Resilience – Misunderstood

resilience

I remember during my inter-school cricket matches my Physical Training teacher always used to give us this advice ‘ Give a tough fight’.

I was just recollecting that some days back with my friend and he had a point of view. He said that guy never expected us to win and that is the reason he always tells us to give a tough fight.  I think my friend saw the funny side of it.

However, over the years, I think the way I have programmed myself also has become that way.

I think I have over consumed this scene from Rocky Balbao and somehow I have a feeling that I am too comfortable with falling down and getting up and that dangerously is becoming a cycle.

I think I have turned Resilience into an euphemism for non achievement.

I am neither too harsh or too judgemental on myself, but deep down  I think I have this subconscious program running which keeps on telling me “It’s ok to fail and I can deal with it”.

The classic question of ‘What is the worst that can happen’ ? My answer always would be I can deal with the worst.

Since this is running so powerfully, I am realizing the side effects of this voice and the important side effects of that kind of programming are

“Lack of personal accountability to results”. I comfort myself by saying ‘You did your best’ and fall into the bottomless pit of self-defense.

“Reduced Effort”. I comfort myself by saying “Tomorrow is another day”

“Strayed Focus”.  I comfort myself by saying “It’s not life and death”

I can add to this, but I think I am thinking something wrong with my premise of starting something with “It’s OK to fail”.

I think it’s NOT ok to fail. It’s life and death. Tomorrow is not another day.  I think it is that kind of intensity that  differentiates the achievers and the also-rans.

I think there is enough evidence out there to prove that real achievers do not camouflage Resilience as an euphemism and do not begin with the premise of “It’s OK to fail”.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that I shall castigate myself if I do not achieve something.

All I am saying is that I deserve to be castigated if I set myself for failure without the necessary application and camouflage that lack of application with the language of pop-psychology.

So to summarize and to establish clarity, if someone is going to come and ask me should I “Play to Participate” or “Play to Win”, my answer would be an unambiguous “Play to Win”.

With all respect towards my physical training teacher, I think it would have made heaven of a difference if he had said ‘ Go, get the cup. folks‘ and not ‘Give a tough fight’

I am going to re-orient my frame of reference from in at least one area of life with a ‘do or die’ approach and see how it goes. ‘Die’ does not mean I will ‘die’ but I will not begin with the premise of ‘It’s OK to fail’.

I heard an interesting story about the rise of Dainik Bhaskar.  When the sons approached their father on their dream of taking the news paper big , the only question that the father asked them is ‘Are you prepared to Die’ . When the sons were wondering what the father was saying, the father retorted with ‘You have to be prepared to die for your dreams’.

I think that is the kind of preparation that possibly sets champions apart in possibly any field.

What do you think ?

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Meditation – A tryst with myself

meditation

This is not an advice for you to start meditation. I know that it is futile to advice anyone on anything. I have been talking or writing a lot about walking , running indirectly which in some sense does benefit my physical well being and I wanted to share my experiences about  mental well being.

I have been in the camp of ‘Why’ meditation for long. I had argued to my own self if I am in union with whatever I am doing, then I am generally in a meditative state.

However I shifted to the camp of ‘Why Not’ few months back and I want to share my personal experiences on that.  Let me clear myself on one thing. If you ask me “Isse, kya hota hai” (What is the use of meditation, can you show me), please feel free to pause here and continue to do whatever you do. I can share what I have experienced or experiencing, but I cannot pass on that experience to you.

Let me make some things clear.

Meditation has been probably  made to believe bigger than what possibly it is.

Our parents, grandparents did it and still do it without fail. They used to call it ‘Prayer’.

I have not seen a single day where my parents , my wife, her parents , have missed a daily union with GOD.

They may go without food, but not without prayer.

I cannot think of prayer as anything but a daily silent union with your own self and time of contemplation. Some do it imagining a form that gives the greatest comfort to them and everyone of has their style.

A few styles that I have observed are as follows

My father – Silent

My mother – Passive aggression. She will have all her fists and eyes so tight like she is getting into battle with someone.

My wife and her dad – Violent – Once they are in prayer mode, the vibration can be felt everywhere and the whole apartment knows a prayer is going on.

Me – A quick ‘Hi Chief!’

I think prayer was given needless religious overtones and I failed to pass on the baton to my generation.  Unfortunately, my kids are not into this in an auto-pilot mode.

To summarize the pre-amble, prayer has been effectively changed into meditation and successfully re-christened also as mindfulness and being effectively marketed in those words and for the purpose of this short ramble, I shall use meditation so as to maintain neutral tones.

Quite frankly, I think people would get into endless debates about how these three are very different and I do not want to get anywhere near that debates. Everyone has their opinion and in a democracy I am entitled to have mine.

  1. Let me begin.

Meditation is a very selfish thing. If anyone is saying begin meditation and you can change the world, I think the premise is wrong. The world does not need fixing, it is possibly me who needs fixing.

Please note that I share my experiences only when I have had a significant go at it. So meditation is something I have been in and out of for last seven years, but in the last year one of my close friend and my sister nailed it on me permanently. I owe my gratitude to them for putting me in this path.

So how it has been helping me.

A daily ritual of self-renewal. I think we take ourselves too seriously and get worked up on our stress levels needlessly. But when I sit in the morning and make that peace with myself, I start my day with the feeling of I am prepared to deal with anything that comes my way.

A way to watch my thoughts. There is an explosion of thoughts inside when I sit for this ritual , but the only thing you have to get used to watching is the only thing that matters and that is your ‘breath’.  I watch all my thoughts, but I kind of tell them, “Folks hold on. I am not going to entertain you now.”. Being continuously at it has given me the ability to pause between a thought and my reaction towards that thought. For example, my nasty sense of anger has not gone, but I am able to realize that I am going to explode and still explode any way.  However, I think  before that explosion, I do realize I have a choice of responding rather than reacting. In other words, I am getting simply to be more aware of possibly my own messed up zones.

An increased ability to focus – Generally, I am not bad at this even before starting this ritual, but now I seem to summon this ability at will. I can shut down from everything around me and focus on a single thing for an extended period of time. I do not need to constantly peek at my ubiquitous mobile screen.

A reduced sense of craving for food– Well, I still have not conquered the smell of street food. I still stop my vehicle and rush towards that masala vadai and masala poori stall. However, I can see the compulsions of having something in particular are waning down, including the need for morning cup of coffee or tea. If it is there, it is good. If it is not there, it is great.

Better quality of sleep – To be frank, this never was a problem at any stage in my life. If I decide to sleep, I sleep . However I am able to live with a reduced quantum of sleep, without the energy levels going down.

I guess you may think I may be over selling meditation, but all I am making is a case for you to be slightly selfish and start with just spending ten minutes for your own self. If you want to do it with the ubiquitous screen , then there are wonderful apps like Headspace and Calm which can initiate you into that.

However rediscovering prayer in the form which our parents and grandparents taught us might not be such a bad bet!

Please do make an attempt to get back that time and space for yourself and in that daily silent communion with your own self or a self greater than your own self (based on which belief camps you belong to), I can assure you will find your sweet spot and a slow but sure transformation that shall pleasantly surprise you.

I said this is not an advice, but seems like I ended up giving one!.

Bear with me.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Man’s Search For Meaning

search_for_meaning

Why did I pick this book ?

My dad was doing some kind of basic research for a movie script that he was writing about the rise of Neo Nazism. To supplement his research, I had got this book for him. He did manage to complete his script , sent to Steven Spielberg’s office and he did get an acknowledgement and an extremely well written refusal from them. Incidentally after he passed away, I was examining his writings and found some markings for me in the book. In any book he reads , he marks passages as “Z” for me to read. He had marked an interesting story of death for me in that which is as follows

“A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death”

What do I like about the book ?

I feel if someone can endure the horrors of Auschwitz, survive it and contribute in a significant way towards uplifting fellow human beings, it is worth a read and possibly repeated read. I am curious about what is it that goes inside someone who despite having undergone such pain can come out and be an influence for millions of people over decades.

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

I found understanding of the concept of Karma supplemented with this passage

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

 

Paras or Quotes that I liked

Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run-in the long run, I say!- success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

How long it would take ?

It would take possibly two hours of reading and has the ability to move a stone like me. It will affect deeply some portions in you.

Parting Words

In our day to day life, we seem to be stressed out with too many little things. My request is even a fast reading of this book will help you realise that our stresses are made out and possibly not real at all.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

 

Decoding my motivational sources

motivation

My morning walks are becoming fairly regular and helps me to reflect on some of my own inconsistencies. One of these, walks I was just wondering what are the sources of my motivation, in recent times and I am sharing this with you today.  Though I have deconstructed this motivational theory based on my need to keep a bare minimum physical fitness, I am fairly certain that this is applicable to all other aspects of my life.

I realize I have three sources of motivation for maintaining my physical fitness

  • Human Assisted
  • Machine Driven
  • Self Driven

Human Assisted

This means my physical fitness levels are kept by someone external assisting me on a day to day basis. This could also mean I am part of some groups where physical fitness activities are undertaken regularly. However I have only experienced the former. Any gym I join , I become a potential candidate for any trainer. When they see my obese self, I think they get a feeling , “OK I am going to fix this guy to be lean or in other words lose weight” (Unfortunately they do not know what I am thinking). Most trainers I have encountered are really pretty decent and competent. They begin with me with great enthusiasm . For the first few days, they would be with me continuously counting twenty to one, one to twenty vigorously, relieve of their previous day’s frustration my making me squat and subjecting to various kinds of physical torture. However in that battle of their endurance test with me, my sluggishness defeats their enthusiasm and they give up on me, and shift their focus to making the fit fitter. I do not blame them at all. It is just that I do not bend nor my body bends. However the days when our mutual chemistry is working, they manage to make me do things that I never thought I am capable of.

Machine Driven

I have had my experiences with running on treadmills with various counters, have been an early adopter of fitbit and physical activity monitoring apps like  Endomondo and Runkeeper.  On days, when I challenge myself to run five kilometers in thirty five minutes and the counters are decreasing, and if I am not reaching my target, my adrenaline goes high, intensity increases and I do manage to scrap through the five kilometers as my ego will not allow me to be defeated by a machine. Since I have had this victory against the machine and modern pop psychology  encourage us to celebrate small wins , I go and celebrate this victory far more than necessary. When I lose to the machine or apps show lesser activity than I planned, I convince myself saying that the software behind these machines or apps are buggy. I was probably one of the few customers who would have ever logged a bug to Runkeeper! and that talks volumes about my tiny ego.

Self Driven

This is a source that comes from within and this is the most trickiest of all sources to deal with. Since I have nothing to prime me, I can easily trick myself into thinking that I have achieved better than what I am supposed to achieve. On a different note, this source is also the most exciting because I am doing  that activity without any kind of expectation and my relationship with the activity is natural. I do not have someone counting one to thirty , nor have a strange lady’s voice reading out “Time : 30 minutes, Distance Covered : 3.2 KMS,,….”. I am in it because I enjoy being in it and the fun is in the process of doing that activity. I start when I want to start and I end when I want to end. I am in union with the activity.

Which source of motivation do you think I employ more ?

Contrary to my own liking, I employ the machine driven motivation to a larger extent. It has no emotions , gives a fairly accurate picture of my activities and lack of it. I wish there was something like this to all aspects of my life. Though it would make life boring, it will play a large role in eliminating the subjective biases.

Which source of motivation do you think I enjoy more ?

I enjoy when I am not monitored . I enjoy when I am not with some machine or app which is constantly hounding me. I enjoy it when I lose all sense of time and just merge with the activity. There are occasional days which these do happen. When these do happen, I am reminded of the time when I used to code, I use to keep my watch in my desk and just fell in love with the black screen/white text visual editor and lose all sense of time. Unfortunately someone thought I would make a better manager than an engineer and cut off me from the romance with visual editor. I surprised them there as well by being a lousy manager. I am digressing and that is a story for a different time. So this source without doubt is the source that I cherish and though those moments are rare, I do wish I can make them repeatable moments.

Which source of motivation do you think , I believe is most effective ?

A human assisted source is the most effective. A good trainer makes a 100X difference. Make no mistakes about it. I was just a bad student. However a trainer like that is hard to find and to live up to their standards is equally difficult.

I see these sources not only applicable for physical activity, but for any activity where I want to possibly improve the status quo , my preferred order would be

  • Human Assisted
  • Machine Driven
  • Self Driven

In my view , It need not be sequential process, but can be effective in a continuous cyclic mode as well.

Also in my view, the first two are extrinsic and the last one in intrinsic and I have always believed what will stay in the longer run, is intrinsic. To paraphrase Robert Frost, I have miles and miles to go before I get there.

How would you decode your motivational sources ?

Does this resonate with you in some activity you do ?

I am eager to know.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Oceans and Mountains – Inferences 101

oceans_mountains

It is said that somehow subconsciously you retain your connection to the birth place. I was born closer to the by-lanes of Marina Beach in Chennai. I shifted to the sub urban portions of Chennai shortly. My parents told me when I was young , during weekend outings , when I was given a choice between Beach and Movies, I always preferred movies. They said my answer was always ‘Ayyo , Beacha!’.(Oh No!. Is it Beach!)

I am not going into a biographical account, but to make a long story short, weekends were mostly beaches and yearly outings were mostly Ooty, Kodai or Kashmir. I do remember that I visited Kashmir when I was in Third standard.

I think the formative years leave some impression that possibly came back to me when I was in early forty’s.

When I visited Andaman, I  was at the Radha Nagar beach, stated to be the World’s number two beach. I do not have any clue on how they arrive at the ratings for the beach. I just sat in the beach and was numbed by the sheer majesty of what I saw. That is some picture which refuses to go away. It made me curious on why I shunned the marina when I was young. After visiting Andaman, whenever I go to chennai now, I make it a point to visit Marina beach and sit quietly absorbing the enormity of what I am seeing. Of course, I do not miss the  Sundal (Boiled Yellow Peas) along with cut mango.

If I was numbed by the Ocean after Andaman, I was floored by the abundance of Himalayas after my road trip to Ladakh. I have visited quite a few beaches , hill stations and mountains before this, but this two trips shifted something inside me and though I am not able to get a handle on what got shifted, but I do feel a sense of surrender when I am with this two magical creations of mother nature.

However , I cannot shut off my noisy mind at any time and here is a parallel I have drawn between Oceans and Mountains

Sitting before a ocean is like love at first sight, but a wave makes you realize the futility of that love. It’s vastness represents that life is a journey without any place to arrive.

Mountains, in contrast, looks intimidating at first, but gives you a possibility of approaching that. It’s summit represents that life is a journey with a place to arrive.

Oceans, gives you enough space to calm you down. It will allow you to sit there for hours and absorb your silence.

Mountains, gives you enough shelter to approach it. It tells you, come to me and I shall take care of you.

Oceans , in my view , is not easy on explorers. Once you set sail, the point of return is a tough proposition.

Mountains, are more liberal.  It allows experimentation to explorers.

Oceans, never allow you to get to the bottom of it. If you want evidence, have a look at this. You don’t conquer a ocean.

Mountains, invite you to get to the top of it. It allows you to conquer it.

Since this is inferences 101, I shall stop here with my personal bias.

Mountains tell me, ‘Give me a shot’ . I am thinking how to prepare.

Oceans tell me , “Don’t you dare’.  I am thinking how to hoodwink this one.

I am not sure if any of this made sense, but if you have come till here, do any of this in this summer or whenever you are free or add this to your bucket list.

An afternoon in RadhaNagar Beach, Havelock, Andaman.

A day amidst the Ladakh mountains.

I promise that it will shift something fundamental inside you.

I promise nothing to nobody, but in the rare occasions if I promise, you know they are always kept. (that is a little boast, ok!.).

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Quiet

power_of_quiet

Why did I pick this book ?

If some stranger greets me with “Hello”, I do not react. I respond with “Hello”. The time and the way in which I respond with “Hello”, I would leave the stranger wondering why did they ever take the pain to ‘Greet’ me.

If there was an certificate of proficiency in Introversion, I would come out blazing with A+.

I watched the Author’s ted talk “The Power of Introverts” and was moved by the author’s speech. Incidentally, it went on to become one of the ‘most viewed’ ted talks which goes onto prove that there is a good bit of introverts out there.

What do I like about the book ?

Builds a powerful case for identifying and cherishing introverts from early years.

Presents well researched facts and establishes that there is enough room for both extroverts and introverts to thrive and it need not be one against the other

A narrative that is easy to read and draws upon from variety of living examples.

What is one interesting idea that I learnt ?

The notion of soft power.

“Soft power is quiet persistence. The people I am thinking of are very persistent in their day-to-day interactions. Eventually they build up a team. Soft power was wielded by the people we’ve admired through out history. Mother Teresa, The Buddha and Gandhi”.

Paras or Quotes that I liked

The author paraphrases Gandhi’s words. Gandhi believed restraint was one of his greatest assets.

“I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or my pen. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth”

Steve Woznaik , Apple, says about patience.

“I acquired a central ability that was to help me through my entire career: patience. I am serious. Patience is usually so underrated… I learned not to worry about the outcome, but to concenrate on the step I was on and to try to do it as perfectly as I could when I was doing it.

Some great Introverts

  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Mother Teresa
  • Sir Issac Newton
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Larry Page
  • J K Rowling

 

Curious Observation

The falling of apple and the subsequent discovery of gravity by Sir Issac Newton is a story we all knew and the book in some sense attributes this Newton’s Introversion.

However, I classify myself as a Introvert , but I am sure I would have eaten the apple and waited for one more to fall.

May be I am a under developed Introvert !

How long it would take ?

At around 270 odd pages, it would take anywhere between 7 – 10 days to complete the book and as the title suggests, you are required to be in a ‘Quiet’ Place to absorb the power of ‘Quiet’.

Give me a reason to read ?

If you are an introvert, this book would help in understanding yourself a little better and make you feel good.  If you are an extrovert, you could expend the extra energy in help you to understand that there is a very different class and league of people who possibly deserve your time and attention as well. You need them more than the introverts needing you!

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder