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Category: relationships

Smells like team spirit – part 1 of 2

Nirvana, the rock band of yesteryear, had an insane hit called “smells like teen spirit”. More than teen spirit, it’s team spirit that matters for success in life – not that Niravana felt otherwise.

But a recent TV series called The Last Dance, chronicles the final NBA season of the Chicago Bulls a couple of decades ago.

Anyone who was old enough to watch basketball at the time will remember the outstanding Michael Jordan, as well as his partner in crime Scottie Pippen. I always thought things were great between them given how amazing they were on the court.

But despite Pippen being at least the 2nd best player in the Bulls, he was only the 6th best ranked player on the team in terms of salary. His salary rank was 120th when the entire NBA was considered. Surely very less for one of his caliber.

Continued tomorrow…

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Relationship Advisory – part 3 of 3

During the podcast, Adam Grant requested his guests – the Gottmans – to share examples of how they would resolve conflicts. And boy did they provide some funny yet eye-opening versions.

Without going into the examples here though, even better is how Adam summarized everything beautifully at the end. Here it is, verbatim:

I came into this conversation thinking the Gottmans’ secret sauce must be their knowledge from research and therapy. Now, I believe it's something more: their deliberate practice. It's like they've been training for the Conflict Olympics. They're not just coaches watching other people's highlight reels and bloopers. They're professional arguers. They practice fighting. They review their game tape afterward. Amazing. There's a lot of evidence that what hurts relationships is not arguing frequently. It's arguing poorly, and watching the Gottmans convinces me that the best way to get better at fighting is to do it more, and then debrief on what went well and how you could have handled it more effectively. That way, instead of duking it out to try to win the argument, you're on the same side, trying to improve the argument, together. I think we should all give this a whirl, and I know where I'm gonna start. 
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Relationship advisory – part 2 of 3

Continuing from yesterday, the Gottmans talk about an interesting concept. The “4 horsemen” is a term coined by John and Julie Gottman to refer to four common behaviors that are predictors of relationship failure. These behaviors are:

Criticism: This involves attacking someone’s character or personality, rather than focusing on a specific behavior or issue. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like it when you leave dirty dishes in the sink,” a person might say “You are so lazy and inconsiderate.”

Contempt: This involves putting the other person down or mocking them in a hostile way. For example, using sarcasm or eye-rolling to show that you think the other person is stupid or unworthy of respect.

Defensiveness: This involves avoiding responsibility for your own actions and trying to shift blame onto the other person. For example, instead of acknowledging that you made a mistake and apologizing, you might say “I only did it because you always…” or “It’s not my fault, it’s yours.”

Stonewalling: This involves shutting down or withdrawing from the conversation, either physically or emotionally. For example, not responding to the other person’s comments, or walking out of the room without saying anything.

Pretty cool way of dissecting relationships, and especially what can go wrong!

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Relationship advisory – part 1 of 3

In a cool new podcast by Adam Grant, he interviews John and Julie Gottman. The two are psychologists who have been studying healthy relationships for over four decades. They co-founded the Gottman Institute, and have written numerous bestselling books together.

They discuss their famous study on predicting divorce rates in the podcast episode. I first thought, “what? Predicting divorce? How is that even possible? Are they using Vedic astrology?” But no, it was a proper study!

They had couples come into their lab and talk about the issues in their marriage, and were able to predict their divorce rates with astonishing accuracy by coding the little signals they sent each other back and forth. They synchronized the video time code to physiological measures from each person, looking at heart rate, how much they sweat from their hands, respiration, blood velocity, gross motor movement, and the emotions that the couples were displaying.

Almost shockingly (to me!), they could account for more than 90% of the variation in what happened to the couple, and could not only predict whether they would stay together or get divorced, but also predict when they would get divorced and how happily married they would be if they stayed together.

Incredible, and so did they have any more insights to offer? More tomorrow…

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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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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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Pass the ion

The entirety of the Gita can be divided into just 3 words, if we go by what is in verses 10 and 11 of the 10th chapter.

What are these 3 words?

  1. Passion – which is how we should be working, with passion, aka karma yoga
  2. Compassion – the way the Lord looks at us, the way our Guru looks at us
  3. Dispassion – which is vairagya, or living unattached. Not uninterested, but disinterested.

What a brilliant triad isn’t it?!

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More and more

The other day, I came across a book in a bookstore (yes those still exist!).

It was partially covered, and so I only saw half the title.

The words were “Ask For More”.

I thought to myself, “What a weird title!”, and then proceeded to pick up the book out of interest.

Turns out, the title was actually “Say Less, Ask More”. It was not ‘ask “for” more’. That was just my mind playing tricks on me. Not just tricks, but working in its usual ways of wanting more and more.

The book instead was on how to lead effectively. By listening more, saying less, and asking more questions so that learning improves. Nice isn’t it?

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The art of war

Was reading about a war situation. One family of 6, two parents and 4 of their children, were stuck in their home as war broke out. They thought they were safe, until an enemy missile exploded barely 500 meters away from their home.

They dashed into their car and decided to make a run for the border. Only 5 of them though. Because the eldest, at 18 years of age, decided to stay back and fight for his country.

The other 5 somehow managed to reach the border, staying in all sorts of temporary encampments enroute. With great difficulty, they crossed over into the neighbouring country.

The husband ensured his family was safe, and the next morning began the drive back home, to join his son in the fight. Whether the wife and 3 kids would ever see their husband/father/brother/son again, was a question no one had the answer to…

Meanwhile, what silly tiny immaterial problem in my life was I complaining about again today morning?

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Chanakya Neeti – part 1 of 3

Just a few lovely takeaways from The Real Chanakya! (a book published by a Dheeraj Publications, and it does not name an author)

  1. The tongue is the greatest war monger. Silence is another name for tolerance, and a guarantee for peace.
  2. There is no question of putting faith in a bad friend. Even a good friend should be kept away from your personal and business secrets. These secrets can be used against you anytime.
  3. One must always assess oneself frequently. This practice will help the person take corrective actions in time to avoid any crisis.
  4. Troubles should be feared till they don’t come in front of us. Make efforts to avert them. But if they come, forget fear, and fight instead.
  5. A frank person can’t be a cheat because cheating needs secrecy and double talk. Polite talking needs cleverness cultivated through education.

Some more brilliant Chanakya thoughts tomorrow!

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Emoshunned – part 3 of 4

We may use disappointed and sad interchangeably. But are they both the same?

Apparently not. If there is a lot of expectation behind the negative emotion, then that would classify as disappointment. We really expected something to do very well, and that not taking place would leave us disappointed, not sad.

Why is this important? Because if you don’t know the illness, how would you know what medicine to take?

If you are sad, then maybe watching a comedy movie might make you feel light again. But if you are disappointed, it might be better to come to terms with our lofty expectations in the first place.

Another simple example is the difference between jealousy and envy. Honestly, I always thought the two were the same!

Apparently envy is wanting what the other person has. Like someone bought a brand new car, and now I envy them. And jealousy? That is when I already have something, but fear losing it to someone else. Like I have a car, but I’m jealous of my neighbour who I believe can easily buy two such cars if he wanted to. This would kill my perceived status in the way I view society.

We are weird, I know, but it is what it is! Closure tomorrow…

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Kids on the wall

The Ukrainian President Mr. Zelensky is being celebrated world over for his bravery and selflessness. No one knows what will happen in this terrible ongoing onslaught, but I wish there could be peace instead of war. Just imagine, we are in the year 2022, with mind boggling advancements and comforts in nearly every conceivable sphere, and yet what we see is only more greed and more desire for power.

Mr. Zelensky, when he was elected in 2019, apparently said in his speech, that he didn’t want his photos put up in the offices. “The President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang photos of your kids instead… “

Just for suspense, I’m not completing the last sentence.

My Guru used to give the following advice to parents, “Stop hanging photos of your kids on your walls at home. Because your kids will start believing that they are the centers of attention, that they are being worshipped in the house. Hang photos of Gods/deities instead.”

Is this contradictory? No no, of course not. Here is Mr. Zelensky’s full sentence. “Hang photos of your kids instead, so that you see their faces each time before you make an important decision (so that you do no wrong).”

My Guru’s tactic was aimed at the kids, while Mr. Zelensky’s message was for the adults.

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Gold-digger

Andrew Carnegie is a name you might be familiar with. He was a steel magnate who lived in the US in the 1800s. An absolute rags to riches story, if there was one.

Wikipedia says that during the last 18 years of his life, he gave away ~$350 million (or $5.2 billion in today’s terms), almost 90% of his fortune, to charities, foundations and universities. You must have heard of the Carnegie Mellon University? Or the Carnegie Corporation of New York? These, and many more, were founded by the same Mr. Carnegie.

Like any other famous personality, he too was involved in some controversies, but that isn’t relevant for this post. What I really liked though, is a story about how he dealt with people.

Someone asked him this question. His reply? That dealing with people was like digging for gold. To get one ounce of gold, we need to dig through tonnes of dirt. But when we go digging, we don’t go looking for the dirt first. Rather we go looking only for the gold.

What a wonderful thought, which we can apply to the way we deal with those around us as well! Instead of constantly looking at or for the flaws that people have, focusing on their goodness, on the gold inside them, would be the secret sauce to developing outstanding relationships.

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#filterout

“Land sales tops US$ 100 million in one week”

This was the headline that grabbed my attention recently. I thought about it for a split second. Come on, 100 million is big, but not that big. Surely many billionaire businessmen and celebrities would have many mansions all over the world and 100 million would be consumed in an instant. And that’s when I noticed the land sales happened in the… metaverse. Wow.

Yes, we’ve all been reading more and more about the metaverse these past several months. Some virtual reality world where avatars can come together to do various things. I don’t understand this stuff well, but a 100 million bucks for land in the virtual world? Wow that sounds like a lot of people have gone cuckoo.

But still, these transactions happened, and many years later, I’ll probably have to eat my words as well.

Indeed, everything has become virtual now. People don’t even speak to each other, greet other or see eye to eye. It’s all done on social media. Nothing wrong with this of course. Except that life on SM is totally filtered. All bad stuff is filtered out. And all good stuff (including every imperfection being neutralized) is amplified. Much like Hollywood kissing scenes right after waking up in the morning, because their mouths presumably auto-brush themselves when their eyes open.

It’s important to periodically remind ourselves what constitutes reality and what doesn’t.

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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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Laptop delivery

Here’s an incident which happened a while ago, but quickly taught me the importance of being humble.

In a previous avatar, I was once called by someone from the tech support team. This person told me that my superboss had asked for me to bring his laptop to him, from his desk, to a meeting room where he was sitting then.

Surely this was not my job – delivering laptops!

But (luckily) I didn’t think twice about it, walked across the room, picked up his laptop, and took it to the meeting room where he was. When I knocked and went in, my superboss was surprised too, and said, “Hey, you’re here? I’m so sorry, I didn’t ask you to bring my laptop over, I think the tech support guy misunderstood me. I told him to have someone get my laptop to me, and then have it sent to you for the specific task we discussed today morning.”

I quickly replied, “Not at all a problem sir…”, and then he cut me off and motioned towards another gentleman seated in the meeting room, “Please meet Mr. ABC, who is the owner of a large chain of jewellery stores.” And he invited me to sit down. Turned out that we both spoke the same mother tongue, which led to an interesting conversation. My superboss invited me back to the room a while later as his guest wanted to convey something only in the mother tongue, which he was unable to translate otherwise.

If I’d just thought “What the heck, why should I be the laptop courier?”, surely such an interesting experience wouldn’t have transpired!

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Rugged

“Your network determines your networth.” This is a quote many of us would have heard. And it’s true, at least anecdotally. We know people with ‘connections‘ tend to have their way – whether jobs, promotions, access to events or to information.

So the ability to network could be called a superpower. However, most people hate it. Even the ones who are good at it. Going to conferences, and putting up a facade of being someone cool with drink-in-hand… nope, not easy.

So what is the gap here? First, a story, that I heard on an Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast. An Iranian refugee in America with next to no money in hand, ended up being a successful VC investor. How? Simply because he focused on improving his own carpet making skills. This in turn led to him being sought out by people. How’s that possible? Here’s how. Back in his home country, he sold rugs. And given these were often collected as pieces of art, it attracted a lot of rich buyers. Said refugee’s knowledge of the rugs led to many interesting conversations that lasted hours, and let to unexpected door openings, one of which led to him becoming an advisor at a VC firm.

The takeaway is not really to become an expert on rugs, but rather to realize that networking is all about what we can offer to the other person. It’s a give, not a take.

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Upside warrior

There’s a very interesting book I’ve been reading called The Way of the Wall Street Warrior by Dave Liu (link). It’s got some amazing tips and tricks on rising up the corporate ladder – quite possibly the best book that exists on this specific topic. While the title has ‘Wall Street’ in it, the book can arguably be useful in ‘Whatever Street’, as the author himself suggests.

We’ve all heard of Michael Corleone’s “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” super statement in the epic movie The Godfather.

Dave goes one step further, and integrates his own learnings, i.e. there’s no point having enemies. Instead, have only two buckets: friends, and very good friends!

Why? Because having enemies is hard work. You’ve to constantly watch over your back. And tackling one enemy might not seem daunting. But what if they all gang up on you? Scary story. Besides, as the author asserts, having enemies means substantial downside and zero upside. But having friends? There’s only upside, even if it may not be immediately obvious.

So then, how does one go about winning friends? We’ve seen the solutions many times here on ForeverHappyNow. The smartcut from Dave? Be nice; listen more; be genuinely interested in others; try to help others – easy isn’t it?

Do read the book. It is very cool and very funny (and this is not a paid endorsement) 🙂

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Control freaks

Control, control, control. Everyone wants to control.

Boss wants to control his employees. Big boss wants to control the mid level bosses. Junior fellows try to exert control over the new recruits, who in turn try to control the interns.

Employees in general hate the upper echelon control freaks. And so they want to start-up, be their own bosses. Only to realize, that there too, the control lies with the customer, because as we all know, customer is king.

Even the CEO lives a shackled life, his doings controlled by the Board of Directors. The Board themselves, are controlled by the shareholders. The shareholders are controlled by the whims and fancies of the market, and at other times by the opulence exhibited by other shareholders.

Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law wonder who exerts more control, while the men of the family think they are in control. What they often control is only the twirl of their moustaches! And the kids? Surely the kids are controlled by the parents no? Spend enough time with a young brat and you will quickly see where the control centre lies. But they too are controlled by schools, exams, the rat race, and life in general.

All in all, the external cannot be controlled. Hence the need to look internal.

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