Delayed in the shortcut lanes of life

image

Why are shortcuts so tempting? Because that is the nature of ‘bad  stuffs’… that is their selling-point: easy and quick. Most scandals and misbehavior involve shortcuts, and it is a well-known fact that, in most of the cases, shortcut approach fails. The reason being, any objective worth attaining requires our time and energy. The experience and the consolidation of the knowledge /skill that happens as one walks the ‘long route’ to one’s goal is bypassed and missed while taking the shortcut route. This is the main reason why shortcuts fail. They are character-deficient paths. Anybody can walk a shortcut path – and that leads to the other reason why shortcuts usually fail us: since it is an easy and seemingly a ‘smart’  choice, the crowd in the narrow lanes of shortcuts is more. In other words, there is more (unethical) competition in shortcut routes than in the long routes of life. There is always less competition where discipline, dedication, perseverance and ethics are involved. None of the above mentioned qualities are any ‘quickies’. These are robust qualities that are essentially built for, and built

while

travelling the long routes of life, which are the logical and definite paths to our goals.
Always remember…
“Short cuts make long delays.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien

Advertisements

Not this, not this – choosing through negation

image

“We are our choices.”
– Jean Paul sartre

Choices are given to man so that he can make mistakes! I am sorry for sounding pessimistic, but I don’t have a negative outlook about mistakes. They have their place and purpose in life. But that does not warrant us to make mistakes, especially avoidable mistakes. It is natural to get confused when we are confronted with too many choices, or for that matter, even the presence of just two choices can cause great confusion. Indian philosophy has a very powerful technique to understand the ultimate reality or truth. It gets to the real nature of the self by rejecting, one by one, that which is not real or false. It’s called ‘Neti Neti’ in Sanskrit language, which means ‘not this, not this.’ Apophatic theology or the negative theology of the West is a similar concept wherein the religious experience and language about the divine good is understood through discernment. Of course, these are grand concepts that I am talking about, but nevertheless they could be applied to mundane choices of life too. When there are too many choices, and when they are all seemingly equal in ‘weight’, focus on what you don’t like or what is deficient in each of the choices. ‘NO’ is always more powerful than ‘YES’. So, start with what each choice does NOT have, and eliminate it from your pool of choices. And start from the one that has the biggest deficiency in whatever are your parameters or specifications required for the situation. This is the quickest and reasonable way to make the right choice. At the least, it will reduce the number of contestant and make your selection process more easy.

“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”
– Cassandra Clare

Be Judgemental !

image

What is wrong in being judgemental ? And why is so much negativity attached to this word? We respect the words ‘Judge’ and ‘Judiciary ‘  but we abhor the word ‘judgemental’!! We are repeatedly and strongly advised against being judgemental, while every nation has a supreme or an apex court, numerous sub-judiciaries, committees, and cultures that pass judgements, which a civilized society reveres and obeys. Why is this kind of self-contradiction and hypocrisy when it comes to judging at a micro, individual level?  Every sane human being will judge, either consciously or sub-consciously, and whether he or she likes it or not. We are advised to think logically. We are trained to make rational decisions. How can logic and rationality be present without the presence of judgment? Most people have no problem if a situation is judged, but if it is a person that is being judged, the alarm buzzes! Is there any situation that is devoid of the involvement of human beings? Who creates the situation? We, the humans. Then it is just a matter of common sense that in order to judge a situation, the people involved in it should be judged too. But there is one important condition here –  do not judge if it is not necessary. Most of the time, most of us, waste precious time and mental energy in judging people and situations that are not necessary. Probably this is the reason why, eventually, the act of judging at individual level came to be criticized. When there is less of reason and more of emotion involved in judging, then of course, it is a definite No. But otherwise, do judge; judge with reason only those that the faculty of reasoning sanctions you to judge, and make sound decisions.

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

image

“What is it that you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?”

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“That’s everything?”

“I believe, that’s everything!”

– Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse

– The famous dialogue from  Hermann Hesse’s great novel, Siddhartha. This is the reply the protagonist, Siddhartha, gives to his prospect employer who interviews him on his knowledge and job skills. This novel and I, grew up together…. It has given me different meanings and answers to the same questions I asked at different stages of my life. Today, when I sat to write my weekend blog and had trouble focusing and got vexed in the process, this dialogue from my ‘guide’ knocked at the doors of my mind.

Can I think?
Yes,  a lot!

We all can think. But ‘a lot’ is the problem. Do we think only that which is necessary? And are we able to think with the required degrees of attention about which we are supposed to think?  In majority of the cases, the answer in no. We think too much about unnecessary things and too little about the necessary ones. In a day, almost 90 % of our thinking is either repetitive, redundant, unnecessary or imaginative. Conscious imagination is a wonderful work of the mind, but an unconscious creation or recreation is a mere waste of time and energy. Nothing is more detrimental to a productive and peaceful life than a mind that is on an ‘auto-run’ mode.

And the next, can I wait?
Hardly.
To wait means to be patient. And to be patient means to respect the pace of life. There is no point in trying to run ahead of life. We simply cannot outsmart life. It is similar to running within a moving train with a hope that our running would take us to our destination faster. The best way to wait is to shift the focus of the mind from the object of waiting to something else. This method is effective because the perception of time is nothing but the perception of an experience /incident. In waiting, there is no experience or any incident happening, and so, time comes to a standstill which is very difficult for the mind to handle. The best way is to engage the mind in some activity during the waiting period. That is how some of the great books were born in prisons and exiles.
 
And finally, can I fast?
Very occasionally and with great difficulty…

What is the psychology and spirituality behind fasting? Fasting increases our sustaining capacity, tolerance level and will power. The will power is not just about bearing the physical hunger, but at a higher level, it is also about bearing  mental and emotional hungers, and agonies of life. This is the deeper meaning behind the ritual of fasting which is practiced in almost all the religions of the world. All those who can survive through tough times without succumbing are the ones who can fast –  those who can fast their pride, egos, desires, and aspirations. There are no short cuts to learn the art of fasting. It comes only by practice and determination.

Siddhartha was a smart man. He knew no trade or craft but knew well the fundamental skills required for survival. And he was right when he said, “I believe, that’s all.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Balanced

image

As I grow, I realize that life is not about good or bad, but is about balance. It seems that Creation is concerned about only one thing – balancing of the dual forces. In fact, duality is inbuilt in the ‘system’ to tally itself and be in balance, or the ‘zero’  state, or the neutral state. Philosophy calls it the peaceful state. Probably that explains why the ‘too good’ people and the ‘too bad’ people face more sufferings and turmoil in their lives than those who take life easy and as it comes. The turmoil that is experienced by the extreme characters (or forces)  is nothing but the act of balancing, similar to the swinging of a spring balance to attain its ‘zero tilt’  state.
Probably we need religions that are less restrictive and more inclusive, and less serious and more joyful.

Slow and steady wins the race: in the context of new year resolutions.

image

“Nature does not hurry. Yet everything is accomplished. ”
– Lao Tzu.

We are three days old into the new year and I am sure many of us would be already struggling to keep alive our new year resolutions. I am certainly one of them. The reason for such quick failure and eventual give-up is, in majority of the cases, not due to  lack of determination but due to excess of ‘start-up energy’. In our enthusiasm, we bite more than we can chew. Quite naturally, our body/mind, which is not used to such rigorous schedules, buckles. When a series of failures occur in our new year – resolution  implementation, our mind gets discouraged and we give up. Our old habits, which were waiting and watching in the sidelines all the while, quickly catch up with us. And so, 2015 is set to continue in the way 2014 continued from 2013 and before.
How does an airplane take off? It starts in the runway by running slowly at first, then gradually gaining speed, and finally taking off from the ground. Even in the air, it gains heights in stages. The implementation and accomplishments of our resolutions are similar tasks too. We set resolutions to change our lives, to change ourselves. Therefore their implementation should also be a well thought, planned, and phased process. The golden quote, ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is no more appreciated nowadays, but holds good even today. Our resolutions are not a race against anyone outside, but against our own weaknesses. We have a wide range of weaknesses with ‘under-doing’ at one end of the range and ‘over-doing’ at the other. As the world and life around us gets more fast, more pushy, more demanding, and less tolerant, it is the weakness of ‘over-doing’ that more often surfaces in our attitudes than ‘under-doing’. In such a scenario, the fundamental and first resolution should be – start slow, go steady,  and gain momentum incrementally. This is the ‘engine resolution’ that can pull our other resolutions. Set achievable goals, attain them, celebrate the ‘small’  accomplishments, and inspire yourself to set higher goals.

All the best for the accomplishment of your resolutions!

Choose Your Battles

image

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. ” –  Stephen Covey

From the moment we step out of our home, and sometimes even from the moment we wake up from the bed, and till the time we return, we face a variety of problems –  the big and the small battles of life. We are not always at liberty to choose these battles nor do we have the power to control the number of ordeals we go through in a day, but certainly a considerable number of them are choosable , or in other words, avoidable. In a day we come across numerous instances that require our mental and emotional grit to deal with. In most cases, the bigger or important ones are not the issue because we are mentally prepared for their occurrences and they may also be those problems that require our attention. But it is the tiny irritations, ego clashes, provocations  and uncalled-for verbal spats that have the potential to distract us and turn our day upside-down. How many people lose their temper at traffic jams and yell at the honking guys behind them, and in turn get yelled back and aggravate the situation to bullying, thereby attract the attention of the traffic policeman and waste precious time and energy in the process. The only outcome of such ‘battles’  is that people end up going late to their destinations – Not to mention the headache they incurred at the ‘venue’ which did not leave them the whole day. How many times an impulsive, unrestrained snap at a provoking and gossip mongering office mate turned into a noisy and ugly verbal spat tarnishing ones image and reputation! These are just a few (in)famous examples.  Such ‘battles’ come in various forms and intensities. Most of such problems are better dealt by ‘not-dealing’. It does not mean that one lacks the guts to deal with such apparently trivial tussles of life, but it means that he or she is conserving their energy for far more important matters of the day. It means that the person has priorities well in place and will not succumb to any distractions whatsoever. Simply put, it means that the person is focused, and has his eyes firmly set on his goal. We may fight these ‘small battles’ too, provided we choose to take up the fight. It should not be that the battle chooses to pull us into it, in which case it simply means that we are not in control of ourselves. The next time a situation demands your time and energy and you feel tempted to accept the ‘duel’, restrain for a moment and ask yourself whether it is worthy of your precious time and energy. Ask yourself whether you want to fight the rats, or the lions.

Giveaway Signs of Organizational Culture

image

I am not going to dwell on the academic definitions of organizational culture; there are a lot of books that deal with this subject.  The aim of this blog is to give a few ‘tips’ on how to assess an organization quickly, say within the first 20 – 30 minutes of your interaction with it. Organizational culture is the expression of the mindset, character and attitude of all the people working in it, right from the CEO to the watchman. It is the collective mindset of an organization which reflects in each and every entity within an organization – both human and non-human, tangible and intangible. A visitor to the organization may not have the opportunity to interact, or even just observe the CEO, but certainly would have such a chance with the watch man, lift man, the receptionist and people of that cadre: The people in the lower wrung of the organization’s hierarchy. There are many types here, but can be broadly categorized into three: the rude and the intimidating type, the ‘mechanical-plastic-expression’  type, and finally the warm and the approachable type. A happy employee with the right kind of grooming from his/her  management will naturally adopt a benevolent and considerate disposition towards the visitors. The same holds good for the person from the organization whom you are supposed to meet and are at a higher level in the organizational hierarchy. Even if the person is going to be a tough interviewer,  he/she will not, even for an instance, breach the boundaries of professionalism and never assume an intimidating  stand against you.The company’s culture will be reflected in all of the employees’ words and body languages . Considerate and ‘true’ politeness (not the ‘mechanical’ politeness), especially when reflected at the lower most level of the organization, is a sure sign of a people-oriented organization. Neatness is yet another strong indicator of an organization’s culture. The general cleanliness in the reception area and even the way newspapers and journals are arranged, speaks strongly about the culture followed there. A shabby, carelessly arranged reception area is a big giveaway of a shabby organization as well. Any organization can have wonderful vision and mission statements, because they know that these are the areas where any interested person would first check into. So, these are not the aspects you should be measuring if you want a true assessment of the company, as these can be ‘performed for the gallery’. Watch out for the small, subtle indications where careless organizations usually miss out. In my experience, it is usually these small giveaways that proved to be the  accurate measuring scale of an organization’s culture. In fact, this method of assessment holds good even for assessing a home or an individual,  because ‘God is in the details’.

Don’t Hesitate to Contradict Yourself

image

“Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.”  –  Blaise Pascal

There are no straight lines nature. Everything, from land to water to air, negotiates with it self and its environs in a ‘curvy’, ‘to and fro’ manner. Ambiguity is one of the principles of creation.There won’t be mountains and valleys, and the beautiful winding rivers if they all moved in linear style from one point to the next in straight forward direction. Then why is the human being alone expected to think in straight lines? Why is so much of negativity attached to self-contradictory views? People who go back on their words because they changed their mind  are judged as inconsistent people and are rarely regarded as trust worthy by the society.
Contradictory thinking occurs when the thought process changes direction either because the mind’s scope of thinking widens, or  something external triggers a change in the direction of the thought process. What ever be the case – change in thinking, mindset, opinion, or contradicting ones own views – it is simply the indication of an active, dynamic mind. It’s a sign of mental growth or evolvement. At times, a self-contradicting mind may look chaotic, inconsistent and lacking in clarity, but it is in motion nevertheless, which is a better state of mind than static . It should be understood that we don’t grow with time, but with experience. With each experience, seemingly big or small, apparently significant or less significant, we grow; our mind evolves. It is not the same mind ‘now’ which took ‘that decision’ 24 hrs ago. The more a person exposes him/her to the changes and challenges of life, the more will be the growth rate of their mind; and in such cases, change of mind, change in stand and self-contradictory opinions become an inevitable part of growing up. So the next time you happen to change your mind about something, and if people judge you that you are inconsistent in your thinking and contradicting yourself , don’t hesitate….Allow yourself to grow and outgrow your past. More the twists and turns in a river, more is the music in it.

To do: Nothing

image

Don’t feel guilty about it.  Since ages, society has conditioned us to be competitive, a doer, go getter, or a ‘die hard person’. There is a strong preconceived notion that the one who is workaholic is a worthwhile being. The one who takes the least vacation breaks or no breaks at all, which is even better, is the most trusted employee. Just go a layer deeper beneath the ‘skin’ of these so called workaholics and you will find an unhappy, desperate person trying hard to attach his or her identity with the work they do. Such an attitude is a trap. Self identification with anything external,  however holy it might seem, is a trap. It is a trap to your freedom of growth.  What I mean by “to do : nothing”  is to do absolutely nothing. Not even partying or picnicking with friends or family. I mean to say, by doing nothing, you are spending time with YOUR SELF – The center of your universe. Unless You are conscious and healthy you cannot relate or respond to all that is around you, including your most loved ones. It’s extremely important to allot a ‘do nothing’  time for yourself and spend quality time with you and yourself. Strictly between you and yourself. You may do whatever you wish… sing, paint, listen to music, read and reflect upon a book, enjoy the nature, or anything or ‘nothing’ that cleanses your inner being and space of all the ego and emotional rust and dust that got collected during the course of the week. The more often you clean your inner self, the more neat and healthy you are, inwardly, which is the pivotal point of all your outward activities.

“We join spokes together in a wheel, 
but it is the center hole 
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot, 
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house, 
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being, 
but non-being is what we use.”

– Lao Tzu

I just took some time off my ‘To-do-nothing day’ to post this blog. Rest of the day is going to be me, myself, and Beethoven’s music.