Only you can decide what makes you happy!
We bumped into a young friend at a coffee shop yesterday. She is a qualified architect but is taking a gap year in her academics.
She asked us: “Is it okay to not feel like doing anything in Life? I mean, is it seriously okay? I feel everyone around me is chasing their tail and here I am…completely clueless about my future and blundering along…I am still unsure if I want to study further or if I want to practice or be a writer or just travel the world. Everyone is forcing me to decide and go do ‘something’. But I don’t want to commit to doing something that my heart isn’t agreeing to.”
Vaani, in turn, asked her this question: “What makes you happy?”
And the young lady replied: “I am still figuring out what makes me happy. But I am sure none of the things my family or friends want me to do, like do a desk job to earn an income and gain experience, or a do a Masters Program so that the tag of a graduate can be acquired, will make me happy.”
The lady, in our opinion, has her priorities clearly in place.
Even as she is figuring out what will quench her soul, what will make her intrinsically happy, she’s sure about what she does not want to do. And there’s no confusion in her mind there. Now, that’s a wonderful state to be in.
You see, the whole world is running amuck – everyone is trying to become something, become someone else that they really are not. Worse, almost everyone else seems to have an opinion about what you must do and how you must live your Life. Sometimes, this cacophony can be deafening. If you capitulate and sign up for what the world wants you to do, at the cost of your own inner peace and joy, then don’t complain about your Life being listless and meaningless. Because that’s really what Life will be when you live it for someone else’s sake! But, if you want your Life to be exciting, if you want to wake up each morning loving the opportunity to go do what you love doing, then you have to pause and reflect.
Ask yourself important, fundamental, questions: 1. What makes me happy? 2. What makes me feel grateful for this gift called Life? 3. Doing what makes me lose myself completely so that I forget all my worries and even lose track of time? 4. What do I want to keep doing again and again and again – all my Life?
Well, you know what you answered for those four questions. Now, just go do it. Simple. And if figuring this out takes a year or two, or even more, well, so be it.
Life is a precious, one-time, limited-period offer. The most intelligent way to live it is to only do what makes you happy. And no one but you can make that choice – only you can decide what makes you happy. When you do live a Life, doing what you love, everything you need arrives in your Life – at its own time and pace. If there ever is a secret to living a Life of happiness and contentment – this, absolutely, is it!
Don’t fight. Don’t resist. Simply, trust the process of Life.
August 1 is special for Vaani and me.
It was on this day, in 1996, that we decided to embrace entrepreneurship. I had come back to India in July that year, from Singapore, after serving as the traveling, globe-trotting, Executive Assistant to dealmaker and tycoon C.Sivasankaran. I was clear I did not want to take up another employment. So, Vaani and I conceptualized and set up our venture, imagequity+, with a Vision for it to be the world’s best consulting Firm from India. We grew very fast in the first six years of starting up and were even ranked as a qualitative global player in our space. But a couple of business decisions we took – while choosing to hold on steadfast to our values – led to our Firm going bankrupt and plunged Vaani and me, and our precious family, into prolonged periods of worklessness and pennilessness.
Vaani and I have spent the longest time, as business partners, as a family, these past 10+ years enduring this bankruptcy.
Interestingly, it was also on this day, in 2014, that my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal, was launched. When it became evident to us, in end-2007, that we were heading into a phase of uncertainty, financial distress, cluelessness and darkness, I intuitively started writing a journal, sharing our daily experiences and learnings. I addressed each day’s entries to my two children, Aashirwad and Aanchal (who were then 18 and 13), in the hope that when they turned adults, they may benefit from those Life lessons.
You see, in the early years of my career as a journalist, I wanted to be famous – and rich, and powerful – one day and write an autobiography that would showcase to the world ‘how I had done it’! Clearly, I was not just naïve in my thinking then, I was perhaps conceited and struck by hubris as well! And so, let me tell you honestly, I had never quite imagined that my first Book would be all about my spiritual journey – where I share reflections and lessons on happiness, contentment, compassion, love, forgiveness and faith – my evolution, from a rat race runner to the happynesswala that I am today! Yet, that’s exactly the way it has turned out to be.
So, that’s our big learning, for Vaani and me, from the past decade that have lived through: no matter what you desire or dream or what you plan, Life has a mind of its own; it always happens at its own pace and in its own time. Therefore, don’t fight Life as it happens to you – simply accept it for what it is. If you want your circumstances to change, go work on them. But without expectation. With total detachment. And in complete surrender. Know this: Life will always bring you to where you must arrive. So, trust the process of Life. This is the key to happiness – this trusting is what taught Vaani and me the art of being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. This is what has taught us to be happy despite our circumstances. To be sure, our bankruptcy is far from over, but we have learnt to be resilient, patient and happy while living through it.
August 1 is therefore special on two counts. For the first part, it denoted our being successful – when we turned entrepreneurs in 1996; we had broken free from the shackles of employment and, to my then-myopic view of Life, it signified freedom, success and ‘arriving’! And for the second part, with the launch of Fall Like A Rose Petal – interestingly, on the same day that we became entrepreneurs – we had chosen to be useful even when success – which is, fixing our bankruptcy – was elusive.
These past four years, since the launch of my Book, have been eventful surely. But they have also been very, very meaningful. They have been purposeful. Because we still don’t have the means to travel and promote the Book it may not have made it to bestseller lists. But it surely has connected with all those who have read it. And there’s always someone who is writing in every week to share how our journey and our learnings have made a difference to their Life. Just yesterday, a reader, who had received the Book as a gift from his father, pinged me on Facebook to share this: “Words cannot qualify or quantify the impact you and Vaani have made to my Life through your sharing. I have learnt a very valuable lesson from your Book – postpone everything else, but never postpone your happiness.” Interestingly, at this time, while we don’t have a publisher yet, the Tamizh translation of Fall Like A Rose Petal is ready – it is translated by the veteran writer Charukesi and edited by another legend, V.Ramnarayan; Sivasankari has graciously written the foreword to the translation.
On a day that marks these two anniversaries for us, Vaani and I are soaked in gratitude; we are anchored in equanimity and prayer. We believe that our Life is playing out exactly the way it is meant to be. I don’t know how long this bankruptcy will take to fix and when we will eventually turn zero-debt. But we are eternally grateful for this experience which has taught us what Life truly is, what happiness is and has given our Life a Purpose – which is “Inspiring ‘Happyness’”! So, we continue to share our learnings with audiences who care to pause and reflect – through this Blog, through our signature Talks and curated, non-commercial conversations and our specialized workshops.
And like everything else that has happened in our Life in this past decade, we are sure all our debt will be repaid by us and the Tamizh translation of Fall Like A Rose Petal too will launch in its own time. For our part, we continue to trust the process of Life and well, as the story in my Book goes, we continue to fall like a rose petal!
I will continue to post whenever I have a learning to share – may not be daily, but I may post several times in a month.
It has been over 10 years since I have been writing this Blog. I have been writing it daily. Without missing a single day. It started as a Word file in 2007 – as notes to my two children, Aashirwad and Aanchal, in the form of a personal journal (these notes/letters in August 2014 came out as my first Book Fall Like A Rose Petal). Then, in end-2009, I started posting my daily learnings on a Yahoo Group where several of my school friends are members. Slowly, with the emergence of Facebook, I moved to posting there. And eventually, in 2010 or so, I set up my Blog – first on Blogspot and later on WordPress. It has been a fascinating journey over the past decade of sharing learnings continuously – for the past 3650+ days. My daily Blogposts, my sharing, have helped me find meaning in what may otherwise well be called a “dark, meaningless” phase of my Life! My inspiration for my consistency has been Amitabh Bachchan who, despite his superstardom and associated schedules, blogs unfailingly – daily. And my inspiration for my daily posts has been Life itself – I have been sharing here what I have learnt from Life and from people around me.
Going forward, however, I have decided to reduce the frequency of my Blogposts.
I am immersed with conceptualizing and writing two Books – one of them with Vaani. Besides, I would like to dedicate the hour, that I normally invest in writing my Blog daily, to my health – focusing on a walk and exercise regimen to manage my diabetic condition a lot more efficiently!
Today is an important day to make this decision I guess.
It marks the end, astrologically, of a tumultuous phase in our Life. As per my chart, I complete a decade-long phase of my Life today. This phase came close on the heels of another scorching 7-year phase. In these 17 years my own views on God, religion, rituals, faith, astrology and the inscrutable Higher Energy have evolved. I have come to realize that Life (all Life) has a Purpose, everything happens for a reason and time plays a huge role in whatever we experience. I have now understood that Life is the greatest teacher of them all. She always gives you the test first and lesson later. Astrology to me is a science (like meteorology is) that tells you how the conditions are likely to be – I don’t see it (anymore) as capable of changing your Life’s course. In fact, no one, and nothing, can change it. I remain grateful to Life for all that I have experienced and learnt.
Even so, as I embark on a new phase in my Life, when I sincerely believe our business and financial situation will turn around, and we will be able to repay all the money that we owe people, I look forward to engaging even more purposefully with Life. With Vaani, I hope to be Inspiring Happiness among any audience that cares to pause and reflect – through my Books, my Talks, our Workshops and through this Blog. I may play around with the medium here – choosing to write a Blogpost or share a Vlog or Podcast. I will essentially continue to post whenever I have a learning to share – may not be daily, but I may post several times in a month. So, please stay tuned! Vaani and I wish you and your precious family, good health, abundance and “Happyness” – now and always!
When you are soaked in gratitude and love the Life you have, its beauty and fragrance are magical.
I turn 50 today.
In the normal course I would have been still been drunk – hung over – on alcohol from the previous night’s binge! But today I am drunk on the love that is pouring in from all around. I feel awed, humbled and grateful – all at the same time.
Way back in 2004, when we had met a Siddha yogi, on the advice of one of our friends, the yogi had told me, “AVIS, your Life will completely change after you turn 40!” I was 37 then. On my 40th birthday, in 2007, when Vaani’s sister and her husband from Phoenix, Arizona, had called to wish me, I remember telling them both this: “Oh! This is one birthday that I have so eagerly looked forward to.” I was thinking then, keeping the yogi’s remark – which I considered to be a prophecy – in mind, that post-40 we would get all the money that we so badly needed through some quirk of destiny and we would be able to bounce back from our “tight” (back then) financial situation. But nothing of what I thought of and wished for has really happened. In fact, within a couple of months of me turning 40, on December 31, 2007, we realized that we were bankrupt. We were left with no money, no work, and we owed Rs.5 crore, US $ 1 million then, to 179 people. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal)
A decade on, we continue to be bankrupt. We still owe the 179 people the money we owed them then – Rs.5 crore! So, just reviewing the Siddha yogi’s remark may lead to the conclusion that my Life and Vaani’s has changed for the worse in the last 10 years, ever since I turned 40. But on a spiritual plane, at an evolutionary level, nothing’s the same about my Life. The Siddha yogi was indeed right. My Life has changed dramatically in the past decade.
I have learnt, in this time, the art of being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. This essentially means that I have learnt to be happy despite our excruciating circumstances. I have recognized the value in being calm and stoic, and to trust the process of Life. This means, I cherish and practice faith and patience. I have learnt to live my Life meaningfully – choosing always to also be useful than just trying to only be successful. This means living Life with a Higher Purpose – Inspiring Happiness among all those who care to pause and reflect. I have learnt that there is no destination that you must strive to arrive at in Life – and that the journey is the reward. I have learnt to rise in love. This means Vaani and my companionship has thrived through this tumultuous decade only because we continue to be loving, in the present, continuous, sense. This has meant also that our children have seen our friendship evolve, grow and glow. So, they too now value companionship over a mere relationship. I have also learnt that everything happens for a reason and everyone’s a teacher. So, I don’t complain about anyone or anything anymore. I may have an opinion, a point of view on what people say or do, or on whatever happens to me, but I don’t resist anything, I don’t ask why or why me – and therefore I don’t suffer. And yes, I have learnt to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ to Life for all that I have – I recognize that being eternally grateful is an incredible way to be soaked in peace!
These learnings make me feel so special, so blessed. I feel my Life, despite its attendant practical and physical challenges, is very liberating. It is filled with abundance and happiness. I am sure others my age – and older – feel this way too. But this is the first time I am turning 50! So please bear with my sharing these thoughts today. For this is what I am experiencing at this stage in Life, at my Point 50!!!
Life’s beautiful – as it is! And I am lovin’ each moment!