The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason – Charles Darwin Continue reading Who You ‘Gut’?
These were the words of Muhammad Ali, when asked why he always went the extra mile and performed a higher number of sit-ups, pushups, or other grueling activities during his training regime, than the numbers set by his coaches.
Recognising our passions and prioritising the tasks and activities that are truly important to us, and necessary to help us achieve our goals, is only half the battle won (Unless you’ve figured out how to avoid taxes, the in-laws, laundry days, waiting in queue for the bathroom at home, your child’s homework, looking for parking, a million good morning messages on WhatsApp groups, advice from your boss on empathy, and people giving you missed calls expecting you to call them back. Then you’ve attained nirvana). Ensuring that we stick to our beliefs, and pursue them persistently and consistently is an indispensable protocol in attaining our life’s missions.
Ever so often, we have an epiphany about what we would love our lives to look like, and we start making goals around this vision. Assuming we have identified our true passion and purpose, we begin to enlist all the small steps we need to take to help us get there (Like finding that glass and bottle of whiskey to go along with the antique armchair and television remote). And then we have one little devil that comes along to play. It’s called ‘instant gratification’.
Some of us want to lose fifteen pounds but want to do so in five days. We go out and buy the most expensive running shoes (These days we need to sell one of our kidneys to afford them and what’s more, they come with a promised life of a full six months. Fantastic!!), and at the end of the week we have evidence of having gained two pounds despite all the jogging (while taking selfies) and sweating (We refuse to acknowledge participating in any cake and pizza eating activities after every run). We want quick results and wear a forlorn look if we don’t get them. We begin to believe that we have set ourselves a target that is well beyond our means and decide to compromise or give up altogether. Some of us want to flaunt a muscular body and we eagerly enlist in a gymnasium. After the first two workouts, we break into muscular aches and pains (sometimes without lifting anything at all) and begin to find the entire ordeal cumbersome and painful. We decide that we need to have realistic targets, and tell ourselves “What made you think you can have that boxer’s physique and six pack abs? You’re an ordinary person, so think and behave like one”. We’re completely ruffled by the effort required to move every inch towards our target. We walk around the gymnasium admiring the physiques of others, complaining that life isn’t fair to us (It gave them steroids but gave us only cranberry flavored protein bars).
We want to be a professional swimmer, but the daily practice of jumping into a cold swimming pool at 5 am (This isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s 6 am), overcomes our determination because a few weeks later we still don’t have an invitation for the state championships. We want to become a Bollywood playback singer, but the relentless practicing for three hours a day, after our 9-hour job (if we plan our day well we can play ‘Antakshari’ at work for better practice), for a year, hasn’t brought a wave of music producers to our doorstep. We want to publish a book, but a few instances of writer’s block have diminished our enthusiasm (Most times the writer’s block comes in the form of us dozing off due to our own insipid writing. Ahem, moving on). We want to be perfect parents, but as soon as we realize how hard the first two years are, all bets are off (and we go from our desire to be fantastic parents to awfully crabby human beings). We want to be successful businessmen, but a few failures and missed deals convince us of our ineptness as well as the difficulty of the trade (And then the only thing being dealt are harsh words, as we sit around the conference table playing ‘who takes the blame’).
We want to be world-class coders, speakers (I recommend you just get Bose), teachers, doctors (ones who display exemplary skill in diagnosis followed by legible handwriting to ensure that treatment is provided for that very same diagnosis, and not another), engineers (ones who remember the stuff they have learned even after the examinations are over), dancers (I once saw a horse dance brilliantly at a fair in Pushkar, India, despite having two left feet), bankers, (ones who don’t get caught after sanctioning illegal loans), lawyers (ones who have mastered the art of debating successfully with the wife), artists (ones who can draw more than just stick figures), the man in the attic of Indian shoe stores, servers at the McDonald’s drive-in, and anything we envision ourselves doing that brings fruition to our lives.
In this technological age, we want lightning quick results with minimal pain. The moment we encounter an obstacle in our path, we are keener to change direction rather than overcome that obstacle (Funny this rarely happens when we encounter weak internet connectivity while uploading images on Instagram. Eight hours later we are still at it, in the quest for success). Are we willing to push past the pain point? Are we willing to tell ourselves that it’s going to take a lot more than we’re used to? Some of us give up early and some of us stay in the fight longer, before exasperation sets in, and we lay down our arms with no end in sight. We generally tend to focus on how far we have to go and not on how far we’ve come.
Only if we learn to recognize and appreciate the small accomplishments along the way, will we stay the course. It’s that ability to keep the end goal in sight, and constantly feed it with positivity and belief that will eventually lead to the culmination of our vision. Triumphs born out of trials and tribulations are always the sweetest (Of course we need to fail every now and again to keep our sugar consumption in check).
Let’s not count the number of hours, days, weeks, months, and even years of effort put in, just the progressive milestones that really count.
How many people around us actually listen to us when we speak to them? How many are actively engaged in a conversation with us when we are divulging secrets, talking of our pain, reminiscing a moment of brilliance, or even just rambling on about life and its unpredictability? More, importantly, how often do we truly listen when our family, friends, colleagues, associates, clients, and Rahul Gandhi seek our undivided attention? We are all guilty of listening for the ‘sake’ of listening with little interest in understanding what is being said and empathising with the speaker (Unless of course they are talking about how cool we are and all the incredible things we’ve done in life, including driving at high speeds like a maniac, posting a selfie every three minutes, crossing the railway tracks with the train just meters away, partying fourteen days a week, and ridiculing the next door boy for his interest in sewing).
And there are people, whose presence just seems to offer comfort without the need for any interaction (Unless they change the TV channel against your will). Just knowing that they are there in our room, and our lives provide assurance and enhance our confidence to stand up and face life. While I’m blessed to have a few such people in my life, not everyone is lucky enough to have this sort of mental and emotional backing. However, there are phases in life where even our pillars of support have a breakdown or move away for various reasons (Hopefully, not because you changed the TV channel back to the one you were watching originally). While it is imperative that we offer our support in their times of trials and tribulations (except when they are frustrated over Bigg Boss results), we too need to be in the right mental space to do so.
I was the first child in my generation, across my extended family, and by a few years at that. I grew up in a joint family and while I had my parents, uncles, aunts, a grandmother, and a lot of house help (no Indian family is complete without a battalion of helpers) around all the time, I spent a fair amount of time on my own. Despite their constant support and affection, I always sensed an emotional gap, leading to insecurity, loneliness, and a feeling of detachment. This is when I invested a lot of my emotions into my toys, which comprised of toy vehicles at a very young age, and progressed onto action figures over time. Today, I am a diehard pop culture and action figure aficionado, with hundreds in my collection (And for the mockers, these aren’t just toys, but a revolution for past, present, and future generations. Look around you, there are only billions of you, but millions of us). A large number of my emotions were invested in sports, my other passion.
He-Man was my first superhero, followed by the G.I. Joes, Sachin Tendulkar, a host of other athletes (including the finger-exercising Vishwanathan Anand), the Punisher (the anti-hero married to guns, my version of ‘Gun-pati’) the X-Men, and the list continues to grow even today. As a young boy, I used to sleep with my ‘Masters of the Universe’ figures to ward off any evil lurking around the room (Which, invariably turned out to be the shadows of my other action figures on the wall). As an adolescent, I used to pick up my cricket bat and shadow practice my batting in order to lower my anxiety before an examination (I ended up scoring more imaginary runs than marks the next day). As a teenager, I spent time reposing my action figures, which added cheer to my day after a squabble with my girlfriend (I couldn’t take a flight from the USA to India to patch things up every few days unless she was willing to fly me, first class). After college, as a young twenty-three-year-old, I spent time frequenting comic book and pop culture stores in New York City to help me fight desolation caused by joblessness (And also tell myself that I had no time to apply for jobs, when I could be busy walking the streets, having fun). During my days at an investment bank, I always had sports scores refreshing in the browser in the background, telling me that if the Indian cricket team and the Yankees could win, I could too, in my race against time to meet challenging deadlines (While mocking my Pakistani colleague, even if India had just defeated England). Finding my way back into India (this was extremely hard in many aspects) in my late twenties, after almost a decade abroad, was made easier by the various 6 and 12 inch characters staring back at me from their glass houses in my bedroom, offering daily encouragement (With their swords and guns trained on me, threatening to attack if I decided to call it quits). Even today, a frustrating and demoralising day at work, or in a personal setting can be tempered by watching short video reviews of the latest Hot Toys releases and sports highlights for a few minutes (Watching any more than a few minutes of these at work would likely take me back to my days of job applications).
Today, I’m fortunate to have the presence of my parents and extended family. I’ve been married for nine years to a very supportive, loving and caring woman. I’m a father to a beautiful three-year-old brat. I have fantastic friends who have been along the ride with me for over two and three decades (How many people can claim to still be friends with people that they shared diapers with? Mind you I always had first use, before there was poop in them). And it’s these people that make life worth living and form our support system. However, we all have our bad phases, and the best efforts of our parents, family, and friends fall short at times. They care and always mean well, but if results always followed intentions, the world would have far lesser problems (Assuming the intent isn’t to cheat, hurt, damage, or just simply blow the world up).
This is when we need to help ourselves. And we can always use a little extra succor to keep us moving forward. We may have a great mindset, strong will, commitment to our cause, a positive attitude, and high resilience, but we need reinforcement every now and again. For me, a few moments of playing or watching sport, or spending time around my action figure collection can prepare me for days of rough weather. For you, music may work wonders, or confiding in your pet dog could make the blues go away (If your neighbors saw this, it will make them go away as well). You may feel better by playing ‘who blinks first’ with your cat, or ‘drown’ your sorrows away while watering your plants (Unless you own Attenborough’s pitcher plant, in which case it may alleviate all your problems by having you for lunch). Testing the contents of your wardrobe could put a smile on your face (unless you suddenly realize that most of them have shrunk because you invade McDonald’s frequently), or your library could give you one reason to rejoice amongst the gloom surrounding you.
Sports gear, toys, pets, plants, books, music, stationery, furniture, movies, shoes, underwear, and a million other things; we all have something (or non-human beings) that we have an attachment towards and ones that we hold dear to our heart. And while we seek solace amongst our family and friends, we must realize that there are some paths that we need to walk alone. But there is a cheat code to this ‘alone’ business, and it is all the things that we have always cherished subconsciously, for most, if not all of our lives. The key is to recognize them and feed them into our conscious mind, to help us through all those rainy days (Or just use an umbrella)
When I wake up, my gaze falls on my wife and daughter first, and then I spend a moment acknowledging all my little warriors that have stood the test of time with me, always present, steadfast in their commitment towards me.
‘By the power of Grayskull,’ you can get through anything.
I have always believed there are two activities that each and every one of us must participate in on a regular basis: playing a sport, and learning and practicing the art of self-defense. I like to refer to these as lifetime activities (Not only because I believe we should incorporate them as a critical part of our lives, but also because they are likely to add more time to our lives).
Apart from the joy of playing the sport itself, the level of self-development that occurs by engaging in a sport is invaluable. Sport isn’t just for people that are sport oriented, but for anyone that is keen on developing valuable life skills (And yet there are people that would much rather while their time away watching prank videos on YouTube all day, staring at the ceiling, raising their blood pressure as the vixen in the TV soap executes her hideous plan, and studying oneself in the mirror to figure out which part of their face is the good side, so they know how to pose for the gazillion pictures they will take in their lifetime).
We have people who would rather learn the art of self defense at Indian railway stations and malls (where you get to shove one another, wrestle, pull each other’s hair out, gouge people’s eyes, have a fragrant basket of fish fall on your head, and occasionally push someone on the train tracks, or even onto an escalator headed in the direction opposite to their destination), as opposed to in a specialised class by a qualified instructor. Then there are people, mostly women, who have the optimum self-defense weapon, ‘the pepper spray’ (Wow!! I’m surprised most of the elite armed squads around the world opt for modern firearms when they can easily use pepper spray more effectively). And while these pepper spray touting geniuses are at it, they may as well carry a salt shaker and some cutlery, since they are already offering themselves up for sacrifice. In today’s world (and tomorrow’s world too), there is no alternative to knowing self-defense. You might strut around confidently, armed with your pepper spray, but when real danger arrives, ‘spray’ turns into ‘pray’.
The benefits of sport and self-defense knowledge are innumerable. Not only do they produce a fit body, but they also
- improve concentration (even in Math class)
- increase confidence (you may even be able to give that speech in public speaking class without playing the duck in the shooting alley)
- make us competitive in a dog-eat-dog world (or doggy dog world, the way I heard it for a good part of my life, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what that was supposed to mean)
- improve blood circulation and enhance immunity (unless you visit McDonald’s after every session of play)
- help develop a positive attitude (even towards your boss’ tongue lashings and indifference)
- indoctrinate discipline (which seems to be a fading trait these days)
- establish commitment (which also seems to be an alien word nowadays)
- allow us to maintain a calmer state in pressure situations (unless the bathroom at the badminton court is suddenly out of service)
- improve reflexes and awareness (you will be fully aware of the brick hurled at you when you ask your professor’s daughter out and be quick enough to evade it)
- help build mutual respect (and help keep our ‘I know it all’ cocky selves in check)
- allow us to set goals (and bolder ones than we are used to, like jumping off a plane with a human attached to our back as opposed to a parachute)
- boost self-esteem (unless you consider Candy Crush to be a sport and have failed to make it past the first stage since 2015)
- ingrain the art of teamwork in our self-righteous beings (including planning a holiday with the wife’s side of the family)
- offer self-protection (now at least you will punch your attacker a few times before threatening him/her with pepper spray)
I speak with experience, having played multiple team and individual sports, as well as having learned and practiced Karate. I was enrolled in a Karate class at age 8 and continued for four years before I thought I was too cool for this daily boring regime. I regret quitting, but during those years, my confidence, self-awareness, concentration, performance, health, and fitness were at their peak. And the training has stayed with me and helps me feel safer physically (I can handle an attack by three 6-year olds without a fuss). Fortunately, I played sport for a lot longer, and jog regularly even today (I only call it running if you run for more than a kilometer at a stretch, before collapsing on the pavement). My daily runs (I’ve reduced the distance criteria to 50 meters now) allow me to de-stress, unwind, realign my mind and body, stay focused, stay committed, and stay strong against all odds. As a result, I am more prepared to handle all the punches life throws at me (Except the ones thrown at me by some ferocious homo sapiens, when I accompany my wife to a Zara sale).
I gave up on sport and exercising for a few years because I got so caught up in battling life’s challenges. I decided I was too busy firefighting and didn’t have time for sports and games (I always had time for video games apparently). And yet, I always seemed to struggle in the face of adversity. At the end of each round, I seemed to be down with the referee in my face, counting aggressively. In my quest to address situations that arose in my personal and professional lives, I discarded the very tools that were likely to help me keep up, and even excel.
Now that I’m back to some of my old sporting ways, I find I’m better equipped to deal with circumstances physically and mentally. And the peace of mind, composure, and the sheer joy of accomplishing small daily goals it brings is priceless. Game, set, match, pepper spray!!
Wake up, snooze the alarm, wake up (This process can have as many iterations as you choose, unless of course there is a licensed gun holder at home), take a shower, get dressed (drop breakfast on your clothes and get dressed all over again), head to work, perform daily tasks at the workplace (Including bitching about the boss and star performers, taking six coffee breaks, reading at least two movie reviews, discussing senseless news items, and working on deadlines when time permits, after addressing the more important aforementioned tasks), head back home (while exchanging parliamentary greetings with your fellow citizens while stuck in traffic), eat, flip TV channels to watch various advertisements, ignore the wife and kids, sleep, repeat. This may sound like fun for a week or two, but then things might begin to get really boring. Everything may seem mundane.
The word ‘mundane’ seems to have such a negative connotation. Even the sound of the word is morose and draining. It sounds like the life has been sucked out of something (which also happens when some people walk into a room, including your boss, the income tax official, as well as Dementors from Harry Potter). A lot of things we do on a daily basis may make us feel that way too. But mundane is necessary. Earlier, I had written about identifying what we truly want to do, as opposed to just going through the motions because we believe we need to and feel there aren’t any other options. And, while passion and belief in what we do are always going to be central drivers in helping us stay happy and content, these ingredients by themselves are not enough. Acumen, hard work, discipline, and consistency are equally important. Not all skill is inborn, and with the right approach in body and mindset, skills can be honed over time, with the support of true intent and desire. Even the gifted need to refine their abilities in order to reach their potential (For those who follow cricket, two prodigious youngsters began their careers three decades ago, and while one’s journey ended up in the stars, the other’s slipped down a manhole. Sachin Tendulkar got runs, while Vinod Kambli got earrings).
Author, James Clear says that 40% to 50% of our lives’ routines are formed by habits and that habits are the entrance ramp that helps us get on the highway and allows us to cruise. There are habits that we need to get rid of (procrastinating, overspending, two-timing your spouse with your cellphone, smoking more than one cigarette in a lifetime, binge-watching toxic Indian television serials, eating more than eight helpings of dessert, and even running away from a treadmill as opposed to on it), and then there are habits that will define our future, which is consistent with the way we envision it. Habits don’t have to be earth-shattering in nature, but in fact, it’s the small daily mundane routines we set for ourselves that eventually come to the fore in our effective functioning.
- Meditating for a few minutes every morning could allow us to deal with stressful situations calmly (It’s ideal if both eyes are closed and we’re not stealing glances at things happening around us)
- Creating a daily to-do list enables us to prioritize our tasks, and not waste time on unwanted activities (Unless your career choice is game development and testing, playing 10 different video games as the first 10 items on the list doesn’t help)
- Scheduling these tasks during specific times of the day and sticking to it prevents procrastination (Listing procrastination as a task is disadvantageous)
- Exercising daily, even for short time frames, helps keep the body and mind healthy (Short bursts of exercise followed by long stints of eating are counterproductive. The only thing that will be produced is more of you)
- Developing our skill every day in our chosen area of expertise boosts our ability and confidence (Unless your life’s mission is to understand how governments function and what happened to your tax money. You may as well grab a beer and be merry)
- Reading and learning regularly helps gain experience from other people, improves understanding, teaches us new things, enriches self-development, and heightens imagination and creativity. Read anything under the sun that will help your cause and move you closer to your goals (After a while go indoors to avoid a heat stroke).
- Be thankful for what we have as it helps us approach life positively, makes us more tolerant, increases our resilience, ensures better health, and keeps us happy (Conditions apply. Expressing too much gratitude towards the neighbor’s wife can have negative consequences.)
Waking up early, getting enough sleep, saving, meeting loved ones in person (and not over social media), hugging your child, smiling, practicing your art, and a million other things form small parts of our daily lives that eventually lead to a happier, healthier and fulfilling life. It’s not just our big dreams, but also the small steps we take every day, consistently, tirelessly, and honestly, that define the quality of life we are likely to lead. We need to do the best we can to follow a path that impresses our heart. But just because we do something we love does not mean we do not need to put in the work (and lots of it) to obtain results. We need to bolster our passion with the right abilities. These abilities are born out of our daily habits, some that we enjoy, and some that we don’t, but are necessary.
Muhammad Ali has always maintained that he hated his daily morning runs, but loved the idea of being world champion. Therefore, mundane isn’t always bad. In fact, mundane, when applied effectively, leads to a very impactful and exciting life. So bring out that pen and paper and list out all of the boring stuff you’re going to begin doing to help you reach your goals, each day, everyday….Mundane, Tuesdane, Wednesdane…
“Why?” “Because this is the way it’s done” “Why?” “Because this is how it’s meant to be” “Why?” “Because it makes perfect sense” “Why?” And then you lose your shirt and say “Because I said so, and if you ask any more questions I will put you up for sale on eBay” And how does your child respond to that? Yes, you got it, “Why?” (They never seem to sense real danger when it’s staring them in the face).
That’s the beauty of being a child. They are as curious as the human genes allow them to be and will get their questions answered under any circumstances, without the slightest apprehension (I think it’s their lack of wisdom really. I mean they have no idea what it feels like to have their head bashed in with a sledgehammer, or being locked in with the rest of your collectible action figures in the display case, or when you come home after a tiring day at work and your sister-in-law is there to surprise you (even the toughest navy seals will go into cardiac arrest upon meeting mine), or to go sari shopping where the average purchase rate is zero saris for every twenty-three stores visited, and even when your wife asks “Who’s that?”).
I have been involved in more verbal jousting with my three-year-old daughter compared to anyone else in my life (Jousting is meant to be a fair competition and therefore debates with the wife don’t count). She asks what comes to mind, as soon as it pops into her head. She doesn’t care about what I or anyone else will think. She has no semblance of self-image to an extent that will prevent her from addressing her insatiable hunger to learn and grow, every minute of her life (They are not completely devoid of self-image. She most certainly expects a reaction from us after she has managed to embellish her face with the prohibited ‘mama’s lipstick’, that she has somehow managed to lay her hands on. And even when she manages to operate 5 applications at once, again on the prohibited mobile phone, while at age three, I was still trying to tell my right hand from my left). And this is the pattern I have seen with every child of her age that I have had the privilege (this association also deflates my ego, considering these children grasp things with precision, at the speed of light, while I’m still trying to tell the front of my daughter’s diapers from the back) of spending time with during playdates, which are specifically designed to allow parents to gossip and crib.
Somehow, when we get past single digits, we seem to become hypersensitive towards anything, anyone might think about us. And these need not be just our relatives, friends, or acquaintances, but also, strangers, we commute with while using public transportation, passers-by while we walk about our town or city (evidently some of us do not experience this dilemma when we decide to litter the streets), street dogs going about their business as usual, and even our mobile phone camera. We’re our innate bumbling and boisterous selves during childhood, and at some stage in early adolescence we lose our ability to speak openly, and instead choose to hide in the crowd. As many questions as we ask in our kindergarten years, the numbers dwindle towards negligible as we approach high school, before disappearing completely. Our fear of potentially making a fool of ourselves completely overpowers our instinctive curiosity. We rarely ask questions as students (I have had a couple of experiences where I was mocked for asking certain questions as a student and it did put me in my shell for some time. However, I figured that it may not have been a case of stupid questions as much a case of the teacher not knowing the answers, based on their reactions at the time), we refuse to put forth our thoughts at the workplace that might be contrary to what our seniors believe, we shy away from giving our opinion on fashion to the so-called ‘fashionista’ in our friend circle (fearing an open backlash and humiliation), and we even conceal our true feelings from the people that really matter.
The more we worry about what people might think, the more opportunities to learn, pass us by. We curb our inner child in the fear that we might be labeled as childish (Now I’m not saying that we throw a fit when a bar of chocolate is taken away from us, or that we walk around wearing diapers, or even pinch the neighbor lady to see how she reacts). However, what would you think of yourself if you spent years of your life worrying about others’ opinions about you? What if this obsession prevented you from doing the things that really mattered to you and you never allowed yourself to reach your potential?
No matter what we do, or don’t do, some people will always think well of us and some won’t. We can’t keep everyone happy and it is this quest that puts us on a downward spiral towards misery. Only when we question, learn, and grow, do we realize our true passions and our true potential. And upon obtaining both, we will be able to serve ourselves and the world to the best of our abilities. This is the mindset that has created word leaders (Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t worried about people commenting on his less than impressive physique as he walked around bare-chested with steel in his eyes and a fiery resolve. Steve Jobs didn’t care about public opinion on his dressing, as he wore a black sweatshirt and blue denims, tirelessly, day in and day out. Donald J. Duck cares a hoot about people’s opinions on his speeches, as long as he gets to open his mouth often and provide the world plenty of fodder for mockery).
I too have fallen victim to this ridiculous, self-created mind game of public opinion several times in my life. In my late thirties now, I’m playing catch up on a lot of things I could have, and should have done during the earlier stages of my life. However, I feel at peace that I have empowered myself to get out of this rigmarole. So for those of you in your teens and twenties, it’s a good time to reflect upon the choices you make (or don’t make) because of your concern about the public eye. And for my fellow oldies, it’s never too late to start.
Honor yourself by being true to your curiosity and growth. Else you’ll have to face tough situations like I do from some of my aunts who never cease to say “Oh my God, you’ve grown so much since the last time I saw you”. And I respond with “Only in the middle aunty, only in the middle”.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”
This was one of the many famous quotes by William Claude Dukenfield, better known as W.C. Fields. He was an actor, comedian, writer, and even a juggler (It wasn’t just words he was throwing around).
I came across this quote in my early twenties and couldn’t help but laugh every time I read it thereafter. He sounded like he was so disgruntled with life and his failed attempts (almost like Oliver Hardy from the ‘Laurel & Hardy’ comic series. What’s more, he even looked like Hardy without a mustache) that he wanted the whole world to follow suit, should they have similar experiences. It wasn’t until much later that I finally realized that I was actually laughing at myself for a major part of a decade. I had completely missed the point of this statement. But then again I’m not new to missing things, having missed buses, trains, questions in examinations, the wife’s perspective (the consequences are very dangerous), and even a couple of gunshots I took at my former bosses (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. They were slingshots).
How many of us go about doing things in our personal and professional lives that add absolutely no value but on the contrary lead to frustration and a lack of fulfillment? We begin to doubt ourselves, fear begins to grip our souls, and our mind becomes a playhouse for the devil. And yet, we try the same study techniques that have come up short, the same marketing and sales practice that has yielded unsatisfactory results, the same diet and exercise routines that send the weighing scale readings in the undesired direction, the same exasperating approach to getting our kids to listen, and even taking selfies, with that same pout, from the very same angle, of that same mug, a million unimpressive times (How many selfies does it take to satisfy a human being? I’m really curious to know the answer to this question just in case I decide to feature in some of them).
In my opinion, our friend, Mr. Fields, by no means meant that we should give up at the first few signs of failure. But in fact, we must prioritize our goals that are truly aligned with our hearts, our passions, and our skills, to give us the best chance at succeeding and being happy. This would make us more adaptable. The fact that we don’t succeed at something after a few tries should either tell us that either our approach needs to change, or the activity needs to change.
What would happen if you kept hitting your head against a brick wall? Yup, you got it, the owner of the wall will indeed have you arrested. On a serious note, you could counter sue since the damage is likely to occur to your head and not the wall.
How often do we keep doing something because our parents or boss say it’s the right way to do it? How often do we try to convince ourselves that we will succeed one day without changing our method or mindset? How often do we blame our circumstances for our failures because we are too proud to admit that our approach is faulty, or are too scared of the unknown to try something different? Most times we are just involved in personal and professional activities that bring no joy to us and seem to be the only options out there because we haven’t cared to give our hearts the opportunity to express our true passions.
A lot of reputed coaches and mentors say that ‘we can do anything, but we can’t do everything’. Our juggling expert, Mr. Fields would have likely said that if we must juggle a few things in life, they may as well be things that we really care about, bring us joy, and offer a sense of contentment, while still addressing our responsibilities. There isn’t a point in taking on too much if we are unlikely to do justice to any of it.
A few points to consider are:
- Sit down (or bounce around if you fancy) and write down the things that truly make you happy, and how you would start incorporating them in your life.
- Prioritize everything in your life in the order of importance (Then compose a song about it and sing it yourself in the shower every day)
- Don’t let your ego prevent you from reaching your potential (See what happened to him in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2). Be humble. Humility leads to an open mind. An open mind attracts knowledge. Knowledge leads to excellence. Excellence leads to fulfillment.
- Respect the opinions and positions of people in your life, but remember you’re one of those people, and the most important one at that (This doesn’t apply to married people, and those with kids. For you the most important person is the bartender). Respect your own thoughts, believe in your passions, and learn to say ‘no’ when you must.
- Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Doing something that scares you brings you closer to a defining change in your life (Stand a bit closer to your neighbor’s Rottweiler, and perhaps even pull its tail to spice things up).
- Befriend your fear – fear of failure, fear of pain, and fear of loss. These are inevitable. No matter who you are, life will find you in a dark alley at some point and knock you down. It’s up to you to get up, look life in the eye, and say “I’ll see you again around the block, and I’ll be stronger”. Will Smith talks about his sky diving experience in which he says “The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear”. This quote really resonates with me (However, if the parachute doesn’t open, then the point of maximum danger is the point of impact).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG-F_rRVdLc (Will Smith speaks)
So let’s stop being damn fools about wasting our lives away in oblivion. Let’s find our true calling, our home field advantage where life roots for us. A setting that will earn us the joy of living.
What are you still doing here, fooling around, reading rubbish? Don’t you have some newly defined matters to work on? Get out of here!!
I almost never need any coaxing to go for my brisk walks in the evenings, as I genuinely enjoy a good work out on most days, especially if those days fall in between Monday and Tuesday (But silly jokes aside, I do enjoy my workouts, always have). I’m not fortunate enough to live at an arm’s length (The only thing that close to me is usually the TV remote and a few chocolate bars) from any open green spaces, but the 3.5 kilometer stretch between my home and Nariman Point serves as a convenient alternative (It allows me to walk one way, grab an ice cream at Nariman Point, and hail a cab back home). Walking along the Marine Drive promenade does mean that I inhale as much Carbon Dioxide during my walks, as I do during the rest of the day, in this good spirited atmosphere of Mumbai. I get to wear my shoes out faster, as the concrete pavement and my shoe soles aren’t the best of pals. I get to play ‘Donkey Kong’ with the cars while crossing the road, and invariably have a NDE as there is always some chump on a two-wheeler who whizzes past a red light because he is running at least two laps behind the race leader, Valentino Rossi (Mumbai roads and the moon’s surface have a lot in common and therefore you have automatic and unannounced ‘pit’ stops).
But there are plenty of experiences that are less exciting but certainly fulfilling. For instance, you get to lose a little of something regularly, like your weight and waistline (If it’s too windy, you might lose your wig too, so it’s best you leave it at home. It’s better to let people see that you’ve gone bald over the years and not just in one second). Your stamina increases with time, especially if you’re chased by dogs regularly (You’re likely to stop only if you run out of breath or run into a tree. This not only prepares you for the next marathon but also conditions your head and body to become a serious challenge for Mike Tyson, should he have the courage to come out of retirement to fight you). Your mind gets sharper as your body gets fitter (and puts you in a good position to teach your 6-year old multiplication tables up to 4).
With our new age devices constantly honing in on us and keeping us indoors, it’s nice to get out for a little bit, get the blood pumping through our body, and take in the wonderful sights (People fighting with cab drivers, some trying to cross the road over a four-foot high fence when there is a perfectly good pedestrian crossing 30 meters away, 4 parking lanes and just 2 driving lanes, people having a conversation while sitting on two different two-wheelers, women having a second kitty party on the pavement outside the restaurant they have just had their first one in, and the list goes on). What’s more, you get to feature in a few dozen photographs and short videos (Courtesy of college kids, which seems to be the only thing they do outdoors), and you could find yourself on the cover of the next issue of GQ (Only if you’ve worn your best running outfit and with your wig still on your head while the picture was taken).
And then there are the serious strangers going about their walks and jogs. Names of who you do not know, but faces that you see every day. You see them go about their exercise regimes religiously and consistently, rarely missing a day (You know that only because you haven’t missed any). You see the impact of their hard work and commitment in the positivity emitting from their bodies. These are not our friends or well-wishers (At least not that we know of. Maybe putting on that sporty deodorant will help), but we still find inspiration from their relentless presence in our lives. Then there are some nameless strangers that will notch up this level of motivation by competing with you and trying to outpace you. With me it’s usually a middle-aged ‘uncle’ who begins to increase his momentum as I pass by and tries to stay a step ahead (This is very encouraging for me, not so much because it shows me that even as you age you need to continue to work on fitness goals, but more because I cannot have an uncle defeat me). The only people that are allowed to go past me are the ones that are out there for their evening exercises on walkers and wheelchairs (You have to tip your hat to these people and be awed by their grit and persistence).
It’s the same story at the gym or anywhere else you choose to exercise (Except in your bedroom, where the only thing you’ll likely be exercising are your fingers on the cell phone and TV remote. Unless you’ve upset your wife, and now you’re about to have a sporting bout of wrestling). Strangers at the gym seem even more motivated (they all seem to have bigger muscles than you, and can lift anything from a 100-kilogram dumbbell to a batch of Zumba girls, all at the same time). And what about those guys and gals on the treadmill? Have you noticed that they are running when you walk into the gym and when you’re leaving (after having inspected every piece of equipment without breaking a sweat), they are still running? They seem to have unrelenting stamina, obstinate almost. If I ever get onto a treadmill next to one of these people, I keep up (When I am done keeping up and my lungs are about to explode, I just slide off the treadmill while it’s still on and let them figure out where I disappeared so quickly). Then there are the other muscled strangers that walk up to you when you are bench-pressing and ask how many sets you have left (Doesn’t that annoy you because they make you lose count of your repetitions, even though you’re still on zero?).
We usually look to our loved ones for support and encouragement but are often disappointed as they seem to have a contrary viewpoint. It’s not like they don’t care for us, but in fact, care too much to see us get hurt. Therefore, many a time they discourage us from doing things that are different or out of the ordinary. This is when we need to look around us for that iota of reassurance. I’ve only spoken of fitness buffs as an analogy, but with an open mind (and eyes and ears that are not focused on our phones as we move about our towns and cities), we will always find people around us that can provide a little inspiration and possibly the courage to do the things we’ve been avoiding. Some that we see regularly, and some that we may see only once. It can be anyone. A young boy hanging out of a Mumbai train with the support of a shoestring and yet finding a way to read that e-book. A municipal sweeper ceaselessly going about her job along a 5-kilometer stretch. A postman going about on foot for hours in the scorching heat, delivering mail (Who still sends these?). The current West Indies team bowling away to the Indian batsmen with no end in sight. And even a couple and their five children balancing on a scooter, hoping to audition for the Cirque du Soleil.
Even a pigeon can be inspirational with their ‘never-say-die’ attitude. Have you ever shooed this annoying creature away (that’s trying to get into your home through the window) only for it to arrive again after a few minutes with that ‘have we met before?’ expression? And this saga continues for a good hour. It irritates me, but it also compels me to write some more, do the extra set of push-ups, run the extra kilometer, stick to my nutrition plan, make some more sales calls, and so on (There is no way I can allow a pigeon to be more persistent than me).
We can complain about our routines and surroundings on a daily basis. And we can continue churning out excuses to not do the things that really matter in our lives and hearts. Or we can find those small sources of inspiration and implement them in our lives. All we need to do is observe, think, feel, and then act.
You love video games. Come on, admit it. No matter what your age, or cultural background, or how bad your fine motor skills are, you love video games. Even if you’re a dinosaur, you know you will ask your 5-year child or grandchild, who is just moving on from the intermediate level to the expert level of handling technological devices, to teach you how to use a smartphone, just so that you can begin playing that game you saw someone on the metro play.
Just like everything in life, video games have evolved in leaps and bounds. Most of us today are exposed to ultra-realistic graphics, to the extent that it becomes difficult to tell the difference between video game characters and actors and sports personalities on screen. I remember playing NBA2K a few years ago when my uncle walked into the room and asked “Who is playing today?”, and I replied “Your 15-year old son and I. The loser has to have his nose and tongue pierced. I’m 20 points up”.
The first video game of ‘noughts and crosses’ by Nimrod in the early fifties to the latest obsessions like NBA, FIFA, God of War, Call of Duty, Spider-Man, and my favourite MLB: The Show, among many others (No, Fruit Ninja isn’t a game. It’s just a way for you to put as many smudge marks on your phone screen in as many places as possible), have kept our competitive spirits on the rise while keeping us thoroughly entertained. We can continue playing through the weekend, even the whole week without a bathroom break because we’re engaged, our adrenaline is high, and we want to come out on top and won’t settle for anything less. As we say, ‘we’re zoned in, we’re in the game’.
And then reality strikes, life arrives, and our heroic ‘never say die’ versions start feeling weak, despondent, and willingly lay down our arms at the first sight of adversity. Worse still, we resort to inaction because we anticipate that what might happen next will be an event that will be too difficult to deal with. We fear the unknown, perhaps because we almost always believe it may not be good.
We have all the possible excuses to remain stagnant. “I can’t resign from my miserable job, because the next one could be even worse”. “I can’t ask this question in class, what will others think?” “I won’t do well in my presentation as I suck at public speaking, I may as well not prepare” “I’ve been told I’m a good dancer, but what if I freeze on stage?” “I can’t marry him, the in-laws are part of the package (Okay, I admit this fear is valid)”. “What if the police find out? (Don’t get any ideas, I’m just making sure you’re paying attention here)” “What if I sound childish?” “What if I hurt someone?” and the list goes on.
Do we ever hear ourselves saying “Damn, level 6 on Mario is likely to be really hard, let me just play level 5 for a year or two”? or “I’ve been stabbed 57 times at this very stage of Assassin’s Creed, I’m done playing this game”? or even “This level is so comfortable and easy, let me just stay here forever” NO. We come back with a steelier resolve and intend to improve our performance with every single attempt. And we do this till we achieve that goal, and celebrate in euphoric fashion, compelling the old neighbor lady to think that someone in our house is getting assaulted (See, now you don’t care if the police find out).
For those that have seen the movie ‘3 Idiots’, Dr. Sahastrabuddhe says “Life is a race”. I believe life is a game and the only race run in it, is between you reaching your true potential and the time you have on this planet (or the moon, or Mars, or elsewhere if you’re young enough to see our species spread our presence) to achieve this.
We take absolute joy in playing video games and importantly no one has to ever convince us to do so, at any time of the day or night. We are ready to be entertained but also bring our ‘game face’ (pun intended) to the occasion. We play with belief, we fail at various levels but dust ourselves off and have a go again, but critically, we enjoy every moment of frustration and excellence alike. We were not born to excel at any of these games, but yet out of sheer belief, commitment, perseverance, and practice, we succeed and move on to higher levels. We tell ourselves it’s just a game and yet we play it like our lives depend on it.
Bring this joyous and spirited attitude to your lives and treat it like a game, where your goal is to master one level and move onto the next. Once you activate this mindset, it won’t matter what anyone thinks, or if you’re good at public events, or the consequences of taking action, oh that’s right, the in-laws are still a problem (but you’ll figure it out, won’t you?).
I’ve heard Robin Sharma say that you need to make your ‘I can’ greater than your ‘IQ’. Your attitude is greater than your ability. As long as you bring your strong positive attitude and mindset to every single day of your life, you will lose the fear of failure. And that is a key element to success.
So, I’ve decided to shed my fear of sharing my writing for others to see and just try to do it one level at a time. Welcome to the next level!!
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton