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Forever Happy Now! Posts

Wooden gold

A traveling storyteller once visited a village. Her story revolved around two men. One, Mr. Perfect, was the most righteous man ever born. And the other, Mr. Terrible, was a villain of the worst kind.

At the end of her narration, she offered the audience to come and pick for themselves from several wooden dolls of both, Mr. Perfect and Mr. Terrible.

No prizes for guessing. Everybody picked Mr. Perfect.

In a nearby village, she told the same story. However this time, she offered the same wooden dolls of Mr. Perfect, but 24-carat golden dolls of Mr. Terrible.

What do you think everyone picked?

Most of our choices are based on valuables, not values.

Is that how we want to be known?

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A Pyrrhic victory

If only I had some more money. And then I could step of out this rat race, pay off my debt, retire early, move to a cabin by the sea and live the rest of my life.

Don’t we all have such seemingly simple wishes? Just a little more money. Let my bank account touch US$ [xyz] or US$ [abc]. And that will be it.

In 1999, a Texan man named Billy Bob got divorced, was alienated from his kids and subsequently committed suicide.

The reason? Just two years before, Billy had won US$ 31 million at the Lotto Texas jackpot. Things went downhill from there. What a reason to take one’s life – snatching defeat from the apparent jaws of victory itself!

We are quite dismal at predicting our own futures. Yes I want 50 million dollars, but everything comes at a cost. Will I be able to handle that kind of money? Where will I keep it? Will the attitudes of those around me change once I have it? Will my own mind be at peace? Can I sleep at night? Or stay worried about keeping the money safe? Will people target me / my money? Do I really even need that much money?

We need to honestly answer to ourselves – what do we really need and what do we really want.

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The Shift

A peculiar phenomenon happens in India.

Even those one would consider to be from a very weak economic stratum – like drivers, maids, laborers and others – can often be seen donating to charity, in whatever capacity they can. Even if they may be able to save next to nothing for themselves.

It begs the question, what ‘rich’ really means. Is it measured by the size of one’s bank balance? Or by the size of one’s heart?

Our lack of happiness stems only from one thing. Our thinking that who we are, what we are, what we do and what we have, is all but inadequate.

Perhaps it is time to shift the frame of reference.

Instead of comparing what we do not have with others, we could compare everything that we have that others don’t. Such as family, work life balance, kids, friends, a spiritual support group, healthcare, a job, good food and countless other blessings, that others may be willing to give an arm and a leg for.

This shift is not for economic satisfaction. This is just for mental peace. Which should be infinitely more valuable.

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Tipping point

Eating at a crowded restaurant in today’s locked-down world might seem like a distant reality.

However, dining out is one of people’s favorite pastimes. The good food, the beverages, the ambience, the music, the company and the professionalism of the staff – all contribute to the ideal culinary experience.

Imagine you just finished a wonderful meal. You tip the waiter 20% of the bill amount. He frowns, pockets the money, and hurries away. You are left perplexed, and frown in return.

In a parallel universe however, he smiles, bows and thanks you for your generosity. You are happy, and can’t help but feel light-hearted.

Which do you prefer?

We each have the opportunity to make those around us happy.

Not everything needs to be transactionary (quid pro quo).

It is not the circumstances (tip amount) that should define the reaction (frown/smile). Rather, the reaction can be upheld, despite the circumstance.

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Good-for-‘ ? ‘

Ever been called a good-for-nothing?

It is not a good feeling. Nobody likes it. But everyone has been called that at some point in their lives – either to their face or behind their back.

It is human nature to oppose something if it doesn’t have (apparent) benefits to us. No wonder we thrive in this age of instant gratification.

But this has also made humans easily distracted, and rarely concerned about the feelings of others.

How do we deal with the naysayers all around us? By focusing only on the message. Not the emotion. Take the feedback if relevant. Otherwise ignore.

Think movies. If a character gets rebuked on-scene, does it affect the actor playing the role? Not in the slightest!

Each one of us is starring in a movie called Life. And we each are good-for-something, if not for everything.

And that is good enough.

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Toy story

Finding our favorite race car toy mangled, or barbie doll ripped apart, when we were 5 years old – was devastating.

Today, at least a few decades older, we can buy many multiples of such toys for ourselves if we wanted to. However, do we?

The toys are the same. But we are not.

Yesterday’s problems, are today’s laughables.

By extension, today’s problems are likely to be non-events in the future. Why then, do we worry laboriously about every passing moment?

Life is easier and most productive when the mind is free from anxiety.

As Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity and beyond!”

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Ownership bias

“Sabse bada rog, kya kahenge log”

This catchy and rhyming phrase in Hindi, translates to “The biggest ailment of all, is what will people say [about me]?”

Many an industry, business, career (and fortune) is being made around selling one product alone – ‘social acceptance’.

We tend to be the consumers of this product – via social media, fashion, luxury items, fairness creams (yes that’s a thing!), certain qualifications, many (fake) relationships – among other things.

Nothing inherently wrong with this perhaps. But we must be cognizant of this craze for social acceptance.

Do we own them objects, or do they own us?

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Unblockchain

“Help me, I’m addicted!”

We all have habits that we want to change.

Here then, is the most important chain of life.

Thoughts –> Words –> Actions –> Habits –> Character –> Destiny

To change our habits, we must change our thoughts. But that is often where we get stuck.

If I love junk food, and eat 3 burgers a meal, it would be very hard to give burgers up. However it would certainly be easier to eat 3 burgers, but also include some fruit or salad. i.e. it is easier to bring light to a dark room, rather than shovel the darkness out. Cant stop eating burgers? Add a 5 minute workout.

Said another way, it is easier to add some good, than subtract some bad. This keeps our thoughts in check and reinforces positivity.

Eventually, the good will outstrip the bad. Time to unblock the chain.

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PR skills 2.0

Successful people say that PR (public relations) skills are vital.

Research suggests that the contribution of technical skills to success is only ~15%, while ~85% of success comes from the increased ability to deal with people.

This is sequential though. Having only the 85% PR skills may not be enough, if the technical skills are lacking. So the 85% must be built on top of the 15%.

There is another type of PR skill that is crucial… for happiness. The Pause & Reflect skill.

We all know what to change in ourselves, i.e. I need to reduce my anger, my ego, my sarcasm or my stinging tongue. Nothing that needs an IQ of 240 to figure out. But we struggle to control ourselves in the heat of the moment.

What is the difference then between me and a realized soul? Both are living mundane lives, but the latter’s ability to pause and reflect on life’s teachings, and objectively apply these teachings to similar situations in the future – is the clincher.

We can learn from the wise, in order that we become the wise.

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I’m freeeeee!

According to vedanta, the ultimate goal of all human beings is moksha, or liberation.

But aren’t we already free?

I can drive my car where I please, or get an Uber when I please. I can order pizzas and ice creams and any other food I want instantaneously. Google and Amazon and the others are allowing me to do exactly what I wish for.

Isn’t this then freedom or moksha?

No, because this freedom is only a mirage. While these may make us materialistically free, we still are not liberated from anxiety, fear, anger, ego and jealousy among other things.

The mind has a unique double role to play. It alone is the reason for bondage. And can be the very reason for liberation as well.

As the saying goes, “it’s all in the mind”, and we must conquer it!

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It’s Time To Party!

My Guru gave me a special invitation to his lavish Millennium Party.

He said, “Every person who attends the party, would be gifted a mansion worth US$ 10 million, two Rolls Royce cars, and US$ 25 million wired to their accounts.”

The catch? Each invitee must come in-person, to collect their gifts. The Millennium Party will happen (you guessed it) in the year 2120.

Everyone reading this today would be a 100 years older. Our kids would be great-great-grandparents, their kids would be great-grandparents, their kids would be grandparents, their kids would be parents and some from the youngest generation would have just started working!

Not even one person from today’s 8 billion population will be alive to make it to the party.

Our end is clear, yet we live a life full of one-upmanship.

As Mahatma Gandhi aptly put it, “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not enough for even one man’s greed”.

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Who am I

Saraswati herself, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, claimed to know less than a fistful of all there is to, about Creation.

As human beings though, we prefer to think we know a lot. Often enough to shun all guidance. In reality, we are constantly learning from others. From a boss, from an employee, from a family member, from a friend, from a teacher.

But these learnings are mostly limited to materialism. How to set goals. How to get a better job. How to make more money – Spend more time with the family – learn a language – maybe a musical instrument. The list is long.

However, how much effort have we put in to learn about the ‘real’ us?

Let us take an example. This is my house. And ‘house’ is different from ‘me’. Therefore, ‘my’ ‘house’.

Likewise, my car and my clothes. But also my body, my mouth and my brain.

So who is this ‘my’, who is asking all these questions? We must introspect.

It is said that if you know the real you, then you know all of Creation itself.

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The Prayer

“Dear Lord, please give me a Ferrari, lots of money, a beautiful family, great power in society, top grades in my exams, and while you’re at it, some more money.”

We often synonymize prayer and demands.

How about, “Dear Lord, Good morning! How are you doing today? Hope you rested well. My heartfelt gratitude to you for everything you have given me!”, said with a smile?

If you were God, which would you like to listen to?

Prayer can just be a means to connect to a higher power, aka, the divinity within us.

The more we ask for in life, the greater the chances of us being disappointed.

“I want happiness” said a disciple to the Buddha. The Buddha replied, drop the ‘I’ (ego), drop the ‘want’ (desire), and you have what you seek!

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The Middle Path

Hardcore atheists and theists are at two extremities. One doesn’t believe in a higher power, while the other submits entirely to it.

Looking back at everything that we have experienced in our lives, is it possible to completely deny the influence of anything except ourselves? My teachers influenced my education, as did my mentors my career.

Conversely, is it possible to leave everything to a higher power? I wouldn’t even get off the bed then!

We keep blind faith in our drivers (a quick snooze at the wheel?), barbers (one knife swipe when our eyes are closed?), pilots (we don’t check their flying capabilities before belting up) and countless others (in math, we started with let’s assume x=1).

We would do well to apportion some faith to a higher power, and some faith to our inner power.

Vedanta teaches us that in reality, there is no difference between the two powers.

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Spiritual Qs

Should a spiritual person not strive to earn more money? Should his demeanor always be nice and friendly? Should he always give up or give in? Do spiritual people finish last?

The answer to all these is a big fat ‘No‘!

As the great Swami Vivekananda said, a householder who does not strive to earn wealth is immoral. He further added that it is also immoral if this wealth is not shared!

Spirituality is not divorced from common sense and practical application. Spirituality is not in outward garb (ochre robes) either.

One can certainly hiss and roar, but doesn’t need to bite or fight.

Spirituality is a state of mind. One that is internally calm, in spite of the uncertainties of external life.

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No-cost ammo

We all have a gun called the tongue. It comes with a variety of ammunition. Most guns only shoot anger, pain and hatred.

My favorite type of ammo is praise. It costs nothing, works at all levels (senior, middle, junior, even kids!) and has infinite return on investment for everyone involved.

The ideal praise-to-criticism ratio for high performing teams, according to a study cited by Harvard Business Review, is 5.6 is to 1, i.e. nearly 6 positive comments for every negative one.

As author Dale Carnegie of the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People puts it, “Criticize in private, but praise in public.”

Let us strive to praise lavishly. Whether at home or with friends or at work.

There is no downside, only upside.

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The six-pack

Can we have a world with only good and no evil?

Asked another way, if we put only good, kind and loving humans on a new life-supporting planet, would that be an end to all of humanity 2.0’s problems?

Hardly.

The reason? Our minds.

Hindu scriptures characterize the mind as having six enemies viz. lust, anger, delusion, greed, jealousy and pride.

As long as the mind exists, these six villains prevail. Which is why, one needn’t go far in search of trouble – they exist in our own homes, and within ourselves too!

Is the solution then to get rid of the mind? No, that is not pragmatic.

The six enemies spring forth from self-centeredness. Lust is to satiate physical desire. Anger is from unfulfilled desires. Delusion is from self-aggrandizement. Greed and jealousy come from discontentment. Pride showcases a (k)no(w)-it-all, and goes before a fall.

Moving the attention of the mind from ourselves, to the needs of others, can obliterate the six enemies in one fell swoop.

Once these inner enemies are conquered, no outer enemies remain.

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I, Me, Myself

A woman and her 5-year-old son visited a saint. “Sir, I have told my son many times, but he just does not give up eating sweets. I would be forever indebted to you if you could cure him of this problem please”.

The saint remained silent.

The next week, the woman came back with the same request. The saint was silent again.

This repeated for 4 weeks.

On week 5, the saint told her that he would speak to her son. The woman asked him in surprise why it had taken 5 weeks for this. The saint replied, “It took me the last 4 weeks to give up sweets myself!”.

Who are we to pass judgements on others, when we have so little control over our own actions? The focus has to be on our own transformation, not others.

Let us strive daily to be the better husband, wife, mother, father, daughter, son, brother, sister, relative, friend, colleague, boss, employer, employee, teammate.

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The Balancing Act

Rich industrialist, or poor farmer. We didn’t choose the family we were born into.

It must be pure chance – an arbitrary allocation.

But if so, would we be happy with such a code of justice, when applied to all aspects of our lives? Surely we do not want the results of our hard work to be arbitrarily assigned to someone else.

The ancients teach us, that life works on the principle of karma.

Karma is any (and every) action. Karmic law is action = reaction, i.e. a balance.

The pleasures we enjoy today – good health, a job, business, money, house, family, food, education – did we really do enough in this life itself to deserve any of them?

We are constantly taking. But it is giving that will (begin to) restore the balance.

The best things we can give? Our time, our wisdom (if any!) and our love. And none of them even cost anything 🙂

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The Greatest Leveller

It is said, that death is the greatest leveller. Poor or rich, makes no difference, when one’s time has come. But of what use is getting level, posthumously?

Spirituality is truly the greatest leveller. Poor or rich, the impartial and universal Spark, lies deep within.

It is too easy to get, and yet almost impossible to attain. No amount of money will suffice, yet freely available to all.

If only we tap into this infinite resource. And channelize the greatness, when still alive.

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