Happy New Year

We have stepped, danced, drank or waltzed our way into 2015 finally (my bet is more on the drinking and dancing on how majority of the people welcomed the New Year). This is the time to promise yourselves and make new year resolutions- the most popular ones being ‘I will exercise, I will lose weight, I will quit smoking’. Believe me, once the holiday mood is over, it is back to reality, routine, work, school etc and out go the resolutions like a paper plane. Resolutions make it all seem very burdensome and dragging.
I prefer silent wishes and prayers similar to the ones we make during our birthday, after all New Year is every person’s birthday. So, here are some of the wishes/to-do’s or prayers for 2015 which I think can be everyone else’s as well-:
1.Learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby- Did you always want learn a musical instrument or learn an art or sport? Well, this is your time to pursue it irrespective of what other people might tell you; ‘Oh, you are too old or you possibly cannot learn it, you have two left feet so how can you dance?’ You will not know how bad you are at the skill until you give it a shot. I want to learn the guitar and I will give it my best. Oh lastly, do not listen to people who say you can’t do it, they did not try so they discourage others.
2.Picking up from the last line, surround yourself with people who make you laugh, feel good and happy. There will always be folks who tell you cannot do something or are so cynical in life that the negativity just rubs off on you. No one has the right to make you feel inferior or bad without your permission.
3.Travel to a new place- Take a trip whether a road trip or a simple hike. The best part about travel is that the journey itself unfolds so many aspects of the world that you never knew existed. The journey is as important as the destination.
4.Stay active- As cliched or old as it may sound health is wealth honey. The good ‘ol wish is more relevant in today’s time with our arch enemies like stress, pollution, fast food, sedentary lifestyle plaguing us. You need to make healthier choices in your diet and pick up a physical activity like walking, dance or simply run. You do not want to die young do you?
5.Set yourself a target or milestone for the year which after completion you can say ‘Yayy!!! That was my biggest achievement in 2015!’ You need to have at least one ridiculously crazy far fetched goal which will get you out of your comfort zone and help you discover yourself in the whole process. This will keep the fire alive in your otherwise mundane routine life.
Lastly, say a little prayer every now and then to be thankful for who you are and the strength to take on life’s challenges. You got to squeeze in as much as you can in this short life. With that I wish all of you a very Happy New year and an exciting one. Cheers!

When I grow up…what will I be?

A few days ago, I had met a couple along with their five month old baby girl. This young lady had really long and thin fingers which I admired and told the couple ‘Wow, she has long and slender fingers.’ To which the father replied ‘Ya, my daughter will grow up to be a top notch surgeon.’ I simply stood their smiling and scratching my head thinking ‘my comment was not intended to point at which profession the kid will take when she grows up.’ It got me thinking are we still going to choose what our kid becomes when they grow up?
Are we still very particular about our kids growing up to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer? Our previous generations have always glorified these professions for the fame and fortune that it brings. I would not deny that during their time these professions were the only source of financial security for the families, but not anymore. There are so many opportunities in today’s world in all avenues even if they take the non-traditional route that they will still earn all the fame, fortune and most importantly an inner satisfaction. The kid needs to explore and discover what he/she loves doing? It can range from storytelling to dance.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to identify that passion, nurture it and guide your kid to pursue it. You can always let these talents remain as ‘hobbies’ and goad the kid to studying science and math. Perhaps, they will do well in that area also but do they really love solving math problems or preparing a balance sheet? Observe and listen to your kid when he/she whines about certain subjects and brightens up when going for a particular class. Of course, as a parent you should always explain your point of view but do not force your unfulfilled dreams or aspirations on them. It is after all their life.
It is ok if your child does not like math and you love the subject. Let them choose their passion, they will automatically work for it and make it a huge success. Let them come to the decision on their own and more importantly trust their decisions, as a parent your fundamental duty is to teach them how to make choices in life. If you teach that, my dear parents you have mastered the most difficult art of parenting and you should be super proud of it. Anyway, we need a variety of people with different passions in life and ideas. It will truly make it a Life’s Macchiato 😉

BFF..Friends matter

I was looking forward to meeting a school friend this week after almost 6 months and I did (despite my crazy work schedule). At the end of a fine evening, it was time to say good bye and the last hug was a mixed bag of emotions- Happiness to have met her after so long, relieved to have exchanged life’s stories, excitement for the future, a wee bit of sadness that God knows when would we meet again given our priorities in life and the most important emotion of hope that we would meet soon and stay in touch.

Yes, we had not spoken to each other for close to six months, but we picked up from where we left and chattered away like we did during school lunch breaks- whether gossip, jobs, family or crazy adventures. The most important part of friendship for me is that the person does not judge you for what is ‘moral’ or ‘right’ as we are not constantly asking for advice, solutions or remedies in life. A true friend is one who can be silently and patiently listening to you during moments of despair, confusion and simply touching your wounds with a warm and tender hand saying ‘it will be ok..you will be just fine or how about lunch?’. Sometime even silence make real conversations, the unsaid says everything.

I firmly believe each one of us can have one or two friends in our inner circles who know you in and out, with whom you have grown side by side and of course who you can call up at 4 am! That one friend can make you smile and laugh even when life is sucking or give you hope that there is a world of possibilities ahead of us. Just ask a few simple questions as a litmus test of who are your real friends- Are they willing to fight for you? Do you see something more in that person than yesterday? Does that person enjoy the silence between the two of you and yet understands your true feelings? If the answer to the above is yes, then my friend you have a winner!

Friendship is the hardest thing to explain and it can at best be felt. If you have not learnt the meaning of friendship then one has not learnt the most powerful lesson in life. One of my best friends is also my faithful pooch who seems to understand every emotion I am going through, if only she could talk but like in one of stories Dil Dosti and Dog in my maiden book Life’s Macchiato Bhole the dog was his mistress’s savior. Friendship was very cutely conveyed by Winnie the Pooh-: “We’ll be friends forever, won’t we Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered. As they say BFF!

 

Dream on my dreamers…

This weekend, majority of my time (when I was awake of course) was spent dreaming, day and night. I dreamt I was invited to a TED conference to give a talk on Dreams. Well obviously since I am no doctor, I cannot talk about the science of dreams. But what I could talk about was the power of your dreams. One may laugh at it, saying it is not reality but unless you dream it, it is always impossible.

Whether you remember it or not, an average human being dreams for about an hour or two every night. Numerous studies and research have proven the importance of dreaming in a wellbeing of a person. I go a bit further, that apart from keeping the stress at bay and recharging you, dreaming is the first step to success. Steve Jobs dreamt of every person holding a computer in their hands, John F. Kennedy dreamt that there would be a day when man would set foot on the moon…All these examples show that one might have passion the energy but to give directions to that passion you need a dream, a vision. That dream should be so bold, big and compelling that it should revolutionize human lives.

When you dream you do not have any limitations or constraints, you let your mind loose and let it show its true potential. That is why it is so important to carve out some time in your daily schedule, preferably in an inspiring environment to let your mind wander. The uninterrupted solitude is a powerhouse for new ideas, dreams and things you never thought would be possible.

Finally it is when that dream becomes so compelling that it does not let you sleep or eat; that is when greatness is achieved. Great dreamers are people who are capable of making a difference in this world independently. Regret is a terrible feeling to live with, and an unfulfilled dream is powerful enough to bring regret in your life. One has nothing to lose if you chase that dream, you may achieve the vision or not but at the end of it you can stand with your head held high and say ‘Hey. At least I gave it my best shot and I have no regrets!’ So go on follow your dream..why do you want to follow status quo?

Important life’s lessons from Masterchef

I am completely obsessed with the Masterchef Australia Series, not because I am an expert cook but because the show is a melting pot of a myriad of human emotions- whether it is passion, humility, sadness or love. But the one key lesson that stands out in every episode is the fighting spirit that each of the amateur cooks bring out. Let’s face it, each of the cooks have a bad day and are on the brink of elimination. But what this competition tests is not the complexity of the dishes one creates but how does one emerge stronger from a setback.

Your mental strength and ability to wade through these setbacks automatically shows in the dishes prepared because the best cooking comes when the mind and heart are at its strongest. The moment you let these setbacks beat you up, it is a sure shot recipe for disaster. It sounds unbelievable but I have seen it. Contestants who are down in the dumps on one day go back home to regain their composure and strength and Voila! The next day they cook like they have never cooked before.

These pressure situations are not restricted to Masterchef but are seen in our daily lives. It may look as though it is staged on Television or easier said than done, but it is possible because it is all in your mind. Below are some of the ways which I believe could help you think straight in the face of a setback-:

  1. Regain composure- One needs to sit back and calm down either by meditating or simple breathing. With the adrenalin rush it is difficult to gather your thoughts or creativity. The Masterchef mentors Gary, Matt and George constantly remind the contestants to calm down in pressure tests because fluttering aimlessly like a butterfly would not get you anywhere.
  2. Do not forget the bigger picture- Choosing to see the bigger picture helps you remember your vision or that WHY. You need to connect with what is your true love and passion so that you can bounce back in the game. Each of these contestants have their own Why’s- whether their love to feed people amazing food, cooking for their kids or simply do it for the love of food.
  3. Step back and retrace your steps- Now that you have your big picture, one should ask questions like ‘What worked, what did not work or what could I have done differently?’ The answers to these questions would equip you to make the required course corrections. The contestants need to give a serious thought on why a particular dish did not work because to stay in the competition they have to improve and do things differently.
  4. It is ok to make mistakes- After all we are human and it is impossible that any human being who walked on this planet has not made mistakes- whether it is Steve Jobs or Mahatma Gandhi. The key is to acknowledge those mistakes, understand them and emerge stronger. Each of these cooks has made mistakes but as the show progresses one can see how they grow and emerge stronger- They do not kick themselves but they get up and kick the stove!

In last week’s episodes the famed 3 Michellin star celebrity Chef Marco Pierre White gave his own example that he did not get to be where he is via a simple cakewalk. He had made multiple blunders in his career, but the important message he gave was ‘If you are down in the dumps, remember not to let anyone else pick you up but yourself. You can take as much time as you want, but you got to get up, brush it off and move ahead.’ If your mind and heart is on it, then nothing can stop you!

 

Reverse Mentoring

We always look up to our elders, senior leaders etc for advise and hope that they would give us some magical pearls of wisdom so that we can reach our peaks. However, I have also noticed that in many companies including my workplace, that our senior leaders make sure that they spend some quality time with the millennial kiddos, college graduates, management trainees etc talking to them about everything ranging from the happening night spots in the city to the coolest mobile/social media trends. This is not to look ‘cool’ but actually to learn.

This initiative is called Reverse mentoring wherein older executives pair up with younger executives to get mentored on topics like social media trends, technology etc. This initiative was started by Jack Welsh but has recently caught on. Let’s face it, as one ages you are not in tune with the future the same way a twenty something is. They bring fresh ideas, courage and a fresh perspective to everything.

Here are some ways in which this could work-:

  1. Choose your mentor carefully- Look around and search for someone who has great potential and talent but does not have that ‘leader’ title
  2. Two curious minds are better than one- Select a person who is passionate about exploring and insanely curious about what’s next or what can be. The same things apply for you as well- Be the curious George!
  3. Make this a priority- Devote yourself to this and be sincere about it. Make time for this like your mandatory white space and do it for yourself
  4. Build upon these exchanges- Use these perspectives or ideas in building your business capabilities and ensuring future readiness

Reverse mentoring has many benefits like-:

  1. Recognizing and promoting talent across the organization- This can help provide the right platforms for the rising stars to gain visibility
  2. Brings people from different generations closer and work as a team and  not an ‘us vs them’ type of competition.
  3. Reduces the knowledge gap for both parties. The senior executives learn about emerging technologies, trends etc while the younger executive learns about leadership and other industry experiences from the senior.

The best part is that you do not need a fancy program for this, all you need is the willingness to listen and learn. It can be done within your existing learning programs in the company. Once the matching of employees from different generations and backgrounds is done, all they need to commit is to meet regularly in order to learn and challenge each other. As Mr. Steve Jobs said ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’

What is your passion?

A few weeks back I attended a workshop to improve one’s influencing skills and one of the key ingredients that was told by the coach was ‘Passion’.  Up and until that time I was sincerely taking mental notes but when he mentioned this, I paused and gave that ‘Passion?? How is passion linked here?’ look. Then he mentioned that passion does not mean the love scenes in movies only, it means that one has a burning desire and dedication to a person, activity or concept. That feeling should ooze out of every body part of yours to ensure that you are authentic and make people listen to you. Well, yeah..that made sense.

A bit of digging into what passion means I found that this word has originated from the Latin word patere meaning suffering. Over time, this term has evolved into a positive term like love, desire etc. To dwell further on this, a lot of people have found their passion in life once they felt challenged or had a void in their lives. They did some deep and tough soul searching as to hoe to fill these voids, which ultimately led them to discovering their love. I know an accountant couple who used to work in a plush corporate environment and quit their jobs after five years to concentrate on teaching college students. Why they did so? Well, because they never found that satisfaction in their jobs with respect to the lack of recognition or office politics. That mental stress forced them to search for eternal happiness to which they can dedicate their lives to.

Now, none of them or other high profile brilliant people realized this in one single day. The key is not to follow books or personality tests but to slow down and ask some very pertinent questions to oneself, like-:

  1. What have been your challenges or joys that you are facing in your life?
  2. Are there any themes or patterns in these challenges or joys? This can signal a pattern to change or continue
  3. Are there any insights that you could use from these experiences without being too judgmental?
  4. What could you do to heal or change that discomfort?

All your life’s experiences are clues to lead you to that key- what is your real love or desire in life? Take a moment to soak in these cues and be thankful that they happened, because they make us stronger and gives us room to think straight. After all, as we get far in the number of years, we want to find that true purpose in life- loving what we do or loving the people around us. If you want to find the real purpose in your life, all you need is to find and follow your passion. That is your true calling!

Babies teaching Adults about life

Just two days back my niece was born and well..that makes me feel ancient. Surprisingly she came into this world peacefully without much fuss. Little does she know what is in store for her in this big big world- right from multiple advises from grown ups to her own mind guiding her in life. As I held her in my arms, the only things that she cared about was- eating and sleeping and if those two conditions are met, you can do all the prancing around her.
I believe we can learn so many lessons from these new born babies who are still untouched by the crooked ways of the world. Nevertheless, they are focused on their goals and can uproot the surroundings until they get what they want. They bring the house down if they are not fed or are not changed right? That does not mean they are ruthless, they patiently go to everyone’s arms and want to be loved. They continue to hear you and observe you with so much intensity that you end up with a warm fuzzy feeling. My brother was talking gibberish to his 2 day old daughter but still she was all eyes and ears to him. If I were in her place, I would have switched off my senses the very moment he opened his mouth, yawn! In between all the commotion she stretched out and was observing her surroundings, similar to what they say – ‘stop and smell the flowers’. Very often we are so engrossed in our routine that we fail to pay attention to the little things around us in our daily lives, things that bring us a smile like a child laughing or a fully bloomed dahlia flower in your garden. Taking a moment to observe will only improve our concentration and help us think clearly in the midst of the clutter we carry 24×7. Everyday these kids keep challenging themselves and surprise everyone including them! Today my niece lifted her leg as though she was doing an exercise routine and she kept her tiny fingers on her face as though she is deep thought. I wish we could surprise ourselves more often either by trying out new things like a new cuisine, vacation spot or challenging yourself to learn a new sport like swimming or even dance. You always have more to give and receive.

Like Paolo Coelho said ‘A child can teach an adult 3 things- to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something  and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.’ I wish babies never grow up and retain their innocence forever. If my niece ever wants a life tip from me, that would be it-Don’t grow up and keep staying hungry for more- whether food or life! We certainly lack the innocence and eternal happiness in this world today. Till then, my hope is that we adults continue to strive towards our dreams and happiness. 

Nostalgia..good or bad?

‘Those were the days my friends. I thought they’ll never end..’ This was the song I was humming to myself a few days ago when I was revisiting my childhood memories of the tireless hours of summer vacation days being spent at the beaches of Chennai with cousins. So, yes I was in a nostalgic mood wherein if there was a time machine I would have loved to be transported to my childhood days.
Nostalgia by definition is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a past period. Since it is associated with two extreme emotions of happiness and sadness it is called the ‘bitter-sweet’ pill. The term was coined in the 17th century attributing the physical and mental ailments of soldiers to their longing to return home,- nostos in greek and algos meaning pain. However, subsequent socio-psychological studies have put nostalgia in a positive light.
After a few moments of revisiting my childhood days, it only left me with a smile. This smile gave me a sense of satisfaction that I had the fortune of experiencing some beautiful care free days in my life. It uplifted my mood, made me feel warm and gave me an inspiration to strive for more such happy days in my life. Studies have proven that nostalgia does help curb anxiety, loneliness and boredom.
Of course, in some cases it also leaves people incomplete and with negative emotions. The memories are not always pleasant and the joys are also mixed with a dash of loss or negativity. Especially when people are away from their homes or families for an extended period of time or people are still stuck in the glorious past that they find it difficult to move ahead in life.

This is just another way of expressing one’s emotions. For e.g. simply narrating your past story can bring a barrage of emotions in you. Hence, this is an outlet for all those bottled up emotions that we continuously shove under the carpet in the pretext of being ‘busy’. It is OK to take a moment and revisit your past because it ultimately proves that we are human after all. Most importantly it gives us fuel to get over the hardships and provides the most important feeling to mankind to sustain himself/herself- Hope. 

Celebrate Your Success…A small ingredient in your life’s journey

Last month a senior leader of my business unit who by the way I admire a lot for her superior leadership skills asked me a very thought provoking question- Did you celebrate your success? I looked at her with a question mark on my face and simply said ‘Yes, for my last promotion I treated a few colleagues to a round of drinks..but that’s about it’. She gave me a serious look and said ‘NO, I do not mean if you treated people on your achievement, but did you give yourself a treat for your achievements in the past year? I scratched my head and said ‘actually no.. .’ This was no joke and got me thinking a lot about why celebrating ‘YOUR’ success is as important as reaching for your goals.
Most often than not we get a thrill from achieving our goals and quickly move on to working on the next- without taking a moment to appreciate the hard work we have put in to achieve that success. This is very common during year end, wherein as we approach December we start making a list of what we would like to accomplish the next year and may forget to really ‘celebrate’ our achievements- small or big. Planning for the road ahead is definitely important but so is taking out time to give ourselves a pat on the back for a ‘job well done’. Else no organization would have formal reward and recognition programs like award ceremonies, red carpets, parties etc. I personally used to take not more than a few hours to feel happy about my achievement and then say ‘Yeah yeah, I have done that..So?? Now time to move on’.
Why is it important? Well, it helps instill serious confidence, pride and proof that we are capable of succeeding in life despite our strong inner critics. Most importantly, it pushes us to reach for the stars. But what do we celebrate? How do we define which milestones are worth celebrating? You can define success in 3 ways-:
  1. Milestones that is important to ‘YOU’. For example completing a college degree course, which millions of people keep doing but what matters is that YOU did it.
  2. Celebrate the difficulties you overcame, the mistakes you made and the learning’s you took to reach for these goals. For example, you got your dream role for which you had to transform yourself in a year in terms of certain skill building and behavior changes which does not come easily to any of us.
  3. Even celebrate the baby steps you took to achieve a long term goal. After all every drop makes an ocean, so celebrate the small gestures like getting an applause/ thank you note from your boss for accomplishing a task.
Once you have made a list of all that you achieved in a month or any time interval you choose, the next logical question is how does one celebrate it? It could be anything that ‘YOU’ love doing- a day spent doing what you love like buying yourself something special, share the moment with your loved ones by dining out or even dance to the ‘Happiness’ song by Pharell Williams!! I bought myself a pair of shoes I was eyeing for ages and topped it with a cool glass of  Pinot Grigio wine.
The important thing is to honor oneself like a celebrity on a red carpet and commit to achieving more. So, pull out your diaries and starting noting down your achievements. I promise it will be a memorable experience J