Redoing old things, and doing new things

The last two months, I’ve been redoing some things I’ve done before. All these things I’m doing are thought out, and stuff that’s beneficial for me.

I have learned a few important things in the process :

– past success in an activity does NOT guarantee you will succeed at it again. Not true for hobbies and habits – everyone can ride a cycle after decades of not doing it after a few attempts. But in stuff where let’s say you compete, any outcome is possible. Remembering this helps keep one humble and pushes one to do the homework

– learn to accept failure and rejection. If we succeeded at everything, would success hold any value? Success is not an entitlement.. It’s a pursuit. Some simple things to do are :

*first, accept that you have failed. That you tried, and it still didn’t happen

*tell yourself what you’ll do different the next time

*write that in a personal electronic journal, and tag it as “failure”

*you can search for it next time you are about to attempt something new, or after a long time.

Keep chin up, keep waking.

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Ek aawaaz meri bhi…

Zameen se uthi ek fariyaad meri bhi,

Is shor mein ghuli ek awaaz meri bhi.

 

Sehemi hui yeh rooh dhoondti hai panaah,

Chaino-sukoon ki ek talaash meri bhi.

 

Behte behte samandar mein mile bahot maanjhi,

leheron mein doobti, ubharti ek naao meri bhi.

 

Kis firaq mein hai dil, bhatakta hi rahe,

Abhi tak na bhuji, ek pyaas meri bhi.

 

Zameen se uthi ek fariyaad meri bhi,

Is shor mein ghuli ek awaaz meri bhi.

 

 

Koshish muskuraane ki

Jaari hai koshish muskuraane ki,

Labzon mein ghum ko dubaane ki.

Har din ki is kashmakash mein kho diya khud ko,

Daudta hai waqt, jaldi hai use guzar jaane ki.

Ik taraf hain saaye mere zehan me jhoojhte mujhse,

Ik taraf zamaana, aadat hai jise mujhe aazmaane ki.

Phir bhi ummeed liye guzarte hain mushkilon se hum,

Agar hai Khuda, toh sifaarish hai usse meherbaani ki.

Yaadein taaza hai un lamhon ki, jab paaya thaa chain,

Raah dekhein, us pal ke phir se aane ki.

Jaari hai koshish muskuraane ki,

Labzon mein ghum ko dubaane ki.

Monday

I am getting back to blogging after 6 months on the unlikeliest of days. A Monday.

So many weeks and months passed, where every Friday, after a week of maddening work at my start-up, I would tell myself I would finally write a blog that weekend. The weekends brought their frolic, and somehow always managed to subdue the thought of sitting and typing my thoughts out here.

Today is the first Monday in a long time I am not working late into Monday night. I thought it was a good idea to use these minutes to come back here and drop a note, for myself to read later.

Work is the same – part fun, part stress, but overall very satisfying. My moment of joy on weekday nights is coming home to the wife and the dog, and spending some time just existing around them. Most days, that seems to be enough. It’s all I want.

Then there are days when dissatisfaction creeps in. With life, or money, or love, or career success, or social standing. All those petty things that tend to nibble away on your happiness. They come, bite sometimes, and leave a sting.

Although as time passes by, I am getting better at getting rid of the sting quickly. The dull moments come, take a toll. But I smile and tell them to move on. And I have found that if I assert myself strongly enough, the stinging feelings leave quickly.

Right now, that is my dominant thought, and the message to my future self. That only we, and we alone, can reason with our demons, and send them away. Other people can come and help, maybe show the way, but in the end it is us who must handle the difficult task of reasoning with ourselves and finding peace in chaos.

So keep looking. And keep rocking!

Identity…

We all carry an image of ourselves in our minds. Our own impressions of our virtues and shortcomings dictate how we see the world, and feel about ourselves. So much of our daily happiness is predicated on how we view ourselves.

Some will say it’s a gift – the realization that your happiness depends on your view of yourself, also means that if we can somehow learn to craft an image of ourselves we love mentally, we will be happier.

“I am fat, I am poor, why am I still stuck in the same job.” – Bad self view, sorrow

“I am kind, I have loved ones, I am making a difference.” – Good self view, joy

So, if our mental image of ourselves determines a large part of our joy, and our own mental image is something we can engineer, it begs the question – why is there so much misery?

It is because we are very bad and drowning the noise of the external world, and investing in ourselves to let our mind create that positive self-image.

More specifically, how does an average city dweller “identify” himself? “I am an XYZ at a major international firm ABC. I make so much money in the year, and next year, I’ll be making more. I have 500 FB friends, and my last post of my Goa pic got 100 likes. So, life is good.” In one sentence, this view can be paraphrased as: “I am successfully able to craft an image of success and happiness for the outside world, hence all is good.”

The flaw – how the world sees you is not how you see yourself. And you live with yourself 24 hours a day.

A strong sense of identity cannot be predicated on possessions – job title, paycheck size, things. Because titles go, paychecks fluctuate, things are taken from you. When I moved back from the US, I was in the exact same spot – no job title, no paycheck, no possessions. For a while, I was completely lost. All I had believed myself to be (a Consultant with an elite firm in the Bay) was no longer true. I was a 27-year male who could sit in a park all day, and nobody would call him to check up on what he was upto.

But after a short period of self-doubt, I had the most awesome learning (so far) of my life.

I saw myself for what I truly was – another man with his set of strengths and weaknesses, starting from scratch. Once I realized my own self-image was worth nothing, and that the world owed me nothing, so much weight was lifted off my shoulders. I went around searching for independent assignments, took buses to get around Delhi, and stopped spending money on non-essential things because I did not know when my next paycheck from a short-freelance gig would come. Amidst all this chaos, I ended up doing the best work of my life as a project manager with the United Nations. The assignment took me to villages in Eastern UP, where I was finally able to do something meaningful with my management education – define budgeting framework for social justice programs in the villages, and train some people to become English and Math instructors to teach their fellow villagers.

Since then, I’ve settled (for now) to be part of an awesome start-up. The possessions are coming back. But one thing has changed fundamentally. The next time I need to go back to living without these things, it will not hurt. Because I am not my TV, or my car, or my shoe brand. What I am is a person who can fight, who can love others irrespective of his own circumstances, and who can keep going on. To me, that realization about myself is worth more than everything I ever had.

The challenge, it seems, is to be connected to this world, and yet be disconnected. Maybe this is what Buddha meant from the “middle path.” To be a part of it, but to remember it’s ephemeral. And to remember, that the only one we need to answer to at the end of the day is our own selves.

Thoughts on freedom…

Every few days, someone posts a meme from “Into the Wild” on Facebook. Here’s one:

tumblr_mr1e9kjNVi1swynzao1_500

 

I see why. In our minds, Into the Wild depicts freedom in its most absolute: a man roaming freely in nature, free from the shackles of the urban jungle. Bound to our computers, work hours and endless social obligations, we all lust for the carefree life of Christopher McCandless.

But that’s setting a very high bar for freedom. If living alone in Alaska is freedom, most of us will never be free. Moreover, city dwellers value and love at-least some aspects of their rule-bound lives: a salary, company of their loved ones, a Saturday night drink at their favorite local bar. That leads to the conclusion – “if abandoning all safety and predictability is freedom, most of us do not want to be free.” I believe that’s a harsh judgement, because there’s nothing more people want than to be free. All this confuses and muddles the definition of freedom.

So, what is freedom?

Before discussing freedom from a human context, I want you to think of a lion who lives in a jungle. The lion is a free creature, right? He’s the King too. He lives by his schedule, and is the architect of his daily agenda. But a lion gets hungry, which is when he must hunt. A lion should also protect his lioness and kids, because they are constantly in threat from other lions who see the other lion family as competitors. As free as the lion is, he is bound by the laws of nature: everything that is born must fight to live, and perish when its time comes.

Humans are subject to the exact same laws of nature. Just like the jungle lion, we must fight, survive and protect the ones we love. That is our karma. Anything that is born must do its karma, it’s not even a matter of choice. So it begs the final question: if we are bound by karma, do we even have the choice to be free?

In my mind, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. But to be free, a fantastical vision of freedom with no shackles should be abandoned. Setting the bar that high will only set us up for failure, and eventually cause dissastisfaction with our lives.

Just like happiness, freedom must be sought in the small things. Had a hectic week? You’re free to spend your Sunday soaking some Sun. Noisy meetings gave you a headache? Listen to your favorite romantic album when you hit bed. Make the moments count: how we spend the moments is how we live our lives.

In addition, freedom comes from “exercising” your freedom. “Think freely”: disagree with the popular opinion if you believe in yours. “Act freely”: if you believe you’re right, do it regardless of how others will perceive it. And just as you value your freedom and happiness, “value the freedom and happiness of others”. Spend time doing things you love and the people you love, and do not compromise on your strongest passions for anything.

In the end, I think being free is not in our circumstances, but in our outlook. The mind can be free even when the body is held captive in a small room. Similarly, the mind can be hostage even when the body is on a mountaintop. So being free will take a hell lot of practice. And it will be a constant battle to stay free amidst the chaos: freedom is not a destination you reach and can stay at. All pleasurable things in life take practice (playing the guitar, learning a new dance form). It’s only natural being free will also take a hell lot of practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparing a thought for December 16th, 2012 this morning

Within 4 months of its occurrence, the Delhi Gang Rape has completely disappeared from public discourse. Even The Hindu, which reported the case with maturity and persistence, no longer prints the details of court proceedings on the first page. And this case is supposedly in a “fast track court”. So much is wrong at so many levels: broken judicial system, unaccountable government, and most tragically, apathetic us. Good news is: if we all contribute just a little time, thought and resources to even one cause we truly care about, big collective change can happen. The world has always been tilted more towards wrong than right. Thankfully, we live in a time where a few click on our laptops can help set that balance right.