A Life Lesson from Darin Zanyar – Be what you wanna be…!

Be what you want to be. Do what you want to do. You will make mistakes along the way. You will fall. But be sure, you’ll rise again. That’s what Life’s really all about!
It is that time of the year when most parents are all keyed up about what academic program their young (almost adult) children must pursue. With amazing consistency, most choices are made basis the “earning potential” that careers promise. Very few parents actually let their children choose what comes to them naturally and what they can do best. Sometimes, children don’t know what they are good at. Or don’t know what they want to do. Which is also totally fine. Life, despite all its unpredictability, still offers a lot of time for people to decide what they want to do and then actually allows them the time to go do it too! To agonize over the (perceived) “indecisiveness” of a teenager, in my humble opinion, is neither appropriate nor is it sensible!
My experience as a young adult who had to fight for doing what I wanted to do and as a parent who has allowed his two children to do whatever gives them joy has taught me some simple lessons.
1.   However much you plan, Life has a way of taking you to where you must arrive. And that destination may not have even been on your radar or in your wildest dreams!
2.     There’s nothing called a zero-defect career or even a perfect career. Everyone makes mistakes. S@#T Happens!
3.     Having money and job security doesn’t necessarily mean you will have fun doing what you do and enjoy Life!
So, the best way to approach your career is to ask yourself:
                                                          i.    What am I extremely good at?
                                                         ii.    What do I love doing? What comes naturally to me?
                                                        iii.    How can I create value and make a difference, doing what I (will) do, every single day?
Even as you answer those questions honestly and then choose to follow your dream, be open to the surprises that Life may throw up. It may be a breakthrough or it may be an unprecedented challenge. Go wherever Life’s taking you and go with whatever comes you way. There’s only one thing you can really control in your Life. And that is, getting better, every single day, at doing what you love doing! In the last scene of the iconic movie 3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani), the narrator’s voice over quotes “Baba” Ranchhoddas (Aamir Khan) as saying: “Kabil Bano, Kabil. Kamyiabi Phir Jhak Marke Tumhare Piche Ayegi”. It means: “Strive to become capable or skilled (actually the best) in whatever you do. Success will then come, chasing after you.” The movie’s message is inspiring. Unfortunately, too few parents have internalized it. And fewer still have had the courage to let their children do what they want to do.
What inhibits parents is a sense of insecurity, a “what if” fear, an overzealousness to protect their children. Naturally, if you are a parent who has overcome challenges to be where you are today (in fact, who hasn’t been through tough times?), you don’t want your children to face the same situations and hardships. So, you begin with advising career choices but soon start directing and managing your kids’ careers. Children, on the other hand, respond in two ways. Either they rebel – like the way I did or they just do what the parents advise them to do, out of “respect” for them.
Parents and children both must understand one thing – that each Life is unique. There is no template to Life. Each of us is entitled to our share of experiments, adventures, mistakes and genius. The best way to live then is to live loving what we do. Then everything, in the end, always falls in place!
I was very impressed listening to a song by the young Swedish pop singer Darin Zanyar. The lyrics went somewhat like this ~
“Doctor, Actor, Lawyer or a Singer,
Why not President, be a dreamer,
You can be just the one you wanna be…
You never know what Life could bring,
‘Cause nothing lasts forever…”
Darin’s all of 26 and to imagine he sang this simple yet meaningful song (‘Darin’, 2005) when he was barely 17! That’s what’s really possible when parents don’t rein in their kids’ latent talent!
If you are a parent reading this, you may want to drop your inhibitions and insecurities. Go listen to your children, understand what they are deeply passionate about and then trust them to go follow their dreams. If you are a young adult reading this, know that it’s cool to be yourself. So, go be that person you want to be! The world needs people like you – who are alive, happening and happy!

Inspire your children to come alive

Give your children the power of choice. Allow them to experiment, fall, fail, learn and decide what they want to do. Don’t let your experiences and your insecurities dictate your children’s career or Life choices.
This morning’s Times of India reports that 769 seats are still vacant in the famed Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) for the current 2013~ academic season. This is unprecedented in the glorious history of the IITs in India. This can mean two things: that the IITs have lost their sheen or that engineering as a field of study is no longer a (forced) preferred option. I would like to assume and believe that the latter is true and that the vacant seats reflect a very teeny-weeny shift in the conventional Indian parental mind-set which has primarily been, for generations, oriented towards driving their children to pursue careers in either engineering or medicine. The Aamir Khan-starrer, Hindi blockbuster, 3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani) held a mirror to Indian parents when it showcased Farhan’s (Madhavan) plight: of a brilliant wildlife photographer-to-be who was caught in the rat race to become a mediocre engineer just because his father (Parikshit Sahani) always dreamt of Farhan becoming an engineer! I am not sure if the response to admissions to IITs this year is any reflection of the central, core message of 3 Idiotsbeginning to percolate and causing parents, and their children, to focus on what makes the children come alive than what makes the parents feel secure!

As much as Life is unpredictable, Life is also often times a long journey. Many of our experiences and learnings, often from misadventures, direct us towards our destiny. I for one, after being a salesman, a journalist, a strategist, a CEO, a project manager, an executive assistant to a tycoon and a consultant, (in that order), over 17 years, discovered what I wanted to reallydo in Life only when I turned 35. Obviously, I was doing many things after college. I was working my butt off and earning good money. But while each experience I had was exciting, I was still searching for something. There was an incompleteness that I could not describe. It was only when I was faced with a Life-changing crisis that I found out what really gave me joy. That’s when I felt completely at ease and peace with myself and was able to say with certainty and conviction that “this” is what I want to do for and with the rest of my Life. So, the import here is that people, especially children, need to be allowed to make their choices. They must be allowed to experience Life and choose what makes them come alive. The world needs people who are alive, not nerds who have got the grades but whose souls are dead long, long ago. A great musician can heal the world many times over than a mediocre doctor ever can. A fashion designer may pack more precision and creativity into a piece of work than a bad engineer can ever even conceive.

An interview in the same edition of Times of India is worth referring to here. It was with actor Prakash Raj, who lost his 5-year-old son to a freak accident, 9 years ago. Raj, one of India’s most accomplished and famous character actors, had this to say about memories of his son and Life: I can’t forget him, even though I have removed all photographs of his. I am a non-believer and wanted to bury him in my farm. I just go, sit there many times. He is the one who made me realize how helpless I am and how unpredictable Life is and how small it is and how weak you are in front of nature. I love my daughters, but just miss my child, even though it’s been nine years since he died. He was just five when, while flying a kite from a one-feet-high table, he fell on the ground. For a few months after that, he would have fits, after which he died. Nobody could understand what was the reason. His death was more than any other sorrow for me. I don’t take Life for granted anymore and live in the moment.
As it is that crucial time of the year for admissions to colleges, perhaps you are a parent who’s grappling with just the same issue I am sharing here. My unsolicited advice is this: enjoy your children as long as this lifetime lasts. Inspire them to come alive. Ask them what makes them come alive. And give them the freedom to pursue it. Support them in whatever manner you can. More than your money, they need your conviction in them. More than making yourself feel secure about your children’s future, strive to make them more happy by allowing them to do what fills them with joy! Life’s too short. You might as well watch your child being truly happy than watch her or him be unhappy while being financially and professionally, and given the inscrutable nature of Life, vainly, secure!

Everything’s as it should be and all is well

Everything happens at the right time. In Life, there’s really no concept of a good time or a bad one. Good or bad are labels that we human beings place. Life’s happening at its own pace, of its own accord and in the way it must happen.
We agonize over things, events and people because we seek instant gratification. In an SMS generation, this is even more starkly evident. Everyone wants everything now and fast.
Practicing mindfulness, enjoying every breath we take, every morsel we eat, every sight we behold, is the best way to live. This doesn’t mean you must not be ambitious or aggressive. This means don’t rush through Life as if it were a 100-meter race. It is not. Learn to be patient. Everything happens to a plan, and just because we are not aware of that plan it doesn’t mean there isn’t one! What we may like to accept and keep in mind always is that, this Master Plan has no flaws.
Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, has said this so beautifully:
Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kuch Hoye
Maali Seenche Sau Ghara, Ritu Aye Phal Hoye
It means:
Slowly, slowly O! Mind….everything happens at its own pace…
The gardener may water with a hundred buckets, but the fruit arrives only in its season….

So as you rush through another Monday, breathe easy, slow down, be mindful. Don’t let the traffic affect your mood. Don’t let your meaningless meetings drain you. Don’t let any no disappoint you. Know that everything is fine. And as that memorable line in the classic Hindi movie ‘3 Idiots’, which I was watching on TV last night, goes, ‘All EEZ WELL’. In fact, everything is as it should be and all is well!