Life’s nature is to go up and down!

Life’s nature is full of duality. What’s up will go down soon. And what’s down will go up too.

When we don’t understand this duality and refuse to go with the flow of Life, we will grieve, suffer and agonize over every twist in our Life’s tale!

The Master Forlorn
This is not a comment on the man or his decision. This is just a presentation of a case in point. Just look at the venerable Sachin Tendulkar, the master of the game. Look at how pale shadow he has become of his own original great self! Writing in The Hindu this morning, Vijay Lokapally, observes painfully: “The master’s dismissal, against England here on Friday, was a poignant moment for those who have watched him conquer batting peaks that none dreamt of. His state is that of a singer who has lost his voice, an artist his brush or a soldier his gun. Or, precisely, of a Tendulkar who has lost his bat. Bowled off an inside edge. Not for the first time. Fifty-two times the ball has hit his stumps; 58 times the pad has come in the way. He has failed many times, but never has he appeared so helpless, so despondent…But his aggregate stands at a monumental 15,643 runs in Tests and 18,426 in one-day internationals. Had his technique and attitude been faulty, Tendulkar would not have travelled thus far. If failure has embraced him more than success this year, the reasons can be many, and different. “What if he is getting bowled? It is another mode of dismissal,” former great Bishan Singh Bedi would insist. True. It is just another mode of dismissal, this one triggered from a spot that jagged the ball in by a bowler brought back into the attack with a specific plan. Tendulkar, 39, nearly collapsed as the ball crashed into the stumps. He recovered and trudged back to the dressing room, leaving a trail of sadness. The introspection of his dismissal was best left to him, the greatest batsman the game has seen.”

So, this is not an analysis of Tendulkar as much as a perspective on Life itself. Get used to this truth: what may once appear invincible will be humbled. And the meek shall conquer. This is the way Life works. With a peculiar, inscrutable madness. This will happen to every single person that walked the planet. And you__and I__are no exceptions.

So how does one deal with Life? By just living it!

Living simply means that Life will give you problems, challenges and pain. Whether you like it or not! Now you can do nothing about what comes at you. But you can do everything within your means to ensure you don’t grieve, agonize or suffer over what comes. You can live without suffering anything: a bad relationship, an ailment or injury, emotional stress, poor or even zero income, poor form or injustice. You, in fact, are responsible for all your suffering. Suffering comes from wishing, pining and insisting that things were different. Acceptance is an antidote for suffering. Give up insisting and start accepting what has come your way. You won’t suffer. 
Know at the same time that what causes you pain now will fade away with time. It will eventually be replaced with extraordinary and boundless joy. Only, in some more time, for the whole cycle of Life to be repeated again. 

As former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said, “Life is full of surprises and and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure_do it well, enjoy it_and then, not now, think about what comes next.”

Just keep walking, the path will always unfold on its own!

Sometimes, it is best not to get what you want in Life. Because when you review the reasons why you did not get what you wanted, you will really find what is truly ordained for you.
Life is inscrutable. The path you choose may not always be available to you. But a closed door or a dead end will, ALWAYS, often miraculously, open up a whole new path for you. You may trudge on it reluctantly to arrive at an unknown place, only to discover that you really, truly belong there!
This is so bizarre at one level. You are encouraged to set a Vision for yourself, have goals and diligently pursue them. Yet you are now being told that despite what you have planned, Life will take you on its own course! Well, it may seem incredible, but it is the way it is. At another level, it is so simple and easy. You can only make a Life out of what happens to you __ irrespective of what you planned or wanted. That’s really the only way to bliss!
16-and-a-half years ago, in 1996, after three successive disastrous employment stints, I presented myself in the office of a high-profile recruiter in Chennai. He subsequently built his company up well and sold it recently to a global recruitment firm. But back then, the recruiter was a big name, and his firm was still a start-up. I had known him through my years as a business journalist. So, I sought his help in getting me a good, well-paying, purposeful corporate job. He spent three hours speaking with me and assured me of a quick turnaround. Post that meeting, over the next three months, I must have called him a few dozen times. Email was not so big then. So, one had to follow up only via phone. He neither answered my calls nor he did return even one of them. It was bizarre. I remember agonizing then: at least he could tell me why he was not successful in pushing my case with employers?
Frustrated, and perhaps also driven by the fact that I had been ‘rejected’, I resolved that I should perhaps go on to be an employer. And not be an employee anymore. One fine day, in August 1996, I went ahead and set up a tiny consulting Firm with my wife! We were moderately successful financially in our early years. But by the end of our first decade in business, we were staring at a big, dark,  black  hole of accumulated losses and an unimaginable pile of debt. Eventually, we went bankrupt and, in many ways, continue to be in that state.
Initially, I hated where we had ended up finding ourselves: presiding over the debris of a debt-laden, problem-ridden firm. I used to hate that feeling__of guilt, ignominy, hopelessness, fear and resentment__ which would gnaw at me from within in each waking moment. But now, after all these years, when I look back, I find that without the rejection I faced in the job market, I may not have embraced entrepreneurship and without having failed at entrepreneurship, I may never have understood what Life is, what intelligent living is and understood what contentment is as I do now!
When I introspect, I am grateful for the experiences I have been through that have transformed me from being an angry, foul-mouthed, obsessive, possessive, egotist to being a simple, accepting, mindful voyager through Life. My learnings from the path that I did not choose, but which unfolded itself in front of me as I walked, have brought me to, I earnestly believe, my Life’s purpose: to awaken people to the right way of thinking, living, working and winning! I am reminded of what John Bunyan, a 17thCentury English writer and preacher, had to say: “Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach.”  
So celebrate Life’s inscrutability. Don’t grieve, don’t mourn over what you wanted and did not get. Keep walking, knowing that the path will always unfold, and always take you to where you must eventually arrive and truly belong!

Why not make today delicious?

Today is worryless, stressfree and miraculous if you realize that Tomorrows come again and again. Today, however, comes only once and is happening to you just NOW! Knowing this, internalizing it and practicing it can make your Life beautiful.

Basically, focus on the present and all will be well with you. Think about it. We never worry about or fear the present moment. We don’t pine for the present. Our worries are ALWAYS about an unknown future and our pain comes from a past that is over and done with. When we don’t live in the now, the only real moment that we know of, have in our control and are going through now, we are not living at all. We are merely existing. All our problems__financial, emotional, spiritual__arise ONLY from not focusing on the present, on the now.

Living in the past, or longing for an unknown future, is making us stagnate, vegetate and, in fact, rot. Don’t hit that rewind button. Live every moment fully, mindfully. You have to live first to understand, appreciate and enjoy Life. You can’t achieve that by merely being alive. Our outer realities, our circumstances may not always be of our choice. But how we want to live in them, in the present moment, can be by choice. Choosing, therefore, to live in the now, is an intelligent decision.

While researching on the net for a presentation I am due to make, I stumbled upon the Core Purpose, Mission and Brand tagline for Amercian food major Kraft Foods. It said: “Make Today Delicious”. It is perhaps the most delectable corporate statement you may ever find. It almost instantaneously suggests we revisit how we are leading our lives. It inspires you to want to get to that level of ease where each of your todays can indeed be delicious.

Very simply, it’s your todays alone that count. Not your yesterdays or a tomorrow that is still to arrive. As Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) Author, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, says, “The past, the present and the future are really one: they are today.”

Think about it. And make your today memorable. Better still why not make today delicious!?

Stay anchored to your bliss, stay focused, stay humble.

To live Life fully, just choose a path to follow, the one that gives you inner joy. And just keep walking, following your bliss! Remember you must keep plowing on regardless of what you have to face or what other people think of you. You will then eventually be successful. And that’s when you must remember to also stay humble.
As I write this, two important learnings come to mind.
One is from the south Indian Superstar Rajnikant, whose birthday it is today.
Rajni: Stays anchored and humble
Owing to his immense popularity and his hysterical following in Tamil Nadu, it has been widely believed, over a period of time, that Rajni will enter politics. In fact each election season, his legions of fans in Tamil Nadu eagerly await his announcement of entering politics with bated breath. Several election seasons have gone by and that elusive announcement has not come. It never well may come either. Dr.Gayathri Srikanth, Rajini’s first biographer, writes in her book, ‘The Name Is Rajnikant’, that Rajni is very clear that his bliss lies in continuing to be, in spirit, the down-to-earth coolie and bus conductor he once was, while also continuing to earn a ‘livelihood’ from acting. Straying beyond these two dimensions of his personal or professional Life, Srikanth explains, summarizing her understanding of Rajni’s thinking, will disturb the man’s inner core. She recounts in detail in her book how Rajni stayed awake all night, about a decade ago, after receiving a call from the then Indian Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao who invited Rajni to join hands with the Congress party and in return offered him Tamil Nadu’s Chief Ministership. Rajni thought through the offer and declined it politely the next morning. I remember from Dr.Srikanth’s book, him being quoted as saying, “It was important to overcome that temptation to succumb to what people wanted me to do. What is important was that I knew I didn’t want to do it. Besides, without anything remarkable about me, I was still enjoying so much adulation by the people. I don’t think I deserved anymore and I did not want to let them down playing a role I knew I was not cut out for.”  Writing today in Chennai Chronicle, Rajni’s wife, Lata, says similarly, “I am often asked about his political move. And I always reply that we must respect his decision for what he wants to do with his Life.”
Important perspective there for us to reflect upon:
  •    How often do we succumb to distractions that take us away from our inner core?  
  •    And how often do we work for our bliss than play to the galleries doing what other                people want us to do?
    Panditji: In India, they thought I was mad!
    Pandit Ravi Shankar, the Sitar maestro, who passed away a few hours ago, at 92, has led the way for us similarly too. He was often accused by Indian music ‘purists’ as someone who sacrificed Indian art on the altar of western stardom. Talking to Laura Barnett of The Guardian for an interview in June 2011, Panditji had this to say: “(I am proud of) helping Western audiences to have a better understanding of Indian classical music. In the UK, classical music is composed by individuals, and written down. Indian music is based on certain sequences, called ragas. When I perform live, 95% of the music is improvised: it never sounds the same twice…Well, I’m 91 now, so if I haven’t learnt to live with it (the global acclaim and stardom), I never will. But some periods have been more difficult than others. When I started working with George Harrison [in 1966], I became like a pop star myself: everywhere I went, I was recognized. I didn’t like that at all. I don’t think I have sacrificed anything. But I do think that my Indian classical audiences thought I was sacrificing them through working with George. I became known as the “fifth Beatle”. In India, they thought I was mad.” 
    Such a brilliant, enlightening point of view. No wonder then that he has been so successful doing what he believed in and what gave him joy! And his humility? Legendary. When Barnett, in the course of the same interview, asked the maestro if he wanted to give any advice for young, aspiring musicians, he said, “I wouldn’t give them advice. I would learn from them.”
    That’s really how you may want to consider living your Life: Always doing what you love, what gives you joy, learning and celebrating how miraculous and beautiful Life really is!

    Life didn’t promise fair-play or a zero-problem lifetime!

    How good you are has nothing to do with what you have go through in your lifetime.
    This is one paradox that flummoxes all of us: If being good, doing good is the essence of humanity, then why do I have to go through pain and suffering despite being good and doing good myself?
    Look around you and you may get enough evidence of this perspective to be true. Good people are going through troubled times __ joblessness, cashlessness, poor health, broken relationships. And the corrupt, the unethical, the violent folks seem to be having a good Life. Is there any fair-play at all in Life, you may wonder?
    Let’s address your concerns. First, know that Life did not promise any fair-play. It did not guarantee you anything when you were born. It didn’t say if you are good, ethical, sincere and hardworking, it assures you a problem-free lifetime. So, the expectation that you should have no problems is irrational, impractical, unfounded and unrealistic. Second, the nature of Life is that it is pre-ordained. You believe it or not. But everything that you have gone through, are going through and will eventually gone through, is cast. All you can do is to play the game of Life, every single living moment of yours, even as the joystick is in Life’s hand and so is the rule book. Life’s essence is to deal with WHATEVER comes at you! Therefore, third, don’t wallow in shallow unjustified perceptions that the unethical and corrupt,  who in your eyes do all wrong, are living it up! By imagining so, you cause yourself more grief. Fourth, if you have been created, as you have been, and you are alive, as you are, then be sure, your Life will have its share of problems. Life’s meaning is not zero-pain. Life is really about developing the ability to deal with pain, while learning to avoid the suffering that comes with it. Intelligent living, therefore, is all about being happy despite your circumstances.
    Today is the celebrated Tamizh poet Subramaniya Bharathi’s 130th birth anniversary. History and the present generation will both concur that India may well not see another poet ever of Bharathi’s stature, brilliance and patriotic fervor. Yet, apart from dying young at 38, Bharathi also died with so much pain. It was so irrational. First, he was imprisoned several times by the then British rulers of India. Then he was felled by an elephant at the Parthasarathi Temple, Chennai, which, ironically, he used to feed regularly. He never really recovered from these setbacks. His prolonged bouts of ailments finally took his Life on September 11, 1921. It is both a recorded and ignominious fact that ONLY 14 people attended his funeral. Imagine, India’s most revered son and celebrated poet today, did not have more than 14 people to see him off on his last journey! How unfair and cruel is that?
    So, stop expecting Life to be fair and mourning the fact that it never is. To be sure, it never promised it would be fair. So, accept it for what it is. The key is to understand this truism. And continue being good and doing good, not expecting anything in return, and to know that your goodness is good for your inner peace, and to know also that what’s embedded in your Life’s design, you HAVE to face and overcome. If you learn from that experience and, importantly, learn to be happy despite what you have to experience, well, then you will have lived your Life meaningfully!


    Don’t let your money matter more than you!

    Employ money to make your Life comfortable. Don’t let it enslave you!
    This morning’s papers had a shocking story of girl from Kochi suing her father for gifting her ‘fake jewelry’ at her wedding. It’s yet another instance of how money keeps us from being human! It got me thinking.
    Money is important. No doubt. It can buy you many things that will make your Life simpler and comfortable. But letting money buy over your peace of mind is hara-kiri.
    Our entire attitude to Life has become money-oriented. Life decisions are being taken basis whether it can help make or save money. Not basis whether it can give you joy! Another dimension worth considering is that you can never say what people want of you. Do they want you and respect you for what you really are? Or do they want your money and respect how much of it you have? So, when money, which anyway is impermanent, stops coming your way, you suddenly discover that your durbar has dispersed. People don’t want you anymore. Because you don’t have what they want with you. You feel lonely, unwanted and unhappy. That’s when your big realization happens. That money is just a means. It must not dominate your Life, your emotions or your actions. Instead if you let happiness dominate your Life, emotions and actions, you will still make money. More important, you will then know how to use it!
    I remember the movie Forrest Gump, which has a very relevant line that Gump says: “Don’t own nothin’ if you can help it. If you can, rent your shoes.” This whole desire to amass more and more in the hope that we will be secure and happy makes us slaves of a lifestyle we have long stopped enjoying. It fills our lives with grief every time something goes wrong with our Life __ as it often will and does! You lose your job or an important business contract and you imagine it is the end of the road. You plunge into depression. Or you lose your sanity over trying to protect what wasn’t worth protecting at all in the first place. I love LAMY pens. And I collect them as well, besides using them. A few years ago, when on a flight, I lost my favorite blue LAMY pen. For weeks I agonized over it. I felt a part of me was lost. I hunted high and low for one in India. At that time, Indian stationers did not retail LAMYs. And so I couldn’t find one in India. Years after this incident, my Firm went bankrupt and we entered a phase of complete pennilessness. One day, while practicing my daily silence period, it suddenly struck me how stupid I had been in agonizing over the loss of a pen, when in reality, my family and I had lost everything material __ all our money, all assets. And what remained was just us and our love for each other! It was a beautiful moment of awakening. The light that appeared in that moment continues to drench my Life with its brilliance!
    Azim Premji: Keeper not Owner
    A recent issue of Forbes India has Azim Premji, one of the wealthiest Indians, and chairman of Wipro, share his views about ‘employing’ his wealth to make a difference to others. His son Rishad, who works with Premji, both in the corporate and also on the board of Azim Premji Foundation, the Group’s philanthropy arm, says that they (the Premji family) are only keepers of the wealth (estimated to be $ 12 billion) and not its owners. “He’s (Azim Premji) always told us, ‘I am comfortable giving you something in Life but if you want anything above that, you have to earn it for yourself. The rest is meant to be given away, it is an obligation to give it away’,” says Rishad to Forbes India’s Mitu Jayashankar.
    Important perspective that. You or I may not have the billions. We may be giving. Or we may plan to give. But the least you__and I__can do is to not grieve over money or let it enslave us. Let’s put it to good use __ to make our lives comfortable and to make a difference to someone else’s!

    Use your anger than let it consume you!

     Use your anger than let it consume you!
    Understand what makes you angry than try to merely, blindly, control the source of your anger. Understanding, through diligent observation, yourself and your anger will help you avoid anguish and agony.
    One of the most profound teachings of Gautama Buddha is just this one line: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”
    Indeed. Examine yourself. And look at all the situations when you get angry. When your expectations are not met, when your instructions are not followed, when you are insulted or ignored, when someone behaves with poor traffic sense on the road, when you are taken for a ride, when you are not given what’s legitimately due to you. In all these situations, and more, when you explode, you are getting charred by your own anger first before you hurl it at someone.
    There’s a simple way in which you can deal with your anger. Center yourself with ‘mouna’ (observing daily silence periods) or a similar practice. When you are centered you will find that everything is transient. And the desire to control__anything or anyone__seems so stupid, so petty, so transactional. You will then understand the true concept of ‘ahimsa’. It is popularly interpreted as ‘non-violent action’ but Gandhi taught ahimsa as ‘the absence of even violent thought’! So, when you are centered you will become aware when a violent thought arises in you. When you say, “Idiot” or hurl an expletive at someone, that’s an expression of violence erupting in you!
    Often times, we are angry with some other situation in Life but express our anger at someone else. For instance, let me share my experience. There was a time when I would be angry with everyone on my team. My team members had nicknamed me ‘chiefscreamer’! My title on my business card says – ‘chiefdreamer’. And clearly the pun was intended by my team! When I sat down to examine my Life some years ago, I realized that the few gaps in work quality that I noticed with my team members’ work were not really what were bothering me. I surely had the maturity to understand that. What was worrying me was the way I led my own Life! And my anger with people and situations were really an extension of my persona and not necessarily my means of correcting my flock or improving the quality of their work. It was an important realization. And so, I got down to changing myself. Over a period of time, I was able to see that my team members fared better and I became more and more tolerant of their efforts!
    I still struggle. Just as we all do. I struggle at times when my intelligence is questioned. And when I reflect on it later, I always realize that it’s my ego that makes me react. So, I use my anger, constructively, to tame my ego! It’s a wonderful game of staying alert! This way, getting angry, has become a choice that I exercise. Because, at certain times, and with certain people, an expression of anger seems essential to get something done. However, that is anger, carefully chosen and used constructively. That’s the kind of anger that Gandhi used to drive out an entire empire from his (and my) land! That kind of anger delivers change, profound change and progress.
    Examine yourself therefore. Anger can be channelized constructively. Try it. You’ll love the experience and the new you!