How Not To Regret Past Choices  

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Man is stuck in a steel-walled room where the walls are closing in on him swiftly. In a matter of minutes, he is bound to be crushed to death. There is no escape. There is no way out and nobody will come for him. He has pushed, pulled, kicked, banged the walls, and shouted out his lungs. Nothing happened. Death is inevitable!

Then suddenly three doors, simultaneously, begin to slide open in front of him. Through the first one he gets a peep at ferocious beasts scrambling to get at him. Through the second one he gets to peep at snakes, scorpions, and other fanged reptiles trying to creep into the room. And, through the third one he notices piles of yucky garbage pouring in from all sides. Meanwhile, the steel walls are still inching in towards him dangerously.

He does his math and leaps into the door that has loads and loads of yucky garbage pouring in from all sides. He is free. He outwitted sure death and oblivion. Thrilled at his choice and his decision-making abilities he, happily, begins to wade through the garbage hoping to find light and freedom.

Hours and, maybe, days go by and the man is still battling his way through the smells, the filth, and the sickness. Soon his spirits begin to drop and he begins to start cursing his luck, his circumstances and spirals down into regret and unhappiness.

Given the resources, at a certain slice in time, we make the best possible choices we can. At the first instant we thrill at the choices we may have made and then atrophy sets in. We begin to regret choices and circumstances totally forgetting the context and the chance moment that influenced the choices we made.

People do this at work, in life when it comes to making decisions about our health, wealth, and relationships. We hang on to the content and, slowly but steadily, let the context dissipate and fade away into the ether. Sometimes, we even blame and are bitter about the person that may have been a guardian or a guide to the doorway that opened up to that garbage street.

And, I am not not guilty of this habit myself. Oftentimes, I find myself lost in reverie thinking about why I chose what I chose to say, do or be. An example is that moving from high school into college, I chose to study engineering even though my heart was in the arts and letters. Studying to be an engineer assured me of a job given that my family needed support. Taking up the arts only assured pleasure and joy. Today, decades later, I am in a way involved in the arts that is because my needs to survive and be safe are not as demanding as they were back in the day.

Thankfully, over the years I have learned how to quickly snap out of that reverie and get realistic not just about the past, but also about the present and the future. This does not mean crossing out using my failures as feedback. Well, as we all say it now, not ‘feedback’ but it is ‘feed forward’ for me.

How exactly do I do it?

Well, our mind is a little crazy, and a little biased when it comes to recalling life incidents. It justifies our actions and our choices in the way it prefers to and then influences us to repeat and rerun its edited version of reality such that over time we forget and forego of the edits and get completely indulged in self-created fiction.

What I do is that I take a drive down memory lane and regurgitate several other facts of that moment or period of time when I took that life-impacting decision. So there were these three influences that tipped me over into becoming an engineer instead of an artist of some kind.

One, the family needed some financial support and quick. Dad had suffered a stroke and Mom had rheumatoid arthritis for years. I felt responsible and I took the route that would increase my chances of getting a job quickly and fetch me a better dollar than that earned by artists and poets at that time. Actually, the poets and the artists at time did not even get jobs flipping burgers because there were no burger stands in India of that time.

Two, my maternal uncle who had dropped out of an arts college, put up an engineering company serving the needs of cinema halls in a rapidly growing movie industry in India of the seventies and eighties. His business was doing really good and he had flashed some of the cheques that he would pick up from his contractual work.  Being of a very impressionable age, the amounts scrawled on those cheques would make my jaws plunge.

Three, I had scored really good at high school and the numbers on my report card were more befitting towards working towards being an engineer than towards being a dream-ridden artist. I gave in to peer pressure. Well, I did say, I was of an impressionable age then.

There! Uploading of such relevant and objective facts about a period in our lives when we make life-impacting decisions helps us get a perspective, become objective and learn to accept and be accountable for the choices in life we make.

The same strategy of looking back at many other, big and small, life choices helps to accept the current consequences with dignity and grace. This is being accountable to yourself about your own life. It is about not letting context wash away and clinging on to just the cold content of things.

Yes, it works and it helps improve my lot a lot. I would like you to think about this. From within this framework look at your lives: your marriage, your career, your business, and all other decisions you make in life. Remember these words that given the internal and external resources we have at a given moment; we make the best possible choices.

Living out this philosophy will never make things go back and straighten them out.  Turning this philosophy a regular practice will not reduce the ups and downs of life ahead but, for sure, it will dampen our habits of regretting past choices.

Take a look at that story of the man trapped in a room whose walls were closing in on him and he chose one out of the three doors that opened up to him. Think of all the times that you have been trapped in a situation where your abilities, resources, and abilities only offered you three possibilities and you chose the lesser evil. Yes, you chose it like you may have done hundreds and thousands of times before. Like you will forevermore.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

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Like many families during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, my Dad and his family had to give up their estates, their businesses, and their heritage to move to India.

After being homeless and hopeless and moving from one city to another, he settled down in small-town Pune and went into the business of making school bags to support us.

Way into the 1970s, he was still in the same business. His business involved buying scrap from large fabric mills in Mumbai, cut them by hand at home, and then farm them out to cottage-based workers to assemble. The bags were pretty, colorful, light, and inexpensive. They were also a rage with the followers of John Lennon in quaint little Pune. The income was meager but it supported a growing family of five kids. Some of us even made it to college because of hand-made byDad.

At times, at home, my siblings and I helped out in trimming, buttoning, folding, and bundling the bags by dozens so Dad, helped by elder brother could bring them to market. More than trimming, buttoning, and folding the bags, I was awed by how Dad could, skillfully and gracefully, hand-cut dozens of them every morning. I begged to be taught how to cut. He consented and my training began. I was eager to zip, zap and zoop with my scissors and pile up cut goods like he used to but he’d keep asking me to flatten the fabric, align it correctly and measure carefully. “Measure Twice, Cut Once,” he’d say every time I hurried to pick up the heavy steel scissors and chop away at the fabrics.

Even though he hadn’t licensed me yet to cut goods on my own, one Sunday morning while he was out, I picked up a pile of fabric and began to chop away hoping to impress him when he got back. When he did get back and laid his eyes upon my handiwork, instead of a smile crossing his face, his jaw dropped and his eyes hardened against mine. As I looked into his eyes I knew something had gone wrong. I quickly picked up the measuring tape, checked the cut goods and my heart sank. The front of the bags did not match the back of the bags and the sides were all tilted. When I looked up at him with shame his eyes softened and he said, “Measure Twice, Cut Once the next time around.”

Years later, I put up a factory, shipping garments to customers across the world. Except for the original patterns on paper, all other bulk work was computerized and cut by machines. This, of course, did not guarantee flawlessness and perfection but it saved time and money and enhanced quality. All through those days of turning around tons of goods, my silent mantra to myself used to be “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” By these days of my adulthood, Dad had, of course, moved on in life but at every achievement of mine, I’d feel him smiling at me from the skies.

Staying with the principle of Measure Twice, Cut Once helped. It cut down costs, cut down errors, and rework. It built a culture of caution, precision, and quality consciousness at work.

Beyond the production floor and the workplace, the idea of thinking through twice before taking all decisions helped. No, it did not lead to analysis paralysis but it created a cross-check and kept decision-making objective and in perspective.

In matters of health, I thought twice about having that second glass of wine before driving. I thought twice about adding that second spoon of sugar to my cup of tea and I thought twice about skipping the gym and spending time on the couch watching television.

In matters of wealth, I thought twice about indulging in toys for big boys. I thought twice about that extra pair of shoes just because they looked like something I’d always wanted. I thought twice about investing in ventures that seemed shaky or shady and I thought twice about making or accepting promises that seemed hard to keep from the very start.

In matters of relationship, I took extra care before hitching my wagon onto somebody else’s horses. Also, once I went into a relationship I did not just snip away at the threads without fully thinking through with my head and heart about the matter. Measure twice, before you cut once, I’d say to myself while sorting things out.

All this did not guarantee an error-free life but it did reduce regrets and lessened correcting things that do go wrong at times. All this also did not squash spontaneity, creativity or the spirit of adventure in life.

Given that, I do invite you to go veer out onto the edge of living. I also urge you to go stretch your limits to the maximum. I also invite you to bungee jump but make sure that the harness and safety string is in place more than just once. Yep, Measure Twice and Cut Once, is not just a great idea for carpenters and tailors but works fabulously for family and business heads, bankers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of all kinds.

Now before I post this, I will make sure to read it twice before I hit ‘upload.’

Enjoy!

Touch Move and Self-Mastery

Many times in my life, I have had to sit across lawyers and have a conversation or two with them. The content of those conversations is at times of progress and at times of resolving tricky business and relationship issues. For decades, my lawyer to go to has been an old friend, Ranjeet Srinivasan, from my college days. In his younger days, he was chirpy, vibrant, and extremely intelligent. Not that he lacks any of those characteristics now but he has added on several whiskers of wisdom over the years.

On many occasions, I have seen him immerse into multiple, long-drawn, conversations with his clients while at the same browsing, marking, commenting, responding, and signing scores of documents that are placed in front of him. People bring him business scenarios, life stories bundled in tons of flak and noise while he sits there coolly hearing, absorbing, sifting, and sorting from facts from the fiction; gently, carefully, asking questions; making suggestions or requesting for time to think things through.

It is an awesome sight to witness. It is like watching a virtuoso working on multiple canvasses with scores of brushes held in tens of hands. It is a beautiful dance of conversations that convert chaos into works of art.

What does it take to be like that?

It takes living out the rule of ‘Touch Move’ from the game of chess before speaking, before taking action. It takes mastering the shenanigans of our own minds by our own mind. It takes accepting the millions of moments, opportunities, and annoyances as they present themselves without being controlled by the pain or pleasures those moments might bring towards us. It takes recognizing that we live in a beautiful world but it can become crazy and complex. It takes courage, compassion, and creativity to work in sync with nature and treating all other living beings fairly and justly.

Touch Move and Self-MAstery by Raju Mandhyan

The touch move rule is the most basic rule of chess. It means, when a player touches any one of his pieces, she must make a legal move. It means your word must be kept. It means you stay accountable for your actions and it means there is no turning back.

What does it do?

It prevents impulsiveness, regressions, and regrets. It influences players to think ahead logically, strategically, and creatively. It gives every player, every entity, and system a fair chance. It drives people into becoming sane, authentic, and influencers of a brand new and brave world.

German philosopher and chess player, Emanuel Lasker, could not have said it better with, “On the chessboard, lies, and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in the checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.”

There is no doubt that the pieces of our lives have to be influenced to win; to grow but the call remains for authenticity and ethics all the time. Therein lies self-mastery. Therein probably also lies the mastery of our domains.

I do not know if my friend, Ranjeet Srinivasan, plays chess but I do know he practices massive self-mastery all the time. There are five things that I believe he rigorously practices consciously and, maybe, unconsciously:

Self-awareness and Discipline: He knows his values and sorts facts from fiction created by his own mind with consistency.

Courage and Patience: He faces fear with clarity and is patient towards what might still be ambiguous to him on the road ahead.

Wisdom and Compassion: He knows what serves a value-driven vision and is forgiving towards whom he does not see eye to eye.

Fairness and Justice: He was schooled for the legal kind but age and experience have honed his moral compass to a higher degree.

Action and Initiative: He rarely sits on the fence of decision-making. After all the deep and broad thinking he takes action without fear and accepts all results without regrets or excessive excitement.

Life is no different from a game of chess. The playground for most everyone is this beautiful earth; this beautiful gift of life. We all start with a bunch of minimal resources from ground zero and then move up by inches or by yards. Some move forward with a twist, while others trudge along in straight lines. Many hesitate or haste or regress while others, those that touch move, take in the big picture and move their small pieces carefully, creatively, and confidently.

These last 20 months have been extremely tough for a large number of people across the world. We are all faced with a very persistent, tough, and ruthless opponent in COVID. Winning this war, at work or in life, will call us to think through every move multiple times before we touch the pieces. But move we must, and win we will, when we master ourselves first.

 

 

Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

imagination, intelligence and integrity

Upon watching my video ‘Linking IDENTITY to INTENTION,” Rose, a friend, asked me a question. Raju, she said, after I have figured out who exactly I am; after I really and truly know IDENTITY and I have also cleared up what I want ion life: what my true INTENTIONS are, how do I traverse that journey? How do I exactly get from here to there?

Many years ago, I sat in the front row at a talk given by my friend Jim Cathcart author of the beautiful book, Acorns to Oaks. In the book, written more than two decades ago, Jim talks about how within every acorn there is a map encoded as to what size and shape of an oak tree it will grow into. I absolutely agree and believe that there is the inbuilt intention that evolves into reality through proper usage of our intelligence, imagination soaked in integrity.

However, before I get to those three enablers, here’s what Jim Cathcart was showing and telling us from the stage: He had planted himself onto a spot on the left side of the stage and said, “let us assume that this is the spot where you are at in your life. This is who you are now.” He then took five long strides towards the right side of the stage and planted himself on a spot and said, “let us assume that this where you want to be. This is who you want to be.” He walked back to spot one, turned in the direction of spot two, and said, “Every single day, every single moment start believing, behaving, saying, and doing things as if you were already on spot two. Think like the person you want to be, walk like the person you want to be, and talk like the person you want to be,” he urged us all. When you do this over a certain period, you will soon find yourself on spot two. You will become who you want to be.

I was blown away by his words. They stuck to me like superglue. I have never been able to peel the idea away. From that day on, I have walked from many a spot to another spot in my life. If my younger self from all those first spots were to see me now, he would never recognize himself.

This is not about the ‘fake it, till you make it,’ thing. This is something deeper and there is neuroscientific reasoning behind it. When you create an abstract, visual, distant dye to mold yourself into then millions of connections begin to spark off inside your head until you arrive at that ideal self in the future. This process works and it works beautifully. This is the core idea in the blog Linking IDENTITY to INTENTION.

Throughout the journey from here to there, you will need these three enablers: imagination, intelligence, and integrity.

Imagination is to make unseen connections between your thoughts, your strengths with what is visible but vague at times. Imagination to compare the processes, strategies and to learn from the experiences of others. The playground of life and work is constantly shifting. Streets get crowded and unseen hurdles come up. Stretching your mind a bit towards the unseen helps you see ahead of the curve when going from here to there.

Intelligence is to be able to place two and two together and make sure they end up as four. It is the correct and consistent assessment of actions and words we use. It is about keeping an open mind, learning, and not be dissuaded by slow days. It is about creating SMART goals and evaluating them frequently against the desired future and external influences.

Now many people who figure this out for themselves and begin to succeed with this strategy of linking IDENTITY to INTENTIONS sometimes forget to take care of others, of ethics and ecology. It is agreed that each individual is unique and the journey of each and every individual is unique yet it is a crowded, interrelated world. We, as individuals, do live in a vacuum; we are all interconnected by unseen strong and gentle strings. Pulling too hard or leaning too heavily on other systemic relations can create strain and cause harm. So think hard, maybe twice as much before taking decisions. Think far and wide, think of all interconnected relationships and play fair by universal values. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Rose, there is no other secret beyond this. This is as good as it gets. Many paradigms of success out there will drown and drain you. Keep it simple and follow this path patiently, persistently, and with a lot of faith in your own self. Persistence does not equate to hard-headedness, it equates to not how often you fall but how often you get up and get back. Yes, the discipline demands very resilient guts of steel and emotional sinew.

When you get to where you want to be, do remember to say thank you to my friend, Jim Cathcart.

Linking Identity to Intentions

Years ago, a friend of mine who had recently acquired life-coach training and a certificate, offered to get me out of the life rut that I was in at that time. Side note: most all of us are in some kind of a rut at some time. Often these ruts root from our own state of mind, and the actions we may or may not be taking. Anyway, so Coach sits me down across a cup of coffee and begins with a ‘how are you?’ and moves into unpeeling my internal hurdles to growth.

 

Linking IDENTITY to INTENTIONS

Even though I was familiar with many similar processes, playing a true participant was fun. Incognizant of my knowhow, she trudged on with the process and I smilingly followed her simple but well-intentioned lead.

Halfway through the session, she said, “Raju now we’ve got to define your being.”

What do you mean?

We have to articulate your uniqueness as a human being in one sentence, she responded.

Okay.

As a person, what do you really and truly care for, she asked.

Well, I care for honesty. I care for courage. I care that people ought to be compassionate and kind to each other, I responded.

What else, she went on?

Uh, I also do like when people speak and say exactly what they mean and mean what they. That is important to me; I said and smiled.

And, what do you want to be doing in the coming five to ten years, she asked.

I would like to be reading, writing, studying the sciences and philosophies. I would like to be helping others get clarity then lead a happy and fulfilling life. Yes, that is what I would like to be doing, I replied confidently.

Right, she replied, so your uniqueness Raju is that you are a courageous, compassionate, authentic being who wants to help other beings get clarity then lead a happy and fulfilling life.

I smiled, and she said, could you articulate that sentence and then write it down on a piece of paper, please?

I did.

Then she asked me memorize that statement to remind me of who I was and what my intentions were. I must confess, that it felt good and uplifting at that moment but for the life of me, I could not ever remember those words as they were strung together. Though I kept that piece of paper, I could never recite that sentence from memory. Even as of this writing, those words sound beautiful but are a bit misty on my mind.

My Coach friend that day was trying to steel weld the link between my identity and my intentions. She was doing this because linking both these extremes integrates people. Knowing yourself correctly and knowing what you want precisely makes for a powerful partnership towards success.

Your identity is the sum total of all that you believe in and all that you value. These beliefs and these values, over your lifetime, have accumulated into a single entity…you. Your genetic structure, your environment, your influences, your education, and your experiences keep stacking up into becoming you. For a large part of your life, you have little control on these elements but overtime you begin to take charge. You begin to choose and carve out your own self. You begin to become a Michael Angelo to your own David-you. Yes, it does matter how early on in your life you pick up the chisel and hammer and how consciously, courageously, creatively, compassionately, and constructively you begin to use these tools. Therein lies self-mastery. Therein, your identity morphs your intentions into destiny.

In my experience, there are many schools of thought and a variety of processes, which will equip you with the abilities to carve out your desired destinies. There are many methods, which help you connect your identity to your intentions. I believe my Coach friend was using one of the better ones, back in the day.

For you, may I offer five questions, which will walk you through a similar process? Reflecting upon these questions deeply will help you ‘know thyself’ better. Answering these questions with courage and precision will propel you towards your desired. I suggest, take paper and pen and write your responses in simple and succinct words. Sketch your thoughts if you can and prefer.

  1. What are a few human behaviors that turn you on the most?

When I say, “turn you on” I mean, they either appeal or anger you massively. If they appeal to you then they are something you value. If they anger you then the opposite of those behaviors are what you value.

At this point, let me briefly define values. Values are strongly held beliefs about life, living; about what is right, wrong, or fair. Our values influence the choices we make and the actions we take. Some values are imposed and influenced upon us, while others are our true choices. It is possible that you may value wealth and it is possible that you will value commitment. The first is a terminal value, sometimes called a goal while the second one is an instrumental value.

Choosing a few from both types is fine as long as you reflect deeply, honestly and think through the pros and cons of each value. Do remember that who you are and what you want; your identity and your intentions are not stationary objects. They are in a state of constant flux; improving, growing, and evolving every day.  For example, years ago, personal freedom was something I valued. Today, I value kindness and compassion.

  1. What are those one or two things that most consume your time and energy daily?

What consumes my energy most is putting together sciences, philosophies, and practices of human behavior. Most of my time is spent in thinking, reflecting, writing, presenting and publishing principles for people development. I value growth and emancipation.

What might be consuming your energies might be business ideas, news, literature, discussions and studies. Thus, your values might be enterprise, productivity, wealth accumulation or even service.  You could be a parent whose life and times are filled with how to raise and nurture children. Thus, your values might be parental love or family.

Anything. As long as you know and recognize it as something, that occupies your mind and heart. That is what you value. There is no need to compare our values with others. This is not a contest. Everyone is unique. All we are doing here is acknowledging what we indulge in most of the time. 

  1. What do you dream about? More specifically, what do you daydream about?

What is that constant conversation that is going on in your head about the future? No, not about what happened in the past. What is it that you think about when you sit by a window and gaze into the clouds? What kind of reverie do you get lost in while you are wide-awake and calm?

When you reflect upon this question, be cautious of words like, ‘I should, I need to, I must, I have to, etc.,” Statements with words such as these are driven by values imposed and influenced by your environment and others. You want to listen to statements that lighten up your daydreams. Statements with words like, ‘I choose, I want, I love, etc.’

The thoughts during these quiet moments are a dance between your unconscious and your conscious mind. It is a challenging conversation to capture but when cued by this question it is possible to remember the essence of your daydreaming.

  1. What exactly, unconditionally do you want?

Yes, this requires a bold response. A very bold, clear, and perhaps even a radical-to-your-environment response.  Do note that as an individual in the game of life with another 7.5 Billion people, you do have to make certain adjustments; you have to abide by the rules of society.

Yet through all those demands, all that noise and traffic you need to pin your destination so you can chart out a map. If you will not be able to spell out the exact coordinates of your destination then there is no way that the map will take you to where you want to go.

Yes, at a later stage, a strategy will have to be devised and goals will have to be set. For now, it is important to sit back, run through all the knick-knacks that make up for your life and decide on what in heaven’s name do you really want.

At this stage, the conversations between your conscious and unconscious mind need to be taking place in the cerebral cortex without the irrational fears that lurk in the unconscious.

  1. What are the things, in your current state of affairs, which you are willing to let go?

An eagle atop a cliff, when she wants to reach a higher point, needs to leap off the cliff. She needs to let go of safety, security, and comfort.

All our ideal, future states are always a distance away in time and in space. Thus, the travel from here to there has a cost, effort and time involved.

Think about this very carefully and logically. The things that you may have to let go of may not be ‘things’ in the literal sense. They might be hard-held beliefs, habits, or affections to safety and comfort. It is best to diligently list down ones you must part with.

Many years ago, I wanted to be more involved in my work in the other parts of the world but I kept hovering around and getting involved in India. The reason was that my affections towards an elder sister kept drawing me there. I knew what I wanted. I also could not let go. It was a value clash between what my heartfelt happiness with and what my head knew was better for my professional growth.

Answering this question carefully will let you leap off a cliff and land you onto the echelons of your choice.

Questions one to three will give you clarity into your own identity and self-knowledge. Questions three to five will solidify your intentions.

When these two sides are established and you dig in your heels with resolve then building a bridge between your identity and intentions will become an intuitive, automatic process. Every single moment, every single day, every little action you take will be a fruitful one.

It will be like laying bricks between two well-aligned pillars.

All through this process, your values and visions gain higher resolution. You become emotionally calm, confident, brave, authentic, and even compassionate towards all others who are on journeys of their own. The difference will be that you will ‘know thyself’ and know why and where you are headed.

Here are the five questions, all over again,

  1. What are a few human behaviors/factors that turn you on the most?
  2. What are those one or two things that most occupy your energy and daily time?
  3. What do you dream about? More specifically, what do you daydream about?
  4. What exactly, unconditionally do you want?
  5. What are the things, in your current state of affairs, which you are willing to let go?

Indulge and immerse yourself in these questions. Put your heart and mind into answering them such that you will never have to memorize stuff like,  “so your uniqueness Raju is that you are a courageous, compassionate, authentic being who wants to help other beings get clarity then lead a happy and fulfilling life.”

Have a good flight!

Enjoy the video on You Tube here: Linking IDENTITY to INTENTIONS

#values #visions #self-awareness #identity #intention #authentic #success

Freedom to Choose, Victor Frankl

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For the longest time, I have not just studied this process but over the years I have experienced and played with it a thousand times. The practice has converted the process into a way of life, my life.

The process was born out of Victor Frankl’s words and research as described in his wonderful book, Man’s Search of Meaning. According to Frankl, while the environment that surrounds a person has an impact, he is totally free to choose his own path. Even in the most critical, toxic surroundings, a person always has the freedom to choose his response towards all stimuli, thus towards his life.

What exactly is the process?

Every time, we are exposed to any stimulus, we respond or, often, we react. Not that all external stimulus is harmful and toxic yet responding automatically, quickly and unmindfully we give up control, we end up letting the environment and circumstances take charge and begin to shape our destiny as they please. The external stimulus might be made up of sight, sound, taste, or touch like good music or a beautiful aroma but the moment it grabs and draws us away the future is decided by that stimulus.

On the contrary, every time we are exposed to any such stimuli if we give those oncoming stimuli a moment, a ponder, and take time to mindfully analyze and choose it then we begin to have control over it and, thus, we begin to design our own destinies with faith and confidence.

The process thus involves being mindful of all the stimuli that come towards us and unto our consciousness through our senses without and within. All that comes towards us is really, first, just data. As soon as it hits our senses, we employ cognition and we categorize and label it to be either sight, sound, taste, touch, smell or even a thought-a memory from within. We then check our feelings about this incoming data. Either we like it or we do not or, at times, we make puny efforts to be neutral to it. Finally, once we have sensed and felt it and categorized it we act upon it.

All this happens in fractions of a second; consciousness, recognition, the feeling it derives and the action we take. The actions we take may be verbal or behavioral. The crux of the process lies in expanding this process. That means taking a fraction of a moment longer to recognize sense and then act upon it. Just a wee bit longer every time. This is what those with a monk-like attitude towards life do; this is what great leaders do. Instead of simply, automatically reacting they give incoming stimuli a pause, a breath and an extra thought thus converting most potentially loaded situations to positive and constructive outcomes.

This is human intelligence, our power to choose and gently have an impact on all the interactions and all the moments, ahead of us. Moments that make up for the miracles, we create. By making this habit a consistent practice, we make it our way of life and influence others and our environment.

Love and Leadership

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A few years ago, at a convention of the Asian Professional Speakers Singapore, the usual topic of what makes a good speaker great came up. And, as usual, words like integrity, service-orientation, professionalism, value-creation, mastery of the craft, etc. were thrown into the discussion.

Love and Leadership

Then out of nowhere a small voice, like from under the table, says “to be able to deliver a really good keynote, one must love the audience.”

And, bang, every other word that was dumped onto the table gets withdrawn back and people go, “Yeah, that’s right. We ought to love the audience, the people we talk to!” “Yep,” adds another, “when we love them then we feel comfortable with them, they feel good in our presence and the creative energy goes aflame!” “We get into the zone, into the flow,” adds the original, small voice happily, still as if coming from under the table.

Over the years, and across the thousands of times I have spoken to an audience large and small, I bring the memory of that conversation with my friends at the APSS to the desktop of my mind every time someone hands me a microphone. “Love the audience, the people Raju,” I say to myself several times over. As many times, I look up, look at the audience make eye contact and connect with someone a smile crinkles my eyes and he or she smiles back. It feels good. It softens me. It eases my spirit, caresses my ego, and, in the bargain, allays all anxiety. As I take the steps up towards the lectern or the red circle, a desire to serve, to be open, to become vulnerable engulfs me. I feel light and happy and empowered all at the same time. The neuroscientists will claim I feel loved, thus a rush of the dope, oxytocin floods my brain cells that is why I feel light, happy and empowered.

When I feel that way with the microphone in my hand on stage, my words, my voice, my gestures, my eyes, my larger bodily movements spark of the same sensations through and across everyone who can hear, see and sense me. The neuroscientists will claim that those are mirror neurons reflecting and mimicking the activities in my neural networks.

I do not care what the neuroscientists say but I am feeling good. I feel, light, happy and powerful. My people, who I love, feel light, happy, and empowered. It becomes a dance. It stays a dance of learning, co-creating, and growing.

This is not true just for people who grab a microphone, step up on stage and make the audience sway to their words. This is true for any individual who wants to serve, lead, and change the world. To connect, engage and influence our worlds we ought to truly care for our worlds, our people. The deepest of our intentions then works for the benefits and betterment of others. Call it to care, call it empathy or call it compassion, it really is love in its agape form.

Most all the time the people we want to connect, engage and influence is usually looking and sensing behind and beyond our appearances, our communication, and our behaviors. They are, usually, looking behind and beyond our skills, our abilities; they are looking at our intentions, our deepest desires towards them and their worlds. Once they hear, see and sense benevolence and good intentions then they not just simply sway with us but begin to march towards a brighter future.

You may have heard this from Mary Lou Angelou many times before and it makes for precision when it comes to public speaking and love. It makes for massive sense when it comes to leadership and love. Here it is, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Beyond your words and well-manicured behaviors, people will always see and sense what exactly is going on in the deepest parts of your heart for them. When they are convinced that what is cooking in the heart-pot of yours they will lick their lips, raise their faces up into the air, and love you back for loving them truly and loving them right.

So on this day of love and love-giving, take a moment to reflect upon what are you trying to change around you and among your networks. Are you changing it out of the true and deep love for the recipients of that change?

Reflect deeply and truly and if the answer from within you is a resounding yes then go, grab that microphone, step up on that lectern, look the ZOOM camera in the eye and state your case. When your case is loaded with love, you shall shine, you shall lead and you shall change your world.

On February 24, inspired by my book-the HeART of Public Speaking, I am running an open to the public webinar on how to connect, engage and influence your world on virtual platforms like ZOOM. Send me a message and I will send you a free invitation.

Live well, love much, and laugh often even if your voice sounds as if it is always emerging from under a table.

Do a Good, Clean Job the First Time Around

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Growing up in India in the 70s, I used to run many errands for mom. One of them was to run to a neighborhood vegetable vendor for our daily needs of chilies, mint, garlic, etc. Those were the days of no refrigerator at home and we bought fresh, ate fresh, and were, of course, total vegetarians.

This specific vegetable vendor used to display his wares from a concrete platform the size of a double bed, with no walls but with just a thatched roof for cover. There were times that I used to reach him way before he would be ready to sell from his shop with no walls. He would make me wait.

Wait I did, while he would very ceremoniously sweep, clean, wash and mop his whole shop. Wait I did, while he swept and watered the whole area surrounding his platform. He would then open his new stock delivered in freshly washed gunnysacks. Slowly, item by item, he would dunk them in water and set them up in tiny heaps for a single purchase. All the time washing, cleaning, and rinsing everything around him and his hands every so often. Wait I did, while he tied back the knots on the gunny sacks of stock and then light up some incense sticks and bless his abode and business. He would then stick the incense sticks into a potato and place it in a strategic location of his empire. Tucking his loose, white trouser bottoms under his legs, he would then, proudly, plop himself down in a lotus posture in front of his fine and fresh display. He’d put his hands together and announce that he was now open. He’d say, Namaskaram!

All this while, parts of me would wonder why doesn’t he just hand me the darn things I needed before the whole rigmarole. At the same time, parts of me would be spellbound by his rituals, his ceremonies, his discipline, and his dance of being clean, tidy and organized. Mom would insist that I buy all our needs from him rather than all the other vendors in his neck of woods. I did not understand her insistence then but years later, I did. He was not the biggest vendor, he was not the cheapest vendor on that street but his goods were always fresh, just rightly priced but his self-discipline was endearing and because of that, he, his goods and service could be trusted.

That was a long time ago. Now that people have moved on to buying fresh, buying from smaller vendors, buying closer to the source that is clean, tidy, and trusted I am wondering how popular and successful this vendor from my childhood would have been? He would not have needed all the noise, the buzz, and the big neon lights that many need. He would not have social media buzz to plug their products and services as we all do. He would have been a natural draw. His following would have been huge and totally organic.

My friend from Singapore, Philip Merry says, “Your number one (often overlooked) marketing tool-Do a good job the first time around.” That was true back in the good old days; it is true now and will be true forever into the future. When we do a good, clean, tidy, organized, value-creating job the first time around, the world does light up our brand, in neon lights, across the stratosphere.

I remembered this story and the lesson it brings forth when Patricia Aliphon spoke about how she keeps her presence on social media tidy and clean. “KonMari,” she called it. To me it sounded like Namaskaram!

It strikes me that no matter what we do and what we put out into the world, it must be clean, it must be tidy in presentation, and it must do a good job the first time and every time.

Many businesses took a beating last year. Matter of fact, all of us did. Most all of us are scrambling back onto a world that acquiesced new rules of play and the words tidy, clean, and good have become crucial parts of all conversations and conversions. We are doing the same with our offering to our market. We are not just concerned with being cheaper, better, and faster but we are disciplining ourselves towards being tidy, clean, fresh, and creating real value in real-time. And, I am betting almost all of you are on a similar journey. The little improvements we make towards our service and offering do, authentically, enhance our presence and influence on our worlds. From that tiny vegetable vendor in India to all of you across the world, Namaskaram!

P.S.

On February 18, we are running a free webinar on Authentic Influence™ for Entrepreneurs. We will be happy to have you all over to talk about how we are all bouncing back and bouncing back higher.

Here is the link: https://www.innersuninc.com/product/authentic-influence-for-entrepreneurs/

 

Or, you might want to download a FREE book on Five InSights into Success, here you go:

Mastering Happiness

Back in 2008, months into the financial crisis, I used to walk around with my head hung low and heave cold sighs over the fact that I had been foolish enough to let my life’s savings disappear. It was as if I were walking around with a large, dark, gloomy, turban of doom.

“Now that it is all done and you cannot undo it, why don’t you just DECIDE to let it all go and DO happy instead of waiting for miracles to happen?” said my son to me.

His words crashed unto me the way a fresh, new wave splashes when you think the all-around stink and staleness will sink and suck you in.

Not ‘BE’ happy but ‘DO’ happy. That did not just get me thinking but it had me getting up and going to go grab a fistful of my own sky.

There are three basic reasons that push people down the unhappiness ravines:

One, we fail at securing safety, survival, belonging, recognition and fulfillment needs in reality. In essence, we slide down Maslow’s pyramid of needs at life.

Two, we consistently and constantly berate ourselves at why we may have failed. Thus, we keep regretting past actions and convert our present day  into living hell. We do not let go.

Three, we constantly try to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ of our lives even though we may be way up on Maslow’s pyramid of needs. We keep comparing, envying and wanting.

Now I agree, 2020 has been one large, unhappy year for the whole world. We, as a civilization slid down the happiness scale head first. The reasons were real. They were acts of nature.

Inspired by the neurosciences and neuropsychology, and my personal practices may I suggest five easy steps for you to not just pursue but master and sustain personal levels of happiness.

  1. Accept Changing Realities. Not just that change is a constant outside but also inside of you. Your world and you are in a constant state of flux and what is true today may not stay true tomorrow.
  2. Focus on What Works. In most circumstances, in the most broken-down systems, there will always be a speck of life, hope, and possibility. Focus on that little good and start weaving your life from that edge.
  3. Relive Positives of Life. Make a cognitive, willful effort to remember and rejuvenate positive and happy incidents from the past way more than delving on failures and sorrow.
  4. Think, Therefore You Are. If you trust that, to achieve happiness and ‘do’ happy is in your hands then it has an autotelic effort on your mind and your personal productivity.
  5. Physiology drives Psychology and Vice Versa. When sad do physically fulfilling things. Most people, when anxious by default take a walk. When physically stressed rest your mind. Meditate.

Practicing, immersing and making this five-step process a living mantra for yourself will build your happiness muscles. You will stop expecting to ‘be’ happy someday or ‘have’ things happen in life that will boost your happiness quotient. Practicing these five steps meticulously will help you not pursue but master happiness for life. You will habitually focus on DOing things right and productive and happiness generating.

Sometimes it makes me wonder, ‘what if “our fathers.” per Lincoln would have written, “preservation of life, liberty, and the mastery of happiness,” instead of ‘pursuit of happiness’ back in in 1776 when they drafted the American constitution?’

Think about it.

 

 

Watch the video on Mastering Happiness here

Download the powerpoint on Happiness and Engagement here

Attend a free conference on Happiness on 12/26/2020 using this link:

Gumption, Resilience and Innovation for Tough Times

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Back in April 2020, at one of my open to public webinars on Emotional Intelligence, I had more than 2000 attendees and a large number of them were public school teachers. I was happily surprised. You see we had not positioned the webinar towards the teaching community. We had wanted to fill our Zoom room with business executives and business owners. We wanted them to weather the crisis and the oncoming challenges with calm and equanimity. My assumption is that the teaching community turned up in numbers because they wanted to learn the subject since changing times would demand a lot more from them than they had been used to giving in the past.

My suspicions about that are further validated because for the last several months, from across my home, I hear a female teacher conduct online classes. I hear her speak, explain, cajole, and applaud children. She goes on full throttle for hours and hours for several days in a week talking about math, the sciences, and values. It is just amazing and mind-blowing to see her expel so much passion and energy. Hats off to her and hats off to the nobility of her passion and profession.

In Delhi, a former diplomat and his singer wife, Virendra and Veen Gupta, took to the streets and beg

an to conduct free classes for underprivileged children who have little access to electronic devices and the internet. Paper and pencils in hands scores of children walk miles to come sit and learn under a tree in India.

The COVD-19 growth curve has not flattened across the world but it has flattened. Humanity has gathered gumption, garnered the ability to be resilient, and innovate thousands of products and practices in the last six months. Online learning platforms, organic classroom and office-dividers, re-usable and biodegradable masks, and partitions have come up from across the world.  Retailers and malls have turned their stores inside out. A huge amount of business and work gets conducted in open spaces, on streets, under tents and trees.

Our spirits are indomitable. We will go on to, of course, win this war with gumption, resilience, and abilities to come up with new ideas to surge ahead. On November 21, I will be running another free webinar on how to act courageously, with tenacity, and with a focus on innovation and growth in these changing times. Hoping that though they are not business-focused, the teachers who inspire the world will join us for GRI.T². That is gumption, resilience, and innovation for tough times. In the webinar, we will skim over the philosophies but dive deep into the possibilities and practices of changing the world one innovative action at a time.