Focus on your efforts and leave the outcomes to Life

Asking why something is happening to you is of no use. The best way to deal with a situation that you dislike is to face it and deal with it.
Life has a mind of its own. It delivers situations to you whether you like it or not. Your preferences are not what Life seeks to know before something happens to you. Who wants a cancer? Or who wants to be out of job? Or who would want a break-up – especially years after a heady romance and an equally memorable marriage? Who would want to lose a parent, child, spouse or sibling? Yet, whether you like it or not, several of these contexts, and more, have applied to you the past or currently apply to you or may apply in the future. Such is Life. Asking why must you be in the situation you are in is futile. Life doesn’t answer anyone’s questions – definitely not in a linear fashion. You can, at best, make sense of your Life by looking back, and reflecting on why some events happened in the way they did. As Steve Jobs has famously said: “You can only connect the dots backwards”. And when you do connect them, you will realize that everything happens for a reason, and all change always is for yourgood!
I read the story of Achal Bakeri and his highly-successful Symphony brand of air-coolers in a recent issue of The Economist.  Bakeri returned to India in 1988, after acquiring an MBA from the US and encouraged his Sanand (Gujarat)-based family business to look beyond real estate. He launched elegant-looking, efficient, air-coolers for domestic and commercial use. Soon Symphony was the market leader in its space and a public listing followed in 1994. But Bakeri made a mistake – he capitulated under pressure from investors to make washing machines and water heaters under the Symphony brand name. The move, though logical on paper and in theory, backfired. Symphony’s new products failed badly in the market and pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy. After several years of struggle, Bakeri decided to focus on doing only what he – and his company – knew best. Which was to make only air-coolers. But he backed up that decision with a significant change in strategy – he took the Symphony brand global. In 2011, he bought a Mexico-based firm which gave Symphony additional leverage in manufacturing, technology and distribution. That move – and Bakeri’s resolve to focus on his core – paid off. Today Symphony’s stock is rated as among the best performing stocks in India in the past decade. The Economist story concludes with this perspective: “Had Symphony not had such a close brush with failure, it would have stuck to the Indian market and never explored the global potential for air-coolers. “It was the best thing that happened to us,” Bakeri says.”

I am sure Bakeri had his own ‘why-me’ moments of self-doubt, self-pity and anger as he revisited his decisions. I am sure he wondered at some time whether he would be able to haul his company – and his career as an entrepreneur – out of the mess it was in. I am sure he too did not get sleep on many nights thinking of how dark and fearful the future looked. And, yet, I am sure, along the way, one thing led to another and things did work out fine for Symphony and for Bakeri. This is how Life will work for each of us too. None of our stories is going to have a sad ending. Even if you were to die today, leaving unfinished business and incomplete dreams, someone will pick up from where you left off and give your story the end it truly deserves. So, stop questioning the Life that is happening to you. If you love what’s happening to you, enjoy every moment. If you dislike what’s happening to you, learn to endure it. Don’t resist Life – that’s when you suffer. Don’t ask why and don’t ask why me? Learn to face Life and deal with it doing whatever you can daily, in the best way you can! Just focus on your efforts. And leave the results and outcomes to Life. Remember: in the end, no matter what you are going through now, it will all work out fine! 

Stop seeking an easy Life, work towards a better Life

If you look beyond ‘earning a living’, you will realize that you have the opportunity in this lifetime to touch lives and make a difference.
When alive do something, whatever, in such a manner that it impacts a whole lot of humanity positively. Live an inspired Life such that you will be remembered as an inspiration much after you have passed on. This opportunity is available to each of us in this one lifetime that we have. To make productive use of this lifetime all we need to do is to dream the unthinkable, do the unimaginable and pave our own trails.
One man who exemplified this thinking in our lifetime, just like several others had before him, was Steve Jobs. He said this once, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
So, stop being cautious about Life. Stop being half-hearted. Be crazy. Stop working towards an easy Life. Work towards a better Life. Live like a King. Lead Life King-size. And when your time is up, you would have passed on the baton, by being an inspiration, the flame, the energy to someone who will continue to inspire, to touch lives, see things differently, and as Jobs would famously say, “make a dent in the Universe”!

Touch lives. There are so many waiting, wanting to be touched, to be led, to be inspired. They are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

A lesson in living from the Jayalalithaa episode

Anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life! You just have to be prepared to accept whatever comes your way and know that nothing is permanent – neither success nor defeat!
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Yesterday’s conviction of J.Jayalalithaa by a Bangalore Special Court in an 18-year-old “Disproportionate Assets” case, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, holds an important lesson in living for all of us. No, I am not going to comment on either the merits of the landmark judgment nor am I going to analyze the political future of Jayalalithaa, her AIADMK party and the state of Tamil Nadu. To me the singular takeaway is this: whoever you are, wherever – even if you are high, mighty and powerful or meek, written-off and in oblivion – you are, your Life will play out exactly per your cosmic design. One moment you can be an immensely popular and powerful – seemingly infallible – Chief Minister of a state and in another you can be prisoner number 7402 at the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, lodged in VVIP Cell 23, disqualified as MLA and CM and barred from contesting elections for 10 years!
It is this understanding – that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in Life – that we all completely lack in our lives, caught as we are, in trying to make sense of our own individual, inscrutable, Life stories and designs. Even as I write this, news has come in that my wife’s classmate lost her young adult son in an accident earlier today. And next week, on the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) show, host Amitabh Bachchan will hand over the Rs.7 Crore bounty, for the first time ever, to brothers Achin and Sarthak Narula. The Narulas least expected to be on the show. But when they did get there, they thought they will get to the Rs.25 Lakh stage and then quit the game. Little did they imagine, or believe, that they would hit the Rs.7 Crore jackpot and create history! So, anything can happen in Life – an Emperor can become a pauper and a pauper can become an Emperor – at any time!
Which is why you – and I – must develop the attitude and temperament to accept Life for what it is. The truth is that beyond human comprehension, there’s a higher intelligence, a Higher Energy, at work. Different people see this differently. Some believe this Higher Energy is an unseen, invisible Creator, a God – whose works you can touch and feel though. Some, like Apple’s late Steve Jobs described, say that you cannot understand Life as it is happening to you – you can only infer that it all happened per a “larger cosmic design” by “connecting the dots backward”. I simply believe this Higher Energy to be Life itself. The same Life that keeps us alive. This Life is intelligent. As in, it has a mind of its own. Which means whatever has happened, whatever is happening and whatever will happen is per a Masterplan.
You and I can’t ever fathom what this Masterplan is all about – not even in the contexts of our own individual lives. The only thing we can be sure of, based on all that’s happening to us and around us, is the fact that this Masterplan has no flaws. Which is, we must understand and appreciate that everything that’s happening to us is happening only so that we learn, evolve and grow stronger from the experience. When we begin to understand that this is the way Life works, we will get better and better with living, and living intelligently, with each new experience we encounter!

The best way to live, I have learnt, is to know that you and I cause nothing – neither our successes nor our failures. Life is what keeps on happening to us – from birth to death. Some of what happens to us, makes us exult, some of it buries us under its fury. Whatever happens, it is best to stay humble and stay accepting of Life – knowing fully well that nothing is permanent, neither our successes, nor our falls!

Time, Destiny, Karma, Life … whatever, just accept what is!

We are all a product of the time that we go through. Time plays the biggest role in shaping the way things pan out for each of us during our lifetime.
This is an unalterable truth about Life. But the way we are conditioned to think about time, thanks to the way we are raised, we are either totally driven by a belief that everything about our lives is pre-ordained and pre-set in, and by, time or that nothing is. A more aware approach to Life, however, can be helpful.
Although there may be several arguments or methods that claim to understand how time works during one’s lifetime, the reality remains that there will be some times in Life, certain phases, when nothing may work for you, the way you plan for it or want it to work, despite your best efforts. This reality may express itself differently in the context of each one’s Life. But this reality will be un-missable, unmistakable. Now, those who use methods, like the science of astrology for instance, to make sense of the “play of time”, may find some way to rationalize what’s happening to them. Those who either have no access to or interest in such methods may simply see a pattern, “of results not coming as expected despite their best efforts”, to their lives. They may either choose to go with the flow of such a pattern, which is go with the flow of their lives, or feel defeated and depressed.
I have learnt that the simplest, and the most peaceful, way to live Life is to have faith in Life’s plan for you. I have come to understand it as The Master Plan. And I have come to realize, over the eventful years of my Life’s roller-coaster experience, that The Master Plan has no flaws. So, even if something evidently is not going per a plan that you have, and so you conclude that things are going “out of control”, everything is still happening just the way it should, for you to live the Life that has been designed for you. This perspective has been immortalized by Steve Jobs (1955~2011) when he said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, Karma, Life, whatever. This approach has never let me down and it has made all the difference in my Life.”
I don’t need to substantiate this point with a story from my Life or recall Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech of 2005. I invite you to review your own Life. And you will see the pattern, your personal journey line, as evidence of this point. Wherever you are today has undoubtedly been a result of all your efforts and intentions. Even so, you will notice that at the most crucial junctures, mystically, an unexpected twist or turn has either helped you move forward or has led to an unplanned, unscheduled change in direction. Without this providential play of time, or Life, you wouldn’t be where you are today. This perspective is as good even when you don’t like being where you are today. Perhaps, Life has laid hurdles in your path – a curious turn of events has delayed or stunted your progress. Whatever it is that you may be faced with or are going through, know that there’s a larger design that’s not evident to you just now. Someday, in the future, you too, like Jobs’ will connect the dots backward and marvel at how beautiful your Life’s design always was!
You can appreciate this perspective or debunk it. You can be wedded to the “Life-is-pre-ordained” or “it’s-all-play-of-time” theories or you can believe that you control everything. Whatever way you choose, you can’t escape the reality that Life pans out for you, as it does for me, only in its own unique way. And the only way to live such an inscrutable Life, happily, peacefully, is to simply accept what is.

Make peace with that unpopular Santa called ‘fate’

An eternal confusion that abounds in us is whether our lives are predestined or not.  

If Life is predestined, what is the point of trying to control it by dreaming, imagining and living it our way? And if it is possible to live Life the way we want to, why doesn’t everything we will and work towards always happen?

The answer to these questions lies in the definition and understanding of Life itself. Former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s definition of Life is best in this context: “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Determinism is pre-ordained destiny. Free will is the ability to choose an action freely in the context of (every day) living. Someone wise once said that a man born to be hanged shall never drown. So, even if he tries to commit suicide (free will) he will survive and will die only from hanging (determinism). But that doesn’t mean he must give up living__or, in his case, trying to commit suicide! The joy of dealing with Life’s ‘unseen’ hand, of responding to it intelligently, is what makes Life interesting and unputdownable. You need to crouch when Life is raining blows at you and then leap back when both your confidence and the conditions are up. Think of this Life as an adventure sport, where your faith and patience are continuously tested and you must keep summoning both qualities from within you, to live each moment fully. Apple co-Founder Steve Jobs says of this so beautifully, “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Determinism or fate is like an unpopular Santa Claus who’s bringing you things that you don’t want or like. Making peace with that Santa is free will. It means to accept what comes in your stocking and live with it, while believing and knowing that what you really want is on its way to you. In making that choice, free will again, you will find the cloud lifting, the confusion clearing and__bliss!

Stop postponing living

Time is relentlessly pursuing us. We are all, as a matter of fact, racing towards our deaths, albeit at different speeds! With this inevitable end in mind, and in sight, we must exercise our intelligence to LIVE this lifetime meaningfully, purposefully. 

Understand and appreciate the impermanence of money and material things. They are as transient as Life itself. Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, even as he battled with cancer, memorably said,“Remembering that I would be dead soon is the most important tool I have encountered to help me make the right choices in Life.” 

So, stop postponing living. Do what you have always wanted to, NOW. Be it writing a book, starting a new career, launching a business, acting in a movie or just saying that you love someone___whatever will give you joy, needs to be done NOW. In the end, what will count is not how many corporations you were on the boards of, not how much money you have in your bank, not how many hours you slogged each week, but how many lives you touched.