My car radio is always turned on when I am driving to office or coming back home, although I don't pay much attention to the conversations and songs being played. Instead, I focus more on what is in front of me, so that I can safely reach my destination in time.
But whenever there is an announcement about a severe weather condition, it grabs my attention. Because it enables me to decide whether I should adjust my route or timing or both to avoid the storm.
Nowadays most social gatherings and parties look exactly like my car radio. I stopped paying attention to all the conversations unless they are helping in my journey towards my own destination. May be it is my problem that I need to fix.
Or, may be not!
Some conversations that I encounter there are like advertisements. I bought this with that much money or my kid is a genius. Some conversations are like old monotonous songs that I already heard may be more than a thousand times. My job has become so stressful or our next generation is too much into video games. And then there are gossips about celebrities with no talents. No examples necessary, I'm sure.
But still I prefer to leave my car radio turned on whenever I drive. Because sometimes big storms come with very short notice. And I want to be prepared.
This is a famous shop of Indian sweets and snacks in my hometown, Kolkata. It was not very far away from my grandmother's house, so we used to visit this place sometimes. Even after so many years, I still remember the tastes of some of those sweets. Particularly of langcha, a deep fried hot-dog-shaped sweet floating in sugar syrup! Eating them was like experiencing heaven!
But, the thing that I remember the most about this shop is something else.
One day, it was pretty late at night. We stopped by to pick up some sweets, when we saw the staffs of the shop serving food to the poor and homeless. There were hundreds of them!
When we asked what this was about, the owner explained, they do not sell sweets that are made in the previous day to their customers. So, at the end of each day, all unsold sweets are served to these people, for free! And, now that they know how many homeless people depend on them for dinner, they keep that number in mind while making sweets every morning.
I am writing this blog as a reminder to my future self. If I am ever able to run my own small company, I would want to be remembered the same way I remember this shop.
When I am late, the breakfast my wife made for me seems too hot to eat. When I am late, I can’t find my socks. When I am late, the dashboard of my car reminds me that I am supposed to fill gas on my way to office. When I am late, there is always an accident in the interstate. When I am late, I find out that I forgot my badge. When I am late, the elevator stops at every floor.
To summarize, when I am late, I experience failures more. Everything that is obvious and insignificant on a normal day appears to be roadblocks when I am anxious about being late.
A very wise man said, “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance”. Anxiety makes us pessimists by painting negative pictures about future in our minds.
I used to be a pessimist. But then I started trying not to be one.
Now, when I am late, I just tell myself that nothing in this world can stop me from opening a bottle of whiskey this weekend.
Did you see this video earlier?
This is us.
Always afraid to get out of the comfort zone.
Someone said, “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not.”
Before I even realized, the curtain was up, the lights were on and the show had already started.
I was sitting in the backstage and was rehearsing my part in the play over and over and over again. I didn't want to make any mistake in delivering my dialogue. I was looking at the mirror frequently to make sure that my dress is perfect and my make-up is flawless. I wanted to look how exactly I am supposed to.
But suddenly, I found myself at the center of the stage, the curtain was up, the lights were on and hundreds of people were looking at me!!!
I had been saving my vacation days so that I can go to a beautiful seashore and spend a few days of heavenly happiness. I was working very hard the whole week so that I can spend time with my family in the weekend, without having to prepare for the important meeting that I have on Monday. I chose to have a stressful ‘more work more pay’ job so that I can have a peaceful and relaxing retirement.
I just didn’t realize that the curtain is up and my preparation days are over!
I told myself this morning that today is the day that I had been preparing for for the last forty years. It’s just my time!
I recently started a small company with a friend. For the last few months, I was trying really hard to educate myself on how to run a business. I was reading a lot of books to learn how to market our products and services, watching a lot of videos to figure out how to create a better website, listening to podcasts and audio books to understand how to convert leads to customers and so on.
Yesterday, when I was browsing YouTube, a particular video caught my attention that has a title “3 Keys To Building Trust In Business Relationships”.
It is a short speech by Mitch Meyerson, so I quickly watched it. I learned the following points about how to build trust in business:
1. Listen and communicate with empathy
2. Remember and acknowledge personal details
3. Share helpful resources
The information was very useful for marketing for our company.
But then another thought hit me!
Isn’t this the exact same prescription for building trust in any human relationship? If so, why the phrase "business relationship" was being emphasized so many times in the title and in the speech?
I figured out that this is because we all are very selfish people by default. We take the assumption for granted that none of the points mentioned above are applicable to us if we are not running a business. We prefer to look nice whenever required, instead of being nice unconditionally.
Sometimes we forget that we all sell our reputations to our employers, friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors or even strangers. All the time.
And lack of trust is a real deal-breaker in that selling process.
I saw an interesting sequence in a movie a few years back. A father in his sixties was meeting his son for the first time in his life. After the initial waves of emotions settled down, the father asked, “So, what do you do?” The son replied, “I am in advertising and…”
“Wait!”, the father stopped him, “ I didn’t ask you what do you do for living. I asked you what do you do for yourself!”
This question is haunting me since then. I replied to this question all my life with how I make money. Every single time. And I still do it today. Because I am afraid that people would make fun of me if I say that I sometimes dance in front of mirror when no one is watching me.
But I think I should stop telling people what they want to hear and start telling what I believe in and what I want to say.
I think it’s time I should be honest to myself.
Whenever I visit temples, I see people praying to God. Praying for health of family members, praying for financial prosperity and praying for peace in life.
A motivational speaker was delivering a speech in a seminar in front of a large audience. In the middle of the speech, he suddenly took out a hundred dollar bill and asked the audience, who wants hundred dollars? Few hands raised. He waited for a few seconds and again asked, who wants it? Some more hands raised.
While this was happening a little boy slowly went up to the stage, grabbed the hundred dollar bill from the speaker's hand, put that in his pocket and came down calmly.
The audience got confused about what is going on! Then, after a few moments of silence, the speaker turned to the little boy: "I am very impressed that you didn't just raise your hand and waited for something to happen to you! You made it happen! You are my hero!"
We all are heroes, we just don't realize it. We all pray to God and wait for good things to happen to us.
Instead of praying to God for health, we can use internet to learn about what we should eat, what we should not eat, how and how much we should work out, how we should monitor my weight, blood pressure etc.
Instead of praying to God for financial prosperity, we can use internet to learn how to create and follow a monthly budget, where should we invest, where to take loan from and how we should grow our retirement fund.
Instead of praying to God to find peace, we can use internet to read articles and listen to speeches of great thinkers of the world about how to find happiness with what we have and how to live with imperfections.
Because internet is our temple now.
I used to be very good at finding happiness in weekends after a very busy work week. I went to movie theaters to see action thrillers and romantic comedies in 3D. I went to nice restaurants to enjoy dinner with my family. I went to Six Flags to have a fun filled Saturday in the summer. I went to many Atlantic beaches to relax. I went to long drives across the country. And many more.
I now realize that I was renting happiness this whole time. My life was back to normal every time I came back from Six Flags or returned from a long drive.
And I realized something else too. I was renting my time, effort and attention to a big company as an employee during weekdays so that I can rent happiness in the weekends. What if the company stopped renting my time? Yes, I would have to find another company and sell myself so that they rent my time now!
This was a never ending cycle of renting and being rented for a long time for me. But then someone taught me about passion. And I was lucky enough to find my own. I stopped renting happiness since then.
I am still learning from my passion how to 'be happy'.
I heard this story from an inspirational speaker. He once invited all citizens of his small hometown on a weekend to play an interesting game. There was a room full of colorful balloons. Each balloon had name of only one individual written on it. The number of balloons in the room was same as the number of citizens in that town.
He asked everyone to enter the room at the same time and find the balloon that had her name on it. They had only three minutes to find their balloons.
The game stopped after three minutes. Everyone came out of the room without their balloons. They just couldn't find their balloons in that short time!
Now the host asked them to repeat the same exercise. But this time he shared a strategy with all. "Instead of trying to find your ballon, help others find their baloons".
This time this worked like a magic! Everyone was picking up a balloon, reading the name on it, finding the person and handing over the balloon.
When the game stopped after three minutes, everyone came out of the room with their own balloons.
We all are good at following instructions. That’s how most of us make our living.
Yesterday morning I saw a supervisor walking around all her team members’ desks at 8 am to make sure that they are in office in time. And none of the team members seem to have any problem with that (unless they are late because of traffic or a car problem). They just make sure to leave the office by 4 pm sharp every day. This is because they are instructed to come by 8 am, leave after 4 pm and work in between.
My wife did some voluntary works in our son’s elementary school as a chaperone in field trips. Her job was to make sure that the kids are holding the guard rails, walking in safe zones and not distracted by anything else while walking. The point is, the primary focus of the kids in those circumstances are always on walking, not on the destination. The destination is already determined by their teachers.
Sometimes, most of the time, we choose to act the same way. We act just like those third graders. We focus on get going and not on our goals, dreams and purposes. If this was the case for everyone in the world, the world wouldn’t have seen anything new and unique. Ever.
And the supervisors act like chaperones. They track every tiny actions of their team members to make sure that they are in compliance. They are more focused on who is not coming in time, who is not going in time, whose shirt is not tucked, who is taking longer lunch breaks and so on.
But thankfully, there were some rebels who refused to be third graders and chaperones. That’s why we are able to enjoy the gadgets that we have in our kitchens, ride comfortable cars, practice non-violence and empathy to make our lives better, and many more.
If given a choice, I would definitely try to inspire my people trying new things to make a difference, rather than tracking their every little actions. Because inspiring is new managing.
Few years back I was interviewing a candidate for an open position in my company that time. Surprisingly, all his answers to my questions were starting with a ‘because’!
Q. Why are you planning to leave your previous organization?
A. Because… (quite reasonable)
Q. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
A. Because… (hmm… interesting!)
Q. How many years of experience do you have?
A. Because… (are you kidding me?)
It freaked me out! I rejected him because of his poor communication skills.
But after a few years, I suddenly remembered the interview and got curious about the possible reasons why that guy was starting every answer with a ‘because’. And the only possible explanation I could think of was, there was a ‘why’ question constantly getting played in his head. He was assuming that I would ask him ‘why’ over his simple and straightforward answers, so he was just trying to be proactive about answering both the questions in one go.
I realize now that sometimes these ‘why’ questions help us avoiding distractions from the navigation to our own destinations. A few days back, when I was extremely provoked to buy an attractive and expensive shoe, the question suddenly popped up in my mind, “Why do I need another shoe?” And it worked! The ‘because’ was not that strong and convincing to myself. The shoe was successful to mask my other financial priorities that time. I was able to walk away from that shoe eventually.
I will be thankful to the guy I interviewed for the rest of my life. He taught me the strength of ‘because’.
A wise friend of mine once taught me that knowledge is nothing but actionable information. In other words, if an information helps us to act better, it is a knowledge.
But I also feel that things keep moving back and forth between the information bucket and the knowledge bucket.
A few years back I tried this experiment with some of my friends who are software engineers. I gave them some basic calculus problems that they were really good at when they were in high schools. They all failed to solve those problems. This is because we have moved the information on how to solve calculus problems from our knowledge bucket to our information bucket. And that is because this information doesn’t help us acting better in our daily life any more.
However, it used to. When our purpose of life was to secure high marks in the examinations, we gathered related information to act better. If I had given the same problems to my friends who are mathematics teachers, I am sure they would have solved those pretty quickly. And the reason is, this information still help them act better in their work and that’s why they have kept it in their knowledge bucket.
Sometimes we love to keep things in our information bucket that did not and will not help us act better, ever. More we are able to get rid of those information, more we will be able to focus on our actions. And, at the end of the day, it is all our actions that matter.
Very recently I listened to a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”. She was addressing an audience who don’t have a passion.
She started her speech with saying there are two types of people in the world – the Jackhammers and the Hummingbirds.
Jackhammers are obsessive about their passion. They keep hammering until their dreams come true.
Hummingbirds are little different. They don’t have a passion. They keep flying from one branch to another, one tree to another trying different things. They pollenate the world with various new ideas. It is their curiosity that moves them from branch to branch, from tree to tree.
If you don’t have a passion, just follow your curiosity to try new things, just like the hummingbird. Carry just one idea at a time from one place to another, one group to another, one person to another.
Your curiosity will lead to your passion.
It is called memory.
I visit my own museum every day. Everyone visits their own personal museums every day, consciously or unconsciously.
When I visit, I see my first bicycle that my maternal uncle bought me when I was in first grade. I see our first cassette player that my father brought one day along with a couple of my favorite cassettes. I see the foldable iron bed which I slept in and shared my dreams with when I was in junior secondary school. I see the broken radio (which was broken by me, by the way) that I used to listen before sleeping every night when I was in college. I see so many other things that bring back happy memories.
Yes, happy memories. I try to keep only those items in my personal museum that has some association with happiness. Well, to be honest, most of the items.
I realized many years back that it is us who have the ability to choose the items for our own museums, not our friends and family, not our jobs, even not our situations and circumstances.
I have a friend who chose only her broken and lost items for her museum. One of my other friends has kept various price tags of his gadgets in his museum. I even know one who just has only one item in his museum. That’s right, just one single item.
I wish I could help them picking up some good stuff for their museums.
My grandmother had a passion for knitting. I can’t count how many sweaters and scarfs and socks she knit for me and my brother when we were growing up. Every time she remembered what colors and patterns we like. I wish I had preserved each and every pieces she made for me with love and passion.
Just like everyone else, I received millions of presents and gifts in my lifetime from my friends, relatives, colleagues and sometimes even strangers. But when I look back, I see that it’s the handmade gifts that I remember the most. The reason is, handmade gifts touch our souls. And they do so because their primary ingredients are the creator’s passion and their love for the recipient.
A few weeks back a wise man gave me a gift. It was a small envelope with my name on it. When I opened it, I found an inspiring poem that he wrote me. That touched my heart and my soul. If I ever have my personal museum, I will keep it there as one of the most valuable items.
One of our good friends presented an oil painting that she painted for our living room. I am going to keep that too in my personal museum.
It’s been more than ten years my grandmother passed away. But I still feel a connection with her whenever I think of her passion for life and her love and care for us, with which she knit all the sweaters.
An amateurish handmade card or showpiece, a letter with a few heartfelt sentences, flowers grown in one’s own garden, a drawing that says “I love you” – that’s all it takes to touch another soul.
I saw this Super Soul Original short a few months ago and immediately fell in love with it!
It is helping me to discover what really makes me happy since then.
I am starting this blog series to inspire myself. Inspire to do things that I love to do, inspire to take risks to have a better life and inspire to empathize.
But why a blog? Why not a diary?
Because it is easy for me to type than write (what a shame!), easy to maintain the posts and it is free! And, most importantly, there is a tiny little possibility that it might inspire one more, just one more person in this world.
I searched various dictionaries for the meaning of the word 'passion'. Here are some of them:
"A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something" (Merriam-Webster)
"A strong and barely controllable emotion" (Oxford)
"A powerful emotion or its expression, esp. the emotion of love, anger, or hate" (Cambridge)
"A powerful emotion such as love or anger" (Macmillan)
But I look at passion in life it in a little different way. Few months back I read the book "Art of Happiness" written by Dalai Lama. The following two quotes are stuck in my mind since then:
1. "The purpose of our lives is to be happy".
2. "Happiness is not something ready made, it comes from your own actions".
And, combining the two quotes, I was able to create my own definition of passion - "Our actions that help us find our purpose of lives".
I wish to share stories about passion and inspiration in this series, however small and insignificant those might seem. If you have an inspiring story of a family member, friend, neighbor or even a stranger, I can help you to share it with the world. I am sure that will touch at least one more soul.
Abhimanyu Gupta lives in Chesterfield, Missouri with his wife Nilanjana & son Anusurya. His profession is software testing and his passion are music and books. He can be reached via Email, LinkedIn or Facebook.