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Category: relationships

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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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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