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Category: relationships

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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Advisory

So here’s an age old conundrum. Say someone you know well is doing something wrong. Maybe the best friend is making a mistake, with his wasting habits. Maybe it’s the son who isn’t being respectful of his old parents. Maybe it is a newly wed bride who isn’t doing her duties well enough. Maybe its a new mom who isn’t caring for her baby as much. Or maybe a husband is not treating his wife well enough. The permutations and combinations are many, but the question is the same.

“As someone who is seeing these wrongdoings happen, is it not my duty to go and correct them? Or at least tell them what to do?”

While we are caught up in that moment, it might certainly seem like we should do something. But little good comes from poking our noses in anything unsolicited.

Picture this. No one asked for your advice. Yet you went ahead and gave it. The other person didn’t like it, and asked you not to meddle. Or the other person liked it, but didn’t give you any credit. In any case, no one beyond a certain age (say 15) likes ‘to be told’ anything. So your advice, even if the best solution for their problem, results only in friction.

And as the giver of advice, we may think we are being detached by not worrying about whether the other person accepts it or not, acts on it or not. But if that is the case, then we should truly never think of or speak of whether the advice was implemented or not. Are we strong enough for that?

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In the well

Many conversations today go like this.

“Hey man. All well?”
“Yes, all well. And you, all well?”
“Yes, yes, all well here too.”

Could there be a more banal way to communicate? I’m probably the guilty-est of such conversations. Even just calling these ‘conversations’ itself is doing the word a disservice. 🙂

As anyone who has mastered the art of forging deep connections will tell you, the trick lies entirely in asking the right questions, and then sitting back and listening. That’s what makes an outstanding conversationalist. The ability to ask and listen, and not the ability to speak. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

That is indeed the true power of questions. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Don’t try to be interesting, try to be interested instead.”

Can we perhaps substitute “All well?” with: “How are you?”, “Where are you from?” (nice and open ended!), “What are you working on these days” (everyone is working on something), “What’s changing in your life?”, or “What are you learning these days?”. So many options!

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Role reversal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jumping high

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

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

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

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

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

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Cover page

When we discuss Dale Carnegie’s (DC) amazing book How to Win Friends & Influence People in satsang, participants often ask certain types of questions. Maybe we can call these questions as extremities. Here are some examples:

  1. DC says we need to listen to the other person. But what if the other person keeps on talking and I don’t get to talk at all?
  2. DC says think from the other person’s point of view. But what if the other person doesn’t think from mine?
  3. DC says we need to smile as often as possible. But others aren’t smiling.
  4. DC says develop a genuine interest in the other person. But when do I then get to talk about my interests?

These are all valid concerns. However, our objective must be clearly understood. As the title on the book’s cover page states, this book is useful if you want to win the other person over, befriend them and / or influence them.

If this is the clear focus and objective, then we need to think: Does it matter whether I get to talk or not, or that the other person doesn’t smile or not, or that they don’t see the world from my point of view? Ideally, no!

This is DC’s decades and countless experiences’ worth of rare wisdom neatly encapsulated into a 200 page book. The real question we must be asking ourselves is – how better can I apply the learnings of this magical book to my life?

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Empavert

The world loves extroverts. These people are chatty, gregarious, always have stories to tell, and seem to get along so easily.

Introverts on the other hand, seem to struggle to get along with most, and prefer to be curled up with a book rather than the centre of attention in a pub.

A book called Quiet by Susain Cain explores how introverts are actually very powerful, can think deeply and make massive contributions to the world in their own ways.

But maybe extroverts and introverts as defined by outward behaviour is irrelevant, even though that is what catches the eye. Dig a little deeper, and what may really matter is empathy.

One can make quick and superficial judgements about people looking at how they behave in public (intro or extro). But when someone goes the extra mile, out of the way to do something for someone else, that is the true basis for a sustainable relationship. In this respect, even an introvert could be an extrovert, by thinking about the other person selflessly.

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C for critical – part 3

One of the most common questions asked of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People book is on criticism.

If I’m a boss, and my employee does something wrong, then why should I not criticise him/her? If my child son or daughter does something wrong, why should I not criticize / discipline them?

As we saw yesterday, criticism, hate and anger are only emotions, lead to distress, and often have the opposite outcome of what was intended.

So was Dale Carnegie wrong? Not at all.

He never said don’t ‘correct’ someone if you have to. He only said don’t ‘criticize’ someone.

Both words start with ‘c’, but have entirely different implications. If a manager shouts at his/her employee, of course the employee is going to switch-off mentally. However if the manager sits the employee down, tells him/her that they are doing well, but to rise in this organization, they need to ‘correct’ a few things, then this form of feedback is much more palatable!

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C for critical – part 2

No one likes a dictatorial regime – where only one person calls the shots, much to the detriment of everyone else. But we are each dictators in our own rights.

When we receive flak or criticism from anyone, our guard immediately spikes, shoulders tighten, jaws harden, ego fires up, ears shut down, brain freezes – etc etc. exactly like a dictator would quickly shut down his country’s borders to apparently save himself from his enemies.

What do we want in life? Good results? Or good image? Of course both. But these are somewhat contradictory.

We may begin with some good results which then gives us some name and fame. But can we be right all the time? Can we guarantee the best process and results always? Hardly. Even the best workers may fall wayward. If in such times, one does not seek and implement feedback, then their results will suffer. If the results suffer, how can one maintain or even elevate their good image?

While criticism should not be given as Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends & Influence People, we on the receiving end of flak can surely train ourselves to look for the message-minus-emotion. Concluded tomorrow…

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C for critical

Many years ago, a boss I had, got angry at me. It wasn’t just a passing one, but the type where the other person goes red in the face.

I was new to the team, yet to figure out its workings, and also tired from working literally 24×7.

But it wasn’t enough, and I was reprimanded constantly. Needless to say, I resigned from that job in about 6 months time.

Cut to today, and I don’t remember anything about why exactly I was scolded and picked on so much by that boss.

What were those 2-3 typos in the 100-deck presentation, or the slide sequence that he didn’t like, or the one tab in the excel sheet which was formatted slightly differently from the other 30? I have no recollection whatsoever.

Despite spending 6 months there (i.e. 6 months x 24 x 7), I cannot even remember what projects I worked on during that time – and there were many!

But one thing that keeps coming back? Those scenes of anger and finger-pointing. The humiliation I felt. The incompetence I felt. The inability of the other person to communicate well. It was all devastating.

The emotion remained, but the message disappeared. So is criticism really the answer? Continued tomorrow…

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Baby steps 2

Becoming an ‘uncle’ brings with it the unmatched pleasure of enjoying the purest of all creation – babies! When they smile and gurgle, we forget all our worldly problems.

And everyone wants to cuddle with a happy baby. It’s an absolute delight to lift the cute bundle of joy and coochee-coo.

Until the wailing begins that is. Pacifying a one month old can be quite the task. Because they can’t speak or communicate, there’s no way to know why they’re crying. Is it hunger? Gas? Positional discomfort? Inability to sleep? Fear? Silence? Too much noise? It’s impossible to tell.

And in those times, an outsider will quickly hand the baby back to the mother or father and bolt for the door. But the difficult part is staying the course, pacifying the baby, comforting it, and transforming that mood from sombre to sweet.

Surely the parallel to life is obvious. How many times are we put in challenging situations? And how many times do we run away, versus stick on and find a solution?

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Baby steps

Here’s a new title that got added to my name recently. ‘Uncle’. No, not the kids in the neighborhood who’ve been seeing my grey hair and calling me uncle for years 😂. This time, it’s for real. There are two lovely baby nieces who’ve entered this funny and amazing world we are in.

There’s some cool stuff we can learn being with them. One of the things I struggle with – is managing emotions of other people. If someone gets angry or spews something at me, it’s instinctive almost to react. Either defend or attack, just to say something, anything.

When you’ve got a one month old baby on your shoulder – one of three things are going to be on you sooner than later – peepee, poopoo or vomit. The one thing you just cannot do in such a situation, is to react. The baby is so fragile and needs such delicate handling, that it’s an amazing lesson in just living in the moment and accepting the situation as it is. This is not about not sitting around without cleaning up. Rather it is about taking a pause and letting them emotions settle down, before doing something.

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Placebo

We know the placebo effect. For those who are sick, sometimes even just pills that have nothing in them seems to do the trick.

The recent vaccination drives for Covid also has led people to talk about this. “I had no side effects whatsoever. Maybe I was just given saline, who knows, haha.”

There are many other placebos in life too.

Like the presence of a mother for her baby. The baby crawls a few steps ahead, and then turns back to check if the mom is looking. And then crawls forward again. The crawling is done by the baby only, not the mommy.

Keeping the light on, for someone afraid of the dark, is a similar example. What lurks in the dark would lurk in the light too. But the light gives comfort.

On calls, sometimes we can’t hear the other side clearly. And we let them know. And the other party after 5 seconds says, “Is it better now?”, without having done a thing.

Placebos abound, and they are good. Especially from a mental health point of view. Sometimes, many times, we cannot be of any real help. But just being there, even as a statue, if someone really needs us, that passive presence can make all the difference in the world to them.

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Securing the crown

There is an amazing scene in the Netflix drama The Crown, which is based on Queen Elizabeth’s life. No spoilers ahead, I think 🙂

In season 2 episode 8, when John F Kennedy travels to the UK, they meet the Queen and her husband. It’s not just the Queen who’s the lead female though. More than JFK, it is Mrs. Kennedy that has got everyone’s heads turning. Smart, charming, beautiful, dazzling, intelligent, a brilliant conversationalist – on and on her admirers go. So much so that even the Queen’s husband is desperate to get a seat near Mrs. K at the lavish dinner table.

But the (dinner) tables do turn, and make for provoking thought. The Queen is extremely uncomfortable. Why? Because she feels threatened by her adversary. Although she’s not really even her adversary is she? One is the Queen of Great Britain, the other a First Lady of another country. And for crying out loud, she is the Queen! She has everything and more anyone could ever ask for. There ought not to be any comparison at all!

Therein lies the catch. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have – even if you are the proverbial (or literal) Queen of England. If there is something you do not have however, and if someone else has it, then that immediately takes the Crown (figuratively only :)). What Mrs. K had, the Queen lacked, or so she thought, and the power of insecurity rises to the fore in some wonderful acting. What the Queen doesn’t realize at the time, is that Mrs. K too has her own share of insecurities. Wow, the two most powerful women in the world back in the 1960s, had so many insecurities…

This is not to poke fun – no, not at all. But just a reminder, that deep down, we are all human, and suffer the same human biases. If we can control the mind, that is much better than having a head with a crown on it.

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Critiques

Author Dale Carnegie of the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People says “Criticize in private, but praise in public.” We saw this nearly a year ago here.

It might seem like obvious advice, but do not be fooled by its simplicity. Just recently, I was part of a call, which had one senior person pulling up several others for something not done by them. The big boss of many of those being picked on was also present on the call.

To be sure, the person pointing the finger was by no means wrong – he had his facts straight – the accused had been tardy, they had not done their work well, they had not informed their superiors about gaps in the information and so on.

But did any of that matter? Not one bit. The call quickly morphed into a verbal brawl, with people supporting themselves, and proving why they were right and then heaping accusations back and forth. Could have just had some nice popcorn on the side and …

But really, it is so hard to put this advice into practise I suppose. It might seem like it takes longer to have 1-on-1 calls with five people rather than just lambaste 5 people on one call. But the negative effects of that one badly organized call can be far worse, as was the case. Preferably, never criticize at all, but if it must be done, then it can be done with empathy, in private, with examples from one’s own life as well, and also leading by example. That would be true leadership.

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Quattro-manageria

According to Harvard Business Review, there are 4 types of Managers. These are Teacher, Cheerleader, Always-on and Connector.

Without knowing anything about these except their names, I’d have thought either the cheerleader or the teacher would be the best. Why? Because the cheerleader manager probably cheers you on, encourages you and appreciates your work. Great way to be motivated and move ahead don’t you think? While the teacher manager might be there to teach you whatever you need to know, and help in your learning process.

The definition of an always-on manager is one who available at any time for questions, feedback or even to just listen. But apparently it’s the connector manager who is the best of all the four.

The connector manager helps by making the most of his/her network – whether with another team member, partner, customer, friend etc. in order to expand the spectrum of teachers you have at your disposal. This is because such a manager realizes it’s impossible for one person to know everything.

The outcome? Apparently connector managers build the strongest, most effective teams, tripling the likelihood that direct reports will be high performers and boost employee engagement by 40%. Pretty impressive!

My takeaway is to try and live the life of a connector-manager for the benefit of everyone around me – irrespective of whether I manage a team at work or not. What do you think? How will you implement this? All suggestions welcome.

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Art of Connecting

Just finished reading an interesting book by Susan McGregor called The Lost Art of Connecting. Indeed this is something most people are struggling with today. Not just because we live in a locked-down world, or an online-over-offline world, but also because we’ve become more and more self-obsessed. So much so that we rarely seek the need to go out and connect with people. Even at the dinner table, most family members connect only with their screens.

Susan’s premise is simple, and similar to what my Guru says about where success comes from. “It is the increased ability to deal with people, and studies have shown that 85% of success can be attributed to this ability, with only the balance 15% being technical education.”

The author suggests that every meeting or discussion with the other person, no matter how important to you, must always be approached with one and only one question in mind – “How can I be of help to that person?” Sounds counterintuitive at first. She says that if this question is answered, it will cement the relationship – because now even though you came in to the meeting for your own business requirement, you now leave with a valuable connection – one that transcends something simply transactional and ephemeral.

No doubt, it will take effort to answer this question – we cant just blaze into any meeting and say “Hey CEO, how can I help you” because we may not have much to help them with in the first place. So this will require thought, leaning on other connections, understanding what the other person really needs/wants etc. Listening is unbelievably important of course – and key to figuring out what others want. Good book, and certainly a refreshing way to think about conversations and relationships!

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Tough times

There are times when it might seem like everything is going against us. It is good to take on any adversity head-on though with this one thought that occurs to only the most spiritual of beings – “Thank you God/Universe for putting me in this position rather than anyone else. Because at least I will be able to bear this situation and it’s consequences, while those around me if subjected to the very same thing, may not survive.”

At other times, those close to you might be going through a tough time. This could be deep rooted karmic retribution at play. Who can really tell, except perhaps those who have truly Realized? In any case, it might seem like there is nothing we can do to help alleviate the pain. At least physically, yes.

But mentally, and emotionally? We can do many things. One, paramount, is prayer. A wonderful opportunity to not just pray, but pray for someone other than always selfishly for ourselves!

There’s a brilliant video I came across recently. A barber got to know that his client was diagnosed with cancer. The client’s hair had begun falling, thanks to chemotherapy. As the client begins to get his head shaved, the barber intermittently shaves his own head too. What a lovely way to show that he cares! The client is moved to tears.

The tag at the end of the video sums it up beautifully. “That’s not your barber anymore, that’s your brother.”

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