‘Toony’ Boons

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There may only be a few things in life that anyone with any background, including race, creed, color, religion, beliefs, nationality, upbringing, procrastination levels, binging habits, and the number of acquired traffic violations, can understand, appreciate and enjoy. No, I’m not referring to cannabis or alcohol. I’m not even referring to ridiculous Facebook status updates like ‘cough’. Go see a doctor in that case. The overtly sympathizing messages from your online connections aren’t going to drive the flu away. On the contrary, this exercise will provide you with a false sense of friendship and belonging until a situation arises when you really need someone. What was that? No, it’s not free Wi-Fi either. Come on people, it’s cartoons. Since we live in an age where we love screens of all sizes ranging from a square inch on our wrist to something large enough to cover a wall in our bedroom (I’m not counting cinema screens, which are as large as small ships, since most of us don’t own one), it makes us all the more willing to watch cartoons.

I have never met a single person who has not enjoyed at least one cartoon series or is a fan of at least one cartoon character. If you happen to claim that you’re the first to not like cartoons, I say you need to open up a little and be honest with yourself. Cartoons are not a childish fascination so feel free to admit your love for them. I know we keep getting told that there is a time and age for everything, but certain things are ageless. Cartoons are certainly among that group. And what’s so special about the things we do as adults anyway? As children, we may resort to childishness but as adults, we resort to adultery. Try both out and see which one has more disastrous consequences.

I have always found cartoons to be a great connector between people. Growing up I had cousins that were brought up in different towns in India. Now, in a country, as vast and varied in India, everything from your customs and food habits to your entertainment and language change every couple of hundred kilometers. While we didn’t always understand or agree with each other’s habits and lifestyles, cartoon time was when we were all in sync, and watched every little scene with awe, giggles, heightened attentiveness, and a sense of complete joy. After every session, we felt happy and inspired, and discussions that ensued during and after, betrayed no sign of disagreement or lack of understanding in each other.

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Tom & Jerry, and the battles between Donald Duck and Chip & Dale were among my early favorites (I always cheered for Tom and Donald. Too bad the modern-day Donald in his big white house does not inspire enough cheer). To begin with, they are hilarious and even as adults a few minutes of viewership can melt away a fair bit of the day’s tension. They contain very little spoken language (which does not have to be understood), and apart from the tunes of certain classics produced by great musical minds of the past that play in the background, the only other sounds are the uproarious screeches, yelps, groans, grunts, gurgles, hoots, and cheers. Anyone can appreciate the quality and genius of the artwork, the animation, the storyline, and wit. The personality of every character is brilliantly designed and depicted, and any one of them could serve as our steadfast imaginary friend we never had. He-man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe were other cartoons I began to follow. While the previously mentioned cartoons inspired creativity, fun, and humor, these other ones illustrated the feats of heroes and superheroes, good over evil, me over examinations and school projects (And now with the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, stealing a few minutes of cartoon time at work even helps before client negotiations and deliverables).

Cartoons made me believe that I could get out of a tough spot even if it was only fourth-grade math. They showed me the importance of being positive, which has stayed with me till date. I was convinced that no matter what the odds (Cobra always outnumbered the Joes), I could be victorious, in elocution class then, and in life now. They instilled the confidence in me to wield my plastic sword (just like He-Man did) to make myself feel invincible and ready for any challenge ranging from potato sack races and handwriting competitions to hot dog eating contests and Pictionary. And of course, the less fascinating battles of life pertaining to education, careers, relationships, health, finances (or fiancés: the two cannot coexist), and overall development. I realized that I could keep aside differences with anyone over an hour-long cartoon episode, whether it was my sporting rival, the office jerk, my stockbroker (who believed that a broker is someone that is meant to make his clients broke), and the airport security (It’s only a penknife. Since I cannot decide which is mightier, the pen or the sword, this little tool settled it for me.). They make me see that it’s the simple pleasures in life that make us laugh loudest. It’s the childish exuberance within us all that helps us maintain our sanctum.

Cartoons were something I watched with my parents and grandparents, as I do with my 4-year old daughter today. They are almost like a family legacy, as much as the wealth and wisdom that is passed down from generation to generation. And they are so easily passable from culture to culture, and nation to nation, breaking down barriers with true value for entertainment, joy, and oneness.

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The Highest De’greed’

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You’re really greedy!! Would you take this as a compliment or would you give a piece of your mind (there isn’t a lot of grey matter going around these days so try and be conservative, so as not to exhaust your resources) to people that said this to you? Or would you just stand there fuming or even try and take a swing at them (Unless you were caught with two oversized tubs of ice cream, with a spoon in each, in which case you wouldn’t really have an argument)? Even if we innately know that we often try and take more than our share, we do not want to be associated with this word.

‘Greed’ is considered to be such a negative word and in most cases rightly so.

We always believe we have been greedy for good reason, and we like to explain ourselves with jargon like ‘survival of the fittest’ (even though we are at least 30 pounds overweight), ‘jungle law’ (I’ve never actually known anyone that has seen a transcript of this legal document), ‘I worked harder’ (like we have the statistics on how hard everyone else worked), ‘it’s God’s will’ (like he shared it with us on WhatsApp), ‘my family needs this’ (while others are just sacrificial lambs), ‘everyone does it’ (because they come and tell you each time they do), ‘I had no choice’ (because Don Corleone made you an offer you couldn’t refuse), ‘someone else would have done it anyway’ (we need to beat them to the punch, don’t we?), ‘big deal’, ‘no one cares’, ‘it’s not that bad’, and a list of other innovative reasons, long enough to rival the length of the Mahabharata manuscript.

However, greed isn’t only about wanting more but is also about settling for less. People often hide their greed under the garb of staying grounded (And therefore aiming low. There is no reason why we can’t be extremely successful and yet humble), and being content. At times this need to resort to mediocrity arises from lack of ambition (we will smack our TV remote a million times to get it to function, but won’t change the batteries), at times it’s because we are fearful of the unknown (like the wife’s looks after a visit to the parlor), a lot of times most things just seem improbable because of our restricted upbringing (where we do what is told, things that are safe, and don’t ask questions), and many a time it’s just our ego telling us that we know best.

While there are many of us that truly have very few desires (especially material ones) and find joy and fulfillment in the simplest forms of living, most of us do not. We desire a lot but then are not willing to take the actions required to fulfill them (Thank God for food delivery services because we are not even willing to cook anymore). Therefore, we not only continue our existence in secret resentment, constantly telling ourselves that we’re very content but also expect our loved ones and others around us to live by this code. And a lot of these people could be dependents, with no means to go after their dreams just yet. Our homemaker spouses, our adolescent children, our ageing parents, our business partners and employees, our extended family members, our dogs, our cats, our fish, our action figures, and a host of other people we share our lives with, may have to curb their dreams because we tend to be selfish and greedy in only adhering to what we feel is right. We don’t feel we have it in us to follow our true desires passionately and aggressively, and therefore believe no one else around us should (Only we should be in charge of the TV remote or what radio station plays in the car. Only we should decide what gets made for dinner. Only we should determine how a sales pitch should be constructed. Only we should get to select what movie to watch. Only we should be the ones allowed to yell and scream when annoyed. Only we should decide who our children marry, or what career path they take. Only we should have the final word, even if reason goes down the drain).

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However, greed in the right direction, with pure intent, and in the right quantities, is beneficial. In my mind, a quest for knowledge, hunger for stability, an objective to be healthy, aspiration for freedom, and above all a burning desire to contribute to the world around us, to leave it a better place after we’re gone, are forms of healthy greed. We need to find it in ourselves to aim beyond our own means and needs. We need to understand that we have the ability to impact our world positively, by feeding our minds with the right signals.

Is it enough for us just to live for ourselves, or if we are generous, for our families and friends? Or do we believe in our own abilities to liberate ourselves from our fears and limited thinking, to make a contribution to a population that can’t be counted on our fingertips, but rather is reflected in the census studies? We certainly should.

While we aim with a generous heart to make an impact in the world, we must continue to nourish our health, mind, and soul to ensure that we are fit in every way to do so. Therefore, be greedy. Go for your walks to keep yourself fit. Spend that extra time to read and learn. Meditate daily to ensure a calm and stable form. Burn the midnight oil to plan and revisit your mission every day. Network and connect with people that share your values and goals. Implement brave and unconventional strategies in your business. And even be courageous and scold your boss for his inept business practices (If you get fired you will have some time at hand to catch up on all those Netflix shows you’ve missed).

This does not mean that we don’t find quality time for our family, friends, associates, professional partners, and others in our close circle. It means we must be more efficient with our time in order to ensure that we are able to give them our time and effort and work toward our goals as well. However, we must also realize that our loved ones can be unreasonable at times and we cannot always give in to their whims. As long as we do justice to them and our vision, we have the right to be greedy, because the result of this greed will not only result in the improvement of our own lives, but those of theirs, as well as several other people around us (This does not give you license to tell them you’re busy and spend the day watching sport and drinking beer).

Whether our aim is to serve our family better, improve our organization, impact our community, better our town, or benefit millions, we need to be greedy and stay hungry for knowledge, health, longevity, and consistent growth, leading to desired results.

What’s the highest de’greed’ you can achieve?

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Me First

We love ourselves, don’t we? We only want the best for ourselves. And we like to prove our importance to ourselves time and again. We will be happy to break into a queue at a bus stop (Because the other idiots who were there before us have all the time in the world but we don’t. We do this on the sly and just slip in, or do so boldly if we have the girth to provide that intimidating confidence). We will drive past a red light, or even block a lane that turns left (even though we want to go straight) just because it brings us closer to the head of the pack (And do it with gusto because we always know someone that owns these streets. Besides the person in the wailing ambulance behind is likely to meet his maker anyway). We will carry extra weapons to a sale just in case someone gets a hold of something we want before we do, and we need to make a compelling argument for them to hand it over (By handing them a beating. Don’t believe me? See some Black Friday carnage on YouTube). We will happily push an old woman aside and jump into the only cab available (Like we couldn’t walk those 800 meters to our destination. Besides courtesy and offering help to the needy is a thing of the past). We will bribe a cop upon breaking a traffic law (Because lawful proceedings aren’t for us. But we will certainly participate in a peaceful protest against bribery).

We always seem too important to wait in lines, too busy to respond to calls and emails in a timely manner, too self-centred to think beyond our own whims, too unperturbed about our ‘chalta hai’ (big deal, I don’t care) attitude towards everything, too proud to admit that our approach hurts many around us, strangers and loved ones alike. We always want to jump at the opportunities (and in all likelihood create them) to do something when it is likely to afford us a temporary high (People also seem to resort to smoking and alcohol to achieve this state all the time. The number of heart attacks, depression cases, and suicides will increase significantly if these two sources of ambrosia ceased to exist), make us feel all important, or offer us a feeling of prominence, even if it is meaningless in the grand scheme of things (And often this is achieved by making others feel comparatively insignificant, only to boost our own flailing and misdirected ego).

We will be the first to ensure we do whatever it takes when it is a matter of convenience to us, no matter how inconvenient it is for others (Eating half the birthday cake at a 4-year olds birthday party; Flipping TV channels so incessantly, that it might have you believe that Keanu Reeves is starring in a regional Indian film, shot in space, singing a song around trees, playing badminton, and running with Wildebeests, while being chased by half of the criminal world in New York City; Spreading our legs across three seating spaces in a train that has at least two dozen people hanging on the window grill, on the outside; increasing the temperature of the AC beyond the outside temperature because we refuse to carry a jacket or shawl, while others experience the benefits of a sauna for free; and forcing people to read blogs every week, when they clearly might have other things to do).

And when we ourselves are victim to this attitude, we’ll throw a fit, and complain about how people are disrespectful, irresponsible, uncaring, unprofessional, selfish, arrogant, and add the choicest expletives after each of these adjectives. And this blame game has been going on for eons (Extraterrestrials watching from space would see a very coordinated finger-pointing dance form, worth capturing on video). We love to pass the buck around (We need to blame all those ‘passing the parcel’ game sessions we had during our childhood. We learned young). We love to blame the whole world for not only its shortcomings but ours too. Mahatma Gandhi himself professed against trading an eye for an eye (And for good reason because we would look quite silly if we had one eye belonging to us and the other, the one we traded for)

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How often do we feel the need to take responsibility for our own actions? Do we ever feel the need to change or improve in order to be happier? Do we ever stop to consider the negative impact we may be having on our surroundings? Or are we too busy expecting others to alter their personality and methods, so that we could have a little less to complain about? It’s not his job or her job, or their job to ensure that life is better for us. Life hits us all the same at different stages. And it’s the ones that accept this reality, stay positive, and take responsibility for their situation, who share a better relationship with life. If we are willing to lead in all our pompous, self-serving, ego-massaging, inconveniencing, senseless activities regularly, why not in the ones that require maturity and understanding? Why not in the ones that will turn our attitude and life around only if we gave it a shot? Why not in the ones that impact us and the world around us positively? Do we believe that this responsibility is only for the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Socrates, the Spartans, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, Rosa Parks, Jack Ma, Jesse Owens, Steve Jobs, and several others to shoulder? We are all blessed with spirit, righteousness, generosity, strength, creativity, empathy and courage. It’s up to us to define how we use these gifts in our lifetime.

Stop blaming your kids for your misadventures, stop yelling at your wife for a bad day at work, stop cursing your client for a failed sale, stop accusing the economy for your poor financial situation, stop blaming the traffic if you weren’t disciplined enough to reach your destination on time, stop bullying people to address your insecurities, stop trying to finish your local bar’s alcohol stock in one night, and for heaven’s sake, stop at a red light.

Suck it up. You’re as much of a problem as the next person. Stop looking over your shoulder, I mean you. If we must be first, then let’s be the first to effect positivity in our lives and those of others. Let’s take responsibility for our own situations, and let’s recognize our abilities to become a leader in matters that make our souls proud.

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With great power comes great responsibility. But with great responsibility comes great power. Cease your responsibility and harness the power that comes with it to create your legacy.

Me first? Yes, you first.

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Mundane, Tuesdane, Wednesdane……

Wake up, snooze the alarm, wake up (This process can have as many iterations as you choose, unless of course there is a licensed gun holder at home), take a shower, get dressed (drop breakfast on your clothes and get dressed all over again), head to work, perform daily tasks at the workplace (Including bitching about the boss and star performers, taking six coffee breaks, reading at least two movie reviews, discussing senseless news items, and working on deadlines when time permits, after addressing the more important aforementioned tasks), head back home (while exchanging parliamentary greetings with your fellow citizens while stuck in traffic), eat, flip TV channels to watch various advertisements, ignore the wife and kids, sleep, repeat. This may sound like fun for a week or two, but then things might begin to get really boring. Everything may seem mundane.

The word ‘mundane’ seems to have such a negative connotation. Even the sound of the word is morose and draining. It sounds like the life has been sucked out of something (which also happens when some people walk into a room, including your boss, the income tax official, as well as Dementors from Harry Potter). A lot of things we do on a daily basis may make us feel that way too. But mundane is necessary. Earlier, I had written about identifying what we truly want to do, as opposed to just going through the motions because we believe we need to and feel there aren’t any other options. And, while passion and belief in what we do are always going to be central drivers in helping us stay happy and content, these ingredients by themselves are not enough. Acumen, hard work, discipline, and consistency are equally important. Not all skill is inborn, and with the right approach in body and mindset, skills can be honed over time, with the support of true intent and desire. Even the gifted need to refine their abilities in order to reach their potential (For those who follow cricket, two prodigious youngsters began their careers three decades ago, and while one’s journey ended up in the stars, the other’s slipped down a manhole. Sachin Tendulkar got runs, while Vinod Kambli got earrings).

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Author, James Clear says that 40% to 50% of our lives’ routines are formed by habits and that habits are the entrance ramp that helps us get on the highway and allows us to cruise. There are habits that we need to get rid of (procrastinating, overspending, two-timing your spouse with your cellphone, smoking more than one cigarette in a lifetime, binge-watching toxic Indian television serials, eating more than eight helpings of dessert, and even running away from a treadmill as opposed to on it), and then there are habits that will define our future, which is consistent with the way we envision it. Habits don’t have to be earth-shattering in nature, but in fact, it’s the small daily mundane routines we set for ourselves that eventually come to the fore in our effective functioning.

  • Meditating for a few minutes every morning could allow us to deal with stressful situations calmly (It’s ideal if both eyes are closed and we’re not stealing glances at things happening around us)
  • Creating a daily to-do list enables us to prioritize our tasks, and not waste time on unwanted activities (Unless your career choice is game development and testing, playing 10 different video games as the first 10 items on the list doesn’t help)
  • Scheduling these tasks during specific times of the day and sticking to it prevents procrastination (Listing procrastination as a task is disadvantageous)
  • Exercising daily, even for short time frames, helps keep the body and mind healthy (Short bursts of exercise followed by long stints of eating are counterproductive. The only thing that will be produced is more of you)
  • Developing our skill every day in our chosen area of expertise boosts our ability and confidence (Unless your life’s mission is to understand how governments function and what happened to your tax money. You may as well grab a beer and be merry)
  • Reading and learning regularly helps gain experience from other people, improves understanding, teaches us new things, enriches self-development, and heightens imagination and creativity. Read anything under the sun that will help your cause and move you closer to your goals (After a while go indoors to avoid a heat stroke).
  • Be thankful for what we have as it helps us approach life positively, makes us more tolerant, increases our resilience, ensures better health, and keeps us happy (Conditions apply. Expressing too much gratitude towards the neighbor’s wife can have negative consequences.)

Waking up early, getting enough sleep, saving, meeting loved ones in person (and not over social media), hugging your child, smiling, practicing your art, and a million other things form small parts of our daily lives that eventually lead to a happier, healthier and fulfilling life. It’s not just our big dreams, but also the small steps we take every day, consistently, tirelessly, and honestly, that define the quality of life we are likely to lead. We need to do the best we can to follow a path that impresses our heart. But just because we do something we love does not mean we do not need to put in the work (and lots of it) to obtain results. We need to bolster our passion with the right abilities. These abilities are born out of our daily habits, some that we enjoy, and some that we don’t, but are necessary.

Muhammad Ali has always maintained that he hated his daily morning runs, but loved the idea of being world champion. Therefore, mundane isn’t always bad. In fact, mundane, when applied effectively, leads to a very impactful and exciting life. So bring out that pen and paper and list out all of the boring stuff you’re going to begin doing to help you reach your goals, each day, everyday….Mundane, Tuesdane, Wednesdane…

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Home ‘Field’ Advantage

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

This was one of the many famous quotes by William Claude Dukenfield, better known as W.C. Fields. He was an actor, comedian, writer, and even a juggler (It wasn’t just words he was throwing around).

I came across this quote in my early twenties and couldn’t help but laugh every time I read it thereafter. He sounded like he was so disgruntled with life and his failed attempts (almost like Oliver Hardy from the ‘Laurel & Hardy’ comic series. What’s more, he even looked like Hardy without a mustache) that he wanted the whole world to follow suit, should they have similar experiences. It wasn’t until much later that I finally realized that I was actually laughing at myself for a major part of a decade. I had completely missed the point of this statement. But then again I’m not new to missing things, having missed buses, trains, questions in examinations, the wife’s perspective (the consequences are very dangerous), and even a couple of gunshots I took at my former bosses (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. They were slingshots).

How many of us go about doing things in our personal and professional lives that add absolutely no value but on the contrary lead to frustration and a lack of fulfillment? We begin to doubt ourselves, fear begins to grip our souls, and our mind becomes a playhouse for the devil. And yet, we try the same study techniques that have come up short, the same marketing and sales practice that has yielded unsatisfactory results, the same diet and exercise routines that send the weighing scale readings in the undesired direction, the same exasperating approach to getting our kids to listen, and even taking selfies, with that same pout, from the very same angle, of that same mug, a million unimpressive times (How many selfies does it take to satisfy a human being? I’m really curious to know the answer to this question just in case I decide to feature in some of them).

In my opinion, our friend, Mr. Fields, by no means meant that we should give up at the first few signs of failure. But in fact, we must prioritize our goals that are truly aligned with our hearts, our passions, and our skills, to give us the best chance at succeeding and being happy. This would make us more adaptable. The fact that we don’t succeed at something after a few tries should either tell us that either our approach needs to change, or the activity needs to change.

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What would happen if you kept hitting your head against a brick wall? Yup, you got it, the owner of the wall will indeed have you arrested. On a serious note, you could counter sue since the damage is likely to occur to your head and not the wall.

How often do we keep doing something because our parents or boss say it’s the right way to do it? How often do we try to convince ourselves that we will succeed one day without changing our method or mindset? How often do we blame our circumstances for our failures because we are too proud to admit that our approach is faulty, or are too scared of the unknown to try something different? Most times we are just involved in personal and professional activities that bring no joy to us and seem to be the only options out there because we haven’t cared to give our hearts the opportunity to express our true passions.

A lot of reputed coaches and mentors say that ‘we can do anything, but we can’t do everything’. Our juggling expert, Mr. Fields would have likely said that if we must juggle a few things in life, they may as well be things that we really care about, bring us joy, and offer a sense of contentment, while still addressing our responsibilities. There isn’t a point in taking on too much if we are unlikely to do justice to any of it.

A few points to consider are:

  1. Sit down (or bounce around if you fancy) and write down the things that truly make you happy, and how you would start incorporating them in your life.
  2. Prioritize everything in your life in the order of importance (Then compose a song about it and sing it yourself in the shower every day)
  3. Don’t let your ego prevent you from reaching your potential (See what happened to him in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2). Be humble. Humility leads to an open mind. An open mind attracts knowledge. Knowledge leads to excellence. Excellence leads to fulfillment.
  4. Respect the opinions and positions of people in your life, but remember you’re one of those people, and the most important one at that (This doesn’t apply to married people, and those with kids. For you the most important person is the bartender). Respect your own thoughts, believe in your passions, and learn to say ‘no’ when you must.
  5. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Doing something that scares you brings you closer to a defining change in your life (Stand a bit closer to your neighbor’s Rottweiler, and perhaps even pull its tail to spice things up).
  6. Befriend your fear – fear of failure, fear of pain, and fear of loss. These are inevitable. No matter who you are, life will find you in a dark alley at some point and knock you down. It’s up to you to get up, look life in the eye, and say “I’ll see you again around the block, and I’ll be stronger”. Will Smith talks about his sky diving experience in which he says “The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear”. This quote really resonates with me (However, if the parachute doesn’t open, then the point of maximum danger is the point of impact).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG-F_rRVdLc (Will Smith speaks)

So let’s stop being damn fools about wasting our lives away in oblivion. Let’s find our true calling, our home field advantage where life roots for us. A setting that will earn us the joy of living.

What are you still doing here, fooling around, reading rubbish? Don’t you have some newly defined matters to work on? Get out of here!!