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Category: values

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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Caste away

There’s a lot of confusion about the caste system today as presented in the Gita.

My Guru’s purports, found in Chapter 18 verse 7, are very clear.

  • Traditionally prescribed duty is fixed by caste of birth.
  • Firstly, caste by birth has no validity today. Also changed times require changed interpretation.
  • Earlier, prescribed duty for women was cooking and household work.
  • Today both man and woman work and earn.

Isn’t this super clear? We are in a merit based society. We’ve to work and earn our successes.

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The essence of Krishna

Krishna tells us to do and follow a lot of things via the Gita. But here’s how Krishna himself followed these (suggested) rules in such a cool manner:

  1. He is always cheerful. His life has been one chock a block full of problems – demons, enemies, asuras, his own people, his birth itself into a poor family etc. But he is ever smiling, even on the Kurukshetra battlefield!
  2. He has zero expectations. Why did the Pandavas fight the war? To get back their kingdom. Why did the Kauravas fight the war? To retain the kingdom they had usurped. Why did Krishna fight the war? Only for dharma, as he would have got no material possession either by winning or losing the war.
  3. He exemplified non-attachment. He was born in Mathura, raised in Vrindavan, lived later in Dwarka. He never kept cribbing that he misses his home town and that he wants to go back. So many people come and go from his life but he was always unattached.
  4. He personifies love. Never once would he not come to the rescue of his devotees.

Krishna led by example. We must only try to follow whatever little we can.

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Should you bribe?

In certain places and situations, it might seem like doing the so-called wrong thing (just a wee bit off the law) might actually be the right thing. Maybe giving a small bribe to move some papers for the benefit of others. Or jumping a red light to get someone to the hospital for an emergency and so on. Somewhat like a white lie.

But is this alright? What do the scriptures say?

Without getting into specific instances of what is right and wrong, here are some principles from the Gita, my Guru and senior satsangis.

1) Do what is dharmic. This message is clear and consistent. 2) Try to avoid doing what we know is explicitly wrong (adharmic). So if the emergency you are battling is a life or death situation, maybe you could be forgiven – but do you always only encounter life and death situations? Surely not. In fact, cutting a signal to avoid a life and death situation could end up actually making the situation a life and death one! 3) Prayaschittam, such as chanting 16 malas of a mantra, to atone for the error, and seek forgiveness. This is done not for the Lord, but for oneself, so that we register the mistake in our minds and try to avoid in the future.

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CEO skills you need to have

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a meeting with the senior leadership team of a large bank. A very very large one.

They were looking for a CEO. Nope they were not interviewing me for that role, but just that thought is itself funny 😂

In any case, the topic of how they would select the next CEO came up.

The leaders had the criteria for CEO super clear in their mind.

Requirements 1 and 2 had no mention of academics or achievements or credentials.

Requirement number 1 was humility. And requirement number 2 was alignment to their culture. Everything else, was quite literally, tertiary.

What abilities are we looking to build if we want to become CEO?

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VVP – part 2

We looked at Vyakti Vastu Paristhithi yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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Shouting for directions

Here’s a nice perspective I came across.

We’ve all used Google Maps. The turn by turn navigation has literally changed our lives. So much so, that we wonder how we ever managed to find our way around before it existed. It was launched in 2005, not that long ago, but those were probably very early builds. A really robust one on our phones was probably available 7-8 years later only, which is quite amazing, given it feels like we’ve been with it forever.

What’s awesome to learn from Google Maps is the guiding lady’s peace of mind.

If you ever missed a turn or a u-turn or took the wrong left or right, what does she do? Does she scream? Does she abuse you for not even understanding basic directions?

Quite the contrary isn’t it. She simply finds the best alternative route, re-routes you, and then proceeds to guide us on the new path.

Is there some learning for us from her mannerisms?

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12 and a half

A very interesting book I’m reading by Gary Vaynerchuk is called Twelve and a half. The author has identified twelve very critical emotional ingredients which he believes are absolutely essential for success. And then he identifies a 13th one as well, but since he believes he has much work to do on that last one, he only accords one-half the weight in the book’s title.

You would have heard of all these 12/13 items – like empathy, accountability, kindness, gratitude etc etc. But what I found very interesting is how the author emphasizes the need to combine these.

We often hear and feel “Good people finish last.” We’ve seen this happen as well – where the nice ones get taken for a ride. But that’s why Gary argues it is important to combine the ingredients, depending on the situation. Here’s a nice example from his book:

Let's say you are the head of a law firm, and you've hired a kid who grew up on "the other side of the tracks". He or she doesn't know the protocols for a fancy dinner with a client, and you end up losing the deal as a result. This is where you have to pull 'gratitude' and 'accountability' from the "spice rack". You need to be thankful for even having the opportunity to own a business and land this new account. You show accountability by realizing that you're the one who hired but failed to properly train that person. All of a sudden, [there is no blame game], and everything becomes secondary.
Note: [my addition]
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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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Growing up

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

An innocuous question. with a range of possible answers.

For very young kids, immediate answers are postman, truck driver, ice-cream van driver or garbage truck driver.

The older ones will link this to some level of so-called professionalism – lawyer, doctor, engineer, scientist etc.

There are other specializations too – which do matter of course.

But the best answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” are these:

Generous, patient, loving, kind, polite, dependable, responsible.

Agree?

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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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P & C

In a recent Netflix comedy show called Derry Girls, there’s an interesting scene. A bunch of high school students from two different schools gets together. Not just two schools, but they are also divided by religion – one being Protestants (P) and the other Catholic (C).

The priest ‘Peter’ wants to bring them to all realize that P & C are just terms or outward labels, and that deep down we are all one and the same. He has two girls on either side of two blackboards, one blackboard titled ‘Differences’ and other ‘Similarities’.

Peter then goes on to ask the combined class what any one similarity could be between them P & C. The first answer is that P are richer while C are poorer. The next one says P are taller. The third one says P sing better, and so on. Soon enough, and much to the despair of the poor priest, the Differences board has completely filled up, with not a single word written on the Similarities one. He tries his best to hint (and then discuss openly) that everyone laughs, loves, lives, cries the same, no matter P or C or otherwise.

But his audience couldn’t care less – because they are completely usurped by their past experiences, having interacted with the other type. Of course the scene is mainly for comedic effect, but it is not too divorced from reality. It is hard to view people as human beings, and far easier to label them. The real magic happens when we tear off those labels though.

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Masculinity

There’s an excellent interview on Youtube of ex-US President Mr. Barack Obama. It’s a very short clip – hardly two minutes long. He is quizzed on what masculinity is, what it means to be macho. Mr. Obama’s response, as expected of him, is simple yet profound.

He says that “a man doesn’t need eight women around you twerking to show their masculinity”. When we see most music videos / ads / movies / magazines / item numbers in songs etc. – they all seem to capture this exact theme – machoism and womanizing.

Instead, Mr. Obama clarifies that what makes a good man, is “first and foremost being a good human being and that means being responsible, being reliable, working hard, being kind, being respectful, being compassionate. The notion that being a man is to put somebody down rather than lift them up is an old view.”

Such a lovely thought, isn’t it? In the spirit of equality, no doubt this applies to women as well – because at the core of this life of ours, we are all human beings first.

We become great when we make others around us great, and this starts by treating them as though they are already great.

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The right thing

We discussed wax-on wax-off before from the blockbuster 1980s movie The Karate Kid. It was a good lesson on how focusing on a mundane training process would help Daniel LaRusso the protagonist pick up some cool Karate skills and ultimately beat the backside out of his arch nemesis Johnny Lawrence.

But this was in the past. Hollywood would never let a good story get away, would they? They’ve now (last 3-4 years) come up with a TV series Cobra Kai. This has the same Daniel and same Lawrence, only now 40 years later – with each having their own competing karate dojos – and boy does it make for some fun watching!

A very nice scene takes place after one of the kids get beaten up and the sensei wonders what he did wrong. He laments in fact that he taught them everything right, did everything right, no cheap tricks, no cheating even, and despite that they lost.

To which the sensei’s trusted friend replies, “It’s okay buddy, you’re doing great. Just because you did the right thing but didn’t get the result you desired, doesn’t mean you should now start doing wrong things. A good person does the right thing all the time, no matter the outcome!”

What a powerful lesson.

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Ritualistic pride

When doing a puja, homa (havan) or other ritual, the doers often become conceited. “Oh look I just performed a huge yagna and see how many people attended, and see what amazing catering I arranged” etc. Even if the havan was done on a small scale, ego can creep in. But it’s helpful to really think what aspects of the homa or puja were done by “the doer”.

How about these?

  1. The deity we are praying to has to make him/herself available
  2. Agni, the fire God, has to function as the medium and carry one’s prayers to the deity
  3. The various ingredients – coconuts, walnuts, other inflammable items, flowers, ghee, water and everything else – does the yagna doer create these items?
  4. The priest who conducts the ceremony – is the organizer the priest? Soes s/he know every single mantra, shloka, chant – not just to recite, but to understand and to feel? Did s/he create those incantations?
  5. Or maybe if it’s a self-chanted self-conducted ritual, then gratitude to our own memory, vocal chords, the guru who taught us the mantras…
  6. How about the free time we were allowed by our family members to devote to the puja
  7. Also the attendees who showed up, and the cooks who prepared all the dishes
  8. A few other things I would have missed here for sure

Without any of these, how would the havan have been a success? Really is there much for us to be proud of then?

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Small to great

We discussed recently how Yudhishthira and Duryodhana went around the kingdom to find good people, and how the latter couldn’t find even one good person, while the former found goodness in everyone.

Do we too become like Duryodhana sometimes?

If we do a self-audit, would we find ourselves cribbing a lot about others, gossiping, talking behind people’s backs, complaining about the company we work for and the bosses, putting down others who got promotions (especially if they didn’t seem to deserve it!) and so on? Oh and not to forget much of the bashing has actually moved online these days – with social media becoming nothing short of the Kurukshetra battlefield (no matter the topic, there will be enough armchair experts to give you a rough time). It’s fine – these are normal, and we are human, so it is bound to happen.

The real problem with such discussions and thoughts though, is that constantly talking about other people’s negative qualities will subconsciously cause us to also become more negative. We not only talk bad about others, but this mindset also pulls us into a deeply self-critical mode. We eventually begin to question our own looks (lack of hair, long nose etc.), our talents, our abilities and capabilities as well simply because that negativity has seeped right in. Having a positive view of things, and celebrating even small joys and victories each and every day is much better than being morose and picking out the losses, even if they outnumber the daily wins 10 to 1. So it all boils down to keeping the mind focused on the good.

As a former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.”

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Super talented

We often think that talent is key. So many amazing talents in American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent and the like. Sure, maybe talent might open a door or two. But at least in the professional world, here’s what I’ve noticed are some “talents” which any one can develop. Also, these are super critical, but also super rare.

  1. Being nice to others
  2. Getting along with people
  3. Intellectual curiosity
  4. Being unaffected by failure
  5. Simplifying the complicated
  6. Patience – with results, with people
  7. Impatience with self-effort
  8. Punctuality
  9. GUDUSUNGU

    These might seem simplistic but they are not easy, and certainly not glamorous. But ask any successful person, and they will tell you these are highly under-rated and way more important than education and degrees and the usual skills we associate with the word ‘talent’. These are not taught in schools or colleges or universities, but the best part is that they can be developed by anyone, for free, at any time, with some mindfulness and self-effort.

So, how talented are you?

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Swayed by action

Are we swayed often by the sweet words of others? Or perhaps by their inspirational and motivational call-to-action words? It is natural to get swayed by those who speak well. But it would do good to separate the walkers of the their path from simply the talkers. And the world is full of the latter.

One such example is in the world of investing. Twitter is full of them, as is perhaps Reddit too in recent days. Recommendations fly fast and wide on which stocks to buy and which to sell. Newbie investors get easily carried away – often investing the entirety of their hard earned savings, only to realize it was either a ponzi scheme or worse.

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb of Black Swan fame says, “Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have – or don’t have – in their portfolios.”

This is easily extended to non-investment real life as well. As Rene Descartes put it, “To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.”

This simple principle can be used to find the right mentors, guides, friends, colleagues, business partners and any others with whom you need to build a long term relationship. If they do not walk the talk, then it is only talk.

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Robbing invaluables

Here’s an interesting story I came across on the importance of living life by certain rules. This is apparently true even for those vocations where the work foundationally is built upon breaking rules!

A disciple of the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu recited thus “A youth joined a group of dacoits and asked their leader, “By robbing do we get Tao (will you get the way and its virtue)?”
The leader replied “Tell me is there any place where there is no Tao. Even while robbing one should have:
1. the knowledge to know where the treasure is hidden;
2. the courage to lead;
3. enough courage to come out last;
4. insight as to how to be successful even in robbery;
5. justice to equally distribute that which is stolen.
Such a successful robber who possessed these five qualities never existed. For every action in life including robbery we should know the rules and regulations.”

This post is obviously not about glorifying robbery – but that there are two sides to every coin. Even in our own work, whatever it may be, we can either look for the Tao and work in happiness and virtue. Or we can even the do the most pious of jobs, like being a temple priest – with greed and anger. What rules and values do we want to live by, and be known by? We decide…

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Kindness cycle

Here’s a real life story that was featured in one of the local newspapers . An old but very kind and selfless doctor, kept his medical consulting practise going despite the threat of Covid. His aim? To ensure that no one who deserved medical help is denied it.

While he did this for many months, unfortunately he also contracted Covid towards the end. This led him to be hospitalized, and even moved to the ICU, where he spent over a month. Needless to say, the hospitalization costs shot through the roof.

As the doctor slowly recovered, the full realization of the exorbitant amount that would hit him on billing day became more and more apparent. How would he arrange to pay for such a large amount? What would his family say? Would he have to borrow, and at this age? The thoughts came fast and plenty.

A couple of days later, as he was getting ready to get discharged, the nurse walked up to him with the bill. Instead of a big 7-digit number, it was only a 3-digit number, just a token of having been there, as though he went to get a simple tummy ache checked. On seeing his confused look, the nurse told him that the head doctor at the hospital had recognized that this now-recovered doctor was his own professor from medical school from whom he had learned many things and also knew well about his selfless service. He and his staff immediately arranged to take care of all expenses and ensured only the best doctors attended to him.

Kindness begets kindness. We only need to learn to see it. Cheers and prayers to all the frontline healthcare workers!

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