Hope

It’s Lohri, the punjabi harvest festival that signifies the start of a new year. While i had been meaning to plug back in to the blog at the start of this calendar year, its simply been harder to do than just think off. Procrastination has got the better half of me, unfortunately.

So when i stumbled on this post mentioning image search, it seemed like a good time to begin again. I googled for inspiration – something that i have been looking for lately. This one seemed to fit the bill. May be all that’s required is a fresh perspective with a focused approach to get back in action. Here’s to the new year!

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Clean up act

It’s that time of the year, where most people here in India begin an extensive cleaning exercise for the big festival – Diwali. Home improvement, fixing the furniture, getting the walls done to much simpler things like throwing away unused items are on the to-do list. I decided to start a bit earlier than usual, considering its our first Diwali after getting married. As i dusted and picked up random receipts, card statements, brochures and bills i could retrace some wise and a few unwise buying decisions. While most of the stuff we had stashed away wasn’t of any utilitarian value, I had to keep some of it because of sentimental connect. Somehow there is always an emotional connect to inanimate things like books etc.

With every irrelevant and broken item i put away, i felt much better. It got me thinking to how much we accumulate over days, weeks and months without actually realizing the burden we are creating for ourselves. The burden, if that’s what we choose to call it for now – can be physical, emotional or materialistic. But no matter what, its important to pause and reflect. The cleaning bit is always a good way to let it off.

Another aspect that came to my mind about cleaning up centered on how a major cleaning of the mindset is required. In the past few weeks several stories have done the rounds on social media. First there were photo leaks due to a icloud hack, then Emma Watson got threatened after her UN speech and a powerful media house took on a popular actress. In most cases, women were objectified and blamed that they were asking for it. While the explanations defeat logic, all of this has left a lot of tongues wagging. Sure we are talking about gender equality, women empowerment and work place equality. But what would it take for us to break out of the regressive mindset? Some men would be intimidating the wife at home, getting intimidated by the female boss at work and end up going for the latest movie released to go watch some lead actress being objectified over celluloid. I cannot even begin to connect the dots and put all of it in perspective. All i know is that a major cleaning of the mindset is required. It’s not going to be easy. But given the number of decades and generations we’ve spent discussing, its most required now.

clean-up-act

 

Perseverance – Never say die

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. – Newt Gingrich

Many a times I wonder about how long can one keep going at a particular task / situation / person in life. Let’s face it when we start off with anything new in life, everything seems achievable. Doable to state the least. Think about that new project you got, the first year at college or even the first day at work. We feel really empowered to take on things and prove ourselves.

However when time passes by and the ground realities begin to show up, we need a lot more to keep going. Motivation at times will help in the short term but what is required is perseverance. It doesn’t come easy. An example that a lot of girls can relate to is dieting. We start off with a set of goals and convince ourself that we will turn this around this time. For me, a few days in to a diet I fell ill and that was my undoing. That’s a really simple example. There are more complex areas we deal with regularly. The most important being people. I’m sure we all have one person amongst family / friends who may be extremely negative or difficult to deal with. While others may have the patience, I find it really hard to push myself with someone like that. Sometimes I fail and at times a win doesn’t seem like it.

The point is I never give up. I don’t let the situation get the better part of me. At the end of the day I think that is the key that keeps me going. Self motivation works better than any other method. Somewhere the quote kind of resonated with what I feel. When I feel that the real hard work is done, that’s when the game has just begun and it’s perseverance that will keep me going!

Misfits Galore

No matter what walk of life, you will come across the square pegs being fitted in to a round hole. Or vice-verse. Reading a recent article i wondered how we try to be a part of a group through school /college and so on. At the same time we’re striving for our own individuality. Somehow, we don’t like the extremes. So loners get castaway and the extremely outgoing person is labelled the party animal. There somewhere in the middle is where everyone wants to be. Socially accepted and noted for who they are. But how can you be know for who you are unless you stand out / apart from the crowd? Contradicting isn’t it?

On that note, here is a favorite of mine from Green Day called “Walking Contradiction” that relates to the exact same feeling:

 

Empathy or Sympathy

I remember confusing the two some years back. During a recent situation i began to recollect how people tend to confuse the two. After all to empathize or sympathize for someone going through a tough time is a natural response for many of us. But there is a striking difference in the two states.

In the recent MH 370 flight case, what most of us can do is just sympathize. This is because in order to empathize one should have experienced and gone through the situation. To empathize is to understand precisely what the person is going through since you have been through the exact similar situation. I strongly believe that when we are being sold something with a promise or a warranty especially in case of a service, all the sales person is doing is sympathizing for your current state. Heading for the spa after a hard day, you are more likely to hear, ‘We understand your stress and physical strain and hence do what’s best for you”. Well do they? I have my doubts. At a weight loss clinic, the promising dietitian may not have put herself through years of bland food. All she / he is sharing could very well be textbook knowledge. But doesn’t she speak and empathize when you fall back? She is only sympathizing.

This brings me to larger issues we face in life, at work or in crucial stages. We are more likely to say that we empathize but we wouldn’t have really gone down the same road as others to do so. Hence i think more often than not we are only sympathizing. Empathy is also used in a more personal context whereas you could sympathize with anyone from your neighbors to co-workers. I leave you with this quote to mull over this for longer:

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
Daniel Goleman 

Change

Glancing at my debit card, i began to take notice of my photo on the card. The photo was taken nearly 6 years back. A volley of thoughts began to run through my head. One of the most prominent one being that if i were to go back in time, what would i tell myself. What would be the advise i have in store? Would i look back and change anything? There would be a lot, i could try to do better. Maybe prudence would have helped me at some stages.

But then, i reckoned that no matter what i had in mind, life would have taken its own course anyways. We go about planning, scheduling and over-thinking simple things in life. Only to make them more complicated. Maybe the key is to focus on the journey. We get so clouded by our own set of aspirations that we focus on the destination instead.

Change is always in store. Just when you think that you’re in a comfortable zone, there you’re going to get a jolt. Overtime, we are mended and bent over by consistent bickering like stones that turn to pebbles along the course of a river. But, the important part is that its always going to be for the good. As Andy Warhol said:

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” 

 

Blend in or stand out?

Individuality. The one notion that drives us all. I’m sure most of us don’t want to be versions of others and strive to be unique. However there are times, when one begins to wonder if they would be the thorn in the situation or blend in like the petals around a flower. Be the rock in the river or ride along the waves.

Reading a recent WSJ article on Success outside the dress code made me wonder the same. Dressing up is what we think defines us. Afterall, we normally begin sizing up people, opportunities or situations more often than not. Getting in to a client meeting? They will be building their first impressions. In today’s always online world, they have to put in minimal effort by just checking out your linkedin profile. If they are lucky, you’re on twitter too to feed their inquisitive needs.

The point really is then should you be guided by the notions that others seem to have of you or drive your own instead. The article refers to accomplished people walking in to luxury stores in their gym clothes. If people there recognize you as a part of the elite who have accomplished something, then you would be looked up to. Heaven’s forbid, if you aren’t from that set then you would be most likely tagged as a wannabe. I think the context also depends which part of the world you are from. For example, in India at a luxury store let’s just take any of the premium stores at Palladium in Phoenix, Lower Parel in Mumbai. Most of the people are pretty dressed up but if anyone with ordinary clothing walks up asking for details in a regional language, chances are they will be taken as novices. Or as many people say, “Maybe they got rich too quick”. The same idea doesn’t hold true. In the corporate culture too, you would rather be well dressed for that meeting than be dismissed on the first look. Of course, that can be taken lightly if one works in the creative side of things.

But my question really is whether one must blend in or stand out? Standing out, playing the devil’s advocate as the article suggests would be something that would go noticed. I think people would remember the person who made the most daring points, but that also depends on how dismissive they can be. Blending in works well for most of us. However, being original and driving the point across – that’s what we need to see more of. The change is already happening across B-Schools, where more recent graduates are opting to take their own route with start-ups. We will see more of this in coming years and it would be interesting to see where this heads out too. For now, standing out is the one thing that seems to be “In”.

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