Inspiration from a legend to stay Evergreen, Everyoung, Everalive

Do what you love doing. No matter what people think of you. And you will forever be at peace. And, importantly, you will always feel young.
Review your Life. Almost all your decisions are based on what other people think of you. The way you dress, the way you speak, the way you think are limited because of a perceived world-view you have of yourself. In fact, many people are trapped in lives and careers that are based on what other people have chosen for them __ parents or spouses __ or they have been driven by circumstances and fears to do what they are doing.
Dev Anand, Bollywood’s Evergreen, Everyoung, Eversmiling and Everalive star, led his Life his way__no matter what people thought of him__and led the way for us for the 65 years that he was in cinema. Almost everyone loved him. In fact, I am yet to come across someone who says, “I don’t like Dev saab”. He lived a full Life, although his last recognized hit at the box office, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ came in 1971, which was 40 years before he passed away in December 2011! But over these 40 years, he continued to do what he loved doing __ make films, launch new talent, helping whoever came his way. He financed his 18 films between 1971 and 2011 from revenue from his various real estate investments and from his post-production, recording and sound remix facility in Pali Hill, Mumbai, which industry estimates say, earned him Rs.20 crore annually. So, his Navketan Films, continued to survive despite all his 18 films failing at the box office. Despite his bad run in the trade, Dev Anand’s goodwill, carried him along in his last few decades. The venerable Warner Brothers associated even with his last film__and another failure__’Chargesheet’ that released in October 2011, because, as an official told The Economic Times, “We did it for Dev Anand”. Trade Analyst Komal Nahta recounts the tale of a person who bought the distribution rights of a Dev Anand film for the Rajasthan region some years ago. Nahta asked him: “Are you crazy?” His reply, Nahta told The Economic Times, was, “I got to pose with Dev Anand for a photo.” It wasn’t just about his star appeal alone, which he of course retained despite aging over the years. He didn’t mind that the trade wrote him off because of his films’ poor showing. He continued to be alive to humanity. What was special about Dev Anand was his energy. Nobody, it is said, who went to him came back depressed. He continued to launch talent__having launched stars like Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff and Tabu in films__and was willing to help anyone in distress. “Log mujhe pyaar karte hain”, he would say smiling his trademark smile, meaning, “People love me.” To me, the key learnings from Dev Anand’s Life: 1. He loved what he was doing. 2. He was therefore ever peaceful, ever smiling. 3. He took his work seriously: continuing to improve every day, with each film, at least in his mind, within himself, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT PEOPLE SAID OR THOUGHT OF HIM. 4. He was forever willing to help. Only when we live Life this way, can we live easy, and as the lyrics of Dev Anand’s 1962 classic ‘Hum Dono’ (We Both), go, we too can say, “…Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhatha Chala Gaya…Main Har Fikr Ko Dhuen Main Udaatha Chala Gaya…”. This means, I went along playing ball with Life, blowing away all my worries. This, Dev Anand often said, was also his Life’s Mantra.

Make it yours. And you too will be Everalive, Evergreen and Everyoung!  

Learn to be yourself and at peace!

Allow people to be just the way they are. And you be yourself. This is the only way to be peaceful with the world around you.
If you examine your feelings about others, especially about those who can’t get along much with, you will find that you are continuously wishing they are different from who they are. And this wishing serves up enough grief to make you feel miserable – about the other person and about yourself! But your wishing that someone is different or behaves better is of no use. Because if anyone has to realize it, it is the other person. And as long as that person does not realize this, and does not change, you are going to experience this person only this way. And, resultantly, you are going to continue to feel miserable too. So, the wisest response in any situation when someone else’s behavior is causing you discomfort and agony, is to simply let the other person be. And you too just be – yourself.
A friend, who’s over 25 years older to me, shared his experience of being in a similar situation with me recently. My friend’s brother-in-law and my friend had entered into a property-sharing arrangement several years ago. As time passed, the brother-in-law felt, for no evident reason, that he had been short-changed in the deal. But instead of addressing the issue head-on with my friend, he started to disrupt the peace in the family. For one, he started to ill-treat his wife (who is my friend’s sister). Then he started to spread canards about my friend in the family. Further, he started becoming abusive of my friend in public. Many attempts by my friend to understand what could be the issue were stone-walled by the brother-in-law. For months on end, this “stand-off” between the two continued. Finally, unable to bear the pain – and the misery – one day, my friend confronted his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law admitted that there was an issue – and it had to do with the way “he was cheated in the property transaction”. My friend says that he had no inkling this was the issue. Once he heard this, my friend spontaneously agreed to transfer the entire property in the brother-in-law’s name. “The problem ended right there. In a nanosecond,” recalled my friend.
But a different problem now arose. My friend’s wife said he (my friend) had been “stupid and foolish” to simply give up control over such a valuable asset. She demanded to know why my friend had acted hastily and why she and their children had not been involved in the decision. My friend says he explained his stance thus: “When we entered into the property-sharing agreement, it was a deal that was defined in black-and-white, in unambiguous terms, and agreed upon by both parties. By making it now seem he was short-changed, my brother-in-law is insinuating that I have cheated him. It is not in my nature to cling on to money or assets or wealth at the cost of my name and the family’s peace. He wanted the asset. And unless I gave it to him, he was not going to be at peace. And unless I gave him what he wanted, I was not going to be at peace. I was not foolish. I was just being myself – getting for myself what I valued most – my peace!”
Our lives and experiences with people around us need not be as dramatic. But in each situation that we are exposed to unreasonable people and their pettiness – by way of their tactics and attitudes, it is best to not try to change them. We can’t. Some people know what they want very well. And they will not rest until they get it. In their drive to get what they want, they will trample on people around them, they will vitiate the atmosphere and they will puncture people’s self-esteem. Reason, logic and common-sense will not work with them. It is best to just let such people be. By doing so, I am not even remotely suggesting that you be a door-mat and allow yourself to be pissed on and passed over. No. Turn around, make your point and make sure you are understood and you are being yourself. In my friend’s case he decided to give up control over the property. You decide what ‘being yourself’ means to you. If you are in my friend’s position, and if you would want to fight for the property, please do. By all means. The bottom-line is please don’t suffer someone and their machinations. Or agonize over others’ behaviour. Learn to push such people back, put them in their place and you be yourself and at peace!

Take off that mask – and be yourself!

Stop living your Life for others. Do what you must do in a situation not what “you” believe society wants you to do.  
Through a conversation that I had yesterday, I was reminded of a very popular movie star that I once was coaching on “reinventing” himself. At 60, this star was long past his prime when he came to me. He wasn’t getting offers to play the hero anymore. And while his contemporaries were still relevant in the movie business, by opting to play supporting and career roles, my friend was not getting offers because he was adamant that he would sign on a movie only if he was offered the lead role. The movie star’s aspiration was to “reinvent” himself and become “relevant” among the new generation of movie fans. I understood from him that his burning desire to still be seen as a “hot” and “happening” movie star had led him to lead an extravagant – clearly beyond his means – lifestyle. Since he was not getting any movie offers, he had had no income to speak of for over a decade now. He had further leveraged all his assets – that he had painstakingly built during his heydays – to borrow money to sustain his lifestyle. He had 7 luxury cars, wore only expensive designer clothes and watches, lived in a large 12-bedroom bungalow with 15 helpers, and insisted on traveling first class on foreign vacations with his family, at least twice every year. When I asked him why he needed to live this way, he said, “I honestly don’t need all this for myself. But what will people think of me if they realize that I have downsized. I need to keep the show going to stay relevant.” I disagreed. I gave him a two-step plan: “First, accept any role that comes your way where you have a chance to display your talent. That will kick-start your economic engine. Don’t insist on hero roles. Next, clean up your debt portfolio by selling off your bigger assets to settle your bigger loans. Work towards a becoming debt-free over a fixed period of time.” He vehemently opposed the advice I gave saying: “Even if I am not enjoying it, and even if I have so much stress to deal with to keep my show going, I can’t do anything that affects my public image.” After just a few weeks of beginning to coach him, I gave up the assignment. I told him: “If you continue to do the same things, you will get the same results. To reinvent yourself, you need to stop doing a few things that led you to where you are.”
My movie star friend’s story is not an exception. While, in his case, it may be a lavish lifestyle, funded by debt, that he maintains to “look good” in front of his fans and society, each of us seeks social approval and works, often in vain, for it – in our own unique ways. If we think about it deeply, when we live – in any context – for the sake of others’ opinions of what is right or wrong, what is good or bad, we suffer. This is because we are going against what we personally prefer, want and enjoy – and we live wearing a mask. That mask, always, hurts.
The truth is that society really does not demand that you wear that mask or veil. It is you who think, imagine, believe that these, often unstated, social norms must be adhered to. There’s a subconscious conditioning that has happened to you, as you have grown in your career, and your Life, that you must be this way or you must be that way. Nobody told you anything specifically. But you just imagined it to be so.
And, of course, some people can be uncharitable and obnoxiously remind you if you are not following social norms. We were once invited to a banquet in a 7-star hotel. Many of the other guests were good friends – all of them successful business people, professionals, actors and sports stars. Many also knew of our financial state – our bankruptcy. One of the guests did not hide his surprise at seeing us there.
“‘Aap, yahan?’ – You, here?” – he asked.
“‘Haan. Aane ki to aukad nahin hai, lekin aaye hain kyonki bulaye gaye hain’! – Yes, we don’t have the social standing to be here. But we are here because we have been invited!” – I replied with a beaming smile.
In any situation in Life, choosing to be yourself, unmasking yourself, is the best thing to do. Nothing wrong in being nice and wanting to please others or “look good” in front of them – but the key is, are you “feeling good”, are you doing what’s right and important for you? Choosing to be yourself may well cause a few ripples in the external situation that you may be placed in. But will give you great inner peace. Now, making that choice is a personal call, and a no-brainer, right?

Learn to love yourself

There will be times in Life when the world will convince you that you are a parasite. That you are good-for-nothing. That you are a burden on your immediate family, society and perhaps the planet. People will opinionate, judge you and condemn you. You will find everyone difficult to deal with because people have either formed their opinions or they have no time for you. Either way no one wants to have anything to do with you. In their eyes, you have either failed financially, morally, emotionally or physically. The truth may be different. You may have a story to say. But no one’s listening.

Learn, through such times, and in such moments, to first love yourself. Understand that Life destroys nobody. Life has given you the opportunity and experience of this lifetime. What you are faced with is a part of your own Life’s design. Good or bad, in Life’s parlance an experience is an experience. You label it good or bad basis your definitions of what you want and what you don’t. Your acceptance delivers you joy and your resistance brings you grief. So, if you peel off your responses to an experience, you can detach yourself further from it. Then irrespective of what is happening to you, you remain untouched. When you are so insulated, it is possible to value yourself, love yourself and celebrate yourself, no matter what people say about you and what you are faced with!

The reason why such a simple learning doesn’t easily get understood is because of our conditioning. Over years, you__and I__have been told that how the world views you is important to your survival in society. Right from clothing ourselves to getting good grades through school, to impressing people around us in our teens to work titles on our business cards to flaunting our class of travel, we have become masters of living for the world. There is a bizarre selflessness that governs our existence. But what is the point in being selfless, and living for others, when you are all the time grieving that you are not being yourself and are not able to live the Life that you really want to?

I learned this lesson the hard way. Only after I had wasted much of my early years trying to please many people, working towards being seen as someone ‘nice, good and honorable’. Then, through a series of events, and experiences, I learned that those who seek honesty from others hardly practice it themselves. That to condemn those in distress is sometimes a ruthless pastime that the worthless and insensitive indulge in. I discovered that what other people say or do, about your Life, does not__and should not__make a difference to the way you think, live and work__as long as you are true to yourself. I concluded that in trying to live your Life by someone else’s rules, you are actually punishing yourself.

To be sure, you have not been created to be punished. The purpose of your creation is to enjoy this experience, to be happy, to celebrate, to live. So, don’t try to please others by living a Life for them while dying every minute yourself. Love the Life that you have been given. Begin by loving yourself.

Understand who you are – Know that you are not this body, not your physical assets, not your educational qualifications, not your bank balance, your business title or your achievements, records or feats. So, if you have lost all of them, you have lost nothing. Because you came with nothing. So losing what you never came with, and what you will never go with, is losing nothing! You are above all these material markers. You are the Universal energy that’s powering you and keeping you alive.

Understand that Life is the only God – A lot of your Life’s situations get confounded when you begin to yearn for a savior to come and extricate you from your abyss. The truth is there is no savior. You have to save yourself by applying your common sense. That common sense should tell you that since you are alive, and are being powered by the Universal energy, you have the only God that there is, which is Life, in you!

Understand that unless you live, you can’t do much to change the world – You surely do have dreams. And you dream of leaving the world a better place than you found it. No, you may not want to change the world the way a Gandhi or Mother Teresa did. But your own little world, your family, you do want to have impacted positively in your lifetime. And that you can do only when you survive. Or to use an aviation analogy, you can help others only if you first wear the oxygen mask on yourself!

Despite all the abundance around us, people have stopped counting their blessings. Instead they wallow in their, often self-inflicted, miseries. By giving too much credence to what people have to say about you, you are only allowing yourself to be drowned in that sea of hopelessness and scarcity. Instead break free. Love yourself. Remember this: Life needs you to fulfill your Life’s purpose. That’s why you have been created! When you steel yourself against the depressive sentiments that sometimes the world may heap on you, you will find the ability, the energy, and the opportunity to heal and make a difference__surely, as long as you are alive and, at times, long after you are gone! As Oscar Wilde (1854~1900) has said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”