that moment, Steve tore out all the odd pages instead!

So it’s not all rosy, even for the best, even for those who have scaled Mount Success today. Just need to develop some thick skin, learn from our mistakes, and keep ploughing on.

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International Meatless Day – again?

Yesterday was International Meatless Day. But ideally every day should be this day. Not just one random day in the year. Kill and make merry 364 days, but celebrate one day for animals. Not a good way.

I wasn’t planning on continuing a post on this topic today. But I opened the Amazing Simple Gita written by my Guru just now and randomly chanced upon shloka 17 in chapter 18. Here’s what he has written, and so beautifully yet pointedly:

When we know that soul does not perish, when body perishes, what happens to the victims of violence, say animals? Who does justice to the 10 billion land animals that are slaughtered each year for satisfying our taste buds? Retribution by karmic laws takes place. The eater now becomes the eaten, and the eaten becomes the slaughterer. You may prevent for a while world wars. But hatred, violence, terrorism, all borne of selfishness, cannot be eliminated, and they replace wars. 

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International Meatless Day

Today is International Meatless Day. The 25th of November each year. I didn’t know about it till I read it in the paper. There was a thought provoking article by Dada JP Vaswani about this. Here are some excerpts, verbatim:

1. Reverence for nature is essential, including for the birds and bees, whom I love to call our younger brothers and sisters.

2. My vision of unity and fellowship and brotherhood is of a world in which the right to life is accorded to every creature that breathes the breath of life.

3. We cannot take away that which we cannot give and since we cannot give life to a dead creature we have no right to take away the life of a living one.

4. We cannot speak of dharma, we cannot speak of creation as one family until we stop the exploitation of animals – until we stop all killing! All killing must be stopped for the simple reason that if man kills an animal for food he will not hesitate to kill a fellow human being whom he regards as an enemy.

5. No nation can be free until it’s animals are free. We cannot call this world our own family until all forms of exploitation cease.

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Supple to firm to infirm.

Baby to youth to old.

Each one of us goes through this.

No exceptions.

Everything is short lived.

And still in this short time, we run after only short lived things.

Is this sensible?

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Cry me a river

Here’s a thought provoking para I read recently:

I also wasn’t used to being yelled at. My mother and father never raised their voices. If we did something wrong, they let us know about it, but they never screamed or shouted. I felt tears welling up and my face turning red and hot. I had to force myself not to cry. I said I understood, and we would do better in the future. As I found my way to the parking lot, I vowed to myself, This is never, ever going to happen to me again.

What is insane about this para is that it could happen to anyone. I’ve certainly felt like this before, and it almost feels shameful to think about.

But guess what? It is really common. This experience above? It’s taken from the autobiography of Blackstone’s founder Steve Schwarzman. This happened to him not when he was some just-studying lowly-intern who recently took up his first ever job. Nope. He’d already become very successful, and very rich, and had made an excellent name for himself. And still he had to face the ire of a client. Happens to the best.

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Little knowledge…

…is a dangerous thing, as they say. And this is absolutely true.

By the time he got to chapter 11 of the Gita, Arjuna thought he had an excellent understanding of how the Lord works. He had sat through much tougher chapters like 2 and 3 and 6. And so he felt he was ready.

He asked the Lord to show him His VishwaRoopa. He had seen the trailer and now he was ready for the movie, or so he thought. But to be fair, he had some doubt as well, which brought in some humility. He asked Krishna to show His VishwaRoopa only if He felt Arjuna was ready for it.

While the lesson in humility is superb for us, sometimes in real life, we need to take our chances (calculated risk as it is called).

As my Guru says, power is always taken, never given. So if we want to be successful in the material world, sometimes we need to ask and push our way through, because nobody is born a CEO.

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El Genioso

Everybody wants to be a genius. But not everyone is. Most aren’t. Wikipedia actually doesn’t even have a proper definition. It says there’s no way to quantify any thresholds on who makes it to genius and who doesn’t. IQ 200, and hence confirmed genius? Nope, no such thing.

In a podcast hosted by author and optimist Simon Sinek, he talks about how the word genius was originally not even a trait. The word came from ancient Rome, where genius was actually a good spirit that every human being was thought to be protected and guided by. So it was never “you are a genius” but that “you have a genius”. Along the way of course all this got corrupted.

Simon also posted this once:

The genius at the top doesn't make the team look good. A good team makes the person at the top look like a genius.

There’s no need to be a genius and lose sleep over it. Instead, it’s more important to be ge-nice, i.e. a nice human being.

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The Cattywampus was one of the fiercest animals to roam the planet during the Ice Age. I’d not heard of it before, but it was an interesting read. There was a professor who taught his students about the now-extinct animal, and also conduct a spot test thereafter, asking various questions such as the Cattywampus’ color, type of fur, size, diet and so on.

Given all the facts were fresh in their minds, every student answered each question exactly as the professor had just taught. Each student expected a nice 10/10 marks.

But they were shocked when they each got a 0 instead. And so they protested.

The professor’s response? “Yes you answered what I taught, but you did not verify if any of it was true. There is no such thing as a Cattywampus, it’s simply a figment of my imagination!”

This story was featured in a 1991 edition of Readers Digest. Pretty cool way to remind us to each ask questions of the things we see around us. Especially on social media, where there is a lot of fake nonsense. Even Arjuna constantly cross-questioned Krishna. There is nothing wrong in the approach, as long as the questioning is not done from arrogance, but rather a desire to learn.

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We all know the Indian version of Superman, Spiderman and Batman, because he is none other than Hanuman.

But why is he a superhero, and worshipped with so much love and affection by countless devotees?

Not just because he is macho or immortal.

But because, as the Hanuman Chalisa says, he is the one who has complete alignment of man-karam-and-vachan, ie, thoughts, words and actions.

When he thinks of Lord Rama, his words and actions are completely in sync with his beloved Master.

If only I had this superpower. I can barely even write one blog post completely before my mind wanders off somewhere, my hand instinctively looks to check WhatsApp, and the mouth opens not to speak but to pop some junk food into it ?

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Tyson’s fears – part 2 of 2

An afraid Mike Tyson is so uncharacteristic of him, one would think.

Sadhguru breaks this down masterfully.

He says that human beings are uncanny because they don’t need any external stimulus to be afraid, or happy or sad or angry. All of that happens within us. External stimuli might exacerbate certain emotions, but these emotions can very well spring up (and last) on their own.

For instance, we may think of an impending client meeting, and worry about how our performance will be. We may also use a reference of a prior meeting with the client, and add to the worry. But in reality, today where we are, neither the meeting from the past is happening now, nor is the meeting to be held in the future happening now. So we are afraid of something that isn’t even real.

Seemingly simple concept, but applicable to each one, especially if knockout-king Tyson himself has unexplained fears!

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Tyson’s fears

In a very interesting podcast with Sadhguru, the interviewer was the legendary boxer Mike Tyson.

Tyson starts off by asking, “Hey Sadhguru, why do you think I’m here today in front of you?”

To which Sadhguru thinks for a moment and replies, “Because you are afraid of something.”

And Tyson says, “Wow, yes, indeed I am afraid. I’ve got all the success in life, and yet I am afraid of something and I do not even know what!”

Can you imagine that? The great Mike Tyson, that no one would dare enter the ring against, is afraid?!

What is this about? Concluded tomorrow.

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50th best – part 3 of 3

This impact of the restaurant in question. How did they manage it going forward? What did they do better?

The owner, one Will Guidara, settled on something he called “Unreasonable Hospitality”, and who then further wrote a book on it as well.

One of the simpler examples he gives on the podcast with Simon Sinek is how he and his team figured out a way to know who is arriving at the restaurant, so that they are always greeted by their names. “Hi Mr and Mrs Smith, welcome to our restaurant.”, so that there is never any need to wait at the counter and give your name. Everyone loves being called by their name. But how do they know it’s Smith and not Roger or John or someone else? They’ve found a way!

Other examples include when a family from Spain had come to dine at their restaurant and never seen snow before. So the restaurant post-dinner booked an SUV to take them on a sled ride through Central Park. Another time, a couple’s flight for a vacation got cancelled and so the restaurant booked out their own private dining room, created a makeshift sand dump and water pool to mimic a beach experience.

Basically just going above and beyond one’s call of duty, and making the expieremce of working with a person just magical. The author says that each one of us can do the same thing at our own work, if we just spend some time to think about what would make the other person happy.

And oh by the way, I think the restaurant in subsequent years was rated not just 50th, but the first amongst those 50, so the best in the world!

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50th best – part 2 of 3

After coming in 50th best restaurant in the world, were they happy?

Not at all! Disappointed, disgusted, disoriented. That was how they felt. Because now they were not seeing themselves as the incredible 50th best restaurant in the world, but rather the last out of 50 restaurants.

Of course these feelings lasted only a short while. The restaurant owner was determined to figure out why they didn’t get a higher rank. After all, they had immaculate quality, taste, variety, service and what not. And yet, something was missing?

There certainly was. Impact. Social impact to be precise. Each of the other restaurants were contributing to society, making a real change, apart from their anyway class leading culinary impact. Donating to charity, supporting underdeveloped communities, lessening impact on climate change and so on. In order to separate the best from the rest, it isn’t enough to be good at work, but good at heart.

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50th best

Imagine you are a Michelin-star restaurant. You make dishes that others cannot even dream about. The skill in your cooking and adroitness in your plating are just so exceptional that even looking at you in action makes peers in your locality gasp in amazement.

But you aren’t happy. You want to be recognized on a bigger stage. And so you apply for the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards (yes, there is such a thing apparently!).

What is the expectation? That you not just break into the 50-list, but also in style. Like maybe at number 20 or 12 or even top 10!

One similar super duper restaurant was talking about their own story, very similar as this. They waited with bated breath for the award announcement. And guess their rank?

Fifty! Yep, five-zero, fifty. Right at the bottom of the list.

What was their reaction? Concluded tomorrow!

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Center of the universe

What is at the center of the universe?

Is it our sun? Or is it some other planet? Or is it a black hole? Or is the center the Big Bang from which everything has been ever-expanding? Or maybe it is some other unknown galaxy or matter, that science has yet to discover?

Who knows.

But for all practical purposes, we each are the centers of our own universes. Every single moment of our lives, every hour, every day, we are constantly weaving intricate stories around our lives that have only one protagonist – we ourselves. If we can keep ourselves in the background, and bring others around us into the main scene, then we would likely make good spiritual progress.

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Knowledgeable, are we?

Found this in a newspaper clipping today. It was about the 5 types of knowledge, as mentioned in the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, which is an important spiritual treatise in Jainism.

1. Scriptural knowledge

2. Knowledge derived through the 5 senses + mind

3. Clairvoyance

4. Telepathy

5. Omniscience

The first two are alright. The last 3 are seemingly impossible, and logic-and-science defying.

And yet, we have all experienced these at some point. We know sometimes just a moment before that the phone is going to ring. Or that we are thinking of something that your friend is thinking about too. Or you have some intuition of something likely to pan out in a certain way, and it happens exactly like that. These stray incidents may be extremely rare and seemingly coincidental, but all our scriptures suggest that deep within us is present an extraordinary power for which even such ‘micracles’ are easy-peasy.

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Business matters

Some people say customer is king. That’s true.

Some others say employee is king. Haha, no no, nobody says that. Because employees are mostly treated as slaves. But imagine if they were treated as kings! Wouldn’t employees deliver 200%?

Or would they? Some might, but some would also misuse their position.

Some employers take really good care of their people. Even through times like Covid, they ensured everyone got paid, and that no one was laid off.

And then there are others that buyout companies, have insane amounts of wealth, and yet in the name of business profitability, kick out thousands of employees, almost as if on a whim. Some employers apologize, others not so much.

Nothing about any of these is illegal. But is it moral? Is it humane? What truly matters? One can only answer for themselves.

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Fundamentals of life

Here’s what Osho used to say are the fundamentals of life:

Remember, the ordinary person is the one who thinks he is not ordinary. The average person is the one who thinks he is not average.
The moment you accept your ordinariness, you become extraordinary.
The moment you accept your ignorance, the first ray of light has entered your being, the first flower has bloomed.
The spring is not far away.

What do we think of ourselves, as we go about our daily lives? As great accomplished people? Or as anxious, worried, stressed-out victims? Clearly, neither extreme is helpful. Average is beautiful.

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Teacher taught

Everything we learn in school is usually one-way communication.

Teacher teaches, student learns.

The more knowledge a teacher shares, the more knowledge a student learns.

In spirituality, it is a bit different.

The knowledge is already inside. Locked up and hidden. The teacher aka Guru comes about, and unlocks the hidden knowledge.

But for this, the Guru needs to be allowed near the student. Not necessarily physically, but especially mentally.

If the ego is a big wall, then no one can come near, not the Guru, not even God.

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One person I met today, is a survivor. He’s a very accomplished person. And very rich too. Those who see him today, and don’t know him well, only know him by his wealth. Typical high-level understanding of other people.

This person had very modest beginnings. But persevered and worked hard and made it big.

Along the way, he lost his job and was left hunting for two years.

He was also a bystander in a bomb blast. Not the happy story that he “just escaped”, but he was hurt, quite badly. There were thousands of shards of glass that entered his body, which he says even today keeps reappearing from his body from time to time. When he was found at the explosion site, he had so many cuts and wounds and openings that doctors had to perform 5 hours of surgery and over a 100 stitches all without anaesthesia. Imagine the pain!

And yet this person is smiling today as though nothing happened. No cribbing that the universe conspired against him and what not. A lesson for me in how to handle tough times.

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“Leave your work behind in office”

We’ve all heard this as advice at some point, or even felt it personally. When work gets to us, when stress and anxiety from the workplace increase, we wish the option would exist to keep our personal and office lives completely separate.

The brilliant folks over at Apple TV created a mind-boggling TV show called Severance with exactly this premise. What if you could truly leave your work behind… at work?!

A couple of considerations on how it would play out practically, as portrayed wonderfully in the show:

1. We would literally have no recollection of work outside it, and ditto for home. Once the clock strikes 6 pm and you’re out of office, you won’t know what happens in office at all. Is this good?

2. Maybe not. Because your work self only knows work, it’ll mean one never gets out of work at all. Each day begins with you walking into the office (but from where, you’d never know, because that is a separate life), and each day ends with you walking out, without knowing where to. As far as your life is concerned, work and home have truly been separated.

Of course the show is much more nuanced than just this. But it is a sure starting point for anyone who thinks that the splitting of work and life brings immediate benefit. It does not!

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What is this ego?

“I” am the ego. And “I” am filled with pride and arrogance. This is what is ego, is what a simple Sanskrit to English translation would led one to believe.

But is that really it?

When our scriptures talk of ego, they are not referring to pride and arrogance at all. Yes those are bad qualities, but that is not the root cause.

When we say poornamadah poornamidam and give up all our ego to the Homa fire, what ego is that?

The ego here refers to the various identities that we have assumed. As father, as mother, as wife, as son, as daughter, as husband, as employee, as employer and hundreds of other such titles. Lord Krishna clarifies, there is no identity, only Brahman. The rest is maya.

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Rain rain come again

“How to get rid of attachments?” is an oft-asked question by spiritual seekers.

One senior satsangi recently said that we need to know what we are attached to in the first place, before we attempt to wean off them attachments.

So he provided a cool acronym called RAIN.

R for Results, so don’t be attached to the restults of whatever karma we do.

A for Action, so don’t be attached to the action either, like feeling very proud of oneself for going to satsang.

I for “I”, the real ego, putting myself above all else, which is the chief culprit.

N for Non-action, kind of like a counter-point to “A” above, because we can’t be attached to not doing something either. For instance, someone might not go to parties on weekends and feel great about themselves and begin looking down upon those that do go, and getting attached to that inaction.

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Can TGIF ever become TGIM?

Anyone who goes to office knows what TGIF is… Thank God it’s Friday! After a grueling week, the mental peace that Friday brings is just unparalleled.

But what of Mondays? They’re only ever associated with the color blue, as we well know.

Here’s two tips I got recently, to love work:

1. Work as a nimmita of the Lord, as an instrument. We are doing His grand work. So how can we feel tired, angry, frustrated or irritated? We have the opportunity to work for the Lord. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for better pay or promotions and such. But whatever we are doing right now is but a prasad of the Lord.

2. Take the ego out of the work. Lose the identity. Not to be foolish, but prepared. This will inculcate risk taking ability, without worrying about whether you are presenting to a peer or a senior. How you can add value to your colleagues and your organization trumps the fear of what will happen to you if something doesn’t go well.

Of these two points, #2 done with #1 in mind can lead to outstanding results. It’s not whether TGIF becomes TGIM, but that there is always TG in our minds!

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Money flight

Money is awesome. But is too much money too awesome?

One of the world’s richest men and owners of one of the world’s most premium fashion brands, recently disposed off his private jet.

Wow. Everyone who thinks of being super rich someday surely dreams of owning their very own private jet. And here’s someone who’s giving it away?

No, it’s not an act of charity. But one of personal and corporate safety.

There are apps nowadays that can track all airline information, live and in real-time. And that’s what people had been doing of this gentlemen’s flights across the globe. They knew which country he went to for dinner, for a business meeting, for a personal meeting even. And so tata-byebye private jet.

So much money, yet no privacy. Is too much money too awesome?

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Back to back

There are two very critical ‘back’s in life. No its not like there’s a substitute back when one’s got back pain.

These 2 backs are essential for growth and success.

The first back is setback. We often only look for victory everywhere, but setbacks are a part and parcel of life. If there is no setback, we will never have the chance to learn and improve our game.

The second back is comeback. This is how we implement our learnings from the first back, i.e. the setback.

Taken together, setbacks and comebacks are an insanely powerful combination.

No need to fear setbacks because without one, we would never know how to do better. And there is no shame in comebacks, only honor.

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Selflessly sweet

There’s an Indian sweet dish named Rasgulla or roshogulla as the locals call it. It was invented in the city of Kolkata in India, back in the 1860s.

The sweet has two components, a white ball made of cottage cheese and an accompanying sweet brine. For anyone who has eaten this divinely indulgent dish, the sweet syrup and the ball are inseparable.

But did you know, that the very first version of rasgulla only had the white ball. No syrup. No liquid. No brine.

How did that come about then? Because of empathy!

The inventor, one Nobin Chandra Das, wanted to help quench the parched throats of his customers. They would often come to him on a hot day, and eating a dry ball of cottage cheese, no matter how sweet, would hardly be of help. So he added the brine. What a sweet gesture!

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