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Forever Happy Now! Posts

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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Blinded by

There is a medical condition called Anton’s Blindness. It is a real thing. But those affected by it, do not believe it. They think they can see perfectly well. But they cannot, and so when they walk or move around, they bump into objects they cannot see and often hurt themselves.

This sounds exactly like what my Guru would think of me. “Blind fellow, bumping around in the world from one problem to another, and constantly hurting himself. If only he would accept that he doesn’t see the Truth. The Real Truth. That Consciousness that powers everything. And then this acceptance may bring him some solutions. But alas. He is blinded by ignorance, anger, jealousy, greed – you name it. And he seems to enjoy this state of blindness too. What a pity.”

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Angrrr – part 6

Okay okay, last one on anger, I promise! Thought it would be good to round it up with what Thiruvalluvar says about this subject in his Kurals.

A few gems are below:

  1. From anger is born all evil.
  2. Everyone knows that it is bad for oneself to lose temper in dealing with superiors. But where anger is directed against persons in one’s power, it is the worst of all offences.
  3. Where anger may or may not hurt the other party, it simply causes pain to oneself.
  4. Can there be any greater enemy to mankind than anger – which kills laughter and joy (which indeed are the greatest blessings on earth?)

Bonus tips from my Guru on how to overcome anger:
1. Visualize that you are anger-free, say 2 years from now. Keep visualizing and living that image.
2. Pray, for the person you are angry with. Keep their photo on your altar. This is about changing yourself and your emotions and perception, not the other person.

Radical? 🙂

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Angrrr – part 5

Why so much anger? Part 1 2 3 4 and now 5! Maybe because it’s a question that gets asked and discussed so much. And the solutions all require hard work, effort and patience.

But once managed, it can be the most amazing experience.

And lessening of anger is probably one of those sure-fire ways to tell yourself that you are making progress on the spiritual path.

There are two very important points when it comes to anger that I always try to keep in mind.

  1. The trigger for anger might be outside, but the emotion is entirely within us, on the inside. For the same situation, different people elicit different responses, and that means a very angry person can also learn to become less angry and eventually never angry.
  2. The quickest fix for anger is gratitude, even though it might seem unrelated. If you get angry at your parent or child or sibling for something they did, turn that around, i.e. be grateful for the fact that you even have a parent, child or sibling. So many people would give an arm and a leg to be in that position!

Concluded tomorrow…

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Angrrr – part 4

The Gita has two shlokas in chapter 2, viz 2.62 and 2.63 which are known as anger management shlokas.

2.62 states “The wo/man dwelling on sense objects, develops attachment. From attachment springs desire, and from desire (unfulfilled), anger.”

How amazing is this? A step by step deconstruction of anger.

2.63 states “From anger arises delusion, from delusion comes confusion of memory, from that loss of reason, then complete ruin.”

Here’s how my Guru has summarized this in his Amazing Simple Gita purport. “With thoughts come desires. with unfulfilled desire anger ensures, eventually ruin.”

Let’s consider this outstanding perspective. If someone gets angry at us (like a superior at work, or a family member), we think the world has come to an end for us, and that we are scarred for life. But no – the Gita says here that the person who gets angry is the one that will face eventual ruin! So should we really be thinking about what somebody many years ago told us in a fit of rage? Why re-live those bygone words and days today and everyday over and over again? As long as we ourselves do not get angry, we are golden. That should be our goal.

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Angrrr – part 3

Why do we get angry? Because we do not get what we want, or what we think we want. Maybe we want appreciation, but the boss says something else.

People can and will offer us their words, opinions and points of view – and often unsolicited, and at the most inopportune moments. You’re just embarking on a family vacation after ages, and then you get that dreaded call from your CEO. Or you have done some really good work for your society, only to find that you are being badmouthed by certain elements. You want the best for your relatives, but they just choose to ignore your true intentions. Of course these can make you angry – anyone angry. But it can hurt us only if we let it first land in our hearts and minds.

When we were kids, and another kid snatched our favourite toy, we would get so upset. Today, when a kid snatches your son or grandson’s toy (even if the same favourite toy), it doesn’t upset us anymore. We’ve outgrown that stage. There is no attachment to the toy anymore.

Herein lies a solution. If we are over-focused on only one aspect of life, and have no other interests, hobbies, activities etc., then we would find it very hard to take our minds off of something not going right in that one-and-only aspect. But why not diversify? More tomorrow…

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Angrrr – part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post on anger management. Let’s look at the same example again.

We easily get angry at home, with our loved ones, and often burst out. But when speaking with a superior at work? No matter the insult, we are able to take it in our stride, even if it stings badly. Is our boss really more important than our family?

It is not about getting paid or not getting paid, or whether the other person is a loved one or you care for each other or not. It is simply about taking the other person for granted.

We know at home, that if we get angry and create a scene, the same family members will not throw us out. We have taken them for granted.

But in the office? Raise your voice, and you may never get a raise again or even lose your job. We know the consequences, and are hence able to shut up, despite some rage beginning to boil inside.

Is this justified? More tomorrow…

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Angrrr

Here’s a thought on anger management. Many people believe they cannot stop being angry. However, when they scrutinize their own lives, they will realize that in front of their own family at home, they quickly fly off the handle every now and then. However the very same person, in front of his/her boss or an even higher superior – manages to stay calm, gritting and grinding their teeth, often in far worse circumstances than those presented at home.

One argument is that in the workplace, we are paid a salary, and a part of that goes towards handling such bouts of anger. That may be true to some extent. But imagine being put in front of the leader of your district / state / country / someone you respect. Of course you would not lose your temper in front of them – even though there is no payment!

The argument supporting anger-towards-one’s-family goes, “But hey they are my loved ones, and it’s only because I care so much that I get angry with them!” But think about it – if you truly loved them, why would you lose your temper on them? Would we want anyone to lose their temper on us? Also, if a cute little 3 month old baby pees or poops on us, do we lose our temper and beat the child up?

The Gita states definitively that anger comes from unfulfilled desire which in turn springs from attachment. The question is not about whether there is more anger when dealing with loved ones versus less when faced with others. If we can control anger in one case, surely we can control it in the other? The focus of all our scriptures and of spirituality itself, is always us – we ourselves. Of an internal transformation, not by chance, but by deliberate choice.

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Middleman

There are so many messengers. So many intermediaries. So many so-called postmen.

Take the case of a delivery person from Dominos, Swiggy, Zomato or Grab. They take food from restaurant A to person A, and then restaurant B to person B and then restaurant C to person C. They carry the food with them, piping hot, tasty pizza, or lovely creamy pasta, or some tantalizingly cold ice cream sundaes. So yummy for the tummy. However, it is not for his tummy – for he is only the carrier, the messenger.

The same goes for a postman. He can carry letters of love and romance and adventure and delight. But none of them are addressed to him.

Likewise for the private secretaries of the king or queen. They may know all the intricate details, but cannot truly experience what their masters revel in.

This is the case for every single messenger there is – whether at home or at work or in politics or in society.

But there is one exception. And that is the Guru. He is the messenger of God, yes. But he is also completely dunked in the Bliss that is Consciousness, and therefore that makes him simultaneously both God and Carrier. Teacher and Creator. The Guru is the only one, who delivers the package as brand new, well after enjoying its contents. If such a messenger exists in our lives, we would do well to take in his message.

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AMP it up

Many of us think that money is a great motivator. It might well be, but when we think of money, we are usually thinking of our monthly salaries and quarterly or yearly bonuses. Maybe a 10% or 20% hike if things go well – somehow beat inflation, and keep the head above water. This should sufficiently keep us engaged and motivated at work shouldn’t it? But, does it? Don’t we all still have Monday morning blues?

In the 1970s, a psychologist ran an experiment requiring students to solve math puzzles. He paid some of them, and didn’t pay the others. Interestingly, he found that those who got paid actually showed lesser interest in solving their puzzles than those who didn’t get paid. Wow – what an unexpected outcome. This work brought to the fore the differences between extrinsic motivation (such as by money) and intrinsic motivation.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive mentions the 3 ingredients to intrinsic motivation:
1. Autonomy – this is what entrepreneurs love – doing what they want, not what someone else tells them to
2. Mastery – Being an expert in the chosen field
3. Purpose – Caring about the outcome means we will spring out of bed even on a Monday morning

Ideally, every workplace or employer should maximize opportunities for their employees’ A, M and P. But we know that rarely happens. Apart from gifting your boss and HR head a copy of this book, what else can we do? We can AMP it up on our own – to the extent possible. For instance, we can volunteer to take up mini-projects on our own, find niches to build skills in, and also attach a larger outcome to our work. Eventually, we may find that some amazing opportunities will find us. But we need to take the first step.

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ABCD work

Here’s a cool little snippet that popped up in my LinkedIn feed a few days ago. It was about how to prioritize things at work. Not that we need to take it too seriously, but the importance of prioritizing itself cannot be overemphasized.

The ABCD principle is Hindi-based and goes thus:

A – Apna kaam, i.e. one’s own work
B – Boss ka kaam, i.e. the boss’ work
C – Company ka kaam, i.e. the company’s work
D – Dusro ka kaam, i.e. other people’s work

Similar to “please put your own oxygen mask first before assisting others”, here too, first do your work, before trying to do great things for others. Of course, nothing is applicable 100% of the times, but this is certainly a good thumb rule to keep in mind.

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Doing the dishes

Here’s an example of applying learnings from spirituality to the real world.

You have a maid for cleaning utensils. You pay her a salary. You pay her even if she doesn’t come for a few days, like when she took time off to go back to her ancestral home, or when there was a lockdown etc. You also pay her kids’ school fees, and often buy chocolates for them. She knows you are a good person.

One day you need to go out urgently, maybe to the hospital or some such. It’s unavoidable, and so you ring up the maid and request her to come in earlier, only for today, and only by a couple of hours. She replies with some excuse (like she has to cook food at her home) and hence cannot come.

It’s easy to get angry at this point – even if only internally. “I’ve done so much for this maid, and the one day when I have an urgency, she can’t make it?” That she cannot come, is a fact. But how we react to the situation is not yet so, and entirely in our control. We could get angry and spoil the mood of the entire home for the day. Or we could don the kitchen gloves, put on our earphones and listen to music or a podcast while doing the dishes. Two birds with one stone. The solution is in our own hands.

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NWL

In the amazing Netflix show The Crown, there’s an interesting scene. The show itself chronicles Queen Elizabeth’s life and her ascension to the throne at a relatively young age. I don’t know if that’s what the entire show is about – we’re only on season 1, and there are three more to go at least. But soon after her coronation, her mother (now the ex-queen Mary) feels quite suffocated and heads off to Scotland to be with some friends and to get some air (riding horses by the seaside, hiking in amazingly scenic landscapes, you get the drift). In this particular scene, the ex-Queen is asked by her friends, “Has it been very difficult?” To which she replies thus:

"I don't want to sound self-piteous but loss has followed loss. First and foremost, the loss of a husband.
Then the loss of a home, having to leave the palace. The loss of motherhood, as daughters become adults.
Loss of a routine, a sense of purpose. The loss of a Crown. Imagine, 17 years' experience as Queen and being the head of the family. Bertie was a wonderful husband and father, but he needed a great deal of help as King.
And then we lose him and, at precisely the moment when they should be giving me more to do, stop me falling into despair, they take it all away... They put it all into the hands of a girl who's totally unequipped for it."

If this were to be on Twitter, people would tag it as #firstworldproblems. Of course, a bereavement is never easy. But it also shows that power – especially got from position – is impossible to let go of. What she went through, every human being must go through as they age – whether queen or not. It begs the question – do we even realize when our needs becomes wants, and our wants become luxuries?

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Attitude platitude – part 4

My Guru’s brilliant notes on the ‘importance of right attitude’, continues and concludes below:

5. Start the day and end the day with positive input into your mind. Inspirational messages cause the brain to flood with dopamine and norepinephrine, the energizing neurotransmitters; with endorphins - the endurance neurotransmitters; and with serotonin, the feel-good-about-yourself neurotransmitter.

6. Begin and end the day by reading or doing something positive.

7. Remember, success is a process, not an event.

8. Invest your time in your attitude, and it will pay off in your skills as well as your career. Think about it...

What a brilliant note written by the Guru isn’t it? We are all hankering after skills. But hankering after the ‘right attitude’ instead will in turn bring skills, luck, success, fame, fortune and whatever else one desires!

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Attitude platitude – part 3

Continuing again, my Guru’s typewritten message on the importance of the right attitude.

3. Read something informational or inspirational every day. Reading for 20 minutes at just 240 words per minute will enable you to read twenty 200-page books each year. That is 18 more than what the average person reads! What an enormous competitive advantage ... if you'll just read for 20 minutes a day.

4. The University of Southern California reveals that you can acquire the equivalent of two years of a college education in three years just by listening to motivating and educational cassettes on your way to your job, and again on the way home. What could be easier?

A 2021 reference for point 4 above – we can replace ‘cassettes’ with ‘podcasts’. Many are yet to discover the amazing power of podcasts – but all you need to do is download any podcast player app from your app-store, and then search for and add your favourite channels / topics. It is like having the most successful people on earth talking to you in your ear, as you go about doing your housework or other activities.

Sorry for the digression. Continued (and concluded) tomorrow…

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Attitude platitude – part 2

Continuing from yesterday, my Guru’s typewritten message on the importance of the right attitude.

Perhaps if more people knew how simple it is to develop and maintain a positive attitude, they would invest more time doing so.

So here we go. Five steps to staying positive in a negative world:

1. Understand that failure is an event, it is not a person. Yesterday ended last night; today is a brand new day, and it's yours. You were born to win. But to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and then you can expect to win.

2. Become a lifetime student. Learn just one new word ever day, and in five years you will be able to talk with just about anybody on anything. When your vocabulary improves, your IQ goes up 100% of the time, according to Georgetown Medical School.

Continued tomorrow…

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Attitude platitude

Here are a series of posts which will simply cover what my Guru had written in a single typewritten note a few decades ago. It is so fine in its choice of words and intent, that any modifications I make to it will only worsen it. So here it is, with no further ado:

Harvard and Stanford Universities have reported that 85% the reason a person gets a job and gets ahead in that job is due to attitude; and only 15% is because of technical or specific skills. Interesting, isn't it?

You spent how much money on your education? And you spent how much money on building your positive attitude? Ouch! That hurts.

Now here's an interesting thought. With the 'right' attitude, you can and will develop the necessary skills. So where is your emphasis? On skill building? Or on attitude building?

Unfortunately, 'neither' is the real answer for many people.

Continued tomorrow…

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Standing tall

As a boy, one of the important things as you’d grow up to becoming an adult is your height. The magic 6-feet number is an elusive one for many, maybe most. It’s cool to be tall, you can see above most others in the room, and perhaps even be spotted by the ladies, head above the rest and all. But height is not what one has under their control. You can hang from pull-up bars, but there is no guarantee!

Over time, these views change.

You realize that being physically tall is irrelevant – but one is as tall as the problems they have overcome.

One’s actual figure on the weighing scale doesn’t matter much, but one’s influence in life – amongst their colleagues, peers, friends and family is what counts.

The fairness of the skin is not important, but one’s moral code, impartiality and treating everyone around them fairly is what could be a real differentiator in this world.

The strength of the muscles in the body is a good sign of physical health, but far more important perhaps is the strength of the mind – which would help one dominate fear, failure and self-doubt.

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Not just a librarian

We learn and discuss much about giving and its importance. Yet we may be gnawed by doubt at the time of the act. Are we giving away too much? Does the recipient really deserve my generosity? What if s/he uses it for the wrong reasons? What if they turn out to be a fake, a hoax amongst hoaxes?

Meet Mr Palam Kalyanasundaram from South India. Probably around 75 years old now, he worked as a librarian for 30 years, and donated every single rupee he earned from it to charity. 100% of his income – wow what a feat. How did he sustain himself? By waiting tables at a nearby restaurant, and doing other odd jobs.

He was awarded the title of Man of the Millennium by the USA, being the first person in the world to give away his entire earnings for social causes, and given a gift of INR 300 mn. All the money was of course immediately donated to orphanages and to children’s educational funds. He had earned INR 1 mn as pension, which too he donated to the needy.

Mr Kalyanasundaram in an interview has said that there is nothing in this world that is more fulfilling or brings more happiness than donating one’s own hard earned income to charity. When he can do 100%, despite not being a billionaire or millionaire, surely we can do 10%?

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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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