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Category: choice

Family first?

This is not a political post, but simply a humanitarian one.

The current President of India is Droupadi Murmu.

This statement can just end there of course. But someone who didn’t know better could assume that this lady got there easily.

But nope, couldn’t have been harder.

She is from one of India’s most backward and underdeveloped communities. She also lost her husband, both her sons (one to an accident), her mother and her brother, all in the span of a few years. Losses that would have destroyed any other normal person.

But this strong lady continues to work selflessly for her country. And with a smile.

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Les perishables

Chapter 7 of the Gita is an interesting one.

In verse 20-22, the Lord says that spiritual seekers can worship various deities. By following the specific rules related to these deities, they will get what they desire.

Then in verse 23, He mentions the words antavattu phalam. Anta is end and Phal is fruit. Taken together, the words refer to perishable desires.

The Lord is trying to convey only one simple truth here. That we should not be running after material desires. Why? Because they are perishable! Would you want to buy a shiny new sports car that you know would be junk in a year?

The 3 core components of life = vyakti, vastu, paristhithi = people, things and situations – all of these are perishable, and yet our desires only revolve around these.

What should we desire that is permanent then? Spiritual growth to reach the Lord.

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Ravana good or bad?

Was recently watching an interview of a Sri Lankan historian who said that Ravana to her and her people was a hero while Vibheeshana was a traitor. She supported her belief by saying the latter defected only because he felt insulted after being given the smallest and farthest of the 10 local kingdoms.

This would be completely the opposite view of anyone in India who has grown up reading the Ramayana. Ravana was obviously devout and skilled unlike any, but also supposed to have been brought down by his own ego. Vibheeshana however is eulogised for having stood by Dharma.

What to do in such cases where the stories themselves apparently contradict each other?

The answer is to not focus on the story or characters or who was the hero or villain but rather on the underlying message. Follow dharma, banish ego. This is the message of our scriptures, and the same is true of the mythological texts. That will be enough for us to know how to act when we are faced with tough circumstances and choices in life, because ultimately it’s all about our own inner transformation.

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Loud quitting – part 2 of 2

If a doctor has been giving simple cough syrup to cure someone’s cough, but later realizes that this is a deeper lung issue, of course the doc will have to quit giving cough syrup and progress to more potent medication.

If the workplace is really toxic, then what’s the problem in quitting? If there’s a better opportunity available, shouldn’t one take it?

There’s a concept in economics called ‘opportunity cost’ that exactly defines this, and businesses use it all the time. With a limited set of resources, how can you make the optimum use of the opportunity at hand? No matter what happens, if there are multiple opportunities, one or more will have to be sacrificed, and that is the cost of missing out. But it’s fine, we cannot do everything at the same time, all the time.

Quitting isn’t bad. It’s why one quits that matters.

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Loud quitting

There’s a whole “quiet quitting” movement that is going on in the corporate world. Employees don’t actually quit but they are so disillusioned with work, that they quit mentally. So they would not put in the efforts required and do a half hearted job perhaps.

There’s something about quitting in our world that just evokes the deepest of passions.

“How can you quit? Quitting is for losers. Tough people never quit.” Haven’t we all grown up hearing these?

This even exists with the greatest most successful folks. Nobody says they quit. They want to be seen as evolving, not quitting, even if it’s a tennis star keeping down her racquet or a footballer hanging up his boots.

Why is quitting so bad? More tomorrow.

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What the Carlyle Group founder says about adding value…

The 73 year old ultra successful billionaire investor and founder of the Carlyle Group, David Rubenstein, had the following to say when asked about what kind of projects he takes on or spends time on.

  1. Work on starting things that others aren’t able to start.
  2. Work on finishing things that others aren’t able to finish.
  3. Wherever possible, attempt to make tangible progress, rather than something that might or might not happen in a distant future.
  4. Give your time to your projects of choice, in addition to giving your money.

Isn’t this very instructive and insightful on how we each could look to prioritize our own times as well?

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Good loses to bad

Good people finish last right? Except in Hollywood at least. There’s no heroes with capes in real life it may well seem.

But here’s one perspective I came across recently that was pivotal.

It’s not just good versus bad, but also active versus passive.

As Krishna always says in the Gita, there is no room for inaction. This is not different from saying there is no room for being passive.

Doesn’t mean that one must always give up common sense and keep on doing something wasteful just in order to be seen as active.

But when good people are passive, little gets achieved. Contrast that with bad people being active. And therefore the importance of good people being active!

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How to be an awesome learner?

The world is changing fast. Progressing at an amazing pace. And with that, elders, seniors, those with more experience, whatever you may call it, are getting disrupted. Not just technology but people itself. Pretty much everything I studied in college or university many years ago, is all obsolete. Poof. Gone.

How to survive then? Only by learning constantly. There is no other way. And the best way to learn is to look at Arjuna for tips. Learn from the best learner himself.

What are his attributes?

  1. Being a very patient listener, having sat through 18 Gita chapters with Krishna
  2. Ensuring he understands everything correctly, by asking relevant questions, and
  3. Implementing everything he listens to and understands

Simple, but not easy…

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Missed alive

What is more important, work or family life?

That’s a trick question, because both are important, as we well know.

Balancing both is very difficult, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

I came across the story of a celebrated author who was writing his best ever book yet. He was so engrossed in the book, that he forgot everything around him, family included.

He unfortunately passed away while writing the last chapter. His wife said this after his death:

"I do miss Larry, but it's not like he was here even when he was alive"

Is that how we want to be known?

As one of my mentors always says, it’s never work-life balance, but always work-life choice.

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Self discipline

We may know what the right thing to do is, and yet not do it when the time comes.

Elbert Hubbard, the American writer and philosopher who lived in the 1890s had this to say:

Self discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do and when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.

Truer yet harder-to-implement words were perhaps never spoken.

Elbert goes on to say:

There are 999 other success principles I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work. And with self-discipline, all of them work!
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Yes means No

You know how we struggle sometimes to say “No”?

Especially when we know deep down, that “No” is indeed the right answer.

It might be to a friend or relative asking for your money, or a boss asking you to work every weekend, or a colleague expecting you to always fill in for their gaps.

We may think that by saying “Yes” to such requests, we are actually doing something good, doing something divinely karmic.

However, it is good to remember that every coin has a flip side. By saying “Yes” to everything, we are actually saying implicit “No”s to ourselves and to our loved ones. How?

Because every extra hour or dollar wasted on someone unnecessary, is an equivalent hour or dollar unavailable for us to spend with ourselves or our loved ones. Not that we should not help others, but thinking this way helps us discriminate between who really needs our help, and who is being parasitic.

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Food over medicines

There was a bit of a medical emergency recently. Not a big scare or anything. But some medicines were needed, and pronto.

There’s so many “10-minute delivery” apps nowadays, that any one of them should have done the trick.

Except that at 4 am, none of them deliver medicines even in 3 hours, let alone 10 minutes.

That is understandable of course. Can’t expect the world to be awake in the wee hours of the morning to make medical deliveries.

Until you open the food apps that is, and realize that you can order burgers and fries and high-sugar fizzy drinks at 4 am for immediate delivery, but not critical medicines.

We collectively as a society seem to have our priorities clear 😅

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Whose problems?

Everyone’s got problems. Some are big, some are small. But no, rarely would anyone consider their own problems as small.

My Guru used to say that if a lot of people are complaining about their problems, they should all be brought together. Like at a dining table, and then made to discuss their problems, one by one. Then at the end of the discussion, the choice should be given to each one to exchange their problems with others.

Would anyone be ready to exchange? Absolutely not! While their own problems are bad, the other person’s problems are even worse, so we are better off with our own! So what is the takeaway? Quit cribbing, and be happy with what we’ve got.

The corollary? As the saying goes, “Don’t tell people your problems. Eighty percent don’t care and the other twenty percent are glad you have them.”

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Miraculous – part 1/2

In chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions the existence of seven hells and seven heavens. Really? What is this? Coming from a logical and scientific background, do such things even make sense?

One satsangi said this topic was a complete ‘bouncer’ for him, and why not!

While some of these things may sound fantastic, and I have no way of either proving or disproving them, my preference has just been to keep an open mind. Nobody really understands everything, and to pooh-pooh something just because I don’t understand it doesn’t seem like the right approach to me.

Take vedic astrology for instance. The most common argument against it is that, “Oh how can some planet situated so many light years away have an impact on me?”. My counter to that is, for the rishis and munis that discovered such sciences many thousands of years ago and had such insanely high acumen that they uncovered many secrets of human life – would these same brilliant sages have just decided to ignore the most obvious “planets are too far away from earth” observation?

Concluded tomorrow!

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How to make the right decision?

You know how we are at a crossroads so many times in our lives? We need to make one decision or another. This job or that. This country or that. This course or that. This institution or that. And so on.

Despite this, we rarely have a clear blueprint of how to go about these decisions. So critical, yet so confusing.

A senior satsangi this past weekend gave a simple yet profound 3-step technique for just this problem:

  1. Pray for the right wisdom.
  2. Ask for guidance from materially successful mentors especially if they are also on the spiritual path, such as a part of the same satsang.
  3. Understand deeply, that the grass is always greener elsewhere. Not that we shouldn’t strive for better – but just that it helps to have realistic expectations.

Decision making conquered!

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How much to donate?

Took a rickshaw ride to the metro station today. Turned out to be a very expensive one. Instead of paying x, I paid 10x.

Why? Because the rickshaw driver got a 10-second call in between, told me he just got news that his wife delivered twins, and congratulated himself. He then said all was good till 5 days ago when his father passed away. And that his wife was in ICU and that he had no money to buy her medicines. He wiped a (possibly) non-existent tear from his left eye too, whilst slapping his forehead a few times.

I gave him a little cash, and he asked for more because “medicines are expensive”. I told him that’s all I had, and he motioned to the QR code stuck on his vehicle and said I could transfer the money to him. To which I reminded him that the meter showed x, and that I’d just paid him 10x.

Even 10x really wasn’t a very big number – hardly anything. Maybe I should have been more generous – because what if he was being genuine? But some of this also seemed like it was pre-rehearsed. Was he lying? Was this a scam? I have no clue. No way of finding out.

My Guru says a) donate 10% of your post-tax income, and b) to make said donation only to the cause he has selected (education for the underprivileged). Why ‘only‘? Because he has already done the research, and knows the practical difficulties of trying to help everyone and supporting every cause. While ad-hoc folks asking for money like the example today is not uncommon in India, following principles ‘a’ and ‘b’ is what gives me peace of mind.

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Desert rose

“Oh desert rose eh ley hi ey ley…” crooned the legendary singer Sting many years ago.

I have never figured out the words after ‘rose’, but that’s digressing from the point.

No one likes deserts no? Not desserts, which are universally loved (except by the 22 year old trying desperately to get his abs to show!), but the dry arid landscapes that parch your throat just by thinking about them.

A dry barren dune-filled land is always considered infertile and useless. “What will anyone do with such a place?” is the first thing that comes to mind.

But even weaknesses can be turned into strengths. That’s my learning. We know this, but still get dejected in the face of adversity. Here’s a nice line I saw about the Indian state of Rajasthan, as part of a tourism advertisement.

“A pioneer in the green revolution (to generate solar energy) in India with 300-330 sunny days a year, which is comparable to the deserts of California and Nevada!”

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10,000 by 3

Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour practice rule? You practice anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll become world class (like a concert violinist or pianist or a professional soccer or cricket player).

The breakup was that if you can practice something for 3 hours a day for 10 years, you’ll easily achieve an unparalleled level of expertise.

For many of us, even taking out 1 hour a day to do something we’d loosely classify as a “hobby” would be extremely difficult.

And if we did get the 1 hour out of an already maddening schedule, then it’d just be better to unwind with Netflix or Prime no?

One way I like to look at this, is to put in the 10,000 hours at our work. Our office job. The day job. Whatever it may be. And guess what, we work 9 hours a day anyway. So that’s 3 times more than the 3 hours per day needed for mastery in 10 years. Which means we could be masters at our work if we spend just 3.3 years!

Instead of spending time by the water cooler, gossiping and talking politics and what not, why not just use every single opportunity to learn, spend the 9 hours in the most efficient manner possible, and become the best-of-the-best in your line of work, whatever it might be? 😄

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Vocal for social

Imagine a chaotic check-in scene at an airport. At least 300 passengers are waiting for their turn to dump their luggages and collect their boarding passes. All in serpentine queues that would put a new iPhone launch line to shame.

There are many that have their flights departing in under an hour, and so the line-cutting begins. It’s chaos. It’s madness. It’s chaotic madness.

And then as one elderly chap begins to raise his voice against the (terribly) understaffed counters, a smart employee in counter 1 asks him to come over so that he could quickly be serviced, and more importantly, silenced.

What would most people do in such a situation? Take the shortcut right? The guy should have quickly taken his family to that counter, cutting ahead of at least a 100 passengers, simply because he raised his voice.

But that’s not what he did. He made his family stay back in line, went to that counter and reprimanded the employee for encouraging such shortcut behavior. He then proceeded to manage the line (and force other cutters to go back in-line) until his family got to the counter, after waiting in line. A role model citizen if there was one!

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VVP – part 2

We looked at Vyakti Vastu Paristhithi yesterday.

Today is another VVP. Something called a Value Validation Project.

I came across this awesome concept online. It’s amazingly helpful if you want to land a new job. It’s also amazing if you want to know if you want that job in the first place.

What does VVP involve? If you are applying for a job as a coder (say), the easiest thing is to click the ‘Apply’ button, ship your CV to the recruitment team, and hope for a response, just like a million other applicants.

But how to stand out? By validating your value, via a project. Use the opportunity to code something now itself for your prospective employer, so they see what you can do for them once you join.

This is not limited to coding of course, but can be used in any field. Value validation is not easy, but worth it. Shreyas over Preyas.

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