In this Podcast I share a personal anecdote on what led me to be an entrepreneur, which later led to my bankruptcy. I discuss how Life seems inscrutable at one level but is actually unfolding a path for you which always takes you to where you must arrive. Everything happens in Life only to make you stronger, wiser and happier!
Listen time: 5:36 minutes
Life’s darn simple. Don’t complicate it with theories, methods and mantras.
I chanced upon a Facebook Live video yesterday. A gentleman made three points before I turned off the video:
- How much money you make in Life is directly proportional to your leadership (potential)
- If your leadership (potential) is low, you make less money; if your leadership (potential) is high, you make more money
- Your leadership (potential) is directly proportional to your karma
I turned off the video at this time because that’s not the way I see Life. Interestingly, however, if I were to go by the theory put out by the gentleman in the video, Vaani and I lack leadership, and that is why perhaps we don’t have any money! (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) Or perhaps it is that we lack leadership because of our karma. Interesting. Very interesting.
From what I have experienced, know and understand, Life is very, very simple. I feel people make Life unnecessarily complex by bringing in religion, karma, money and, now, as I see it, leadership! I wonder why?
The only definition of leadership that works for me is management thinker Noel Tichy’s. He says, “Leadership is the ability to see reality and mobilize the appropriate response.” Tichy defined leadership in a management context; to remind organizations and managers that anyone, irrespective of where they are in the hierarchy, can be a leader. I have always been captivated by the profundity of Tichy’s definition. It is so simple, so beautiful, and if you think about it, this definition is applicable to leadership in Life too. Consider these:
- The most important, evident, reality about Life is that it is a soon-to-expire, limited-period offer.
- And the most appropriate response is to live it fully, happily, doing what you love doing.
So, anyone who can internalize this definition of leadership, and live by it, is a great leader! Now, this is how Vaani and I have learnt to live our Life to the fullest – despite our circumstances. I believe we are facing Life stoically, looking it squarely in the eye! Yes, we don’t have money; but that does not make us lousy leaders. And, to be sure, there are so many, many, many people out there who face Life courageously, who live dangerously, without money. Clearly they are great leaders. I simply don’t understand how anyone’s fiscal circumstances can be used as a denominator to determine their ability to lead in Life.
The truth about our lives is that it is inscrutable. Period. Therefore, let us not try to make sense of it. Life happens through us. Not because of us. So, in some situations, if you can get what you want, if you can make money, celebrate that phase of your Life. But never imagine it happened only because of you. And when you don’t get what you want or get what you don’t want, when you can’t make money despite your best efforts (like what Vaani and I are faced with), celebrate that phase – with faith and patience – of your Life too. And don’t blame yourself for that phase. This is how Vaani and I are living our Life. We have learnt that no amount of religion, no rituals, no karma theory, no method, no mantra, can prevent you from going through what you are going through or what you have to face, and endure, in Life. You have to go through what’s in store for you in Life.
So, does prayer help, you may ask. And my answer is yes, prayer, helps not so much to resolve a problem situation immediately, but to help you cope with it. Faith in your creation – that if you have been created without your asking to be created, you will be looked after, cared for and provided for – and prayer are great coping devices. When I pray, I offer myself to Life as a student and ask for being handheld daily. I wrote this prayer some years back and use it to anchor myself in my mouna (silence period) sessions every day. It helps me renew, repair and revive myself daily. It helps me keep my faith.
That’s all there is to Life, I believe. Do what you can in any given context – that’s what true leadership is all about. Then, pray, let go, eat, sleep…repeat. All else, including money, always follows.
What goes around comes around.
We watched an outstanding Kannada movie U-Turn made by the very talented Pawan Kumar (who also made Lucia in 2013) yesterday. U-Turn is an edge-of-the-seat crime thriller. But it also leaves you with a spiritual perspective to ponder over – doesn’t Life always catch up, don’t your actions always come back to haunt you or bless you depending on what you have done? I have experienced this all my Life. I even talk about several instances of ‘what goes around comes around’ in my Book – Fall Like A Rose Petal (Westland). I have come to realize that all retribution and reward happens in this lifetime only. In a sense, as I see it, every moment is judgment day and the more good you do, the more abundance you attract into your Life. And the more you falter as a human being, there’s surely a price you end up paying for your actions. I don’t know if there is an after-Life. I don’t know if the Law of Karma works the way they say it does. But I know for sure that whatever you do comes back to you in equal measure.
I recall an instance from when we were visiting Guruvayur in Kerala several years ago. I had just bought a full loaf of bread so we could feed our son Aashirwad (who was barely a year old then) once we got to our hotel. But as our car backed up, a man, who looked hungry and lost, came up to my window and said: “veshakunnu”. It meant “I am hungry.” I didn’t think. I just handed him the loaf of bread. It was a spontaneous gesture. I just did it. My parents who were with us were shocked at what I had done. Vaani however smiled at me approvingly. As we drove along we stopped at a bakery and bought another loaf of bread.
I didn’t think much of the whole episode after that. In fact, I didn’t even recall it for 17 long years.
In February 2008, when our business problems had snowballed into a full-blown bankruptcy, I had to make a day trip to Hyderabad to meet a prospective customer. I used my Jet Privilege miles to buy my air ticket. We had no money. That day, in fact, the administrator from Aashirwad’s school called to remind me that his last term fees for the academic year had not been paid. It was the last day for fee payment and I was told that without it being paid he would not be allowed to sit for his 12th standard Board exams. I remember calling up our accountant from Hyderabad and asking her to sell a laptop we had in the office to raise the cash and pay the fees. I was exhausted after meeting the client and after dealing with the fee payment crisis. It was well past 2 pm. And I was hungry. In fact, I was famished. I had exactly Rs.900/- with me after paying for a full day’s parking for my car at Chennai airport that morning. Of this Rs.900/- I had to spend Rs.870/- to pay off the Indica cab I had hired for the day. I wanted to retain the Rs.30/- till I reached home – just in case! So, I decided to starve and grab whatever they would serve me on the flight – but that wasn’t going to be until after 8 pm! I told my cabbie to leave the car’s AC on and asked him to go have his lunch.
As I sat in the car and distracted myself by reading the morning’s newspapers for the nth time, my phone rang. It was a friend who I had SMSed in the morning asking if he would be free for a quick coffee as I was in his town! Now, this gentleman had not responded to my SMS. So, I did not even know if he was free, available or willing to meet when he called. The first thing he enquired was if I had had lunch. And when I told him I had not, he insisted that I show up a restaurant near his office in Secunderabad. I tried protesting feebly. But he shut me up. I went to the restaurant and we had a sumptuous meal from a buffet spread. When the check arrived, I told him how embarrassed I was that I could not afford to pay. He reached out, held my hand and said: “Listen, you have always paid whenever you have visited me. Let me do it this time. I was thinking I may not be able to see you today. But a scheduled meeting got postponed, just a few minutes before I called you, giving me this window to do lunch with you.”
I had no words to thank him. I don’t know if he saw me tearing up. When I got on the plane later that evening, I closed my eyes and reflected on the entire episode. And I wondered how we were managing as a family in this ghastly, nightmarish, cashless time. And yet we were miraculously surviving each day – soaked in abundance and blessed with the compassion of people around us, like this friend in Hyderabad. Did we deserve so much goodness in our Life, I asked myself? That’s when the hungry man’s face in Guruvayur flashed in front of my eyes. And I quietly thanked him, even as tears welled up in my eyes, for giving me that opportunity to serve him that day.
It’s been over 8 years since that awakening moment on the flight from Hyderabad. Our crisis endures. But Vaani and I continue to plough on – only because we are helped by the kindness and love of the Universe and its beautiful people. I really don’t know if Karma works. But I know compassion sure does!
Don’t worry about death or Life after death. Focus instead on living this one Life well!
People often have this question: Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people? And, with some exceptions, they always also ask: And why do ‘good’ things happen to ‘bad’ people?
The questions themselves need review. What is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is subjective. What you may see as the right thing to do may be wrong from another’s point of view. And what you see as wrong, may seem perfectly right to someone else. I believe that these questions arise because of the ego being active in each of us. For instance, you are ethical, sincere and diligent. Yet, when you don’t get a promotion or a raise, your ego incites you to question the situation. It implores you to see someone else who has managed to get that raise as one who is ‘inferior’ to you on the work ethic scale. This is how this game of demanding fair-play from Life pans out. To be sure, it did not begin at the workplace. It began at home, in school, when parents or family pointed out to you that ‘Life has not been fair to you’. Over the years, you have only been led by your ego to continue to view Life this way.
Pause and reflect a bit. Did you ask to be born? This Life was “given” to you, wasn’t it? And at the time of birth did Life make you any promises? Did it say your Life will be this way or that? Since there were no guarantees offered, no assurances given, where’s the intelligence in craving for them? The truth is Life keeps on happening. Life sees all its creations as equal. It does not choose its “targets” for “tough examinations” per income or social strata. Life does not see anything as good or bad. Ethics, or the lack of it, make no sense to Life. Whatever Life delivers at your door, you have no choice but to accept it. Your suffering begins only when you refuse or resist the Life that is happening to you!
Religion and the scriptures talk of the Law of Karma. I agree with Osho that this is but a way to ‘console’ ourselves as humanity. The Law of Karma is no scientific law, like say the Law of Gravity. A ball thrown up in the air__whether in Chennai or Kabul or New York or Sao Paulo or Kyoto or Wellington or Kota Kinabalu or Colombo__will come down. We can argue and verify the Law of Gravity – it can be examined. But when the Law of Karma says that we will bear the consequences of our actions in a future birth or we are bearing the consequences of our actions, from a past birth, in this one, I am not sure we can verify or examine the case being made. Who has seen an earlier Life or can be sure to experience another one in the future? In my humble opinion (in no manner do I seek to rubbish the Karmic Theory), and in the limited context of my Life experience – this is the one and only Life we have. This is it. So, live it fully rather than think of your impending, inevitable death or another Life beyond this one!
Each of the events in our Life has happened because it simply had to happen. There’s no merit in qualifying and further analyzing if we deserve what we are getting or are given. Don’t label anyone or anything or any event as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Don’t compare. Don’t ask why. Life’s happening to you 24/7. Just watch it happen. You don’t like what’s happening to you, learn to accept it. You like what’s happening to you, learn to be grateful for it. Drawing inspiration from the lines of a famous song from the 1965-classic Waqt (Yash Chopra, Ravi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Asha Bhosle), I improvise as I conclude: “Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu, Peeche Bhi Jaane Na Tu, Jo Bhi Hai, Bas Yahi Ek Life Hai…”!!! So, the only way to live Life is to live it happily, for what it is!