There are more people out there who are willing to help, than those who you fear may want to exploit you.
A young reader messaged me through my App (‘AVIS Viswanathan’ – available for Free Download on Google Play and the AppStore) the other day after reading my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. She had this to say: “Thanks for writing the Book. What you shared made so much sense to me. But you have shared so openly. You have been brutally honest. Don’t you at all feel vulnerable? Didn’t you think you will be judged? Don’t you feel insecure that your story, and its stark details, will lead to people taking you for granted or even exploiting you?”
I feel my reader’s point of view is founded on how we believe the world we live in is. This is how most of us see ourselves and the people around us. We imagine we are vulnerable and that the world is full of hawk-like people who want to exploit our vulnerability. From my experience though, I want to tell everyone – as I told this reader – that we are totally, totally, wrong if we hold that view.
Sharing makes people relate to you and your story. Sharing makes you draw on and gain from the positive energy that people around you are offering you. Sharing makes you realize that, not just you, but everyone out there is dealing with a situation – you can learn from them and they can learn from you. No one has exploited me or my wife Vaani because we have laid bare our Life in my Book or in my Talks or through Events we conduct to promote the idea that you can be happy despite your circumstances.
Vaani and I have found, again and again, that behind every face, there is a beating heart and a personal story. People may not be willing to immediately share their stories just because you share yours. But they can relate to your story. Their relating to you and your story makes them compassionate. This is what the “milk of human kindness” is all about. So, we have never felt vulnerable or cheated or exploited. We have always found ourselves being understood and cared for – again and again and again. My Book and my Blogposts/Talks are peppered with stories of how people have come forward and helped us every single time – with money, with their unconditional support, and with their understanding. We remain soaked in gratitude and humility.
Yes, there have been – and continue to be – a few who judge us and refuse to trust us. But I believe even they can’t exploit us. Because when you lay yourself bare, there is nothing anyone can do to you anymore.
Wear your Life on your sleeve. Be honest. Share. Only then can you see what a beautiful world this is – full of kind, caring, compassionate folks!
Wear your Life on your sleeve.
Yesterday we met a reader of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. He had traveled all the way from Bangalore to meet us. He said that his Life was in a shambles, he was deep in debt and his wife had “almost disowned” him. “I am lonely. I have nobody in the world,” he said, fighting back his tears.
Vaani told him reassuringly that he’s not as alone as he imagines. “We are here. The very fact that we are meeting you shows that we care,” she explained.
That’s so true. None of us is as lonely as we imagine we are. If only we step out and share our stories to the people around us – even to random strangers – we will find compassion and kindness in places where we least expect to find them.
I remember a night, from some years ago, when I was sitting alone and drinking in a hotel’s bar in Chicago. A lady joined me on the bar stool next to me. And soon she got talking to me. She said she was lonely and had contemplated going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan which was just across the highway from our hotel. I asked her to why she felt lonely. And she told me her story. Her 10-year-old marriage had ended badly, her new boyfriend was cheating on her and she was out of job – facing a string of rejections in every new place that she applied to. “I see no point in this Life,” she said, breaking into a sob. I asked her stop drinking and go back to her room in the hotel. I told her to get up the next morning and instead of going to the “edge” of Lake Michigan, I suggested that she walk along Lakeshore Drive. I told her: “Ask yourself this – if you had no problems in Life, what would you like doing? Focus on that one thing. And go do it.” Though I didn’t expect her to follow my advice, she actually gulped her drink down, bade me good night and went away.
Two days later, I saw her again in the coffee shop of the hotel. She rushed towards me, shook my hands joyfully and said, “I took your suggestion seriously. I walked along Lakeshore Drive and asked myself what did I want to do with my Life? It wasn’t a difficult question. Because all my Life I wanted to be a musician. So, I have decided to go join a music school and be a musician.” As she spoke, her eyes lit up, she beamed a radiant smile and oozed positivity.
I asked her: “So, between two nights ago and today, what has changed? What made you transform yourself from being lost, forlorn and lonely to being so full of Life?”
“Well, I guess, I shared. And when I shared, you helped me with perspective. I don’t think I was lonely really. I was just imagining so. And I was keeping so much bottled up within me – not just my emotions but also my deepest aspiration,” she explained.
And that’s so true of so, so many of us. We only imagine that we are lonely. In reality, the world is a warm, compassionate place with a lot of warm, friendly, loving, caring people. To connect with them, you just have to open up, you just have to wear your Life on your sleeve and you will always find people willing to hold your hand and help you along your way!
It’s a big, beautiful world full of kind, compassionate people!
At my Uncommon Leader event yesterday, a member of the audience walked up to me and said, “It must be pretty tough on you and Vaani to be so vulnerable in this big, bad, cruel world. I don’t know if I would have survived the crisis you are faced with.” (To know more about the crisis and why this remark was made, please follow this link: Fall Like A Rose Petal.)
Vaani and I understand where this perspective is coming from. It appears that much of the world is cold, cruel, judgmental and self-obsessed. It also appears that wearing your Life on your sleeve, being transparent, being vulnerable, is an absurd, almost foolish, thing to do. But our experience has just been the opposite. In all the time that Vaani and I have been dealing with this bankruptcy, for about a decade now, we have never come across someone who has exploited our vulnerability. To be sure, we have always been very open about our enduring situation. But this hasn’t made us a target or victim of social prejudices or attitudes. Of course, there have been those who have proceeded against us legally to protect their rights (on account of having to recover from us the monies we owe them); we totally understand their need to have done what they have done. Yes, there have been those who have been judgmental and there are those who have distanced themselves from us only because we are no longer in a certain “league”. But such people have been few. A large majority of people in our circle of influence and who we have come across in the past decade have been, in reference to their specific contexts, forgiving, compassionate, sensitive, loving, understanding and important, in general, all of them have been trusting.
Just yesterday, someone we know came forward to make a generous offer to us. He noticed that we are struggling to earn an income. He said we could market his services as ours, he would deliver on the mandates that came by and we could take the fees that accrued as our own. We need not necessarily pay him any fees, he suggested. What a wonderful gesture! Except that his services don’t fall in our line, zone, of work. Even so, at what point will people offer themselves pro-bono just so that another set of professionals like them, who are going through a tough phase, stand to benefit? Vaani and I are moved beyond words.
This is not an isolated case. Last week at least two people reached out offering to help with any bills that we may have trouble paying. My Book and my several of my blogposts are peppered with examples of how people have come in, some of them rank strangers, unexpectedly into our Life and have helped us onward on our journey.
This experience has taught me and Vaani that God exists – but only through the godliness in the people around us. We have seen this God again and again and again, repeatedly, in the actions and hearts of those people who we have known or who have come into our Life. I believe if we drop our ego, abandon all judgment, and simply, humbly, accept the warmth, love and compassion of people around us, we will only see a beautiful, caring, loving world. This world doesn’t exploit your vulnerability, it does not take; it only gives – and gives unconditionally! Look around you – perhaps you live in this same world!