Relating is the key to thriving at work and in Life

People are people. There are no right people and wrong people. You just either relate to people or you don’t.  
We met an entrepreneur the other day who leads a large organization. He has about 15 people reporting to him. Over the last couple of years that we have known this entrepreneur, he has forever been complaining about the lack of ownership among his leadership team. He is obsessing over how to sack the “laggards” among his direct reports – but, ironically, he hasn’t been able to do anything in that direction. Every time we meet him though, he only keeps complaining, fretting and fuming about his people. In a way, we sense so much negativity emanating from him – it makes me wonder whether he has a problem with his people of if he is the problem?
Contrast this with what Suresh Krishna, the CMD of Sundram Fasteners, shared with me when I met him recently for my Sunday Blog Series – “The Happiness Road”: “There are no right or wrong people. There are just people. And you have to take them along. This ability to take everyone along is what leadership is all about!”
I totally agree with Krishna. Seriously, whether it is in business, at work, or in family, don’t obsess over people and their behaviors. There are no right or wrong people. Everybody is right in their own way. In fact people do whatever they do because they believe what they are doing is right from where they are seeing it. To be sure, even you – or I – do things only from that perspective. So, there is no point in vexing over people like our entrepreneur-friend has been doing. You either relate to someone or you don’t. And people either relate to you or they don’t. And it is only when two people continue to relate to each other that they (can) work with or live with each other. It is, really, as simple as that.
I have learnt to employ a simple thumb-rule: no matter who they are, anyone who I cannot relate to, does not form part of my ecosystem. Whether it is a co-worker, a family-member, a school-mate, a neighbor or vendor, the day I have stopped relating to a person, I just let them go. This is my way of preserving and nurturing positive energy – and inner peace – in me.

When you agonize over people’s behavior, and your unmet expectations of them, you are filling yourself with a lot of anxiety, stress and, possibly, negative energy. This negativity festers in you and makes you inefficient, irate and, believe me, very, very unhappy. The only way to fix this situation is to drop all expectations you have of people, and to simply walk away – or let them go – if you have stopped relating to them. The key to thrive, at work and in Life, is to keep relating, than obsess over the reporting or the relationship itself! 

“wotsubusu” craving, feel liberated!

No object of desire is the cause of any agony in itself. It is your craving for that object that makes you suffer.

Take for instance, a hot summer day. And you are thirsty. You see nice juicy watermelons on the street and want to stop your car. But you find the parking slots by the stall crowded and you see a policeman standing under a tree nearby. You believe the cop will object to your parking your car outside of the earmarked space. You are miffed and drive away cursing the crowds and the cop, ruing the missed opportunity to take some of those melons home. Even when you narrate this experience to your wife when you get home, you are complaining and are not merely reporting. There’s a sense of loss and evidence of frustration in your reportage. Now, did the humble melon on the street cause your agony or did your craving for it__and your eventual inability to buy it__cause it?

Think about it. All of us are victims of this cravings-brings-suffering trap. What we crave for is not the cause, it is the act of craving that causes misery. We crave for attention, adulation, understanding, respect, fame, rewards, recognition, wealth, opportunity, love and followership. And when we don’t get it, we are disappointed. Now, if you are disappointed and if your disappointment doesn’t affect your Life, it is fine. But when you are disappointed, you are mourning. Your energies are low. You start operating in a low energy__scarcity__spectrum. This naturally affects the way you live and experience Life. On the other hand, consider the situation when there is no craving, and so there’s no disappointment, so there’s no suffering. In such a scenario, you are operating in a high-energy__abundance__spectrum. Remember: Wherever your attention goes, your energy flows. In Buddhist teachings, they advocate the complete cessation of craving. Which means to eliminate all craving. In Japanese, the word wotsubusu means to annihilate. When you wotsubusucraving, you feel liberated. Such freedom opens up a whole new opportunity spectrum of playing to your strengths – to what you have. Than to worry about, lament over, what you don’t have.


Simplify Life: Give up the craving. And you will immediately stop suffering!

“Demanding faithfulness is like demanding slavery”

The best way to have wonderful relationships is to do two things: never expect anything from it or from someone and always respect the other person.

When we expect someone to be what we want them to be, we are not respecting the person as a special, unique individual. Wherever expectation rises, respect often goes out. Much of the problem in marital or personal relationships is because there is an expectation of faithfulness. While it is important that deceit or cheating must be avoided in any relationship, the nature of the expectation of faithfulness is an indicator that we have stopped respecting the other person. To be faithful cannot mean living someone else’s Life. Or you cannot insist that someone live their Life as you want them to for you to be able to call them faithful. To be faithful means to be true to yourself, first doing what you want to do as long as it will not hurt or harm anyone else. When all people in a relationship are true to themselves, and don’t harm each other, a harmonious environment is born that respects each individual in it. That’s when relationships become meaningful and stand the test of time.

Osho, the Master, argues this perspective immensely well: “Who are you to demand faithfulness from anyone else? Demanding faithfulness is like demanding slavery. There’s a misconception in people that love must be permanent. Only stones are permanent. To ask for faithfulness is wrong. There was a season__the spring, the faith, the love arose in you. You did not create it. It was just a happening. Just like a breeze it comes and just like a breeze it goes. When it comes, rejoice. And when it goes, say good-bye. Millions of couples in the world know there’s no love between them anymore. But for the sake of society, reputation, for respectability, they go on pretending they love each other. This pretention is the real sin, the real crime.”


This is not to conclude however that love cannot be eternal between people. It can be eternal. As long as there is respect for the other person and you have no expectations of that person, while being true to yourself first in the relationship.

There’s no conspiracy by Life to fix you!

Sometimes the way Life deals with you, can make you conclude that there is a conspiracy to fix you. Therefore, when you ask why something is happening to you, you have triggered off your suffering!
I was talking to a friend the other day. He reported that his business had slowed down, money due to him from various clients was not coming in and he had also lost a couple of contracts. Over and above all of this, his partner had turned cold and was refusing to take his calls and was not paying him his legitimate share of the business profits. “My monthly income has come down to a few thousands, from a few lakh of rupees, in just under a quarter. I don’t know why these things are happening to me. I am consumed by fear and insecurity. I don’t get sleep at nights. I am unable to bear all this suffering,” he lamented.
If you peel away the emotions from what my friend’s faced with, it is all pretty simple: his business is faring poorly and he is not getting enough money to run his Life. Asking why this is happening is irrelevant in the context of what is happening to him. The truth is that whatever is happening is his current reality. And he has to act on it. He must make efforts to both get new business and collect overdue amounts. Now, what happens if he makes those efforts and still does not succeed? Well, even then there’s no point in asking why. He has to try better ways and methods of doing the same thing – promoting his business and collecting his monies.
When you ask why, why me, why me now, in any context, you have invited suffering into your Life. This does not mean you must not examine and analyze any situation. By all means you must. Only an honest appraisal of any situation can lead to specific, pointed action to remedy it. But don’t make the analysis an emotional one. Don’t bring in self-pity, grief, remorse, anger and guilt into the analysis. Don’t bring in God and religion either. Don’t imagine conspiracy theories when there are none! No amount of pining, agonizing and wishing can change what is. If anything can change a situation, it is only sincere, concerted, timely and relevant action. In any situation, therefore, just do your best, and keep trying harder if you don’t succeed the first time. There is no other way.

Suffering arises when you expect things, people, events and circumstances to be different from what they are. Asking why some things happen the way they do or why some people behave the way they do is futile. Things happen so, people behave so, because that is the way it is. When you decide not to suffer and instead accept Life the way it is happening to you, you will appreciate that there is really no conspiracy to fix you. You will then realize that Life, from birth till death, is just series of events and experiences. Your task, in this lifetime, is to flow with Life while learning along the way. It’s really as simple – and choice-less – as that! 

Living without expectations guarantees inner peace

Expectations always bring agony. So, to live without expectations is a personal choice.
Someone I know wrote to me asking if it was possible to live without expectations. Interesting question that is.
That at the root of all agony is an unmet expectation is an irrefutable truth of Life. Think of any situation where you have experienced agony and you will notice that an expectation was always behind it. You do a friend a favor. The friend does not either return it or thank you. You agonize. Now, was doing your friend a favor the cause of your agony? Was the friend not returning the favor the cause of your agony? Or did your expectation that your friend return the favor cause your agony? Obviously, your expectation caused you agony – because, minus the expectation, everything between you and your friend is just fine.
So, living without expectation is simply a choice. If you choose to expect something out of everything or everyone, be sure that you will agonize each time your expectations are not met. If you choose to drop expectations, you will be happy either way – whether you get something or not. So, it is a choice. It is, in some sense, a no-brainer too!
On the surface, at a superficial level, it may appear that you cannot but have an expectation from someone you have a relationship with. For instance, it is right to expect that a mother must trust her children and provide for them. But what if the mother does not trust, does not care? What’s the point in having that expectation just because there is a mother-child relationship? Won’t the child agonize every time the mother fails to meet his or her expectation? The truth is that in any relationship, over time, sometimes, the people in it stop “relating” with each other! This is where the problem arises. Let’s take another instance. If you make coffee for your spouse every morning, you may have an expectation that on a day when you are sleeping in late or are unwell, the spouse makes you the coffee. Now, what happens when your spouse does not either make or offer to make you coffee? Will you then start to re-examine your choice of making coffee for your spouse? Possibly you well may re-examine if you only see the relationship and don’t relate to your spouse anymore. But if you still relate to your spouse, you will make the coffee whether or not your spouse makes one for you or even acknowledges the one you make. Expectations arise when the relating has stopped between people. In such situations the relationship has become a contract, an agreement. It has become conditional. You do this THEN I will do that. But when you are still relating, there are no conditions, no expectations, there’s just being, there’s just doing.
So, whether it is making coffee or doing the dishes or forgiving someone (in a relationship) for transgressions, whatever, simply pour your heart into it and do it. Or don’t do it. That is also fine. But please don’t do it – or anything – with an expectation. The problem with any expectation is that irrespective of the character or nature of the person on whom the expectation is pinned, you are the one who will suffer and agonize if that expectation goes unmet. So do you want to suffer or do you want to live free? Your choice!If you want inner peace though, make sure you choose to live without expectations!