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Category: motivation

Snoopy

We’ve all got quite accustomed to hearing victory speeches for awards ceremonies like the Oscars.

Celebrities take to the stage, and then thank a long list of people, including their cast members, the director, the stunt team, the writer, the choreographer and so on.

In a similar speech by singer/rapper Snoop Dogg, he had an interesting sentence to add.

“I’d like to thank me.”

And then he gives out a sly grin, and then repeats.

“I’d like to thank me, for believing in me.”

Maybe he was kidding, maybe he wasn’t. But in this age of increased stress, anxiety and inferiority complexes, it is surely a great feeling to back oneself up.

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Arrivals

Surely you’ve heard of that neighbor’s son who’s so successful right?

We all live in different apartments, towns, cities, countries and even continents. Yet we all have those “neighbour’s sons / daughters” that we are invariably compared with.

This is not about comparing with others, as much as it is about our own definitions of success. But can we really define our success?

Were we successful when we cleared first grade? Or weren’t we?

How about when we cleared grade 12? How about when we graduated? When we got a job? Or when we got another job, and then another and another? How about when we were promoted to head of a department? Or when we started our own company? Or when we donated a decent sum to the charity of our choice? Or when we were able to use our ‘influence’ to recommend a friend to a good job? Or when we got to the Board of Directors? Or CEO or Chairman of a small company? Of a large company? Of a Fortune 500?

Who decides if we are successful or not? Is it really us? Or is it an arbitrary line in the sand, drawn by someone else, that declares that you have arrived?

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Memory power

As a kid, my memorization skills were terrible. We used to have those competitions in school where we’d be blindfolded, taken into a room, showed a number of objects, and then brought back into our classroom to write within two minutes everything that we could remember from that visit.

I would hardly get 7 or 8 right, while kids around me easily did 30 or more.

Even to today, I struggle with names, places, birthdays (shhh, don’t tell my wife!), faces, events and everything else. How I cleared exams, especially engineering, where I didn’t understand so many of the most basic concepts, really befuddles me to this date.

But you know the best part of having a poor memory? It extends to all walks of life. If someone tells me something rude or hurtful, I forget that as well. If someone passed some nasty comment – poof, a few weeks later I often have no recall of the event. It sucks when there are fights, if I need to prove a point, then I can barely connect past events to make my case.

But in the long run, does it really matter? Once the ego clash is taken out of the equation, is there really a winner or loser? There likely isn’t, and which is why to me personally, a bad memory isn’t a problem, it is a divine gift!

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Are you a leader? – part 2 of 2

As a leader, what is expected of us? In verse 21 of chapter 3 of the Gita, Lord Krishna says the following.

"Whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it."

This is a very interesting shloka, and it seems like a motivational quote for one’s goal setting, doesn’t it? We should all have great goals, be great leaders, so that people follow in our footsteps. But that’s not all.

Krishna in this verse is also talking about Himself. Is he subjected to the same rules? He says he is! Isn’t He also constantly working to keep the universe running? Brahma creating, Vishnu sustaining, Shiva destroying, in a sense?

My Guru would be another example – an already-realized soul, but why is he working so hard? Why would he need to do aarti thrice a day? Why would he choose to live his life in a rural setting to help educate the poor? Why would he need to wake up at 5 am daily to do yoga? Why does he work 7 days a week 365 days a year?

Because as Krishna says, “whatever a great man does, other men also do. Whichever standard he sets, the world follows it.” What are each one of us doing? What are we striving to achieve? It is a question we need to answers for ourselves, and honestly.

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Are you a leader? – part 1 of 2

Yes you are. One way or another. How, you ask?

Because you are a son/daughter/mother/father/brother/sister/colleague/friend, and that too a one of a kind.

As a parent, your kids look up to you as their leader.

As the one running the household, your spouse looks up to you.

As the one running the family, your family members look up to you.

As a guide for life, your siblings look up to you.

As a mentor, your employees look up to you.

As a shoulder to rest upon, your friends rely on you.

Aren’t you thus a born leader? Aren’t we all?

Now that we understand this, how should we conduct ourselves? Lord Krishna has a clear directive for each one of us. Coming tomorrow… stay tuned!

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Tree wood

Know the saying “Don’t miss the forest for the trees”? You have surely come across it.

Here’s some forest-for-the-trees questions we get regularly in the satsang.

  1. Did Ravana really have 10 heads?
  2. Is there really a heaven and a hell?
  3. Are there really 7 worlds above and below?
  4. Did Krishna really explain the Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield? What were the others doing then?
  5. Did Rama really cross over to Lanka by walking on floating rocks put together by monkeys?
  6. Did Ravana actually fly to India?
  7. Is it possible that the Vishwaroopa darshanam actually happened?
  8. How did Creation happen?

All of these are amazing questions. However, even the most amazing answers to these questions will not help us transform ourselves and progress on the spiritual path.

When the real transformation begins (work selflessly as worship, i.e. karma yoga), the questions will automatically fall away.

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Immersive

As adults, we often struggle to learn new things. It could be a new skill – usually learning to draw, learning a new instrument – or wait for it – the most favourite of them all – learning a new language!

We often try for a few hours, maybe a few days even. And then the interest levels start to go down. In languages where you have genders for objects – like a train is feminine or a bat is masculine, for a native English speaker, this can be verbal hell.

They say ‘immersion learning’ is the best form of learning. Want to learn French? Go live in the French countryside for a few months. Nobody will speak to you in English, and if you want to survive, you have no choice but to converse in French.

And then the thought strikes – “Oh how I wish I had learned this as a kid. Look at the kids all around me, they are so quick to grasp everything.” And then we give up.

I was quite surprised therefore to read, that kids are actually not very good at learning. They are certainly not better than adults. And if anything, we should have a huge head start. Then why do we struggle? Because we only read and plan, but rarely take action. But kids? They don’t know to read or plan. They only act. Watch any toddler repeat the same broken words and sentences hundreds of thousands of times, until it becomes perfect. How many times to do we repeat what we are trying to learn?

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Superior inferior

In the workplace, a common complaint I’ve heard across industries and sectors is that it appears the seniors / superiors / bosses / managers don’t really do much. They also don’t know much. But by virtue of their legacy, having warmed their chairs for many years, they get to be where they are.

How to tackle this? Here are some ways to look at this:

  1. If we are junior to someone else, we cannot control the other person’s current position or future career trajectory.
  2. We can control what we do with our hours put in at work though.
  3. In many cases, a person’s authority in a particular position comes solely because of the title. If an incompetent person is made head of the team, it is still the head only who can take certain decisions, whether bad or good.
  4. If a superior doesn’t ‘deserve’ a role, s/he may hold the position for a very long time, but the impact they will create will be negligible.
  5. If we get a chance to go into that role in say 3 years or 5 years, what would our impact be then? What would we want it to be?
  6. If the impact has to be much better, then we need to start putting in substantial efforts – from today itself.
  7. We cannot control the outcome of tomorrow, but we can control what we learn today, what skills we develop today and what networks we build today. This is most important. And it has never been easier to learn new things and add to ones repertoire – whether via Udemy, or YouTube or Coursera or any other.

As Swami Vivekananda has said, “We find ourselves in the position for which we are fit, and if one has some capacity above another, the world will find that out too.”

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Drive thru

A study recently found that the most stressful city in the world for driving is… you guessed it or maybe not… Mumbai!

Given that I’ve been living and driving here for years, I can only agree, somewhat. Only ‘somewhat’, because Mumbai is very stressful to drive in, but all of India can be really stressful to drive in too.

There’s just so many people, everyone as if waiting to just jump in front of your vehicle when you least expect it. There is also massive congestion, unexpected bovinity in the middle of highways, zero wiggle room, no rules, no lane discipline, no lanes, no signals and in general a lot of peril.

However, there are two things in my humble observation that keeps all this driving insanity remarkably orderly.

  1. Go slow (no scope for autobahn here!)
  2. But keep moving.

Going slow means you get to stop when required and not worry about hitting someone who unexpectedly shows up. By keeping on moving, you ensure that you get to where you want, slowly but surely.

In this hyper-fast age of advancement and spectacular wins and stress and everyone rubbing their own successes in everyone else’s faces, following these two maxims for life in general, could be really really rewarding.

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Predictive analytics

Put a picture of a snake and mention the words ‘kaala sarpa dosha’, and this is modus operandi 101 for many pseudo astrologers to make a quick buck. Much of this deep rooted fear is unwarranted, as many of the leading vedic astrologers concur that there is nary a reference to this dosha in tradition and ancient texts.

But oh that fear… what to do? What will happen to me? Many of us are living our lives in constant fear of something that may in all probability not even happen.

It is common in India to go to an astrologer and hope to identify how the future would pan out. This makes sense to an extent, if the native is a new born baby. The chart would indeed be highly indicative.

However for someone who is say 40 years old, does the birth chart have significance? Yes it does to some extent, but the birth chart can only predict life based on, you guessed it, the birth!

But since then, 40 years have passed. Prarabhdha karma is as of the birth time, not beyond. So much of free will, in all these 40 years, could potentially have completely transformed the life of the person… of any of us really! But if we choose to remain rooted to what the birth chart indicates, and surrender to our so-called fate and the subsequently induced fear, then how will our true potential come to the fore?

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Running for what?

A podcast I was listening to recently had Allyson Felix as the guest of honour. I had not heard of her before, but she came across as a really nice human being. And that is not to say she’s not famous – she’s the most decorated US track athlete in Olympic history, having won 11 medals – breaking Carl Lewis’ record of 10.

What really struck me was how she found her passion. Most Olympians and sportspersons we meet seem to be born into their sport. Of course there will be a few exceptions (like Allyson), but by and large, it would appear like these exceptionally talented people found their calling very early on, like in their early school days.

And this is something many of us struggle with on a daily basis. We see start-up founders make hundreds of millions, while we feel aimless and lost. We see people who’ve found their calling, while all we seem to end up with are calls from spammers. How to find this passion then? Should we give up?

Here’s what Allyson said that I really liked. She said that most of her peers who found their passions early on, became such hardcore specialists (in a specific sport or activity), that by the time they turned 30, they were already burned out. Whereas in her own experience as a 35 year old medallist, she only entered her sport well into college! Till then, she was just enjoying other sports like basketball that she really liked, but was nowhere near good as in running. I think this is a great lesson for me – no need to struggle to find a passion and get burned out or stay dejected. Instead just enjoy the work I am doing, and live in the now, today, forever happy.

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Pet chasing

Imagine a dog or a cat or a mouse. Yes like in Tom & Jerry. You are trying your best to catch the animal, but it is just so quick, darting about – here now, next second hopped onto the wall, and the next onto the tree. Phew, all this running around and chasing is really tiring.

Is there a better way? Yes there is.

How about just sitting quietly, with some pet food. Yummy. No need to chase the animal anymore. The animals love pet food, and so will come right to your lap.

The animal here represents nothing but the whole world. We are constantly chasing after it, looking for one elusive success after another.

Through this entire journey, we forget the most important aspect, which is ourselves.

The pet food is our skills, talents and abilities. If we work on constantly improving ourselves, we don’t need to chase anyone for anything, and instead the whole world will come chasing after us.

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The happiest animal

In the much acclaimed TV show called Ted Lasso, there’s an amazing scene. Nay there are many many amazing scenes, and dialogues.

In one, a soccer player falls to the ground, is tackled and beaten, and then booed by the rest of the players. Clearly something isn’t right. The player on the ground is dejected. Coach Ted calls him to the side line, and asks him, “Do you know what the happiest animal in the world is?”

“What?!”, exclaims the player in disbelief, little expecting such trivia when there’s so much going on in his head already.

“A goldfish”, comes the answer from coach Ted, “Because it only has a 10 second memory. Be a goldfish.”

Had a bad day today? No problem, be a goldfish.
Had a good day today? Also no problem, be a goldfish.

Only then can we live in the moment.

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Dutiful desire

Remember the awesome Conversion Test we discussed here previously?

Got a desire? Is it a good one? The test involves checking if it can be converted into a duty. Binge watching Netflix? Big big big desire. But is it good enough to be converted into a duty? Not unless you work for Netflix, or maybe a competitor and tasked with peer benchmarking!

In any case, doing such tests and banning Netflix/Amazon Prime/others from our lives could border on extreme. We don’t want to become dull and boring now do we? Recognizing that we are human, and need the occasional or even regular ‘fun-time’, here’s a brilliant 3-step checklist one of the satsangis recently dished out:

  1. Apply a filter. Is the action dharmic or adharmic? If adharmic, then eliminate it right away. Watching video-on-demand isn’t adharmic, so we can safely move on to step 2.
  2. Moderation is key. In our example, regular binge watching, is not moderation. Maybe an hour a day, depending on the circumstances, could be permissible.
  3. Balance the scales. Watched Netflix for an hour? Great. Now ensure you spend an hour doing something else that would ‘add value’ to yourself and society. Read scriptures. Further your goals. Exercise. Help someone. Attend satsang. No compromises on the good stuff!
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Improv your life

A friend of mine from college used to be fantastic at improv acting.

How he’d get ideas on the spot, how’d he string his thoughts together, how he’d act on the spot, and yet make it all comedic, I have no clue.

In a recent TV series I was watching, I came across a fundamental principle in improv.

It’s called “Yes, and?”

This is a way of continuing the dialogue. Accepting whatever the other person on stage just said, with a “Yes”, even if it is completely nonsensical.

The “And” after the “Yes” helps with continuing the conversation. Like a nonchalant ‘okay, what next?’

Even outside of improv, this struck me as an amazing way to look at life. We’re each beset by so many unexpected troubles and issues. Instead of getting smacked in the face and falling down, we can stay rooted and ask the question “Yes, and?”, then put on a smile, keep calm, and carry on.

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Luck returns – part 2

Now that we know how to define luck, what can we do with it?

Said definition was pivotal in JimC’s research of companies that apparently “got lucky”. Even when we look at the most successful companies today, one might be forgiven if they jumped to such a conclusion. Oh Google? “Damn they got lucky when they started off. Imagine if they had to start today. They were first movers back then, and that makes them super lucky.” Or Microsoft. “They got so lucky to do some amazing deals in their early days, like with IBM – which completely changed their course.”

But is this true? You decide after reading their story. Back in the 1980s, IBM was looking for an Operating System (OS). They approached two companies – Digital Research, and Microsoft. The former already had an OS, the latter didn’t. But the outcome of the meetings? The meeting with DR was apparently handled in such a (bad) way that IBM preferred to work with Microsoft instead. Now what is the role of luck here? Did MS get luckier than DR? Not really. Both companies were presented with the exact same situations, or luck events, and it would appear DR actually had a leg up, given their ready OS. Yet, the outcomes were materially different.

The conclusion is this. And this applies in our personal lives too, once we accept it and open our eyes to it. Luck doesn’t matter. But ‘return on luck’ matters! MS’ return on luck was way more elevated than DR’s. What we do with the luck we get, the opportunities we get, that’s the only thing that matters. And this is true for bad luck and good luck both. In fact, the luck itself is perhaps hard to categorize as either good or bad. What we do with that opportunity, how we use that to our advantage (or not), is what would likely brand it as either good or bad. Interesting isn’t it?

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Luck returns

So we’ve been looking at Jim Collins’ work in the past few days. One of the things that struck me as amazing was what he found amazing too. And that is on the role of luck in the life of a corporation. And of course we’ll extrapolate that to how it could fit our own personal experiences as well.

When he started off, he struggled with the concept of luck. Some people say luck is ‘opportunity meets preparation’. But is that really correct? Does it work in the case of bad luck? A close and healthy friend unexpectedly becomes terminally ill. How is that a case of opportunity meeting preparation?

So Jim then proceeded to define luck as an ‘event’ which meets each of the following 3 conditions.

1. It is not caused by you.
2. It has a significant magnitude of impact (so that it can be distinguished from just a normal occurrence).
3. It has an element of surprise

Think of some ‘lucky’ events in your life, either good or bad, and see if these three conditions are met? A great way to break it down isn’t it?

Very interesting conclusions in tomorrow’s post – stay tuned!

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20-mile march

Heard of the 20-mile march?

This is about two teams who were heading to the South Pole. On foot.

One team would march 20 miles every day, no matter the weather.

Snow, hail, rain, sleet, wind, whatever else there is in Antarctica – didn’t matter to them.

20 miles ahead they marched.

The other team?

They’d strategize, and some days cover 50 miles, while on others with bad weather, they’d huddle together and stay put.

The first team won. The second team did not even survive, let alone complete their journey.

Both teams had the same equipment, and the same skillsets.

The learning for me? Consistency rewards like nothing else. No point waiting for the perfect sunny day. Every day is an opportunity. Remember GUDUSUNGU? 🙂

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5 to 7

If something is really hard to do 5 days a week, then it would obviously be really really hard doing it 7 days a week right?

Maybe not.

For instance, did you know that it’s easier to workout 7 days a week, compared to working out 5 days a week?

No way, that doesn’t even make sense right? Or does it?

Think about it. When we work out 5 days a week only, we spend a considerable amount of time wondering which two days should be no-exercise days. Suddenly laziness creeps in. Or maybe we’d want to keep Sat-Sun as no-workout days? Yes possible, except that dragging ourselves to exercise on Mondays becomes that much harder.

Instead of giving ourselves the illusion of choice, what if we just worked out all 7 days, maybe taking it easy on some while really going the whole hog on others? We do brush our teeth and take bath everyday, so why not exercise?

This is really not just about exercise, but could be relevant for developing any good habit at all. Want to read more? We can read 10 minutes a day – everyday – compared to reading 1 hour, only on weekends. Want to eat cleaner? Eat cleaner (not necessarily 100% clean) every day, rather than struggling a few days, only to give all the gains back on one cheat day/week. What do you think?

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I wish you bad luck

There are many commencement speeches available on YouTube, often delivered by of some of the greatest politicians, businessmen, sportsmen or actors at the various Ivy Leagues. Of course these tend to be extremely motivational, and the combination of wit and pragmatism can help students (and lurkers like me on YouTube) gain credible insight into the real-world that awaits them.

Most of the speeches repeat positive message: work hard, earn money, be humble, be this, be that, do this, do that and lots of best wishes to you and all that.

But US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts gave an unconventional speech a few years ago. He actually said, “I wish you bad luck.” Surely quite unexpected? Here’s a para I found most interesting, pasted below for your reading delight.

"From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

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