Time to Valentine

Some say it with words; some with flowers; some with cards; some with gifts.

They all say, it’s time for my Valentine.

Come February and the day, sandwiched midpoint, becomes a reason for heated activity. Love is in the air. Not a month of love (there is no month free of it), but a month of expression of love.

Time to be poetic; time to wax eloquence; time to romance; time to valentine.

Cobwebs of procrastination are dusted. Poetic resources are dug out and referred, and various rounds to the shops to select the cards and gifts.

Some traditions have stood the test of time. It was probably a need that served well and its popularity has survived in the modern era speaks volumes of its evergreen applicability.

While many have bitten the dust, this is one festival that has lost little and gained flavour just as wine in a casket. New bottles for this ageless wine have found many shapes and sizes with each period.

So you have a window to exhibit your feelings. To some who are looking for it, this is a perfect excuse.

To those who are already in a relationship, an opportunity to strengthen the ties.

Like most festivals, the form has overshadowed the function. Dickens’ Pickwick expressed with a quill dipped in the best ink on gilt edged parchment. The poets of the era professed with odes to pour out their love.

While in the early years, Valentine was private and personal, the industrial revolution and the progression thereof made ready-made options available to the indulger. From personal, it became the best choice you could procure from the market.

And this trend has made people look outside for inspirational material or ready to use emotions that they could shower.

Like the custom of early days of serving home cooked meals to guests has given way to parading the best from the market, Valentine has followed the same path. Like expressions of hospitality love expressions are now outsourced, without taboo.

While festivals such as Valentine have gained popularity and moved from strength to strength, the focus has shifted to indulgence and celebration, rather than expression.

A youth was looking for a suitable Valentine Card and came across an appropriate one which said, to the only girl in my life. He selected and asked his selection to be packed. And I want six of these he ordered!.

Today the short message and the electronic mail have made the love fever go viral. Age groups have steadily gone down as the popularity rises.

But to some it’s an unwelcome obliteration. They argue why wait for the middle of February to declare something that you have been in the middle of since April. They wonder why this exhibition of love on this occasion. They abhor the reams of paper, and the tons of frivolous non meaning cards and accessories that are exchanged ritually, without emotion.

Every festival has a deep meaning that started its journey. While it serves the purpose, the popularity doesn’t fade but care should be taken that what survives is the meaning, not the ritual.

Tread on Utility or Values

What is the difference? You find utility in a product or service, or people or organizations. They deliver a product or service and you see the utility. When they deteriorate or stop delivering they are no longer of utility.

Or is it that utility is subjective. An umbrella in sunshine may not invite a second glance, or a vacant cab when plenty are around. On the other hand your eyes frantically search for a vacant cab when they are hard to find, or your anxiousness of help in times of crisis.

So when you have plenty of options, or your need for the product or service is marginal, the utility reduces. The product or service remains the same. The candle lies in wilderness, but when the lights go out, then drawers and cabinets are frantically looked into for the friend to dispel the darkness.

Like a friend who appears as a pest as you see no need or immediate utility of him. And one fine day you see a need for him and you start reaching out to him.

It appears that many look at people like products. An umbrella, a candle, a camera, or a tool is ignored when not required and worshipped when they see the need. Products are inanimate objects and may not see the differential treatment.  However when humans are treated that way, the results could be disastrous.

Mohan had hired a contractor to renovate his office. During the course of the renovation Mohan would take contractor’s every call and patiently answer his queries. The contractor’s requests for advances too were dealt admirably. And then the assignment drew to a close.  A week later Mohan saw the contractor’s call flashing on his cell but avoided it. Two days later the same. The contractor who had come to admire Mohan for his cooperation and dealing was unable to connect the change in behaviour. He was accustomed to Mohan’s swift responses and started feeling sour.

After a few attempts the contractor showed up at the office and requested an audience as he wanted his final bills to be cleared. He was told to come later as Mohan was busy in a meeting.

The contractor left dejected. He made two or three more calls without success. Three weeks later he was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Mohan. He apologized for the unavailability and requested when he could meet him at the earliest. And by the way, there is some issue with the doors that needed immediate attention, could he take care of it immediately.

For the contractor, the cat was out of the bag. It was clear that Mohan was least interested in completing his part of the deal, and his latest overtures were only towards the need that he had experienced after the completion of the contract.

In another case, Sudhir was approached by a firm for air-conditioning maintenance. They diligently followed up with him, presented their credentials, and were awarded the contract with the annual amount paid in advance. After a few months Sudhir experienced a need to call them and was surprised that they were either closed for every bank holiday or offered lame excuses of their personnel being busy. He had to repeatedly call for his problem to be attended. It was clear to Sudhir that they were least interested in honouring their part of the deal, now that they had received their payment for the full year.

People with a utility mind set waver their obligations as per their needs. They just see the immediate present and tackle situations for the present. They fail to see the long term ramifications.

People with values have another way of looking at things. They firstly see everything with a long term objective. And secondly, they bring all transactions to their logical end by completing their obligations. Even when they are dissatisfied they complete the tasks or financial obligations and may choose not to deal with the person again. They recognize the need of an implied obligation to fulfil their part of the deal irrespective of whether they have any utility for the person.

We don’t go running away from our values. We go drifting away, and one day wake up in a place we never meant to be, drifting in a direction we would have never chosen. – John G. Blumberg

Some may get away with it, some wont. It is all about the way you look at things. Speeding may get you to the destination faster, and you may even be lucky to reach unhurt. But it will never justify the rash driving.

Utilities may discount, but values, always count.

Troupe symphony

Fusion, rhythm, and symphony! This is what was on display at a recent dance competition. Teams enthralled the audience with their performances. They danced on their feet and swept the crowd off theirs.

It is no secret that tasks of magnitude need a team effort. Individuals can achieve a lot by themselves but you need a team to multiply the achievement.

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. – H.E. Luccock

When you are by yourself you can do what you like. You have to think only about yourself; execute your own plans; you can turn whichever way you like; you can alter plans at your whims and fancies. You don’t have to look over the shoulder. You have to concentrate just on your own performance.

But when you are in a team, the dynamics change. It’s no longer about individual brilliance, or personal excellence. It becomes a collective effort. How you perform together; how you click as a group; how you synchronise your efforts; how you flow together; how you fuse your energies; how you combine your talents.

A winning team is not a team of equal talent, but equal commitment.

When you see a team performing cohesively it seems like poetry in motion. You don’t see a group of individual performers. You see a collective effort. Each member is excited to be part of the team. They give their very best – to succeed, to succeed together. They have no individual agendas, they have no personal missions; they have a common goal, and are committed to make it happen. They merge to emerge.

Cooperation is a belief that no one gets there, till all get there.

What enthralled us about the performances was the harmony in their movement, the rhythm of the constituents, the cohesiveness and the collaboration. Each member player his/her part, not the whole. They were incomplete by themselves, but combined as a team to complete the picture.

The teams’ vibrations manifested team spirit, collective commitment and a flow which made evident that a lot of practice and preparation had gone into it.

Team with a common vision needs no supervision.

Yes, each one of us has to lead our own lives, but when we join hands, pull together, stay committed to perform collectively, and integrate our efforts to a common vision, what results is pure symphony and exhilaration.

Treating Inspiration

January the 20th was a special day on Mumbai’s calendar. It was Mumbai’s date with the marathon.

Marathons have always been exciting. This is one sport that makes every participant feel like a winner. The enthusiasm amongst the participants is exhilarating and infectious. Their exuberance is evident and somehow seeps through to the people around them.

They came. We saw. We were conquered.

A cold wintery Sunday morning in Mumbai is a delight. Standing on the sidelines was a huge crowd who watched the participants as they passed by­­­­. A large cheer greeted the participants. Some had come to cheer whom they knew, some to cheer all the participants, some out of plain curiosity, and some because they had nothing better to do. But all had smiles of appreciation on their faces. They were soaking the pleasure and most were envious, secretly wishing they were participants and not spectators.

And then they were gone.

Whenever we witness an enthralling performance, what we can see is just the spectacle. We are inspired by great feats and motivated by great performances and wish to become great performers ourselves. We are enamoured and want to emulate those performances in our respective fields. But it ends there.

Winners too are inspired by great performances, in fact more than the others. But while others envy the glory, they look beneath and beyond. They focus on what went behind it – the hours, days, months, sometimes years of preparation.

They know what they see is just the result. What they look for is what went behind it. What went into it. They want to look under the bonnet. They want to know the techniques and preparations. What they need to learn; what they need to do – to get it, to get there, to get the desired results.

It all boils down to the way you look at things. You can either be inspired by others’ achievements and start dreaming about them and hoping you get there. Or, on being inspired you work on what is required to make a great performer, and then willing to put in what it takes.

Inspiration is just a direction finder. It is a direction for your dreams. You can cling on to these dreams and sleep with them every day, or you can use it to channelize your energies to start your journey and get there.

How you treat inspiration will decide whether it remains an inspiration, or becomes the path for your aspiration.

Time to Celebrate

Happy faces, smiles, and joy lace all over India as the harvest festival is being celebrated. Under different names and banners, across states, people express their celebration in different ways as they welcome the joy in their lives.

It is the moment of reckoning; a moment of fulfilment. It is a reward of the patience, a return on investment. A belief in the laws of nature.

Nature offers many lessons in life. Through its conduct and example it inspires a culture of nurture.

In today’s context a law that nature begs for attention is to move you away from instant gratification. There’s hardly anything that can be created instantaneously. It has to be developed; grown; nurtured into something.

Thankfully there are very few instant ill effects of undesirable actions. You don’t drop dead on consuming alcohol, or choke on smoking a cigarette. They take their toll over a period. Similarly good investments also deliver over a period of time.

Farming is nature’s best kept secret that has been willingly shared in abundance with the universe just as the bounty of its harvest.

Those who believe in laws of nature, work diligently with a firm belief that their efforts will not go unrewarded. There are occasional mishaps, some odd aberrations, but that does not dent their confidence or deter them from sowing their efforts and tilling the land.

On the other hand, the instant gratification seekers are looking for miracles, magic wands, and short cuts to shorten the gap between effort and gain. They either get dissuaded to put in the effort, or give up too soon as they don’t get immediate redemption for their efforts. They keep seeking greener pastures, out of the blue.

Success has found farming as the only road that can lead to its door. A road that may be full of twists and turns, humps and hurdles that make the easy going take the easy route at their peril, but the successful are ready for the challenges.

The successful invest in the seeds, sow them, and nurture them with their efforts. They do this with a firm belief both in themselves and above all, in this process of farming, without which, they cannot reap or leap.

Thirst for success

A young man asked Socrates the secret to success. Socrates took him towards the river. When the water got up to their neck, Socrates took the young man by surprise and ducked him into the water. The youth struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until he started turning blue.

Socrates pulled his head out of the water and the first thing the young man did was to gasp and take a deep breath of air.

Socrates asked, ‘What did you want the most when you were there?”

The youth replied, “Air.”

Socrates said, “That is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted the air, then you will get it.” There is no other secret.

The recently concluded India-Pakistan cricket tournament exposed the depth of divide between the teams on one difference: thirst for success.

The Pakistanis having been in the dark for non-cricketing reasons were looking for an opportunity to showcase their talent. The exclusion of their players from the IPL strengthened their resolve to prove a point.

The Indians on the other hand looked bored of playing a non-lucrative set of games for which they had to show up mandatorily and just did that. With a string of defeats, they didn’t either look to be hurt or use it as a wakeup call.

The available short breaks between games which could be effectively used for team bonding and formulating strategies for bouncing back were squandered to break out to their comfortable nests and just resurface before the game.

Practice sessions were given a miss at a time when they were crucially required. That no counter strategies to reverse the losing trend were planned was evident from the sameness of strategy and repetition of failures.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

Success and failures are the ebb and flow of life. They are the companions of your journey.

Suraj was mugged on the way and lost his bag in the scuffle. He put up a fight and chased the snatcher who eventually got rid of the bag to make his escape. Suraj was overjoyed on reclaiming his bag. But he had got nothing new. It was just a repossession of what he had earlier. But that too, brought happiness.

After fighting setbacks and failures you may not get anything more than what you had before, but the reclamation and the victory makes the battle sweet.

What you are today and what you have is the net balance of what you have gained and what you have lost. Some gains have been just reclamations; some loses have taken away more; and some gains have over shadowed the losses.

This game is the journey of life. The wins and losses are inevitable. But how to treat them decides your net worth.

The desire to keep defeats at bay and failures away makes them feel unwanted. While they are there you treat them as intruders and unwelcome guests, and they too want to leave your company.

On receiving success, you may treat it so well that it wants to set up a permanent residence with you. But without respect and attention it starts looking to find a way out.

Success and failure, both will visit you. But who stays with you and who will leave will entirely depend on your thirst to keep company with them.

Turn a New Leaf

Sudhir and Rajiv, two friends, were meeting after a while and chatted through their journey. On reaching the destination, Rajiv remarked, “Oh, I didn’t realise how fast the time passed.” Sudhir was surprised. He replied, “Time would have passed anyway.”

Rajiv smiled and said, “But not so quickly.”

So, the year has come to an end. To some, it has been a long drawn year. They have been counting the days, and it has ended, finally! To some, it’s a surprise. It seems as if the New Year had only just started, and it has ended, already!

Well it all depends on how you are using time. If you are using it well, it flies past. If not, then it appears to drag.

Time and you are a confluence in life. Your life and the time entwine themselves at birth.

Both are inseparable.

But isn’t that true for everyone? Then why is it that some manage to achieve much more even though they live almost to the same age. Why do some achieve more in a decade than others, or a year, or a month or a day even though each of us have the same three sixty five days in a year, the same twenty-four hours in a day.

Contrary to belief, time can neither be used nor be wasted. It runs its mechanical course. The variable is you. How much you put in, how much you give yourself makes the difference in how much you achieve in the same time period. And there lies the difference.

We cannot waste time. We can only waste ourselves. – George M Adams

The efficient and those hungry to achieve see time as a stopwatch ticking away. They understand that time moves at the same pace for everyone. Knowing perfectly well that time is the one thing that cannot be redeemed, they give it their best. This approach makes them respect time, be frugal on its wastage; and end up being precise, purposeful and productive.

Conversely those who are casual, callous and complacent seem to be wondering what the fuss about time is. With a limited agenda, and an attitude to match, they presume others too have time in abundance. Their approach to time mirrors their approach to life, casual.

So we have two types of people: one who feel every opportunity should be utilized to do more, and the other who wonder how people could be enslaved to time.There are no prizes for guessing to which section the achievers belong. They have discovered this flair for time that makes them achieve more than their less successful counterparts.

What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year. – Vern McLellan

The time has come to replace the calendars. The year will once again be reset to zero. It is time to make a fresh start. No past regrets, no excess baggage of guilt. No bonuses of past glories, or the highs of the achievements of the year gone by.

It’s a brand new year. It will once again run its course. It will tick away the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the months and it will complete its orbit around the sun.

But the variable is you. How much will you put in? How good will you make this year? The year has expectations from you.

Turn a new leaf before this one leaves.

To be continued

Shyam was in a solemn mood. What he couldn’t fathom was how his life could change so dramatically in thirty days. Just a month earlier Shyam was in a state of jubilation. His happiness knew no bounds. His results had just been announced and he had come out with flying colours. Shyam was over the moon and justifiably so.

Over the last three years Shyam had a laser focus on the examinations. With unwavering commitment he had made sure that he was not overpowered from the distractions to which most of his friends had fallen prey. He kept working towards his goal in mind and came out trumps in the end.

A month later Shyam found it difficult to believe how much the world around him had changed. He was no longer interested in discussing his lofty results. Rather than feel good about his achievement he was actually quite disturbed within. He didn’t know what was bothering him, but he surely was uneasy.

A focussed effort over a prolonged period does take its toll. The determination and focus keep you going, but when you reach there or accomplish something, you know it has drained a lot out of you.

Upon reaching a destination or accomplishing a goal you experience elation. After some time elation gives way to emptiness. An emptiness of direction and purpose. The goal and purpose that served as a lighthouse guiding you towards your goal, suddenly vanishes on completion and you are left on your own without anything to guide you.

What you do on reaching the point of accomplishment defines your hunger for success. You could bask in glory, consider this as your zenith, and feel there is nothing more to be achieved. You may decide that time has come for you to pause and relax, and you may not feel the need to think of your onward plans. Or you can feel a disturbance. Something that Shyam was experiencing.

Winners experience these situations often. Firstly they accomplish more, so they find themselves at the finishing line more often than others. Secondly while many slip into complacency or inertia after a major achievement, the winners experience a disturbance. A voice that asks, ‘What next?’

The disturbance is a positive one. It dawns on you that you have reached a milestone but you have an unfinished journey which you have to continue. You relish but decide you cannot perish. You savour the moments and firm your plans to continue your journey.

Each of us have an infinite capacity to achieve, but unfortunately we don’t have an infinite hunger to match. Result is that many feel a sense of satisfaction of hunger, though there is still a lot more inside you that you are able to achieve. The barometers of hunger and achievement are neither visible nor measurable, but are sensed by the person himself. The people outside can only see how much you do. Those in awe are envious of what you have achieved. Those who are aware of your potential, wish you could start your leap to the next milestone.

While it is not possible or desirable to meet others’ expectations, you do need to set your own expectations. Your own standards. What you believe you can achieve, and the confidence you have in putting in what is required in its pursuit.

And you begin, once again.

Tring! Tring!

The doctor came rushing out of his room, “Give me my stethoscope, I have to rush to save this young man’s life. He can’t live without me.”

His teenage daughter said, “Dad! Relax. That call was for me.”

Gone are the days when the black, bulky, rotary dial instrument was the universally worshipped communication deity.

Having transcended from days when people had to travel miles just to deliver the briefest of the messages, this breakthrough made it possible for people to communicate without being face to face. Though written communication existed, the ability to hear the voice on the other side was the closest to being with the person.

Phones have become as necessary as air and water, and are accessible nearly as easily. It is difficult to imagine life without a telephone. While businesses had multiple lines and private phones for the hierarchy, it was not uncommon for people to share telephones especially at home. Sharing can be challenging and may cause some difficulties but it does teach you many things as well. Like respecting the needs of others and concern thereof; keeping your requirements in check to avoid monopolizing the resource; respecting privacy and avoiding inappropriate times to call.

With the advent of the cell phone the instrument has become a personal gadget and now rules our lives. While the benefits of the gadget are unquestionable, it has also given birth to a new set of issues.

An executive had a colleague visiting him from a branch office. They sat across the table but couldn’t commence their business. Reason – a trail of calls that his visitor kept attending to, much to the discomfort of the host which tested his patience.

A board meeting of eight to ten directors was frequently interrupted as one after the other kept excusing to take their call.

Call free time or sacred time like dinner time, or when family or groups discuss issues of paramount importance have been diluted with the ring of cell phones.

Maids, baby sitters and security personnel are found wanting in their roles as their attention is continuously diverted by calls.

If the conventional phone required you to speak, the new avatar communicates without any noise so you can indulge without offending.

Meetings, talks, conferences are now devoid of complete attention as people though physically present are engaged mentally elsewhere. Intensity suffers and so does absorption with multi-tasking being no longer a juggler’s prerogative but an essential skill for everyone.

Soft skills were about social etiquette and communication skills but a new category has been created with the advent of cell phones. Now there are ring tones, caller tunes and tones of your voice to be managed.

At Seminars it is irritating to see some members having no regard for their fellow attendees. Despite call to attention they ignore the reminders to put off their cell phones or put them on silent. It is hilarious but painful to see their response when the phone rings during a seminar. Instead of shutting it they answer it and then start rushing outside to continue the conversation.

Gadgets like the cell phone are indeed a boon and have transformed the way we lead our lives. But transformation also requires some adaptation from us. While we soak the advantages of technology there are some adjustments to be made from our side too.

You can master it or become a slave – as they will say – puppet on a tring.

Tasting defeat

Life is a journey peppered with a kaleidoscope of experiences. Some light, some dark; some bright, some dull; some victories, some defeats.

Those ventured have realized that the journey is not a joy ride but it does keep knocking you down to give you a real taste of the roller coaster experience. In a joy ride it’s a simulation of the roller coaster. You feel the excitement, the fear, but inside you know it’s a ride, and you will go through it. In life you experience the real challenge. You know this is for real, and to survive you have to come through it.

Though defeat is not a welcome prospect, it is inevitable. It is a necessary evil. It is an occupational hazard.

Defeat comes in a variety of flavours.

Defeat in a contest – You play and lose.

Defeated in retaining your position – You are unable to hold on to your elevated position.

Defeated in progress – You run into a wall. You can’t move further.

Defeated by circumstances – You are unable to cope with the challenges.

No big feats without defeat.

But there are some who are so scared of defeat that they don’t contest, they don’t test themselves with difficult opportunities and sterner conditions. They duck rather than leap.

So you fell down, but you didn’t stay down. You showed resilience. Very good! However, if you are bouncing back quite often, you should closely look at why you are falling so regularly. Probably you have no plan; you are not learning from your mistakes. You haven’t developed, you just keep going saying, ‘You win some you lose some’.

Not liking to lose is good but of no use if it doesn’t spur you to investigate, explore and invent solutions.

Things that hurt, instruct. – Benjamin Franklin

Solutions don’t sprout from the earth nor do they drop from the sky. They will evade you unless you reach for them, or dig them out. They are not to be plucked but need your pluck to clasp them in your reach. This may need you to reinvent, upgrade, or restart.

To the alert, defeat can be a healthy impetus – a starting point to propel them. Those who face defeat are stung by it; they feel uncomfortable. They say, ‘This is not me. I can see myself defeated but don’t want to see myself staying defeated.’

They rise and restart. They recover lost ground, replenish resources and return to their winning ways. They say, ‘Yes, that me.’

To the exceptional, failure is an exception, not success.

Defeat is an essential to a journey. Failure shows what it is being on the other side. It gives you a glimpse of the embarrassment and motivates you to stay on the winning side. It helps you understand areas that need improvement. It urges you to keep your saw sharpened. Without defeat you may get complacent. You don’t value the ecstasy of a win unless you experience the despair of a loss.

You can stare at defeat; face defeat; accept defeat; or be defeated.

The desire to succeed is the flame that offers the glimmer in those dark days till the light of success dawns again.